The Swinburne Microfiction Challenge is running as part of the Emerging Writers Festival, a yearly festival celebrating new and exciting writers. This year the festival is entirely online.
For the Challenge, a new prompt is released each day. Writers have 24 hours to write a story of up to 500 words to be judged by Going Down Swinging and Swinburne University. I’ll be attempting a new story each day and posting my pieces here.
Day 5 Prompt: Abstract
Not to be Used in an Abstract Way
Not to be used in an abstract way.
The instructions make no sense whatsoever. I’m sure of that, even though I’m not always confident in my comprehension of things. I scrunch up my eyes and read the words again inside my head. Used in an ab-stract way. An abs-tract way. An abst-ract way.
“What does this mean?”
Mum looks over with her annoyed face and I remember that she doesn’t like me reading labels. She doesn’t understand why I have to read every label in the house – the nutritional information on the muesli bars, the washing instructions on the pillow cases, the delivery details on her online order of cosmetics – but I don’t read the books on the shelf in my room. It’s not because I don’t like the books; it’s just that I’ve already read them all, and she won’t buy me more. The shelf is full, she says, and books aren’t cheap you know.
I hold the box up so she can read it. It’s the box that our new air fryer came in, which mum saw at Kmart and thought would be good to have. We’ve used the air fryer twice so far: once for hot potato chips (yum) and once for hot zucchini chips (not so yum). I don’t think either time we used it in an abstract way, but I can’t be sure. We still have the box because mum told dad to break it down and take it to the recycling and he never did, so the box has sat in the space under the overhang of the kitchen bench for two weeks or more. Until today, when I thought I’d read it.
“What’s it say?” Mum squints at the small writing under all the big writing about how the air fryer is a kitchen game-changer (another thing I’m not confident of understanding) and how you can cook different things in it, not just types of chips.
“It says ‘not to be used in an abstract way’.”
Mum looks annoyed again, like I’ve made it up, even though I’m holding my finger next to the line and I’ve read it enough times to be sure it’s right.
“It’s a mistake.”
So she’s annoyed at the box instead.
“It’s a bad translation or something. It just means, don’t use it except for the way you’re supposed to use it.”
I turn the box over in my hands. A bad translation. Maybe the rest of the words are a bad translation as well, and I’ve got it all wrong. Even though I thought the recipe for crispy chicken pieces made sense, it might actually be a recipe for crispy fish pieces, and the person who did the writing got confused about the difference. Easy enough to do. With the crumb all over them, all brown and shiny, they look pretty much the same.