Mean Claude, and Ashley's Cake Crumbs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Please read my short story, Mean Claude, and Ashley's Cake Crumbs.

Submitted: January 06, 2014

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Submitted: January 06, 2014



Claude was being mean to Ashley again. Claude had been mean to Ashley for days now. Ashley was teased by Claude because she was a little overweight. Claude smoothed the tips of his French mustachio with his thumb and fore-finger.

“Your good for nothing,” Claude said, “Ashley, you’re fat and lazy.”

Ashley had a look of distraught anguish. She smoothed down her summer dress at the spot where her big belly protruded.

“Claude,” she said, “do not call me fat and lazy.”

Ashley was hardly ever out of her room. She was terribly shy and hid herself away. In my opinion Ashley needed kindness and to be gently coaxed out of her room, through friendship and kindness.

“Why don’t you do some exercise?” Claude taunted. “Why don’t you eat less cake?”

I didn’t dare say something to Claude. I did not want to enrage Claude. I hate fights, and Claude might get angry at my defence of Ashely, and attack me, with violence. Claude, that proud, puffy-chested, black-moustached Frenchman.

I knew Ashley needed someone, more than ever, to back her up. She needed me to defend her, to restore hope in humanity, and to coax her out of her room. She was gentle featured as flighty as a mouse, had a shy smile, which she always smiled, looking at the ground.

I’d had shy conversations with Ashley. I’d come to see who she was. Behind all the shyness was a sparkling sole with a lot to give.

Claude that night stayed up eating canned frog legs and drinking red wine, with a long, French name, I’d never been able to memorise. Ashley and I turned in. She went to her room, and I went to sleep, too.

** ***

Ashley and I woke up at seven o’clock.

I went to the kitchen, as is custom on mornings, to make coffee. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary in the kitchen.

I sat on my armchair sipping away at my strong, sweet, delicious coffee.

Claude came out of his room at ten. He’d eaten frog legs all night. He’d put the cans in the bin but there was frog’s legs sauce on his chin and caught in his flawlessly black, waxed to a thin, flowing mustachio. It was black, black, and black apart from the frog’s legs sauce.

He went to the kitchen to make himself a coffee, this Brazilian expensive coffee he likes.

“What’s this?” Claude yelled, in a manner overly loud. “That fat thing Ashley ate cake as a midnight snack and didn’t wash up the plate,” Claude paused and made a French, whining, swooning sound. “And now we’ve got ants. The fat thing!”

I went into the kitchen and sure enough there was a trail of little ants, in two lanes. One lane was going towards the plate of cake crumbs; the other, laden with crumbs, was going away from the plate.

** ***

“Oh, no,” I said.

Ashley, Claude and I were in the room.

“Blast you, fat Ashley,” Claude whined, “you left a plate with cake crumbs on it. Why did you not wash it up?”

“Don’t call her names like fat Ashley,” I said.

Then Ashley started to cry. The situation of the house becoming infested with ants and the conflict about her being overweight were too much for her.

“No! No, no, no,” Ashley protested. “I don’t believe my absent mindedness has caused such an enormous problem. Oh, I have, by my own carelessness, have brought vermin into the house.”

“Oh, Ashley,” I said, “let’s not get too excited, it isn’t a big deal. We will trace the trail of ants back to their nest and eradicate them with ant poison. It will be a great adventure. I will be fun.”

Ashley was not too convinced.

Ashely, Claude and I, all went on an ant-hunt, following the trail, to hopefully discover where the big ant-nest was.

“Let’s set out now, and find the source of these pesky ants,” I said. We were still in the kitchen.

Ashley was terribly upset and depressed. Claude was taking every chance to take a dig at poor Ashely. He even said that Ashely’s weight was related to cake, and her cake eating habits.

We all followed the trail. We must have seemed very strange-acting stooping, looking at the tiny ants, all in a trail, and ambling and striding, like hunters, trying to outwit those ants. The ants were carrying cake crumbs on their shoulders.

We strode into the garden.

“They all seem to be going south,” I said.

“No, that’s East. That’s where the sun wakes up and stretches,” Claude said, not being mean for a change. It was fun.

“They go around that big rock, and march over the top of the big brick letterbox. I cannot see where they go after that, the letterbox obstructs the view.”

We quickly rushed to find out where those mischievous ants had gone. We looked behind the letterbox.

“There they are,” I said.

“Where,” said Ashley.

“Where,” said Claude.

“Over there,” I said, dizzy with excitement, “over there, in the hollow of a tree.”

The tree did have a hollow. The ants lived - and their trail was all crawling - into the old ancient gnarly tree that occupied the front yard.

** ***

Ashley was in her room. She was in her room acting shy. She wouldn’t come out of her room because she didn’t want prying eyes observing her. I wanted to cure her from this shyness that kept her in her room. I believed with the right kindness, Ashley could be coaxed out of her room and this would increase her happiness immeasurably.

Ashley was on the first story. She would sit in an arm-chair by the window. She would look out at cats, birds and mute automobiles.

There was a cute male gardener. She loved that gardener.

As Ashley whittled away shy hours in her room. Claude came back from work. I came back from the Institute of Technology.

“I bought some Ant-Rid,” said Claude.

“I went to the grocery store and bought a package of Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill.” I showed Claude the box. It had Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill written in big great block letters.

“That’s an inferior brand,” Claude said, raising his voice.

“No, it is not. It’s a superior brand.”

A yelling match ensued. Poor Ashley modestly made her way down the stairs.

Claude yelled, “Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill is inferior.”

“Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill,” I yelled, “is triple the strength of normal old Ant-Rid!”

Then Ashley interrupted. Ashley felt guilty. Her absentmindedness had caused this fight.

“They are both good brands,” said Ashley, with authority. She had a voice, of calm and stress, at the same time. She was facing her fears by taking leave of her room and disentangling this riff Claude and I had delved into.

 “Ant-Rid is a mainstream brand,” Ashley said. “It is a tried and tested, consumer verified, product.  But Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill is good, too. It is three times as strong as Ant-Rid,” she was a voice of reason, “If the Ant-Rid doesn’t work first time, we have Thor’s Thunder Ant Kill to fall back on.” Then she said, “It’s a fair compromise.”

There was a languid peace.

Then Claude, the hateful person he is, must have seen no gain, in this peace, and started up the coals to the fire again.

“Who asked you, fatty? You fat and lazy ignoramus.”

 I could not stand up for Ashley even though my every fibre peaked in revolt. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t, bring myself to cause a peak in this heated exchange.

** ***

There was big buff knocking at the door. We hardly ever had visitors. But, surely enough, someone had found it necessary to visit.

“I wonder,” with surprise in my voice, “who that could be.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ashley said.

“Shut up, fat Ashley,” Claude said, meanly.

His temper was at a point he was not able to control. This rage burned in him and he couldn’t control it, contain it. He was like a bush fire - the smoke coming out of his ears, the flames rising in his red-hot flushed cheeks. He wasn’t going to be able to calm down any moment soon.

He was angry.

** ***

I opened the door. Light poured in. Well known Bronco was at the door.

“Hello, Bronco,” I said.

“Hello, Bronco,” Ashley said.

“Bronco!” Claude said, with difference.

Bronco worked as a jackaroo. He’d come back to town because his job, on a farm, in the outskirts, had finished.

“Hi, guys, I thought I’d drop in. I’m between jobs, and was in the area. I thought I’d come and see you. Hello mate,” Bronco said, to me, “Hello Ashley, Hello… Claude.”

I told Bronco it was a pleasant surprise to see him. All the while, Claude was trying to tame his anger.

Bronco was slightly built. He was 27 years of age. He looked like Renoir, the artist. I knew what Renoir looked like because I had seen his self-portrait in a book. Bronco and Renoir had another thing in common, they both did landscapes.

“How’s my beautiful, soft spoken Ashley,” Bronco asked.

“I’m -,” Ashley couldn’t finish before she was interrupted.

“Don’t bother with her,” Claude cut in.

“I do bother with her,” Bronco, the sun ravaged creative, said. “She is always on my mind when the sun sets on the farm.”

“What? That fat thing.” Claude was unable to keep his bitterness to himself. Unwisely, it could be said.

“I don’t like your tone, Claude.”

“She’s good for nothing. You know she brought ants in the house.” Watch out Claude!!

Ashley let out a yelp.

“I am sure it was an accident,” said Bronco.

“The fat thing left cake crumbs in the kitchen.” Claude couldn’t control his temper even though he knew he was stepping close to the line with Bronco.

“I don’t like your tone.”

“Fat, fat, fat,” Claude yelled.

I was frightened now. I felt knots in my gut, and my furrowed eye brows ached. Bronco grabbed Claude. He grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him on the curb. Threw him on the threshold bouncing.

“Poor Ashley,” Bronco said. “I cannot stand someone being so abusive to a kind shy girl. She needs encouragement not to be oppressed.” Bronco had expressed my thoughts perfectly in a way I did not know how.

** ***

Ashley, Bronco and I sat in the drawing room. It had two couches at right angles. It had a window where a gnarled old shrub with little palate pink flowers brushed against the glass. There was a light swinging on a cord and one of Bronco’s paintings was on the wall.

“Let me get you some cake, boys,” Ashley said. And she left me and Bronco alone.

“Thanks for ejecting Claude,” I said, to Bronco, when we were alone.

“I didn’t like the way he talked to Ashley,” Bronco said.

“Oh, you have no idea,” I said. “He was always constantly wearing away at her. I was feeling terrible that Ashley had to put up with sniggering remarks in all goings-on, where Ashley, and he, happened to occupy the same space or room.”

“Didn’t you say anything to Claude?”

“Oh, god above, I didn’t. I have not got it in heart to contradict a person.” I held my head in my hands.

“I can tell you are punishing yourself.”

“Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I pick Claude up by the shirt collar like you?”

Bronco looked strained. I knew his brow was aching. “Listen, my mate, I don’t believe you’ve done a wrong… you didn’t stand up to Claude but I don’t blame you, you’re a pensive internal person shy and, I think you were just frightened. You helped Ashley by being there, by being there for a conversation when she was down. You are still a good person. Forgive yourself, mate.”

What Bronco was saying made sense and I felt a lot better.

Ashley brought in cake. We sat on the couch eating cake, with those little desert forks, that have a blade on one side.


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