My muses decided to be awesome today, so here's this. I wanted to add a lot more to it and make it an extended story about how Narook's Noodlery grew to become Bolin's favorite restaurant, but I decided I was going to take the lazy road and just write whatever parts I felt like writing and uploading them on here. This snippet is supposed to illustrate the conditions the boys (especially Bo) are experiencing on the streets and the kindness of some people. There are further notes at the end for the bits in here that are strange or would need extra explanation. I started off strong on this one before my will to write sort of faltered. I think it's too obvious, but if anyone ever reads this I'd like to know if it's evident to others.
Noodles (Mako is 11 and Bolin is 9)
The sky lay overcast; dark clouds themselves plundering the city below. Water gushed and flowed against itself and the smooth paved stone streets. Shivering against the wall behind him and the earth above him, a small boy sniffled, a moistness in his nose. The rain's weight dripped and soaked through the small dirt awning and the ground beneath him flooded slightly, as the flow of water struggled to sink into waterlogged earth.
A series of spasmodic sneezes shook his frame, and he wiped his face with a damp, threadbare sleeve. His lip trembled, as he was uncomfortable, cold, and scared. His companion, a taller brother, didn't lurk around the corner or even next to him in the improvised structure. The boy's legs grew tired, and briefly he considered sitting on the pond beneath him. Bolin settled into a squatting position, preparing for more frigidity to haze him when a old man hobbled by, lugging a massive trash bag.
His skin was deep like the warm tones of the bitter drink Mako sometimes brought over when snow settled into the mountains aside the city. His snow-white hair dripped down his shoulders yet the cold didn't seem to faze him in the slightest, possibly due to the deep blue parka he wore. Briefly, Bolin's eyes burned greener at the sight of such a warm article of clothing.
The old man successfully disposed of his mountain of garbage and started to limp back toward his origin. Out of the corner of his nearly transparent blue eyes, he captured the reality of a boy nearly settling into a puddle of water inside a rudimentary dirt structure meant to keep him somewhat dry, but which failed miserably at its task. The boy's dark hair, shaggy and longer than currently fashionable, curled and sunk in patches to his head from the damp. His nose burned a vibrant red and his cheeks followed with a strong pinkness. The rest of his face waxed pale white from the cold and the flesh behind it was probably numb. Baggy, tattered, worn clothing covered and overcame his stature.
Something akin to pity settled in the old man's heart, for he lived a comfortable yet humble life: peddling water tribe cuisine from both poles to a variety of customers. His sons were grown and his wife still lived. He had a limp, but he could reasonably still take care of his business.
As an elder considered at least somewhat wise by the naïve customers who asked for advice, of course he realized and recognized the fact that the world contained a certain number of unfortunates. Homeless people often settled into the triads. To see a young one is surely a sobering sight. Narook approached the young unfortunate, someone clearly lacking street smarts and a ruthlessness in his eyes evidenced by other children around the center of the city. The feverish boy lacked even a can or an upturned hat, and he sat in a back alley as devoid of passerby as possible.
Narook stopped before the boy, stooped slightly over in age, "Are you hungry?". Bolin shook his head, fear in his eyes. Mako always warned him against going with anyone for anything or receiving anything from anyone. It was dangerous, he said.
But the old man looked like a memory: an old man lying in a bed in his living room, smiling and grinning at Bolin and his brother. He was a skinny man, and the name "Chun" fell into his consciousness as another image of a wrinkled woman flashed before his eyes. The flash became potent: a scene of toasted rice inside the tea and the howling of the wind through wooden windows. A cracker for his brother and perfectly stuffed dumplings for a meal.
Bolin didn't know why, but he wanted to cry. So he spoke into the silence the old man let wallow, and told him he was hungry. Narook nodded, and motioned for the boy to follow.
The back door to Narook's Noodlery was simple: a thick wooden door on a hinge with a latch that was lockable from the inside with a heavy bar of wood. Bolin stepped carefully into the house, not wanting to wet the wooden floor. An old woman with crow's feet approached and then wandered away, returning with a towel. She had puffy black hair and gentle green eyes. She wrapped the towel around his back, tying it at his neck. She used the wide sleeve of her dress to dry his hair. She then took his hand and led him up some wooden stairs.
The room was sparse in furniture, yet the shelves on one side were teeming with what looked like dry ingredients and extra bowls and other utensils. It smelt of salt and the only sources of light were small lamps placed in strategic areas to light the entire room. "Meiling, get Onartok", the old man said as he moved a chair toward the table. His wife descended the stairs. A young man came up with a heavy earthen bowl, laden with a deep brown broth and green noodles. Sliced dried seaprunes garnished the dish and the distinct curves of wakame* curled over and around the noodles. The old man nodded to his son and left.
Onartok sported a braid on one side of his mid-back reaching hair and his eyes were green. He placed the bowl in front of Bolin and sat across him. Bolin lowered his lips to the rim of the bowl and slurped the broth. It was salty and a peculiar grainy-looking cloud moved in the bowl with every slurp. It tasted strongly of fish and the texture of the floating wakame confused him at first. Onartok handed him a pair of chopsticks and Bolin ate. He slurped with more enthusiasm and shoved noodles into his mouth, a hunger he'd been sustaining finally reaching a breaking point alongside the solution.
It was the best bowl of noodles he'd ever had the fortune of tasting and even the strangeness of the seaprune garnish didn't faze him. Finally, Bolin reached what he estimated was the middle of the bowl.
Onartok had risen and currently moved things around on the shelf.
"Excuse me... sir. Can I– is it okay if I can take the rest home?" he asked, though his stomach ached to finish the rest and his body was finally warming from the heat of the broth. But if he returned to the waiting place full and happy and his brother returned empty handed and hungry...
Narook's son thought to himself for a minute before reaching into the shelf and procuring a lightweight clay bowl.
"If you bring this," he waved the bowl at Bolin, "back, then you can take it home. But you have to bring it back." Bolin nodded solemnly, so Onartok poured the remainder of the noodles into the lighter container. He covered it with a matching lid meant to keep the contents hot, though by this point the noodles neared tepidity.
Onartok accompanied him down the stairs and untied the towel from his neck. He opened the door for Bolin and said goodbye, and that he would see him later. Bolin walked away after several honest thank-yous.
The ceramic container rattled with every step he took, yet it reached the meeting place intact. Mako was already there, looking angry at Bolin's absence.
"Where were you?"
"I got noodles," Bolin smiled, somewhat proud of himself for providing for his brother. He moved the container in front of his brother's crossed arms.
"Where?" Mako was furious. A singular and important rule he always repeated before leaving in the morning was as follows: "don't go anywhere or talk to anyone and be safe". Bolin went somewhere. He presumably talked to someone. Those two actions were not safe. The younger brother was no longer so sure of himself for bringing back some of the noodles.
"The noodlery down that way," Bolin said. He held the noodles tighter in his hands.
By now the rain ceased. The clouds remained, but they only really affected the light emanating from some of the stars twinkling far away. Light only fell into the alley from the windows of the buildings nearby, some of which were dark. Mako lit one of his palms with an inner fire, bringing an orange light to his and his brother's faces.
"It's dangerous! Food from strangers is dangerous! Did you eat any of it?"
"...the other half. But Mako, it's so good–"
A slosh and a crash and the scent of cooled salty noodles. They lay spilled over the ground. Dark green ribbons of seaweed punctuated the entire mess. The fire in Mako's palms extinguished with the action of tossing the contents of the bowl.
Bolin sniffled and started to cry as a particular type of guilt settled into his older brother. Mako stepped forward and retrieved the chipped lid.
"Let's return it, Bo" Mako decided.
"No. You broke it! I can't give it back broken!" Bolin yelled, crying harder. He felt terrible: that he didn't finish the delicious meal and that it lay on the side of an alley.
Mako stepped toward the noodlery, already knowing which back door it was. Some mornings– or whenever he passed by, really– the strong scent of fish broth and seaweed hit his nose.
He started to knock on the door before Bolin arrived, still crying. No one came to the door, so he knocked harder. Finally, an old woman holding a mop answered, a bewildered look to her face.
So Mako began: "My brother borrowed this but I broke it I'm sorry he told me I was supposed to– "
"It's okay." The old woman smiled at the pair and took the chipped cover and bowl back. Mako tugged at the still-crying Bolin and started to walk away after a hasty "thank-you".
Bolin turned toward Meiling, frowning and blubbering. She winked at him, a crease of her wrinkled eyes. He opened his mouth and forgot to cry in shock before she closed the door to presumably mop and Bolin turned back toward his brother.
*wakame: seaweed in Japanese! I like it in miso and in udon. My friends think it's gross, but I dig it.
Old People Mentioned/"Chun": a reference/expansion on a visit to the Fab Bending Bros grandparents in "Family, Malady, and the Aftermath", Chapter 3: "Rise". The grandma is Chunhei and the Grandpa is Jae. The names are Korean.
Narook and his Family and how that fits into Canon: I don't remember it being explicitly stated in LoK that Narook was the *current* owner of the Noodlery. I like the idea of Narook as an old man when Bolin first eats there who eventually passes away and one of his sons (Onartok) takes over after his death. (Onartok likes probending, which is why we see posters of Tahno in series.) Onartok is supposedly Inuit for "is warm" according to some website I found. I liked other name meanings better but Onartok sounds more Watertribe. Meiling is Narook's Earth Kingdom wife. (Narook is obviously Watertribe). The name is Chinese. I don't know what it means, I chose it because I like it and I knew of someone with that name. I was going to name the other son something Chinese, but I didn't get around to including him in here. I will write more about Onartok and Narook and Bolin and his love of Watertribe Noodles, and all of those will go in here.
I spent too much time thinking about this story and the characters and if they were OOC than actually writing it, so if you believe that Mako was OOC or that Bolin was OOC, please tell me. I implore you.
Reviews make me break into dance erratically.