Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CANDY (04/28/16)
- TITLE: Salvo
By Jan Ackerson
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Many miles away and many hours later, a young soldier pried open a crate, newly delivered. "Oh ho!" he cried out upon examining its contents, and he called his companions over to see.
They had been expecting a delivery of ammunition—small devices no bigger than a grape that exploded on contact after being lobbed through the air toward the enemy. The crate contained none of these deadly projectiles; instead, it held scores upon scores of pieces of hard candy in every imaginable color and flavor.
The soldier who had opened the crate couldn't resist—he’d eaten this particular candy often, as a boy. He took one and popped it into his mouth, closing his eyes with a mmmm as the familiar flavor flooded his taste buds. His sound of appreciation was all his companions needed, and they crowded around the crate, helping themselves to the delicious confection.
But as they held the melting candies on their tongues, from across the river came the sounds of the opposing army. The young soldiers looked at each other in wide-eyed realization: they had no ammunition. With a shrug and a grin, the first soldier unshouldered his weapon and armed it with a piece of candy, which fit perfectly into the slot. With a laugh, he fired it across the river. A small sound of surprise floated back on the breeze.
With sudden unspoken agreement, the whole company armed their weapons with candy projectiles and fired. Two rounds, then three, then four, then one lad held up his hand—wait.
They hadn't waited for long when they received the first return volley. It landed on the ground with a plop, and failed to explode. One of the soldiers took a few steps and cautiously leaned over to look, then bent down and picked up a small item from the ground. It was a walnut-sized piece of bread; he sniffed it and smiled, then tossed it up and caught it in his mouth.
The entire company looked across the river then, jumping and cheering when the air filled with flying chunks of bread—and lumps of cheese, too, and sausage. The other army was returning fire—with their lunches.
There was still plenty of candy in the misdirected crates, and apparently, still plenty of savory victuals on the other side. The salvo continued for several minutes, punctuated with sounds of laughter and mild good-natured yelping. An impromptu competition developed to see who was the most skilled at snatching the flying food from the air before it whumped onto the ground.
Finally, the projectiles ceased to fly; there was a long silence. The soldiers sat on the bank, wiping sweaty hair from their foreheads, breathing hard, chewing thoughtfully. One young man thought about his mother’s warm and cozy kitchen, and rubbed his eyes with his fists.
After a time, the company heard the sound of oars in the water. The soldiers on the candy side of the river watched in satiated stillness as a small craft holding four of the men from the other bank crossed over the river. The men climbed out of their little boat, hands held loosely at their sides. One of them stepped forward and held out his hand, palm up. A piece of hard candy rested there. The soldier cleared his throat and spoke in his native tongue. Quickly, the young man who had fired the first candy projectile translated for his comrades.
“He says, ‘Such sweets…such sweets as these my grandmother made, for…for making glad…for making glad the teeth.’ What should I say back?”
After a brief, huddled conversation, the young soldier turned to the small delegation from across the river and held out his own hand, revealing a crusty piece of bread. “My mother would be pleased,” he said, “to know the ingredients of such a fine loaf of bread. Perhaps a time will come when our mothers and sisters will whisper recipes in each other’s ears.”
In the sky over the river, a small bird dipped and fluttered, softly cooing.
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