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[Fiction] Carver - Revolt of the Tin Soldiers


Timeslip

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It all started with the pepper grinder. In retrospect, she should have known he would be trouble.

When she had bought the thing at Ikea the week before, the rich walnut grain had caught her eye, almost calling out to her from the shelf. It wasn’t until she was through the checkout, however, that it had called out to her in a more literal sense. “You’ll make sure to use good peppercorns in me, right? Something with culture to it…like a nice Black Tellicherry?” A muttered promise to do so had been forgotten by the time she got home, and complaints began the moment the standard old McCormick pepper was dumped into the hopper. “Oh please, can you get any more pedestrian? Why don’t you just skip pretending and just dump the pre-ground stuff on your Hamburger Helper?”

Carver had long since learned that ignoring such snide comments from her belongings was usually the best route to go. However, the pepper grinder had a spice to it entirely separate from the dried fruit it dutifully ground, and was determined to have its way in life…or what passed for life as an inanimate object. Indeed, it complained every time she entered the kitchen. After a week, it was almost reduced to pleading. “Do you really have to keep using this horrible stuff? It’s terrible for my teeth, and there are things that would taste so much better. Look,” it said, trying to be reasonable, “there’s a sale going on at Eichermann’s deli today, and he has some lovely Madagascar Black on the top shelf. Could you please, please, please buy some? I promise you won’t regret it; it will add such a nice flavor….”

Caving in and buying the gourmet pepper – which was, sure enough, right on the top shelf in the spice aisle at Eichermann’s – probably would have been fine, had it been limited to that. Indeed, the new pepper did have a nice aroma to it, and she had to admit it tasted pretty good. No, the mistake was one of placement.

“You always set me on the stove,” the grinder mentioned without too much of a whine. “I’m always afraid I’ll get burned, and it would be so nice to see something other than those burners day in and day out. Do you think,” it asked with the nicest tone it could muster, “that you could put me on the window sill? The view must be lovely from up there, and it’s right by the counter so I would still be very handy.” With a sigh, Carver agreed…and the revolution began.

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The next day, Carver entered her kitchen to find a perfectly happy and quiet grinder…and an angry cheese platter. The marble plate had been a fixture in the kitchen ever since she found it at a flea market, shortly after Amped and her had bought the house. As with so many of her belongings, the material had spoken to her in some way, and it had come home with her for the cost of a dollar and change.

Unlike the pepper grinder, however, there had never been a peep from the cheese platter…not until today, that is. “I’ve been covered in dust for month! When are you going to get me a proper cover, Carver?” The sudden outburst shocked the candy-stripped nova; while she expected a certain amount of complaining from various quarters of the house, this was an entirely new voice added to the mix. “A…cover?” she gamely replied. “Yes, a cover. A glass cover. Did you think the groove around my edge was for decoration?” Well, yes actually, she had…but on reflection, she did have to admit that she had seen other cheese platters, and that they were generally equipped with a glass lid. “I want a glass cover; I’ve been naked long enough, thank you. The same place you found me should have one; they broke it’s platter, and have been trying to sell it alone for weeks now. And please don’t dawdle; I’d prefer to be covered today.”

Carver was walking into the shop before she realized that she had been badgered into making a shopping trip by a marble plate.

Still, she was here…and so was the bell-shaped glass, sitting forlorn on a table next to a stack of old magazines and bearing a fifty-cent price tag. And, she admitted, it would be nice to actually be able to use the cheese platter for storing cheese. It was enough of a rationalization to permit her to save some amount of face as she entered the kitchen an hour later, washed the new acquisition as the platter just said, “thank you!” over and over, and fit the lid to the satisfied slap of marble.

It wasn’t five minutes before the dam broke.

The antique push-button wall switch – or rather, it’s two ebony buttons – were almost immediate in their reaction to Carver’s largesse. “Hey, if you’re getting stuff…” began the top button, and the bottom finished with “…can we get one of those decorative switch covers? We’ve been stuck in this art deco bakelite thing for the past seventy years!” Before she could even begin to consider a reply, a soapstone coaster in the adjoining dining room piped up. “Hey, me first! I want a view, like the pepper grinder got!”

In short order, Carver’s quiet house was transformed into a cacophony. From the brass candlestick to the lace doily on the sofa arm to the bookend bracing several dozen paperbacks in the living room, the demands came fast and furious, but all were of a theme: that the ‘mundane’ things in the house were worthy of every bit as much respect as the various artworks – and a good deal more than that useless and tacky lawn gnome in the back yard.

It became quickly apparent to Carver that the wish list would leave her with an unlivable home and an empty bank account, and she attempted to restore order. “All of you, listen! Shut up for a minute and listen!” The roar died,, and she put her foot down. “This is completely out of hand. You’re trying to bleed me dry, and I’m not going to let you. So deal with it.”

Had she taken such a stance the day before with the grinder, the whole mess might have been averted. As it was, she might as well have tossed gasoline on a flame.

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It wasn’t until Amped came home that Carver realized that all wasn’t well in Wonderland. There hadn’t been more than a low grumble from the brick-a-brack until the blue speedster had zipped back into the house. When he did, however, the accumulated inanimates conspired to make Carver’s life as difficult as possible.

First came the rude comments. Whenever Amped would bend over, someone would chime in about his ass. When he reached into the fridge, the butter dish screamed that he was copping a feel. The doily’s comment when he plopped down on the sofa and rested his head there was both improbable and unprintable.

All this was bad enough. But it got worse when Carver’s roommate tried to have a conversation with her. As soon as his mouth was open, dozens of voices started screaming in her head…and continued, at full volume, until his mouth was closed. The poor guy looked confused at Carver’s grimace, and tried again…and to his dismay, met a look of near panic, as Carver was again bombarded by the yells of doorknobs and curtain pulls.

In near terror at this point, Carver yelled over the voices to Amped. “They’re all yelling at me! All the stuff in the house is yelling at me!” As the fingers of panic wrapped around her brain, she launched herself from the sofa and ran out the front door, paying absolutely no mind whatsoever to the grungy little fan club that had taken up residence in her front yard.

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Carver clung to hope as she gingerly stepped back into her house three hours and an exhausting run later. It was less than thirty seconds before that hope was ripped from her and shattered against the floor. The voices kicked back in with a barrage of demands, and no amount of yelling, threatening or pleading on her part would shut them up. With resignation, she began to live a life under siege.

Nighttime proved to be the worst. Her bedside lamp would wait until she was just teetering on the edge of sleep, then loudly shout, “I want a new shade!” The cycle repeated until she finally gave up on the bed and relocated to the sofa…where the doily picked up the cycle, yelling demands for an artistic placement and less starch. Eventually, Carver gave up on sleeping in the house altogether; she found herself huddled in blankets in the snow-covered back yard, taking small comfort in the consolations of Rene.

The following morning – a cold, achy, tired morning – Carver steeled herself for battle. She re-entered the house, and replied to the immediate cacophony by shouting, “I have an announcement!” The house quieted, perhaps in anticipation of finally receiving just rewards. The inner Carver smiled a cruel smile at that thought, as the outer Carver communicated the plan that they had decided together. “If you do not stop this immediately, I will gather up and burn every last malcontent! That is all!”

There was a stunned silence. Was she serious? Could she really destroy them? Then, every last item in the house – the malcontents, her artwork, the furnishings, and even the walls and floors of the house itself – took up a deafening chant. “Solidarity! Solidarity! Solidarity!”

So much for threats, the two parts of Carver thought as she sulked back out into the yard.

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Several cold, sleepless nights – and several long, deep discussions with her yard gnome – later, Carver braved the house once more. There was a moment of murmuring between the inanimates, and then the call went up again. “Solidarity!”

Rather than run from the din, or shout it down, Carver merely raised her hand and waited. After a moment, the possessive possessions stopped their call, waiting to see what their beleaguered owner would do now.

“I have a proposal. It isn’t everything you’ve demanded, but I think that it is fair. Will you listen?” To her relief, the brass candlestick – whom they had apparently taken up as a spokesman somewhere along the way – agreed, and Carver laid out her plan. As she explained, the knick-knacks and odds-and-ends whispered, seemingly to each other. Finally, she had finished…and the debate began.

Some items insisted that it wasn’t enough, that they should stand together until all demands were met. Other noted that this was at least something, and that full acquiescence wasn’t likely. The house itself, which had no particular demands, noted that it was becoming rather lonely without Carver actually living in it, and that she could very well leave them entirely and go to stay with Mythic for good.

Carver didn’t really time it, but it seemed as though the debate went on for hours before the candlestick finally said, “We find your proposal agreeable. But we want it implemented within one week. Any longer, and we will resume the struggle.” Carver nodded in relief, and set to work.

The large block of marble had been sitting in the yard for months. It was one of the many chunks of raw material Carver had stockpiled over time, waiting for a vision to come to mind. This time, however, she wasn’t releasing a trapped image; the marble was instead to be truly sculpted to her design.

Claws that would have shamed the sharpest razor sliced away ribbons of stone as if it were putty. The rough form started to take shape beneath her hands – the long, straight lines almost child’s play, but the intricate curves of the ends requiring skill and craftsmanship that few possessed this day in age. Still, the work progressed day by day. By the end of day two, it was roughed out; by day four, the fine detail work was done. Days five through seven were the worst – smoothing and polishing the beautiful stone, until it was as smooth as glass.

Finally, the night of the last day, Carver carried the work in beneath a cloth, setting it directly beneath a track light in her little home gallery. She gathered the various rebels around to see, setting them in a wide semi-circle so all could have a good view, and then swept away the sheet.

Gasps of awe and joy filled her mind, as the inanimates reacted to the beautifully rendered marble pedestal. As had been previously agreed, Carver thought of a number between one and a thousand; the candlestick pegged it right on the money, and with all the somber ceremony of a royal knighting, Carver picked it up and set it on the pedestal. Here it would remain for one weeks time, at which point the doily would have its turn in the light, to be followed by the doorknob, the coaster, and all the other mundane inanimates, so that they may know that they are all special in the heart of their owner.

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Visitors are not uncommon in the home of Carver, and all want to see her gallery. They gush about her work, but few do not at least look askance to see, atop a lovely marble pillar, an antique wall switch…or a soapstone coaster…or whatever else may be there this week. To those few who actually ask the artist what the work is meant to represent, she always replies with a little smile and the same word: “Appreciation.”

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