Short Stories

The Eggs – Sandhira Chetty

I knew the first day of summer camp would be a success before it even started. I smiled as I wrote down the last few materials needed, picturing their elated faces when I announced that we would be constructing gingerbread houses, envisioning their hungry grins widening as they scrounged through the rainbow of sweets to adorn their biscuit-houses, my lip curling smugly as I foresaw them devouring their finished houses. I couldn’t wait.

***

The night before, I walked to a small supermarket to get the ingredients: M&Ms, chocolate-coated nuts, jelly worms, biscuits, marshmallows and miniscule edible stars and dinosaurs. As I picked each item, the delighted faces of my Korean middle-schoolers popped into my head. I would be a hero. The greatest thing since Psy. I walked like a champion to the till with my basket of goods.

On the way, I passed a hunched-over ajumma* who stopped in the middle of lowering a packet of sugar from the shelf to peer inquisitively into the foreigner’s basket. Her lingering eyes travelled from my basket up to my face. Her curiosity not satisfied, she then hobbled over, stopped inches from my face and raised her left hand slowly (her right hand still clutched at the packet of sugar). For one bizarre second I thought she was about to slap me. But she didn’t. She rested the back of her weathered hand on my face and gently stroked it. Her face creased into a warm smile as she did so and without saying a single word, she turned and continued with her shopping.

I gave myself a few seconds to let whatever just happened to me sink in and then proceeded to the till to pay. I left my browning-green 10 000 Won* note on the counter while the old cashier scanned all my items. Just then another ajumma appeared at my side and placed her goods and a 10 000 Won note on the counter just next to mine, completely ignoring the queue behind me.

Infuriated by the queue-jumping ajumma, I hastily shoved my items towards the cashier before the ajumma could, and somehow, by not-so-divine intervention, I mistakenly pushed the ajumma’s 10 000 Won note to the cashier instead of mine.

Not even my mother shouted at me like that ajumma did. She beat the air with her arms. She pointed fingers. She banged her fists on the counter. Neither of us listened to the other; she screamed at me in Korean while I apologised in English and Korean over and over again. I felt my face growing hot as the eyes of the old cashier and the other customers bounced between us. I didn’t know what was worse –

  1. Being scolded by a tiny ajumma
  2. Being accused of stealing 10 000 Won
  3. Being scolded for stealing 10 000 Won (a mistake), which could have been avoided had she not jumped the queue (not a mistake)

 

After about ten minutes of Charades in an attempt to explain my mistake, followed by more apologies, she finally gave up and left me alone. I paid (with my money) and left.

***

As I imagined, my kids’ eyes lit up when I walked into class the next day. They made a bee-line for the bulging packets clutched in my hands and in frenzied excitement spilt the contents on the table. But then their faces crumpled in confusion.

“Sam-Sam, where is eggs?”

My heart dropped to somewhere in the depths of my stomach. The eggs were still in the shop. I forgot the most important ingredient for their edible constructions; without the eggs the houses would fall apart.

My school was located in the sleepy Korean countryside. A one-way trip to the closest shop took 20 minutes. Their lesson was only 90 minutes long – I had no choice but to run. It was 32 degrees outside; sweat dripped from you when you stood in the shade. But I ran. And I ran. I didn’t stop running until I reached the small grocery shop.

I barged through the door clumsily as a result of my urgent running, making the sleepy shop keeper, who was literally busy killing flies, freeze and cast a terrified glance in my direction. Sweat streaming down my forehead and back like mini waterfalls, my hair sticking up at odd ends and my heavy panting filling the small, dark shop, I ignored his alarmed stare and frozen fly-swatter, and scanned the shop. I spotted an orange sack containing three eggs hanging by the counter and grabbed it. I could tell the shop keeper was terribly confused: the running, the barging through the door, the sweating and panting, only to grab a sack of three eggs?

“1000 Won,” he mumbled hesitantly as I laid the lonely sack of eggs on the counter.
One dollar. I opened my wallet and instantly felt my blood turn cold. I didn’t have the dollar. I hurriedly unzipped the coin section of my wallet and counted (and prayed):

100 Won, 200 Won, 300 Won, 400 Won, 500 Won…almost there, 600 Won, 700 Won…please God, 800 Won, 900 Won – bloody hell.

100 Won short. I looked at the shop keeper. He looked back.

Just then I felt the slightest tap on my shoulder. I turned my head, but no one was there. I looked down and saw a shrivelled man seated in a wheel chair that was far too big for him. He must have been at least 90-years-old, and it looked as if someone had soaked him in a bath for four hours. He had about five strands of white hair which were neatly combed to the side and his eyes were barely open as he stared at me. He was dressed in hospital clothes and he had a drip connected to his arm. I didn’t even hear him entering.

His tiny arm was outstretched towards me. I noticed it trembled slightly. Something was clenched in his fist. I held out my hand and he dropped it on my palm.

It was a 100 Won coin. I really didn’t want to take the ancient man’s coin. But I really needed those eggs. So I said “kamsamnida*” about five times and took it. And I got my eggs. Anyway, it would all be worth it when the kids made their gingerbread houses.

I ran back to school.

“I’ve got the eggs!” I yelled as I practically fell into the classroom.

I left the eggs on the table and flopped down in the nearest chair to catch my breath.

“Sam-Sam…this egg,” came the hesitant voice of one of my middle-schoolers.

“Yes, I got the eggs, now let’s START!”

“Ah, no, Sam-Sam, this egg…I don’t know English word.”

She took out her phone and typed the Korean word into a translating application. She handed me the phone.

“Boiled egg”.
*ajumma: old Korean lady

*10 000Won: roughly $10

*kamsamnida: thank you

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40 minutes stories

40 minute stories: Plushy and genre

 

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Writing prompt: Writers were given the plushy toy (seen in the photo) and a random genre. The following stories were created in 40 minutes. Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section.  

Story 1: Arthur the Seal by Vanessa Motyl

(Genre – Thriller)

Arthur the seal has been living in the village for a very long time.

He knew everybody there, from the oldest lady at the hospital to the baby born the previous month. And everybody in the village knew him, the wise brown seal, who wore a scarf also in the warmest summer day –  “I need to protect my throat from the wind”, he always said. “You will understand when you get 89…”.

Arthur had a brown fur, a bit ruined by the time, but still shiny and soft. Also his teeth were strong like when he was twenty, they were still able to crack nuts and cut nylon threads – nobody considered them harmful though. Nobody, until that Christmas.

Do you remember the baby born the previous month? Poor thing, he didn’t see his 30th day. The screams of terror of the mother have been captured by the snow, but not her memories: how could she be able to forget the terrible amount of blood pouring from the wounded body of her little son?

“We will keep investigating, madam “, said the police. “But we are almost completely sure that your baby’s death was caused by… teeth. Very big ones”.

The only one to have so strong teeth was the poor Arthur, unable to provide with an alibi for the evening when the child died. He tried to defeat himself, but it was useless: the police arrested him, as soon as the DNA test confirmed that his teeth were the responsible for the murder. What reason could he have had to commit such an awful crime? “Yes, granny, what was the reason?”.

“The age likes to make fun of an old body; when it comes to the brain, you never know which tricks the mind could do”.

Story 2: Saul and Pepa by Debbie Liebenberg

(Genre – War drama)

The room looked liked a frilly marshmallow wrapped itself in toilet paper floral designs. She said they kept everything ‘nice and cushy’ so the seniors wouldn’t hurt themselves. They’re just like giant toddlers…barely able to stand, swaying, drooling, not to mention the smell of musky powder badly disguising shitty diapers.

It was my first day on ‘playtime duty.’ I was told to make sure the seniors play nice together, to pick them up if they fall and make sure no one steals the others’ fruit cup. It all seemed fine today.
A group of old boys sat and played poker with each other. Ernie’s dementia made him believe that he was smoking an actual cigar. I’d even be called to change his filthy ashtray. Of course the ashtray, the ash, the cigar, and Ernie’s sanity were completely non existent, but I played along.
A group of old gals sat and spoke about the neighborhood gossip. Francis had been flirting with Ray again, that 60 year old slag. Oprah only gave the audience free books instead of cars, that greedy bitch. And the fruit cups had less fruit everyday.

Sir Saul kept to himself though.

He would sit at the window and stare out for hours. No one knew what he was looking at or looking for, they dared not ask the decorated war hero either. If Sir Saul had something to say he’d bark it at you like a drill sergeant. And dare you not address him as sir! You’d quickly find yourself at the receiving end of a voice so harsh and powerful that it made a machine gun sound like a tap dancing two year old. Sir Saul wore his military uniform everyday, ‘can’t ever let your guard down’ he would say. He had spent most of his life as a soldier. All of his family died in the war. Non one ever came to see him. Despite his injuries and hi loneliness, he sat in his wheelchair like it was a throne.

I walked over to take a closer look at what he was doing. His medals reflected the sun and blinded me as I approached. I could barely make out the brown furry object on his lap. He half concealed it as he stroked the fluffy little thing…wait! It must be a dog! That’s what Sir Saul’s been hiding all this time! He didn’t want us to see his furry little friend, he knows it is forbidden.
I decided to approach slowly and speak softly so as not to embarrass him. As I got closer he suddenly lifted the animal and started chewing on it. I heard a whimper and started running to save it as fast as I could. I managed to pull the poor puppy from his jaws but as it fell free a terrifying shriek escaped Sir Saul’s mouth! His eyes filled with terror. His lifeless limbs shook with shock. “Pepa! Pepa!,” he shrieked! I froze. 

Soon another nurse grabbed what I now realized wasn’t a puppy but a old chewed up walrus plushy. The nurse quickly handed Pepa to Sir Saul and Sir Sault silenced his screams by stuffing it in his mouth.

I quickly realized why Sir Saul spent so much time with his back to the room. It was to hide his screams. Pepa the walrus was the only comfort he had.

As the nurse rolled Sir Saul away, she shot daggers at me and strongly advised, “You never, NEVER, separate Sir Saul and Pepa!”

Story 3: Mindy and Humbert By Maria Karamanoglou

(Genre – Horror)

To tell you the truth, I never really liked Humbert. I don’t even know how he got here; I just saw him one day among my little sister’s toys, a worn-out little intruder, with black scratched plastic eyes, a stupid red scarf, his left nostril missing, and naked patches all over his body. It was not a premonition, I just hated that Mindy would prefer him to all the new shiny toys I brought her whenever I got home from college. I suppose this was already paranoid. But it got worse. Sometimes I would catch with the corner of my eye a malicious smirk on is face – which is funny, since he didn’t even have a mouth. Once or twice I found him in the middle of the living room, without obvious reason why he should be there. I swear to you, it was like he was following me. And that time I went to say goodnight to my sister before my night flight, I was sure I saw him eyes gleaming red in the darkness of her bedroom. It went on like this for years. When all the other toys moved to the store room, he was still there, firm above her bed. When she went to college, she took him with her. And when she disappeared without a trace…Well he was not in any of the boxes our parents brought back from her dorm room. Never saw him or her again. I’m a grown man now, almost old… but I still get the creeps whenever I look at our old pictures and see him in some corner of them. In all of them.