Chicken Noodle Soup Maiden

By on Mar 31, 2019 in Fiction

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Lizard man with woman on Mars with chips and soda

None of which mattered Monday, when Mrs. B stopped me on my way out of class, said this could be my assignment—as I used the words correctly (“if a bit awkwardly”)—and asked if I could continue “this thrilling adventure” on a weekly basis until the list was done.

“And would you please read this one out loud in class Friday?”

The night before my big debut dragged. Unable to sleep, I went to the one legal 24-hour, lights-on spot, the family’s only bathroom, to re-read my essay. Soon I was rudely interrupted mysteriously by a series of terrifying moans through the thin wall to my parents’ room next door, where mom was apparently suffocating.

H-huhh. H-huhh—huhhh—huhh…It sounded like she was in turmoil, gasping for breath, sheets and covers rustling. Why wasn’t dad helping? Too confusing—I gave up and returned to bed.

Bafflement faded by daybreak. I dressed, ate nervously, tucked my essay into my school bag and walked up Williams, past St. Raymond’s Church, along Vernon Road and into the schoolyard.

Assembly passed in a blur. I croaked along to the school song, about how Edmonds was “the finest school in Billy Penn’s whole town,” and the next thing I knew, Mrs. B introduced me (seemed silly) and explained how I was “taking an original approach to  our vocabulary lesson.”

I read nice and slow, the way I mouthed it before mom suffocated (she miraculously recovered by morning), hamming it up some. “I was furious! I wanted generosity!”

Nobody laughed the wrong way, no notes passed. When I wandered into the meadow, where Chicken Noodle Soup Maiden was, I stole a glance while I empathized about her shabby cell. (Think Carol smiled.)

My future looked bright the Saturday after that first reading as I dawdled on the couch, savoring Spearmint Leaves and studying the cover of a new Superman annual.

Short time to hide from the boisterous joys of the driveway (“the back,” as we called the concrete stretch dividing our tiny backyards behind Williams from Fayette).

Squishing my squeezy green candies, I vanished into a majestic cover drawing of Superman framed by six smaller story-promo squares promising interplanetary thrills inside (“Superman’s most dangerous adventure,” or some such).

Staring at the comic, I saw someone: Not Superman, not Bizarro, not even that pesky fifth-dimensional imp, Mister Mxyzptlk.  It was Carol…her face filled the comic cover and mooshed with a drawing of another blonde, Supergirl.

I was deliriously, deliciously lost in heroine-worship when a loud smash on the front door shattered my comic-book dreams, and I was off the couch to greet chunky Rosko, Wiffle ball in one hand, plastic bat in the other, skinny Lowell at his side.

“We’ve been calling from the back for 10 minutes. What planet are you on?”

“Krypton,” Lowell enlightened Rosko.

The back’s foul lines—like everything else, it seemed—were far too constricting. Not much wider than our parents’ fat 50s’ automobiles, they forced batters to hit straight ahead, to “second base” and “centerfield,” unless we wanted 20 zillion foul balls dashed into angry mothers’ clotheslines. (Pardon my stereotyping: This was the ‘50s.)

The odds were twice as nasty as I stood in against Rosko’s left-handed Wiffle pitch twirls, with Lowell in in “centerfield,” since it was unlikely I’d blast that holey plastic ball even if I hadn’t been distracted, frantically concocting crucial Essay Number Two.

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Stuart Michaelson is a semi-retired journalist and Philadelphia native. He spent 22 years working on newspapers in the Philly area, Connecticut, and New Jersey as a reporter, editor, columnist, and supervisor, as well as more than a decade at TV Guide magazine, where he contributed to three books on television history. He started writing fiction in 2017, and had a short story published in 2018 in the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Apart from writing fiction, as well as part-time freelance non-fiction, he spends his time reading political and rock-music bios, listening to CDs, and watching old TV shows, ranging from Lost to such escapist fare as "Melrose Place."