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A Can of Fizzy Pop
Ermintrude was her name - she did not know why her parents had inflicted this upon her. But still she struggled gamely on, through every school register in her youth and quizzical double take when she introduced herself to others in later years.
“Ermintrude, yes, Ermintrude.”
“Hm…” the other would remark and pause, taking another slurp of their cold beverage while mulling over a possibly witty or offensive response.
Some had tried to shorten it to Minnie or Trudie or - less successfully - Erm. But while she had no love for her name, she viewed such shortenings or abbreviations as failures, of being unable to carry the burden she had been forced to bear. For she was strong enough, she knew, and the quiet reserve which was her close acquaintance was evidence of this. She would take time to pronounce all three syllables carefully and clearly so as to not be misheard. This was more difficult in times of mask-wearing but she was still, for the most part, successful.
She did not think to ask her parents the roots of the name - which branch of the family tree this particular apple may have fallen from. But if the possibility had occurred to her - of asking the question - then she would have quickly disregarded it. What use is reason or cause to a one who is inflicted - knowledge and understanding are simply added burdens and do not help to lighten the pack.
Childhood had therefore been something of an ordeal for her. But solace and comfort came always in a can of fizzy pop. She had several favourites but the one she liked above all others was the orange and fountainous one - seething pleasantly as if it were a gentle giant of the foothills, with a sweetness and subtlety that elevated it high above other soft drinks.
She came to love the ritual - associating the pop and the fizz with the rush of sweet delight. The can would be clutched lovingly in her hand, snug as an egg, as she would make for a hill or a bench to sit upon - and she would do so in her own time. She would arrange herself just so, smoothing down her corduroy legs and placing any other belongings in a neat line beside her. Then, when she was ready and correct, she would release a sweet orange puff from the can.
Even this was enough to send her into raptures, the haloed ecstasy of the nectar now not far from the tip of her tongue. Hands almost trembling, Ermintrude would raise the can slowly up and then part her lips so the liquid was free to coarse delightedly down and into her. She would pause after this first sip, wipe her mouth a little guiltily, and look about to see if she was watched by another. Rarely was she, so she would continue with her drink, ever more relaxed until the can was empty and she would be forced to trace the lid with her tongue to glean every last trembling drop. Each time she would pause, a deep warmth within her, and bathe within the knowledge that a name indeed is nothing at all against a can of fizzy pop.