The Village Idiot
prompt: the village idiot
“He had a name for all of us, remember? Ramona was always his Lily of the Field.”
Rob pushed aside his paper plate and swallowed the last of his lemonade. The room was crowded a half hour ago but now, casseroles had been emptied, fudge nut bars consumed, and last words of sympathy said. Most of the guests had gone home. A few diligent women were cleaning up the tables and packing away leftovers. He’d met them all before the funeral that morning but he couldn’t remember their names now. He turned and smiled at his youngest sister, Clara.
“Yeah, well, Ramona sewed not, neither did she spin. What else could he call her? You, on the other hand, were Tiger Lily.” He tweaked her nose causing her to slap his hand away. “I never knew if it was because you watched Peter Pan about a million times or if he was commenting on your temper.”
“At least I wasn’t Boofalo,” Clara said. “Boofalo. Geez.”
“He never called me that in public. Well, not after that one time,” said Rob with a wink. “I have to admit it was descriptive. I never have been particularly graceful. I think Mom could have done without being La Grande Dame. Dad always laughed, though.”
“Dad got off easy with Buck. Sharon was stuck with Tweedy. Like a butler or a footman or something.” Clara shook her head. “I can’t believe Mike is gone.”
“Frankly, I imagine he’s a little surprised, himself.”
“What? Don’t you think so? If he actually thought about what he was doing, he’d never have gone through with it. I think it took him entirely by surprise.”
Clara hunched over, her forehead resting on the table. He reached out and rubbed her back lightly.
“Don’t worry, Tiger. If he was surprised, he wasn’t scared. It was too fast for any of that.”
“I don’t remember what he called himself,” she mused. Her gaze was unfocussed as she tried to recall. “Did he give himself a name?”
Rob shook his head. “Don’t think so. Just as well. Can’t you just picture? It would have been something like Meteor Man or Top Dawg or Super Fly.”
Clara made a “pfft” noise and gave his shoulder a light shove as she rose. “I guess I should help Mom gather up the cards people left.”
Rob watched her go without really seeing. In his mind, he saw the skid marks showing where Mike’s ridiculous experimental scooter cart ran right over the embankment and down the rocky hill. Rob had warned him the new brake design was too light to compensate for the comparatively heavy drivetrain. Mike laughed him off and gunned the engine as he left the workshop. Rob wondered if Mike heard what he’d shouted after him.
“If you crack that thing up, I’m going to start calling you the Village Idiot!”
Author’s Note: I think I’d like to say a few things about writing prompts. They are odd things, you know? They might be a single word, a phrase, a saying, a full sentence, or a group of any of the above. When I compete in the NYC Midnight writing competitions, they generally give writers a genre, an object or person, and a location or situation. The thing is, these basic-sounding prompts have a way of taking on an entirely different sort of life. The above story, “The Village Idiot,” is a fine example of this. The prompt doesn’t necessarily speak of darkness and gloom, so I’m not sure why, once I started writing, it took me to a funeral. It could, just as easily, have taken me to a carnival (which, by the way, isn’t a bad idea and I should make a note of that for future reference).
I’d love to hear what you, the reader, thinks. Did this story go in an unexpected direction? How would you have interpreted this prompt?
It’s such an interesting phenomenon.
Thank you for reading!