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

I frittered away school’s last week in not-quite-blissful avoidance. I ducked Carol, Joseph, and, as much as possible, anyone privy to my Zoo Waterloo.

Tried to evade everything that annoyed me: the incessant high-pitched radio shrill of Alvin and the Chipmunks (“I still want a Hula Hoop”…Why is that my problem???); Rosko and Lowell’s contentious debates; entreaties from Mrs. B about how I planned to end what she perplexingly called, in a note, my “rendezvous (huh???) with science fiction.”

I put off the essay until the last work night of school, knowing I had to cough up some kind of hairball of a happy ending and rescue my damsel-in-distress.

Except she wasn’t mine, and it was me in distress.

In the end, I led with my heart and left my head, well, somewhere south. What the hell. If you’re walking on thin ice, you might as well dance.

My venture was nearly complete, but as I went to the meadow to assist Chicken Noodle Soup Maiden, my feelings began to descend. I faked a limp as I approached her jail, with me her sole source of safety from the threat she faced. Even as I started to prepare to proceed, I had to conclude that once I did the mature thing and rescued her, I would  never see her again. I felt awkward, I felt shaky. She called out for me to save her. My response was that I would, and I did. I could not reveal my mistrust. It was my concern that I was in competition with someone more attractive. My fears were accurate. Once safe, she was gone. I shouted into her empty cell, asking her to visit my house the next day, for peanut-butter-and-potato-chip sandwiches. Coke. With crushed ice.

The crushed one was me.

I saw the funny expression on Mrs. B’s face when I finished reading, heard her comment after (“A very unusual conclusion, Stuart”), spotted Carol’s back in front of me, side-by-side with Joseph, the blur of happy faces, choked on the insipid “no more teachers, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks” song as I hit the street, desperate for solitude.

Instead, there were, naturally, Lowell and Rosko, horns locked in a beyond-the-beyond baseball tiff.

Rosko got it into his head that a “fielder’s choice” meant that it was up to the fielder, not the umpire, to decide whether a runner was safe on a close play.

Ever-sensible Lowell held firm: That was certainly not what it meant.

“You are a know-nothing know-it-all,” Rosko spluttered, to no avail. Lowell threatened to come over later with his Baseball Encyclopedia, so what was the point?

By the time I maneuvered past them, I reached the same conclusion: What was the point?

For while I longed to return to the place where I had a shot at Carol—a world I was starting to suspect never existed—mercy cut across my lane for a surprise collision.

It arrived in a wet happy spot, with no tears: One of those flat, nutty-looking little plastic “swimming pools” us lower-middle-class kids used when we were little.

Not drowning-deep, hardly enough H2O to cover you unless you pressed yourself flat.

Which I did. Maybe it was our pool, maybe Rosko’s, maybe even freaking Joseph’s.

Memory, thankfully, won’t answer that question.

But this I recall: I flopped in, face-and-belly-and-knobby-knees-down, and when I stood up I was soaked, and, for the moment, a happy kid again.

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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."