As I’ve mentioned before, I decided to take Trey’s latest writing challenge, Jambalaya. The concept was a simple: write a story no more than 756 words that includes shredded money, chocolate with large teeth marks, and some kind of connection between the Amish and Chinese Jambalaya.
I’m happy to say that I finished the challenge and just in the nick of time, too. I emailed my story to Trey less than an hour ago, barely two hours before the deadline. I wouldn’t call it my finest piece, but it was definitely an interesting exercise. I found myself more than three hundred words over the limit and had to do some chopping. My previous stories have been more sparse, and I’ve had to go back and fill in the gaps.
It’s short and rough, but since it’s not something I intend to try publishing, I’ve posted it here for whoever wants to read it.
A pdf version of the story can be Downloaded.
Amos wiped away the remains of shaving cream from his upper lip with an over-starched motel towel and examined himself in the mirror. The full beard so common of his people framed a face bordering on gaunt. Times had been tough since the Collapse, but somehow they managed to pull through.
Amos turned to the package lying on the bed. The neatly-wrapped brown box had been left at his door in the night. His hands trembled slightly as he picked up the box and removed the twine and paper wrapping. Removing the boxes cover revealed shredded paper. Amos grabbed a handful and held it up in the light, revealing a faint green coloring -- paper currency from before the Collapse. It was worthless now. Throwing the scrap aside, Amos pulled out what he had been waiting for. Carefully unwrapping the thin layer of tissue paper, Amos had his first glimpse of the instrument of their defiance -- a square block of chocolate.
Amos stepped out of the Checkered cab, instinctively raising his hand to stop his wide-brimmed black hat from flying away. It was no wonder they called it the Windy City.
He pulled out his pocket watch and glanced at the time. A quarter until nine. No sense in delaying longer than he had to. He merged with the flow of human traffic and made his way to the security gate of the Tower.
Passing through security was a different matter. Scanned, prodded, and questioned, there was no question the guards were thorough. After verifying his identity and appointment, Amos was finally assigned an escort. After a long, complicated series of twists and turns, his guide came to stop and pointed at a door at the end of the hall. Taking the cue, Amos went to meet his appointment.
Amos squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit office, a sharp contrast to the well-lit corridor he had been led through. He twisted his hat in his hands by brim, a nervous habit since childhood.
He was standing in the office of Wu Chen, Director of Agriculture for the Coalition of Midwest States. The decor was simple, which surprised him. A plain desk stood in the center of the room, its surface marred only by several neatly stacked piles of paper.
The high-backed chair behind the desk swiveled, revealing its occupant dressed in a sturdy dark blue suit. Chen showed no sign that he saw him standing in front of his desk. He shuffled papers from one pile to another, occasionally pausing to study one of them. Anything, it seemed, but acknowledge Amos.
"Excuse me, Mr. Chen," Amos said, breaking the silence. "You summoned me here to discuss the yields, sir."
Chen looked up at him as if just noticing him. "Mr. Amos Lapp. The yields from the Amish farms are unacceptable. If the quotas are not met by the next season we will have no choice but to relocate your people and find someone else to tend the crops."
Amos tried to stay calm, but he couldn't keep the tremor out of his voice. "The quotas are unfair, Mr. Chen. The bean sprouts wither and the cabbages rot. The land has been tilled for corn and soy for hundred of years, and it remembers."
Chenís cheeks flushed slightly. "There will be no more excuses, Mr. Lapp. You were hand chosen for this special crop. Trade is difficult and you are my only source. Without you, I cannot enjoy my family dish of Jambalaya, handed down from generation to generation. That would not make me a happy man."
Amos nodded sadly. "I understand, Mr. Chen. I will see the job done."
Chen nodded slightly and turned back to his papers, dismissing Amos.
Amos took a step forward and paused. "I almost forgot." He reached into his pocket and presented the wrapped gift. "This is a gift for you, a piece of homemade chocolate."
Chenís eyes lit up and he reached forward quickly. "My thanks, Mr. Lapp. Chocolate is one of my weaknesses." He wasted no time in unwrapping the chunk and biting it in half, leaving large teeth marks in his wake.
Amos set his hat and walked out of the office. His escort was waiting for him, and led him back through the winding corridors and to the lobby. As he left the building he heard the first shouts of surprise as guards began to swarm. Mr. Chen should have been more careful about the food he chooses to eat.