Author’s Note: I had a hard time getting this second piece of the challenge done. I suppose the simplest way of explaining it is that the other aspects of publishing sapped all my creativity and writing just wouldn’t happen. Not on this, not on anything. I didn’t write a word for over a week.
Today I looked at the lyrics again, and this part sparked something:
Now so much I know that things just don’t grow
If you don’t bless them with your patience
And I’ve been there before I held up the door
For every stranger with a promise
And I was able to write more for the upcoming serial.
“Here,” Stratford said, holding out the fork to the boy. “Try this.”
Eyes wide, their terrified gaze held on the implement in front of him, the boy shrunk back against the headboard, trying to disappear into the bed. He let out a stream of unintelligible words, protesting as he tried to hide or escape, and Stratford frowned.
“I think he thinks I mean to hurt him when I am only trying to get him to eat,” he said, turning back to Whistler in frustration. “I wish I could make him understand, but even when he speaks more, I get no sense of the words that he uses. His speech is unlike any language I’m familiar with.”
“We do have no sense of his origin. He could be from anywhere,” Whistler reminded him, keeping his tone gentle. He went around to the other side of the bed. Taking the cup from the tray, he held it out to the child, waiting for the boy’s trembling to cease.
After a moment, the boy sat up and peered at the cup. His nose wrinkled, and he shook his head, rejecting the offer. He glanced toward the tray, hesitating before reaching for a small piece of fruit. He studied it with a frown.
“I’m not sure what that means,” Stratford said, taking a piece for himself, “but it is safe to eat.”
The boy watched him eat the bite and then coughed, rolling over in the pillows until his injuries reminded him of their presence. Grimacing, he straightened up and threw the fruit at Stratford.
“I can see he shares your table manners,” Whistler observed dryly, and Stratford glared at him.
The boy picked up a piece of bread and bite into it, chewing it down with an expression Stratford found difficult to decipher. He swallowed it with what seemed like difficulty, but when Whistler renewed his offer of tea, the boy shook his head again.
“He does not seem to like tea.”
“An unforgivable sin, according to your mother.”
Whistler smiled. “Yes, well, I happen to believe it is an acquired taste. Perhaps another flavour would suit him. He does not care for your favourite kind of fruit, either. I also would suggest that may have been the source of his reaction to the fork.”
Frowning, Stratford saw that the boy was actually playing with his fork now, using it to push around the food on the plate. “I take it you don’t want anything else that’s on there?”
The boy pointed his fork at Stratford.
He blinked. “I may just have been threatened.”
“Amusing.” Whistler did not sound amused, but under the circumstances, it almost was comical. The boy had suffered grave injuries and should have died, either from them or the fever that wanted to carry him off, but he would seem to be braver than his wounds. Or perhaps he believed a threat from a fork was a custom everyone here used, which would be Stratford’s fault, though far from his intention.
Stratford grunted. “How are we going to explain what happened? To ask him about his family or how he ended up on that shore? We cannot even communicate about food.”
“Patience,” Whistler advised. “We will learn. After all, we now what mish means, and that is a start, certainly more than you had before.”
Stratford nodded, sighing as he did. He pointed to the fruit again. “Mish?”
The boy’s face crinkled with distaste. “Mish.”
Stratford pointed to the utensil in the boy’s hand. “Fork.”
He had to duck when the boy threw it at him. Shaking his head, he watched the child, uncertain if he did have enough patience to learn the boy’s language or teach him theirs. Maybe it would have been easier if he had found some sign, someone else to give the child to, or even if the boy had died.