a journey into Wonderland
|History can be boring. So, it’s up to you to spice things up for us. Pick any person in history. Write up a short story about this person with titles as ridiculous as “Ghengis Khan Gets a New Haircut”. In other words, make it fun! (<1000 words)
Geoffrey Chaucer Comes to Dinner
We set an extra place for dinner, of course. We always do when it's our time. When the dead rose from their graves, many had families that they managed to find with homes. I kip out in the living room, now, on the couch, and my sisters have sleeping bags on the floor (age does have some privileges, of course) because Great-great (to the fifth) Grandma Laura has taken over my room along with her daughter (great-great to the fourth) Harriet, their husbands, and Martha, who was Laura's husband's third wife and Harriet's mother-in-law. I know. Complicated. It makes for some interesting shouting matches.
But there were some dead who were so removed in time that they'd lost touch with their families or their families were dead as well, or they didn't like their families. They were adopted out. In some cases, people were considered national or world treasures and so could not be limited to a single household. Instead, to make sure the burden isn't too great, every household is given the privilege of dining with one treasure per day. They must think it strange to make their way from house to house, never stopping, never staying.
The strangest to me was Aristotle. Mama made sure to set our phones on ancient Greek so we could at least say “Hello” and “Pass the salt, please,” but it was difficult to take him seriously in his motorcycle jacket and gold lame chiton when he started talking philosophy. Or maybe the strangest was Robert Burns, who come in drunk and paid his way with a series of limericks that we could almost understand through the Scots. The point is, you never know who you're going to get. One meal a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. No overnights.
He pulled up in a motor home painted in every possible color of mud. When he jumped out, he had a floppy hat that I almost recognized—Medieval-ish, I thought.
“Geoffrey Chaucer, ma'am,”he said with a bow to Mama.
Yep. Medieval. At least he was trying for Modern English. The ones who didn't made dinner seem long.
Mama blinked and curtsied back at him, probably because of those manner things that she keeps trying to convince us are important. “Welcome, sir.”
I could tell she was biting her tongue. Sometimes, when we had an early meal and so had some time in an evening after Dad came home (it's not easy to support and extra seven mouths), she'd say to him when she thought I couldn't hear, “It's just not right. Everyone deserves a good meal. I hate that some of them feel like they need to preform for their suppers.” She was always careful to not ask them about their lives or their work. All of the Wanderers have some kind of work. Otherwise they'd not be famous.
She loved Chaucer. I remembered when I was in high school before all the schools were taken over by dormitories and literature and history came home to stay, she took him and read the Canterbury Tales to us to put us to sleep at night. The Miller's Tale (she didn't read me that one) was my first dirty joke. So, I knew she must be trying so hard to avoid asking him about feminism and the Wife of Bath or why he made the Knight's tale so boring.
We led him inside. Our table is longer and tighter than it used to be. He had the place of honor at the foot next to Mama. We had pork and beans. Well, technically, diced hot dogs and beans, but who wants to actually admit that we eat that. Mama took everyone off into the kitchen before hand to warn us not to embarrass her or our guest. So, conversation was stilted.
I think he tried. He didn't talk in rhyme, at least, which was better than it has been in the past, but he told us stories. Some of them were his. A lot of them weren't but he claimed them anyway. Mama's face got redder at that. He made jokes. He didn't tell the Miller's tale. I think he started and took a look at Mama's face and switched to a boring one instead. He told the Wife of Bath's tale, but stumbled in the beginning during the rape when he saw my little eight year old sister who was looking at him with those innocent eyes that meant she was pretending to be shocked. Mama caught the look, too. She was going to get it later.
We sat around the table for an hour eating, and then everyone who wasn't doing the clearing up left except Mama and Chaucer and she started asking him the whys. As I washed (the dishwasher broke years ago) I heard him stumble over why the maiden disappears and what he thought and how he'd planned, “Truthfully, madam, I owe more to instinct than design,” was his answer to most of her questions, even the ones that she asked again in a slightly different way.
As he was about to leave for his motor home, she brought down her stack of his books. She'd done the same for Burns and Donne and Shakespeare, Clemens, even Aristotle. She has a big library. She had him sign every single book. Even the Modern English translations that she hated.
He drove away. I finished the dishes watching her watch him down the road and around the corner. I wondered whether she had thought about leaving with him.
I wouldn't be surprised.
word count: 930