What Big Brothers Do

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #171, by JudaM on Pixabay. Rather than the photo, I loved the subject itself, and tracked this down to a sculpture called A-Maze-ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun in Vancouver, in which the artist created fourteen ten-foot-tall, 250kg images of himself, laughing hysterically. The sculpture was nominated for the “Great Places in Canada” (national) prize in 2013, the only piece of artwork to make the cut.

The sculpture is fun so I came up with kinda a fairy story to accompany it. It’s about 4 minutes.

“I hate her”, wailed the girl, “I just wish she was dead.”

“Come on, Lena,” her brother, Finn, retorts, “it’s just a few more months, and you’ll be out of that school altogether. Then you’ll move up to my school, and you’ll never have to see that wicked woman again.” Three years her elder, Finn is already attending the senior school which Lena will start in September. “There, you’ll get to feel real hatred”, grins the boy. But Lena does not share the joke, and far from placated, the girl trudges in silence, continuing her sulk.

“Okay, let’s turn up here”, jerks Finn. Not their usual route home.

“Where are we going?”, demands the girl.

“To forget your nasty teacher, we need chocolate! So, we’re going to visit the best chocolatier in town. They both know the delicious creations of Herr Braunschweiger.

Fifteen minutes later, the children emerge from the shop. Their prizes are already beginning to melt on this humid afternoon.

“I wish Fraulein Schwarz would melt, just like these pralines, mutters Lena, still preoccupied with the woman.

“Then on we go! You still need some cooling on this hot day,” chortles her brother, as he leads the girl to the sumptuous ice cream parlour. There, Finn orders the star dessert, Frau Grunwald’s own variation of the Knickerbocker Glory, which arrives, a foot-long boat of sugary delight, laden with ice-cold, whipped cream and deliciously ripe crimson-red cherries, its summit crowned by three sparklers which complete this delectable treat.

Each commencing at the vessel’s end, the children’s spoons tinkle as they meet in the middle. Sitting back to relax, Finn emits an extremely long, satisfied “burrrrp”, and rubs his tummy in satisfaction. Lena, however, can eat like a horse and merely cusses. “I wish I could’ve pushed that whole sundae into her face”, quickly adding, “sparklers too”.

So stuffed is Finn, it is ten minutes before he is able to speak, during which he can still observe his sister’s obviously-agitated state. “Well, I can think of only one more way of cheering you up”, he begins.

Lena raises her head. “You can’t cheer me up. I hate her. I want to take these spoons”, she motions at the now-empty dish, “and scoop out her cold, shrivelled heart.” But she is interested nonetheless. “What did you have in mind?”

“Shall we walk to the Beeches?”

The mere mention causes Lena to remember all those stories dad told her when she was a child. The Bellowing Beeches. This enchanted grove of trees was reputedly planted in medieval times, when a giant, Gerhardt the Genial, lived in the town. Though he stood ten feet tall, Gerhardt was a good-natured simpleton whose constant laughter peeled throughout the town like the new church bell. At market one day, he was tricked by a hungry beggar into buying magic seeds. Though people pooh-poohed him, Gerhardt planted them, and tending them, watching them sprout shoots and grow into saplings, became Gerhardt’s life’s work. So much love did Gerhardt show to the trees, that they grew to love him back, even forming themselves into his image as they grew.

For the first time this afternoon, Lena smiles as she remembers how dad would always stop here, and make a point of stressing how unusual this was, because trees are very private creatures and normally keep themselves to themselves.

Lena’s smile breaks into a grin as she remembers the ending. When Gerhardt finally died, aged 347, the trees lived on in his memory and it is said that, to this day, nobody can pass through the wood without bursting into uncontrollable laughter.

Finn interrupts. “Well, shall we?”

“Nah, I’m tired, and it’s late. Mum will be wondering where we are. We’d better get home.”

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