WEP February challenge: 28 days

Full critique By Dixie Jo Jarchow

“Hey what’s this?” Jeva grabbed a piece of glistening dark green leaf from the platter and popped it into his mouth. The crunch was satisfying.

“Kale. I baked it with olive oil and garlic. Isn’t it delish?” Marinta dimpled. “I had a taste for it”

“It’s great. I can’t stop eating it.” Jeva pushed another crisp onto his tongue, savoring the spices and residual oil on the chip. “We should have it more often.”

“Did you see the latest? They’re calling it the Purge day 27.” Marinta said, scooping a generous amount of kale onto his plate.

“What species committed suicide yesterday? It’s kind of hard to care after almost thirty days of this,” Jeva complained and reached for more kale.“Was it mackerels?”

“No that was Tuesday. Ugly fish.”

“Oh, yesterday it was beavers. They just jumped into streams and rivers all over the world and drowned themselves. They say it won’t affect much industry though. The environmentalists are up in arms.”

“Aren’t they always? Ever since this purge thing started they don’t listen to the government. It’s just a normal cycle. The government understands this stuff. The earth is purging itself of toxins through animals and fish. They eat the toxic stuff that is stored in plants and then kill themselves. It makes perfect sense. The earth has been through this cycle before.”

“I was listening to the news…” started Marinta.

“Fake news,” Jeva muttered around the wad of kale in his mouth. “You should know better than to watch that crap.”

“I know but it just happened to be on before my talk show. They had a scientist on who tested the beavers and said they had really high levels of toxic chemicals. Like, out of this world high levels. It drove the animals nuts or something. No one really understands it.”

“Then it is probably good they died.” Jeva took a piece of salt encrusted kale off Marinta’s plate. “See, it all works out.”

She swatted away his hand. “Not really. When they decompose, all the toxins go into the water where they died. Like the stuff from the whales went into the sand and the heavy metals in the beavers goes into the water.”

“Have you lost weight?” Mahinta was still lovely but he barely listened to her anymore. Hard to take someone seriously who had three pinterest boards on thigh exercises.

“I think this is important,” Mahinta pouted.

“Is there more of this kale? I can’t stop eating it.”

“No, that’s the last. I was planning on getting more at the farmers market today.”

“While Alric is at the birthday party, we can hit the market. It’d be a nice way to spend the day.”

“Funny that I never liked kale. Now, I can’t get enough of it.”

A thunderous pounding came from the stairway. Alric, their ten year old son, glared from under a shock of black hair. “What’s this?” He pointed at her plate.

“Take out your earbuds. It’s kale. Try it, it’s delicious. If you don’t want it, I’ll take yours.” His father said.

Jeva and Mahinta held their breath as he chose the smallest piece and chewed it.

“I like this.” He shoved another forkful into his mouth.

“We need more,” Jeva eyed the disappearing kale and licked his lips. “Let’s go now, before the party.”

“There isn’t any more?” Alric frowned at his mother. “I’m starving. Let’s go.” He got up and slid bare feet into his shoes.

“Have you got Robert’s present?” His mother grabbed an empty shopping sack and her purse. “We can drop you on the way back.”

Alaric slid a slim hand into his back pocket and pulled out a shiny gift card for a video game store. “Ready to go.” He left and Jeva hurried Mahinta out to the car.

Jeva revved the motor and drove over the limit to get to the market in the center of town. “Way to put the hammer down, dad.” Alaric gave his dad a grin and they fist bumped across the seat. Mahinta rolled her dark eyes.

“Let’s find the kale,” his father left his door open in his haste to get to the market. Mahinta paused, looking at the door as if she might say something but then hurried to join the throng heading towards Main Street.

In the main street of the market, a makeshift table of planks and saw horses had been cobbled together by the vendors. Heaping piles of kale sat on it, some cooked and steaming but most raw. Both sides of the trough were packed with people stuffing kale into their mouths, one handful after another.

Jeva shoved into a small space between two people and Alaric slid under his elbow. Jeva snarled but then his eyes softened and he allowed the boy to stay sheltered under him, eating. Mahinta was able to squeeze into an area just a few people down.

The sound of teeth clicking and molars grinding was the only sound on the fine summer Saturday, the twenty eighth day of the Purge.

“Hey, Robert,” Alaric called across the trough, “here’s your birthday present.” And he threw the silver card across the narrow wooden plank.

Robert looked up, eyes glazed at his best friend.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it to your party,” Alaric said around a mouthful of kale.

“I’m not either.” Robert stared at the card laying on the fresh kale and continued eating.

As the kale grew sparse, people looked at each other. Jeva searched for any missed bits of kale on the filthy ground but it had all been picked over by the smaller kids.

He turned toward the sea, could hear the sound of moving water beconning over the silence of the market.

Everyone moved towards the sea en masse. Jeva pushed Alaric but whether it was to guide him or move him out of the way was unclear. Mahinta fell in behind her husband as they marched towards the sea.

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32 thoughts on “WEP February challenge: 28 days”

  1. This was incredibly unsettling. I love kale, but I’ll certainly think of this story the next time I go to eat it. I felt a deep sense of foreboding as the family chowed down on their kale with such an odd vigor. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Whoa, Dixie! Now I wonder where that idea came from? Is this the future? Scary thought that people could love kale that much. I only stomach it in a green smoothie, so I won’t be marching to the sea any time soon. Loved the story and I had a foreboding that it wouldn’t end well, but I was still surprised!

    Looks like you have your formatting sorted this month! Well done!

    Thanks for participating in WEP. Lovely having you!

    Denise

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was intriguing and strangely unnerving – I too feel something has got into the kale from all the toxins leaching into the environment. 28th day of the Purge – clever and a very topical use of the prompt.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was so clever, using the current obsession with kale and giving it addictive qualities. Also disturbing, as it related to the real-life toxins permeating our world. Can they truly lead to Armageddon? Gripping!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love a good bit of dark humor. Well done! I guessed about halfway through that they might meet such an end, but it was still wonderful.
    I’ve always said that I like people one on one but despise humans as a species. Our species is absolutely terrible for the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Dixie – the unsettling Purges that are going on … humans must be on the list too – not nice at all. I love kale – but will be rethinking its use in future … brilliant take on the prompt – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent piece. Its subtle tones of horror and sci-fi play nicely together. I love how you tied in the prompt, as well as taking pointers from currents event and ongoing social issues. I’ve been leery of lettuce and spinach for weeks, and now I’m wondering about the kale. I think people sometimes forget that death is part of the circle of life, and if all life is contaminated, well then… Great entry!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My first thought was that if the earth is purging itself of toxins, it would start with the humans!

    Great use of the prompt for a bit of SF horror.

    Liked by 2 people

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