Monday, September 23, 2013

Something Good to Eat (short story) by Leanne Dyck

A photo of the landscaping project
my husband and I started the summer 2013

 Something Good to Eat was published in Icelandic Connection magazine.

Something Good to Eat

Gryla lived in a one-room thatched roof cottage on the tallest mountain peak in Iceland. She loved the isolation her home provided. She enjoyed looking down on other people. And she often did.

Gryla had a happy life. There was only one thing that created discomfort—her stomach. She had a digestive disorder due to her unusual diet. You see, Gryla loved to eat children. Correction, Gryla loved to eat bad kids.

Over the years, Gryla senses had become acute. Her ears were like radar zooming in on grumbles and insults. Her eyes scooped out disobedient behaviour.

When she did find a target her taste buds salivated and her body began to tremble. I need a fix. I need a fix. The words pounded in her skull. Motivated, she threw her burlap sack over her shoulder and climbed down the mountain to the valley below. She waited until all in the house were asleep before she snuck in and seized the child. Returning home, she’d throw the catch of the day into her large black cauldron, season to taste and eat until her hunger was satisfied. Later, she was forced to chase the meal down with three bottles of Pepto-Bismol. Unfortunately, the sticky pink liquid always failed to quiet her complaining stomach. Something has to change. Gryla realized. I can’t continue to live like this. But what can I do? I have to eat. And I crave children. Things continued unchanged for years. Her stomach problems caused Gryla to become a bitter, angry, old hag.

“I want it. I want it.”

Gryla heard screams of protest coming from a white house with a red door.

“Well, then I hate you!”

Gryla saw a girl with strawberry blonde hair throw a hairbrush at her mom, storm into her bedroom, and slam the door shut.

        That night, Gryla found the house with the red door and, looking through a window, she spied the girl with the strawberry blonde hair asleep on her bed. Gryla’s stomach rumbled with hunger. She slid the window open and crawled inside. Gryla crept over to the girl and shook her awake. “Rosa Olafdottir, you are accused of insolence. How do you plead?”

“What do you want, you old hag?”

“Yup, you’re my gal.” Gryla opened her sack and grabbed the girl’s arm. But the girl wiggled free.

“Hold on. Wait a second. What are you planning to do?” Rosa asked from the other side of the room.

“What do you mean? What am I planning to do? Surely your parents have told you about me.” Gryla stood proud with the sack held out—hopeful that the child would leap inside.

        Rosa struck her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Oh, you’re the old woman who sneaks into kid’s bedrooms, takes them up to your mountain home…and…and.” She gulped. “And eats them?”

“Bingo. Yup, that’s me.” Gryla said.

“Yes, I’ve heard of you. But…but…I thought you were just a silly myth my parents told to try and keep me in line.”

Silly? Silly! Oh, yeah, this one has to come with me. Gryla thought. “Oh, I assure you I’m very much alive—as you can see.” Gryla smiled. “Now are you ready to go?” She swung her hand out trying to catch the child.

Just in time, Rosa jumped away. “Hmmm, let me think. No!” Rosa waved her hands. “You don’t really want me. I’m not bad just sometimes my behaviour is. And besides who are you to jud—“ Her nostrils flared. “What stinks? Did you fart?”

“Sorry.” Gryla blushed.

“You came into my bedroom, uninvited, and farted.” Rosa coiled her fingers into fists and placed them on her hips.

“It’s not my fault. I can’t help it. I have a digestive disorder.”

“A digestive disorder?” A faint grin formed the corners of Rosa’s lips. “Isn’t that caused by eating the wrong kinds of food?”

Gryla nodded. “Oh, probably but what’s a person to do. The stomach craves what it craves. Now, will you please make this easier for both of us and crawl into my sack.”

“Are you deaf? I said no.” Rosa took a breath and shaved the sharp tone from her voice. “I have a better idea.” She shoved her feet into her fuzzy pink slippers and opened her bedroom door.

“Something better?” Gryla asked. “What could be better than—

“Has anyone ever made you a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“A what?” Gryla looked puzzled.

“A toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

“No, I’ve never—

“Well, then, please allow me to be the first.” Rosa led Gryla into the kitchen.

Dubiously, Gryla took a seat at the kitchen table while Rosa toasted the bread and found the peanut butter.

“I don’t know about this.” Gryla eyed the sandwich.

“Just try a little. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. And then I’ll…”

“You’ll come with me.” Gryla grinned.

“And then I’ll make you something else,” Rosa corrected.

Gryla took a bite, licked her lips, and ate every crumb. “Th— Th—” The peanut butter had cemented her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

“Milk, that’s what you need.” Rosa soon returned with a glass. “Here.”

Gryla took a sip. The milk broke the seal and her tongue swam free. “That was delicious. Please, girl, can I have another one.”

Rosa made three more sandwiches, wrapped them in foil, and handed them to Gryla. “For the walk home.”

        “Well, thank you so much. That’s very kind of you.” Gryla put the sandwich in her sack. That following night, for the first time in her life, Gryla slept like a baby.

        Word soon spread throughout the village from one naughty kid to another, “If you’re bad, don’t worry—just fed her something good.” 

        So when Gryla crawled through Erik’s window, he served her macaroni and cheese. Gryla didn’t think she’d like it, wondered why he didn’t make her a sandwich, ate it anyway, and declared it delicious. 

        Rosa and Erik were the first of many. All the children in the village took turns serving Gryla their favourite meal. These kindnesses transformed Gryla from a bitter, old hag to a gentle, elderly woman. And she never again ate any children.

To read more of my articles and short stories please visit the Written by Leanne Dyck page.

To visit with Gryla, read this article and this one, as well as this one--that I found especially interesting.

(back yard)