Salt of the Earth
A man sat in the balcony of the Senate Chamber, discussing politics. There were other voters and political activists. For some reason, he was the only person with his set of beliefs in the room. It was very discomforting. Some people began talking to him, and he didn't say much for his beliefs. He let them walk over him, let them listen to themselves talk. He would never convince them of the proper way to govern a country.
"Yes...Yes...Yes...I understand. I respect your views. I inderstand where you're coming from, but for my various reasons that are a bit too expansive to express all at this moment, I can't really see eye to eye on you with this issue."
So he went, never quite taking a stand for himself.
Suddenly a great rectangle, nearly thirty feet high and ten feet wide, opened in the middle of the floor. A great wind came forth. The rectangle was no physical object, but an image like a window. Many people panicked, not understanding, nor having the slightest idea of what was going on. There was head, lots of it. The image, for those who dared look, was that of a pipe organ and alien architextures. Strange creatures came forth, but they parted as a tall man in a cape walked through them.
He had the exact same face as the man who meekly debated with protesting voters in the Senate Chamber. There were a few physical differences between them, sure, considering that the one who came through the portal was much older and had a silver beard, but regardless, they seemed to be the different incarnations of the same man. The latter man stood straight, unaffected by the head, not flinching in the face of strange monsters armed with blades and arrows.
"I am King Tijdschrift," said the strange, bearded man. His deep, melodious voice boomed and echoed throughout the chamber. "I rule the universe. Everyone bow before me."
Some strange magic possessed the people to bow against their will, all except for the man who stood straight. He did not bow.
"Tom, I sent you to this Earth, born of human parents, to lead," said the King. "I conquered the rest of the universe with my silver toungue alone. You are my son, with all my gifts given to you, and yet you are unable to rise to greatness in this small pebble."
Tom looked away.
"Look at me!"
"You may look like them, Tom, but you are not one of them. Do not make yourself humble. Rise. Be their leader. They are a great people, far superior to so many races across the universe, so long as they have a spark to make them catch fire. They can grow bright. These are people of the great Earth, and you are the salt of the Earth. Yet, you dilute yourself in the waters of the ocean. Tom, rise!"
"I am not God," said Tom. "I am only a man. I chose to live my life for other forms of greatness."
And Tom was punished that day. Publicly, in plain site. The world saw this strange alien man beat his son, inflict him with seventy-seven lashes while security forces were helpless to stop the violence. Unknown powers were at play. However, the man named Tom survived, and King Tijdschrift left through his portal.
Years later, Tom carried out his father's will, but only after attending to things more important, more human. Whatever it was that he felt he had to accomplish, nobody knows. Beyond his leadership of the human race, little was public knowledge. We historians still ponder what was important to him to this day.
“Can you pass the salt, please?”
“Honestly!” she chided. “Haven’t you had enough?”
“So I like a lot of salt,” I countered, taking the shaker from her hand.
“I can’t imagine why. Surely you had enough of salt on the sea?”
“Well, that’s just it, I guess. It’s the smell and the taste—it takes me back.”
Her gaze lowered. She stabbed at the food on her plate. “You—want to go back?”
I reached across the table, taking her hand. “You know I don’t. But it’s always been an important part of my life.”
A smile cambered her lips. “Do you remember where we got that shaker?”
My head bobbed. “I do. Do you remember when that was?”
“You first. Where?”
“That souvenir shop. Honolulu. We both reached for it at the same time.” I asked, “But when was that?”
“The same day,” she replied, “that we met on the beach.”
“The same day I realized there was something more beautiful than the sea.”
She flushed happily.
I went on, “It’s hard to beat a sunset on the ocean, watching the dying rays gild the waves and then turn them into different shades of red, orange, and pink before finally sinking into the water. It’s breathtaking. My head had never been turned away from one until you walked past me.”
I added a last dash of salt to my soup and then handed it back to her. As she took it, I grasped her hand; we held the shaker mutually between our fingers.
“I grew up by the sea. I lived on the sea. I worked on the sea. Nothing else had ever really taken my attention way from it.”
“And so that’s why you like salt?”
“It’s not just the salt. It’s so much more than that.”
We gazed a moment longer into one another’s eyes, gripping each other’s hand; then we withdrew.
Lifting a spoonful to my mouth, paused to grin. “Besides that,” I remarked laughingly, “I love the taste.”
Fat and Greasy
The fat, greasy man shifted his weight on the couch. The couch trembled ominously. The man licked his hand and used it to slick his hair back as he grabbed a shaker, unscrewed the tap, and tossed the whole thing back. His shrimp of a son with his tidy blonde hair and nervous gray eyes stood in front of him, holding a piece of paper in his hand.
“What is this, Dad?” the son asked.
“That is a serious short story, son.” the man said, letting out a belch and shutting his eyes tight, fumbling for a can of pop on the food tray.
“I mean what you’re eating.”
“Oh... it is salt, my lad. Do not every try it.”
“Why shouldn’t I try it?”
"Don’t be so insolent - it tastes bad, it feels bad, it makes you fat like me, and then it kills you, son. Never even think about those serious short stories."
“But Dad, I thought we were talking about salt.”
“Salt, serious stories, what’s the difference?” the man said, shrugging his shoulders. His son cringed as his father’s fatty chin wobbled and flopped along with the movement.
“How does a serious story do that, father?” the son asked timidly.
“It is like how I first tossed back the salt, lad. It hooks you and never encourages you to get up and walk away to do something with your life.” the father told him, letting out another belch before patting his protruding belly with extreme difficulty. “Look at me now. What good did those serious stories ever do me?”
“I thought it was the salt.”
“No son, it was the stories. I sat there hunched over the computer once upon a time before I was too fat to type, reading and writing those serious stories. I never got up to even sleep.” the man tried to rub his eye, but his arm was too fat and he stopped trying after three attempts. “Son, if you ever read or write anything, take the pepper.”
“What do you mean, take the pepper?”
“Eat the pepper, son. The pepper is spicy and it makes you dance around praying that you will recover and be able to taste again. It forces you to exercise! Now, the pepper of stories is a good comic.”
“A comic? Like a comic book?”
“Or a text based comedy, it doesn’t matter. Both force you to get up, run around, and stay in shape. With a comedy, the running around is your nonstop laughter.”
“I’ve heard laughter is very healthy, father.”
“That’s what I’m saying, son. Now be a good son and get me another serious story and some more salt. I need to continue being a slob.”
“Maybe I could read you a comedy tomorrow, father.”
The father grunted and his chin wobbled some more.
“Feel free to do so, son. It’ll take a miracle for a total fat slob like me to get off the couch again.”
The son nodded swiftly and turned, exiting the room as fast as possible. He relished the smell of the fresh air, without the toxic fumes of sweat, salt, and books rotting in sweat that pervaded throughout the room his father lived in. With any luck this next story would get rid of his father, and he could finally move onto his own dreams and desires.
“Hmm... this one should do the trick.” the son muttered as he reached the bookshelf. “The Casual Vacancy. This book is bloody serious... I’m sure it’ll do father right in this time! And then... I’ve heard the movies are pretty easy to get into.”
Tom sleepily stared across the table at Julie, watching her use the salt shaker to add some flavor to her over easy eggs. She appeared so vibrant and full of energy - all the morning person Tom had never been. His fists gently pushed his glasses aside, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes he'd missed before taking Julie to the restaurant for breakfast. Julie liked going out for breakfast and Tom was always happy to pay for her. She was his girlfriend after all. Tom released a lengthy yawn, glancing out the restaurant window at the passing cars and all the people heading on their way to work. He looked down at his watch and swallowed hard. It was 8:24 A.M. Somehow, he and Julie had fallen asleep at the same ungodly hour of 3:00 A.M. and she couldn't have been more awake. Tom took a sip of his coffee and quickly realized it was a bit warmed than he anticipated.
"Are you okay?" Julie asked.
Tom became very self-aware for a moment and nodded. "Hot coffee." He glanced at her left hand and noticed she was still holding the salt shaker.
Tom smiled. "Julie, I love you."
Julie's eyes went wide and she gently set the salt shaker down. "I think I want to break up."
Tom had attempted to take another sip of his coffee when she replied, gently setting it down before starting a second battle with the overly warm liquid. "You…what? You want to break up?"
Julie's eyes wandered off. "Yeah. I've been meaning to tell you for a couple weeks, but I didn't know how to say it."
"So you've been thinking about this," Tom said, releasing a bitter sigh. "Any reason why?"
Julie furrowed her brow. "It's complicated, I guess."
"It usually is," Tom replied, suddenly feeling as awake as Julie. His heart was racing, his mind full of emotions.
"This whole thing…I'm just not feeling it. People say you're supposed to feel when you love someone…like, it's a feeling that you can't describe, but you know it's there. I…I don't feel that with you. I'm sorry."
Tom reached for the salt shaker, sprinkling his own eggs with its contents. He twirled the object in his hand, trying to think of what to say next. He'd just been broken up with over breakfast, while out at a restaurant, and the silence was painfully awkward. Or maybe that was the pain of heartbreak he was feeling. Yeah, that had to be it. Awkwardness never gave him such a tightness in his chest.
"I don't think I'm hungry anymore," Tom told her. "But I am awake."
"We should go, huh?" Julie asked.
Tom sighed, holding back tears and angry words and so many things he considered inappropriate in a public setting. He set down the salt shaker and looked Julie in the eyes. "Yes. We should go."