Ham and Asparagus, and Stamps
‘When we finally made it to the green, we found the pond hadn’t quite frozen through, only we didn’t know that until we stepped in and got boots full of slush. I said we should go home and make some popcorn, but Eva was bent on having a good time. She said that not trying at all would make her feel guilty for wasting the sunshine, not that there was much sunshine to speak of that day. She scraped her skates over that inch of wet ice for about an hour and a half before she finally gave in because of blisters. She sang a song on the way home, an old song about wading in the water, and a girl dressed in red, and Moses. That was the only time I ever heard her sing, and I remember how she held her scarlet mittens over her mouth to dull down the sound. I remember it was nice, for once, to finally listen to her.‘
For our Spring 2021 issue of Spellbinder, we welcomed flash fiction as well as short stories. This new category was definitely worth adding as we received some really brilliant works within it. One of these was ‘Ham and Asparagus, and Stamps’ by Eliza Rudalevige.
The narrator tells the story of her friend Eva who only spoke to her and to the apparently homeless man with no legs. The story is filled with lovely descriptions of Eva’s interests and behaviour. It ends with the wonderful paragraph included above in which the narrator remarks that it was ‘nice’ to ‘finally listen’ to Eva. Eva’s quietness is attributed, earlier on in the piece, to an abusive father. Small details, such as the way she covers her mouth with her mittens, in the paragraph above, indicate Eva’s insecurity and anxiety about vocalising her thoughts and ideas.
What I love about this piece is its uplifting portrayal of Eva as resilient, persistent, caring and enthusiastic. Despite the dysfunctional family into which she has been born, she is determined to get the most out of life. For example, even though there is little sun, she is still determined to enjoy being outside. She also offers her lunch to the disabled man and thereby shows interest in someone even less fortunate than herself. Her generosity suggests that she is a very empathetic individual.
Eliza implies that this empathy stems from her ability to listen. She writes, ‘I soon found out she had a keen fascination for listening. She was one of those people who stand very close to you with their mouths open, like they’re trying to swallow up what you have to say.’ In this regard the flash piece is moralistic and suggests that if we listen, we will learn to understand other people. Eva is capable of compassion because she hears people when they are in need, and understands the trauma associated with being silenced as she has been. Interestingly, Eva is also described as a bit of a book worm. This indicates the power of literature to confront people with life and help them to comprehend it. It has been said that those who read are more likely to translate their knowledge from books to the real world. Reading enables people to delve inside a character’s mind and thereby empathise with them. If this can be applied within reality, then readers are more likely to be able to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and therefore appreciate the difficulties they may face and as a result will treat them with greater kindness. As a character, Eva is a testament to the power of listening and reading, and also the capacity for generosity within those who don’t have much themselves.
I enjoyed the fact that this piece was told from somebody else’s point of view. This allows the narrative voice to adopt a kind of wonder, a genuine respect towards Eva. Eva is a role model for the narrator, and I am sure that she can serve this function for us, as readers, too.
At Spellbinder, we enjoy reading thoughtful works of flash fiction which contain vivid and detailed description, as Eliza’s does so skilfully. We are currently working our way through the latest flash submissions for our summer issue and would love to receive more in time for autumn.
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief
Photo from Pixabay