My brother. Master of artifice. Leader of my village.
The waiter handed me a menu.
“Do hurry, sir,” the waiter said, as he walked away from the
“You have five minutes.”
I had made a mistake: I had exposed my brother. I had
accused him publicly of keeping the electricity off; of using the taxes for
himself; of purchasing fine fruits—fresh apples and grapes and oranges—while
the rest of the villagers had to content themselves with foraging.
What can I say?
grew weary of burdock root and purselaine. I grew angry at watching villagers
die for want of medicine.
I had made a mistake.
And here was my punishment
There were two entries, hand written in neat script.
Lemon sole with
Brussels sprouts with
My mouth watered: I hadn’t seen food like this in years.
The waiter returned.
“Have you decided sir?”
My brother, always a gambler, had devised this punishment
for me. One of the meals would contain enough poison to kill me with the very
The other meal would be completely
safe to eat.
If I chose the right meal, my brother would eat the poisoned
And I would be the next leader of
I’d promised my mother: As the next leader, I would get the
electricity back on.
I would bring the
food back to the villagers.
I would help
save my people.
I snapped the menu shut. “What would you recommend?”
He smiled. “The choice is not mine to make.”
He cast his eyes to the floor. “I do not.”
I considered a moment longer.
“The steak.” I hated steak.
My brother knew that.
Or had he forgotten?
The waiter smiled.
“An excellent choice, sir.”
he gave a slight bow from the waist.
I didn’t have time to consider the meaning behind the
waiter’s words; didn’t have time to wonder if he was for or against me: Almost
immediately, a silver cart was wheeled to the table.
“Here we are.”
The waiter set the plate before me and again,
my mouth started to water. “And your dessert of course.” He placed a second
plate to the left of my fork and shook out my napkin. He handed me a shiny steak
knife and smiled.
“Enjoy your meal,
And then he disappeared, rolling
the silver cart before him.
I sat and watched the steam rise from my plate.
I looked around for the cameras I knew to be
hidden in the restaurant.
about my brother; how he’d always been so kind; so generous. Every night my
brother brought my mother food from the forest.
Every night, he made repairs to the houses damaged in the earthquake.
And the villagers noticed. They said my brother was strong;
responsible; hard working.
They looked at me; said I was nothing. They did not know
that I was a healer; preparing medicines for the many ailments that my people
I’d wished to remain
anonymous. I do not like fame.
But my brother thrived upon it.
His smile grew wider; his back straighter;
his speech more polished and clear.
the day the electricity stopped, they made him their leader.
He thanked them by betraying them.
By stealing from them; by taxing them; by
hiding the aid that came to us from the other villages.
“Is everything to your satisfaction, sir?”
The waiter stood before me.
While my brother grew fat and wealthy; while
he made plans to sneak out of the village in the middle of the night, his
He’d asked our mother to join him.
I laughed. “There is no salt.”
The waiter smiled. “We have salt in abundance.” He went away
and returned with a small crystal shaker. “I really must insist that you
commence. Your brother is tired of waiting.”
That’s when I knew I’d made the wrong choice. I sprinkled a
generous amount of salt over the steak; drew the knife across. I lifted a piece
to my nose and sniffed.
I knew the punishment if I refused to eat. Death not only to
myself, but to my mother as well.
I put the steak in my mouth; began to chew. I waited for the
effects of the poison to take hold.
y brother appeared.
Sat across from me.
set a second plate before him.
chosen well, my brother.” He picked up single grain of rice and put it in his
mouth. “Take good care of the village.”
“Do not try to revive him,” the waiter said, after my
brother had collapsed on the table.
does not wish it.” He went to the door of the restaurant; threw it open.
“Look at what he has done to your leader. Look
at how he eats.”
The villagers streamed in. “While you starve,” the waiter
continued, “he eats the finest cut of meat. While you sit in darkness, he
listens to music.”
I grabbed my brother’s plate; tried to shield it from the
“Look at his greed,” the waiter said. “Not one plate, but
And while half the villagers fought over steak and green beans;
the others fought over rice and fish and died instantly.
The villagers turned on me with angry fists.
The waiter untied his apron and disappeared into the night.
For the Scriptic
prompt exchange this week, Christine
gave me this prompt: You have (or your character has) five minutes to make an important decision..
I gave SAM
this prompt: Today, I love the sky.