Issue No. 16, Spring 2016

Here There Be Giants
Cathy Ulrich

My father had killed the last of the giants while my brothers watched through the front window, their mouths and eyes matching rounds. Their breath fogged up the window, and my mother said don’t get too close while she seasoned the soup. I was setting out the bowls and spoons, and peeking out the window when I had a moment. I was wearing my best apron and going barefoot through the kitchen. I could hear the sound of giants being slain, the toppling of their bodies. I nearly dropped a bowl, and my mother frowned.

Careful, she said.

She sprinkled salt into the soup.

My father called from outside: That’s the last of them.

My brothers bolted out the front door. They were going to help with the digging. There were mounds all round our property where they liked to play.

I’m King of the Giants, the one would shout until the other one knocked him down and became king himself.

My brothers always had dirty hands.

Boys, said my mother. Boys will be boys.

She was making a special soup. My suitor was coming for dinner. He had heard of my father. He had heard of my father’s beautiful daughter. That was supposed to be me. He had sent letters declaring his love. My mother had answered them for me, laughing girlishly as she crafted her replies.

Do you remember? she said to my father. Do you remember how it was between us?

When giants fell in love, mountains crumbled and the treetops roared. My parents had loved like that. I would love like that too, someday. That was what my mother said.

My suitor would arrive soon. His shoes would be damp with the blood of giants. It was soaking into the ground. My mother had shown me one of his letters. He had a beautiful hand.

You must smile when you meet him, my mother urged. Smile.

Men like a woman who smiles for them. That’s what my mother tells me. Men like a woman who can fix a good soup.

Outside, my brothers were digging trenches. My father would put the giants into them, piece by piece. It was always best to bury their parts separately, so they wouldn’t come back together. My mother said she’d never heard of a giant coming back together after it had been killed and dismembered (and she disliked that word, dismembered, spitting it out rapidly), but my father assured her that was how it was always done.

It’s because he can’t dig a hole big enough for a whole one to fit, my mother told me with a wink. She took a taste of the soup and declared it perfect. She put me in front of the pot so I would be stirring it when my suitor arrived. His shoes would be soaked with giant’s blood. My mother would have me come to greet him, and to remove his shoes. She would have me place his feet, one at a time, into my lap to warm them. If there was any blood on his bare feet, it could be wiped off on my apron.

My brothers were outside, proclaiming over the insides of slaughtered giants. My mother said they would have to wash up before they had any soup, and my father too.

There was a knocking at the door. My mother smiled, and pinched my cheeks until they were red. A maidenly blush, she called it. She went to answer the door. I stirred the soup.

Cathy Ulrich can make several different kinds of soup, including a yummy onion chowder that’s perfect for winter. Her work has recently been published in Gingerbread House Magazine, The Bookends Review, and ExFic.