Tag Archives: Short Stories

Christmas Story Time

13 Dec

In honor of the advancing season, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book of short stories, Foleytown, which I hope to publish in its entirety sometime after the New Year. This excerpt is from a story called “Christmas in Foleytown.”

I usually got the honor of arranging the nativity set on the mantelpiece of our tiny living room. Our plaster dime store figures were cheap, common and, in retrospect, rather ugly, but I cherished them all—the Three Kings, the camel, the Holy Family, the cow and the sheep, the wandering shepherd, the donkey, and the two blonde-haired angels with Shirley Temple curls crowned by gilt-painted halos.

There was, however, one glaringly obvious flaw in our nativity set-up.

“There are not enough camels here,” I noted to my mother one year, while arranging our nativity set in what I hoped was an artful and clever way. “Three Kings and only one camel. How did they make it all the way to Bethlehem with just one camel?”

“Well, camels are big, Lizzie; they can carry a lot of things and people,” my mother answered absently.

I tried to position the figurines of all three kings on top of the camel to verify her claim, but it didn’t really work.  None of our Three Kings could fit astride the beast of burden, because each of them had plaster legs that were molded together into a solid block.

“We need two more camels,” I said, decisively. “Even if the Three Kings’ legs weren’t stuck together like that, I don’t think they could all fit on the back of just one camel.”

“I’ll look into getting two more camels at the dime store next time I go shopping on Plumas Street,” my mother replied, soothingly. But she never did actually get around to it—that year or any other.

Still trying to reason the Three Kings dilemma through, I concluded that one King rode the camel while the other two walked beside it.

“Maybe they took turns riding the camel, to be fair,” I told myself.  “That would be the Christian thing to do.”

I worried about things like that when I was small. I tucked my toys and dolls under scraps of old blankets so they would stay warm at night; I wore clothes I didn’t like because I didn’t want them to feel unwanted; I worried that coffee cups with broken handles would be abandoned to the trash heap. It was a rather unique world view, I realize now.”

“The Noble Order of the Pomegranate”

12 Oct

Pomegranates have always been special to me. They were rare and coveted when I was a child. A mysterious old man called The Pomegranate Man gave them out in my neighborhood for trick-or-treating–he was very popular on Halloween.

Today, I have all I need, with two big and fruitful pomegranate trees in my back yard. October’s the month they get ripe in California–right around Halloween (my favorite holiday of the year.)

In fact, a short story devoted to pomegranate farming in William Soroyan’s famous book, My Name is Aram, inspired me to write my second book, Foleytown. The story in Soroyan’s book is about a crazy old uncle of his who tried to grow pomegranates in the SoCal desert, and of course, the farm failed. I read it and thought, “wow, that sounds like something a member of my own family would do!” And the idea for Foleytown–a collection of comic short stories inspired by my family–was born.

Here’s an excerpt from a story in Foleytown called “The Noble Order of the Pomegranate.” The pomegranate still life at the bottom of the page is mine too, painted from the pomegranates grown in my backyard, which is for sale at my Etsy store.

Now, it’s a point of fact that secretaries at the Air Base [where my father worked] were always giving my dad bags of things to take home with him; they felt sorry for him because they knew he had so many children to support. This particular secretary lived on a small farm outside of a town called Yorba Linda, and she had a few large trees that produced pomegranates that were almost—but not quite—as good as The Pomegranate Man’s.

My brother Bobby, my three sisters and I sorted through the gunny sack of pomegranates from the Air Base secretary eagerly. We ate pomegranates every day for more than a week, and yet there was still a big pile of them left in the sack.

“Pomegranates just aren’t fun anymore,” I complained, sitting on the top step of our front porch with Elaine, dejectedly picking out seeds from a pomegranate shell in a dish, and popping them slowing into my mouth. “They’re not special anymore when you have so many of them.”

“I don’t even like them so much now either,” Elaine replied. “They’re kind of like eating cake frosting straight from the bowl.”

“And we always thought The Pomegranate Man was being so generous in giving away all his pomegranates on Halloween,” I added. “Now we know the real truth; he was just sick of them all along, and Halloween’s just an excuse to get rid of them.”

“There’s nothing you can really do with them but eat the seeds,” Elaine pointed out, grabbing a large, juicy-looking seed from my dish. “If they were apples or something, we could get Mama to make a pie out of them, but who has ever heard of a pie made from pomegranates?”

I gagged at the thought of it; pomegranate pie. Yuck.

But then Elaine made an important discovery about pomegranate seeds.

“Look Lizzie, you can squirt them!” She squeezed her seed between her right thumb and forefinger, and a large jet of crimson juice sprayed out of it. “You can do something else with them.”

I tried it myself; it worked. Soon Elaine and I were practicing with the seeds, trying to figure out the best way to squeeze them in order to produce the longest and most voluminous squirts.

At that point, our big brother Bobby came home from shooting basketballs at the local schoolyard, and we showed him how to make the pomegranate seeds squirt, too.

He was greatly impressed.

“This is almost better than a squirt gun,” he said. “Hey, I know—what do you usually do when you have a bunch of kids and squirt guns?”

Elaine and I looked at each other, and we reached the identical conclusion at the same exact time.

“WAR!” we shouted in delighted, near-unison. “You have a WAR!”

# # #

Original Watercolor Pomegranate, Still Life, Red and Tasty Art, Kitchen Art, Kitchen Decor, Pomegranates

Foleytown, “The Noble Order of the Pomegranate”, Copyright 2012, by S. K. Cole. All rights reserved.

“Still Life With Pomegranates, 2012,” Copyright, 2012, by S. K Cole. All rights reserved.