Posted on January 17, 2020
Just to preface this short piece of fiction – this was created using an entire list of random suggested words for a writing exercise. Once you start reading, I’m sure you’ll be able to find those words. I had fun writing this, and it gave me fuel to write something else more serious – so never discount writing prompts because they can be pretty useful! – Joe
The flames flickered against the stone of the fireplace. My grandfather, limping from an old hockey injury he’d told us about, seated himself in an antique wooden chair next to the fire. The light cast shadows against the faded wallpaper of his home. I could smell the honey-mustard glazed ham baking in the oven, my mouth watering in response. He cracked open a can of PBR.
“Now, are you sure you want me to tell you this story again?” My grandfather asked, tilting his glasses down his nose and leaning back in the chair. It made an old creaking sound and I imagined it was his bones. “You’ve already heard me tell this story lots of times.”
“Pretty please, with a cherry on top,” my younger brother, Carl, said as he rocked back and forth on the wood floor. “Please! Please!”
I grinned. “Yeah, Gramps. It’s a good one.”
My grandfather didn’t say anything for a few moments. He looked lost in thought, taking a long draw from his can of PBR. “Boys, I think you’re ready for a new story. It’s one I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. You’re both special and you don’t know that, but you are.”
Carl laughed. “Mom says I’m special.”
Gramps leaned forward in his chair. “Well, that’s because she knows just how special you are, how special this whole family is. We have a secret.”
“A secret?” I couldn’t begin to think what it might be. Maybe Gramps had been bitten by a radioactive gerbil and had superpowers that he’d been hiding all this time. That would be cool. Something told me it wasn’t that, however.
“Yes, a secret. You’re going to find out by listening to what I have to tell you.”
Carl let out a big yawn and stretched out on the wood floor. “When’re we gonna’ eat? I’m hungry.”
I was hungry, too. The smell of the ham was driving me crazy. I’d eaten nothing in the past two days aside from pizza, both nights; once at home and once at my friend Jason’s house. I’d eaten some toaster strudels for breakfast before we left to come to my grandfather’s house in the morning, and some pickles that were unceremoniously offered by Grandma before she left with our mother to go shopping, but pickles and strudels weren’t cutting it. Ham wasn’t even my favorite thing in the world. What I could really go for was some enchiladas, but ethnic food disagreed with my mother’s Northeastern sensibilities.
Gramps turned on the lamp which sat on a nightstand next to the chair. Then, he opened a drawer in the nightstand and pulled out a web-covered, leather-bound book from inside. He blew across the front cover and a plume of dust rose into the air.
“Is that the bible?” Carl asked.
My grandfather laughed, wiping some more dust off the cover and spine of the old book. “I guess you could say it is, Carl. But it’s not the regular bible. It’s our story. The story of our family.”
I’d never seen the book before in my life. I wondered how long it’d been in the drawer.
“This is the story of my grandfather’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather. His name was Thelonios and he was the world’s first demon-fighter.”
“Demon fighter?” I laughed. “Wow.” My grandfather had told us some wild tales but never any about demons. Carl was seven years old, though, and I doubted that my mother would want him hearing about demons.
“Yes, demons,” he said, his eyes taking on a grim quality. Carl stared, sensing some hidden undertones he couldn’t quite grasp. “Thelonios was a traveling monk and he was given a task by a princess.”
“A princess?” Carl asked. “Did she live in a castle?”
“She sure did, kiddo,” my grandfather said, taking another swig from his PBR. He set the can down and lifted the book and showed us an etching of a beautiful woman on its yellowed pages. She had long locks of hair and full lips. “Her name was Honeydew,” he said, turning the book back to look at the artwork himself. I could see the longing in his grey eyes. It was weird.
“The castle was surrounded by a quagmire. Nobody could get to it except for Thelonios, because he was special just like you kids. He heard Honeydew calling for help across the swampy land and he flipped and did somersaults and all sorts of acrobatic things to get to the front gates. He didn’t sink once.”
“Wow, he’s cool,” said Carl.
“Thelonios is kind of a nerd name,” I said, smirking. I heard my stomach growl.
“Well, Thelonios was no nerd,” Gramps said, shaking his head back and forth, looking rather lugubrious in the firelight. “He was a hero. The demon, Capricornus, guarded the castle. He had the forefront of a donkey and the back end of a fish.”
Carl’s eyes were wide with fear.
“Oooh, scary,” I said. “I thought Capricornus was a constellation, Gramps. Wasn’t he half goat and half fish?”
“No. They got it all wrong. He was half donkey and half fish, and if that sounds funny to you then you have obviously never seen Capricornus.” He finished his PBR and crushed the can in his wrinkly hand, surprising the both of us. “He hoarded women, kept them locked up in castles and dungeons. He never let them leave. Thelonios put a stop to that, that’s for sure.”
“How’d he do that?” Carl asked, sitting Indian style, now.
“Well, Capricornus knew the minute old Thelonios made it across the quagmire. He was not happy. He slinked through the castle like an old accordion and Thelonios just waited…and waited. Finally, the demon came to stand in front of him. Thelonios could feel his breath against his skin, even through his robes. It was ice-cold and the demon floated around like he was some sort of superconductor and his fur was standing on end on his donkey half, like he was covered in hair spray.
“Chikity-chik-chik,” the demon gargled. Thelonios didn’t flinch. ‘Why-Chikity are you here-Chikity? The girl-Chikity is mine, monk.” Gramps was reading the demon’s dialogue in a strange high-pitched voice.
“I have traveled the world, trying to find Princess Honeydew,” said Thelonios.
“Chikity-ah,” the demon said with amusement. “So Chikity-China is where-Chikity you found my trail-Chikity? Chik-Chik!”
“Yes. I’m not going to turn and run now, Capricornus. Honeydew called to me in my dreams. She is not happy here with you in your dark castle surrounded by dank earth. I won’t leave until she is by my side. I have come across the Great Steppes. I have seen the wild Emu roam. She loves me and I love her. You can’t defeat that, even if you kill me.”