Hey guys! Before I jump into our new short story, I wanted to let you know that Where the Clouds Catch Fire is still available for FREE on Amazon Kindle. But today's the last day to get it for free, so hurry and claim your copy!
Now, without further ado...
Uncle Micheal says he's a man now because he has a mustache. It's a wee, patchy thing that you can't see unless the sun is right, and even then it looks like faint red moss on his upper lip. 'Tis nothing like Da's mustache. Da's mustache is red where the rest of his hair is blonde. It's so long that he has to braid it so it won't get in the way of his blacksmithing work. Da's mustache can touch his chest, and it tickles my neck when he picks me up for a hug. He forgot to hug me this morning when he sent me and my wee brother Tarin to Nan's house. He said something about angels that I didn't understand, but Nan must have, because she put me and Tarin in Aunt Ruari's care, told us to behave, and left to go see Mum.
Aunt Ruari is Mum's youngest sister, the only one who's not married yet. Her hair curls violently and every time she combs it, it sticks out in every direction like wool on a carding comb. Since she can't do much with her own hair, she's forever fussing with other peoples'. She's forever telling me to sit still so she can plow my scalp with a comb, and I can't stand for it, so I tell her to play with Tarin's hair and leave to find Uncle Micheal.
I smile when I see Uncle Micheal, Uncle Stiofan, and Uncle Oisin all together under a tree, watching Granddad's sheep. Watching sheep is easy, so Uncle Micheal, Uncle Stiofan, and Uncle Oisin spend most of their days making merry.
Uncle Micheal is the oldest of the uncles, but still younger than Aunt Ruari. He's the only one who claims to be a man. A year younger than him is Uncle Stiofan, the only one who cares for the sheep the way Granddad wants him to. And Uncle Oisin is barely twelve.
Uncle Oisin is my favorite. Uncle Micheal says he's a man and too big to play with me and Tarin, and Uncle Stiofan is forever trying to be a decent shepherd like Granddad, but Uncle Oisin causes mischief and steals food from the kitchen and knows better than anyone how to have fun. And since he's the youngest of the Quaid brood, he can get away with whatever he pleases.
Nan says she was so knackered from raising so many children that, when Uncle Oisin came along, she didn't try making a decent person out of him. All the women at church say they can't blame her, who else in Limerick City can say they raised ten children and buried four?
I run over to Uncle Micheal, Uncle Stiofan, and Uncle Oisin, and I see that they're carving a target into a tree. Uncle Micheal has a crossbow, Lord knows if Granddad gave him permission to use it, and three arrows.
"Can I shoot?" says I.
"You're too little," says Uncle Micheal, "you might hit someone."
I've been shooting that crossbow since I was five, and now I'm eight, going on nine, and Uncle Micheal still says I'm too little. "I can shoot better than you," I say. "I'll prove it."
Uncle Oisin laughs, and Uncle Micheal isn't about to show his brothers that a wee girl can outshoot a man, so he hands me the bow and three arrows and says, "Ladies first."
The bow is too big for me, heavy in my little twig arms, but I hold it up and aim carefully. I close one eye, then the other, trying to remember which one gave me a better shot.
"Fire already!" cries Uncle Oisin.
I pick an eye and pull the trigger. I fly backwards, and the arrow misses the tree. Uncle Oisin laughs, but I know I just closed the wrong eye. I load the next arrow, and this time, I hit the target. My third arrow hits close to the bullseye.
I smile and hand the bow to Uncle Micheal. All three of his arrows hit the target, but nowhere near the center.
"I say it's a tie," says Uncle Stiofan.
"I say Lynder won," says Uncle Oisin.
"It's most definitely a tie," says Uncle Micheal, but only because he's ashamed to say that he, a man with a mustache, lost to a girl.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.