These Are The Stories Part II
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Serenity"
Originally featured on 06-15-2009
As part of our series "The Summer of Our Hopes and Fears"

The narrator stepped back. He wiped his brow, reached for one of the bottles of water, gulped from it, and then began again.

 

***

 

Shamus Creigan sipped potato soup from a moldy wooden spoon as looked around his family’s meager home, that is, the meager home that he had been able to provide for his family during this miserable Potato Famine. It was 1845. Shamus offered his wife and two daughters more potato soup and water. They nodded miserably before pushing forward their moldy wooden bowls toward the pot of soup.

Shamus looked at the stack of the hay in the corner, the emaciated but beloved family pig Mick lying atop it. He looked across the table at Laura, his overly lithe wife. He had taken an oath to provide for her. And here she was choking down potato soup for the 400th day in a row. Fuck, he thought. It’s really just these sharkish landowners and their complete disregard for the well-being of their tenants. They don’t give a shit about us, he thought. If the Earl of Devon, an Englishman, can see it, I don’t know how these bastard middling thieves can live with what they’re doing to us, their fellow Irishmen. There’s no justice to be had here.

Shamus slammed his fist down on the wooden table, startling his two gaunt-looking daughters, Elaine and Emily.

“Seriously, screw this,” said Shamus. “Pack up your shit, ladies. We’re leaving Cork…for America!”

The announcement caused commotion. Moldy spoons dropped from moldy mouths into moldy bowls.

“What about schools for the girls?” asked Laura.

“In America,” declared Shamus.

“What about our friends?” asked Elaine.

“You’ll make more friends…in America,” declared Shamus.

“What about Mick? Can we bring Mick?” asked Emily.

Shamus grinned as he looked around the table at their faces.

“Oh, we’ll bring Mick…to eat on our way to America! Now that pig will feed us for a change!!”

Shamus could see by the ladies’ faces that he’d crossed a line. Mick was a beloved pig.

“Alright, we’ll bring Mick and eat him only if necessary…on our way to America!!”

They nodded in agreement. Except for Mick, who lay on a bed of hay, asking himself over and over if Shamus’s latest threat had truly been the last straw.

 

***

 

I sit here. Moldy. Uneaten. Inedible. A Papaya.

It is in my darkest hours that I remember my childhood. Growing alongside my peers, listening to them talk about how they would someday grow to become luscious fruits to be enjoyed in curries, salads and stews—me stewing already, knowing that I was inedible.

I try to look on the bright side, the extra time I’ve had due to being inedible has given me the luxury of study. And so I studied myself. And I found out that for centuries, women in Sri Lanka have used my brethren as a folk remedy for contraception and abortion. The obvious irony being that if I were simply more fertile in spirit, I would’ve been used to halt the fertility of others. The irony brings me little levity at this, my sad hour.

Nor does knowing that if I were perhaps just a bit more grounded in a spiritual path, my seeds could have ground up and used to make pepper, a beloved spice. But this was not my path. For I, an inedible papaya, am not even worthy of having my infertile seeds ground up into a potent spice. My spicy impotence abounds.

If I were a bit more malleable, a papaya jelly could have been I.

And so I say: The time is now for all inedible papayas to cry out, or to remain silent, forever. So I cry!

Eat Me! Eat Me! Eat Me! Eat Me! Eat Me! Eat! Me! Eat Me…Or let me Rot, among the strawberries!

 

***

 

They were at the diner. Just the two of them. Just a couple of people hanging out down at the diner. Or were they—people?

“Girard, I just love these English muffins. I love them! This trip was totally fucking worth it.” said Greta.

“Yeah, just think…I’m eating steak right now. Made from Orbus cow.” He held out a juicy piece of steak on his fork and grinned.

The waitress approached. She spoke to Greta as Girard cut into his steak.

“Um…there’s a slight problem with what you gave me as form of payment. We don’t take, um, this.” The waitress handed her book back to Greta who opened it and burst out in laughter. Girard looked up from his plate at Greta.

“Girard! You gave her Kratzky money!! Twelve Dubenstgers!?”

Girard dropped his fork onto his plate, bowing his forehead into his palm. He started giggling. He raised his head and looked at Greta, still laughing, and then the waitress. “Who’s the tourist??” he yelled in a boisterous cartoon voice, pointing to himself with both hands. Laughter violently vomited from Greta’s mouth.

The waitress put her hands on her hips and nodded.

Greta reached up and lightly patted the waitress’s arm, still laughing. “This guy’s trying to pay in Dubenstgers over here! Who’s the tourist!? I’ll give you three guesses!”

The waitress looked at her other tables and at the corner of the ceiling.

Greta glanced at the waitress and noticing her expression, said “Girard, give her some Orbus money for heaven’s sake!”

“Okay.” Girard reached his hand into his breast pocket and pulled out his bill fold, then peeled off a crisp twenty dollar bill. “Here you go,” he said handing the waitress the money. “Sorry about that.”

The waitress’s stern face relaxed.

“So where are you guys from?” asked the waitress. Girard and Greta looked at each other.

“Should we?” Greta said.

“What? Tell her?” Girard shrugged. “Alright, tell her!”

The waitress nodded and smiled.

“You won’t even recognize the name. It’s this small moon in the middle of bumblefuck,” said Greta.

“Just tell her already, she’s got other tables.” said Girard.

“Alright fine—we’re from Kratsonous VI. There, now tell me you’ve never heard of it.” said Greta to the waitress.

The waitress shrugged and nodded.

“See! She’s never heard of it.”

“Whatever!” said Girard. “We all can’t be from Rigel, now can we?”

“No, Girard, we can’t all be from Rigel. But do we have to be from Kratsonous VI? Nobody’s ever heard of Kratsonous VI unless they’ve broken down there on their way to somewhere like…way better. We should just be able to say we’re from Braxoid, for clarity.”

“But that wouldn’t be true. What’s wrong with being from where you’re from? It’s not a competition, is it?” said Girard. He turned to the waitress. “Is it?”

“No.” said the waitress. “It’s not.”

“See!” said Girard nodding. “I’m not afraid of who I am, where I’m from.”

“Well, neither am I!” protested Greta turning to the waitress. “Really, I’m not. It’s just so crappy there. Nothing like here, I’ll tell you that much.”

The waitress nodded. “Are you sure that you guys don’t want to check out dessert menus?”

They looked at each other.

“You know what?” said Greta. “Let’s do it. That pecan pie looked really tempting.”

“We’re on a budget honey,” said Girard.

“We’ve come all this way. We’re not leaving without dessert! I’m putting my foot down.”

Girard turned to the waitress. “You see what I put up with?” Girard winked at Greta. “You can take the Kratsoid off of Kratsonous VI, but…well, anyway you know.”

“Yeah. I know,” nodded the waitress.

“Yeah. Everybody knows,” said Girard.

 

Read More By Doug Dean

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