Short Story – Hunger

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a tinker. A dog plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in an inn in ancient times. The story is about hunger.

*******

As she came to the crossroads she noted the sun would be setting soon. She glanced over at her cart. Her dog had obediently seated himself as soon as she paused to gather her thoughts. The cart wasn’t that heavy – she only had basic tools. And he was a big dog, so she wasn’t afraid of overworking him. However, neither of them had eaten since yesterday and while it was hard on her, she knew she had to find something for him soon. Business had been slow – it seemed no one needed a tinker.

She spied an inn not far ahead and decided it was worth the risk. She didn’t normally approach the larger businesses for fear of being recognized. She headed toward the back door near the kitchen hoping there might be something she could repair in exchange for some food.

As she neared the entrance she heard the laughter from the front room. Someone must have told a great joke because the entire place had roared with mirth. The noise raised a longing she had almost forgotten. She quickly turned from the sound and approached the open back door. An older woman was seated on the stoop wiping the sweat from her neck with her apron.

Good day, Mistress! Do you have anything that needs mending?

The woman eyed the dog warily and grunted.

“Oh, you needn’t worry about him, as long as you don’t mean me any harm.”

The woman didn’t respond so she continued, “We were only hoping to do a little work in exchange for bread and a bit of meat.”

And then she was babbling, “We could use something to eat and only want to earn it honestly…”

And finally sobbing, “We’ve not had any takers since yesterday noon and I’m getting worried for him. He’s all I have in the world and I just can’t lose him.”

She broke down and fell to her knees in front of the woman…“Please?”

And then there was silence punctuated only by her sobs and an occasional guffaw from the front of the inn.

Finally, the woman spoke to her gently with a crack in her own voice,“How long have you been away from home?”

Surprised at the question, she paused to think – how long since she had felt the welcome of her family and friends? How long since she had slept in a comfortable bed? How long since she had laughed with her brothers?

She stammered, “I-I-I don’t know… We’ve been traveling…” she broke off, afraid of revealing too much.

“Come here, child. I have one just your age that I haven’t heard from in a long time. The world is not a kind place and I worry for her sake that someone will show her how downright mean it is. Let’s get you and your dog some food and then we can see what work is available. You’re in no shape to work now.”

The kindness of the innkeeper’s woman was too much. She sobbed harder and then the woman put her arms around her and gathered her in.

“There, there. No need to cry now. There, there,. it’s going to be all right. You’re safe for now.”

Safe! Of all the hungers she felt, she had forgotten the one that meant the most…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

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