Author Archive

The Bridge That Would Not Burn

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

by Christina Rauh Fishburne


Defenestrationism.net presents
a serialization in 14 parts



Week Five:
in which Charlotte and Lt. Atchison sit in each other’s chairs at the fire.



That evening, Charlotte was in Atchison’s seat by the fire. She thought of it as his seat in any case, as she hoped he did. As she hoped it would irritate him by her being in it.

His step was deliberate as his expression was blank when he came through the parlor doorway. She kept her eyes on her book, her senses radiating out of her forehead, her shoulders, the tips of her toes, all invisibly collecting information on how to best portray her total lack of interest in his presence. The message she received was disappointing: surrender. Misfire.

Atchison sat in her seat, at least she thought of it as such, and did not cross his legs but stretched them out toward the fire. She raised white flag eyes and sighed in a long-suffering sort of way.

He was relaxed, languid even. There was a glass in his hand which he lifted as he spoke, as though they had paused in conversation.

“There was a rumor we were near the end of it all. It was April, the weather was warming but the rain was relentless.” His words took on a soft drawl as his bearing dropped away inch by inch. “We’d been separated from the rest of the men during a storm and found shelter in a cave of sorts. Fell into it, actually. It was dark and raining in the worst of disorienting ways. The ground just gave way under us all at once, but not too deep, thank God. It was more of a slope, we saw the next morning, down into this cave entrance or cavern perhaps. We didn’t have the strength or inclination to explore at that point. Anyway, there were three of us, huddled in the dark and damp, confused and afraid. I was 20. The oldest and the leader they turned to. I’ll tell you this, I had no idea what I was doing. In battle, I had what training I’d been given or figured out on my own. But soothing nerves and quelling panic? Neither was my forte. 

“We stayed there all night, built a small weak fire as far in as we could get. We talked a little at first, but one of them, just a kid, hardly a whisker on him, he was good and scared. Wanted to run. Said the storm was the perfect time to do it. Said the Union soldiers wouldn’t waste time looking for three of us, not if the rumors were true and we were surrendering anyway. The more he talked the more it sounded good to us. And that scared me more than anything else. So, I punched him and told them both to be quiet and go to sleep.”

He half-smiled at the fire and lifted the glass again. Charlotte closed her book.

“I told you we didn’t explore,” he went on. “That’s not entirely true. While they slept, I took a bit of wood from the fire, such as it was, and tried to make my way back further into the cave. Anything was better than sitting there feeling responsible for the two of them and certain none of us would make it much longer…I didn’t make it very far, but from what I could see it looked like someone had been there recently. I didn’t think much about it at the time, being concerned as I was with my immediate future as a prisoner, or dead, but I’ve given it a thought or two since.

“The next morning when the sun was nearly up, I realized I’d fallen asleep and the kid was gone. Miller and I climbed up out of that muddy slope and ran straight into a gang of what had to be deserters, though they didn’t admit to it. We were all so out of sorts nobody asked too many questions, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I reckon that the sacks those men had and the direction of the cave in which they were heading add up to stockpiling plunder.

“The chaos we were heading into was worse than the war itself.” Atchison’s eyes flickered back and forth, reading lines on a page Charlotte could not see. “Men try to keep order. I guess we think providing rules will provide direction. From what I can discern, the only thing placing rules on chaos accomplishes is providing opportunity for creative disappointment. Good does find a way. But Evil finds a way too. Just has to work a bit harder to get there.”

He looked at her. She tried to read his face, but she never did have an eye or ear for other languages.

“I heard later the kid who ran off on us was caught. I can’t see as how it ended well for him.” He finished the drink.

Charlotte’s hands were folded in her lap. She understood being forced into a life she didn’t choose. The impulse to run away, to escape. She hoped the young soldier had made it to safety. More than the tale itself, what fascinated her was the complete alteration in the teller’s mannerism. His language, his posture, his features—everything relaxed. And now, apparently completed as his confession was, Atchison sucked all suggestion of failure back into himself. His back straightened slowly, legs aligned, jaw tightened, eyes pulled away from the fire, forged. She was sorry for it.

“Thank you for indulging me, Miss Worthington. I’ll burden your evening no longer. Good night.”

He was halfway to the stairs before she could fashion her composure into something between nonchalance and benevolence, something like what a priest’s would be.

“What was his name?” she asked before she could stop herself to analyze the repercussions.

But Atchison was gone.

In her room, Charlotte sat at her little desk and plotted assassination. The deserter’s story was her story. The end would not be satisfying, but maybe it could yet be hopeful. It didn’t matter. It would end the same as it always did, eventually, destroyed by her own hand before it had a chance to be seen or changed. She stayed up well past her usual time and was shocked to hear the downstairs clock chime one. The rule, her rule, was one page. It had been a difficult night, inflicting all of her wounds onto one page. “Creative disappointment,” he had said about placing rules onto chaos. Is that what she did? Had that become the sum of her days now? How vexing.

She was climbing into her bed, placing the page on the gallows of her nightstand when she heard a soft step and the gentle creak of floorboards outside her door. She gripped her covers and held her breath. The lamp was still lit beside her. He would know she was not asleep. It was him, surely. Who else would it be? The terrifying thrill shot through her, as the light whish of the note slid under her door. Seeing it there, pale, blue, eggshell thin, doused her in coolness as the racing of her heart slowed. She waited an appropriate moment or two before leaping out of bed as silently as possible and pouncing on it. Before unfolding it, she pressed an ear to the door. Nothing. She opened the note.

His name was John Selber.






Join us Sunday of the Thirty-First, for Week Six:
in which Dr. Ridgeway is unsure if the ladies wish to attend the exhibit he has invited them to, and Charlotte finds it difficult to be bored in the parlor of Number 14 K Street, despite how abysmally boring the dinner held by her father there has just been.

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burnhere.





Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
Bonafides/ home


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And the Winners Are…

Monday, January 18th, 2021

What, what, what a contest. Through both plague and through unrest, Art has helped us suffer ever so slightly less.

Thnx, Art– we all owe you one.
(so submit again, next time, Lovers of Literature)




The Grand Prize Winner:
MacDuffy Suite

Runner-up:
Maple Leaf Souls




View how the judges voted— including the excruciatingly exciting three way tie for Runner-up, decided by the Fan Vote’s Runner-up.
Read the suites.

And now, for your amazement,
some Defenestrationism.net Traffic Numbers:

During Fan Voting, alone
from the wee hours of the morning on January 1st
till late-night Saturday last
772 unique IP addresses have hit us 3,667 times,
with a daily high– on January third–
of 479 views from 95 IPs.

And, Ladies and Gentlemen and those in-between and outside both,
from the first post of this Winter’s 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest,
Defenestrationism.net has received…
seven… thousand… seven-hundred… and fifty-one… site-visits
— in just over a month and a half.




Who’s responsible for this madcap affair?: Masthead
Join us all Spring as,

Defenestrationism.net presents,
a serialization in 14 parts, of

Christina Rauh Fishburne’s

The Bridge That Would Not Burn

–Published now– Week Four:
in which Charlotte slurps her tea, again, and does not ask Lt. Atchison if he found confederate treasure.

or, catch-up with the bustle of excitement, here.




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Wow, people: ’21 FSC update.

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

Wow, people. What a contest.
Judge votes in. Fan vote in. Traffic high.
Announcement scheduled for 1:28 1/18/21.
Wow, people.

Scroll down for our ongoing publication of
The Bridge That Would Not Burn, by Christina Rauh Fishburne,
“in which Charlotte slurps her tea, again, and does not ask Lt. Atchison if he found confederate treasure.”

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The Bridge That Would Not Burn

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

by Christina Rauh Fishburne

Defenestrationism.net presents
a serialization in 14 parts



Week Four:

in which Charlotte slurps her tea, again, and does not ask Lt. Atchison if he found confederate treasure.



Ursula handled things. Much of her time in the past was spent picking up, often mending or concealing, various objects the Worthington girl destroyed. She found them hidden behind drapes, under overturned cups in the kitchen, and kicked to the sides of the walkway leading to the front door. She bitterly fixed or disposed of the pottery, buried the small killed creature. These days, Miss Charlotte stayed out of her way.

Ursula handled the help. It was she that kept the maids on task and paid the Sweep Master, that odious Elias Tuckett. If it weren’t for Mr. Worthington’s obsession with fire disaster prevention and a monthly sweep of the chimneys, she could have avoided Elias Tuckett’s greasy presence for six months at a time. But it wasn’t Ursula’s place to question. It was her place to arrange, to handle, but only to a point. It was the chimney girl who handled the dirtiest of things.

 Ursula avoided her. And watched.

*

Charlotte sat opposite Atchison that evening before the parlor fire and deliberately took the pale blue note from its marking position in her book. Through her lashes she watched him slowly turn the page of his own book. She sighed. He coughed once. She did not read so much as bore holes through each word, and had no rational explanation for why his inattention irritated her.

He coughed again and long enough to justify her asking if he was alright. He waved her off and re-crossed his legs.

“I’ve dealt with a reoccurring chest condition since the war. Made it through nearly the entire conflict without a scratch or illness but it was the damp darkness of a cave we’d taken shelter in that got me.”

She should have said how awful or I’m so sorry. Instead she replied, “What sort of cave and shelter from what?”

He closed his book over his finger and considered her for a long uncomfortable moment. “I’d been separated from the others during a storm. Well, me and two others. The cave wasn’t empty when we found it.”

She waited.

“Are you going to ask if we found gold and treasures and strings of pearls like pirates in a novel?”

She shrugged. “It’s your story.”

There was another testing silence, and though she did want to ask now, her resolve not to was greater.

Atchison’s mouth relaxed and he pointed his chin at the note playing between her fingertips. “I’ll tell you about that instead. That is of value to me.”

The fire between them cracked.

“In ’65 when we were making our way back, we cleared debris from a farm road. A girl sat off to the side under the trees. Very thin, very young. She’d seen a hard time of it, that was for sure. She sat there in the dried-up grass, just staring. The other man with me was called to another area closer to the barn, leaving me to finish. I dragged beams and charred bits of furniture off the road, sweating, cussing, hungry, but the work felt better than talking and I was glad to be left alone. For whatever reason, the girl under the tree made me angry. My being there, hauling her burned belongings off the scorched road made me angry. Her placid staring at nothing while the breeze moved her dark hair around her face made me angry. I threw bits of crockery and timber off the road toward her. I tried to ignore her and heaved a larger beam across to drop at her feet when she came close. She didn’t seem to see me but bent down to pick something up, squatting on her heels the way babies do. It was a broken wooden box, metal latches still attached on one end but the two halves came apart in her hands. ‘There used to be letters in here,’ she said. I kicked some smaller timber out of my way to get back to work. It was like she suddenly noticed I was there and she said ‘Good morning.’ Like we were passing in a market.

I hadn’t heard a soul greet another with those words in what seemed like a hundred years. I was startled– which angered me too. Bedraggled and homeless in her blue gingham skirt: no family, life destroyed even more than mine. ‘What the hell is good about this morning?’ I spat.

Squatting there, she tilted her head oddly and placed the broken box gently back on the pile.

‘I think,’ she turned her face away from me and spoke to the hills down the road, ‘maybe I won’t be here tomorrow. Nothing to miss here now. It’s a good time to go.’ She turned back and looked up at me, squinting in the light. ‘Morning’s the best time to make decisions. That’s what mama said.’ I knew there wasn’t much chance of her getting far on her own. Thin, young, and hapless as she was. She said, ‘It’s a lot of work being alive, isn’t it?’ then got up and walked back to the shade of her tree and sat back down. She just sat and watched me.

Over those couple hours, I’d gotten used to her weird silent company and I didn’t want to go back to the men and the seemingly endless parade of preparations for things that may or may not happen. Death was just a thing that might transpire after lunch. Like the possibility of rain.

We travelled over a covered bridge the next day, and I saw her again. Through the cut-out squares, flashes of blue near the creek edge below. Flashes of dark shining hair closer at every blink. Face down in the little creek. Her dark hair floating in with the rocks and moss at the bank. Her blue skirt soaked and clinging to her small form. I don’t know if any of the others saw her, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to bury her. I didn’t want to watch the men bury her. As I passed over that bridge, I wished I’d said something kinder to her. And as we continued up the hill through the woods, I decided I would say good morning to someone. That’s how I buried her.”

Charlotte’s relaxed her furrowed brow and felt her ears pop as if reaching a new depth. Or height. She was about to ask how starting the day with a burial was valuable but realized she started her day with a similarly morbid routine.

The coughing that came next would not be stifled. With a brief wave of his hand and creased brow to say it’s nothing, Atchison excused himself and the barrage of coughing carried him out of the parlor.

She’d almost forgotten she disliked him. The parlor flickered in the firelight; familiar furnishings stared back at her. Same silver vase, china blue velvet drapes. Same underlying smell of tobacco and floating bits of dust showing up in lamplight. Same feeling of being alone. But now she felt lonely. Now she minded.

*

Worthington nodded for his cup to be refilled as he adjusted the newspaper where it separated him from the breakfast table he shared with Charlotte. Lavinia adjusted the place setting for the as yet unmaterialized Atchison.

“William Harris told us the most extraordinary thing. His family had lost many valuables during the war when the pillaging was at its worst. Can you believe this—a pocket watch, engraved with his father’s name was mysteriously returned to him recently. Found in a coat pocket of all places! No idea how it came to be there. Fascinating.” There was no response from the table. He eyed his daughter. “Mr. Porter came to call? How was that?”

Charlotte ignored him and put a dainty bite of poached egg in her mouth, chewing with deliberation. Her father grimaced and fluttered the pages again.

Atchison’s arrogant step approached and Charlotte prepared her defenses by adjusting her napkin and washing the egg down with an audible gulp of tea.

“Really, Charlotte! You’re not a child! Sip like a lady.”

Charlotte finished with a loud slurp.

“Good lord,” her father glowered.

Atchison had seated himself, darting a cautious glance between the two of them.

“Nearly twenty and still youthful to a fault,” Worthington dripped.

Atchison sniffed and made a detailed study of the table’s offerings.

“When I was 19, I’d already seen friends killed beside me, been consumed with rage, sunken to the depths of utter hopelessness, and discovered a hot cup of coffee really does have the power to change a man’s entire life.” He coughed into his napkin and seemed to enjoy her squinted expression as she decided whether or not he was looking for pity.

Worthington blinked at him, smile frozen on his face.

Atchison scooped an egg onto his plate and dropped a slice of toast beside it, shook his napkin into his lap, and looked up at each of them as if they had just joined him. “Youth is strangely defined.”

Charlotte stared at him, lifted her small cut crystal water glass, and slowly slurped.

*






Join us Sunday of the Twenty-Fourth, for Week Five:
in which Charlotte and Lt. Atchison sit in each other’s chairs at the fire. 

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burnhere.





Fan Voting for 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest has concluded.
Winners to be announced Tomorrow.
Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
Bonafides/ home


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Little more than 24 hours for Fan Voting

Friday, January 15th, 2021

All the judge votes are in,
and fans have but one day left to decide
the 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest.

Winners will be announced
MLK Day.



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Dispatch from Gettysburg– January, 2021

Monday, January 11th, 2021

from the mobile desk of Paul-Newel Reaves,
owner, co-editor, Defenestrationism.net


The history books are a better judge than I am. He will receive his comeuppance. I don’t care to make statements on Defenestrationism.net for idle reasons– this, no impotent condemnation, no populist statement of alliance. This: comeuppance– and lest you consider such comeuppance beyond my power as publisher, you read very different history books than I do. So, I will cede for a moment to some statesmen and a stateswoman, past and present:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”– Lincoln

Now, check these statements by Representative Cori Bush from Missouri, and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. They most eloquently express much of what I would, had they not so very well.

224 years of peaceful transitions of power had made the United States unique in the history of nations. Three, perhaps four U.S. presidents have been assassinated, yet power had remained with that president’s designated successor. Even at the break of Civil War, Lincoln had been peacefully instated after Buchanan. Only then did the Confederate states secede.

I resisted considering Trump the worst president in American History, resisted for quite some time. I dismissed him as a fool, a gangster-puppet– perhaps with late-stage syphilis– thinking him truly not important enough. “Well,” I thought, “at least he hasn’t actively committed genocide, as our Seventh and Thirty-third Presidents did.” That thought lasted for three years and a few months.

Now, here I am in Gettysburg, PA, but less than 90 miles from Washington– the District of Columbia, where I was born, where I still reside. I noticed a heightened awareness, this last Wednesday, an in distress— which I would describe as a scent– across my neighborhood by North Capitol street, 20-odd blocks from the center of it all, though, however, on the direct route north to Maryland, Massachusetts and New England– decidedly a different experience than the direct route south, south to Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi.

Gettysburg: I checked where Lincoln gave his noblest speech, wandered through the graves in a listless and morose manner– pondering the nature of violence and hatred against our fellow human beings, contemplating governments and insurrections, hypocrisy and corruption– and how to constructively approach the inevitability of all them– along with other suitably sullen subjects. Here are some:

With the events of last Wednesday, the 6th, we are seeing the demise of the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower. This division will then split the conservative vote as effectively as the political left has been split for a quarter-century– perhaps resulting in a democracy without the limiting, binary, two-party system.

Black Lives Matter protests have been met with more violence and security force than white supremacists storming the Capitol– and police dogs, in a revealing display, there were none of those against the whites. However, a valuable lesson is to be learned by this disparity at the onslaught of the Capitol: systemic racism does not bother with attempts to recreate its own means of production. As we design our dismantling of this systemic bigotry– dismantle provisionally at best– it will aid us to keep this, shall we call it a lack of calculation, in mind.

Without military backing, a coup d’état goes nowhere. Throughout modern world history, coups are most often led by colonels, men who– there are but a handful of women who have led military coups in modern history, to date– led by men who are high enough in rank to have influence, but not so comfy in their positions that they are satisfied without more power. Congratulations, U.S. military-industrial-complex, you are comfortable enough.

There may well be another attempt at secession. Such will fail within democratic processes, and on the large scale, peacefully.

In order to be a worse U.S. president than Trump, one would have to launch a nuclear strike AND THEN forcefully resist the transfer of power.

History will judge him far more harshly than anyone alive is capable of. He’s headed for a cozy, federal, white-collar prison– undeniably with his self-righteousness still in tact. History books, I tell you– there he will reap his eternal reward. There, his comeuppance will be brutal. As his allies suffer retribution, they will denounce him– as thoroughly as they sold themselves and their voters to his banner, they will denounce him. The systemic racism and bigotry so fully exposed during his regime will forever be tied to his name. For centuries to come, politicians and military leaders across the globe will study his mistakes. And schoolchildren of all races, ethnicities, perhaps even of different species, will learn of him and make crude jokes about his face. He will be disgraced for as long as anyone will remember his name.



That last comeuppance, about schoolchildren laughing at his face, that makes me feel slightly better about such cringe-rending harm as he has wrought on my city, our people, this nation-state and democracy worldwide.


Alright, peace–
excuse me while I go home to sob
— PNR,
owner, co-editor, Defenestrationism.net


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The Bridge That Would Not Burn

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

by Christina Rauh Fishburne


Defenestrationism.net presents
a serialization in 14 parts





Week Three:

in which the highly recommended Lt. Atchison takes the top apartment at Number 14 K Street, and Charlotte ponders how most to dislike him.




Lieutenant Thomas Atchison came highly recommended to the bank and didn’t disappoint. Atchison proved indispensable at the office and displayed a chilly and distinguished aversion to small talk, which impressed his employer. In this regard he reminded Laurence Foster Worthington—now Senior Vice President—of Charlotte, but unlike his daughter, Atchison possessed a delightful lack of passion and a statuesque heartlessness. Worthington’s recovery since the substantial loss in his railroad investment during The Panic wasn’t entirely as complete as he’d let on. Finding a Vice President of such youth and life experience was sure to promote Worthington’s own appeal as the board prepared to choose the next Managing Director. And when rumors reached him that Lieutenant Thomas Atchison had been in the 1st Maryland Infantry regiment, possibly even in the — platoon itself during ’65, Worthington felt his legacy at the Bank of Columbia was secure.  He hadn’t forgotten the significant talk of confiscated valuables missing in the confusion and frustration at the surrender near Burke’s Station. It became essential to him that Atchison be invited to every private dinner party hosted by the partners, included in every public gathering he himself attended, and generally integrated into as many facets of his own professional life as possible. At each turn this Atchison struck Worthington as a stoic and reliable article of both curiosity and detachment. More importantly, from what Worthington had gleaned with near catholic patience and devotion, Atchison could very well be in possession of the valuables.

His best chance: create a place for Atchison at Number 14 K Street. Laurence Foster Worthington became obsessed with the fruition of a still unformed plan. Charlotte was clever, frightening, and the last of him. And nothing of his would be wasted. This Thomas Atchison would live in the top apartment left vacant by that fool of an aid, Coleburn. This Atchison. He would be their future.

*

Atchison made his way down the staircase after settling in his new apartment at the top of Number 14 K Street. His legs were stiff. No one had observed any change in him, he was certain. Still, something was different. Wrong. Atchison knew somewhere inside his body was a spreading death.

He paused at the foot of the stairs, peering at his face in the gilded mirror to his right. Well-groomed, sandy hair still waved slightly in rebellion against the pomade. Clear, narrow, hazel eyes, no sign of the fog he felt behind them. Smart brown suit, shined shoes. The cough had returned and he did his best to suppress it.

He met calculating brown eyes in the mirror and, coughing softly into his hand, turned slowly to face Charlotte. She said nothing. He angled his head slightly and raised his eyebrows in expectation. She appraised him openly in silence.

“It’s nearly eleven. We eat at noon.”

He stood aside as she passed, the wake of skirts chilling the air around him as much as the creature’s eyes as she surveyed him.

Charlotte wondered in which manner she was to dislike Atchison. He was no sycophant, to his credit. He was twice her age but wasn’t fat or unattractive. He didn’t seem a stupid man and he had a potentially interesting past. That evening she was in the parlor doorway, with no real memory of walking down the corridor.

Atchison sat in the chair near the fireplace, a small notebook on the arm of the chair, and a book in one hand, fidgeting with a pencil in the other.

“Sorry to disturb you,” she lied.

“You don’t disturb me,” he shrugged.

“I’ve misplaced my bookmark. It’s sterling and was a gift from my mother.” That was true.

She waited for his reply. His head tilted back down to the book. The pencil did acrobatics. She sighed and reached for a novel from one of the shelves lining the wall. He stilled the pencil to mark in the notebook.

“Do you always read with a pencil to hand?” She cleared her throat and went on. “Marking your favorite passages?”

 “Only notes to myself.”

She made a noise in her throat and replaced the novel she had taken.

“I write things down too sometimes.” She turned to the side and paid particular attention to the crystal dish on the sideboard. “You,” she tried to contain her curiosity and lower her register, “keep a journal then?”

“I did once.” His eyes dragged up the wall behind her. “It seemed the thing to do.” She felt something in the air shift. She read once that hunters and hunted animals could sense such things. She made no sudden movements. 

“I’m sure it’s interesting to look back on. If you kept it, that is.”

“I lost it in those last weeks. But yes,” his eyes settled on her own in a very unsettling manner. “I don’t always trust my memory of things.” Then, “I don’t tend to look back on things at all really.”

The next morning, she finished dressing in darkness. She experimented with combs and twists when she heard a light swish at her door. Dropping her hair as if it burned her, she went to the door where a small, pale blue page, folded once, lay on the floor. Nothing so mysterious had ever happened to her! That thought in itself was infuriating. She snatched the note and opened it, darting glances at the door as if it would burst open and her ridiculous excitement would be exposed.

Two words scrolled neatly across the middle.

Good morning.

Hours later, reading her book in the chair near the window, Charlotte pulled the note from between the pages. Good morning. She refolded it and smiled very slightly as she placed it back under the cover.

Atchison began to feel quite pleased with his situation.  It was a large and very fine house.  The soft tapping of shoes on the polished planks of the floor, the gentle rustling of skirts, his own height measuring up neatly shoulder-length with the framed artwork and tapestries along the walls, and the general smell of antiquity, finery, and stability encouraged him that if he were to suffer physical deterioration at least it would be done in style.

Then a very faint sound settled on him.  It was singing from very far away.  At first, he thought he had imagined it, but finally he was forced to stop and concentrate.

“Ma’am?” he called to the housekeeper who had only just reached out her smooth hand to the glass doorknob of the study.  She indulged him with a tilt of her head.

“Yes, sir?”

Atchison hesitated to be sure he did in fact still hear the voice.  “Is there a …musician… in the house?”  He tried to sound amused and impressed, to be every bit the politely complimentary guest.  The voice was high in the air it seemed.  He could barely make out the words, but they made him feel uneasy.

The housekeeper’s eyes flickered to the wall beside him, and breathing in she pronounced, “It’s chimney cleaning week. I’m afraid the girl is a bit queer sometimes.  Does she disturb you?”

“She sings while in the chimney?” He ignored her irrelevant question.

“Yes.  I have mentioned it to Mr. Worthington, but he says he cannot hear her from his study,” she gestured to the room they stood outside, “and so she remains. But if at any time she bothers you from your apartment, she’ll be released.”

“No need,” Atchison was anxious to leave the hallway and commence his meeting with Mr. Worthington. He had not been listening well to the woman. The words from the voice were closer, descending. He moved toward the door as she opened it.

Mr. Worthington stood behind his large oak desk to greet Atchison with a broad smile.

*






Join us Sunday of the Seventeenth, for Week Four:
in which Charlotte slurps her tea, again, and does not ask Lt. Atchison if he found confederate treasure.

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burnhere.





Vote now for 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest
Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
Bonafides/ home


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The Bridge That Would Not Burn

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

by Christina Rauh Fishburne


Defenestrationism.net presents
a serialization in 14 parts





Week Two:
in which Mr. Porter performs admirably in games of skill, and Mrs. Fellows is devilishly delicate.




Back in the much-appreciated sunshine of the cold day, the trio made their way to the game area. As expected, Mr. Porter performed superbly in every contest in which he participated. The ladies were suitably encouraging and complementary and after three or four proofs of his excellence they set off in search of lunch.

            There was a café across the small field, and they joined the many others heading in that direction. It was crowded and tables were scarce. Mr. Porter, no longer amused by forbearance, objected to the wait. Charlotte backed up and over to the windows while he disputed the order in which he and the gentleman nearby had arrived. Very civilly of course, but it embarrassed her. She sighed and distanced herself by observing the cream and gold interior of the café. The atmosphere was warm and pleasant and vaguely French, waiters bustled about, appetizing aromas drifted by her nose, cheerful faces conversed and laughed and glanced over menus.

            Mrs. Fellows joined her by the windows. “Do you suppose your friend would allow us to join him?” Charlotte furrowed her brow and followed her mischievous gaze. Atchison sat at his own table near the back of the room. Three empty chairs accompanied him.

            “He isn’t my friend.” It was all Charlotte could think to say.

            Mrs. Fellows was already waving at him delicately. Charlotte saw the rise and fall of Atchison’s chest and shoulders; such was the depth of his sigh and resignation.

            “Oh, Mrs. Fellows, I wish you hadn’t done that,” she murmured.

            “Nonsense. We are acquainted. He has enough seats.” She smiled devilishly. “And I’d like to see what Mr. Porter makes of him. Jealousy is a useful tool, my dear.”

            Charlotte lowered her face in shame. Or concealment. She was not sure.

            “Mr. Porter, I do believe our starvation has been thwarted!” Mrs. Fellows flounced over to him and directed his attention to Mr. Atchison, who was now standing at his table, a man without a country.






Join us Sunday of the tenth, for Week Three:
in which the highly recommended Lt. Atchison takes the top apartment at Number 14 K Street, and Charlotte ponders how most to dislike him.

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burnhere.





Vote now for 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest
Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
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The Bridge That Would Not Burn

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

by Christina Rauh Fishburne


Defenestrationism.net presents
a serialization in 14 parts





Week One:
in which Charlotte attends a most tedious carnival, with the even more tedious Mr. Porter.



Part I
Washington DC, 1880

It was during the early hours that Charlotte disposed of her corpses. She ended in the parlor where she had last seen her mother in the splendid coffin. Only the mustard painted walls, the floorboards, and the elaborate muted blue wainscoting of Number 14 K Street knew Charlotte Worthington wandered the fine row house like an immaterial specter. Each night before slipping into bed, she filled one sheet of creamy stationary with observations. She carefully crafted her words until they pleased her, the way she imagined parents must be pleased when their children perform. The next morning, she carried the fine page into the stirring daylight outside her room, walked it down the hall, the stairs, and paused in the chaotically beautiful moss green and eggshell tiled entryway while choosing a room in which to kill it. Each room had a lovely fireplace. Some were mantled in marble. Some in delicately carved wood. She chose a suitable altar, gazed at the page one last time, touched a lit match to the bottom left corner, and let the ink that had sunk deep into pressed cotton and linen curl and blacken into nothing. Sometimes she wept. But not often. She lay the last flaming corner gently to the metal grate and inhaled deeply of the smoke.

*

Carnivals were not Charlotte’s preferred entertainment. If she wanted to walk about observing the exploitation of humanity’s most irritating and humiliating errors while pretending to be amused and amazed, she would simply attend one of her father’s dinner parties. Mr. Porter had invited her to accompany him and she quickly enlisted her only friend, Mrs. Margaret Fellows, to join as chaperone. Mrs. Margaret Fellows was five years older, married, and was everything Charlotte’s father wished her to be.

Mrs. Fellows, bright and glittering as the morning itself, arrived at Number 14 K Street shortly before 9:00 and joined Charlotte in the parlor. She swept through the doorway in an icy cloud of heavy green linen and did not remove her blue velvet coat or gloves. “My dear!” she gasped. “It’s precisely your type of day—every soul on the street is huddled into himself, bracing against the cold with a grimace on his face and a swear word on his lips.” She smiled, pressing her rosy cheeks to Charlotte’s in greeting. 

An elegant black carriage sailed over the cobblestones, drawn by a fine brown standardbred and Mr. Jacob Porter arrived. His blue eyes twinkled merrily above a wide attractive smile and well-groomed brown beard, yet Charlotte saw only a slightly taller puppet version of her father.

“Ladies! What a morning.” He removed his hat with a flourish and took each of them briefly by the hand and then focused on Charlotte. “Shall we?”

Mrs. Fellows linked arms with Charlotte. “We shall. Get your coat, my dear.”

*

Charlotte’s voice was very high, making people coo and sigh over her as though she were a baby. Her father’s voice was even, indifferent, and vaguely despondent. He was tiresome, often speaking to Charlotte in the same voice he spoke to Ursula, the housekeeper. He was never cruel though, which had assured the child Charlotte of his affection for her. She had brought her tall father offerings: wilted flowers from the dilapidated garden on top of the house, wounded baby birds pink and ugly and rejected by their mothers, and drawings. Lots of drawings. She drew purple cliffs, mad purple oceans, and tall strangled trees with no leaves. They were winter trees, she would explain to her father, but he only thanked her coolly and piled papers under an iron paperweight shaped like a horse’s head on his oak desk. Once she had asked her father what the iron shape was, and he replied it was a knight. Child Charlotte had nodded, but the shape didn’t look like a soldier. Even now, adult Charlotte looked at the paperweight as she perused her father’s bookshelf or took a tour of the house while everyone slept. She knew about games and strategy, but even now she had no use for a warrior most valuable in the center of a crowd. A regular horse would have done her more good.

*

At the Watson and Standish Mesmeric Co. stage tent, Mr. Porter addressed both ladies, though directly at Charlotte, “I saw this company in Connecticut and you won’t believe it. I must warn you though,” he was suddenly very serious and looked intently into Charlotte’s eyes, “it may disturb you.” He took her hands gently. “Can you be brave, Miss Worthington?”

She set her jaw and resisted the instinct to pull her hands away. Glancing at Mrs. Fellows, she inhaled and said very seriously, “I’ll try.” Mrs. Fellows pressed her smile into the back of her gloved hand.

“Courageous girl, well done.” He reached behind her back, but she moved forward.

“I’ve seen advertisements about this,” Mrs. Fellows said. “Magnetism or some such? Used with moderate success on victims of paralysis and nervous afflictions? It sounds quite odd.” She smiled, “How exciting.”

Mr. Porter grinned. “And the practice of catalepsy, the human bridge, they call it—I hope they haven’t started yet.” He waited his turn to pay a rather grubby and surly man in a checkered cap for three tickets and then ushered them through the entrance booth. They found three seats toward the back, as the show had indeed begun.

“What on earth?” Mrs. Fellows gasped as two men stood on stage at either side of a woman lying horizontally between two chairs. An enormous stone, the length of the woman’s torso, lay on top of her. She seemed peacefully asleep.

Charlotte adjusted in the folding chair, her bustle forcing her forward. Mrs. Fellows gasped again as one of the men produced a sledgehammer from behind his back. “Oh heavens! Surely he’s not going to…”

The man on stage spoke, but the murmuring and expressions of astonishment from the back area muffled his voice. Charlotte sat up straighter and leaned further to the side to see more clearly. Mr. Porter, eyeing her with a mixture of mirth and curiosity, leaned close to say, “Don’t worry, Miss Worthington. All shall be well.”

She threw him an irritated look.

The sledgehammer came down to the outcry of the crowd, and the stone shattered over the woman’s body. Mrs. Fellows covered her mouth with one gloved hand and grabbed Charlotte’s arm with the other. All eyes watched the peacefully sleeping woman. The indiscernible collective voice of the audience drowned anything the men on stage said. One leaned down, spoke to the woman, waved his hand over her face, and then helped her sit up to the mad applause of the crowd.

“Simply splendid!” Mr. Porter said as he clapped. Charlotte nodded and clapped.

The next performances required volunteers from the audience, a prospect that terrified Charlotte. She scanned the crowd, trying to guess which would be next to go forward. In her perusal she recognized a sandy head, ramrod straight back, and chilly demeanor that had nothing to do with the month of the year. It was that man, Atchison. She had been introduced to him months ago at a gathering when he joined her father at the Bank of Columbia, and further subjected to his calculating glares at the Wilcox dinner party last month. He seemed intelligent and of some standing in the community, but considerably lacking in personality. A magic show was hardly the setting in which she expected to find his sort.

He reached into his vest pocket, and when an elegantly dressed middle aged man in the row before him leaned to say something to the woman to his left, Atchison very deftly dropped something into the man’s right overcoat pocket. The man laughed and raised his right hand in the air just as Atchison leaned back in his seat. Atchison crossed one leg over the other and folded his arms.

The elegantly dressed man was brought forward, drawn into a series of simple questions, and was soon clucking like a chicken to the guffaws of the crowd. Mr. Porter in particular found it hilarious. “My God! That’s William Harris of Chesterton’s!” he laughed. “Fantastic!”

Charlotte tried to smile but leaned to her other side and said to Mrs. Fellows, “Are you acquainted with that man, there? His name is Atchison” She indicated him with her jaw. Mrs. Fellows laughed heartily and only half inclined her head in response to Charlotte.

“Pardon, my dear? Who?” She tried to follow Charlotte’s direction. “Ah, I don’t know much about him other than– Oh! Hahaha!” The man on the stage snapped his fingers and Mr. William Harris, attorney at Chesterton and Phillips, found himself applauded and cheered as he returned in a pleased yet bewildered state to his seat.

“Go on,” Charlotte encouraged.

Mrs. Fellows, still laughing, turned to her. “All I know is his war record is something impressive and his work ethic and intelligence are excellent. That’s what Martin says, anyway.” She inclined her head and half smiled. “Why?”

“No reason. My father mentions him sometimes.” Her friend lifted her eyebrows. “It’s nothing.” Charlotte said.

“What’s nothing?” Mr. Porter injected. People rose from their chairs and exited the tent happily.

“Is the show over? Had we missed so much?” Mrs. Fellows pouted.

“I apologize for my lack of planning, ladies. But there’s plenty of amusement to be had, I assure you!” He rose and offered his hand to Charlotte.

She saw no option but to accept it and stood. As her face reached Mr. Porter’s shoulder her eyes met Atchison’s behind him. Unsure why, Charlotte was taken aback. Mr. Porter was talking. People and faces were everywhere. She was moved forward by Mrs. Fellows behind her and led forward by Mr. Porter before her. The man Atchison had no expression but watched her as he would a leaf blown down a path. Something light and insubstantial, not worth the effort or interest to pursue. Perhaps it was indignation at that blank face, but she felt herself the woman trapped under a large immovable stone, a bridge between two balance points.

*





Join us Wednesday of the Sixth, for Week Two:
in which Mr. Porter performs admirably in games of skill, and Mrs. Fellows is devilishly delicate.

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burn, here.





Vote now for 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest
Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
Bonafides/ home






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Welcome to 2021

Friday, January 1st, 2021


Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen and Everyone Else–
welcome to Defenestrationism.net .


We are pleased to present to you,

–2021–
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Traffic Update for the 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest:
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Now available on the menu, somewhere around here,
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And here’s what we’ll be publishing in 2021
on Defenestrationism.net :


January 1st-16th,
Fan Voting for the 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest


January 3rd- March 28th,
The Bridge That Would Not Burn
by Christina Rauh Fishburne


January 18th
Winners Announced for the 2021 FLASH SUITE Contest


April, 2021
Lengthy Poem Contest




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