João comes of age... Hot August. Cool grandmother.
|João went to his grandmother's house for two weeks every hot dusty August. His hair lay limp. His skin wanted to wrinkle. He was 19. Too young for wrinkles!
— Here comes the sun!
His grandmother, his avó, always greeted him with a smile... and pastries.
— Come in quick. I've never understood how you can stand the heat.
— I can't.
He gave her a kiss and collapsed in the dark. The cool refreshing dark. It was like an ice-house inside.
— Try this pastel de nata. Not as good as in Belém but it'll do.
— You're trying to fatten me up?
— Never works.
There was something comforting in his grandmother's voice, her skin far too pale for summer, the pastel de nata in his hand.
— I'm thinking about taking a year off from school and going to Europe.
He felt he could be bold around his avó.
One word and off she was off to shoo the cat off the table, check whatever she was boiling on the stove.
— Underwear, she said to his quizzical look. He nearly choked.
— Why Portugal?
— Your heritage goes back there.
— Yes, but why Portugal? Why not Brasil or France?
— Well, Brasil isn't in Europe... and France? Maybe after Portugal. There are cheap flight to Lisbon or Porto.
João looked surprised.
— I always keep track. Always dream of going back before my last memories fade.
João crinkled his face. He doubted that.
— Where would you go, avó?
— Miranda l Douro. It's a small place by the side of a river gorge. Nice and cold in winter.
His grandmother loved winter. He remembered her shoveling snow after the big storm last February.
— Want some stew?
— Sure if it has beef in it.
João smiled. It always had beef in it. Vegetables were optional at grandmother's house.
— Would you prefer it raw instead?
João did like it rare but raw was a bit bloody. Still...
— However you cook it is fine.
He went to wash up. He put a brush through his curls. Never helped much. Washed his manicured hands. Adjusted his red shirt. He loved red and grandma always smiled when he wore bright colors. They made up for the drab surroundings she lived in. Blond, beige, bland, boring... Billings. Added a bit of sunshine and warmth she'd always say and didn't make it any hotter. He'd always wondered about that. He loved warm colors, just not actual heat. A crisp autumn day was fine for sandals, his short sleeve red shirt competing with the trees for attention. He like attention... sometimes. His other favorite color was black. Like the night in the country with only pinpricks of stars.
— Here you go.
A slab of bloody beef appear in front of him. He made a design of ketchup on top. Had to make it pretty. He liked pretty things as well.
— Eat up. Your mother told me your doctor said you were anemic again.
Yeah. Yeah. Eat your beef. Eat your pork. Eat anything with iron. João was willow thin. Maybe when he got older.
— My grandfather was as thin as a rail and pale as a palomino, his grandmother said.
Well, then, again, maybe not.
— When you get to Portugal you'll see. They eat lots of fish and pastries, stay thin until they're 80. But in Miranda de l Douro they eat beef. And some like it raw.
His grandmother laughed with blood dripping from her chin. Now he laughed too.
© Kåre Enga 3.outubro.2015
Prompt: Write a story about your protagonist that takes place outside of your novel. Make your readers relate to him or her in such a way that we would be devastated if he or she were to experience conflict (which, ultimately, sometime in November, he/she will.) The object of the contest is to make your judges root for your protagonist! Simply put: the character we like best wins. If your protagonist is an assassin or someone similarly "unlikeable," never fear! I love Vlad Taltos, the professional assassin . You can make us love your character, too. Add the background story to your character database (if applicable.)
*Submit your ITEM or ENTRY number by 1200 noon WDC time on Sunday, Oct. 04 to compete. If you miss this deadline or choose not to compete, you may still post your assignment completion for the grand prize, per the standard Prep guidelines.