SHORT STORY: Not Quite a Custard

The wind billowed fervently as it tugged at the outstretched limbs of the tall spruce trees above Sherwin as he sprinted his way towards the large metal silo on the other side of the grove.

“Hate it, I hate it.” He muttered to himself.

Once he reached it, he went through a door on the side of the silo. “M-Mr. Adequate?” he called into the dim inner expanse of the silo. With a click, the lights were on.

“Yes? What is it?” A voice replied.  

“I hate middle school,” Sherwin groaned as he cantankerously dropped himself into a small chair.  

“I’m going to need some elaboration,” responded a tall figure who traipsed over to the table with Sherwin, who was angrily twirling his jacket lace.

“All my friends got to go to the house of Earth, and I’m stuck in the house of Song and…”

“So, you’re stuck with no one you know?” Mr. Adequate considered for a moment. “Have you tried talking to your parents about it?”

“They’re busy.” Sherwin murmured, looking away.    

“Well why not make some new friends?” asked Mr. Adequate. “Sometimes sharing your interests can help, just talk to someone at lunch or…” At that point, Sherwin was bawling. Mr. Adequate moved uncertainly towards him, then decided to make tea while Sherwin cried. Mr. Adequate returned with two cups of chrysanthemum tea after Sheriwn’s sobs died down.

“I guess we’ll start again.” He said, putting the cups down.

“It’s just that everyone’s already friends, so no one picks me for their group, or sits with me, and I messed up on my introduction and everyone looked at me like…” Sherwin explained, as he piled what Mr. Adequate thought was too much sugar into his cup.

“Okay, I get it. Was there anyone at school who stood out to you? Like anyone who you thought was interesting?”

“Well, there was this one girl. She tried to help me find my lecture room,” he laughed softly. “But we both ended up getting lost.”

“Tomorrow, go and talk to her.” Mr. Adequate proposed.  Sherwin gave him an incredulous look. 

“But, I don’t even know what she’s like, what if I say something stupid?”

The lanky man gave a hard laugh at that, though also soft in a timeworn way. 

“Accidents are what spark the best friendships.” Mr. Adequate stirred his tea absently, then looked up at Sherwin. “I remember when I was traveling to the land of Ix. I had just bought the last bag of flour at a market when this woman came in asking for flour for something important she was baking.” Sherwin listened intently, blowing on his tea every so often. “So I handed her my bag to her and left, not knowing that I’d meet her again two days later. Turns out she’d spent that time asking about me, and she presented me with three strawberry custards. She also showed me her favorite vantage point of the city upon the old church bell tower. I still think that those custards were the most delectable things I’ve ever eaten,” Mr. Adequate laughed wistfully to himself. “So go on. Make yourself some friends!” He continued heartily. Sherwin hopped out of his chair and smiled at Mr. Adequate.

“Thanks, I think I’m feeling better. I’ve got some homework to finish anyway.” 

“Are you going to have enough money for lunch this time?” Asked Mr. Adequate.  

“I think so, dad said he would have some for me tomorrow,” Sherwin said thoughtfully. Mr. Adequate wasn’t convinced, but he didn’t press the issue. “See you tomorrow!”

The bells trilled through the halls as students of the Oaklenville Academy seeped out of their classrooms and lurched towards the lunchroom. Sherwin was feeling rather miserable at the fact that he didn’t have any money for lunch. As he walked, he saw a face that he recognized. Weaving through the crowds, Sherwin called out.  

“Elise! Hey.” She turned around

“Hey,” she squinted her eyes in focus “Sherwin, right?” He nodded his head. “Sorry, it’s been a very hectic first few days. So many more people here.”  

“I was uh, wondering if you wanted to sit with me.” He asked. Elise looked up at him seriously. He silently cursed himself for sounding like an idiot.

“Sure,” she replied cheerily. Sherwin was halfway through telling himself about how he should have asked Elise when he realized that she said yes.  

They left their stuff at a table and got in line at a food stand.  

“Have you tried the pizza here? I’m impressed that it doesn’t taste like cardboard with cheese on it.” Elise commented.

“No, I don’t think I have.” Sherwin admitted.  

“Well, what are you getting then?” She asked. Sherwin didn’t answer. As they sat down Elise slid one of the pizzas over to Sherwin as well as some hash. He looked a little incredulous, then shook his head. She pursed her lips.  

“Come on. It’s the least that I can do for getting you lost in the wrong hall yesterday.” She said looking at him intently. He slowly tried some.  

“Wow, this is better than the stuff at the elementary school.” They laughed. After that they talked about school and what interests they shared “You’re like the only friendly person I met here, everyone else just clumps together.”

“It’s only the first few weeks of school. I think things will start looking different.” She paused thoughtfully. “Here, I’ll introduce you to some.”

Sherwin clambered up to the door on the side of the silo.  Sweat welled on his forehead, but his face showed no signs of fatigue. He kept something cradled in his arms as he hurled into the silo. Mr. Adequate was playing a game of solitaire when he saw Sherwin zoom in.  

“You sure are in a hurry.” The man said as Sherwin bounced into a seat next to him.

“It worked!” Sherwin beamed. I talked to Elise, and then she introduced me to Dylan, and Lizzy, and Nick, and the other Nick, and…” Sherwin shakily explained what transpired to Mr. Adequate. “Now I have some people I can talk to in my classes. I’m so happy.”

“That’s great to hear!” Mr. Adequate chimed “It reminds me of the land of Ix and Ms. Bauer. That was her name, the custard woman. We had become great friends and occasionally met to discuss life and what not and…”

“Hey,” Sherwin interrupted. “Speaking of the custard woman, I got you something.” Mr. Adequate peered down at Sherwin. “I was saving up some money to get you something as a thank you. It really means a lot to me that you were there when mom and dad were mad at each other. I’m glad you thought to come to this place. I know it’s not Ix quality, but I brought some strawberry jam.” Mr. Adequate looked astonished for a second, then took the jar, turning it around in his hand.

“How did you afford this? Where did you find the money?”

“I saved a little from all my lunch allowances, then pawned some of my other things off.”

“Well, I suppose I have no choice but to try some?” Mr. Adequate gave a tired smile and got up to rummage in his cabinet.  

“Let’s make some sandwiches. Follow me, I’ve got something for you too.” He lead Sherwin up a spiraling staircase to the top of the silo.

The view was impeccable. Sherwin could see over the trees to the sun that was dipping into the horizon as it’s dying beams painted the clouds reddish-orange. The two talked; Sherwin of friends and Mr. Adequate of Ix, all the while they crafted sandwiches which they tasted and criticized as if they were professional bakers.  

“You know,” said Mr. Adequate, “I think you’re the first person in a long time to not ask me what I am. Usually, people think I’m some sort of angel.”  He chuckled.  

“I really don’t care who you are at this point,” Sherwin replied. “I’m just happy you thought to visit me.”

By Connor Q. Rezykowski, Contributor

Rezykowski wrote, “The story gives a perspective on one’s confidence and support from others and how that impacts the way they interact with others. I also didn’t really have anyone like Mr. Adequate so this story could also be a dramatized discussion between me and a younger me. When writing, I set out to create an unfamiliar setting but familiar (maybe even relatable) conflict.”

Featured photo by Rachel Nickerson on Unsplash

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