Blue Door District

Day 134 - Blue Doors

I have it.

I finally have it, after all this time, and its presence buoys me with a confidence like the one a man gets when he has a dollar bill in his pocket. There is no man in the world rich enough not to be lifted up by the feeling of paper bills folded over each other, stuffed into a wallet, so much more tangible than a credit card’s fickle plastic body.

And this is so much more than money.

So it is a skip in my step that propels me down the stairs to the street. The day is a lover with cold hands on my face. Every bird in the world calls my name and I pull my hat down, rakish, like I mean trouble.

I have not been trouble for a long time, but now, I think, I could work my way back to it. It is twelve blocks to my cousin’s, and that gives me plenty of time to imagine how I will break the news of my acquisition to him. My cousin Felix has always been the clever one, quick with words. He’s the man who steps forward with an arm outstretched and a greeting for a woman’s jewelry. I always stand behind him and wonder how it is that he sees their necklaces or their earrings. I see eyes and hair, nose and hands. Felix takes everything else, so this is all I can steal in a glance.

If he were in my place, walking the twelve blocks to me, knocking on my door, triumphant as an archangel, he would make the words bigger than the thing itself.

Maybe I will not have to say anything at all. Maybe he will see it on my face.

Nearby, a boat cries out, the mighty bellow of a broad-chested animal. The pier where the cargo ships come in is only blocks away. Some days it smells like Poseidon’s rotting corpse walks the streets, but not today. Today it is fair and cold and the wind blows me forward. Felix’s money comes in on those ships. His wife calls it filthy money, and she often leaves the room with her arms crossed over her breasts and a mutter behind her teeth, but I see her in the shops on Saturday and his living spends as fast as the clean bills.

She says that I am as dirty as Felix’s ships, and he tells her that he is trapped with both of us. Sometimes it feels my fate is tied in with the ships and their grim cargo, only one of us Felix is happy to see when it arrives.

Oh, but he has treated me well. I cannot speak ill of my cousin. It is his money that puts a roof over my head. I can’t ask for his charity and his respect both. Only now, my pocket, my left pocket, is weighted with this thing I have acquired.

I will have his respect now. He will either give it freely, or I will take it.

A man calls out to me on the street as I pass. He sits with his back against the gray grim stone this city is made out of, and when he shakes his cup at me, it clatters a filthy little tune. He has only one leg.

I do not have anything, and what I do have is Felix’s, but today, I reach into my pocket — not the left, because I do not want to touch it — but the right, and I drop some coins into his cup. “Happy day to you,” I tell the beggar.

“I’ll have what’s in your other pocket,” he says to me. His voice is pinched and high. It’s a boy’s voice, not a man’s, and it gives me an ugly turn. I think he has stolen that voice from someone, and somewhere, there’s a boy with a croak or a whisper in return.

“I beg your pardon?” I ask.

“With that in your pocket,” he shrills, “you don’t have to beg for it.”

My coat doesn’t hang to reveal an outline of the thing in my left pocket, and it’s a mysterious outline in any case, so I am disquieted. I kick the man’s cup over and tell him to close his mouth. He laughs, a woman’s laugh, and I nearly take what I have newly acquired out of my pocket to make him be quiet.

But no, I won’t. It’s meant for bigger things than stuffing a beggar’s voice back into his lungs.

The houses grow shutters and window boxes as I grow closer to my cousin’s. The ones I have left behind stand shoved against each other like passengers on the train. These well-dressed houses upwind from the pier stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, just far enough apart to be professional. Close by choice rather than necessity. Felix’s has a blue door to show his trade. His wife despises it, but she married it anyway. She thinks her children won’t grow up to be blue-door men as well, but she is full of the optimism that’s fathered by pride.

I used to want one of these fine houses that sat just above the scent of sluggish water, but surely now I could do better. Surely now I could have one of the houses on the hill, one with a rakish tilt to match my hat. Maybe I could leave this gritty city altogether. My roots are deep but I think I could live with shallow ones if I had better soil to put them in.

There are steps, here, in the walk, that separate the cargo district from Felix’s district. My thoughts have caught me and so I trip on the first step, unthinking. For a moment, as I hurtle toward the ground, all I can think of is the thing in my pocket and what would happen if it hit the ground, and how it could all be over before it began. It is so much more than I thought it would be, the shape and size of the responsibility, and it is almost too late when I wheel my hands out to catch myself.

I save myself, but only just.

The wind finds sweat on my palms.

Felix didn’t think I could find it. Or perhaps he didn’t think I was really looking. I know his wife thought that I was like so many of the other blue-door’s brothers and cousins and sons. Spending the day insensible in a shared room in the cargo district, living the life that arrived in the ships each day. But I know what I wanted, and I knew where to find it. It just took me a long time.

Now that I have this thing, though, I have to use it. I feel it in my pocket and I don’t know how I can’t.

I stand on Felix’s doorstep. The blue on the door is brilliant, like he just repainted it. It looks as if it would color my finger tips if I touched it.

I smash the knocker down, three times. I hear footsteps inside the hall.

The day is a scavenger, stripping meat from the bones.

I say, “I have it.”

_________________________________
Author’s Note: I like being coy.

Photo courtesy: Christopher Verdier

68 thoughts on “Blue Door District

  1. What does he have!? Oh, my whole day is going to wrapped around this one thing I don’t know! Darn you, Maggie! Darn you, infinity times! πŸ™‚

  2. Hahaha! I know what I think it is, but I have to say, I wonder what other people think it is.

  3. “Some days it smells like Poseidon’s rotting corpse walks the streets, but not today.”

    This sentence alone is enough to satisfy my hunger until Forever’s release. Brilliant πŸ™‚

  4. You do coy very well, Maggie.

    And now I’m quoting Gollum from The Hobbit, saying “What has it got in its pocketses?”

  5. Well, you’ve certainly pricked my imagination for the day as I think of what’s in his pocket ^_^

  6. It occurred to me that it was probably a Ring of Power. Or something similar. Because, y’know, why not?

  7. Do you have the desire to mentally disable me? To set my brain buzzing with a million ideas and then not give me an answer? Because that is what you have done. It will be days now before I can concentrate.

    But it is a good distraction πŸ™‚

    For some reason I imagined something similar to the Philosophers Stone. Not actually it, but like a stone with special powers. And it changed to a more quartzy/gypsum sort of thing when you talked about it being breakable.

    Then again I want to study Earth Sciences at uni, so my brain is probably hardwired to image rocks everywhere…. πŸ˜€

  8. Correction. You don’t talk about it being breakable. But I sort of got it from the whole “what would happen if it hit the ground” thing.

  9. Ahhahah! This is making me have flashbacks to What’s Up Doc? (otherwise known as the only Barbra Streisand movie I love) and all the lines about igneous rocks.

  10. *resists the urge to break into a verse of the Rock Cycle Song*
    Because I am that sad πŸ™‚

  11. I think I may have a love hate relationship with this piece, it’s incredible. I love the lines such as, “I think he has stolen that voice from someone, and somewhere, there’s a boy with a croak or a whisper in return. ” and “triumphant as an archangel”, which makes me think maybe it’s something biblical or something that belonged to Ursula from the little mermaid… but the fact that i don’t know exactly what it is, well…i will be hooked to this piece for days, my imagination working over time! Well Done, Maggie, another great piece!

  12. Oh, this comment pleases me hugely. Thank you! And I have to confess I always liked the short stories that made my brain chew on things for days at a time.

  13. Haha, don’t mention it! I must admitt I do like brain food like this, at first…then i do get some what frustrated, then i normally have a epiphany moment, love it and then when i read it again, the process starts all over again. Have you ever read “True Romances” by Ana Lydia Vega? That’s seriously good brain food!

  14. Haha, don’t mention it! I must admitt I do like brain food like this, at first…then i do get some what frustrated, then i normally have a epiphany moment, love it and then when i read it again, the process starts all over again. Have you ever read “True Romances” by Ana Lydia Vega? That’s seriously good brain food!

  15. Not sure why, but I imagined Cinderella’s slipper in his pocket…
    Maybe it was the stairs that he stumbled on, or the fact that it was breakable, or being able to see the outline of it in a pocket…
    the references to noticing jewelry lead me to something just beautiful… not necessarily powerful.
    Plus, I love the fairytales-turned-dark you ladies like to write about πŸ™‚

  16. And my big thing is that I don’t care if the story is ambiguous, but I have to feel like the author knows what the twist is, not just that they aren’t saying because they themselves don’t know.

  17. How deliciously furtive this is.

    Anyway, I must be terribly mundane ’cause I was thinking things like a lovely little revolver or a bluely silver athame or a specific, curious key. Boring and utilitarian, but then again, I think these sorts of things are beautiful.

  18. Haha! I find them beautiful as well. So many possibilities in those ordinary things — not good or bad in themselves, only in how you use them. Bit like a kiss . ..

  19. Hmm, I can understand that, ambiguity for the sake of supposed artistic merit, not to sound catty, but looking at it that way does seem a little lazy.

    However, I am now left with the condrum of trying to explain why i don’t think “True Romances” is like that, without ruining the juicy brain food…all i can really say is that, this is very ambiguous, and the focus of the narrator does shift…but for me the juicy brain food was right at the very end, once i read that i was able to go back and think ah, this is what it’s really all about.

  20. Too true; a kiss can be love or death or some shade in between. Besides, as Chesterton wrote the things and places most common to us are the most sacred because they are irretrievably ours, so I’ll keep my mundaneness very happily.

  21. Okay. I have to over-think and over-analyze this now.

    For a second, because of the sentence about his fate being with the ships, I thought: a soul! Then I read that it has an outline, so I concluded that it must be more tangible than I thought. Also, because birds “all over the world were calling out his name,” does it mean that it is shiny? It also means that the birds everywhere have seen it, so it must have been all over the world. . . .
    Then I saw the sentence about Felix noticing jewelry on women, and that the narrator just saw body parts, so this is all he “can steal in a glance.” But the “He laughs, a women’s laugh, and I nearly take out what I have newly acquired out of my pocket to make him be quiet” and “but, no I won’t. It is meant for bigger things than stuffing a beggars voice back into his lungs” really threw me off.
    Also, because the beggar seemed to know what it was, it must be popular and longed for in this seemingly desolate place, or well-known internationally because the cargo ships tell me that you can’t find this kind of stuff in the area the narrator lives.
    So. My conclusion: Is it a genie lamp?

  22. Wow, I just absolutely adored this. Your awesome was working overtime on this one. And I love all the ambiguity – about what, exactly, a blue doorman does, and what’s in his pocket…just everything was pitch perfect!! Have you Merry Sisters ever thought of doing an anthology of your best short pieces? I’ve found so much here to love, I know I’d put that on my shelves.

  23. Oh, and also, ever-so-slightly tangential, but because I wonder every time: how long, on average, does it take you (the collective) to come up with one of these stories? And do you vet it among the group?

  24. I literally started laughing half way through this and didn’t stop until the end. It delights me thoroughly. *grin*

  25. There’s no vetting, and very little in the way of revising. Most of these are written on the day they’re posted, though that doesn’t mean they don’t draw on ideas that we’ve been cooking for weeks or months or (quite often, in my case) work on concepts that I want to practice.

  26. Did I miss this before?? When did this happen? That’s AWESOME!! Congrats! : ) Please keep reminding us…

  27. His life seemed to be a filthy sad one, so I do hope like the one readers suggested it was something magical like Cinderella’s shoe. So many stories and lives that start out grimy can never crawl their way out and an unexpected touch of magic and wonder would be such a delightful twist. You’ve most definitely caught all of our attention!

  28. Three guesses: Gun.
    No, not a gun. Guns just aren’t cool enough for this story. Even if he did kill the guy, the wife would get the money.
    Charm of some sort. Like a tri-charm you could see the shape of.
    Magic Lamp
    It’s hard to hid it in a coat pocket.
    And yes, I have read about a tri-charm before!

  29. Oh my, it was months ago, but we will make a bigger fuss of it once we have a cover and release date! And thank you — we’re so, so pumped.

  30. And I thought I was the only one who walked around with a vial of Chuck Norris’ blood in my pocket.

    This was maddeningly coy and I loved it! I think my favorite image was that of the houses changing as they “grow shutters and window boxes”. Very neat!

    I just hope there isn’t a red light district anyplace near the blue door district, or we get those awkward sickos associated with the purple sidewalk trade. :/

  31. So I have three guesses.
    1) A golem’s eye. (although making a golem would take time, and your story implies that the power from the item would be immediate, but this is what I pictured anyway. (I have a disturbingly clear inner image of a golem’s eye)
    2) A ring, locket, or other piece of jewelry imbued with magical powers, and possibly blood. Probably in sliver with an onyx stone that shines like the night sky in hell.
    3) A glass globe that contains (ghosts, fairies, demon, or some such powerful item) This guess is mainly based on just how BREAKABLE the item sounded, and the fact that the narrator described life as “all over” if it were to break. I’m thinking mythical revenge.

  32. Also: I feel a deep conviction that the brother deals in opium, but that may be because I’ve been rereading Clockwork Angle by Cassandra Claire and in it opium is the drug of choice.

  33. “And I thought I was the only one who walked around with a vial of Chuck Norris’ blood in my pocket. ”

    I ❀ you. So bad.

  34. It is actually all three. A ring made of a golem’s eye encased in a snow globe. You shake it, and Matt Damon appears.

    VOILA.

  35. I’m tempted to read the comments before I reply, but that would spoil the initial impression.

    I love the build-up through this piece and the pov you’ve chosen. It pulls the reader along in such a fabulously teasing fashion.
    The scene with the beggar was fabulous.

  36. I’ll have to be honest, I was also thinking something like a magic talisman/philosopher’s stone. As for the blue door, “obviously” a sea merchant, but one who deals in the rare, or possibly mystical–the reference to Poseidon and an archangel.

    Oh, and what I liked about the beggar was the changing voice–which made me think someone in disguise.

  37. Why am I the only sicko imagining body parts? Sigh. I’m totally feeling that it’s a finger bone imbued with powers, just like the relics of St. So-and-So seen in the Catholic churches all over Europe. I bet you can do a lot of schmancy magic with a leftover metacarpal.

  38. Ah, so THAT’s where the Oberon’s true name went. Hope he uses it quick, the position has a high turnover.

  39. It’s a Hello Kitty keychain, isn’t it? πŸ˜„

    All kidding aside, loved this! The narrator’s voice reeled me in right away. So many great vivid descriptions! The end has left me very head-scratchy, though. Hmm…

  40. This was thoughtful and, if I were to be truthful, a little bit creepy. It made me think vaguely of SHIPBREAKER and that last part just set the cement πŸ™‚ Great job!

  41. Thank you! And yes, there are some good (and hilarious) guesses as to what it is in the comments.

  42. Oh, yes, in Hungary, they still had the right hand of one of their kings. I thought of Tessa immediately.

  43. Oh, I could see the Shipbreaker lead-in. I will also take the creepy part. For pretty much any one of my stories.

  44. The day is a scavenger, stripping meat from the bones.
    (epic)
    your too awesome. your like a superhero. i absolutely can’t wait till Forever comes out!!! its going to make my summer =]

  45. I do not know its shape, save that it has an odd one, but whatever form it takes, the thing is power. Even if only in the mind of the narrator (whom I read as female, though I don’t know why), whatever s/he has in that pocket absolutely will create a life changing event. I’m just not certain it will be the one expected. No, not certain at all.

  46. I think that things of great power tend to have great potential to backfire, so I would think you’re very right.

  47. Well, it wouldn’t be a Maggie Stiefvater story if there wasn’t just a hint of creepy.

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