Drabble #3: The Sheep Stealer’s Poetry

Disclaimer:

Bi-weekly drabbles are written in an hour or less, lightly edited, and highly inaccurate to history. Enjoy them at your own risk. They are based off WritingExercises.co.uk’s Random First Line Generator.

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Drabble:

“It would only be a fling – she wasn’t about to break up the happy home,” Sheriff Books mocked, waving her fork around in derision, a piece of chicken stuck to the end. Her voice boomed around the dining room, catching the attention of several other patrons.

Lady Woolthief, on the receiving end of the sordid tale, sat riveted. “You jest.”

“Nope,” Sheriff Books said simply, popping the chicken into her mouth.

“Did she believe her own words?”

“Unequivocally. She was convinced Missy Longworth would be nothing but fine with her husband spending a third of their monthly income putting her up. Of course, she hadn’t had the benefit of growing up with Missy, seeing as she’s ten years our junior. Poor girl never saw Hurricane Missy coming. At the inquiry, she even had the audacity to suggest to me – me, the only known female sheriff in the country – that Mr. Longworth should have kept Missy in line instead of ending their ‘fling.’”

“I don’t blame her for her naivety.” Lady Woolthief raised her voice an octave higher so any lingering ease-droppers could hear her boldly say, “If women were brought up to be autonomous, allowed a proper education, and able to hold respectable jobs, they wouldn’t need to rely on husbands or lovers to put a roof over their heads.  Relations would be purely about mutual desire, not financial benefit. Why are men so intimidated by that?”

Sheriff Books sat back cozily. “I don’t disagree, but feel the need to point out that I’m a woman holding a respectable job.”

“Not every woman has the gumption to walk into a jailhouse and demand the position of sheriff.”

“Or to steal sheep on the sly.”

Lady Woolthief didn’t miss a beat. “You think the sheep stealer is a woman?” she asked, picking up her spoon to start on her soup.

“Undoubtedly,” Sheriff Books said, staring fixedly at Lady Woolthief. “Did I mention I almost caught her Friday night last.”

“I find that unlikely,” Lady Woolthief retorted. “Why are you so convinced the sheep stealer’s a she?”

“Call it instinct.” Sheriff Books pulled a piece of parchment out of her side pouch and placed it in front of Lady Woolthief. “She leaves poems as her calling cards. You should read her latest.”

Lady Woolthief looked at the paper, genuinely interested in re-reading the poem she felt had been one of her best.

From afar I’ve watched how you treat your sheep
Kicking, starving until their wool you reap
Beautiful animals that provide for you
Deserve respect, tenderness, and comfort, too
If you don’t improve their lives each day
One by one I’ll steal them away

“Poetry is not this sheep stealer’s strong suit,” Sheriff Books said smugly.

Catching sheep stealers is not your strong suit, Lady Woothief wanted to snap. She kept her eyes down as she let the flicker of irritation at the barb pass.

“I mean, ‘deserve respect, tenderness, and comfort, too.’ Is she going for irony?” Sheriff Books continued.

Lifting her head with a brave, fake grin Lady Woolthief bit. “Irony?”

“Tender,” Sheriff Books taunted, “that’s how most people like their lamb chops.”

Lady Woolthief’s smile turned genuine. Her friend could talk tough all she wanted. As long as the sheep stealer roamed free, they both knew who had the upper hand.

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Drabble #2: Eluding Sheriff Books

Disclaimer:

Weekly drabbles are written in an hour or less, lightly edited, and highly inaccurate to history. Enjoy them at your own risk. They are based off WritingExercises.co.uk’s Random First Line Generator.

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Drabble:

As she stopped to catch her breath, she looked back. The intimidating figure of the sheriff could be seen in the distance, illuminated by moonlight. A party of at least six followed behind on horses, charging down the road. Sheep had been disappearing for years now. They were thirsty for justice.

Lady Woolthief looked down at the two sheep she had taken and weighed her odds of escape. Their gentle, trusting eyes looked back. They were tired and malnourished, barely able to walk. That wouldn’t help her odds, but Lady Woolthief doubled down on her resolve to lead them to safety. Getting to the edge of the forest was her only option. The sheriff could try to follow her in, but it would be to fruitless avail. Could Lady Woolthief get there before the sheriff got to her? Lady Woolthief wasn’t sure, but she damn-well was going to try. With one last deep breath, she pushed the sheep forward.

The sounds of the search party began to reach her ears. They were getting too close. The sheriff was aching for an arrest tonight. She had everything to prove.

. . .

Miss Dorothy Books’ appointment to sheriff had been both highly controversial and completely unchallenged. The previous sheriff had been killed during a bank heist gone wrong. For a town that’s criminal activity usually extended to petty arguments and the occasional stolen sheep, this had come as a shock. When no sheriff had been elected the week following, Miss Books had simply walked into the building, declared herself in charge, and settled into her new office.

The gossip had been blistering. How dare she? The nerve! And yet neither the general public nor their blustering pipsqueak of a mayor had had the gull to confront her directly. She was an imposing presence, tall and large, with a resume that would make any man dither.

“Dorothy the Deadshot” they had called her as she famously toured the country as one of the finest sharpshooters of her generation, winning shooting match after shooting match without breaking a sweat. Metaphorically speaking. Often, Miss Books was overheard complaining about how red her face became at even the slightest exertion. Dorothy had a booming voice and a belly laugh to match. Lady Woolthief adored her.

They had struck up a friendship in their early twenties, right before Miss Books had set off on her tour and Lady Woolthief had started stealing sheep. Miss Books had frequented the hat shop often, admiring, but unable to afford, Lady Woolthief’s luxurious (read: obnoxious) hats. Even from the back room of the shop, Lady Woolthief knew if Miss Books was there. A loud squeal, followed by, “OW! OW! OW!” would inevitably alert her. Miss Books was incredibly clumsy and found ways to hurt herself even Lady Woolthief couldn’t believe. She was a mixed bag of contradictions and Lady Woolthief found that fascinating.

Large, but agile. Agile, but clumsy. Clumsy, but deadly. Deadly, but feminine.

Inspired, Lady Woolthief had decorated a top hat that represented those contradictions and given it to Dorothy free of charge. That hat went on to become Dorothy the Deadshot’s trademark and the publicity from it had thrown Lady Woolthief’s little hat shop into the national spotlight. They had become successful together, a bond that intertwined them perpetually.

Little had they known how fate would test that bond. In one world, they were close friends; in another, great adversaries.

Yet another contradiction. And they both knew it.

Lady Woolthief was the sheep stealer. Sheriff Books had to prove it. Until she did, and maybe even after, they would not let that little fact break their friendship.

 

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Drabble #1: Tea Time with Lord Smithers

Disclaimer:

Weekly drabbles are written in an hour or less, lightly edited, and highly inaccurate to history. Enjoy them at your own risk. They are based off WritingExercises.co.uk’s Random First Line Generator.

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Drabble:

His solution to the problem of having two children to care for was to find another woman to do the job.

Lady Woolthief dropped her tea cup onto its saucer and slumped back into her chair. She wasn’t sure what had made her date’s nose crinkle, the clatter of glass or her posture, but he was now looking at her with quite as much disgust as she felt toward the idea of raising his children. When would the men of her generation understand that having a… sacred rose did not make every woman matronly. This was the 1850’s for goodness sake!

“Please be careful. That tea cup is very delicate,” Lord Smithers said gruffly. “Hand-painted, one of a kind.”

“It didn’t break,” Lady Woolthief replied simply. She didn’t find this an appropriate follow-up to the proposal of marriage he had made not thirty seconds before. A fit of laughter, along with an admission of humor would have been preferable.

Lord Smithers grunted his dismissal. “Back to the matter at hand. I can give you a good life. You’d be living here.” He gestured around the grand parlor as if that was all she needed to see to make up her mind. “Biscuit?”

Waving away the silver platter, Lady Woolthief asked, “Why not just hire a maid and nanny?”

“This is the more economical option,” he said, picking up a biscuit without the slightest bit of remorse that he’d just told Lady Woolthief he wanted to marry her because she came cheap.

Lady Woolthief’s fingernails danced across the table in an irritable fashion, her lips in a taut line. “We only just met. You don’t know me or my tastes.”

His laugh told her he thought this was the funniest thing in the world. “This is what I like about you,” he snickered through mouthfuls of biscuit. “Allow me to correct myself. You’ll be cheaper than hired help, but living three times the life you could possibly afford making those obnoxious hats.”

The derision he showed toward her independence made Lady Woolthief smirk. Even if she were allowed to hold a higher position, she’d choose to be a hat-maker. Even if she condescended to marry him, she’d persist. She loved two things: hats and sheep. They were both symbols of her freedom.

“Now, Lady Woolthief. Let’s stop playing coy. We both know you are a woman of a certain age–”

“I’m twenty-eight.”

“Exactly,” he nodded, as if she was agreeing with him. “No husband. No children. No prospects, really, other than working in that hat shop for the rest of your life.”

“My hat shop.” It was small, but she was proud.

“You will never receive a better offer than this.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Lady Woolthief said, waving him off. “You already outdid yourself when you offered me a biscuit.”

Lord Smithers eyebrows knit together as he unraveled her insult.

“I need to not powder my nose.” Lady Woolthief said, swooping up from the table and heading straight for the front door. A draft of fresh air hit her face as she walked outside. She inhaled deeply. It had been stifling in that over-stuffed, pretentious parlor. Moments like this made her miss… She sighed, refusing to think his name. It was too painful. He had never expected her to birth and care for his children. He had never wanted her to be anything other than what she was. But he wasn’t in the picture any longer, and she needed to move on. She just wouldn’t be doing it with Lord Smithers.

Lady Woolthief walked briskly down the front stairs of the mansion, heading for the long road that led back to town. She caught a whiff of something and impulsively changed direction, heading for his fields instead. She wanted to check on Lord Smither’s sheep. Perhaps she’d smuggle one or two with her as a consolation prize for that awful tea.

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