Hmm, looks like I’m going to be aiming for 800 to 1000 words in this story. I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull that off since my writing life seems to be crazy. But sure. Why the hell not.
Looks like I’ve got to incorporate these things:
a black-and-white cat a pot of gold hair curlers a terrible storm a chess game a cow
As always, I’ve taken liberties.
Marin surveyed the three children carefully. The girl was tiny and scrawny with limp dark blonde hair; the feral boy – as everyone had taken to calling him – was hunched inwards and barely made eye contact with anyone; and the last one was taller than the other two with green eyes. He was, Marin noted, the only one who stood up straight and stared right back when Marin looked him over.
Interesting, he thought, as he smiled gently at the boy. I just may have found my pot of gold among the rocks.
“We are going to play a game,” he said brightly.
The last boy narrowed his eyes at Marin, suspicious already. The other two shook slightly. “It’s not going to be like the first game,” he added smoothly. Marin took out a list and handed it to the children. The tall one looked it over carefully while the girl peered over his shoulder. The feral boy just bared his teeth at Marin.
The girl, scared and worried, timidly raised her hand.
“Yes, young lady?”
“I…um…I don’t think he can read,” she said, gesturing towards the boy.
Marin shrugged. “Perhaps, but you three must work together to find these objects and bring them back to me within two days.”
The girl and the boy glanced at each other and shrugged.
“If you do not, well, I won’t be responsible,” Marin said, letting the threat linger. They flinched and nodded. “But never let it be said that I was never a good host. Come, my children, let’s at least put some food in your tummies.” At the mention of food, the children’s stomachs grumbled loudly, almost as loud as the storm going on outside. The girl flinched involuntarily as the thunder crashed louder and lourder outside. Marin hid a smile as he led them from the sub-basement and towards the dining room. I do so love a good chess game, he thought. These pawns will do just the trick.
The dining room was on the first floor of Marin’s mansion. As he led them, he could hear them gasp behind him as they walked through. “Now, I wouldn’t touch anything, if I were you,” he said without turning around. He heard a gulp and shuffling as they continued the walk. The dining room was tasteful, warm, and inviting. Nothing like the sub-basement where the children came from, naturally. But more importantly, Marin’s dining room was filled with food and drink. He heard three sets of footsteps stop as they took in the heavily laden dining room table.
Marin turned around, gesturing for the children to seat themselves at the table. Gingerly, two of the three children sat down. The feral boy was helped by the other two with much poking and prodding. Marin smiled benignly at them.
“First lesson, little ones, before heading out,” he said. “How to tell each piece of cutlery from the other.” Marin waved at the setting in front of each child. The looked bewildered. Poor things, he thought briefly. It’s nothing that I didn’t go through. “At the top you have your champagne glass, not that you will be having champagne tonight but eventually you will be having some and be expected to hold your alcohol properly without looking the fool. Below that and to the left – facing you – is the water glass. To the right, the white wine glass. Across is the red wine glass and next to it the sherry glass.” He paused here, looking at each child carefully. Marin heard a tiny meow and looked down at the black-and-white cat that was winding herself around Marin’s legs. He smiled at the cat before picking it up and setting it on his lap. “Left to right, you have your fish fork, meat fork, salad fork. The bottom most plate is just that, a plate. On top, is the napkin and place card. Continuing on you have your salad knife, meat knife, fish knife, soup spoon and finally the oyster fork. At the top of your setting is the menu card,” Marin took a deep breathe. “Now, if you can remember which is which, you may eat. If not, you are free to go and find the objects on your list.”
They looked at each other, worried. Would it be better to just admit defeat or suffer whatever humiliation at his hands?
The boy and girl glanced down at a list sitting on top of the dinner plate. A cow, hair curlers, a candy bar, and a ring. They looked at each other, silently speaking to one another. With a small sigh, the taller boy pushed himself back and stood up, waiting for the girl to do the same. The feral one, not knowing what was going growled softly at everyone.
Marin nodded. “Do not think that this will get you out of this particular lesson,” he said cooly. “You have three hours, starting fifteen minutes ago. I suggest you be prompt.”
I had to look up formal dining etiquette.