Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Laura Libricz.

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The Protective Plague

By Laura Libricz

From the Overlord’s house came a quiet but vicious argument. I walked past the stately, tiered structure, decorated with wooden carvings. The other houses circling the town square stood quietly: the midwife’s red wooden house built up on stilts; the ironworkers’ blue housing complex and their adjoining workshop also built on stilts; the dark-brown community building, windows tightly shuttered.

I set my basket down in the middle of the square. The fountain marking the village center bubbled behind me as a mouse scurried around its stone base. The door of the Overlord’s house slammed open and he appeared on the top step. A woman’s sobs came from inside the house. He raised his nose to the sky and sniffed at the air, his black, wiry hair standing on end. He approached the fountain, his black woolen cape fluttering behind him.

“The weather has changed,” the Overlord said.

“You notice such things, Master?” I asked. “Today is the Turn of the Season; coupled with the full moon.”

“Yes, that is why you tie those wreaths of herbs,” he said. “Silly old traditions.”

“We will burn them at sunset on the Field of Fruition. These old traditions give the people comfort.”

“Your traditions have no power,” he said. “This year we initiate my new ritual. The One True Deity is not appeased with burning herbs.”

“What will appease your Deity then, Master? Burning flesh?”

The door of the red house squeaked open. The midwife flurried towards the fountain carrying a spray of reeds. Two red-haired daughters followed behind her. They carried baskets overloaded with sage and wormwood.

“Good day, Master,” she said, dropping her reeds at my feet.

Her black hair, not colored carefully enough, showed red roots at her scalp. I moved between her and the master, hoping he had not seen her hair, and gathered three reeds in my hands. I braided their stalks. Her daughters set the baskets down on the stone steps of the fountain and the midwife pulled both girls to her side.

“The workshop is quiet this morning,” I mentioned.

“The men have crossed the ford to the settlement beyond the Never-Dying Forest. They’ve taken our surplus of food and hope to trade. Years ago, the forest villagers made fabrics.”

The Overlord chuckled. “Foolish men. No one lives beyond the water and the forest but barbarians. They don’t trade, they take.”

I held my braided reeds aloft. “Our petition tonight at the bonfire is to ask for the safety of all villagers involved, whether they come from Forest Village or Field Village.”

“There will be no bonfire tonight,” he said.

As if by the Master’s silent command, the double doors on the community building slid open. Five leather-clad men, adorned with weapons of glinting steel, took two steps forward. Five young women draped with dirty white shifts, hands and mouths bound, knelt behind their ranks. I recognized the midwife’s eldest daughter and the barrel maker’s granddaughter.

“My new Turn of the Season tradition starts today.” The Overlord nodded to the troop. The men grabbed each of the young women under the arms and dragged them into the square. They were forced to kneel on the stone steps by the fountain. The overlord’s daughter was also among them.

“These women will be taken against their will on the Field of Fruition. The One True Deity will come to accept the eggs as soon as they are fertilized. I will summon him. The women and their fruits belong to him. He will exalt them and admit them into his glorious mountain realm.”

I threw my reeds aside. “Our traditions and petitions are based on protecting our villagers, not sacrificing them.”

“These women are ripe. We have prodded them all. The One True Deity will have this offering.”

“Men cannot enter the Field of Fruition at the Turn of the Season. It will bring us harm so close to the coming winter.”

“Your foolish traditions cannot keep the furies of winter at bay. Harm will only come if one of these women becomes pregnant. That would prove her self-seeking nature, her desire to retain the fruits for herself. She will be executed.”

The midwife let out a shriek. The overlord stroked his daughter’s matted hair.

“If she becomes pregnant,” he said, “we will also know she enjoyed the act. She will have defied The One True Deity. Women cannot become pregnant when taken against their will.”

He took two steps forward, his face a breath away from mine. “These women can be saved. Here they are. Save them. Save them now but know this: four others will take their places. You shall be the fifth.”

He turned with a swish of his cape and, followed by his armed mob, disappeared into the community house.

The midwife and I unbound the women. Together we gathered the wreaths, all our herbs and reeds, and walked out of the square towards the Field of Fruition. The sky was overcast. Rains threatened. Two women and their children stood at the edge of the green field, bundling straw. They piled it neatly on a cart. Two other women whacked the lazy ox and the cart jerked into movement.

In the middle of the Field of Fruition, wooden planks stood in support of one another, forming an inverted cone. Mice scurried under my feet and under the cone. The planks were once an old barn. In its place, we built a new one. Since the great flood, our village had prospered. We had practiced our Traditions of Gratitude ever since. I gave silent thanks for the abundance of grain that allowed even the mice to multiply.

“The moon is coming up over the trees,” I said. “We will start the fire now.”

The midwife scraped her knife on her stone and sparks flew into a pile of straw. She convinced the fire to burn and we fed the flames until the dried planks ignited. I raised my wreath of braided reeds over my head as mice scurried out from under the burning planks.

Our peaceful but preventive petition resonated between our practiced voices. We’d recited the verses many times and shuddered with the energy they held. I threw the wreath on the fire; sparks flew into the low storm clouds. More mice scurried over my feet. I looked down and the Field of Fruition was no longer autumn-green, but mouse-grey. A layer of mice had gathered, completely covering the Field–a protective plague ensuring the fulfillment of our petitions of peace and gratitude. Well, this was not what I had in mind, but it would do. No ill-wisher would enter this field tonight.


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Laura Libricz’s RWISA Author Page

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!

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“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 12

DENTON’S DEBBY DOLLS

by Laura Libricz

The lunch bell rings and I set my brush aside, returning the unpainted porcelain Debby Doll head to the tray. A kettle whistles. Sarah runs to make the lunchtime tea.

“Thirty minutes and that’s all!” Mr. Denton barks at her as he hurries towards his production office, whacking his elbow on the filing cabinet as he slams the glass door shut.

The shocked moment of quiet is replaced by the delicate clinking of brushes against glass jars, chairs scraping on the concrete floor, and the idle chatter of the doll painters on their way to the break room.

Laura Libricz

Laura Libricz

Do you remember Denton’s Debby Dolls? The ones from the 1947 film “Ten Days Till my Birthday,” where Tammy James plays a little girl who got one for her birthday? Denton’s Debby Dolls Inc. make the dolls the same ever since. Tammy is well into her 80’s but is still loved and remembered for that tearful scene where she unwrapped the Debby Doll on her tenth birthday and said, “Well, gee, Mother, all I ever wanted was a Debby Doll!”

All I ever wanted was a Debby Doll but I didn’t get one on my tenth birthday. That year I moved from the city to Krumville, to Aunt Fay’s, and she said I was too old for dolls. She was a recovering heroin addict who hung photos of herself dressed as a vampire on all the walls. I was not allowed in the kitchen and had to eat my meals in my bedroom decorated with Aunt Fay photos. She said if I wanted a Debby Doll, I should petition the goddess Diana. I thought she was being funny.

Aunt Fay’s house was in the oak forest. She made oak dolls with hair from deer. The deer hair was arranged to look like human hair. She said these were petitions to Diana. Under an oak tree, Aunt Fay had an altar where she buried the dolls. Sometimes she burned them.

There were always gunshots in the oak forest. I never went outside that fall. In the city, there was shooting every Saturday night in our neighborhood and I was never allowed out. I don’t remember my city house much. One day Aunt Fay went outside and never came back in. Child Services came and took me away. I was now a ward of the State of New York.

What luck, I ended up in the same city as Denton’s Debby Dolls. When I turned eighteen, I went to work in the factory and I still do.

“Aren’t you coming to lunch?” Sarah asks.

“I’m working on my doll,” I whisper.

“Don’t let Mr. Denton see you doing that,” Sarah says. “He’s in a bad way today. I heard we’re 500K down this year. We have orders but there’s no stock. We can’t work fast enough.”

“I can tell Mr. Denton that I’m experimenting with new colors on my lunch break, which I am doing.” I stroke my Debby’s porcelain cheek with my pinky. “Look at her complexion. It’s lavender oil and China Pink pigment.”

“She’s not real, you know,” Sarah says. “I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Tea. Thank you.”

A year has passed since I’d first started working on my own Debby. I’d modeled what was to be the hollow shell of her head. Each hand painted layer and each firing was personally carried out by me. Today, I am ready to add the final details and fill her empty eyes. It’s ten days before Christmas. She’ll be my daughter, mine all mine. Mommy loves you, Debby.

There had been a man once, just once. He left a few hairs on my gingham pillowcase. And a legacy. My body changed in ways it had never before; swellings in places that had been unripe. Rosy cheeks, like a Debby Doll. I so wanted the child. Although I could not yet feel the child, I could. The growing presence of another life made me feel otherworldly.

But I was unmarried, alone, and I would lose my job when the baby came. Panic set in. It must have been eight weeks into the pregnancy when the fever came, followed by some mild cramping. During the night the cramping pulsed and intensified until I finally passed out. The next morning, the otherworldly feeling was gone. My unformed child had been born, its life over before it even began.

I forced myself up and out of the house, not wanting to be alone. I was working in the molding department that week and I would bear my child. From Denton’s secret mixture of minerals, bone ash, and alabaster, I poured the liquid clay. Before the first firing, I’d made a small imperfection on her cheek, like a chickenpox scar, so the other workers would reject her. I would always recognize my child. During lunch breaks, I stole moments to paint her face and sneak her head back to the kiln.

You’re here with me now, Debby, forever.

The lavender oil calms me as I blend your complexion to a natural sheen. I can almost feel your heartbeat. Light brown eye brows are added one hair at a time, your sense of humor. Would you like brown eyes like mine? Each brush stroke to your iris gives you another fleck of depth. Two dots of white on the left side of the iris ascertain your personality. I cover your eyes with high-gloss tears and now you have emotions. The creation process is almost finished.

See? I’ve made you a soft pellet body, into which I stitched your preserved mortal remains, hair from your Daddy, and oak bark—my petition to Diana. Your body lies hidden inside the top drawer of my workbench, along with your new gingham dress made from the pillowcase Daddy rested his head on. I forged a certificate from a midwife confirming your birthday, today, and your name, Debby.

Mommy’s here, Debby, don’t worry…

“What are you working on?” barks Mr. Denton. “Ten days before Christmas and you’re messing around with that B-stock? Those get smashed.”

I never saw him come up to my workbench. Debby, don’t cry, I’ll sort Mr. Denton out.

“You have a whole tray with these new dolls that have to be painted!” Mr. Denton’s face ran red. “You’ve been messing with that one since I came in!”

“Sorry, sir, it’s lunch,” I whispered.

Now Debby, be a good girl and get in my top drawer.

“You want to hide the thing as well! Is that a pellet body in there? Are you the one out selling B-stock on the weekends?”

“No, sir, I…experiment.” We may have to make a run for it, Debby.

“So, it is you! I’ve been told there’s a woman on the flea market every weekend with B-Stock Debby Dolls for real cheap. Give me that!”

“No, sir, don’t, you don’t understand…”

“Tea!” Sarah plunks my unicorn mug onto my workbench, brushes my Debby’s head into my top drawer, and slides it shut with her hip.  She grabs my hand and pulls me up. “Come on, we got pizza and it’s getting cold.”


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISAWRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Laura Libricz’s RWISA Author Page