Il Dottore

Il Dottore never changed.

Il Dottore always strode into the amphitheater, dusty black robes swirling about him, never looking to right or left. He landed at the lectern like a swooping hawk, turned piercing eyes to survey the students seated in the tiers.

Il Dottore commanded silence with that glare and not one of the students assembled there dared break the stillness.

Il Dottore had a sonorous voice, deep and booming, which resonated as much in the hearer’s chest and bones as their ears.

Il Dottore’s words commanded an unwavering attention as he spoke, and afterwards, no student could remember exactly which words, which phrases, he had uttered, only their deep and sage meaning.

Il Dottore lectured on philosophy. Il Dottore lectured on nature. Il Dottore lectured on the essence of life itself. His lectures were renowned throughout all the lands for their wisdom and profundity. Hard men had been known to weep. Delicate women had been known to realize their hidden anger, spending the balance of their days fighting injustice. Parents of fallen children found comfort, the guilty repented, the corrupt recompensed their ill gains, all at a word or two from Il Dottore.

None knew where Il Dottore resided. None knew of his family or history. None ever saw him in the streets, coming or going from the University grounds. Nothing of all was known of Il Dottore but this: that at eleven o’clock in the morning on every day save Feast Days, Il Dottore appeared in the oldest amphitheater to speak for two hours, revealing the secrets and mysteries of creation.

And that there was always an apple.

Every day before Il Dottore appeared, before the doors of the amphitheater were opened to the students, one perfect apple balanced on the edge of the lectern. It was a different apple every day, each one a perfect specimen of its variety. Magnificat apples were bright red and large as a man’s two fists. Ambrose apples were small and wine-dark. The apple known as Mucheron was green with brown mottling, and emitted a powerful perfume. Maiden’s Delight were pale and sweet, with blushing cheeks. Il Dottore never regarded the apple until after he had ceased speaking, upon which he would seize the apple in hands like talons and pace back out of the hall. The students would always sit quietly for long moments after he had gone, as tradition demanded, before breaking like surf into sursurration and movement.

Il Dottore never seemed to age, never faltered, never altered. There were none now living who could clearly remember a time before Il Dottore had come to the University, or why. Long nights were spent in every student pub and coffee house debating, arguing, wondering. Who was Il Dottore? Where had he come from? What was the source of his wisdom? What were the extent of his no doubt considerable powers?

Until one day there was no apple.

The students took their places in silence, waited in silence, stared in silence at the place where the apple was not. There had always been an apple. There must always be an apple. Runners were sent with whispered instructions, to the Provost, to the Dean, to the fruit and vegetable markets. Surely an apple could be found?

Until it was too late, and Il Dottore once again strode into the amphitheater, turned to address the steep ranks of students crowded onto the risers—and halted. Eyes glittering, he too stared at where the apple was not.

Then he threw open his arms, sleeves unfurling like great black wings, and uttered a cry so loud and piercing that it shattered the glass dome above. The students ducked under their tables away from the falling glass as an immense black shape leapt up and away.

In many foreign lands, they say, an apple a day keeps Il Dottore away.

Away from what? And why?

Ugly Fruit

Eward Sullivan was dying.

“Isn’t there an herb?” asked Inga, his wife. “I’ve still got the silver chalice from my dowry. Money won’t be a problem.”

“No,” the grim faced valley physician told her over Eward’s head, as though he weren’t right there listening. “His heart’s just bad.”

“Nothing bad about my Eward’s heart,” she said rolling up her sleeves over her robust arms and rising haughtily. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got a real healer to see.”

She grabbed the handles of Eward’s wheelbarrow. Eward shrugged apology at the physician who shrugged in return as Inga pulled him out of the physician’s cottage, muttering. (more…)

October Stories at the Confabulator Cafe

Fall has arrived, dearest patrons of the Confabulator Café. Shorter, cooler days, apples and cider, pumpkins and other squash, Halloween and Thanksgiving. This particular Confabulator considers this to be the most wonderful time of the year.

And this time of year wouldn’t be the same without apples. So, this month’s prompt included that necessity. The prompt is: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away. What happens when you run out?”

I hope you’ll join us every Monday this month to find out.

Here’s the October schedule:

Monday, October 8: “Ugly Fruit” by Emily Mosher
Monday, October 15: “Il Dottore” by Aspen Junge
Monday, October 22: “Apple Heart” by Eliza Jaquays
Monday, October 29: “Apple of Her Mother’s Eye” by Sara Lundberg


Motorcycle Jack

Her name was Motorcycle Jack and I didn’t know whether I wanted to be her or to fuck her when we met.

“Motorcycles aren’t just machines. Motorcycles have a soul. They’re better than people.” That was her motto and I adopted it like the eleventh commandment the summer I worked the round-up, sitting beneath the stars on the dry plains listening to her wisdom. I was a hired hand, helping to bring in the car herds on an old paint they’d given me. That bike was a rust bucket, prone to problems no matter how I nursed the throttle. No faster than the cars we were bringing in, but I rode her with pride and a sore ass until we reached the plant.

2,000 hood of cars on their way to Detroit. Dumb beasts, on their way to be stripped for parts at the end of the line.

The days were long and the nights were short and uncomfortable. I would stare at the sky and wonder what the hell I was doing there. But there was money. There was the open road. And there was Jack.

We were deep into the trail when we spotted the Harley. Every head in the camp went up. Her engine thrummed as we strained for the sound of a road bell on her, but none came. A road bell meant she was lost and probably registered. Without one she was a wild Harley and she was beautiful.

Quick as a snake, I grabbed my rope and rushed my old jalopy to life. If I could rope myself a Harley I would be a true cowboy, destined for a life on the plains. Six other engines roared their full-throttled agreement beside me as everyone mounted up. The other hands weren’t riding borrowed rust buckets. Their engines didn’t backfire as they crested the hill. These were seasoned pros in pursuit.

Motorcycle Jack was in the lead, whooping and hollering as the wind picked up against us.

I was outclassed. As my tires slid in the muddy ruts the other bikes left behind, the Harley climbed the next hill like it was nothing but flat ground, unbothered by pedestrian worries like gravity and torque. She took the downhill like a river over a waterfall. She was grace incarnate. A creature born not to the plains, but placed here by some deity to show us all what freedom could be. In that moment, she was the only creature I loved more than Jack.

I pulled my bike up and watched Jack give chase. We cheered her on as each hand pulled up. It was clear she was the only one who had any chance of catching the Harley. I screamed until my throat was raw. I don’t even remember what the words were. My spirit soared with the Harley as Jack gave chase. (more…)

Sunday Morning Coffee

“Coffee, black,” said the lady at the counter. She was old, gray, yet spirited. She wore a white military style uniform. Its metallic silver trimmings reflected the incandescent light in such a way as to make it difficult to stare at her. It’s not every day that someone new orders here. That’s why I like it. It’s boring and predictable. The perfect place to spend my Sunday mornings after my work week filled with surprises and unpredictable chaos.

I heard the woman pay with coins, which is odd. Who does that anymore? I quickly turned to look away just as the old lady grabbed her coffee. I pretended that the calm street outside was worthy of my intense glare, but I wasn’t fooling anyone, especially her. I caught her out of the corner of my eye as she pulled out a chair and sat at my table, “Are you Jackie Pitz?” asked the lady.   (more…)