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Fluffy Challenges 5 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Fluffy Challenges 5
How about the Mellark boys having a jabberjay drill or the Everdeen family having a song night. for redrikki
"So what happened in school today?" Jonadab asks, pushing the tiered cake at me and handing me my decorating tools. It will be a wedding cake for a Peacekeeper's sister in District Two. She supposedly loves watching eagles fly, so I'm going to have them circling up to the top. We'll have to un-tier it before we ship it, of course, but for now, I need the real configuration.

Ed pulls himself up on a stool and starts filling the decorating tubes. "The jabberjays are listening," he says, and grins.

I roll my eyes. They like getting me to spin jabberjay stories, and I pretend to hate it, but it's actually fun. I pass over my list of colors to Ed, and he starts mixing them while I put on the foundation colors. I'll need to start with the truth. "Well, it rained while we were in phys ed outside."

"So you got a real shower?" Jonadab says. "Maybe I ought to call Jabberjay already."

I make a vaguely obscene gesture at him, though it's mostly lost behind the tools at the moment. "Anyway, we all got soaked. Madge Undersee just about threw a fit."

Jonadab gives me a suspicious look, then turns to Ed. This tends to be an informal part of the game -- whichever one might have actual information becomes the referee. I guess it's Ed this time. Good… I don't see all that much of Ed in school. I can get things past him.

Ed nods. "It was one of those mixed classes. Saw it through the window. And Madge definitely didn't look happy."

"Yeah," I say. "She was telling off Miss Clemens for ruining everyone's shoes, since most people don't have any extra ones." I peek up at Jonadab to see if he'll call me on that. If he does, I win. So far, so true.

He rolls his eyes. "I'm not even going to pretend to not believe that," he says. "Madge is going to end up in jail if she doesn't learn to hold her tongue."

I shrug. It was worth a try. "Well, maybe. Today, she just got detention." I don't look up, and pretend to be very immersed in painting a flat expanse of sand-colored cake. The day they give the mayor's daughter detention is the day President Snow starts handing out puppies. Jonadab doesn't question it, though. "She said she was going to skip it."

"I don't doubt that," Ed says.

I bite my lip to keep from smiling. "Anyway, that was at lunch. Delly told her she shouldn't do it."

"Your girlfriend Delly?" Jonadab asks.

"Delly is not my girlfriend."

He snorts. "I might call jabberjay on that, as much you talk about her."

"You'd lose," Ed says. "It's embarrassing how pathetic Peeta is with girls."

"I am not. I went out Jemima Kingery."

"And as I understand it from the grapevine, you entertained her with stories about" -- Ed looks at Jonadab, and they raise their hands in the air and bow their heads in faux-adoration -- "Everdeen the Great." They lower their arms and look up. Ed is grinning. "She know your name yet?"

"Oh, shut up. Do you want to hear the story or not?"

"Oh, do go on," Jonadab says, and pulls out a mixing bowl to start the cookies that are next on his list. The people who get off duty for the dinner hour like their cookies still warm.

"Okay," I say, trying to decide where the story, which has already taken a turn into the wholly (if mundanely) fictional. "So, Madge wasn't going to go to detention. We all figured she was going to go off on it in history. Mr. Magoffin practically begs her to."

Jonadab holds up his hand (still holding half a cup of flour) and looks at Ed.

Ed shrugs. "It's probably true. You missed Magoffin by a year. Either he's really stupid, or really smart and working for the Peacekeepers."

Jonadab nods. "Assume the latter," he says. "It's safer. Peeta?"

"So I guess he heard about gym, and he got Madge going, just like we figured. She goes way off on a tangent about how important shoes are, and how it's not fair that people don't have proper ones. Magoffin's got her practically starting a war on barefootedness. Of course, Delly spends half her work time making the charity shoes -- the ones they give out in school in winter if you can prove you need them and can't afford them -- "

"Wait a minute," Ed says. "We have a free shoe program, and no free bread program? I mean… does the district buy the shoes to give out, or do the Cartwrights just hand them out from their own pockets?"

"The government buys them. Guess they want people to still have feet when they go to work. Not for very much. They pretty much break even."

"Wonder if we could sell them on bread for school lunches?" Jonadab suggests.

"I say we should do that and you make fun of me," I say.

"You want to do it out of our pockets," Ed says. "And it's not like they can give the bread back for someone else to use next year."

I grind my teeth. "So, Delly starts arguing with Madge about how hard it is to get shoes, because she knows how many she makes. And Madge goes on about it's not enough, and no one can make enough. And then they got into a fist fight."

"In the middle of class?"


"Who won?"

"Madge. Only they both got detention for it, and neither one of them meant to go, so when we got to physics, they started designing this glider…"

"What?" Jonadab asks, raising his eyebrow.

"And just before the end of eighth period, they flew it off the roof of the school." I make a flying motion with my hand. "I bet they're halfway to District Eleven by now." I grin. I've gotten through the whole story without a correct call. Ending on an obvious lie is the accepted declaration of victory.

"Fine," Jonadab says. "But when did you start in with the lies?"

Ed snorts. "About the time he learned to talk." He picks up a mound of rising dough and says, "Toss me a rolling pin, Peeta. I better get the dinner rolls going before the mayor really does throw me off the roof of the school…"

Cinna--in the middle of joyous/satisfying/fulfilling creation for vesta_aurelia
"Stay still, Pompeia," I say. "I'm going to jab you with a needle."

"I don't understand why you're pinning up Mom's nightgown, anyway," she says. "I'm not wearing a nightgown in the show."

"First of all, it's not Mom's. I made it last night. Second, it's not a nightgown. And third, yes you are, but no one will think so."

"Cinna! You're kidding! You said you were going to make a costume. You promised me you would! Everyone said, 'You're brother's twelve,' but did I cave? No. I said I'd seen you sew and I know how good you are. And that you keep your promises -- which included making me a costume, not sleepwear."

"What do you think I'm doing? Giving you a makeover?"

She holds up the dress as an accusation. "They'll laugh at me! I can't play Mother Laelia in this! She's the main founder of the Capitol!"

I roll my eyes. "And she just scavenged her way through the badlands to get here. She's not going to show up in sequins."

"But I'm the star. I have to look like it. Everyone knows the costume's just symbolic, anyway. Besides, I have to catch the light."

"You will. Come on -- would your little brother let you down?"

"My little brother has me in an oversized nightgown."

I sigh. "Come on, Pom-pom. I have an idea. It's really, really good. Just… just practice your lines in your head. With your eyes closed. And when I'm ready, open them."

"Fine," she says through gritted teeth.

"And keep still."

I wait for her to close her eyes. Her lips start moving slightly as she listens to the little prompter in her ear and practices her lines.

I get back to work.

She will undoubtedly kill me when she does open her eyes, because the dress I'm making her will seem torn and ragged. I'd wager it will look better than the real Mother Laelia's did when she stumbled into the mostly empty Capitol with her feral band of travelers after twenty years of wandering in the desert. She's right that an audience wouldn't even begin to accept what that really would have looked like, and besides, anything that degraded wouldn't survive the rigors of off-stage quick-changes.

Her "subjects" will probably all be in ridiculous outfits representing the families of the founders they're playing, covered in sequins that will glitter so hard the first rows will be half-blind. They'll probably all carry the stupid emblems that the big wigs in government do when they want to act like they're speaking for the founders. (One thing I'll give President Snow -- he's more interested in building his own reputation than borrowing some other person's, and doesn't do that. He just wears his roses.) We'll see Sabinus Shaw's scales of justice, probably literally rendered and lugged around by some Pompeia's boyfriend. Marilla Dodd's monocle (symbolizing watchful security) will certainly be worn, most likely enlarged and encrusted with rhinestones. The hammer of Arrian James the builder will look like Mjolnir.

And here will be Mother Laelia Grant, the leader of all of them, and I'm not even giving her the signature dove. Every other year they've done this play, the actress has ended up surrounded by leashed birds, all of them squawking and looking ridiculous. She usually gets an arrow, too, for the business with shooting meat for everyone. It's a wonder the birds haven't stolen the arrow and poked everyone's eyes out.

I carefully move the fabric to drape from her arm in a gathered sleeve. It will fall down loose in back. The best thing is that, while the haphazardness will read consciously as destruction of the outfit, subconsciously, people will see a regal gown. I'm purposely using the same shapes as the statue just off City Center has… just not carved out of granite.

What I don't quite dare tell my sister is that the "nightgown" it's starting out as isn't even made from proper material. I went to the fabric shop completely meaning to buy the same kind of sequined mess that everyone else was using. But I heard another customer start yelling at the clerk. She'd unrolled a skein and had all the sequins fall off, leaving the cloth under it "bald."

I snuck over and peeked. The fabric did look bad piebald, but what I saw where the sequins used to be made everything stop in its tracks. It changed the whole way I was going.

Whoever made the fabric wanted to make sure that it would shine from every angle, and as I watched, it tipped up to the light, and I saw a line of sparkling thread. The whole thing was woven with it very subtly tucked through the weft.

I bought it at only ten percent of the regular price, and used the extra to buy the dyes I wanted. I spent yesterday, while Pom-pom was out with the cast, stripping off sequins and dying the base in Mother Laelia's colors (sky blue and sandy yellow). The cloth is light and supple without the sequins bearing it down, and it slips through my hands like cool water. I deconstructed some for the shiny thread as well, and I've embroidered in thin arrows and birds that will briefly catch the light, then disappear before the audience realizes they were ever there.

And now, draping it onto my sister, I know that this is what it's supposed to be. People will claim to be confused. They'll claim to hate it. But in three days, the only costume they'll really remember will be this one.

I finish pinning it to fit, then go over and dim the lights.

"Okay," I say. "Open your eyes."

I look at the wall mirror and see Pompeia open her eyes. She looks puzzled. I turn the spotlight up a little bit, and she sees her first glimpse of a shape. She moves, the fabric rippling, and she gasps.

"See?" I say.

"I see," she says. "Cinna, they're not going to trust this. My director, I mean. My friends."

I look down. "Sorry."

"But I trust it." She gets down slowly from the stool, wincing as a pin catches her, and kisses my cheek. "I can't wait to tell them that my baby brother did this." She squirms to get away from the pins. "And if any of them complain, I seem to be carrying a large arsenal to punish them with."

She puts her arms around me, and I don't care that I'm being jabbed by pins now as well.
11 comments or Leave a comment
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: October 21st, 2013 08:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Awww, Cinna and Pompeia. *melts*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 21st, 2013 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I liked them. :D
patita_fea From: patita_fea Date: October 21st, 2013 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Jabberjay drills are your invention, not canon, right? They fit so perfectly, it's hard to remember sometimes.

In either The Narrow Path or The Golden Mean, Haymitch mentions the Delly-lookalike as "one of Peeta's more hilarious lies." I like the idea that Haymitch got a kick out of Peeta's bullshit, probably because I get a kick out of it myself. Katniss seems to appreciate the skill without ever having occasion to enjoy the result. Maybe later in their lives, when he isn't telling deathly serious lies to save her skin, he spins tall tales for her too?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 21st, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
As far as I know, Jabberjay Drills are mine, but I thought that would fit as the kind of game that might develop around that... technology, for lack of a better word.

I hope there are many, many tall tales spun in the Mellark house in the future.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 21st, 2013 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Mother Laila

Sounds all kinds of awesome. And exactly (down to the general imagery) like Katniss. Which of course was completely deliberate on your part. It really helps to explain why (along with all the reasons we already know) she struck such a resonant chord with everyone.

It kind of makes me wonder how, surrounded by all of the studied ridiculousness of Capital fashion, Cinna figured out all of this basic fashion wisdom. Innate genius? Something/someone else?

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 21st, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Mother Laila

Definitely deliberate. I figure she had to resonate for some reason, one she clearly wasn't aware of.

Cinna, like a lot of the designers who broke molds, just sees the world his own way.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: October 21st, 2013 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awwww, Little Cinna!

And so much history in one story. Thank you so much, Fern! I adore Cinna and seeing his genius at work is just wonderful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 21st, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like Cinna, too. (Though I question is "saintliness" quotient... that stunt with the wedding dress, or even the fire dress, was involving Katniss in something huge without her consent, even more than what Haymitch did. I still like him, though.)
redrikki From: redrikki Date: October 21st, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Man, I loved these. I really admire how you can weave world building and secondary character development into these short little pieces. I mean, you made Madge into the more reckless second coming of her aunt in a story that was technically about the Mellark boys and explained the history of the capitol in a story about subtle fashion. Nice work.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 21st, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maysilee didn't have the protection of being the mayor's daughter. Madge did. So she could probably get away with a whole lot of nonsense.

I believe in things that do double duty. Make the words work! Mwa-ha-ha.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 23rd, 2013 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Adored wee Cinna with his big sister, very sweet. I love the way you write Peeta and his brothers - so real. Liked that Peeta got all smirky when they didn't catch his lies.
11 comments or Leave a comment