Managing the Complications
Disclaimer: Castle in the Air (1990), sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, was written by Diana Wynne Jones.
Note: Written for Trismigestus's LJ meme. The first line is hers.
There's a book of fairy tales on the floor next to where she keeps his basket. Sometimes she reads to him from it, when she's not complaining to the fireplace or pouring packets of hair powder down the sink.
"Once upon a time," they all start. "And they lived happily ever after," they all end. "These are not necessarily a guide for living, mind you," Momma tells him. "For I was the eldest of three, you know, yet I defeated a horrible wizard."
He's only the eldest of one. Momma is right because they all seem to be living happily ever after in spite of that.
"It's simply a matter of managing the complications," Momma says. She lifts him by the scruff of his neck, and he wiggles a bit on principle. "Behave, you," she tsks. Then she folds him under arm and strokes his belly, and tickles his nose with his tail.
He does love to have his belly rubbed, but a fascinating bit of string is now dangling just before his eyes. He attends to it promptly.
"Stop teasing your son!" Momma says, annoyed.
"But he likes it," Poppa says. "There." The string bounces a bit more, and he bats at it. He can never seem to catch it though.
"Be that as it may," Momma huffs, "it's not, oh, proper. I swear, you're more of a child than he is."
"He's not a child at all," Poppa says.
"And I've asked you before to take it off him. He's begun to explore. Why, I found him on my oddments shelf just yesterday. It's not safe, I tell you."
"I have endeavoured, successfully I might add, to restore him," Poppa says stiffly. "But he doesn't appear to be interested in anyone else's opinion on the matter and pops right back." And Poppa adds, "In this respect, he takes after his mother."
"Oh?" Momma asks sweetly. "Whatever do you mean?"
His hip itches a little, so he licks it.
"Look you, he washes himself!" Poppa says very quickly. "Now there's a time saver, right?" Poppa then says, "I can't say that I blame him myself. Who'd want to be a smelly, squalling, crawling brat? And bald! I ask you."
"Bald," Momma repeats in a thoughtful way. "That would merit the Royal Wizard's attention?"
"Er. Of course, I only meant it in a manner of speaking." Poppa seems very pale. But it might only be because his hair is dark green. Poppa dangles the string again.
But, suddenly, he is very tired and has to yawn. "Oh, Howl, do stop," Momma sighs. "It's time for his nap."
"Sophie, he does little else," Poppa complains.
"Well, that only stands to reason, doesn't it?" Momma points out.
And Momma tucks Morgan back into his basket.
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