Funny stories in under 500 words.

The Parsnip and the Pear

Fruit and vegetables meant everything to Marcello the boy king, and when he received his invitation to rule the city of Plight, the engraving of a pear on its envelope obsessed him. He believed that the pear was a symbol of the hierarchy he had ascended, a fruit of frivolity, and a bulbous mark of the feasts he would enjoy as king - as long as his meals never included a parsnip.

It was the parsnip after all, that determined the fate of the kings of Plight. When the king was served with a parsnip, he only reigned until it had rotted, after which he would be taken away, executed, and replaced by the next boy in the city to have a twelfth birthday. This time, that boy was Marcello.

The tradition had existed many centuries, and nobody remembered or cared much about exactly why parsnips played such an important political role in the kingdom. The stakes were much higher for Marcello however. Where the people of Plight saw the parsnip (like the king) as an out-dated symbol, Marcello saw an entire world of fruit and vegetable codes and customs that determined whether he lived or died. He knew that his actions and physical changes (in his height or health for instance) were intimately connected to his position in the botanic world. He heard vegetable voices, and spoke their language.

It was only one week into his reign when a small and muscular servant presented Marcello with a plate of vegetables. A cluster of neurons fired in his brain and he shook with a brazen, barely containable rage. The servant remained silent and expressionless. A voice emerged from his meal – the first voice of pomp and authority he had heard since arriving at the palace. It was obvious to Marcello that the voice belonged to a parsnip, half hidden by radishes, potatoes, and beets.

“Why are you hiding amongst my vegetables?” he asked.

The parsnip was strikingly pale amongst the more colourful vegetables. In its ominous placement, it was a vegetable with a voice more powerful than the discontented radish, the rotund and baritone potato, or the menacing cadence of the red beet. He tied the parsnip around his belt tightly in an attempt to smother the problem but the parsnip only began to rot, and Marcello grew. When he had grown by five centimetres it occurred to him that he would need to feed the parsnip a broth that it could soak through the roots hanging loosely from its base, and that the broth would have to consist mostly of rotting flesh. Often this was a camel’s head with insects surrounding its one feminine eye. Other times, he fed it a fistful of sardines.

The last thing that Marcello saw before the executioner’s axe ended his life was the parsnip falling from his hands and rolling on the ground beneath him. It had collected a thin layer of dust, and Marcello thought that it looked like a pear.

This story comes from Tom Brami. Tom teaches history and politics, writes, reads, and skateboards.

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