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Mireille Fauchon - The Prince and the Pea

Mireille Fauchon - The Prince and the Pea

This illustration was accompanying Rebecca Swirsky's story titled 'The Prince and the Pea' for Ambit Magazine's 214 edition. Here is the beginning and the middle of the short story: ’You never water anything,’ my wife says clearly, as though we are not seated at the same restaurant table. ‘Without me our plants would die.’ We turn to look at a spider plant. Its glossy leaves give off an accusatory air. 'You’re right,’ I agree. These days I agree relentlessly. ‘I spend my days at my desk, or in the lab. I’m rarely at home.’ ‘You accuse me of being lazy.’ She breaks a wooden chopstick in two, rolling the shorter piece between forefinger and thumb. Her red lipstick has bled pink where she’s been chewing on her bottom lip. Her eyes are the perfect shade of bitterness. -------------- Distraction pushes her aside, for the fat man has stood up, yes, now he is moving from chair to door, now– but it’s impossible that he should leave so quickly! A certain quality of meaninglessness is apparent in his absence. Afua points. ‘A single pea,’ she says. ‘A gift, for us.’ She is right. There, on the fat man’s plate is a pea. As if a cricket test match whose result is clear, I see how the waiters, the maître d’, the diners, all of us will suffer, this pea keeping us awake, jostling, nudging, a tiny weight, a burden to our days. Terrible! Under the table, my wife crosses her legs. I receive the sharp rasping of nylon on nylon as if on my own naked skin. When she requests water I nudge my glass, liquid slopping. A Rorschach test puddles the tablecloth. In the darkening blur I see a goat, a moon, a falling star. ‘Do you think he did it on purpose?’ Afua’s eyes are bright. There is a non-artificial flush to her cheeks. She looks, for once, carefree. ‘I do,’ I say, surprised at my bitter feeling. We had left our own food because we’d sensed the fat man would leave nothing. We’d assumed responsibility. As people will shift on a boat to halt the uneven weight from causing it to sink, we’d rushed to reverse the balance. The food on our plates was meant to keep us separate, yet the fat man had failed to keep his bargain. By leaving that pea he’d moved closer to us. The fear, although unspoken, was we would assume some of his stupendous girth. No one knew which way to look, and so we gazed at the empty plate, rabbits caught in the fat man’s headlights.

Mireille Fauchon
Mireille Fauchon (detail)