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           If you’re going to be different, then you have to be perfect. That was a rule my Father lived by—a rule the Fuglestads gleefully ignored. People here think it was the drunk Herr Fuglestad who caused the family so much grief, but there are plenty of Lushingtons in Muskox Hollow who get along just fine. It’s being different, not being imperfect, which can get you into trouble.

            They forgave my papa for his French accent because they couldn’t criticize him for anything else. And they could have forgiven the Fuglestads if that family’s recklessness was the only thing that made them different. But there were so many other things: their absence from church, their not eating meat, their red hair, and the fact that the town’s obsession with them didn’t seem to concern them in the least.

            By the time I started grade school, I was two hands taller than my classmates. A few years later, when Papa built the theater, I realized my height wasn’t the only thing that made me different. While I couldn’t hide my size, the other thing put a twist in my gut.

            Papa started giving me a lot of advice.

            “Acting isn’t just for zee zz’eater, Erlend,” Papa said.

            He trained me to perform for everyone. With a two-handed handshake, an enormous smile, and a compliment ready.

            C'est trop d'un ennemi et pas assez de cent amis,” Papa told me. “One enemy is not irrelevant, nor a hundred friends too many.”

            I was the character he wanted me to play—your Erlend Fournier, polite young man, champion skier, star performer, everyone’s best friend.

            As long as they were talking to us, they weren’t whispering about us.

            But the Erlend Fournier who saddled his papa’s horse one afternoon and took a ride to the Fuglestad farm was not your Erlend Fournier. The Erlend Fournier who tucked his gold fjord into the saddlebag was the Erlend Fournier who ate dyspepsia tablets by the handful, who had swollen knuckles on his right hand from punching the side of the barn, and who recently learned the phrase: “Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.” It’s better to be alone than with people you do not like.

                                                            #

            I didn’t know if little Fred Fuglestad would be home, but I knew if I waited long enough up on that hill by the barn he would be there after he finished his day of farriery. I dismounted Papa’s horse and sat in the grass.

            A river snaked its way through the mountain valley below and several ponies were grazing nearby. Those in the field were elderly and lame—hocks swollen with arthritis, and their coats were shaggy as if they never shed in the spring. They had good weight on them, and they seemed happy to be living out their senior years on the Fuglestad farm rather than as “viande de cheval”.

            The Fuglestads take in the crippled horses, and the Fourniers take in the crippled Fuglestad.

            “I don’t see any casket,” a voice called up from the road.

            I turned. Two white fjords, Jake and Espen, were pulling the Fuglestad smithy up the hill. Barely visible over the team’s roached and striped manes was a small freckled face shielded beneath a cap.

            “I suppose you want me to make it myself?” the boy asked, a smile on his lips.

            “Your brother lives!” I yelled back to him as he reined his ponies to a stop.

            “That’s good, because I’m no carpenter,” he said. “Come for more laudanum? A little mixed in his tea will keep him out of your hair.”

            “Interesting. But, now that he’s healthy, we need him alert for the show. That’s why I’ve come, Fred, I want to hire you to make something.”

            Fred squinted at me, the evening sunlight sneaking through his amber bangs.

            “I can make anything as long as its horseshoes.”

            I followed him as he unhitched his team.           

            “It’s not horseshoes, but… I want to find out what you need…” I said.

            “What do you mean?”

            “I can pay you well,” I told him, “and I know it’s not easy for you. Now that’s you’re a—”
            “—an orphan?”
            “Right,” I said.

            “Since the accident, the only thing on my mind is getting hay for the winter.”

            “I’ll help with that. Here...” I went back to my saddlebag and pulled out a book I found at the library. It was about the American Civil War—complete with pictures. Opening it, I showed him. “The play we’re doing... It takes place after the war and everyone is going to be wounded and bandaged up. I want something like this made for your brother.”

            I showed him the picture: a Union soldier with a metal prosthesis attached to what remained of his arm.

            Fred studied the picture and grinned.

            “That’s more than just a prop,” Fred said. “He could use that in life.”

            “I thought the same thing.”

            “You should hire a proper craftsman,” Fred went on. “Especially if you have money to spend.”

            “There’s the problem,” I said. “No one will take what I have to pay.”

            “Why not?”

            Again, I went to my saddlebag. This time, I returned with my gold fjord. I looked at the horse shape for a moment—its high shine reflected everything around us in distorted streaks of yellow and white. I tossed it to Fred. He needed both hands to catch the thing and strained for a moment under its weight.

            “It’s all I have, but no one in town is going to take a boy’s gold,” I explained.

            “Why not?”

            “Its sacrosanct.”

            “You could buy a small farm with this much.”

            There was a tightness in my throat. The same tightness I felt on my 17th birthday when my parents gave it to me, and the tightness I always feel when Papa tells me to smile.

            “It’s supposed to be for my wedding. And then, according to tradition, my bride and I will use the gold to start our lives together.”

            “That sounds important,” Fred said, handing it back to me.

            “Your brother’s arm is important,” I said.

            I shoved my gold back at Fred. He slid the fjord horse to the tips of his fingers, as if he knew he shouldn’t even be touching it.

            “I’ll help you get that arm made for Gunnar,” Fred said. “But I’m not going to charge you for it. After all, its my fault he lost it in the first place.”

            “Your fault?”

            “How about this: find a craftsman, a proper metalworker. Instead of giving over your whole horse to him, you just give him a few small pieces? I’d need to figure out how to do it, but I could melt a little piece of your gold into something. Make it look like jewelry or... Do you think he’d believe a kid like you could come up with a little bit of gold to trade for his services?”

            “As long as he didn’t talk with my parents...”

            Fred snapped his fingers.

            “No. No. No. This is what you do. Don’t go yourself. You get one of your actors. You give them a fancy job title—“

            “Prop master!” I said.

             “Yes, you call them a prop master. You give them some gold pieces and that picture and send them to the metalsmith to get the prop made. It will all look like its coming from the theater, and that means the smith won’t be asking you too many questions about where the gold came from.”

            “You’re brilliant, Fred!”

            “Don’t call me anything until I get these gold pieces made. I might mess up and melt the whole thing—“

            “I want you to melt the whole thing!” I said (I shouted it, actually).

Fred’s wide blue eyes stared at me in a way that made me remember he was just a little squeaker.

            “I want you to melt the whole horse,” I said, slower this time.

            “But why?”

            “I’ll pay you... I’ll give you half of it, even!”

            There was a vein throbbing in my neck. Fred stepped backwards.

            “I... I don’t think I should be doing this,” he stammered, handing me back the gold. “Maybe… maybe what I should do is just figure out how to make the arm myself. I’ll do it for no charge. Like I said, it’s my fault he got hurt. I can figure it out… Just let me…”

            “FUGLESTAD, LISTEN!” I hollered. It was my King Lear voice. I hadn’t intended on this moment happening, but that’s how it sometimes goes in a scene. Your unconscious takes over and without even thinking about it you’re playing just the right tactic. I raised my hand and clutched the collar of little Fred’s shirt. His lower lip dropped away from his teeth and I waited a second for him to acknowledge how large I was just then.

            “FUGLESTAD! Your brother... almost... died.” Yes, that was just the right level of intensity there, but if I pushed it too much he’d think I was off my chump. “His piss was black like oil.”

            “Uh. That-that’s disgusting.”

            “We saved him, Fred,” I said—slowly, still, not breaking eye contact. I clenched my jaw a bit—just to keep him on edge. “We took him in. We made him part of the family. We’d do the same for you.”

            “Right.” Fred lowered his eyes.

            “I need you to do this for me,” I said. “I need you to melt the whole cursed thing. Make it into small pieces—little pieces of jewelry or whatever.”

            I let go of his collar and I placed the gold horse in his hands, closing his fingers around it.

            “I’ll be here the day after tomorrow to pick it up. You keep some. Buy hay.”

            Fred shook his head.

            “I’m not taking any of it,” he said.

            I had to turn away so he wouldn’t see me soften. There’s a miserable bastard inside me sometimes.

            As I got on my horse and made my way back towards the road, I turned around.

            “It doesn’t belong to them!” I yelled. “It was my gift. That means I can do whatever I want with it. GOT IT?”

            Fred’s orange head nodded cautiously—the way I imagined it nodding at his Papa when he blabbered on in a drunken stupor.

            Yes, there’s a miserable bastard inside me.

                                                                        #

            The first time I got thoroughly top heavy was back when Fred’s older brother auditioned for our theater. I had just spent the whole afternoon with my tail getting numb watching the spawn of Muskox Hollow splutter their way through Torvald and Nora’s monologues from “A Doll’s House” when Gunnar Fuglestad got up there and opened his sauce-box. After his monologue was over, I was on the floor.

            Like me, Fuglestad was old for his age but he wasn’t just taller or bigger, he was a completely different species—like an elk amongst milk goats. The stage lights were fond of him—sculpting his features into fine image of stoicism and menace.

            It was the most magnificent monologue I had ever seen. He was mesmerizing, insecure, and immensely fascinating. You could see why Nora wanted him—Fuglestad’s Torvald was irresistible. 

            “Where’d you learn how to act like that?” I barked at him from my place in the auditorium.

            I remember thinking: If this punk gives me some fimble-famble about how he’s been reading Ibsen since he was five, I’ll slap the pretty off his face bones.  

            “From you,” he said, but I didn’t really catch that at first, I thought he was giving me a name—Fremeau something.

            “What was that?” I asked.

            “From you,” Fuglestad bellowed. “I learned from watching you.”

            The punk’s eyes bore into me, almost like he was going to punch me for asking him.

            “Right answer...” I said, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.

            After auditions, I called on my favorite piss maker and did my best not to do any sober thinking that night. 

                                                             #

            Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone after our prop master delivered the payment (in gold horseshoes) and instructions to the metalmaker. I went to go meet with him myself.

            “Look,” I said, “I’m directing this play, and I need things to be done just right. Can you goldplate the whole bloody prosthesis?”

            I threw more gold horseshoes at him.

            “Make the thing shine like goddamn flames of hell. And put these on the armband,” I said as I handed him the two valkerie stones that used to be my fjord’s eyes.

            “What kind of play is this?” The metalmaker asked.

            “It’s just this piece,” I said. “It’s important. It has to be splendid.”

                                                            #

            He always arrived early, script in hand, and would sit cross-legged on the stage, hunched over the pages, writing notes in the margins while he waited for the others.

            “Fuglestad,” I said. For some reason, my King Lear voice wanted to come out, but I kept it in check. “I need your help with something.”

            He followed me off right and into the shadows. I became aware of the smell he brought inthe clean, tart scent of rain in his hair.

            “Wear this in rehearsal today. Let’s see how it works out,” I stepped aside so he could take his place in front of the mirror. His damp hair stuck to his forehead. I glimpsed a large freckle between his eyebrows.

            The box slipped away from the pristine gold arm. Its shimmering reflections bounced into his eyes.

            My breathing, sounding unusually loud at that moment, began to increasingly annoy me.

            He was still when I took a hold of his stump and everything went to hell after that. My hands shook as they went to the little knot of sleeve he had tied just below his elbow. It was something about the sensation and warmth of his stub of a limb underneath that thin rain-sodden shirt that drove me to madness. 

            “What’s this?” he asked, touching the bayonet.

            “F-for picking things up,” I said, “torturing small children, impaling your enemies.”

            I slid the cuff onto his bicep andwith a great deal of quaking, shivering and uncomfortable silencebuckled the straps into place.

            He ran his good fingers up the bayonet to the joint in the elbow, then to the thick bracelet with its engravings just below his shoulder. I realized how much he wasn’t looking at me and how much I couldn’t make a clear thought in my head other than this mental picture of all my internal organs shattering like glass.

            My sorry hands, trembling still, struggled to roll up his sleeve.

            “And what’s this?” he asked, his voice deep and calm.

            He meant the gems on his bicep; the two blue gems surrounded by gilded filigree.

            I answered by kissing him. I put my lips to his hairline, feeling the pulse of the warm vein in his foreheadthe silken hairs rolling against his wettish skin. He remained still as ice.

            Parting from him, I forced myself to acknowledge the damage I’d done. He was looking down and away from me, his eyes hooded in shadow beneath his brow; his lips were slightly parted. He was motionless except for the slow rise and fall of his chest.

            I got his sleeve buttoned up above the prosthesis then turned on my heel, crossing the stage and letting the door slam behind me as I went out into the alley.

            I imagined Fuglestad standing there, awkward and alone, the sound of the door reverberating in the darkness of the theater.

            Shivering there in the alleyway even though the sun shone through the September rain, I could still feel the tingle of his hair against my mouth.

            “I told you. See? Fournier’s over there seeing daggers.”

            Åsta Hedstrom (our pixie-sized Beatrice) and the rest of the cast were coming up the street.

            “We’re only five minutes late,” she laughed “Sorry!”

            “You’re sorry?” I coughed out, “I’m the one who has to dole out the beatings.”

            They pushed through the door. Once inside, their voices fawned over Fuglestad’s new arm. I wished for lightening to strike me dead.

            There was no such mercy.

            They began act four. Of course, Fuglestad’s Benedick was a beasta glorious, funny, enticing beast with a gold arm and the eyes of a war-weary soldier.

            BENEDICK
            Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?

            BEATRICE
            Yea, and I will weep a while longer.
            BENEDICK
            I will not desire that.
            BEATRICE
            You have no reason, I do it freely.
           
Hunched over the third row chair backs, I watched the scene. Åsta was convincing. The more she tried to not cry in front of Benedick, the more her eyes reddened. Tears dotted her lashes.

            BENEDICK
            May a man do it?
            BEATRICE
            It’s... it’s a man’s office, but not... yours.

            And then Fuglestad grabbed Åsta and kissed her.

            Even the theater mice froze at the sight of it. This wasn’t at all in the blocking, and we weren’t even in the scene where they were supposed to kiss, but as he held her I could almost hear the angels of theater singing with joy.

            Slowly, devilishly, Fuglestad released her, savoring the shock upon her face.

            BENEDICK
            I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?

            Åsta stood catatonic, her eyes wide and vacant. Fuglestad’s Benedick—pleased with himself—continued forth saying Beatrice’s lines in a carefree falsetto:

            “As strange as the thing I know not,” he spoke for her clutching her fingertips with his good hand and making her gesture like a limp little puppet. “It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you…

            She collapsed onto the stage in tears and cackles of laughter.

            “Ahhh! I’m sorry!” she screamed, “I’ve ruined the rehearsal!”

            “Don’t worry, my dear. You ruin every rehearsal,” Fuglestad said, smiling.

            “For that, I’ll break your knees!” Åsta hissed, slithering towards him like an adder.

            “Alright, alright,” I said. “We’ll take it back to ‘May a man do it’ and, we’ll keep this... new blocking. And, yes, Beatrice is likely to be stunned when... this happens... but she’s a mature woman. She’s not going to completely lose it.”

            “You don’t understand!” she shrieked, “What it’s like. The way Gunnar Fuglestad can kiss a lady!”

            I swallowed back the knot in my throat and slumped down into my chair.

            “Well then, Åsta. Use it.”

            “Before we begin again,” he beamed, “may I suggest that our Beatrice not eat a whole onion before the next rehearsal?”

            Åsta raised her fist in indignation.

            “May I suggest that you,” she clucked, “watch what you’re doing with that gimp arm. I felt like I was being molested in a cotton gin.”

            And then they went on with the scene and we finished act four realizing that the Muskox Hollow Theater Academy had never been better.

                                                                        #

            I held my position behind row three pretending to write notes and hoping Fuglestad would decide to go home without me. The stage door closed for the last timethe cast’s footsteps and hooting faded as they rambled up the alley.

            Safe at last, I hopped up onto the stage.

            He was there off stage left leaning against the proscenium. All I could see was a little of that shining arm and the white of his shirt. His face was in shadow.

            “Good rehearsal, Fuglestad,” I said.

            “Good direction, Fournier,” he said.

            His real hand was tucked into his pocket, his feet crossed. He’s challenging me, I thought. That’s been it this whole time. He’s always known he’s better than me and now he’s mocking me. I’m humiliated and he loves it.

            “Do you have any phobias?” he asked me.

            “What do you mean?”

            “Are you afraid of anything?”

            “No...” I said.

            I squinted into the darkness trying to make out his face.

            “Not afraid of heights?”

            “No,” I answered.

            “Not afraid of death?” I could hear his jaw stiffen.

            “No.”

            “Not afraid of the dark?”

            “What about you?” I spat. “Are you afraid of anything?”

            Above Fuglestad’s head was the pull cord that our Stage Manager would yank at the end of a scene. It would draw the stage into blackness while we readied the set for the next act.

            Fuglestad pulled it and the theater became as dark and quiet as death. The only noise was the sound my oxfords made as I crossed the stage.

            There in the shadows I found his waist with my hands, and as my mouth touched his lips I could feel him smile. 

The Gold Fjord
A stand-alone story from my upcoming novel "The Christmas Race" about an unconventional family who find themselves at odds with values of their rural, Scandinavian village.
 The Gold Fjord by carlylyn 
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Launching the "book cover design" arm of my business. Please consider following me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/carlylynbookc…

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carlylyn
Carly Lyn
Artist | Professional | Varied
United States
Hello! I'm an artist, professor, and filmmaker! My latest movie can be read about at www.afoundling.com

Current Residence: Los Angeles
deviantWEAR sizing preference: Xtra Small
Print preference: Wrapped Canvas
Favourite genre of music: Classical
Favourite photographer: Robert Vavra
Favourite style of art: Rococo
Operating System: Mac OSX
Interests

Hi All, The feature film I wrote and directed is now available to watch on iTunes itunes.apple.com/us/movie/a-fo… Check it out! It's called "A FOUNDLING" and it stars Cindy Chiu from "BRING IT ON: ALL OR NOTHING".

The story follows two Chinese American girls in the Old West who find an alien spacecraft in the desert.

The film has been called "Truly amazing!" by Film Radar and won a Best Feature Film award at Bleedfest. 

Here are some reviews of the film:

www.filmradar.com/reviews/item… <---FilmRadar
jadedviewer.blogspot.com/2011/… <---- The Jaded Viewer
www.bmovieman.com/A-Foundling.… <----B Movie Man
www.ilikehorrormovies.com/2010… <--- I Like Horror Movies

Also, be sure to check A FOUNDLING on IMDB: 
www.imdb.com/title/tt1301309/?…

Thanks! 

Again, please "like" A FOUNDLING on Facebook: 
www.facebook.com/pages/A-Found…

  • Listening to: NPR
  • Reading: Under the Dome
  • Drinking: Tea

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:iconweirdandlovely:
WeirdAndLovely Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist

Welcome to CRLiterature!

 

We are so happy you have joined.  Our Journal is filled with community news and features that many find incredibly helpful!  Our #CRLiterature chatroom is always open for you to connect with fellow writers, provided you read our Chatroom Guidelines.  The gallery is open to News Articles that are in some way related to the literature community and the guidelines can be found here.  If you’d like to contribute writings, please look at our Favorites Submission Rules.  Any other questions should be directed to the admin team via notes.

 

Thank you,

WeirdAndLovely

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:iconcaitwood:
Caitwood Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015  New member Student Digital Artist
Hello, it's Catherine Pearce from your Drawing and Anatomy. I really like the work you've done; it's really impressive :)
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:iconmicrosober-creed:
Microsober-Creed Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I'm from the arts institute. Student of yours. I have seen your work in the past, amazing stuff!
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:iconaccessnotincluded:
accessnotincluded Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Student Filmographer
Hi professor! It's Denise Lhamon from your substitute Advanced Life Drawing for Animation class. Just thought I'd pop in and say hi!!!
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:iconlupinator:
Lupinator Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014
Hey, just another one of those students of yours.  Sorry, if we are making up a large part of your demographic here, hahaha.  But, you're a darn fine artist though, so I'd like to keep tabs on that in the future.  I look forward to working with you.
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:iconvwvanlover:
vwvanlover Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2013  Student Filmographer
Hi Professor, This is Anjelica "Marissa" Disney from your current Drawing and Anatomies class. I just wanted to say hello! :)
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:icondj-dragonflash:
dj-dragonflash Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2013
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PROFESSOR!...
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:iconsagojyousartpage:
Sagojyousartpage Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello fellow vegan! :wave: (Assuming that from the groups you're in)
Good to see another vegan around! :D
May I add you to my list of "veg people on dA"? :D
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:iconjaysandra:
Jaysandra Featured By Owner May 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello Professor. :) Feel free to check out some of my artwork.
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:iconbrambleclawandjaypaw:
brambleclawandjaypaw Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013
Behold the Turtle is amazing. I am obsessed with the Dark Tower series. Did you ever get it sent to Mr. King?
I wish I could have my own billy bumbler
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