The Plight of the Lonely French Fry (short fiction)

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest

Another dead end.

Helen crumpled up the restaurant child’s placemat and started on a fresh one. She should’ve used a pencil, but that felt like cheating. She stuck with pen. No going back. It was a maze for five year olds, leading an anthropormorphic French fry to a box of his brethren. It shouldn’t be this hard.

She hit another dead end. Crumpled it up and tossed it with the half-dozen others she’d failed to complete. Troy had been watching her for a while. He finally said something.

“Problem, Hel?”

“No. No problem.” She ripped the placemat in half and sighed.

Troy took one of the failures and smoothed it out. “I’m surprised you’re not better at this.”

“I’m surprised you’re not better at math.” She immediately regretted saying it. She wasn’t mad at him.

He laughed. “I guess I deserved that. Although I am pretty good at math.”

“Of course you are.” Helen snorted. Her tail whipped against the booth. “Sorry. I’m lousy at mazes. People think I should be good at them, but if you recall, they built that labyrinth to keep the monster in.”

There were constant reminders of what she was. It wasn’t just the horns on her head or the fur covering her arms. It wasn’t just that she was a foot too tall or the clomp of her hooves on hardwood floors. It was everything. It was Frankie the lonely French fry, stuck with a guide who could lift the back end of a car but couldn’t remember to take a left at the happy hamburger instead of a right, no matter how many times she did it.

As learning disabilities went, it wasn’t so bad. Mazes and labyrinths were out of fashion. The only time it really mattered was at the mall, where she got turned around more than she liked to admit. But unless it was an especially twisty mall, she could struggle her way through.

But this French fry, this lonely little bastard, was getting on her nerves today.

She put the pen to paper, but Troy covered the maze with his hand.

“Do you want some help with that?”

“I can do it on my own,” she said.

“I know you can,” he replied. “But you don’t need to.”

He helped her get Frankie to his buddies, and while it was undoubtedly child’s play to him, he didn’t condescend. He gave her some advice when she was about to make the wrong move, and in the end, even if he did most the work, she felt like she’d done some of it. She’d never have been able to save Frankie on her own, but she wasn’t on her own.

“Thanks, Troy.”

He smiled and winked. “No problem, Hel. That’s what friends are for.”

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  1. theBibliomancer
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see these two again! Is this set before or after the book? I should be able to figure it out from context but my brain went fffffft.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      The timing is deliberately ambiguous. I personally think it takes place sometime during the original novel. Think of it as a deleted scene though I only actually wrote it today.

  2. Rodney
    Posted July 27, 2014 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    I love these two characters and the universe you created that they live in. Secretly I hope your upcoming trilogy is Helen and Troy epic, but totally have faith that whatever you do it will be entertaining.

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