cramped for starters

Violet presumed to seat herself on an overstuffed ottoman in the corner of Marrionetta’s dressing room. The room, cramped for starters, was brimming with patterned furniture. Marrionetta appeared to be very fond of reds this year. Red roses, red geometrics, red perfume bottles, a few tapestries in crimson and blue, and a spilling theme of silver accents.

In the opposite corner was a raised platform that nearly reached the ceiling. Violet concluded that Marrionetta was now living and sleeping in her dressing room since her eviction from The Emerald House.

“Prancing elephants” Marrionetta scoffed. “Why not have toothpicks dig trenches?”

“I know,” said Violet. “It’s hard to know how to balance their size within the movement. To do anything interesting with it anyway.”

Marrionetta paced a small trail through the furniture as if it were a landscaped English garden. She nodded thoughtfully.

“If it’s going to be anything, it’s either got to be tremendous or mouselike. Middling doesn’t converse in this case.” Marrionetta began to pace faster. “Odd extremities. How far do their ears stick out?”

“Oh ummm,” Violet guessed with her hands.

“Fans.” Marrionetta concluded.

“Sorry?”

Marrionetta huffed. “Fans! Their ears are like fans! Use that.” She threw a raspberry at Violet for being slow witted.

“Thank you,” Violet suppressed the instinct to throw the raspberry right back. But the fans idea was — in fact — interesting. She wondered how much intrinsic musculature the elephants had and in what parts of their ears. She could coordinate a row of fanning ears, like flags or like billowing scarves. It would be very different from anything the elephants had been tasked with before.

Marrionetta palmed a mouthful of raspberries. She was still thinking about the elephants.

“Miss Mary, I wondered…” Violet cautioned, “the elephants are a sad lot. I wanted to make them a gift.”

Marrionetta frowned at Violet and then frowned at a different part of the room. “What?”

“Do you have any jam I could take to them? I’d pay you of course.”

Marrionetta stalled. Her eyes started burning that awful orange of her passions. She invected the bowl of raspberries into the floor where it exploded.

“What mercenary, foaming maggot told you I like jam!?” She raged toward Violet like a rattling sheath of swords.

“No one,” Violet whispered. “Nobody. I swear it. I just thought you might have some and it could lift their spirits.”

“Elephants?! Jam!?” Marrionetta shook with agitated vigor. “Yes! That’s right!” she said hysterically. “Good enough for dusty elephants! Jam! PLEUGH!” She swirled over to a locked cabinet. She threw open its doors revealing a trove of secret jam. She began snatching jar upon jar and hurling them at Violet.

“Here you go! Dirty jam for dirty elephants! Take all you want! What the skindigging eel mites do I care!” She started screaming wordless things and shuddering the cabinet.

Violet palmed a few jars of jam and leapt for the door.

“Thank you, Miss Mary! You’re a true original!” Violet ran down the hall.

Marrionetta inculcated her jam cabinet with a few more punishing body slams. Then she caught herself and remained still. She looked around the room and saw that Violet had left. Then she noticed her overturned and broken bowl of raspberries.

She slid onto the floor and took a breath that was centuries deep.


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