Practical Color Theory, Part 1
Red, a King Dethroned
The Whimsical work of Arthur Rackham, 1867-1939
Dawn of a New Year
Tackling New Media
Understudy Dawnby Shannon Wolff
The Sun was due to rise in less than fifteen minutes, and the slacker was late.
I huffed in disgust and blew the hair out of my face. I once again checked the sundial on my wrist. Just as I suspected, sunrise was supposed to occur in fourteen minutes and fifty-three seconds, and the Sun was nowhere in sight.
Behind me the Moon pulled her celestial chariot into the cloud-lined bay. Her attendants hurried forth to tend to the yawning polar bear. I was just grateful the Moon’s attendants now had something to do. They’d been giving me sideways looks for the last quarter hour and I was about ready to teach them a less-than-pleasant lesson about minding their own business. I really need to learn to refrain from such behavior... thinking with my fist all the time is how I ended up being stuck as the Sun’s attendant.
I sighed and looked the Sun’s celestial chariot over once again in an attempt to look as though I actually had something to do. Of course, I’d already done everything actually in my job description. The golden wheels and inlays had been polished, the axel greased... Even the lion pulling the chariot was groomed, harnessed, and ready to go, a fact he was anything but happy about.
“I know, Leo,” I cooed. I rubbed the big cat’s ears as he continued to growl in frustration. “I just hope he gets here before I have to go looking for him,” I added in a huff and glanced at my sundial again. Ten minutes and forty-eight seconds.
“I see my brother is being his less-than-punctual self,” the Moon sighed as she strolled over to me, her gossamer gown dragging across the clouds behind her.
“You could say that.” I muttered, fighting the bite out of my tone. At least the Moon happened to have better manors than her attendants.
“Try not to fret, Dawn. I’m sure he’ll out grow this irresponsible stage sooner or later.”
Her eyes were so full of sincere and gentle hope; I decided not to inform her that her bother has been in this “irresponsible stage” for the last hundred years. And that’s just since I’d been his attendant. I also opted against informing her, once again, that my name was Dawnisha. I guess when you have a name like that and work for the Sun people just can’t resist the nickname.
“Think there’s any chance of him outgrowing this stage in the next…” I paused to check my sundial again... “... nine minutes or so?”
“No, I supposed there isn’t,” the Moon sighed once more and lovingly stroked Leo’s mane. “Perhaps it would be best if you fetched him while I kept Leo company. I’m sure Ursa won’t mind.” She added with a nod towards the white bear that pulled her chariot.
I didn’t wait around for the Moon to change her mind. Besides, if I couldn’t find the Sun and drag him back in the next seven minutes I’d end up going from attendant to replacement.
Luckily, it wasn’t hard to figure out where he was.
The Milky Way Bar and Grill was the sorriest excuse for an eatery this side of the Big Dipper. The windows were cracked and broken, the floors sagged, the roof leaked, the menus had been handled by enough hands to render them illegible, and there had to be at least three hundred years-worth of old chewing gum stuck to the bottom of the tables. But it was only about two minutes from the dock where Leo was waiting patiently and it happened to employ one Miss Saura Tab, whom the Sun happened to have been pining over for at least as long as I’ve been working for him. I guessed she happened to have good taste in men, because she kept saying no.
“He’s in the back,” the bartender grunted at me without looking up from his newspaper.
“Thanks, Mick,” I muttered and headed towards the back, not that I actually needed the directions.
I didn’t know why I didn’t just start coming here to collect the Sun before heading over to take care of Leo and get the chariot ready. I always ended up marching over to the back table and reminding the Sun he had a job to do and that Saura would only turn him down again. To be honest, it was kind of cute for a decade or two, but the novelty had long since worn off.
I was sure the scene would play out as it had thousands of times before. I would walk up just as Saura was ready to slap the Sun and remind him in no uncertain terms exactly what time it happened to be. Of course, he would object and tell me he’d be there in five minutes. I actually made the mistake of waiting five minutes once. I figured that since the time the sun rises isn’t finite anyway, no one would miss a few extra minutes. Caught seven kinds of trouble for that and was almost demoted to star polisher. You have no idea how quickly those stars can get dirty.
Thinking all this over as I approached the table did nothing to soften my notoriously abrasive disposition. By the time I actually reached the table it was less than five minutes to sunrise and I was ready to drag the Sun out of there by whatever body part he’d be foolish enough to let me get a hold of.
After all, it wasn’t as though Saura would ever actually agree to go out with him.
“She said yes, Dawn,” the Sun blurted at me as I opened my mouth to inform him about the time.
“What?” I gasped once I regained the ability to close my mouth. Had Saura lost her mind?
“Saura, she said she’d go out on a date with me. I’ve been asking her for the last sixteen hundred years, and she finally said yes.”
I glanced over at Saura, who had leaned over the bar to talk to Mick. I don’t know if she’d just gotten tiered of the Sun asking, or if she found his inability to take a hint charming, or what, but she looked back towards us and winked. I guess the Sun had grown on her or something.
“Look, kudos for finally wining over the girl of your dreams. But there is a little matter of the sunrise,” I said, hoping he’d be a little more cooperative now that he’d gotten a date.
“You don’t understand. The date is for right now.”
“Now!? As in now, now?”
“Yeah, her shift ends in a few minutes and I’m treating her to breakfast.” The Sun sighed with a moonstruck look in his eyes.
“What about the sunrise?”
“What about it?”
“There’s a whole world out there that could use a little light.”
“They’ll be fine. They have electricity down there now, don’t they?”
For the first time in my life, I was speechless. This went so far beyond being irresponsible that it wasn’t even funny. And just who would catch all the blame for this? Me. Would Bright Boy there take any of the responsibility for that ‘Just five more minutes’ episode? No. And if I was in that much trouble for sunrise being a few minutes late, just imagine how much trouble I’d be in for the Sun not rising at all.
“Look,” I began, fighting the urge to strangle him. “In about two and a half minutes somebody has to drive that blasted chariot across the sky, and that somebody is supposed to be you.”
“Doesn’t have to be.”
“But it’s your job!”
“So I’m taking a day off,” the Sun sighed and began digging around in his pocket. “Look, if it’s so important to you that the chariot leaves on time, then you can drive it today.” He added and tossed me a set of keys.
“But I don’t know how to drive the chariot.”
“It’s easy. Just let Leo do all the work. He’s been doing this since the dawn of time, he knows the way. I haven’t actually driven that chariot in years.”
There were words to describe my exact feelings towards the Sun at that particular moment. I’d get my mouth washed out with soap if I ever used any of them, but there were words.
“Whatever. I have a date with Saura.”
With that the slacker walked away, arm in arm with Saura.
“What did I ever do to deserve this?” I moaned and looked at the keys in my hand. I was sure the smiling sun on the keychain was mocking me.
“You might want to get going there, Dawnie-Dawn,” Mick chuckled from the bar. “That chariot is due to leave in about two minutes. You can still make it if you run.”
I sighed and raced out the door, clutching the keys so tight the little teeth were biting into my hand. I’d said somebody would have to drive the chariot across the sky. I just didn’t think that somebody would turn out to be me.
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