February 2008 Volume Two Issue Two
A Feast of Leftovers - Patricia Russo
No one could sleep for all the dogs barking, so they sat in the moonshadowy dark by the wall furthest from the broken window, and had another feast of leftovers. It had all started last August, or so Robbie kept insisting, but August did not seem long enough ago to Dex and Uliana. The dogs had to have been barking for years, they felt. Years, not months.
“Could we light a candle?”
“There aren’t any candles.”
“I thought there were a few stubs left.”
“The only leftovers are these.” With his foot, Dex shoved the plate forward a couple of inches.
“And us,” said Robbie.
“That reminds me of a story about my dead friend George,” and immediately Rob and Dex leaned forward.
“Oooh, tell it!”
“I love the dead George stories!”
But when she began to speak, what she’d thought to tell melted from her mind, and all she could offer was, “Once upon a time, there lived a little old man who had a small house far away from the village, in a dark wood where the wolves roamed unhindered…”
“Ah, christ, not Little Red Riding Hood’s grandfather again.”
“…‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ Jesus.”
It was a grief upon all three of them, and no wonder in it, that all that remained were leftover stories as well.
The silence stretched. Dex slapped his palm against the floor.
“It is, I tell you.”
“Well, let it.”
“Can’t stop it.”
“I could, once,” Uliana said, and began another tale, about a boy who wanted to be good, and went out into the wide world to uncover his fortune. Dex and Robbie groaned and put their hands over their ears. In the end, they resorted to pelting her with empty tins and perished toothpaste tubes to make her shut up.
The dogs barked, unrelentingly.
The moon faded. They resigned themselves to a long dark.
On the dish, the scraps of the scraps they had left took back their forms, heels of bread regrowing from crumbs, crusts of cake swelling to half-slices, slivers of chicken and fish increasing to torn nuggets, scraps of skin and drops of fat stacking molecule upon molecule until they were once again wedges of apple and pear, rounds of blood sausage. Such a marvel of a dish; with it, they would never starve. Still, the children hungered for light.
“There must be a candle somewhere.”
“There’s none. We’ve used them all.”
“We’ve looked. Don’t you remember? We looked already. We’ve looked for months.”
Or possibly years.
“And you could never stop the snow, either. That’s just a story you tell yourself.”
“I remember,” she said. “You’re the ones who don’t remember.
I could do so many things. So could you two.”
“Who made the wondrous dish, then?” Uliana snapped.
“I don’t know.”
“And not you, either.”
“Watch out, now,” Rob said, in sudden alarm. “She’ll smash it,” and bent to cover the dish with his arms, but Uliana leaned the other way, to pick up a bit of a stick from the floor. Floor, ground. It was hard to tell whether they sat within, or without. In the dust, she drew a candle, tall and stout; she drew it of wax, and molded it smooth; she drew the wick, thick and strong, and last she drew the flame. The dogs barked, and barked, and barked, but Rob and Dex and Uliana sat around the candle as the flame began to glow, and stretched out their hands toward the light.
“You’ll forget again.”
“Never, so help me.”
“I won’t, I swear.”
“You’ll forget again,” she said. “But after a while, I will remember.”
- END -
You can find more of Patricia Russo's fiction in Not One of Us, Tales of the Unanticipated, and Anthology Builder. Her story The Oracle Opens One Eye is available in the current issue of Lone Star Stories.