The radishes had been bad enough. Jacob’s wife swore she’d die without them, and they were too poor to buy any, so he sneaked into Dame Gothel’s garden to steal some. Just a few, hardly noticeable among the lush carpet of greens. Then it was cabbage, parsley, arugula; he knew pregnant women got cravings, but this was crazy.

Now he was back, tiptoeing across the fields with the sickle moon above clothed in clouds. The daft woman wanted rapunzel; it was too bitter for him, but he’d have porridge while she ate like a rabbit. He was so lost in reverie that he nearly ran into the scarecrow standing guard over the plant he wanted.

That’s new, he thought, leaning down to tear off a long leaf.

The scarecrow swiveled to stare at him. “Thieeef,” it said, and extended a straw-stuffed arm.

With a yelp, he bolted back toward the wall that surrounded the Dame’s lands and scampered over it, heart pounding. He ran all the way home to his expectant wife.

“If you want… any more salad,” he wheezed, “get it yourself.”

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5 Responses to “Yen”

  1. Good, but again, I think the microfic format works against your better skills. Until the last line, I was thinking this bore shades of Sturgeon’s “Silken Swift” which is maybe the only unicorn story that didn’t make me want to vomit. It’s that playful dance between deadly serious issues. Personally, I’d like you to reach for something epic to end these, rather than reach for a joke. Was this a one shot composition? I can’t tell, because it has so much starting energy–yet at the same time, the ending suggests to me you were in a hurry to wrap it up.

    Really fine writing Valerie. Are you going to revisit/revise this? Seems like you can stitch these micro-narratives into something longer… you know, like a Kilgore Trout sandwich for naked lunch?

  2. Valerie says:

    You’ve discovered my secret weakness… reaching for the joke. Maybe it’s not so secret. But I do usually aim for funny instead of serious, maybe because it’s what I want to read myself. After a long day of screwing around with cash flows and leases, for some reason the idea of writing something epic makes my stomach ache. It’s a personal defect, and one that I should probably work to overcome.

    This was intended as a one-shot; today’s word of the day was “yen” and this is the resulting story. Could it go elsewhere? Of course. Will I take it there? I hadn’t intended to, but I certainly could. Seems like it might unroll as a Life of Brian-esque version of Rapunzel where the character doesn’t get taken by the witch because her father didn’t get caught, but somehow ends up embroiled in the events of the story anyway. I don’t know.

    I am tempted to punch you for the phrase “a Kilgore Trout sandwich for naked lunch” because how dare you unload such a magnificent and weighty proposal on my sad little blog. It is a great idea and I will give it due consideration. I’ll probably have to work myself up to believing I can even manage it.

  3. 1) I’m not sure if it’s a weakness. Just a propensity that I think for piece like this, lead you astray. I’ve read your longer humorous pieces on litfo and they’re good. Maybe because you take time to balance it all out.
    2) Ah, so it was a one-shot. Good. It means you do have epic instincts after all… you can’t deny the set up is potentially epic. There is so much opportunity for trouble in this story. You can be epic and also funny & they will complement each other.
    3) I like your summary of where you think it’s going, because your prose won’t resemble the summary–it’s in that differential that sometimes means the difference between the pretty good story we think we’re telling and the great story we’re actually telling.
    4) Did you read Harper’s for this month? Quit thinking you lack it. Those hacks sure didn’t think so. There’s a short story in there that looks like bad Barth and a poem in there that I find stunningly bad. You might not be in the top 50% of writers who ever lived, but you are certainly in the top 50% of living writers. Less insecurity, more megalomania, pls.

  4. Lena S. says:

    I love the writing in this, especially the line “tiptoeing across the fields with the sickle moon above clothed in clouds.” Though I do like the humorous last line, I’m really curious how it would have turned out if the scarecrow or Dame caught him. Would the Dame want his child or some other form of payment? What would Jacob have told his wife then? Maybe the story could be humorous after all.

    Also, why did you title this “Yen”? Perhaps I’m missing something, but the title sounds somewhat Asian to me. Just curious.

  5. Valerie says:

    In the standard version, of course, being caught meant the witch would want his child. But it really could go anywhere; she could kill him, she could turn him into a dog, she could recruit him into a secret magical hit squad because he unknowingly has the ability to sneak past most magical barriers… I could probably wind it out a dozen different ways, some of them humorous, some not so much.

    Yen is a word that, besides being an Asian currency, means “craving” or “intense desire.” It apparently used to be specific to opium but that meaning is older. It was just the word of the day yesterday for a writing challenge in which you write a story based on the word. Not very mysterious but there you have it.

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