It’s Not Red

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

An old woman with curiously small feet stood brazenly before him, staring at his head.

Tuwa had seen this behavior before and unwound the bright red cloth he wore around his head when he became The Pochteca, the traveling trader. He handed the cloth to the woman, who worked it in her fingers and held it close to her eyes.

“What kind of dye?”

“Far to the south, many months of walking from here, men gather a small beetle and then women crush and boil them with cloth.”

“What kind of beetle?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen them.”

“What time of year?”

“The first cool breath after summer.”

“Do they dry the beetles first?”

“I don’t know.”

The woman pinched her mouth as if unhappy that Tuwa knew so little.

“Is this red common there?”

“No, very rare.”

“The beetles are rare?”

“The color is rare.”

The old woman handed him the cloth and turned away as abruptly as she’d stepped before him.

Two years later when the winds carried the first cool air after summer, Tuwa saw the woman again. She sat beside a loom and a pot of boiling water over a fire. Small bowls scattered around her, each filled with a colored dye, mostly browns, some with a bluish tint.

She did not rise as Tuwa approached and he got the impression her small feet would no longer carry her. Strands of silver hair fell over her face.

A boy ran up and dropped a pouch close to her, then he ran away without a word. She picked it up and clawed a sample that she held up to Tuwa.

“Beetles,” she said, spilling some into a bowl. She ground them to a moist mash with a mortar on a worn stone, then dipped boiling water with a small mug and dribbled it into the mash and stirred. She dipped her finger into the mixture and held it close to her eyes, then up for him to see.

“It’s not red,” said Tuwa.

She shook her head and wiped her finger on a scrap of cloth in her lap.

# # #

There are lots of things I want to know about this one:


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22 Comments

Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction

22 responses to “It’s Not Red

  1. Pingback: It’s Still Not Red « Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

  2. I think the story was fine. The old woman doesn’t need a name, at least not yet. The ending seemed a bit abrupt, but I get the sense that this is a scene from a larger piece, so I’m not bothered by that.

    I like how the old woman has been trying (and failing) for two years to get the right color, based on such thin data.

  3. KjM

    Posey, you moron. You left out the “None of the above” choice. 😀

    I would leave all as it is. I like this – and that has nothing to do with its length or brevity.

    In particular, I like the spareness of the dialogue. You can hear the frustration in the old woman’s words, her annoyance that it’s skill that produces red. That’s what is rare, not the raw material.

    And she’s unable, as yet, to reproduce the color.

    Nicely done.

  4. Good story. I didn’t vote for any of the choices because I thought the story was good as is.

  5. I enjoyed this. It says a lot with a few words and that’s my favorite kind of fiction. Enough description. No name necessary for woman. Great, simple story.

  6. The woman should not have a name. It adds some mystery to the story. I do want to know more. Much more, please. 🙂

  7. LOL I didn’t vote either because I didn’t agree with any of the statements. Left me wanting to know more, much more, and that is a good thing from a piece of flash. Great stuff and very well written, as usual.

  8. Definitely no name for the woman, IMO.
    It didn;t feel too abrupt, and no words leapt out at me for being out of place.
    also, I had no need to know where they were having this exchange. And I didn’t notice the length/lack of length of the piece. It seemed about right, I expect!

  9. Pooey on the poll, posey.

    I like it as is; the nameless woman, the POV, the word choices. The only thing was – not sure who the ‘she’ is in the ending. Peace, Linda

  10. The woman should have a name.
    No, not needed. I agree with others who said it would have been better from her POV, but then, so do you.

    We need to know where they are, on the prairie or in the forest.
    As you know, I always try to read these as if I’m a first time visitor. I don’t think even a first time visitor needs to know this – it could be in the desert SW, ancient Egypt, or some fantasy world. The fact remains, the beetles she needs are not in her locale, no matter where that may be.

    I like this because it’s shorter than usual.
    I did not like this as much as your usual stories, but I don’t think it was because of the length. I think it was because of the lack of conflict, or foreshadowing of conflict you usually give us.

    The ending was too abrupt, Posey, you moron.
    No, it wasn’t too abrupt.

    Some word choices pulled me out of the story (please tell me which words in a comment).
    Re-read just to be sure. Nope.
    ~jon

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  12. I support the pov suggestion made earlier. This feels like a segue to a greater mystery about the dye. I want to know more.

  13. I agree with none of the poll options. Woman needs no name. Perfect length. Story nearly calls for the abrupt ending after the straight dialogue and direct statements. As Jon pointed out, we already know the place.

    Nice and concise. Beautiful.

  14. Your poll question calling you a moron made me laugh. I’m with Jon, you didn’t have a “I like this” button.
    I will agree with Deirdre though, it would make more sense from the woman’s perspective.

  15. Your polls appear to not be working for me today. I like it, though it is not as satisfying as most of your stories.

    I agree that, told from Tuwa’s perspective, the woman should not be named.

    However, I think the story would be more powerful told from the woman’s point of view. She’s the one who cares about the action in the story–the color, and the making of a dye.

    I know that Tuwa is a recurring character, but I don’t know why this story matters to him.

    • Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

      I love that idea, Deirdre. Wish I’d thought of it. You’re right, this would be better from the dye-woman’s perspective.

      Also, I think I’ve hit the limit of 100 votes per month allowed in WordPress’s free PollDaddy usage. Just learned about that this morning. So the poll’s dead, I guess. And I’ll be able to have no more polls in October, because I’m too cheap to open a paid PollDaddy account. Sigh. I kinda like polls.

  16. I didn’t vote on any of the options you posted

    The woman should have a name. 0% (0 votes)

    -Nope, don’t think so at all, works perfectly well without it.

    We need to know where they are, on the prairie or in the forest. 0%

    -again nope, I was able to conjure up an image of the scene without the location stated, i was imagining they were on the outskirts of some small settlement.

    I like this because it’s shorter than usual. 0%

    -Could insert a pun here , but i wont 😉

    The ending was too abrupt, Posey, you moron. 100%

    – It is an abrupt ending, but in no way posey

    Some word choices pulled me out of the story (please tell me which words in a comment). 0% (0 votes)

    – saw your vote last night, and i dn’t think in this story any bits pulled us out so to speak.

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  18. Deanna Schrayer

    I agree with Jon – you need an “I love this” option. Not knowing the woman’s name lends more mystery to the story, which is super – don’t name her. She’s so easy to picture with your short, but vivid description.
    I checked “some word choices pulled me out…” That’s not entirely true. Nothing pulled me out of the story, but Tuwa saying “I don’t know” didn’t seem to fit. I think a shrug would say it better in this case.
    You know why I had to read yours first this morning. Now every time I turn my hair red, (or tangerine), I’ll think of beetles. Thanks a lot Jeff! 🙂

  19. Just as with Jon, there was no proper column for me to choose.

    I liked that the woman was not named. It’s an intriguing story, I want to know how to get that rare red, too!

    Let’s see, trying to be helpful, though story doesn’t have any problems. Hmm. Well, how about contractions? How about if he says, “I do not know,” instead of “I don’t know.” And, “It is not red.”

    Not that the contractions harmed in any way.

    As always, I enjoy reading your stories.

  20. Diandra

    It feels kinda strange… I like it. (^v^)

  21. None of your poll questions fit…there’s no plain old “I like it, period”. This was good and the abrupt ending feels, I don’t know, not-out-of-place? I can’t think of the word.

    But I did enjoy the brevity, though that didn’t make or break it for me. I love your pacing and realism. the names are awesome and we don’t need to “know” the place…we already do.

    And please PLEASE do not name the woman.

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