A potential client asked me to write a short story for them so that they could decide whether my style of writing fits their company’s message and brand. I wrote and submitted this one to them within half an hour. Perhaps I should have taken longer because he didn’t hire me. Nevertheless, I think it is worth sharing, if only as a reminder to myself later of what I can do in half an hour.
“The Raven’s Voice”
Horatio was just fifteen when he sailed from Pisa to Sicily on his father’s swift merchant ship. It was the first leg of a long journey to the Orient and his official introduction to working in the family business.
He was assigned a bunk in the galley, which reeked of putrid fish and the stench of filthy drunken sailors, but he didn’t care. It was a trip he had dreamed of from the time he could barely talk, for his father, uncles, and cousins had long seized his heart with their countless tales of seafaring adventures, riotous shenanigans, and beautiful exotic women.
When they had finished unloading dozens of crates of leather, wine, and dates onto the dock in the Sicilian harbor, Horatio was granted permission to explore the island. “Be back by sundown tomorrow,” his father ordered.
Taking just his rucksack, Horatio sprinted from the ship and into the clamoring crowd of yelling sailors, shopkeepers, and port trade inspectors. Within three seconds he was swallowed by the undulating waves of boxes, wagons, and tents.
Hunger drove him toward the smells of cooking and the sounds of banging pots, cackling chickens, and bleating goats. His stomach dropped like a cannon in quicksand when he rounded a fruit vendor’s stall and saw her.
The wine merchant’s daughter had lifted her head and turned to see what her father was pointing to as he gave her instructions for tallying a sale. Horatio stepped back into the shadow of the fruit tent, for he wanted to remain unseen by the exquisite raven.
He was mesmerized by her every move. Perplexingly, he felt a flutter like butterfly wings deep in his chest as he watched her delicate fingers fly across the abacus. She had the darkest long hair and eyes Horatio had ever seen and he wished she would speak; it was the first time in his life he truly wanted to listen to what a woman had to say.
“Get out of bed, you lazy old husband of mine!” Horatio sighed with sad longing as the last traces of his sweet dream faded away and he opened his eyes to another weary day.