Tasting the Sun

Miles Snyder clicks on the email and frowns. “Sorry, Milo, but we need you in town over Christmas. Business is booming!” Miles sighs and closes the email. Shit.Being in town over the holidays means being in town for the company party.
Miles hates parties, hates having to blah blah blah his way through the buffet line, trying to recall the names of spouses, picking up a little of this and a little of that with dainty silver tongs, hoping to God he doesn’t spill something or that his entire plate doesn’t tip over with the weight of the pretty little hors d’oeuvres balanced thereon: Greasy olives. Cubes of cheese impaled upon frilled toothpicks. Pigs in a blanket. Stale croissants wrapped around thick slices of ham, a disgrace, he thinks, to the simple elegance of the croissant.
His mouth waters, as he recalls the trip he made to Paris, right after college. The hostels. The melamine bowls full of tepid cocoa. Crusty bread and marmalade. Apricots and coffee. Croissants that melted in his mouth.
Paris. Three months of good food, good wine and good painting.
He turns his attention to the spreadsheet on the monitor. But he can’t deny that it’s there: While he lines up numbers in a column, arranging them just so, getting them to agree to work together and paint a flattering, if not entirely accurate, picture of the company, it is there, in the background, thrumming: The blues and the oranges. The pinks and those lovely, lovely yellows. Miles loves color. Miles loves paint.
He gets along moderately well with numbers. But he’s never actually tasted one.

When Miles was a child, he ate a yellow crayon.
His mother had slapped him before taking him to the local vet, the hospital being too far a trip. Besides, his mother was out of gas.
“Leave us,” Dr. Jones said, tacking on a gentle but undeserved, “please,” as an afterthought. His mother sighed and glared and, finally, stomped from the room, leaving the door open a crack.
The doctor sat Miles upon the examination table. Miles studied a ball of cat fur. “Am I going to die?”
Doctor Jones laughed gently. “I think you’ll make it. But tell me, Miles. Why did you eat a crayon?”
“I wanted to taste the sun.” To this day, Miles cannot look at the rays of the sun without recalling the waxy taste of crayon between his teeth.
The doctor’s eyes crinkled. “You are a poet, Miles.”
“I’m an artist.”
“That too.” The doctor smiled. “Don’t ever let them take that from you.”
But he had, hadn’t he?
The teachers said he wasn’t talented enough. Miles believed them.
He re-opens his email and hits reply. “I quit,” he types quickly before his mind realizes what his fingers are up to. Then he adds, “Merry Christmas.” He hits sends and searches for the cheapest flight to Paris.
He loves the intimacy of Paris.
He looks out the window and tastes the sun.
This was written in response to two prompts, one from Today’s Author, the other from Write on Edge.

Common

He sets his tea cup carefully in the saucer and makes a face. “I don’t like the way this cup clicks every time I put it down. It’s like a period, marking the end of every sip.”

“No, dear,” she says. She pauses over her cup, her perfect red lips poised to blow regally upon her tea. “The click is a comma. Commas indicate pauses. Periods are for endings. When your tea is gone.”

“It’s gone after one sip. These cups…what do they hold, an ounce of liquid? I would prefer a mug.” A mug with coffee. One of those giant mugs he’d seen in the bookstore the other day.

“Mugs are common. So is coffee.”


He sighs. “I’m common.”

“Every day, I try to forget that.”

“You thought I’d change?”

“I thought I could change you. Introduce you to the refinements of life. I see I failed. Mug, indeed.”

She’d picked out the china. Of course she had.

He’d wanted to pick up their new dishes at the Salvation Army. You could get half of a set for thirteen dollars. Half a set was all they needed: Her family was gone. His family never visited. Said he’d married up, too far up, so far up they had to crane their necks to see him now, so, sorry, Son, we’ll just have to part ways now.

He remembers the way his father had placed a calloused hand upon his shoulder and squeezed one last time before he picked up his cowboy cap from the back of the chair and let himself out of the front door.

How many years had it been, since he’d seen his family?

She’d picked out service for twelve, shipped in from Germany. The dinner plates alone cost nine  hundred dollars. Each.

“I want to see my family for Christmas.”

“No,” she said. “Impossible.”

“Why not?”

“When you married me, your family wanted nothing more to do with you.”

“That’s not right.”

“You’re correcting me?”

“I’d been feuding with my family for years before I met you. You…you were just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“You’re implying it’s my fault.”

“Not at all. You…you merely were the period. You put an end to my relationship with my family.”

“What were you fighting about? Certainly not tea cups.”

He stares off into space. “I really can’t remember.”

“Oh, come now. You must recall.” She signals for the servant to clear their breakfast with a snap of her fingers and gesture, something in that gesture brings forth a memory that disappears moments before it can be fully formed in his mind. He sees images. A boy. A horse. A branding iron. His mother, clutching a handkerchief in both hands.

“I’m going home for Christmas, Eileen.”

She gives a neat shrug with petite shoulders. “You won’t convince me to go.”

He stands. “I don’t plan on trying.” He picks up his tea cup and throws it against the wall before heading to his bedroom. In the back of his closet he’s hidden a pair of faded Levi’s and his favorite cowboy hat.

This was written in response to a prompt from Today’s Author: The conflict had been going on for so long that no one could remember why it had started.