Tastes Like Chicken

Submitted for Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

9 comments

Jan 15, 2021

Friendship Happy Kids

*Author’s Note: “Tastes Like Chicken” is a standalone story, set in the same universe as my other Reedsy short-stories, with overlapping characters/events.*


“I'm not giving you a peanut every time you have a bath.”

FWEET.

“Don't make me whistle again you stubborn little weasel! Wave your tail at me all you like, but it won’t change my mind. We're running low on them...we're running low on everything.

“Are you being like this because I cooked that rat? I don't know how many times I have to explain this to you, but they're not the same. It's like you're a horse and they’re cows...it's just different. It’s okay to eat them.

“You're just a hypocrite. You didn't make a fuss when we shared that cat."

Chirrrp.

“I know it tried to eat you first – it was my stone that stopped it. But revenge is no way to decide what you eat. I'm hungry, and if your distant cousins are the only thing on the menu, then that's what I'm gonna eat! Now get in your bath wea-”

“Erm…excuse me sir.”

“Uaah! You made me jump little one. Didn't realise I had an audience.”

“I – err – sorry.”

“That’s okay, it's not your fault. I blame the wind outside for concealing your footsteps. Sounds like the storm is getting worse.”

“It’s scary outside, that’s why I came inside. And then I thought I heard you talking to another kid. I mean child. And then I didn’t…I can’t see anyone else…here. Are you…ok?”

“Oh, don't worry, I'm not crazy. I was talking to my weasel.”

“What? I don't see a weasel.”

“He's over there, watching you from behind my rucksack.”

“Aww, he's – he's not a weasel, he's a squirrel. My Mam taught me all the animals, and I know he's a grey squirrel because his fur is grey. And because weasels don't have fluffy tails like that.”

“I see you're an educated girl. He was born a squirrel all right, but he's becoming more weasel every day!”

Chirp…chirp.

“Ah, I see. My older brother is like that.”

“My weasel is called Cyril, what's yours called?”

“Cyril the Squirrel, I like that. My brother’s called Tom. He's not really a weasel, sometimes he's nice to me even when Peter doesn't make him. But I'd still swap for Cyril.”

“Right now he’s sulking with me, so you can have him!”

Chirrrp.

“It’s like he understands what you’re saying.”

“He probably thinks the same about us too. But he also thinks he’s going to get his way, so what does he know. Where’s Tom?”

“He’s with my Mam.”

“So you’re here with your Daddy then?”

“No, he’s going to meet us there.”

“There?”

“Our new home. Peter said Dad has to catch us up because he has to help someone before he can leave.”

“Is Peter your brother too?”

“Yep, he's the eldest. Mam says I have to do what he tells me to until Dad catches us up.”

“Ah, so you’re here with Peter.”

“I was, but we got separated when the sand-storm got worse.”

“Then we need to get you back to him. He’ll be worried sick.”

“No, he said to just hide...and-”

“And not speak to strangers?”

“Yep. He’ll be so angry. He said if we got separated I have to hide. Then he'd come find me. But your dinner smells so good!”

“Don’t worry, when he finds you he’ll be so glad to see you, he won’t be angry.”

“You think so!?”

“Sure, and you’re more than welcome to wait for him here.”

“Ok.”

“Have you eaten?”

“I have thank you… it was beans again. Mam says we have to ration our cans of food till we get to our new home.”

“Well you must be full up then. But if you do still have some space, I’d be happy to share, as long as you don’t mind rat?”

“Thank you, I don’t mind rat. Tom used to trap them back at home. Yours smells better though.”

“Better than beans too I bet. Don’t be shy, just help yourself.”

“Thanks.”

“You have a lovely smile…fresh rat will do that to you in the Wasteland.”

“Mm-hmm.” 

“It’s not often we get dinner guests. We’re on a mission that doesn’t leave much time for anything else, and Cyril never appreciates my cooking. It’s nice to see a good eater. It’s finger licking good eh?”

“It’s great! I’m sorry for lip-smacking. Dad usually tells me off for not eating with my mouth closed.”

“That’s okay, we’ll blame the wind again – if it wasn’t dying down out there I wouldn’t’ve heard anything.”

“That’s a good one, I’ll use that excuse when Dad catches us up.”

“It just shows you like the food.”

“Aren't you eating?”

“No I’m fine, you finish it.”

“Ok.”

“Me and him ate earlier.”

“Is he friendly?”

“To kind people he is, and you seem very kind. Right now he’s just sulking because he doesn’t want to have a bath.”

“I hate baths too. Mam makes me wash every day, and have a bath once a week – even when I don’t need one. Tom smells worse than me, but she still makes us both do it.”

“Mothers are always right. Being clean is really important. Me and Cyril wash every day. You don’t want to be dirtier than a squirrel do you?”

“No. Guess not.”

“See, that’s why your Mummy was right to make you wash every day. And that’s just one benefit from being clean.”

“There are others?”

“Well, Cyril probably wouldn’t come to you if you were smelly.”

“You think he will come to me? I am kind. Can he tell that I’m kind?”

“He’s the best judge of character I know. Here.”

“He won’t bite me will he? If I’m too smelly? I haven’t washed since the morning, and we walked a long way today.”

“No he’s very gentle, just whistle to get his attention.”

FWEET.

“He’s looking at me. He’s so cute. His tail is so fluffy!”

“Now just wait, and stay still. If you hold it higher off the ground he’ll jump into your hand.”

“Ok.”

“Here he comes.”

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

“Hehe! His tail tickles.”

“See, I didn’t think you were too smelly.”

“Oww, he’s jumped off already.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to eat in the hands of a stranger.”

“Me either.”

“CHARLIE! CHAAAARLIE!”

“Is that Peter?”

“Yep, sounds like him. I better go. Can I give him another peanut before I go?”

“No, you shouldn’t keep your brother waiting. He sounds more worried than angry to me, but that might change if you don’t hurry back to him. But before you do go...”

“Is that a plastic bag? It’s not even got any holes in it. And blue’s my favourite colour.”

“There’s two rats inside, but don’t untie the knot to keep the meat fresh.”

“I can’t take this from you.”

“It’s okay, I can get more, and they won’t stay fresh for long in this heat.”

“But I don’t have anything to trade.”

“The gift of your smile, and our conversation – that’s a good trade for some rats. Plus Cyril always makes me feel guilty when I eat rat.”

“But Dad says it’s bad to be in someone’s debt. Here, have this, I made it myself.”

“It’s very pretty, and it’s blue too.”

“White isn’t my favourite colour, but I picked it because it looks good with blue.”

“It certainly does, but I can’t take this from you.”

“Mam said it’s a friendship bracelet, and my brothers don’t count.”

“CHARLIE!”

“You have to go.”

“Not until we’ve finished our trade.”

“Has anyone ever told you how stubborn you are?”

“Dad always says that.”

“See, two smiles for two rats.”

“No, I want you to have it…please.”

“Okay, I’ll trade…two rats for two smiles and-”

“No you-”

“Let me finish! You don’t realise how valuable a nice conversation is…now more than ever. You’ll learn why when you get older. But what I was going to say, is that a friendship bracelet has to be a swap between friends. So we’ll trade the rats for the conversation, and I’ll swap you the bracelet for this. I made it myself too.”

“Seriously? This is too much.”

“I have this second one, and I can always make more catapults. And, if you’re nice to your brothers, and promise to let them borrow it, I’m sure they’ll teach you to shoot it. Then you can get your own rats.”

“That’d be good. And they’d have to be nice to me too, if they want to borrow it.”

“So we have a deal?”

“Yes! And you can have a hug as a bonus too.”

“Thank you little one. Now get going before your brother has a heart attack.”

“Thanks for dinner too. It was very nice to meet you…what is your name?”

“Bert, Herbert Stevenson.”

“My name is Charlie Spearman, and it was nice to meet you Herbert Stevenson.”

“CHARLIE!”

“I’ve got to go, thanks again. BYE CYRIL!”

“YOU'RE WELCOME. TAKE CARE...friend.”

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9 comments

Laura Clark
19:37 Jan 15, 2021

Hi Andrew, I really enjoyed this! I must be getting cynical though because until basically the end, I was ready for Bert to turn out to be absolutely awful. Very happy that it stayed as a positive interaction! I’ve obviously read a few in this universe but none with Bert in - this made me more interested in finding out about him. A chill dude in the wilderness with a slingshot and a pet squirrel sounds like a great character. In terms of critique, I think that the transition from Bert/squirrel to Bert/squirrel/Charlie was too confusing f...

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Andrew Krey
21:47 Jan 15, 2021

Lol @ cynical, that's from liking Mad Max ;) I left it a little ambiguous regarding whether he was being nice for a sinister ends...or just to be nice, glad that worked :D Bert (first story with a name as the others are first person - and I referred to him as "Cyril's friend in my notes lol) is my favourite character I've created so far, and from the comments everyone loves Cyril lol They also appear in "An Oasis in the Wasteland", and "Hollowed Ground" - I'd recommend reading them in that order too, although chronological order is the oppos...

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Laura Clark
13:46 Jan 17, 2021

It was clear that he was talking to some kind of animal and then it was cleared up when the kid came in. I really enjoyed any bit that had Cyril in (and Cyril the Squirrel is just *chef’s kiss*) In terms of child speak, my experience (I’m a primary school teacher) is that kids speak pretty much the same as adults but they repeat themselves rather than correct themselves. Sometimes it’s repeating a word and sometimes it’s circling back to the same idea or sentence a few times (the younger they are the truer this is). They also speak in tang...

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Andrew Krey
19:30 Jan 17, 2021

Thanks for the expert advice, and thanks for teaching the next generation too :) The repetition of 'catches us up' was an attempt to portray how a child will repeat what's on their mind, whether its relevant or not. I'll have to do some research as I quite like Charlie as a sweet character, to contrast the setting of the harsh Wasteland. I think I'll wait till it gets a bit warmer before I hunt the garden for new inspiration though. I've got a good friend that I play football with called Cyril, so the name is art imitating life too. I gave ...

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18:49 Jan 16, 2021

I loved reading this! This seemed like a very difficult prompt to write for, but your take was impressive. You would think that in dialogue only stories, description would be lacking, but you did a good job of intertwining the outside world in dialogue. I was a little confused at the beginning, when Charlie walked in, but after that, dialogue was smooth and clear. This was a sweet and refreshing interaction, and reading your last story clouds it (in a good way) with a layer of despair and tension, knowing that Charlie's father is in grave...

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Andrew Krey
21:31 Jan 16, 2021

Really glad you enjoyed it :) This prompt was certainly a learning curve! I really wanted to keep the dialogue realistic while still setting the scene - so no, "here take this peanut to feed the squirrel with", as you wouldn't say that, you'd say "here" and the kid would know it's for feeding the squirrel. I also tried to use the sand storm to move along the story; (1) noisy and drives Charlie inside/masked her footsteps (2) quietens down so can hear the lipsmacking (3) the brother is outside looking for her so the storm must have passed. T...

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20:03 Jan 17, 2021

Haha, I guess I misread. I now see how that space between care and friend has a less cynical, more heartwarming meaning. Given the constraints, you did an amazing job. It's always a pleasure to read your stories, Andrew, and amass a fuller picture of the world you've created. Have a great day! :)

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Andrew Krey
20:32 Jan 17, 2021

Thanks, and hope you have a good day too. p.s. just left a comment on your latest story.

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Andrew Krey
05:40 Jan 15, 2021

*Authors note*: I'd really appreciate any feedback on this story, as I'm also doing another dialogue only story for a different competition, so it would be really helpful. thaaaanks!

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