A story for a pandemic – Stone Soup

“What if….” a writing prompt. What if there was a pandemic in the world of stories and tales.

She skipped into town like Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma’s house. She was smiling, strange in those days of lock down. They watched her coming through cracks in the closed shutters and pulled their sweaters tighter. Her robe swishing around her seemed to dispel the grey. She carried what appeared to be a small cauldron over her arm and when she reached the town square, she set it down on a park bench. Lifting the lid, she pulled out a small brazier and a handful of twigs. In no time at all she had a merry fire going, then she picked up the pot, looked around and then stepped toward the first house on the square.

“Go away.” A voice shouted from inside.

Her voice was merry, “I only need some water to fill my pot.”

“No water here.” Called back the voice.

“I’ll just use the garden hose.” She stepped toward the yard, “I only need such a small bit, to make stone soup.” She bent to turn the tap.

“We’re isolated,” the voice called back, “Don’t touch the faucet.

Too late. It was done. She carted the pot back placing it on the brazier and the flames wrapped their glowing fingers around it, warming it.

She turned back to the house. “I’ll be needing 3 rounded stones.” She called. The silence was hard. She walked toward a white picket fence and looked over at a rock garden.

A woman stepped onto the porch, a grey scarf wrapped around her face. “you could take three little ones I suppose.”

The traveller laughed, “thank you. Would you like to choose them?”

The grey woman pushed herself against the wall, “No, just take what you need, but, oh, not that one. It has moss on it, and dirt.”

“The dirt will add texture.” She placed the rocks into the pot which was beginning to bubble. “Now,” she said to no one in particular, “we will need some substance, some warmth, some thickening, and perhaps a bit of plot and some words.”

A child in flannel pajamas came running across the square with a broken doll.

“Yes, that will do fine, if you can part with it that is?”

The child stood on tiptoes dropping it in. The pot accepted it with a glurg. Surprised the child started to cry. The woman reached out with a tiny spoon capturing a tear and stirring it in. It left a sparkling trail on top of the liquid.

An alarmed voice called and the child left as fast as she had come.

Someone appeared and offered an idea, throwing it into the boiling soup. A woman dropped in a metaphor she said she would never use. An old man went through his wife’s jewellery box and brought memories of times past and the Pastor found some prayers left at the bottom of the rectory stairs.

The woman pulled a ladle from a deep pocket and stirred. She was aware now of many people on their porches. The scent of her soup was bringing others to their windows. A hunger was moving within them.

A toddler escaped its mothers grasp and ran to the woman, its laugher echoing from the walls of the buildings. The woman made a quick motion and caught it into the sauce which had thickened considerably by now. She stirred vigorously and then brought out a spoon. She tasted and then smiled, her cheeks turning pink. “Its ready.”

She ladled up words, still damp from their birth. “Stories,” she told them, “your stories to nourish you until you are free from this thing.” Then she lifted the cauldron and moved from house to house, spooning words, phrases, paragraphs and pages of comedy, tragedy and drama woven together by threads of love and laughter, memories that would hold them until the world was theirs again.

Then using the hem of her robe, she dried the cauldron, poured the ash from her brazier into the garden and put it back into the pot which she took with her when she blew out of town.

What are you doing to pass the time? Writing, painting, dancing, music. Weave your magic.

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