This is the exercise we were given at last month’s Corydon Quills and Quibbles writers meeting. We had three words to use in 500 words or fewer.
by Marian Allen
There were five of us: another American, two other men from Pakistan and the woman from El Salvador. They’d all been here since they were children, though, and spoke the language like natives.
One of the Pakistani men lolled against a pile of grain sacks, listless with the fever of his wound. I didn’t think he’d last the night. In fact, I knew he wouldn’t. We would have to move out at first light; we couldn’t wait for him to die or recover, we couldn’t drag him with us, and we couldn’t leave him behind.
If the other Pakisatni man’s glowering meant “I will protect him to the death,” I was afraid neither of them would see the dawn. We’d see where he bedded down. If he chose the stall at the far corner, well and good. If he settled in next to the wounded guy, we had a problem. Another problem.
Rain pounded onto the barn’s tin roof. Lucky for us, there was one leak, right where we could catch it in our canteens or stand under it to cool off. It had been a hot, dry week.
I pulled some of the grain out of a sack and sniffed it. No chemical smell, no funny color. This time of year, it was local harvest, not treated seed for planting. I ground the grain between two rocks and mixed enough water to make a paste. Tasted like putty, but it filled my belly. The other took their turns at the rock, too weary to fight for precedence.
It seemed cruel, but I couldn’t resist giving the wounded man some water and trying to get some grain paste down him. Habit dies hard.
The wounded man’s compatriot cocked his head at me, puzzled. Without meaning to, I met his eyes and our gazes locked. Two seconds passed. Four. Ten.
He turned away. With slow steps, he crossed to the far corner of the barn and settled into the shadows.
Don’t ask me what that was about; it’s just what happened in my head.
I invite you to follow the Summer Reading Trail with me. I have two stories for it posted on my Free Reads page. Follow the link back to the Trailhead to find more free stories from other writers.
Three of my four collections of short stories are free this month (July 2012) at Smashwords. My novel, FORCE OF HABIT, is 99 cents, but the short stories are free with the coupon code SSWIN. Go to my profile page and scroll down. The newest collection, TURTLE FEATHERS is still only at Amazon because I haven’t formatted it for Smashwords yet. I would say, “My bad,” but it’s more like, “My lazy.”
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: At least two characters are on the run.