Short Story Prompt: “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway
Thor, not the god, the man. Actually he was a teenager. Thor loved to read. Reading was a favorite thing for him to do. Oh sure, he liked the girls. And they liked him. Liked him a lot. Can’t blame them. His blue eyes and blonde hair, and those rugged Scandinavian looks he inherited from his dad.
Like I said, Thor liked to read. It was okay when he was younger, but he was expected to put the books down once he went into puberty. His dad knew the kid had talent. He had the potential to go all the way to the pros. He had an arm on him that would make him a great quarterback.
Thor was not the kind of kid to put up a fight. He was a Libra and Libras are people who like their peace. Will go out of their way, and sometimes against their own best interest, for peace. So, in the tenth grade, he went out for football. Since he was a natural, the coach made him quarterback. First string too. He was the youngest quarterback in the history of the high school.
Between practice and schoolwork and dating, it didn’t leave much time for reading. Then there was the job on the side. His dad brought him in to work in his garage on Saturdays during off-season. Said it was good for him. Would give him a work ethic.
But reading wasn’t something Thor could just give up. He had gotten through all seven of the Harry Potters. He went on to “Treasure Island” and Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. All fun reads. Then there were the Norse myths. When he found out that his dad had named him after the god Thor, he had to know who this god was. So he poured over Edith Hamilton and Bulfinch. Their books had sections on the Norses. He even read some of the Norse sagas, especially the ones that featured the god, Thor.
Thor had a hammer. A big hammer. It even had a name. Mjolnir. It was Thor’s best friend. Other heroes got a sidekick. Thor got a hammer. Was it a real hammer? Or was that hammer symbolic? His high school English teacher taught her students about symbolism in literature. One day he asked his teacher about Mjolnir. She said that it was indeed symbolic. But he wasn’t so sure. Maybe one day he could get a hammer like Thor’s. He’d put off going after it now, but one of these days he was going to have that hammer.
Lately he had taken to reading “The Lord of the Rings”. He read under the covers and by flashlight. But, before he could get a page read, he dropped off into sleep. He wanted to know what happened to Frodo. He wanted to know bad. He just had to know.
He started visiting the bathroom regularly, not for a one or a twosy, but for what he termed a threesy. It was the only place in the house where he could read in peace. At first, it was only five minutes. Then it became longer and longer. When it turned into an hour, his mother became very concerned. The rest of the family, his younger brother and his dad, were not happy either. When they had to go, they had to go. Though they knocked on the door furiously, it was hard for them to get him out.
What happened next is family lore. His mother stood at the bathroom door and knocked.
“Why are you in the bathroom?” his mother asked through the door. “You sick?”
“No,” he replied.
“Then what are you doing in there?” she wanted to know.
“Nada.” Then he realized that would be the name of his hammer.
“Are you playing with yourself?”
“No,” he answered. “I don’t do that. I don’t want to go blind.”
“Good,” she said. “Don’t forget the rest of us have to use the bathroom too.”
He shook his head and mumbled that he understood.
“Then what? What are you doing in there? Are you reading in there?”
He didn’t answer.
“Why do you keep spending so much time in that bathroom?” She was yelling through the door now.
“It’s a clean well-lighted place.”