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Monday, October 1, 2007

Short Fiction: Like Soup and Salad

I saw that Answers.com was running a "Creative Writing Challenge" contest, so I decided to enter. The rules are simple: write something creative, 750 words or less, and correctly use in it the ten words they provide.

Here is my entry.

Like Soup and Salad

Two quirks of personality kept Sam from the grave. The first was his sense of duty. He lived with and supported his grandson, and that required not dying, like the child's parents had so irresponsibly done. The child harbored his DNA, blood of his blood. Some would say this was a faulty reason, because the boy also harbored the blood of simians, fish-things, and amoebas. Still, Sam would not abandon his grandson to face the horrors of modern-day England alone.

The second quirk was a love for his adopted country. England was agog with war, an unjust war, a war she had instigated. And he would see the end of this war, an end that would bring England back to her senses.

Before the war he had been a renowned poet, writing mostly charged free verse, but also the occasional sestina about hope or sonnet on public policy. These days, he wrote for an underground rag that catered to the patriots secretly assisting the European Allies. His articles were low, common things, but they gave him a hope that unpublished sestinas could not provide. However, sometimes it saddened him that he had gone from Poet Laureate to fifth-columnist in fourteen short years.

But today there would be no writing. The boy needed to visit Kew Gardens for a school report. Sam yawned and resolved himself for the chore ahead. He served breakfast: leftover gazpacho and caesar salad.

As they ate their soup and salad, the phone rang. Perry Harding's voice rattled on the other end.

"Perry! How's the wife?" said Sam. He then clicked on the steganophony device attached to his phone, and business began.

Harding talked about the latest intel from France, a plan he called a "military opus," and the recent TV propaganda.

Sam did not care about the propaganda. "Yes, yes. I know, it's infuriating. The old claptrap about the Good Soldier and his troupe of heroes."

"Troupe, tripe, trope," said the boy. He liked to play with words, like his father had.

"So, about that plan. Anything for us?" said Sam.

There was, and it was risky. Afterwards, he and the boy would have to abscond to the country for a while.

The boy was staring at him when he hung up.

"Eat your soup, finish the salad. There won't be any more for a while."

The boy speared a wilted lettuce leaf and said, "No more salad days?"

"These are your salad days. Make the best of them, and eat."

"This salad has seen better days," mumbled the boy, dropping the limp lettuce from his fork and watching it fall.

Sam glared, and the boy ate.

They walked out into the morning. An ugly fug filled the street, like the stench of decayed civilization. Sam put his hand on the child's arm. "What's this horripilation?" he said, and caught himself. "It means 'goose bumps.' Are you cold?"

"Horrible-ation," said the boy, shaking his head. He shivered and looked down the stark street.

Of course, he would be afraid. "The police won't be out this early. Besides, I have our papers this time."

At Kew Gardens, the boy's wonder overcame his apprehension. Rain began to fall, but the boy sprinted around the gardens, photographing flowers and giggling wildly. They made their way to the Secluded Garden, and the boy pointed at the stream bubbling through it. He reached out and patted a bamboo stalk that whistled at his touch, and rolled a fallen pear into a bed of blushing rockroses. Then, an overhanging quince tree rustled, and water fell in a tiny stream onto the boy's head. His laughter ascended like a little bird's trill. Sam grinned despite himself.

After the boy finished playing, they turned to leave. The boy's, David's, eyes glittered like those of a Spanish beauty Sam once knew. Then David chanted:

Like bamboo in my palm, like a rhyme, like a psalm,
Singing songs like my dad, in the garden where it's calm.

And the old man smiled, and a gland somewhere, shriveled like a raisin from age and disuse, squeezed out a tear. Even in this stark state, beauty flourished. Like a rich soup surrounded by wilted leaves, it tasted stronger for the contrast, and the greatest part was that someone appreciated it, and could rhyme it, and transform one majesty into another.

No tyrant would be overthrown today, but a day could be spent on beauty and silly similes.

4 comments:

chrisd said...

Considering the words you have to use, I'd say you did a fine job!

Billy Goat said...

Thank you! :)

chrisd said...

When do you find out the results, BG?

Billy Goat said...

Answers.com says that the results will be posted by October 15th, so there's a week to go at most.

It was a fun little exercise. I had fun putting it together.