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Food for Fiction

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionWhether it’s an idea to chew on or a recipe for a story, this week writers have used food to explore writing flash fiction. Food is nourishment, refreshment, problematic and inescapable. You need it on the frontier, in outer-space or the deepest jungles. It gets in our teeth, our bellies, our thoughts and our way.

Step up to the table and dine on this feast of flash fiction. Based on the September 3, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include food in your story.

When Chow Becomes a Debris! by Ruchira Khanna

Leila rushed into the patio with a rolling pin in her hand; her mouth was giving away a foul language in a high pitch as she was moving the pin in an agitated way to drive that thing away, and never to return.

After a few minutes she was at peace with the situation.

Walked in to see the mess.

Nodded her head in dismay, as she pulled her hair back and took a mop and started cleaning up the goo caused by the spill of the red sauce from the pasta and the custard that had splattered everywhere.

###

Food Flash by Anne Goodwin

Kay clocked the cut-price stickers in her workmate’s trolley. “Bill’s roasting a salmon on Sunday. Why not join us? Bring the kids.”

Sharon demurred. “They eat like gannets.”

“Bill cooks for an army.”

Cooking to Impress on the marble counter, Bill plated the food. Three helpings later, Gareth asked for more. With a rictus smile, Kay popped a frozen lasagna in the microwave. Gareth wolfed it down in seconds.

“You can’t still be hungry,” hissed his mother.

“No problem,” said Bill. “I’ll cook whatever you fancy.”

“Scrambled eggs,” said Gareth. “Like Mum makes.”

“Shit! We’re clean out of eggs.”

###

Mr. Cool by Pete

Courage, they must have put in the soup today. Because when I saw Jill Cawthorne just after lunch, I didn’t duck away or hide. Instead, I slid one hand into my pocket, ignored the storm of nerves in my chest and strode right up to her locker. And I was on. She ate it up, her eyes like two ponds of shimmering fluorescence. I joked, she laughed, then the bell rang.

“Dude, were you just talking to Jill?” Jake asked in Chemistry. I felt my lips part.

“Yep.”

“Because you have like a branch of broccoli in you teeth.”

###

Food for Thought by Larry LaForge

“You can’t be serious,” said chief academic officer Jeremy Roggins.

“Times are changing,” development officer Roger Caperly responded. “We have to roll with the times.”

“But we’re a university, not a vacation resort.”

Caperly shot back. “We have to be whatever our students want us to be. Otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else.”

President Wilson Cumbert reluctantly agreed with his development chief. With enrollment falling and costs rising, he plans to transfer significant funds from academics to student amenities.

The Board approved and President Cumbert announced their new strategic initiative to grow enrollment:

Gourmet food in all campus dining halls!

********
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Space Station Surprise by Sarah Unsicker

Mary maneuvered to the computer. She wondered what was wrong.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” she scolded. Was he growing, or was it an illusion from Skype? She wouldn’t know until she returned in six months.

“Mom, it’s Saturday!” her son yelled. “And do you know what else?”

Her husband appeared with a beautifully decorated cake.

Her colleague brought out a cake with forty-one LED candles on top. Mary’s family and co-workers started singing together.

Mary’s eyes filled with tears. She had been so busy working in this foreign world, she had forgotten it was her birthday.

###

Losing Caleb by Sarah Brentyn

I lost him on a Monday. Caleb and I were digging for pretty rocks near Copper Brook. Mama packed us a thermos of sweet tea, plastic forks, and cheese sandwiches with mustard. I don’t know what the plastic forks were for but Mama always put them in our brown bag when we went out for the day. She knew where we were going. She gave us our lunch. But then she blamed me for going. For losing Caleb. Everyone blamed me. I was the older sister, supposed to be looking out for a toddler. But I didn’t blame me.

###

The Enchanted Tea Room by Tally Pendragon

“So, you will go then? You’ve decided?”

“All but, yes.” She grinned. It made her realise how much she was looking forward to a new adventure. With a man. With Brian.

Their lunch arrived. Salmon sandwiches, with the crusts cut off, cut into fours and placed on … a doily? Who used doilies these days? She noticed that the china was just that, china. Lifting the lid of the teapot she noticed that it was full of real tea leaves, and realised that the tea must have been poured through that strainer in its silver holder on the maid’s counter.

###

Again by Charli Mills

After the gym, the trio met up at Frutta. Meg babbled about “Baby Einstein” and Jade mistook it for the unborn baby’s name.

“Silly, it’s a learning program. Jacob Marcus Green III will have every educational advantage.”

Bre was browsing her Kindle Fire, slurping a cranberry wheatgrass smoothie. She mumbled, “…black youth killed…riots in the streets…militia called in…thousands homeless…”

“What’s that about?” Meg sipped her carrot juice sweetened with organic pressed apples.

“Sounds like Ferguson.”

“Huh?” Bre looked up to wide blue eyes set in canned-tan faces. “Don’t worry. Just reading one of those 100 Years Ago Today articles.

###

To Die For by Sherri Matthews

“Mmmm…so good…” groaned Adam as he shoved most of his double-double cheeseburger into his mouth.

Reaching across the table he grabbed a fistful of Janine’s fries mumbling, “Mind if I have some?” without waiting for her reply.

Mayonnaise dripped down Adam’s chin to Janine’s disgust.

“Want some?” he offered later on at the movie theatre as he plonked the super-size popcorn container on her lap.

“No….thanks….”

Adam clutched his chest in agony just as the movie started.

In the restroom, Janine called her best friend. “I swear, if he doesn’t quit filling his face, he’ll have a heart attack!”

###

Deadly Dinner by Amber Prince

As usual, she began preparing dinner, but today she carried on in a new calm manner. At first she thought to make his favorite but that would lead to suspect after last night. Spaghetti was too soft anyway.

No, she was making her favorite instead, chicken fried steak smothered in gravy, the earthy smell of boiling potatoes already permeating the air.

Her decision came easily after seeing her reflection in the now broken mirror. Carefully, she ground the glass and combined it with the flour, setting aside some for the potatoes.

Tonight was her turn to leave a mark.

###

A Full Belly by Charli Mills

Cob sprawled in the four-poster bed. He’d picked up enough carpentry skills from his father to build a solid frame. Sarah rested her cheek on his hairy chest. He snugged her close.

“There’s nothing like a full belly.” Cob sighed, drifting toward sleep. Sarah stiffened. She had eaten some stale bread sopped in milk along with a mealy apple from the station.

“Possum pie with the first sweet potatoes from the garden. Fried apple rings. Corn fritters. Cold milk from that cow Leroy brought over for Mary to make sweet cream butter.”

Sarah sat upright. “Hickok stopped by today…”

###

Flash Fiction: Food by Irene Waters

Handed to us on a banana leaf to eat with our hands was an unpalatable greyish barely lukewarm mass. The dish, made from the flour obtained by pulverising the starchy tuberous root of the manioc tree, then mixed with coconut milk until it formed a soft paste, was baked wrapped in banana leaves in an earth oven. Unfortunately it had the consistency and taste of congealed gelatine. It was a feast. From politeness it had to be eaten.

“No I won’t eat it.” My companion pushed it away, his nose turned up.

The drumming started. Instead, we ate him.

###

Something to Chew on by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where are you going, Penny?’

‘Great Aunt Alison is dying…’

‘She’s not your Aunt.’

‘What is she then?’

Mary couldn’t say ‘Grandpa’s mistress’.

‘Please Mum. She’s old and ill.’ A tear slipped down Penny’s cheek.

‘Alright.’

***

Rupert answered. ‘Do you want to help with supper?’

Mary watched Penny spoon food into Angela’s slack mouth. She looked dreadful.

Rupert whispered urgently. ‘She needs proper care.’

Mary nodded, understanding why they had challenged her father’s will. ‘I…’

Alison started gagging, her eyes bulging. Rupert lunged for his mother as Mary pulled Penny from the room.

‘What have I done, Mum?’

###

Food? by Norah Colvin

His eyes widened, flitting across the table, scanning the feast, a smorgasbord of sensory delights. His mouth moistened and tummy growled.

Where to start? A bit of this. A little of that. A whole lot of that! Mmmm!

He rubbed his belly and licked his lips.
Suddenly he was marched away and slammed onto a hard wooden bench. A bowl of colourless pap was flung at him. “Eat this!”

He recoiled.

“Eat it!”

The overfilled spoon was shoved between tightened teeth.

He gagged.

“It’s good for you!”

He spluttered.

Over time he learned. “Not so bad,” he thought.

###

New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome!

(Bootsy has been eating her kibble in the garage for 6 days in a row. Maybe food will get her to stay.)

Bootsy Sept 2014

September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionShe arches her back into the cup of my hand as I stroke her soft black fur. She’s so skinny I can feel each knobby bone of her spine, tiny and hard against my palm. Her name is Bootsy and she’s a feral barn cat that we feed in the detached garage. Only, I’ve run out of kitty kibble.

Food is many things. Sustenance, for one. Bootsy has come in search of it, but it’s been almost two months since I’ve seen her and all the other feral cats were gobbling it down in her absence. But no one ever comes to my place without being fed. When I saw her slinking across the front lawn as I scrubbed dishes–so black and white against the green grass–I knew where she was headed.

Bootsy paused to sit beneath one of the two great Ponderosa pines that tower above our house at 70 feet tall. She’s classy-looking with her tuxedo markings–black pants and jacket over sharp white vest and cuffs. As she sat, I felt as though she were making her presence known. Not unlike stories on the pioneering prairie when gangly Sioux boys would crouch outside a farmhouse in hopes of a loaf of bread. They never spoke, just watched, but left with their gift when offered food.

Grabbing a can of tuna, I open it and head to the garage. Bootsy is already at the door. The owners of this ranch built a cat door years ago and who knows how long she’s been using it. We were told that part of our rent was to feed Bootsy and that she was wild and don’t bother trying to pet her. The Hub worked his magic and when the Rock Climber (Cat Tamer) visits, Bootsy greets her. By proxy of their patience, I occasionally get to pet this tiny, bony creature.

Today, she accepts the tuna and my hand. This makes me think how food connects us. We share a table, break bread together and gather for family feasts. In a few days the Hub will return from his 10-day shift in Boise and when he does, I’ll be cooking for his arrival so that he’s greeted with evidence that I’m happy he’s returned home.

My thoughts go to Sarah Shull. Was she a cook? Somehow I don’t get that sense of her as homey. Unlike her siblings, she didn’t marry young and take up the expected domestic duties. Instead she worked as an accountant at her father’s store, the core of his several businesses. I assume her mother cooked and she benefited even as an adult. Later in her life when she returned destitute to Shulls Mill, North Carolina after her husband left her (she did marry after Cob was killed) she lived in a tiny cabin outside of town, alone.

Evidently Sarah did not cook in that cabin. There’s several accounts of her conveniently showing up at homes that were friendly to her–and there were but a handful–around mealtime. Toward the end of her life, family members (who had shunned her since having Cob’s illegitimate child decades prior) reluctantly set her up in a shed behind the hotel the family owned. Perhaps they gave her scraps, no one says. But she died as bony as a barn cat, shivering beneath a thin, dirty, gray blanket at the age of 98. One could almost stretch a metaphor to say that her life lacked food–love, dignity, care.

If we look at what Sarah was doing the day Hickok shot Cob, she was in the kitchen with Mrs. Wellman (the station manager’s wife). Was she cooking? Is this an indicator that she’d fallen out with Cob or was she genuinely seeking the comforts of the hearth, hanging out with the women of the Pony Express and being industrious on the prairie? After Cob is killed and Leroy pays Sarah the money Cob owed her for accounting, she left for Denver where she found work as a laundress. Not as a cook.

Yet, I’m uncertain as to what food was like in the mid 1800s. What influences would North Carolina have had on Cob and Sarah? I sometimes think food might be the advantage that Mary (Cob’s wife) had over Sarah; the older woman could cook. To learn what she would cook, I reached out to southern food historian, Michael W. Twitty of Afroculinaria. He directed me to the Library of Congress, specifically to their slave narratives and to Horne Creek Living Historical Farm. As he reminded me, corn would be big. Pork, apples, peaches, persimmons, coon, possum (Norah, I thought of you in Australia with your noisy critters), squirrel, rabbit, leafy greens, cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes included.

In the modern era there’s a few unappetizing items on the list, but it grounds me in that time, before my time. Most unappetizing is slavery. But it’s a reality that can’t be ignored–America’s original sin. And food ties us to that time and the “peculiar institution” that loomed in 1859. Hickok was an northern abolitionist and Cob a southern unionist. That adds a layer of complexity leading up to the incident at Rock Creek. I thank Michael W. Twitty for his educated response, his vast knowledge and his mission to heal what still ails us in America (take time to read his post on Ferguson).

We cannot escape food and all that binds us to it.

The September air is already cool. Rain has returned to the relief of dusty dirt and crackling grass. The horses are sassy, kicking up their heels with this change in weather. And I am thinking about food. Fall has that profound effect. The cooling air reminds us that we have warm ovens; warm ovens remind us that we like to bake, cook and eat.

It’s not just me–sales in the food industry increase September thru October with a holiday peak of food madness in November and December. By January we wake up from our food comas and hit the gym. Spring gets us gardening, summer grilling, and fall returns with its obsession of food. It’s as much a cycle of life as seasons and milestones.

I’m not sure who is more comforted by the can of tuna–me or the cat–but Bootsy is satisfied enough to let me pet her and I’m pleased to have provided food. The exchange is complete.

September 3, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include food in your story. Is it the focus or part of the setting? Does it speak (à la Larry Laforge style), smell or feel slimy? Is it sensual or practical, basic fare or feast worthy? Food is a part of every day life. It connects us, is a part of cultures and regions, and can be emotive. As Michael W. Twitty writes, “Food is also extremely culturally connected and inherently economic and political. ”

Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, September 9 to be included in the compilation.

This week I wrote two flash fictions. One continues to explore Sarah, Cob and Hickok and the other is inspired by both Michael W. Twitty’s post (where I learned about the Red Summer of 1919) and Pete’s story, Rivals .

A Full Belly by Charli Mills

Cob sprawled in the four-poster bed. He’d picked up enough carpentry skills from his father to build a solid frame. Sarah rested her cheek on his hairy chest. He snugged her close.

“There’s nothing like a full belly.” Cob sighed, drifting toward sleep. Sarah stiffened. She had eaten some stale bread sopped in milk along with a mealy apple from the station.

“Possum pie with the first sweet potatoes from the garden. Fried apple rings. Corn fritters. Cold milk from that cow Leroy brought over for Mary to make sweet cream butter.”

Sarah sat upright. “Hickok stopped by today…”

###

Again by Charli Mills

After the gym, the trio met up at Frutta. Meg babbled about “Baby Einstein” and Jade mistook it for the unborn baby’s name.

“Silly, it’s a learning program. Jacob Marcus Green III will have every educational advantage.”

Bre was browsing her Kindle Fire, slurping a cranberry wheatgrass smoothie. She mumbled, “…black youth killed…riots in the streets…militia called in…thousands homeless…”

“What’s that about?” Meg sipped her carrot juice sweetened with organic pressed apples.

“Sounds like Ferguson.”

“Huh?” Bre looked up to wide blue eyes set in canned-tan faces. “Don’t worry. Just reading one of those 100 Years Ago Today articles.”

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

Bootsy Sept 2014