No Great Adventure Begins with Someone Eating a Salad
The large wood-beamed room buzzed with the usual business. Farmers and merchants haggled prices over pints; travelers and sailors exchanged stories and gambled, sloshing whiskey on the planks of the tables as if they were still being tossed by the sea. Smoke from four metal ovens carried the scents of roasted meats and root vegetables around the large dining area on the main floor of the pub.
The pub's patron had removed the electrical innards of the ovens years ago and stacked bricks inside.
Fragments of glass signs twisted in curly lettering. Nobody read the old language anymore, but there they remained, clinging to yellowed walls among framed photos of neat, glimmering streets, manicured parks, and portraits of forgotten people. The regulars, who ate dinner here nearly every night, liked nothing better than to speculate about the occupations and demeanors of the people featured on those walls.
Marri worked the Tuesday evening shift as part of her co-op duty rotation. She picked up bits of discarded theories along with the food crumbs she collected for the chickens and pigs out back. But, there was a story she wanted to hear much more than the usual fare of hearsay's history. And she couldn’t keep her gaze from the table where that story sat.
In the eye of the merry maelstrom of this particular Tuesday night, a sinewy stranger hovered over his dinner. His slimly-muscled arms jutted from the stained brown cloak that covered weary shoulders, and he tore into his meal like a ravenous lover after a lengthy separation. Lettuces and slivers of vegetables slipped past his curved lips as he crunched on bits of rendered pork and toasted bread cubes, his jaw clenching with ecstasy, the whites of his eyes glinting beneath the shadowy hood of his cloak. Marri had never seen such a disheveled person; even local farmers after long days of plowing and weeding fields didn’t look so grubby and tired. She would discover his secrets, know his story, even if she had to trade duties with her sister to work two days a week at the pub.
The green Astroturf squeaked under Gloria’s yellow running shoes. She felt as if she were walking on a beach of mushrooms and blooming coral, simultaneously hard and spongy. The sun crested the roof of the Rec Center to the east, and the chains on the playground swings glistened, each rusty link holding a prism of dew. The air smelled pleasantly of rotting leaves and mineral-rich soil. Gloria caught a glimpse of her moving shadow on the silvery aluminum bleachers; it bumped up and down between two rows with her uneven gait. Her limp was slightly less noticeable than when she started walking three months ago, and she begrudgingly admitted to herself that her physical therapist was right.
“Beautiful morning for November, huh?” the woman walking on her right mused.
Gloria smiled at her, “yes, Ms. Barbara. It is pretty.” Gloria was utterly aware how ridiculous she must look. She was a squat woman with thin, mousey-gray hair, too old to be beautiful and too young to be wise. And the butter-colored velour jogging suit wasn't helping matters. No, she was in that mediocre age when women of little substance were pretty much ignored. Her thoughts were interrupted when she spied Mr. Mitchell waving from the soccer field. “Here we go,” she grumbled.
“He’s harmless,” Barbara grinned.
“Oh, Ms. Glorious! You’re really rockin’ that track suit, Ms. Glorious,” he hollered. Ah, yes. Gloria had almost forgotten about the one demographic that actually valued middle-aged women: septuagenarian men. She hoped that somehow that group would concede to the popular opinion and leave her the hell alone. Men of a certain age enjoyed talking quite a bit more than she could endure.
“When are you going to tell me how you got that limp?” Mr. Mitchell teased. “I think it’s running from all her suitors, Ms. Barbara. What you think? I know; you’re a vet...which sandstorm did you get caught in, glorious one?”
“I’ll see you on Wednesday, Ms. Barbara,” Gloria rolled her eyes and spun toward the parking lot. Barbara nodded, too winded from giggling and walking to respond.
Gloria was in no mood to feign interest in the weather, sports, or local gossip. And she didn’t want to lie about how she got her limp.
Half-smiling, half-glowering, she made her way to her station wagon, waving a friendly-ish ‘bye’ in Mr. Mitchell’s direction and hoping her newly-healed leg would allow her to walk faster than someone with two bad knees, a replaced hip, and not enough body mass to tempt a hungry alligator.
Gloria plopped into the driver’s seat and let herself feel it all as the car cocooned her. She thought about him; how twin suns once gleamed behind him. She had endured the Trials and banished the foulest beings ever to draw breath, yet here she was. This was what she had come back to; she, who had twice ridden a six-legged bristly beast across the dry plains of Vynduon to summon a coven of long-dead witches, had aged out of her measurable social value. Had Benrat’s blade not scorched her, marking her flesh for all time? As she reminisced in consternation, she didn’t notice the person approaching.
Barbara secured her mask and knocked on the passenger window. The car shook a little. Gloria clutched her chest and rolled her eyes. “Jeez,” she grumbled. She donned her own mask, a yellow one with dancing, happy bananas, and she slowly lowered the window. “You paying for my funeral expenses after that heart attack you just gave me?”
Barbara threw her head back and laughed, big and lyrical and toothy. “My lord but you are a jumpy woman. I’m so sorry. That mask, though.” She chortled and hissed. “Your eyes are daggers, but I can’t take them seriously peeking over those smiling fruits on your face.”
Gloria tried to harden her eyes further, but they squinted into laughter instead. “Get in here, you terrorist.”
The two women sat in comfortable silence. After a time, Barbara glanced over, her eyebrows lifted. “Well?”
“He’s not wrong...in a way.” And she left it hanging there.
“I’ll listen if you want to say. If not, we can stick to your questionable wardrobe choices and the men who find you irresistible?” They both smiled, but a look not unlike horror in Gloria’s eyes made this Barbara’s last ribbing of the morning.
Gloria pushed up the velour sleeve of her hooded jacket and rubbed the wide purple scar zigzagging across her forearm. It was too fresh to be the stuff of an adventurous youth, and Barbara gasped. “Christ Almighty, Gloria!”
“It begins with a prophecy, as stories often do…”
Working title: No Great Adventure Begins with Someone Eating a Salad
Genre: fantasy novella
Age range: adult (18+)
Word count: 1,127 (unfinished)
Author name: Katherine Menon
Gloria is our hero; she isn't young or particularly pretty. She doesn't weild a special ability granted to her by a masculine power. She is thrust into a world that requires her to unbridle herself, and she finds, upon returning to her own, that refitting the harness challenges her even more than the saga that swept her from her reality.
Curmudgeonly older male heroes (and sidekicks/mentors) dominate the fantasy genre. I want to create a character that is hopeful and cynical, caring and blunt, engaged and blasé.
Target audience: sci-fi/fantasy fans over 30.
Education: BA in English Literature and Professional Writing
Experience: I had a few pieces published in online magazines, printed anthologies, and student-edited publications. My writing style is, well, really, it's quite passe. There is a duality to my style: I flirt with darkness and flit about with an ethereal naivete. And that pretty well matches my personality. I love working the soil, busting dirt clods and pulverizing it until it yields. And I like the resulting flowers and herbs. I love the city at night, coming out of a dance club into the crisp air, my skin still buzzing to the barely audible beat of the bass.