Monday, September 7, 2009

The Old Man and the Pea

SHORT STORY MONDAY

This was my entry in an Imitation Hemingway short story competition. The rules were simple: a set length, entertaining parody, and a reference to Harry's.

The Old Man and the Pea

He was an old man who shopped alone in downtown Los Angeles and he had gone eighty-four days without remembering what he had gone out to buy. The old man was definitely salao, which is the very worst form of unlucky, and very close to senility as well.

When he found the pea he bargained hard to obtain it. He could not believe its size and even with ten Hail Marys could barely lift it. After that he walked around L.A. three days before he found his apartment building again. This is good, he thought, my mind is not harmed in any way except for the memory. That can easily be replaced. He was on the second floor landing when the first cockroach hit.

The cockroach was not an accident. He had come from deep inside the wall, so fast and without caution. He broke through a crack in the baseboard and ran alongside following the scent. He was a very big cockroach, built to run as fast as the fastest.

When the old man saw him coming, he knew that this was a cockroach that had no fear and would do exactly as he wished. He prepared his pocket knife and shifted the weight of the pea while he watched the cockroach come along.

The old man's head was clear and good now and he was full of resolution but had little hope. It was too good to last, he thought. He took one look at the great pea that straddled his shoulder as he watched the cockroach come in close. I cannot keep him from hitting, but maybe I can get him.

The cockroach climbed fast and leaped and when he hit the pea the old man saw his mouth open and his strange eyes and the clicking chop of the pincers as he drove forward into the pea just below the stem. The old man could hear the skin tearing when he whirled and lost his footing on the stairway. Then, on his back with his legs thrashing, the old man cried out, bad luck to your mother, and he bashed the cucaracha into the terrazzo.

He began to climb again. He did not like to look at the pea any more since it had been mutilated. It was too good to last, he thought. I wish I had gone to Harry's now and that I had never found this monstrous pea. I have seven flights to go to reach my flat, and now they have the scent. The cockroaches are many and they come.

All night he climbed and battled and when dawn began to come he had nothing left except a piece of the stem. The key broke off in the lock and he went to sleep in the hallway.

In the morning a boy came to him and the old man was still sleeping on his face. And he was dreaming about Harry's.

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