I was working out the details of my main short story when I read an email from Poets and Writers. Long story short, it was about soup. Kind of fitting because a lot of people have had bouts with the flu. There are a couple of different ways to write about soup. I thought I’d share my take on the prompt. Enjoy.
Quinton always knew that Mason would be a chef. Ever since he was eight, he devoured everything put on his plate. Didn’t matter if it was meatloaf or spinach or fish sticks. He took it all in stride. He even ate tofu, provided Quinton fried it and dropped it in soup. But his favorite food was rainbow sherbet. It was rare that they had dessert. But whenever that bowl appeared, he didn’t inhale it; he treated it like fine cuisine. Mason took in every last morsel of the orange, raspberry, and lime scoops of sweetness. Even scraping up the lukewarm slop.
Quinton knew he had a prodigy on his hands. He wanted to nurture Mason’s exquisite pallet. So he enrolled him in cooking school. The two-hour drive was worth the tuition he paid every month. It wasn’t Juilliard, but it was highly recommended.
Mason wasn’t quite sure the reason his dad wanted him to take cooking lessons. He was only ten. But Quinton insisted that he had a gift. So he went along with it.
The class met Mondays and Thursdays right at 5:30. There was one instructor and an aide. The instructor was very by-the-book. No room for improvisations, he said. At first, Mason struggled. He was still learning measurements in Math and it made reading recipes difficult. If not for the comforting aide balancing the instructor’s rigidness, Mason wouldn’t give a second thought about quitting.
One night, Quinton took Mason to the local bookstore. Quinton went straight to the cooking section. He scanned the shelves while Mason trudged behind, his fists stuffed in his pockets. He looked as if he lost his mother all over again.
Quinton turned to his downtrodden son. “Yes?”
“Dad, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“Cooking. I’m no good at it.”
Quinton just smiled.
“Sure you are. You just need something to ignite your spark. And I think I found it.”
He pulled a green-and-white checkered cookbook from the shelf. Beaming with pride, he held it out to Mason. He looked up at his smiling father and returned the favor with a half-smile.
When they got home, Mason went straight to his room. He leapt onto his bed and lay flat, staring at the cobalt blue ceiling. Quinton knocked on the threshold.
“No time for rest,” Quinton chuckled. “You have to make dinner.”
“Dad, can’t we just eat out tonight?”
“No way. I want to see you in action.”
He threw the cookbook onto his bed. Mason opened it and thumbed through the pages.
“I want you to surprise me for dinner tonight.”
Quinton left him turning page after page of his new book. All the foods were presented so extravagantly. He wore a look on his face as if he bit into a grapefruit. He flipped through the book until he passed something spherical. He turned the pages back and forth until he found it. And suddenly, his frown transformed into a smile. On the page was a bowl of swirly soup garnished with a sprig of mint. He sprung from his bed and raced into the kitchen, passing his dad sitting on the couch.
“We’re having soup tonight, Dad,” Mason exclaimed.
“Nice. What kind?”
“You said surprise you, so I can’t tell.”
Quinton chuckled. “Ok. Just let me know if you need help with the stove.”
Mason opened the pantry, carrying the cookbook. He looked at the recipe, then searched for the ingredients. He set the book down and grabbed a bag of mini-marshmallows, a jar of cinnamon, and a bag of sugar. He set them on the island and went straight to the refrigerator. He swung the doors open and took out orange juice, tomato sauce, raspberries, and a whole lime. Mason then set the book in a holder on the counter.
“Dad, I need some help.”
Quinton grabbed the utensils Mason needed. He unearthed the copper pot he dubbed “the chili pot” from the rubble of metal cookware. He set it on top of the stove and turned the knob. He had to turn it off and on a few times before the flames appeared.
Quinton took a glance at the hodgepodge of ingredients. He wore a concerned look, but shrugged and went back to watching TV. Mason closed in on the measuring utensils, making sure each ingredient was measured exactly as the recipe called for. He poured the orange juice and tomato sauce in the pot, stirring it with a bamboo ladle. He plopped the raspberries in, then added the cinnamon. He continued to stir methodically, the way his instructor bored into his brain. It wasn’t long until the smell of his concoction filled the air. Quinton sniffed, unsure of the combination.
“Almost done,” Mason yelled. He scooped a small dose into the ladle. He slurped the sample from the ladle. He smiled, then grabbed a pinch of sugar. He stirred and stirred some more. He took another sip.
“Yes,” he whispered. He turned off the stove and pulled out a pair of bowls and dessert plates from the drying rack. He scooped out three servings of his accomplishment and poured them into the bowl. He lay the bowls on top of the plates and took them to the dinner table. He opened the freezer, scoping the shelves for the final piece. He pulled out a half-eaten carton of rainbow sherbet. He shuffled through the drawer until he found an ice cream scoop. He strained to run the spoon across the box. Once he approved the size, he slammed it onto the edge of the plate.
Quinton turned off the TV. He sat at the table, looking down at his son’s presentation. The bowl filled with the red-orange mixture, covered in mini-marshmallows and raspberries, and the scoop of the sherbet reserved for dessert. After a moment of silent prayer, Quinton took his spoon and stirred the soup around.
“This looks good, Mason. What is it?”
Mason said with an air of pride in his voice, “Rainbow Soup.”
Quinton took a sip. He stuck his tongue out an inch. He shot an inquisitive look into the air. He then took another sip. The second time did it. He nodded. That was usually his sign of approval. Mason filled his spoon, pulling in a mini-marshmallow or two, and slurped it up. They smiled at each other as they ate dinner.
“See?” Quinton said. “Didn’t I tell you all you needed was some inspiration?”
After they cleaned the kitchen, Quinton and Mason changed into the night clothes and sat in front of the television. Quinton turned to Mason with a smile.
“I think we should pull you out of that class,” Quinton said.
“But I thought…”
“I think you can run circles around those students with that dish. And I don’t think your teacher would approve of that.”
“Nope,” Mason replied.
Quinton gave a side hug and they stayed that way until it was time for bed.