Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Day" ----Man's Tastes Gets Him Into Trouble.

                       FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE DAY
                                           THESE ARE THE STORIES THAT TURNED UP BY 9:AM. 


                                                          A.J. Wright

            The trains never stop in Riderwood anymore. Truth be told, no more trains even pass through here, either. I miss the trains and their warning whistles that started when they were about a mile out from the tiny station. The telegraph office where I worked was a lonely place most of the day and night, so the trains provided welcome distraction from my usual activities, reading and trying to write dime novels. Now and then, sometimes several times in one day, a citizen would actually come by to send or pick up messages. The favorite topic seemed to be someone’s death.
            One thing the trains always brought me was a new supply of reading material. I had no particular interest in the newspapers, although I read even those when desperate. The wanted circulars were interesting, a constant parade of robbers and murderers. The best items though were the dime novels. I got lost for hours in the exploits of heroes like Nick Carter or Buffalo Bill and the outlaw tales about the James Brothers or Rube Burrow.
            Another regular arrival on the Wednesday train besides the mail was a gentleman whose name I eventually learned was Mr. White. I never believed that name was real, but I did believe he was a gentleman even though he never dressed like one. He always arrived in the worn and dusty clothes of a hobo like the ones who sometimes waved from the cracked door of a freight car as the train began to leave the station. Those men never left the cars; Riderwood was too small for them. But not for Mr. White.
One Wednesday evening per month as the 9 o’clock train slowed to an eventual stop, I could see him jump down from one of the cars back near the caboose and disappear down the short alley between the drug store and the bank. The train crew never seemed to notice him, or at least never responded to his presence. Each time he walked with purpose and unlike any bum I’d ever seen.
            For months the pattern was the same. He would arrive, and I would watch him disappear. On the following Thursday night, as the train was slowing for its stop, I would see him pop out from between the two buildings and climb aboard a freight car with an open door. In between these events I would continue to man the telegraph office, send and receive occasional messages, and read my dime novels. I kept them under the counter in my office; if I ran out of new ones before the next delivery, I read some favorites again.
            After a while I began to wonder what Mr. White was doing in town for one 24-hour period every month.  I decided that the next time he arrived I’d follow him and see what was happening. Two weeks later I had my chance. A little after nine o’clock the train pulled into the station; and Mr. White jumped down from his car and headed into the alleyway. I had already closed up the telegraph office and quickly followed him as he walked away from the station.
            We were the only two people on the street as he headed across Main and down Walnut Avenue. He never slowed or looked back, but I stayed as far behind him as I could anyway. After only a few minutes I knew where he was heading—a two-story house on Walnut that belonged to a travelling salesman named Walter Richards. He must have been out of town because Annie Richards opened the door just as Mr. White reached the top of the porch stairs.
            Thus began a new phase in my knowledge about Mr. White. I knew now why Mrs. Richards came to the telegraph office once a month, always on a Tuesday, to send what I thought was an innocent message to a Mr. White in the city.  Her husband Walter was out of town much of the time; I frequently saw his comings and goings as I worked the telegraph office. Mr. White and his Riderwood lover must have decided that once-a-month meetings were all they should risk in our small town.
            That first time I watched from across the street as she let him inside and quickly closed the front door. I saw their shadows merge against a pulled window shade as they briefly embraced and then disappeared, no doubt heading up the stairs to a bedroom. I could imagine Mr. White carrying Annie in his arms and then watching her undress as he removed his own clothes. Over the next few months I imagined a lot of things going on between them. The heroes and villains of my dime novels no longer seemed quite as vivid or appealing.
             From time to time I suspected that Mr. White knew he was being followed from the station, but he never confronted me. I saw Mrs. Richards around town as often as before, and she was as nice and pleasant to me as ever. I thought of myself as the great protector of their secret; she had to be happier with Mr. White than with her husband, right? Otherwise, what was the point?
            Then one night the whole thing fell apart. I had followed Mr. White as usual and stood across the street after he had gone inside the house. I usually remained there for an hour or so, imagining, hoping for a glimpse of something. I was about to turn and go when I felt a large hand grip my left shoulder with a force that quickly began to hurt.
            “What’s going on here, boy?” I heard Walter Richards ask in a louder than normal voice. Before I could answer, he said, “I think I know.” I watched him in helpless fear as he walked to the front door. Finding it locked, he quickly kicked it open. By that time I had turned to run back toward the telegraph office, but I could still hear the trio of shots fired inside the second story of the house.
            I never saw Mr. White again. I heard later that a man dressed as a hobo had jumped to his death that night up the line from Riderwood. He turned out to be a wealthy lawyer from the city. In a few days they buried Mr. and Mrs. Richards in the town cemetery. I remained working for a long time at the telegraph office, reading dime novels and imagining things.

By Gabe Bosworth
"The filet was far too tough for my taste. On several occasions I paused to ensure all dental work was still intact," Mr. Mantini read aloud from the food section of The Seattle Times.
Julian, sitting before him a little cowed, still took a moment in the recitation to savor the bite of his own prose.
"The paté was gritty and of an alarming color; certainly more gruesome than toothsome, and perhaps the lowest of the many low points an evening at Mantini's Chophouse & Grill promises" read Mr. Mantini, jumping ahead to his favorite passage. He had affected his best effort toward a royal British accent.
Julian began to recite: "Mr. Mantini, while I can see that this was not the review you were expecting, I would also hope you can appreciate the invaluable service I have provided by offering a forthright outsider's assessment of the fare here - ” Mantini held a beefy paw in the air for silence and got it.
“Jim Gleason was supposed to write this review. I spoke to Jimmy personally last week. We decided he loved the paté Couldn’t get enough of it.”
“Jim got laid off,” Julian said with an understudy’s practiced remorse. “The Times may be the only daily left in town, but it’s still a newspaper.”
“That’s a tough business” Mantini agreed.
“As is that of a restaurateur ,” Julian said, “but with a capable consultant on board, there is real potential here. I’ve taken the liberty.” He placed an expertly bound resumé between them. “My hourly is on the back page. It may be a little more than you had to advance Jim Gleason, but I bring more to the table" - here he patted the tabletop so that his pun would not go unnoticed - "than just a favorable review; I understand your foremost charge here is providing a singular gastronomical experience for your patrons.”
"My foremost charge here," said Mantini, leaning forward with a phlegmy stage whisper that filled the empty dining room, "is collecting every dollar from every girl I have walking on a street or dancing on a stage from Columbian Way to the north end of 99, and running them promptly, cleanly, and--above all--taxably through tickets in this cafeteria. A practice, by the way, that won't pass two fucking annual audits when we are printing up checks to a dining room that has been emptied by hatchet jobs like this." Mantini rattled the newspaper over his wide belly. He was no longer whispering.
  Julian was turning a milky white around the brow and collar. 
"You seem to have made it your foremost charge to provide an exceptional gastronomical experience for my patrons." Mantini paused just long enough for his bile to lower. "And, as a successful business owner, I always reward ambition with opportunity."
Two large men were already standing behind Julian. He twitched into himself like a cornered animal.
"I should mention," Julian lied, addressing primarily the exit, "that I have sold a similar review to the Seattle Weekly and, with my in-person recommendation of course, I could see that certain details be added, others...trimmed?"
"Steve and Kev will show you what we'd like cut," said Mantini.
"Far too tough for my taste," said Steve. His voice echoed in the nighttime emptiness of the kitchen. There was a pop and some wet tearing sounds.
"More gruesome than toothsome," Kev said in Mantini's singular British accent. He underhanded a glistening purple lump into a stainless steel organ grinder with the other offal. They looked at each other for a moment and then just about lost it, finally trading loud giggling shushes before getting back to work. 

Michigan Man’s Tastes Get Him Into Trouble
by Patti Abbott

Daniel was not a gastronome at birth, but it wasn’t long before the word was applicable. Stories detailing incidents of his superior palate as a toddler were numerous. He learned his skills at the side of the finest cook he’d ever met—his mother. 

“Too much rosemary?” she’d ask him before serving the holiday dinner. 

The aroma of roasted poultry was intoxicating to her young son, even if the chicken was a tad over-infused with garlic. She held the fork out, having stolen the smallest tidbit from the underside of a breast. 

“More lemon. And a pinch more marjoram.”

“Brilliant,” she said, after tasting it.

Daniel’s early reading matter was the work of James Beard, and by twelve, he’d successfully replicated Beards’ recipes. He taught himself French to study the work of Escoffier, the author of Le Guide Culinaire, and inventor of the five mother sauces. Daniel aspired to the title bestowed on his mentor: roi des cuisiners et cuisinier des rois.(king of the chefs and chef of the kings). 

This was unlikely however since he rarely cooked for anyone other than himself. 

Eventually Daniel came on the idea of using the finest ingredients available to create an contemporary version of the five sauces. Quelle drole to confine oneself to ingredients as prosaic as butter, garlic and cheese. He would turn Escoffier’s codification on its ear. 

The first four sauces were unparalleled successes. His fruit sauce featured Dansuke watermelons and Yubari cantaloupes, the world’s most expensive melons. A curry was composed of Devon crab, Beluga caviar, Scottish lobster, and quail eggs. A topping composed of caviar and goji berries made his eyes roll with pleasure, and his penultimate sauce, a dessert concoction, used 28 different imported cocoas, some formulated personally for him by chocolatiers.

His final sauce would use white truffles, available only a few months each year. The best were found in Italy, and especially in Alba. Traditionally the truffles had been ferreted out by pigs that, mysteriously, had the nose for it. But pigs also had the inclination to gobble down the white gold, sometimes destroying the entire yield. So pigs had mostly been replaced by dogs that were satisfied to feast on pedestrian treats rather than the truffles. 

“I should like to go along,” Daniel told the importer at the Eastern Market in Detroit. 

“To the airport to pick up your shipment?” 

“To Roccafluvione.” 

This was the town in the Le Marche region his supplier identified as a viable source.

“You mean to the marketplace there?”

Daniel drew an impatient breath. “No. I want to hunt them myself. I should like to smell the earth, to inhale the scent I’ve read about since childhood.” He paused. “And I want to hunt with pigs rather than the dogs. I have a preference for traditional methods.”  

He’d waited a long time for this day and he’d be damned it some mutt was going to tarnish the image of striding amidst the oak trees, pig in hand.

“It’s mostly forbidden,” said his importer. “You’ll have to make special arrangements.”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.” 

Daniel opened his wallet. And eventually his bank account.

And so it was on a dark October day that Daniel and his guide, Bruno, and the Marco, the pig, set out into the hills.

“No one knows you are here?”

Daniel shook his head. 

“You must never speak of this excursion to anyone. Normally I’d ask you to wear a blindfold,” his guide said in excellent English. “But I doubt you will make a second trip.”

“No,” Daniel agreed. “This will be my only outing. Truthfully I am not fond of fungi. They tend to disagree with me, in fact.” His stomach was already rumbling.

“Then why this trip? We have perfected the shipment of truffles, you know.” 

Daniel explained his lifelong desire to hunt for the truffles that would complete his final sauce.

The man nodded knowingly. “I detest red wine. Yet I always drink a glass or two at my local tavern. The owner makes a point of giving me the best red wine in the house because of my profession,” he said, waving his arm around. “I know it’s good, but I’d much prefer beer.”

The pig, trudged on, only occasionally giving a half-hearted snort. He was very large and far uglier than Daniel had imagined.

“You will know you are amongst the truffles when we arrive. It will remind you of locker rooms back in school. Feet, sweat, testosterone, earth.” Bruno drew a breath and his chest expanded. “Marco has the area’s finest sense of smell. Much better than those damned dogs.”

Daniel smiled.

“So you’re going to eat only enough to see that this sauce is up to snuff, and then never touch them again,” Bruno said, after a while.

“That’s about the size of it,” Daniel said. “Just enough to ascertain I have met my objective.”

The oak trees towered above them, the forest growing denser as they walked. At last, Bruno glanced at Daniel, indicating with his eyes that the rope had been tugged by the eager pig. Using the stout stick, he made Marco back away. The three of them stopped. A nice stand of oaks towered over a pirate’s bounty of the white gold. 

The odor was overpowering, and Daniel suddenly felt light-headed. Perhaps it was not just eating fungi that made him ill: it could also be the smell. Without warning, he plunged headlong into the swell of truffles. 

The pig, angry at this unexpected blanketing of his greatest joy, jerked loose of the rope, immediately gobbling away at both Daniel and the truffles. Within seconds, a piece of Daniel and a piece of the white truffles co-mingled. A piece of leg, a piece of thigh. And so it went.

Bruno stood dumbfounded, trying to decide what to do. There was little choice, he thought, looking at the earth beneath him. Knowing the trouble this affair would cause, he and his pig, beaten hard with a stick, ran all the way home.

Sandra Seamans, HOW HUNGRY


Charles Gramlich said...

these look good. Gonna have to come back when I get a few minutes to read over 'em all.

J F Norris said...

Mine is up now, Patti:

A Taste of Temptation

Sadly, none of the usual photo illustrations this time because Blogger is acting up on my work computer. I'll embellish later when I get home.

David Cranmer said...

Love these flashing posts, Patti. My comment mirrors CG's.

Loren Eaton said...

A.J.: Man, what an ending. Great way to wrap up the narrator's imaginings.

Gabe: Grue, grue, grue, grue, grue -- and I love it. Well done.

Patti: You made me hungry. Except with the conclusion. Bravo.

Bob The Wordless said...

Well,after reading the first three so far,I'm hesitant.Damn, those were great! ,

Gabe said...

These are great! A.J. - are there any vacancies in the reading dime novels/peeping tom biz? I'm available.

Kelly Robinson said...

Oh, rats. I have part of a story. The date came sooner than I expected! Well, maybe I can use it for something else.

Love all the entries I've read so far, and Patti, your gruesome ending is the pig's knees.

sandra seamans said...

Great stories, everyone! I enjoyed all of them.

Yvette said...

Not so crazy about the ending, Patti - BUT, the writing is so damn good I'll forgive you. :)

I most especially love the way you painted such a large picture with just a few words.

Brevity works here beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Wow! These are great! I'm definitely archiving them to come back and savour again.

YA Sleuth said...

Loved all of these. Fun how everyone took it in their own direction.

Ken Leonard said...

Really fun stories, everyone!