portion of the artwork for Shelagh Power-Chopra's fiction

The Story of Augustus, Who Would Not Have Any Soup
Shelagh Power-Chopra

I’m not a fan of kale soup, I said to my friend Mary one winter day. The frost was thick outside and everyone had gone home from her party except for me and Gifford Green. Gifford Green feared the snow and refused to drive home in any kind of incremental weather, whether it be hail, sleet, or thunder. So we bore with him.

Mary and I engaged him in small talk in the mahogany-paneled kitchen. Mary had taken her shoes off and she carried the carefree grace of summer with her, swinging her ankles from her stool and giggling softly to herself and I knew she was sloshed; we were all sloshed when we gazed up at Gifford Green.

Gifford was tall, so very tall and far too thin and he asked for another drink, a snifter of brandy and I said, Gifford you really should eat more soup before you drink and I thought of Jackson Pollock’s lover forcing milk down his throat before he drank–any nourishment, any fuel before the fire and Gifford politely declined.

Emperor Augustus never fell into a stupor like the other drunken men. Whaaat? Mary slurred and Gifford mumbled more and told us the story of Augustus begging from the beggars in the forum in his gown and do you know of his tribune of plebes? They all sing so sweetly, but now Gifford was drunk and talking rubbish but I could see he was impressing Mary and all that time I never thought of Peter.

He reached over to Mary, brushed her cheek with his slender hand. I was moved, moved by gesture alone. He reached over to Mary and seized my spoon and dipped it into my kale soup and said, I believe this soup has a good reputation, and he took one little sip from my spoon and said, It’s lovely, like an Irish evening, full of pithy and small little ditties on love.

I smiled shyly and he took my hand and guided it just under Mary’s skirt. We spent much of the evening debating what to do, which bedroom to sleep in, which room to carry on our wicked ways. When we finally all lay down in the bedroom, I was naked; a fur stole around my neck. Gifford Green dealt in pelts.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011