In, and toss me an ingredient, Chairman
Yellow Bell Pepper
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 02:50|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 13:58|
ingredient me bb
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 02:53|
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 02:55|
ingredient me bb
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 02:57|
GIVE ME AN INGREDIENT
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 03:03|
In with an ingredient
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 03:12|
I'll get in and I do need an ingredient please
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 03:14|
In with an ingredient
I'll get in and I do need an ingredient please
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 03:26|
In. I am requesting an ingredient, please.
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 05:16|
It probably surprises everybody here to know that I have been busy for the last few years becoming a very successful and lucratizing writer. However, the pandemic has bankrupted me and so I need to stop resting on my larels (sp?) and learn to write again so I can publish new books because my agent told me that after three years you cannot collect royalties on a work as they are now creative commons, so this sucks.
I will go in, and give me an ingredient please!
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 05:23|
In. I am requesting an ingredient, please.
I will go in, and give me an ingredient please!
Chopstick Dystopia fucked around with this message at 05:38 on Aug 11, 2020
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 05:27|
Hello I would like in(gredient).
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 10:25|
in & ingredient please
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 11:30|
Hello I would like in(gredient).
in & ingredient please
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 12:05|
Chopstick Dystopia - Authentic Los Angeles Ramen
A chef muses on the nature of authenticity, and if it really matters?
This story has a nice setting, I can smell the steam and pork fat in the air. As the story unfolds the theme develops well, as Enji considers the dissonance he feels as he attempts to create an ‘authentic’ experience when it’s mostly just an act. The prose is simple and evocative, and you tie into your theme the mind-link, the alcohol, Enji’s relationship with Hitomi, and the vignette with the female customer nicely. As he considers what aspects of his own experience are fake, he makes an odd discovery – that there’s no such thing as true authenticity, that once you scratch the surface most everything is built on a fake foundation. The line about him considering a mood-link for himself as sort of a quiet acceptance of this fact ties everything together.
MockingQuantum - Jones the Cat, as played by Werner Herzog
A cat ponders predators and prey in an uncaring universe.
Oof that first line! But I can see what you are trying to do with this piece. The language is turgid, thick with metaphors and description. That it is coming from a cat is I suppose intentional, and creates a sort of cold distance and aloofness that does befit a cat’s attitude towards humans. As the cat considers the fate of himself and his human companions before the ‘space-cat,’ he accepts that a far superior predator is at work and simply gives up. And I suppose that is my main gripe with the story, as its protagonist spends so much time and so many words doing and accomplishing...nothing. Choosing that cat as your POV character runs that risk, and while your story was entertaining to read and well written, it felt more like verbal catnip – in the end, not much substance behind the bloated language.
Something Else – busted!
A Ghostbusters impersonator gets tossed from a birthday party, gets hit by a bus, and turns into a ghost himself.
There was some debate about whether this one went over the word limit, but we let it slide since when copied into a gdoc it was exactly 1000 words. Your breezy tone makes the story easy enough to read, but really limits the amount I could engage with it. The protag has no real backstory outside of being a failed clown, and the fact that he was ecstatic after getting assaulted and then (basically) stiffed out of payment made no sense to me. It felt more like a contrivance to get him to fall and get hit by the bus. Also, why would the parents expect a ‘real’ Ghostbuster to come and perform as a clown at a kids birthday party for $40/hour? Why does he have tiny fists? Why does Professor Patches communicate in honks (admittedly I am unsure how clown college works maybe that’s normal)? Why does he share a bed with his mom? I would also quibble that this doesn’t quite meet the prompt—while it is set in the Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, it doesn’t feature a minor character from the movie (that I could tell).
Simply Simon – Bill’s Secret
A restaurant employee finally admits to himself that he is gay.
Taking a throwaway line from the movie and working it into an extended, introspective piece about Bill finally accepting his homosexuality is a bold choice, and you mostly pull it off. A few details seem superfluous, such as the time spent on Debbie, but overall you capture the ephemeral confusion about past, present, and future in the Groundhog Day universe, as Bill questions how he knows what he knows (or seems to know). The dark tone works well in contrast to the lighthearted delivery of the line in the movie and gives it greater depth. The use of second person was challenging, as it put Bill’s initial homophobia squarely on the shoulders of the reader; some may find this off-putting and coercive. I liked this one a bit more than my fellow judges.
Saucy_Rodent - Clavius
Crew of abandoned moon base resort to cannibalism to survive, strike a deal for rescue, and are then gunned down for it.
The dark humor works well in this piece, the corporate-speak of the Leadership Council juxtaposes with the cannibalism to create some vivid and funny imagery. The plot is a little underwhelming as the only real ‘twist’ comes at the very end and doesn’t feel particularly earned. Hits the prompt well, has a certain cold war aesthetic that jibes with the feel of the original movie.
a friendly penguin – Everyone Wants Something
A dancer struggles to balance his self expression with the demands of everyday life.
This story hits the prompt, digging into the landlord’s psyche and inner struggles as he tries to balance the needs of his job with what he really wants to do: interpretive dance. Along the way the little vignettes with the tenants emphasizes his helplessness—he is trapped by his dreary job and unable to free himself from the mundane in order to transcend through dance. His dreams, while small, seem authentic. In the end it seems like he freezes up, unable to complete his quintet, but for the arms reaching to the sky at the end. It’s ambiguous whether this is a victory or not for Marty, and I wish you’d spent a little time fleshing that out—rather than the throwaway line from his nemesis Henrietta. How did Marty feel about his performance? Did it matter in the end?
crabrock – Jurassic Park
A boy loses his butt.
This reads like a comedy skit. It was light, quite funny, albeit sadly very low on dinosaurs. At first I thought it was a total whiff on the prompt until my co-judges informed me “hold on to your butt” was a direct quote from the movie. I would still quibble that this misses the idea of the prompt, however my co-judges really enjoyed the goofy humor and I will admit it was cute and the sitcom ending was satisfying. For me, it just didn’t do anything with the prompt that I was hoping for.
Tyrannosaurus - Salieri Stopped Writing in 1804, or the Three Seasons of an Assassin
An assassin kills Mozart and exacts vengeance to assuage his guilt.
This story was well-structured and the prose flowed well. Volger’s struggle to come to terms with what he did, what he stole from mankind, is effectively presented. The ending tied a nice bow around the themes you develop, and I thought the line about having Mozart with him was great, especially as Volger had been haunted by his music since poisoning him. Overall liked this quite a bit.
Thranguy - Nina, Who Clowned on Charles Barkley
Basketball player saves the world from Martians and blocks a shot.
Okay I gave you a wicked hellrule, so a little choppiness in the prose can be expected. You did turn that choppiness into an interesting voice, however—using second person perspective helped strengthen that. My complaint with this piece is that is meanders a bit too much, which makes the odd sentence structures feel even more obtuse. On a second read I felt like it flowed better, so it may have just required getting into the rhythm of the words a bit. Overall I think you did a good job with a spectacularly difficult hell rule.
AstronautCharlie – We’re all staying late
Middle manager realizes what’s truly important and commits a grisly murder.
This story hits the prompt, name dropping Ellis and setting things right in the middle of the events of the movie. The ‘business as usual’ conceit was humorous, although it was really the only joke. As a co-judge said, it felt a bit like being poked over and over in the ribs with the same joke. The use of a foreign language was distracting and took me right out of the story, however, since I don’t speak German. A little of that can be fine, as usually context clues can help a reader figure out what they are saying, but in this case there were none to be found and I feel like I was left out of something. As things escalate, and Maria ends up killing Carl (memorable description of the blood fountain), the reaction of the co-workers is a little too neat, I thought. But I suppose that was the punchline and it did fit with the rest of the co-workers actions.
Noah – Ebb
Football player gets cut from team and copes with loss.
You take on some heavy emotional stuff in this one, as Carol plays football to please his father and then struggles with what it means when his father dies. Some of the prose was a little clunky in spots, but there was some real heart in this story as well. The end, where he chooses to not visit his father’s grave the following Friday, is rather sad—I imagine he can’t face his father after being cut from the team. I wish you’d done a little more with fleshing out Carol’s father and their relationship. Another vignette from their past may have helped, but this was a satisfying read.
CaligulaKangaroo - A Few More Guys Like Batman
A wanna-be superhero gets his comeuppance.
I wanted to like this story more than I did. I’ve always liked the concept of the ‘common man’ in a superhero universe and the weird way that superheroes/villains can just wreck a city and the regular folk just go about their business. There was a lot of wink-wink references to characters in the Batman Universe which got a little tedious. The main issue I had with this was Rory’s motivation – he went from wanting to leave Gotham to joining a band of gun nuts cosplaying as Batman for what reason? Just because his buddy Brian asked him to? The action was a little confusing and I had no reason to root for anybody, and then you end the big battle with actual Batman beating everyone up, so why am I even reading about this? An exploration of Rory’s motivations might make this more interesting. The throwaway death of Brian at the end was superfluous, just an excuse to make a heavy-handed reference to a bad guy from the Batman universe. Overall this was disappointing because it could have been so much better.
AlmightyDerelict- A Most Troubling Offer
Farmer goes to bar, and back again.
This hellrule definitely limited your ability to develop Maggot’s character, so I tried to take that into account as I read. The prose is fine, if not a bit direct, and this story squarely inhabits the Shire and the LOTR universe in terms of setting, character, and how the events unfold. The problem I have with this story is that nothing really happens or changes; Maggot goes to a bar, he declines the offer, and then goes home. There is no consequence even though the men threaten Maggot and his family—they simply get thrown out of the bar and disappear from the story entirely. Then you end by wrapping up a plot beat from earlier in the story that has nothing to do with the main conflict. It left me feeling like you could have done quite a bit more with this story.
cptn_dr: A Drop of Robert’s Blood
Two pirates await the return of their captain.
This story hits the prompt and had some enjoyable dialogue between Jez and Davy. However, it suffers a bit from a severe lack of action. Since nothing happens—the pirates are simply waiting for Roberts to return—there’s consequently not much to write about. The banter is pretty good, although the references to Princess Bride were a tad heavy-handed. The ending works (as long as you’ve seen the movie) to frame the whole story as a short aside in a bigger, more important tale. Maybe that’s why it feels a little lackluster in comparison.
|# ? Aug 11, 2020 14:35|
Everyone is going to eat a fat compliment sandwich.
Chopstick Dystopia -
You’ve got a lot of layering here. The characters weave themselves into the underlying theme of the movie, evoking tones of the original work. But it’s a vignette in and of itself. The chef’s motivation is good and given the themes of the original movie, really works well as a side-piece.
The imagery is great. I can feel the place. I can feel the steam and the pork smell.
“What more did he want for his customers? Why else go to the trouble?”
Definite shift in narrative tone here in these sentences. It doesn’t quite fit in. And just a slight matter of form, I’d italicize the foreign words. But that’s me being nitpicky.
Did Grandma like it?
Yeah, I did. It was one of my highpoints of the week.
MockingQuantum - “Jones the Cat, as played by Werner Herzog”
You’ve got some really good turns of phrase in here. “The capacity for sorrow is like an ungerminated seed” “ carrying out my daily toil on a perpetual carousel” “obliterating their past to seek their future”
The turns of phrase are hit and miss and your narrative tone shifts in and out. You need to cut out a lot of this—it really feels like a shotgun approach. Some of them you hit, some of them you miss. Toss the bad ones.
Additionally, the ending just comes out of nowhere. It’s tacked on. Jones doesn’t really grow much and nothing really happens. It’s one journal entry of a hundred, rushed into one.
Did Grandma like it?
S’ok. I found the writing a little inconsistent and it’s a trope I’m not a huge fan of.
Something Else - “Busted!”
You’ve got good bones. There’s a plot here and a character and good pacing.
Some of your meat went rancid. Part of this is you say too much and it detracts. It’s that whole “Show, don’t tell” thing. “Hence the copycat getup.” “The day I feared had come. The jig was up.” "Gulp," I might have literally said. I was panicking.
Did Grandma like it?
It had promise.
Simply Simon - “Bill’s Secret”
There are some points here where you dip into really, really good characterization in a short space. “Nancy with her chipmunk laugh when you remember her favorite order” I love this. This is great.
Second person is a weird person to write in. And that’s fine. The issue is you break immersion at some points. “She is pretty, he is ugly, why does he fascinate you so? What does he have that made you forget about Debbie, even her good-looking date?”
That takes you right out of it, unfortunately.
Not a lot happens here and you lose me because…well, not a lot happens.
Did Grandma like it?
It didn’t do it for me.
Saucy_Rodent - “Clavius”
It’s clever and it’s got a wry tone to it at times. You cram three believable scenes with time jumps into a short amount of space and that’s impressive.
It’s a little incoherent and doesn’t really stick with me.
Did Grandma like it?
I did, actually.
a friendly penguin - “Everyone Wants Something”
You get a cadence going at some points and the words roll over you. I really liked those portions. And I’m assuming the italics were a song, which I dig.
I still don’t really get who Marty is and where we’re supposed to be going.
Did Grandma like it?
I think with a little work, I would.
crabrock - “Jurassic Park”
The ending departs from it a bit. I get what you’re going for but if I had to pick a weak link, that’s it. I get what you’re going for.
Did Grandma like it?
Actually it was my favorite.
Tyrannosaurus - “Salieri Stopped Writing in 1804, or the Three Seasons of an Assassin”
You’ve got a story here. This is really strong. There’s motivation. There’s intrigue, there’s action, and it’s written well.
Really just one phrase throws me. “To quiet a hedonist. To end a threat. To kill. Always to kill.”
You could also tighten up “ Salieri’s cries had a certain, incredible musical beauty to them all the same” into something incredibly descriptive. Like “Salieri’s cries were a symphony of regret” or “His cries were (opera term).
Did Grandma like it?
Thranguy - “Nina, Who Clowned on Charles Barkley”
You took a risk and I respect that.
Your risk hamstrung you.
Did Grandma like it?
AstronautCharlie - “We’re All Staying Late”
Your action is good. Things happen! People move and it’s lively.
The italics threw me. It feels like it’s supposed to be internal monologue but it’s really got no place there. It detracts from your voice and creates inconsistency in narration and tone.
Did Grandma like it?
I kind of slid off this one.
Noah - “Ebb”
You’ve got good character development and a strong sense of dialogue.
Not much really happens. Carol just kind of takes it and it just kind of happens. There’s no arc.
Did Grandma like it?
It’s got hustle.
CaligulaKangaroo - “A Few More Guys Like Batman”
You’ve got some good parts here.
You just spent your words on areas they shouldn’t be. Look, if you could flesh this out to 5,000, you’d get to where you’d need to be. Go bigger
Did Grandma like it?
I wanted to.
Almightyderelict - “A Most Troubling Offer”
It’s got good action and good description. I like the scrabbly dogs a lot, actually.
You took a risk and hamstrung yourself. And that’s fine because you tried.
Did Grandma like it?
I liked parts.
cptn_dr - “A Drop of Roberts’ Blood”
There’s a great voice here, which is what you want in a good first person story. And you’ve got great dialogue.
Did Grandma like it?
I liked your characters.
GrandmaParty fucked around with this message at 03:15 on Aug 12, 2020
|# ? Aug 12, 2020 03:08|
Thunderdome Week 419: The Thunder Chef!
Gimme an ingredient
|# ? Aug 14, 2020 04:15|
Gimme an ingredient
|# ? Aug 14, 2020 05:51|
in with some spicy cayenne pepper
|# ? Aug 14, 2020 20:18|
Sign-ups: they're closed!
|# ? Aug 15, 2020 04:00|
REMINDER: THE WINNER OF WEEK 419 WILL JUDGE WEEK 421. WEEK 420 IS GOING TO BE A SPECIAL WEEK, THE WINNER OF WHICH WILL GET A PRIZE!
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 02:24|
Hey everybody. A few things.
A while ago, Kaishai, Twist, Sitting Here and Djeser (and friends!) often did audio recaps of the weeks. During these ____________ times, we thought it'd be fun to get them going again. They're a lot of work so we're trying a rotating schedule of different people, formats, and styles. This week, Uranium Phoenix, Sparksbloom, and Mocking Quantum and myself sat down with the loft goal of talking about EVERY story from Week 418: Ancillary Action. I think we did a decent job, so if you entered that week you might want to check it out. Sorry I sound like a nerd, it's congenital.
Secondly, I've added a feature to the Unofficial Thunderdome Archive called "collections" where you can... collect... different stories. Maybe all the stories that mention butts or whatever. Anyway, goons have already started some, so maybe soon we'll have some nice curated sets of Thunderdome stories.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 07:59|
Hey everybody. A few things.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 09:19|
Just really quick before we get to the main event: this thread can be hard to find in the forums. Have you ever considered moving it up closer to the top so that people can see it easier? Might help get old writers like me "back in the saddle" if you will. Just a thought! Enjoy!
Alien’s Sexy Mushroom
“Are you sure you know what kind of mushroom that is?” I ask Kula, my blue-skinned alien boyfriend who has already impregnated me.
“While you’ve been learning about galactic history and all that other boring crap, I’ve been learning about every different mushroom on Lakria. Of course I know what it is.” Sometimes I don’t know what things are and demand he cook them for me so I can try them. Like the time I requested Ukranian salo.
“It’s just…you picked it right out of the forest. It was just like, under a tree. What if it’s poisonous? Just scan it, Kula.”
He clenches his jaw at me. Part of being an “indie chef,” which is the profession that Kula is, is not using any form of higher technology. No synthesizing, of course, but also doing things like scanning takes away from what Kula does. A chef is supposed to be able to use his senses of touch, sight, and smell to figure out which ingredients are the best. Using a scanner is considered cheating.
I don’t want to die of a poisonous mushroom though.
“I tell you what,” I say. “Go into the bedroom.”
He goes, and I shut the door so he won’t hear the scanner.
I point the scanner at the mushroom. “What is it?”
“Therasian Truffle,” the scanner says.
Yeah. No idea what that is.
“Is it poisonous?” I ask.
“No, it’s perfectly safe to eat. It’s highly sought after for--”
I turn off the scanner. I don’t want to know any more than I have to, for fear that Kula will say I ruined the “authenticity” of his meal.
“Come back!” I shout.
He glares at me. “It’s safe, right?”
“Yes. You were right.”
He grins. “See, Muru?” Muru is a pet name for me that he uses. It’s from his alien language. “You’ve got to trust me. The burned salo incident was months ago. I’m a changed man.”
I kiss him on the cheek and nod, and I go back to reading my history book.
While Kula is cooking, I chat with him between pages as he cooks. I lay on the couch, and he cooks a meal for us. It’s a pretty nice life. Except for when he burns the salo.
“Have you heard of Kalafa?” I ask him.
“Is that a mushroom?”
“No. It’s a planet. There was this queen there who uploaded hers--”
“Hold on,” he says, “the pasta is going to boil over.”
I go on reading without talking to him. I know that he needs to focus.
The smells from the kitchen start distracting me, and Kula serves up a pasta with a thick green sauce on it that smells absolutely mouth-watering.
We pour some glasses of wine and start eating.
It’s delicious. The green sauce is nutty and earthy, like buttery, chocolatey mushrooms. The noodles are perfectly cooked and splashed with some oil, and the bread Kula baked earlier today tastes incredibly dipped in the mushroom sauce.
“Not poisonous,” he says, grinning.
I smile and take another bite, but just as I do, I realize I’m squirming. Because I feel funny. Really funny. Like after I insisted the salo was “fine” and ate it anyway, but not in the same way.
I’m looking at Kula now. At his big, broad shoulders. At his bulging muscles, and at his chiseled jaw and cheekbones.
My lips are parted, and I’m considering retiring to the bedroom without finishing the meal.
“Muru,” he says, putting his fork done. “Are you…”
“I’m sweaty, Kula. Way sweatier than I should be.” Is that the poison?
He nods. “I’m so loving dizzy and something is bluer than my skin, which is blue, since I’m an alien, if I don’t do something about it right now.”
A grunt escapes my throat, even though he hasn’t touched me yet.
Kula grunts too. Like when I puked up all that salo.
We both look down at the pasta.
“Scanner! Tell me more about Therasian Truffles.”
“Therasian truffles are prized for their powerful effect as an aphrodisiac. They are so powerful that they are typically shaved very finely onto a dish as a garnish. It would be extremely dangerous to consume more than--”
I wave my hand for the scanner to stop. “Did you finely grate the mushroom, or--”
“I...I thought it was a different mushroom. The whole entire mushroom is in the sauce. Ellie, my nethers hurt.”
“I’m on fire, Kula.”
He rips the tablecloth off, but it’s not like in a movie where everything stays put. All the dishes and glasses just slide right off the table and shatter on the ground. I jump up onto the table and fall on my back.
He’s in such a hurry that he trips and falls trying to get one of his legs out of his pants. He hits a shard of broken glass, and it cuts into his arm.
“You should…” I say, but then I forget what I was saying as I see his naked body glistening with blood. Like if he doesn’t make love to me, I will actually die. We can fix his arm up after we’ve both finished, I figure.
We both gasp as his big, six-dimensional dong does its thing. It shimmers and leaks light from the fifth- and sixth- spatial dimension. Those colors are impossible for my brain to process, and I see them as colors that shouldn’t exist. Impossible colors.
We keep going. And going. I’m already pregnant, but if I weren’t, this would surely knock me up.
“You’re going to put a twin into me,” I say, panting.
We both lie there. It’s the most relief I’ve ever felt. The other thing about a six-dimensional dong is that it fills you up emotionally. It’s like when you first saw Avatar in 3-D in the theater. You needed to buy a 3-D TV at home, to watch films like Terminator 2 or Ice Age 2 in 3-D. 2-D would no longer cut it. That’s what a 6-D dong is like, but it means a 3-D dong is no longer going to suffice.
The relief doesn’t last long though, because all that work makes me hungry, and I look over at the pasta. It was delicious, after all, not like that burnt salo.
“There’s still some sauce in the pot,” Kula whispers into my ears. “Do you want seconds?” he says with an alien wink.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 19:55|
The Secret of the Churnkeep
In the warm, but dimly lit, backroom of the bistro, four patrons waited with intoxicating anticipation. The buttermonger stepped through the bone-beaded curtain that separated the main lobby from the private backroom, carrying a platter of assorted pale cubes, pads, and spreads. One of the patrons betrayed their excitement and inhaled the aroma noisily before controlling their slavering urges.
“Before we begin, I want to tell you of something,” the buttermonger said. “Maybe something of a history, or context, as you partake in the maternal harvest of the butter. Francisco Seviny says there are two kinds of butters, salted and unsalted. Though, I’m sure Marlon Brando would tell you there was a third: assaulted butter. But I do not agree with Seviny, for there is truly only one kind of butter.”
The patrons scrunched their eyebrows and looked down at the platter. They had already teased their palettes with a series of tantalizing tastes. Had the salted goat’s butter, fed only from chives and bourbon, so salty that it had felt nearly effervescent, not been butter? Had the creamy, barely solid, Portuguese ghee, melting from just the heat of their mouths, to pool in their cheeks, not been considered butter? Had the unctuous, nearly sardine-like sheep’s milk spread, that elicited a cacophony of moans and gurgling, not been butter?
“In fact, I was much like you, in my younger years. I had been searching, outwardly and inwardly, I had been searching. My partner and I, though I must digress, from the way I may describe him, he may seem more of an accomplice than partner in this tale, but you see, we had found something. The Mère Céleste.”
“Is that not an old maid’s tale? Something cooked up by a farmer on the guillotine to stay his execution?” A patron puzzled.
“Ah…You and I were one in the same. The Shangri-La to always be searching for, to never be content with yourself so long as there was something to quest for. But no, you see, The Mère Céleste exists, and I have tasted the sweet, heavenly return to primordial understanding that is The Mère Céleste.”
The patrons put down their knives and breads, rapt with attention, no longer interested in victuals that lay in front of them.
“But that is the end of our story. The beginning of the story is what I want to share with you. I must share with you the secret. It was only by chance that we found this shoppe in a back alley of Polminhac, but once inside, we found what we had been searching for, sequestered, hoarded, by a man, a craven wretch of a man known as The Churnkeep.”
“The Churnkeep knew it too from the moment we set foot in his hovel. He knew the look on our faces as we perused the butters he had on display. The snow white cream of goat, the beautiful yellow of a Scottish bovine, even the rare yak’s Bouton Grumeleux. He knew what consternation looked like, and while the peasantry of these dilapidated alleys must surely be engrossed in these butters, my partner and I were ready to leave.”
“But then, he beckoned us, showed us to a backroom so very similar to this. From an icebox, he produced a wooden container, locked and sealed, but for a few holes perfectly cut for ventilation. The pungency from even just those small perforations nearly sent me sprawling. I knew, that even if he were lying, what he had produced was something beyond the pale.”
“And, in a moment of giddy triumph, he sealed it back in his icebox! My partner and I were stunned, aghast, and furious. He cackled with glee, and attacked us with a spiked mallet, chasing us from the back room, laughing, laughing, it followed us as we ran down the alleyways, it has followed me ever since.”
The buttermonger turned his hand over, and scars, almost like acne, covered a perfect square on the back of his left hand. He ran the tips of his right hand over the indentations for a moment, silent, before briefly touching his left shoulder.
“My partner and I would not let such a personal affront stand. I, to this day, wonder was I searching to rectify my wounded pride, or, could I not let the possibility of the Mère Céleste escape after having been so close. We stalked the Churnkeep, we waited, and followed him. Surely, he must suspect that this may happen, so we kept our distance, and our patience. Until one day, long after boredom had set in, running on only the fumes of obsession, did we discover an unusual activity. We tailed him, and the miniature icebox he kept to prevent thievery, to a small hospital in Aurillac. A most peculiar thing we saw. The Churnkeep had a clandestine meeting with a nurse, and what we saw would shock most people, but we were intrigued. The Churnkeep bought scores of medical bags full of breastmilk, stashing them in his portable icebox. Such a scandal would easily depose this monster, chase him from the town with torches and pitchforks. And we would use this to our advantage.”
“As the Churnkeep closed shop that night, we made our presence known. We laid out our pictures, our recording of the nurse we accosted after the Churnkeep had left, and our demands. The Mère Céleste. And what I tell you now, I share now is the secret of the Churnkeep.”
The guests caught their breath as the buttermonger exited through the bone-beaded curtain, returning with a small tray.
“The Churnkeep acquiesced, his shameful head hung like a dog. And we indulged to our earthly delight, in such ecstasy to turn even an angel to inferno. Words can scarcely tell a fraction of its majesty. Near sublimation as the butter lent itself to being all absorbed by the body. There is a sweetness, that that is something like nostalgia, but in truth closer to melancholia. There is a creaminess that is ephemeral, and a tang of the sweat kissed from the brow of a newborn.”
“Our indulgences were strong, stronger than the weak flesh of our bodies. We could not contain ourselves, such is the nature of want. I scarcely remember what happened in the aftermath, save for the taste. Darkness closed around me, as though the notion of existence had fled, defeated by rapture. And such, I can only present you with but a sampling.
The guests were given a ramekin with a small dollop each, with no accompaniment of bread, nor honey, nor fruit. The aroma of such a butter was even more pungent than the buttermonger had described. A layman might think it soured, but that would be an illusion, a cheeky, cloying game the butter played against inferior consumers. The first guest took a quivering hand, using their index finger, scooped the cream, having to use their other hand cupped underneath for safety from how nervously they shook.
With the implicit permission of the first guest, the others followed suit. Some taking the ramekin whole in their hands, to nurse the whipped peak of the Mère Céleste like a breast. Semi-liquid euphoria followed, coursing around their tongues and teeth. It seeped, like varnish, into their gums, into the roots of their molars, softening muscle, gland, and the tension of gritted anticipation. There was no breathing. There was no gasping. There was only silence. It deafened the room. The buttermonger closed his eyes, vicariously absorbing the atmosphere. And then the lapping of the ramekins and the sucking of fingers, and the tongues dragging across tooth and gum filled the air. A desperate sweat stank the room, and the buttermonger savored that instead.
“And then we awoke, naked save for our undergarments. We were in a forest, how large, I have no idea, no real way of knowing, for it all looked just the same as any square inch just outside of my periphery. On our backs, a bizarre contraption, a cannister of something, forcibly strapped to our backs, with no mechanism we could find to release it. It was filled with a liquid; I could feel the weight of it slosh as we moved our bodies. So tight were the straps that our lungs ached and yearned for a full breath. No matter what we could try, we found no tool nor purchase to pry it from ourselves.”
“The Churnkeep called to us, from parts unknown, hidden in the trees. He told us we had a day’s headstart, and that afterwards, his hunt would begin. My partner and I, I remember this so vividly, but we clasped our hands together and prayed. I remember praying for my life, for my life to be just a moment longer that I may yet enjoy the Mère Céleste one last time. Funny, that I should think of something so, inelegant, in my time of mortal apprehension, but you must forgive the nature of panic. And so, I kept my prayers silent in shame. And then we ran.”
The buttermonger paused, retreating into his thoughts.
“Buttermonger,” a patron managed to whisper. The sound shook the buttermonger from his reverie, infuriated for a slight moment, but recollected. “How did you two escape?” The other three patrons barely registered the question as they nervously sought another source of cream.
The buttermonger laughed. “I didn’t.”
“The Churnkeep caught us. Of course, he would. We struggled for days in the forest, surely having double, triple-backed by accident. Starving, dehydrated, and strapped to that infernal cannister, with no way of removing it. I can still feel the raw sores the leather imparted on my ribs. I can still remember the feel of the way your leg muscles fail, all of the sudden, as though they were never there, and you collapse in the dirt, the soil cool on your face. Delirium of malnutrition, it will make you lose your thoughts, and make you question your plans, your strategy. And that is when the Churnkeep found us.”
“He lorded over us, leering at our weakness. He first told us what was in the cannisters. We had been carrying the Mère Céleste on our backs the entire time. A sick, twisted, cruel labor he inflicted upon us. Our making, undoing and salvation, inaccessible on our backs the entire time. He knew we would be back, he knew that we had no other primal choice but to return to the Mère Céleste. Our indulgence was no accident. Nor the debilitating side effects of our urges would inflict up on us.”
“And then he told us that in our unconsciousness, we had been forced to swallow the key to each other’s cannisters. That stuck in the other’s gut was the way to save ourselves. And he told us that is the secret of how the Mère Céleste is made.
The patron’s eyes began to droop. They shook their heads to clear the clouds of confusion and haze. One of them looked the buttermonger in the eyes, realization setting in.
“For you see, the Mère Céleste is not just the milk of the mother. It must be churned so specifically, so purposefully, that even with the ingredients, only a façade can be recreated. Unless you act with purpose. With determination. With sorrow. With desperation.”
“Fear. Fear is what makes the Mère Céleste. Terror. The milk feeds on it. It needs it. Only that can make this eldritch ambrosia.”
One guest’s head slumped, cracking their forehead against the low coffee table. Another guest stood, knocking their chair to the ground, backing away towards the bone-beaded curtains. That guest pitched backwards, overcome and collapsing to the ground. The buttermonger reached under a shelf, procuring a cannister, covered in straps and buckles. He turned to the remaining two patrons, who were barely combating the stupefaction of the Mère Céleste. The buttermonger narrowed his eyes, and he reached for a spiked mallet on the countertop.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 21:13|
Just really quick before we get to the main event: this thread can be hard to find in the forums. Have you ever considered moving it up closer to the top so that people can see it easier? Might help get old writers like me "back in the saddle" if you will. Just a thought! Enjoy!
I hate you and your gimmick, which means, according to this thread, you should fight me.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 21:25|
Kasia is pulling a tray of cinnamon buns out of the oven when Joshua, the kitchen manager, walks in, new girl in tow. Kasia feels a little thrill of satisfaction—to greet the girl with the nearly overpowering scent of cinnamon and butter, each pastry golden-brown and glistening with crystallized sugar. Three months ago, she couldn’t make banana bread. A sheet of steaming, alluring, perfectly baked buns always makes her well up with pride. But the girl doesn’t even look at Kasia; she’s staring up at the spice rack, muttering words under her breath.
“Kasia, you meet Greta yet?” Joshua said. “She’ll be picking up your openings. You’ll grab my closings—you’ll get to sleep in now.” He says it like it’s a treat, but Kasia frowns. She’s seen Joshua with this girl before—at one of the gigs for Joshua’s band, where this tall, blue-eyed Nordic girl kissed him deeply. She feels like she’s being replaced. There’s something mundanely sacred about their routine. Joshua rolls in at 6 AM, and they work in efficient, companionable near-silence, brushing muffins with lemon glaze, stuffing hand pies with butternut squash and spinach, layering the brioche buns with sharp cheddar and sun-dried tomatoes.
“Oh—those edges look a little dark,” Greta says, walking past the cinnamon buns. Kasia squints, and goddammit, she’s right.
A month later, Kasia wants to stuff Greta in the oven. When Greta opens, every popover is risen, billowing and custardy, and there are no scorch marks on the vanilla-quince tarts. Joshua had told her “it happens” when she’d hosed up her first batch of tarts, and Kasia believed him—but Greta is proof that it doesn’t happen to everyone. Joshua will never put Kasia back on the opening shift now. Even the macarons come out perfectly. Not a single cookie broken.
But everyone notices that there’s something that Greta’s done to the cinnamon rolls. The bakery always sold out of them, but now they’re selling out in fifteen minutes, and what’s worse, Kasia can’t tell what Greta changed. They’re just better. And because Greta never ruins them, there’s never rejects to sample, so Kasia never understand why.
Soon Kasia isn’t doing any baking at all. When she comes in, there’s nothing left to do. She’s just cleaning up crumbs. Mopping up spills. Prepping vegetables. “You’re so diligent,” Greta says, leaning against the counter while Kasia rubs a Brillo pad along a crumb-encrusted muffin tin.
One afternoon, after Kasia mops the whole bakery, even the walk-in fridge, Joshua waits for her outside the door.
“Bad time?” he says. Kasia shrugs. “Let’s take a walk,” he says. They follow the bike path that picks up at the edge of the bakery’s parking lot. Joshua is less himself in the light of day; in the kitchen, there’s this benevolent menace to him, this sense that he’ll be equally likely to bequeath praise or criticism. Out of the bakery, he’s more aware that people are afraid of him, with his face tattoos and a hulking six-foot frame. He keeps his head down when cyclists pass.
“What’s going on? You’re not firing me, are you?” She hates herself for being so insecure, but in the face of Joshua’s silence all the static in her rises to the surface. loving Greta—like some Swedish Mary Poppins, she’s brought all of Kasia’s imperfections into harsh relief.
“No, this isn’t actually about you.” It’s not caustic. Just matter-of-fact. A couple of cyclists zip by, and Joshua tugs down his baseball cap. “My kid’s sick. I’m going down to Iowa for a while.”
“Who’s going to be in charge of the kitchen?” She says it too fast and knows it’s the wrong tack. But Joshua’s face doesn’t change.
“You’ve got a lot of potential, kid,” he says. “You’re going to go back to school in a few years, right?”
It’s Greta. Goddammit.
To replace Joshua, Greta hires Tuva, another woman that looks exactly like her—same pale angel-food hair, towering height, glinting blue eyes. Greta insists they aren’t related but Kasia can’t tell them apart, even after a week. And Tuva’s just as speedy and perfect as her doppelgänger. They bake everything with unbelievable swiftness while Kasia chops garlic, chives, and rhubarb. And then they leave together and leave the dishes and cleanup for Kasia.
She goes out drinking with the kids from the front-of-house. One of them asks her why she doesn’t quit.
“Because I was getting better,” Kasia says. “But they just didn’t give me time to get better enough.”
The front-of-house kids nod in sympathy and sip their beers. There’s a heaping pile of nachos at the corner of the table, and she takes a chip loaded with cheese, sour cream, and two pickled jalapeños. Everyone laughs when she coughs and chugs water afterward—too many seeds. It’s a good laugh. She’s sentimental. She should find something better, but as long as she’s working mostly with people she likes, isn’t that enough?
To pass time while she cleans up messes, Kasia develops a Theory. The Theory is that Greta is a witch. It’s said in jest, but as soon as the idea’s in her head, Kasia sees it everywhere. Alchemical mischief? Check. As Greta leans over Tuva’s shoulder to finish the cinnamon buns, she pulls out an unmarked bottle and sprinkles a powder over them. The kitchen’s aroma changes, from the too-rich buttery scent to something sweeter and enveloping, like walking into Kasia’s favorite grandmother’s kitchen.
“Real cinnamon,” Greta says, catching Kasia staring. Kasia doesn’t buy it for a moment.
And then one day Kasia is taking inventory of the bakery while Greta preps the espresso-glazed mocha muffins. Inside the walk-in freezer, Tuva is laying prone on a shelf, just beside a ham hock. Still. Sleeping? Kasia grasps her wrist and there’s a pulse, at least—very slow but purposeful, like funeral bells. She slaps Tuva’s cheeks, but she doesn’t wake.
Kasia’s not the world’s strongest person, but she can at least hoist Tuva onto her feet, and then drag her out of the freezer into the fridge. The heels of Tuva’s boots scrape across the concrete floor.
Kasia stumbles out and nearly knocks Greta over as she shoves the walk-in door open. Greta opens her mouth, but then an oven timer goes off, and Greta vanishes. Kasia kneels down and puts her hand on Tuva’s forehead, which is still icy-cold to the touch. But Tuva’s face has changed; where it once matched Greta’s exactly, her eyes are now a chocolate-brown, her nose is piggish and upturned.
Greta towers over them. “She takes forever to prep,” Greta says. “You shouldn’t have moved her.”
Kasia gapes. Greta crouches, peers into Tuva’s nostrils, shrugs, then pulls Tuva’s body over her shoulder and yanks open the fridge door.
That night Kasia calls Joshua. The front-of-house kids would love a scandal, and she could escalate to the bakery’s owner—on the rare day that she was around—but she really just needs to hear Joshua’s voice. She knows it’s selfish, that he’s probably focusing on his sick kid and the last thing he wants is to hear from the incompetent baker from the job he left behind. But ultimately, she just wants to know what he saw in Greta.
The phone rings and rings and rings. Kasia isn’t sure if he’s busy attending to his son or maybe Greta’s gotten to him. He had to have eaten some of her baking. Inhaled the fumes of Greta’s cinnamon. And in all likelihood they’d gotten a lot closer.
On the twelfth ring she hangs up, her hands shaking with a rage she didn’t know she felt. Not at Greta, not at Joshua—but at herself, for sticking around too long for $12 an hour. She decides that she won’t go to work the next day, and that she’ll figure out the consequences.
Sleeping in has never been harder. She’s not the type to quit without notice; she tosses and turns in her bed, wondering what Greta will think, wondering how she’ll pay rent. A little past noon, her doorbell rings, and when she opens the door, it’s Greta. Or Tuva. Or—Kasia supposes it could be anyone.
But she guesses that it’s Greta when the woman speaks. “Let’s take fika,” Greta says, and without invitation, she bustles up the stairs to Kasia’s apartment. From her purse she retrieves two little white bags from the bakery, with a cinnamon bun in each. “Will you make coffee?”
Kasia should kick her out. She wants to. There’s so much she can do, now that she’s thrown away her job—nothing obligates her to give the witch any more of her time. And yet she’s curious. She wants to know what happens. So she sets the coffee pot running and turns to Greta. “I’m not coming to work,” she says.
“We need you,” Greta says, in this thin sort of way that makes Kasia feel like she’s the victim of a joke. Greta opens Kasia’s cabinets, inspecting the items in her pantry. Kasia hasn’t gone shopping for a while—for months, she’s been subsisting on the things that didn’t sell at the end of the day. (Which, since Greta arrived, hasn’t been much.) “You don’t bake at home.”
“I keep it professional.” Kasia pours a mug of coffee for both of them. They sit at Kasia’s dinner table, a cinnamon bun in front of each of them. It’s somehow still hot, its warm, inviting fragrance filling the air of Kasia’s spartan apartment.
“I’m sorry you saw Tuva on her day off. She’s more efficient than you, but she needs to rest to keep her shape.” She laughs. “I guess we all do. I think you are upset that you don’t get to bake things anymore, no? But clearly you are not interested in making the pastries.”
Kasia sips her mug, shakes her head. She knows she shouldn’t eat the cinnamon bun, but it’s so fluffy and inviting, and the scent of it is hitting the exact same part of her brain that lights up when someone rakes their fingernails across the back of her neck. “Really, I’m over it. Sorry to leave you short-staffed.”
“Well, this is the issue,” Greta says. “Tuva and I, we cook good, but we do not know how to clean.”
“So your leaving will not be acceptable. I have heard of the health inspectors. You’re not eating your kanelbulle.”
Kasia crosses her arms. “Pay me double for two weeks and I’ll teach you everything you need to know.”
Greta shakes her head, just once — that’s not acceptable and you know that. But Kasia’s stomach is rumbling and somehow the kanelbulle is in her hand. She hears Joshua’s voice in her head: you’ve got a lot of potential, kid. She thinks about mopping the floors, scrubbing those infernally crusted brownie pans, her only solace getting drunk with the gossipy baristas while she stinks of mopwater and cinnamon.
She looks at the irresistible cinnamon bun in her hand and she resists. She tosses it on the ground and says “Get out of my house.”
And, to her surprise, Greta does. She folds her hands and curtsies, leaves her uneaten cinnamon bun on the plate and walks down the steps without another word.
The smell of both cinnamon buns is still tickling the animal part of Kasia’s brain, but she picks both buns up and tosses them in the garbage. In the mirror above the kitchen sink, she swears she sees a stranger—a woman that looks just like her, but with blue eyes. And then the woman vanishes, and it’s just Kasia, wondering what she’ll do next and hoping that it’s not eating pastries out of the trash.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 21:55|
I hate you and your gimmick, which means, according to this thread, you should fight me.
I'll judge this. 750 words on the perils of reverse capgras syndrome, where everybody ELSE thinks you're an imposter.
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 22:03|
I'll judge this. 750 words on the perils of reverse capgras syndrome, where everybody ELSE thinks you're an imposter.
Oh, wicked, another gimmick. Okay, I'll play along. Except you forgot a deadline, rear end in a top hat. Do you people even know how to run this thread without tripping over your own selfabsorbed method acting?
|# ? Aug 16, 2020 22:11|
Ingredient: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Lefty’s Bar was a legend. Most of the patrons were locals but every so often there was a rumor told by a friend of a friend, whispered in locker rooms and drunkenly sworn to after 3 a.m. If a young man managed to impress Lefty, Lefty would share the sweetest, lightest Kentucky bourbon whiskey anyone had ever tasted. Malty barley twirled with notes of vanilla, coffee, oak and fire, warm fingers caressing the throat on their way down. It wouldn’t even give hangovers, no matter how much anyone drank of it. Not that anyone drank that much; Lefty guarded his cask closer than he did his last three fingers.
In the last stretch of the summer of 1972, Lefty was pushing 80. The cicadas had erupted from the ground to die in the hot sun, leaving their corpses on the sidewalk to bake. Sheaves of wheat swayed like tresses of the earth. Men would go to work the fields and come in with a smile on their face and their clothes completely drenched with their own sweat.
Only five young men were drafted from Mount Olivet during the whole war. One enlisted, and he only came back after his mother wrote letters begging him. Two of his new friends came with him, lured by the legends of the sweetest Kentucky bourbon whiskey and all three desperately needing something after a year in Vietnam.
Beebus was the hometowner who had never been further than his feet could take him. Shapiro was the Mama’s boy, Brooklyn-borne, bred and bar-mitzvahed to a height of five foot six. And Davis, who spent the war in constant terror, wore a new nonchalance like a child wears his father’s overcoat. Beebus’s mother had agreed to let them stay with her as long as they needed to, so long as they helped out with the million chores that went along with running a farm.
At 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30th, 1972, they stood outside of Lefty’s sheet metal shack waiting for him to show up. While the other bar in town opened at noon, Lefty’s was strictly a night time establishment. Shapiro paced and smoked, a habit he picked up overseas. While everyone else was in the field, Shapiro had spent his time as a quartermaster. Every time someone thanked him for his service, he couldn’t help but like he was in the highschool showers all over again; cold, small, and inadequate.
“I get one life, one life,” he said, “and I’m spending it in in the backwoods trying to get some hillbilly to give me some of his magic moonshine. I don’t know why I let you talk me into these things.”
“Cool it,” Davis said. He had taken up a post leaning against the outer wall of the bar, trying to look as if he had been born there. “The only thing that complaining ever got anyone was five across the eyes.”
Shapiro squinted. Even though Davis had a good six inches on him, all it would take is one lucky shot and he’d be on the ground, holding his balls and vomiting. Tensions had brewed between them ever since they had fought over the same woman in Mui Ne. “Is that a threat? Are you threatening me?”
They stopped when Beebus stepped between them. While Beebus wasn’t heavy, he was tall and in the right situations, tall is just as good as big. “Ya’ll quit it. Ain’t neither of you pretty enough to put up with this kinda bullshit.”
“Yes, Dad.” Shapiro muttered. Davis didn’t say anything.
After five minutes of silence, Lefty pulled up in a beaten red pickup truck, more bare metal than paint. He wandered up to the door of the bar and fired a thick glob of tobacco spit at Davis’s feet before pulling a key out of his pocket. Without even acknowledging the boys, he turned the key, unlocked the door, and flicked the neon lights on. Cars began pulling into the clearing that served as the parking lot. Beebus opened the door and loped in, not even waving at his friends. He slammed ten dollars on the bar.
“I’m so thirsty that my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut. I’d drink piss if it came out of one of them bottles.”
Lefty squinted at him like he was an eclipse. “You’re the Beebus boy, right?”
“That’s me,” He responded.
“First shot’s free. Welcome home,” he said. Well whiskey at a backwoods bar was the opposite of a cup of coffee; instead of waking people up, it made them want to die. But by contrast, it made the rest of the night’s drinks that much better. And it was cheap.
By this point Shapiro and Davis had followed Beebus in. The interior of the bar was one of God’s blind spots; perpetually dark, no matter how many neon lights were on. Davis walked over to the bar, leaned on it, and gave the bartender a thumbs up.
“Heard you got some fantastic whiskey, brother. You mind sharing a slug for someone who fought for your freedom?”
Lefty drummed the fingers of his hand on the bar before responding. “You ain’t from around here, are you, son? There’s a rule. Locals only.”
Shapiro took the space next to him. “Way I hear it, you give it to anyone who impresses you. And I’ve been told that I’m pretty impressive.”
The bartender laughed, a big, deep laugh. “I don’t serve kids. Make room for someone who’s old enough to drink.”
Shapiro extended one accusatory finger, looking much longer than it actually was. “You name it and I can do it. Name your price, old man.”
By this time, a crowd had gathered around the bar, half for drinks, half for spectacle. Lefty placed both hands on the bar and looked at Beebus. “You told them about the whiskey, huh?”
“Three boys. Three challenges. You win, you get America’s finest and you drink on me. You lose, you get the gently caress out.”
“Fine,” Shapiro said. Beebus nodded. Davis gave a thumbs up.
The bartender gave one of those grins, too big and too knowing and smiling only with his teeth. “All right, boys. I got a challenge for you. Challenge one: you gotta unclog the terlet.”
The three looked at each other. Davis shrugged. “How bad could it be? Toss me the plunger. I got this.”
“Did I mention that it’s been clogged for a month?”
Something in his cool façade gave way, and Davis’s eyes got a far-off look to them before he started shaking. And even though he was still there, he was elsewhere. “I’ve done a lot worse.”
Lefty reached under the bar and grabbed a plunger and a gardening trowel. “You’ll need both.”
Davis shrugged and went behind the slatted door near the front of the bar. Fifteen minutes later, an audible flush came from the men’s room before Davis came back, holding a much dirtier trowel and the plunger nowhere to be found. “You might want to consider hiring a janitor.”
The bartender nodded and laughed. “Fair enough, city boy. After that raccoon died in there, I just kinda stopped givin’ a poo poo. But not takin’ em. Everyone else who tried just ended up throwing up.”
“Works now.” He tossed the trowel back to the bartender, who stepped to the side and let it clatter to the floor.
“What’s next?” Shapiro said.
Lefty tapped a murky glass jar on the bar. It had been so long since the jar had been cleaned that only the outlines of shapes were visible against it. “Gotta eat whatever’s in there.”
Beebus walked over to the jar, reached one unwashed hand in up to his elbow, grabbed something, and quickly crammed it into his mouth. The taste of vinegar flooded his mouth, the meat squeaking between his teeth. However long it had been in there, it had lost all of its flavor, replaced with a sharp acid and rubbery texture.
“Oh you’re no fun,” Lefty said. “I wanted to see Junior here spit out a pickled chitterling.”
“It ain’t good,” Beebus said. “But I eaten worse.”
“That’s two,” Shapiro said. “What’s three?”
“Test of character,” Lefty smirked. “I’m gonna give it to the one of you who wants it most. You boys are gonna have to fight for it.”
Shapiro looked at Beebus, who shook his head and stepped back. “Nah” Then he looked at Davis. Davis nodded and put up his hands and laughed and tried to look calm. “I’ve come this far, I’m not gonna back out now.”
Shapiro wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and put up both fists in a close guard. The handful of patrons in the bar quickly made a circle around them, moving the bar stools out of the way in a practiced fashion.
Davis quickly assumed a boxer’s stance and throwing jabs, testing the distance. Off the back of one of those long jabs, Shapiro weaved under the punch, slamming his right hand into Davis’s groin on the way down before popping back up on his outside. Davis gave a sort of “Erk!” before crutching his crotch and falling to the floor.
Without even stopping to check on his friend, Shapiro walked back to the bar. “I believe, Old Man, that you owe me some whiskey,” he said, pointing at the bartender.
“Fair enough, let me get it from the back,” he said before wandering to the back of the bar. After a minute, he came back with a mason jar with three inches of straight, rich, amber liquid and slid it across the bar to Shapiro.
Shapiro grabbed two glasses from the other side of the bar and poured equal amounts into both, handing one to Beebus and one to Davis, who had shakily pulled himself off the ground. With a clink, all three hit their glasses to the table before taking a large pull. As soon as it touched their tongues, the whiskey imparted smooth notes of vanilla and cinnamon before finishing with an oak bite and the warmth of a winter fire. And then an acrid note that had no place in a drink, like ammonia and salt and catbox.
Shapiro threw the glass against the back wall, spraying whiskey and piss and glass against the floor. “You son of a bitch,” he yelled. Davis and Beebus both spat out their whiskey before dropping their glasses on the ground.
Lefty laughed and pulled a shotgun out from under the bar. “I told you boys, locals only.” Then he nodded to Beebus. “Tried to save you, too.” Then he cocked the gun. “I recommend ya’ll get the gently caress out before it gets ugly.”
Shapiro gave a one finger salute and Davis lost his cool, shouting and swearing at the bartender before Beebus pulled both of them out.
Later that night, before the sun crested the hills, three boys who thought violence was behind them burnt the entire place to the ground. As they watched the flames race across the tar paper, Davis stood a little taller, a little more firm in his place in the universe.
Beebus told them both that he could never stick around town after this, that the town would be know who did it. Shapiro smiled and punched him in the shoulder. “Come with me to Brooklyn. I’ve got to tell people about this and no one’s ever going to believe me.”
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 00:21|
Do as the Witches Do
1831 words--lamb fat
When Brooke invited me to a ritual Satanic sacrifice with her coven of actual witches, she made it extremely clear that it wasn't a date. That didn't stop me from dressing in my handsomest outfit.
"Are you sure this is a button-down and corduroys sort of thing?" said my brother Ty as I tightened my suspenders. "Sounds like more of a ceremonial robe or naked deal."
"I don't have a ceremonial robe, and if I'm supposed to be naked, I can just take it off. It'll be fine."
"How're you feeling about the orgy component?"
Brooke had mentioned there would be a brief, casual orgy after dinner. It was not how I expected or exactly wanted to lose my virginity, but I certainly didn't want Brooke to think I was lame.
"I dunno man, I feel like it'll be weird if I gently caress Brooke during the orgy, because she was so quick to point out it wasn't a date, but then again, it'll be weird if I don't, because like, she did invite me to a witch orgy, you know?"
"You're probably gonna have to do some gay stuff," said Ty.
"Yeah, I figure I'll just suck a dick or two, can't be the worst thing in the world, plenty of people do it."
The doorbell of my parents' place rang. Ty wished me luck, and I opened the door. Brooke was dressed in a ceremonial robe, and my God, did she pull it off, with her red hair pouring out from the front of her hood and her rope belt tied at just the right point of her waist.
Brooke wasn't a cheerleader, and she didn't hang out with the popular girls or the other witches, but she was cooler than all of them. Brooke wasn't in my group of friends, per se, but she would show up sometimes, turn someone into a goat for a quick laugh, smoke with the kids who smoked, turn the goat back, then be off to do the same thing at another party.
"Hey sorry, I don't have a robe," I said.
"It's fine, they provide a few extras for guests," she said. "Come on, let's go."
I walked out of the house. There were two broomsticks leaning against my car.
"Oh. Are we flying? I figured I could just drive, seeing as how I don't know how to do any magick or anything."
"No, I invited you to a witch thing, man, you're gonna do witch stuff. Let me just program the broom to take you where we're going. There's a pit stop on the way; I told the gang I'd provide the lamb." She said some backwards Latin to the broomstick. "That should do it."
"Hey," I said. "About the sacrifice…"
"No, we're not sacrificing you, dude. We're sacrificing an actual lamb. We only do human sacrifices on getting-murdered fetishists we find on Craigslist; they have to be voluntary. You don't have a getting-murdered fetish, do you?"
"Uh, no, I don't, actually," I said.
"Then you're all dandy, pal!" she said chipperly.
"Is there any specific way I'm supposed to get on this broom?" I said.
"Like a cartoon you saw in kindergarten. Don't overthink it."
I did that and it took off and it was real scary.
"I think I would have rather driven," I said as we landed by the road outside a farm.
"Don't be a Kyle tonight, please. Alright, I need you to do me a favor. Farmer Karlsen here has the fattest lambs in the county. But he also has these." She pointed to a series of runes etched into the fence. "If I step foot in his sheep field, I'll go all Wizard of Oz on you. So I need you to go in, snag the fattest lamb you can find, and then get back here. Watch out for Farmer Karlsen. He's a little shotgunny."
drat it. She brought me only because she knew I had a crush on her and might do something dangerous and illegal for her.
Obviously, I did it. I didn't run into the supposedly shotgunny Farmer Karlsen. The fattest lamb of the farmer known for having fat lambs was, as a matter of fact, pretty fat, so I came out much slower than I went in.
"Nice, man!" Brooke said. "You're a champ." She looked at the fat lamb, and then at the broomsticks, and then back at the morbidly obese lamb. "You know what, I think we might have a problem here. You're right. We should have just taken your car. My B."
"poo poo," I said. "Do we have to just show up without it?"
"No, that would be bad. This isn't gonna be elegant." She recited an incantation and a long black rope appeared in her hands. She tied the lamb's leg to the end of my broomstick.
"Is that gonna be able to carry her?" I said.
"For God sakes man, you were carrying him with his dick on your neck for a quarter of a mile and you think it's a girl?" said Brooke.
"Um, uh, I thought gender wasn't necessarily dependent on genitalia."
She laughed. Huh. Maybe I'm having a good night.
"The broom could probably carry a car if it needed to, but that's pushing it," said Brooke. "If you could carry the lamb, it can. Alright. Let's roll."
The next stretch of broom-ride might have been actually fun; the full moon was out, and the landscape had an energetic glow. The wind was in my hair, and I was more alive than I'd ever known before. I was with a beautiful friend on a sort of adventure I never thought I'd ever experience. The screams of the lamb I was dragging through the sky ruined literally all of it.
We landed on a moonlit trail weaving through overgrown and decaying woods. The lamb hit the dirt with a thud, then baahed proof of its survival.
"Alright," said Brooke. "The altar is a mile from here. Trust me, flying all the way there makes you look like a bitch. Come on, nice walk through a spooky woods. Sounds fun, doesn't it?"
It kind of did. Still…
"Can I ask? Why did you invite me here instead of, I don't know, literally anybody else?"
"It seems like you could use it." She gestured us forward. I followed her into the dark, holding the broom with the leashed lamb. "Look, Kyle," she said. "You're just about the most wound-up person I know. You're always studying for the SATs, if you don't get an A on the trig test you're not gonna get into college, having a sip of beer at a party will get you addicted. Dude, what if you gave yourself a night to not be stressed about any of that? Just drink and eat and gently caress, man, just tonight. It's not gonna kill you."
"I mean, I was planning to. Just, I don't know. It feels awkward."
"Do you like, like like me? I honestly can't tell with you, man."
"I don't know. I think so? I know I feel cool when I'm with you."
"Look," she said. "I want to stay as friends. Is that cool with you?"
"Yes," I said. I was being honest, probably. "That is extremely cool with me. Just, there's an orgy…"
"Yeah. That part's weird. I was gonna ditch and smoke while everyone's doing that. I think you should stay. It'll be good for you."
"That's...okay. Cool. Thanks." I meant it. "Still, it's gonna be awkward. Do you have a confidence spell or anything?"
"If I had a confidence spell, I would've cast it at the lamb farm. I do think I have a solution, though." She pulled out a flask. "Tequila. I can conjure a lime if you need it."
"Uh, does tequila go with lime?"
"Okay, so not only have you never drank, you've never listened to a Jimmy Buffet song. You definitely need a lime."
As I struggled to keep the tequila down, Brooke said, "Do you know what the coven does after the sacrifice?"
"Uh, gently caress?"
"No, no. Before that. We eat the lamb. It's not a sacrifice at all. God doesn't take, God only gives. God gives us the blessing of existing on this Earth, of delighting in its bounty."
"God? I thought you witches were more Devil people."
Brooke stopped by a big, misty pond. "This is a bit of a hot take among the witch community, but I think they're all the same. Look at these woods. Dying and overflowing with life. Thriving hives of termites and spiders living in the bones of dead trees. The life and the death, the order and the chaos, they're not different sides of the same coin. They're the same thing, period. So it is with God."
We stood there for a moment, listening to the crickets and bullfrogs and coyotes, and again the beautiful moment was ruined by the lamb's dumb bleating.
We approached the clearing where the witches and warlocks had gathered. I saw a group of the other plus-ones, huddled and chatting timidly, but I approached the high priestess, an old lady with a big witchy wart on her nose. I introduced myself. She complimented the lamb's plumpness, then gave me a robe and told me it would be more convenient if I were naked underneath. I undressed and changed into the robe in front of everyone; it seemed like the when-in-Rome thing to do.
For the sacrifice itself, the magickless were given a little printout of all of the ancient chants we were supposed to say, and I think I could feel magick rise in me as the lamb's blood poured from its neck into the bowl of the altar.
They skinned the lamb, then cut away its fat and threw the fat into a cauldron filled with bubbling oil. They glazed the rest with blackberry juice and maple syrup, then they deep-fried all the meat and guts in a stew of its own fat with fresh ginger and mint leaves. They set the whole roast on a platter, which they topped with berries and chopped habaneros.
I was overwhelmed with the taste of fat and salt and sweet and spice. I could not stop myself from eating, nor from drinking from my magickally bottomless goblet of sweet red wine.
Then the robes came flying off, and I saw Brooke slink away from the crowd. I looked back at the naked bodies, writhing with beckoning ecstacy, and as confident and strong and powerful and alive as I felt in that moment, the night was glowing with energy and life and to end it entangled in fleshy pleasure felt like a disrespect to the moon.
I went into the woods, where I found Brooke lighting a joint on a log. Wordlessly, I sat down next to her, and just as silently, she passed me the joint.
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 00:24|
Word Count: 1275
Water rolls down the chickpeas, cascading off the tiny legumes like a waterfall pouring down onto the stones below. It flows through the strainer, emptying into the kitchen sink. Ana breaths a little sigh of relief as she runs the tap. The city hadn’t shut them off yet. She pours them into the industrial sized food processor her and her husband bought at the Restaurant Depot on State Street. It was the first major purchase they made together for Cafe Mediterranean. The first time their business venture felt real. “You know your hummus recipe?” she remembers him asking. “What if you made that? But like, a poo poo ton?”
She could only laugh after he said that. “I don’t think we can measure in poo poo tons, Owen. The health department probably wouldn’t approve.”
Garbanzo pearls sink into an ocean of creamy tahini as Owen sets a stack of trays on the counter, without even glancing towards his wife. Ana picks up the tray of garlic. Normally she would measure what she needed, but she took her time picking them out, examining each bulb. She turns each one in her hand before dropping them, giving each one a squeeze for firmness as she looks for discoloration. Barely even a speck of yellow on even one of the cloves she pulls from the metal receptacle.
“Are you just making the hummus now?” Owen asks in monotone, barely peeking over his shoulder.
“It needed more chickpeas,” she responds in kind. “And garlic.” This was the most they had spoken to each other since they left their home this morning. She closes the lid and sets the timer, placing a moist towel over the small exhaust hatch. It’s enough to dull the pungent odors of the escaping gasses. At least before they fade into an earthy aroma accented by notes of citrus. She only removes the towel to pour ice water into the hatch when the mixer starts churning a little too hard. Owen catches as he turns back toward the dining room.
“Don’t thin it down too much,” he drones as he starts to leave the kitchen.
“I know how much goes in.”
The curtness of Ana’s response stops Owen at the door. “I just don’t want to serve soup instead of hummus.”
Ana stops pouring. “I don’t want to blow out the loving motor before we drag this goddamn thing to auction.”
Owen starts to respond but stops himself. Both him and Ana recognize this moment; the moment before things begin to spiral. She goes back to the hummus and he leaves the room, both deciding it was easier to disengage.
Cafe Mediterranean had existed for three years. Business was great, until it wasn’t. Last year the sales began slipping, then didn’t stop. Owen thought it was some fault in the kitchen. When increasing supervision didn’t work, it quickly became micromanagement, and the kitchen staff became a revolving door. Ana didn’t appreciate this. Most of the recipes were family recipes passed to her from her grandparents, which she took great care to transcribe. If anything, it had to be a marketing issue. If you’re not actively engaging your audience, you fade into the background. Owen spent four years getting a degree in marketing and was well aware of this. Every financial statement and budget they looked at became a shouting match, until they accepted they couldn’t afford to open. Then their home became quiet.
The frustration was still there, just buried under layers of resigned acceptance. The hardest blow came when they had to announce it to their staff. The humiliation they felt at the restaurant’s failure quickly became shame, multiplied every pair of sad eyes watching them. They had to give the same speech for every shift. From there it just became a matter of making it to the closing day. At least when Cafe Mediterranean actually dies, they won’t have to watch it linger.
Owen opens the doors at 11am. Jenny the hostess stands at the ready, forced grin on her face, marker by dry-erase seating chart. He looks out the glass door, trying to spot anyone walking down the sidewalk. He glances toward the south windows, checking if any new cars have entered the lot. He does again at noon. Then again at 1pm. By 2pm, he sinks into one of the empty booths, staring blankly at the quiet dining room around him. The waitstaff sitting at the bar look up from their phones to see one of their bosses try not to meltdown in the corner, quickly turning away as his eyes move towards them.
Across the room, Ana takes a seat at one of the two person side tables. She carries a plate of hummus and pita bread with her. Her and Owen meet eyes as she notices him sitting defeated in his booth. “You’re welcome to some if you want,” she says, pointing a piece of pita bread towards the dip.
“Yeah,” Owen says meekly. “That sounds great.”
He takes the other seat across from his wife, grabbing a piece of bread as he does. As he sits, he gathers a generous helping of Cafe Mediterranean’s specialty. By the first bite, he’s struck by the rich layers of flavor. The nutty legume and sesame give way to hints of lemon, with the subtle tartness underscoring the savory richness. The heat of red pepper makes itself known, with cumin and garlic anchoring it to the traditional blend as olive oil flows through dense cream.
“You’ve, uh,” Owen starts. “You’ve really outdone yourself.”
Ana looks up. A wry smirk crawls across her face. “And you thought I was making soup.”
That gets a chuckle out of Owen. “You snuck real lemon in didn't you?”
“It’s still mostly citric acid. But it’s a special occasion.”
“Your mom will be real happy to hear that.”
“Oh god! She’s still mad we use that big rear end food processor.”
“I guess that’s it. That’s why we went under.”
“Mom knows what she’s talking about.” They both share a brief laugh. “So how many resumes have you sent out?”
Owen’s expression sours. “Like twenty. Haven’t heard anything back yet. How about you?”
“About the same. Of course, we do have a massive black spot on them.”
“Yeah. I talked to Jeff at the seafood buffet. I guess they’re always looking for kitchen help. Plus apparently their owner just learned what Facebook is, so they might be hiring for that.”
“Sarah at the Phillips Hotel said she could put in a good word. For either of us. If we wanted to keep the team together.”
Owen’s face perked up. “You mean you’re not tired of my bullshit yet?”
Ana smiles, placing her hand on Owen’s. “Don’t push it.”
The front door chime rings. Both Ana and Owen leap to their feet. A pair of middle aged couples walk in, looking around like the building might run away. Jenny asks if they’re a party of four. “You guys are closing?” one of them asks. A few more cars arrive after them. The slow trickle of customers picks up by 5pm. By 6pm, the waiting room is packed with patrons. Many of them saw the last posts on their social media and wanted to get the best hummus in the city one last time. At the end of the night, after an empty lunch hour, then the massive dinner rush. Owen and Ana help the staff clean up.
“I think I figured it out,” he tells her.
“This town might just be loving weird.”
Ana laughs. “You just figured that out now?”
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 02:38|
A Matter of Meat
"Listen," said Talon, "There are some things that two men-"
"Hey!" said Quiz.
"-Two men and a chaos spirit," continued Talon, "cannot accomplish alone. Conquering the Rosequartz Marches. Raising a stone watchtower. And, more relevant to our current situation, field dressing and butchering a great dragon. Such a task requires a village."
"Do you have one in your pack?" asked Joven.
Talon glared, pulling a crude map of the region from his pack. "Here," he said, pointing. "Cavil's Fork. A bare day's ride, and downhill. The carts can be broken down to make a sled."
"If we can even shift the damned thing," said Joven.
"I have no doubt," said Talon.
It was a grunting, sweaty job of work, breaking down the four carts that they had meant to load down with treasure. "Stands to reason," Talon had said, "That there would be more loot than Warmaker Erik and his crew could carry away. We just need to get there second, and with the means to carry off what they hadn't." It was a convincing argument. Quiz was on board immediately. Joven took some work bringing around. "Think of it. Tapestries of gilded thread. Barrels of wine in vintages lost to human history. Pools of gold fused in dragonfire."
There had not been any tapestries, no wine, no gold or silver or even copper. The board had been picked bare, with only the death-stiff corpse of the thing itself remaining. "Well then," Joven said. "That's the last of what we own spent on mules and cart. What can we do now, apart from going back to sleeping in the alley and doing favors for Toothless Myrtle for beer money?"
"Joven," said Talon. "Joven, Joven, Joven. You're thinking small again. Where you see dead giant animal, I see a feast."
Once Sphythetax, scourge of the Western hills, terror of the night sky and incinerator of field and village, forest and heath, spawn of the nightmother, and uncrowned king of Lower Essain, had been rolled onto the wooden sledge and strapped down with all the rope they had brought, Joven was in a better mood. There had been three gold coins under where he had been, enough to make up for their expenses. "And the rest," said Quiz, "Will be profit!"
The mood did not last long. The thing about moving a heavy, unbalanced load on wheels, along a horse-trail with a downhill grade is that eventually the cart will start to outpace the pullers. As the sled started to pick up speed, the mules panicked, braying loudly as the ropes swung from back to front. Joven brought his knife out and started sawing at the line. Enough strands severed that the rest frayed and broke just as the mule was losing footing. Joven tumbled away and the mule got up.and bolted into the light woods around them.
Talon was not so fortunate. His mount fell and was dragged along, with him still aboard, clinging tightly until the path curved and the sled did not, striking and cracking the trunk of an old tree. "Well," he said as he extricated himself from under the dead mule, "At least the meat has been tenderized!"
"Me too," said Quiz, who had been riding the sled itself and was now lodged in a tight angle of freshly-broken branch.
The other mule could not be found, so for the rest of the trip they pulled uphill and on.level track by hand. When the course ran downhill they sent it ahead and ran after when there was a safe landing at the bottom, and slowly lowered it pulling backwards on the ropes when there wasn't. The sun was starting to set when they reached Cavil's Fork.
Cavil's Fork was a small, quiet village where the most exciting thing that ever happened was a farm or tower getting incinerated by the local dragon. They built most of their buildings with stone, and they were eager to help with the preparations.
Apart from the great wound on the dragon's left flank and the killing slash across its neck, the monster's body was intact. This proved a problem. The first opening gave access only to exposed flesh suitable only to feed to the dogs, and the second was little use at all. Steel tools bent and broke before being of any use in skinning the thing.
"Quiz," said Talon. "A question."
"A real Question?" asked the Chaos Spirit.
"Indeed," said Talon. "What can cut through dragon scales?"
"Starmetal and druidwood," he said. "But you have neither. But you have heard that dragons fight, in the skies over ocean and mountain, when the season comes. They dance the jig of claw, claw, and bite."
"We can't get the claws off without a tool," said Talon. "But you should be able to extract teeth."
Two teams of villages pulled ropes tied around upper and lower jaws, in opposing directions as Joven climbed into the dark, dank mouth with a pair of blacksmith's tongs. He shimmied onto the leather-like tongue and began extracting incisors and fangs, one by one. "Mum wanted me to be a dentist," he muttered. "Always thought that was too dangerous a line. 'I've seen two one-thumbed dentists in my life, and that's two too many,' I told her. So now if someone's hand slips the rope I'll lose my legs at the ankles. I wonder what's worse."
The villagers did not lose their grip, and soon Joven emerged with a handful of teeth. The fangs could be wielded as they were. The other sharp teeths needed to be set in split wood, and soon they had nearly a dozen tools suitable for flensing the dragon.
The next problem was the meat. Talon cut off a small chunk and put it in a hot pan, a test cook. It took a nice sear and when he cut into it he saw it was mid-rare, just as he meant. But when he took a bite, he frowned.
"How bad is it?" asked Joven.
"Tough," he said. "Bitter. Gamey. Roasts and grilled steaks aren't going to do."
Joven took an offered bite. "I've had worse. Not as bad as rat. I know how to do a rat stew you might well mistake for squirrel."
"Joven," said Talon,"We are not going to turn the mighty Sphythetax into a lightcursed stew."
"It's not that much stronger than bear," said Talon. "And that serves up well, braised in beer."
"That's going to take a mighty lot of beer," said Joven.
So as the butchery continued Joven and Quiz rode for the nearby villages and towns, buying every barrel of beer up for sale. When they'd cut into the stomach they had found a dozen small emeralds and three gold rings, enough to finance the whole operation, labor and ingredients both. It went for beer, and bread, and vegetables as well. When they came back Joven sorted the beers, the lights for drinking and the darks for braising, and the haunches of dragon bigger than horses were cut down and lowered piece by piece into pans full of near-boiling beer.
Joven had appointed and trained a dozen young villagers as assistants, and managed the preparation of the meat. Word had spread, of their arrival, of the sudden run on beer. While the local drunks turned to cheap wine or mead, the more well-to-do of the area followed, and took their seats at the table.
Just as the plates came out, a hush fell over the crowd. All eyes looked to the front of the hall, where Warmaker Erik glowered, framed by the sunlight behind.
"Huzzah!" shouted Joven. "For the hero! Huzzah!" The crowd burst into cheers.
"A word," gritted Warmaker Erik. Joven took him aside.
"Are you attempting to profit from my deeds?" said Erik.
"Profit?" said Joven. "Nothing could be further from our minds. This is a celebration. Nobody is being charged a coin. A celebration. Of, as you say, your deeds."
"And yet I was not even invited." He said.
"Well," said Joven, "We figured you'd be up in the castle with the Queen, not mixing with mere villagers. But you're most welcome to join." Joven flagged down a server and directed a plate toward Erik, signaled for others to clear a seat.
It was a fine plate, beer-braised dragon steak, dark rye bread, sprouts, an herb and butter sauce, a light salad of vinegared carrots and cucumber. The hints of honey in the blended beers brought out a hidden, magnificent sweetness in the meat that conquered each bitter, gamey note. Erik took a bite, and another. He smiled. He told takes, and basked in cheers.
It was the end of their association. And they did profit. Talon drew the notice of a merchant, who passed on word to the Queen, and he quickly found being a chef easier work than being a sellsword or adventurer. And Joven used his Question to Quiz, and with it found a wizard willing to pay far more than he had ever thought possible for the dragon's skull.
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 03:19|
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 07:25 on Sep 9, 2020
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 03:41|
An Oral History of Bryce Allen Gifford's Last Meal
Ingredient: yellow bell pepper
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 21:36 on Jan 10, 2021
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 03:52|
Ingredient: Preserved oranges
Salt and Acid, Sugar and Rind
Shelby won’t stop preserving citrus fruits and it’s kind of started to become a problem for Britt.
Their shared kitchen is busy with mason jars, bags of lemons, blood oranges, tangerines, and clementines, exotic sea salts, and a witch’s cupboard’s worth of herbs and spices. Any space that isn’t being used for citrus preparation has been colonized by jars of fermenting fruit awaiting transference to the fridge. Britt can’t deny that it smells fantastic—like weirdly summery, but also Christmasy—but she wants her roommate and her counter space back.
Shelby is busy with something steaming and burbling on the stove, apparently indifferent to Britt’s repeated sighs and throat-clearings.
Finally, Britt resorts to speech. “Hey roooooomie,” she says. “I was thinking we could, like, set the fruit aside for a minute and laugh at a bad movie together, or something?”
“Doing a hot brine right now,” Shelby says without looking at Britt. “Maybe later.”
“Yeah so the thing is that it’s like eleven at night,” Britt says. “We’ve sort of hit the ‘later’ portion of the day.”
Shelby glances up at the kitchen clock and frowns. “If we watch a movie now you’ll fall asleep,” She says. “It sucks starting a movie with you after ten.” With a slatted spoon, she fishes lemons from the boiling pot one by one, transferring them to a sloshing bowl of ice water.
Britt steeples her fingers together in front of her mouth, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath through her nose. No use getting defensive when Shelby is in the brinezone.
Eight months ago, when Shelby first moved in, Britt was elated; a long streak of bad roommates had left her considering a serious housing downgrade. There was the one who never flushed, the one with the weird ex, the one who wanted to jointly host sex parties, the one with the smell, and, at long last, Shelby.
Wry, tidy, good-taste-in-films-having Shelby. Shelby, who Britt actually looked forward to seeing when she got home from work.
She loiters uncertainly, feeling awkward and out of place in her own kitchen. Shelby’s indifference is withering and strange, and has only gotten worse over the last few weeks. Fed up, Britt plops herself down at one of the two chairs in the little breakfast nook—the ricketty one that groans like an old lady in protest of its use. Shelby ignores both the chair’s lamentation and Britt.
The kitchen is sweltering, the hot summer night made hotter by stovetop emanations. Britt looks with envy at the lemons resting in their ice bath.
“I don’t know how you can stand being next to that stove,” she says.
“Dang. Yeah. Life is full of mysteries. I don’t know how I do it.” Shelby turns off the burner and pours the steaming lemon water into a big pyrex measuring cup.
“What do you do with the water?”
Shelby glances at Britt from under her short mop of brown-black hair and then looks away. “Sorry. I can be out of the kitchen in a few. You probably want to fix yourself something, I guess”
“I want to hang out,” Britt says, “like we used to. And to not feel like there is this huge orange-filled mason jar elephant in the room.”
Shelby looks at Britt for real this time, the dark hazelnuts of her eyes perched over her sharp cheekbones, her face falconish in its intensity. Britt isn’t prepared for this; her brain sends an urgent communique to her heart, advising a strong flutter and just a touch of tachycardia. She is very conscious of all the places where the heat of the kitchen touches her skin.
“Will you do something for me?” Shelby asks.
Britt opens her mouth, croaks, clears her throat, and says very smoothly, “Yeah, sure.”
Shelby goes to the refrigerator and gets one of her jars, this one crammed with blood oranges steeped in their own ruby juices. The red brine and curved fruit flesh have an organoid look to them, as though Shelby holds in her hands a scientific specimen, some poor dead critter mashed into a jar too small for its bits.
Britt realizes her face must be broadcasting disgust because Shelby cracks approximately one quarter of a smile and says, “They’re way better than they look.”
“I believe you,” Britt says, swallowing the salty excess of pre-vomit saliva that’s accumulated in her mouth.
Shelby uncaps the jar and uses a small pair of tongs to fish out a single dripping wedge of blood orange, which she offers to Britt on a paper towel. “Put this in your mouth, but don’t chew it.”
“Um,” says Britt.
Shelby’s face softens from hawkish to sparrow-like. “Please? I mean, you don’t have to. Whatever. But you could humor me, I guess?”
Britt can’t stand the way the orange looks, how it sits on the paper towel in a bloody bloom of its own brine, but on the other hand, this is the most interesting conversation she and Shelby have had in a month, and it probably tastes fine, anyway. She takes the slice, lays it on her tongue, and closes her mouth so the rind of the orange rests against backs of her teeth.
“Don’t chew. Don’t talk,” Shelby says. “If you hold your mouth very still, it’ll melt. Like magic.”
It takes a lot of concentration to not chew, so Britt overrides that urge by focusing instead on the cool gradient of flavors playing across her tongue. At first it’s equal parts fruit-sweet and pickle-salty, but as the preserved orange generously leaks its juices into her mouth, other flavors arise: the faint bitterness of the rind, tempered to a satisfying love bite by the salt and sugar; a savoriness that Britt identifies as fennel seed, and the cozy taste of nutmeg.
The blood orange begins to soften, flattening out against her palate.
“You have to promise you won’t talk or open your mouth until the orange is gone,” Shelby says. “Nod if you do.”
Mollified by the flavor and intrigued by Shelby’s insistence, Britt nods.
“When you’re preserving citrus, the important thing is to have enough acid in the jar to soften the rind.” Shelby says. She takes a deep breath. “You’re the acid to my rind, Britt. So—remember, you promised—I’m going to be moving out at the end of the month. I’m sorry. I love it here. But. Well. I also love you, and that’s a problem.” Shelby’s voice breaks on the last few words.
Britt is a million miles away from her body, pondering Shelby’s words as if from a distance. They’re the sort of words she sometimes likes to imagine hearing, but usually in her imagination Shelby isn’t telling her that she’s going to move out. Out of politeness, her imagination has never gone much further than this moment, actually, but Britt supposes her version of things might have involved some kissing and cuddling, not the dissolution of a perfectly good roommateship.
The blood orange is like gelatin on her tongue. Her teeth are clenched tight.
“I appreciate when you try to be nice to me and hang out and all that stuff,” Shelby says, speaking in a rushed tumble of words, “but every time you fall asleep on the couch, I catch myself staring at you, thinking about how nice your face looks in the TV light, and then I feel like a huge creep, and…”
Britt is shaking her head as vigorously as she can without disturbing the orange slice on her tongue, but Shelby ignores the gesture.
“Anyway, I got a friend I can stay with for a while. I’ll give you the last four month’s rent, and—”
Britt swallows the orange and opens her mouth, intending to tell Britt to stay, you silly idiot. Stay, and let’s work this out. But what happens instead is the balanced play of flavors on her tongue sharpen into something painfully sour, a brutal tang that stings the insides of her cheeks.
Shelby stops her from going for a glass of water. “That won’t help,” she says. “I’ve got an antidote enchantment, hold on…” She rummages through the refrigerator,
“What are you talking about?” Britt moans through a mouthful of weaponized saliva.
Shelby withdraws from the fridge, jar of lemons in hand and a triumphant look on her face. “Yeah. So. The thing is, I’m a witch. Here, hold this in your mouth for a little while. It’ll clear up the sour hex.” She offers Britt a lemon with the tongs.
Britt can’t think about anything other than the burning green sensation in her tongue. Green, like cartoon acid. She takes the lemon from the tongs and crams it in her mouth; instant relief, a sugary balm that soothes away the acidic bite.
She swallows the remains of the lemon slice and says, “You’re loving with me.”
Shelby gives her a long, strange look. “I do magic, Britt. I make things happen with my mind. I can give you all the proof you want, but the bottom line is, a witch shouldn’t live with someone they’re in love with, for reasons that I hope are now obvious.”
“What if that someone loves them back?” Britt says fiercely, wiping spit off her lower lip.
Shelby cocks her head. “Are you ignoring the ‘witch’ part because you don’t believe me? Because—” she raises a hand and a moderate breeze begins to circulate around the kitchen, stirring dish towels and napkins.
“I believed you when you mouthfucked me with pickled fruit,” Britt says. “And I think it is so cool that you can do that. And I can’t imagine coming home and you not being here. So whatever. You’re a witch. I love you.”
Her entire body is trembling with something she’s never felt before, the revelatory sensation of finding out that love and magic are real and in her life and standing in front of her in the form of Shelby, who’s got one dark eyebrow raised.
“You love me,” Shelby says as though she’s trying the idea on for size.
“And you love me,” Britt says. “Sorted. So you’re staying.”
Shelby runs her hand through her dark hair, then looks around the kitchen as if seeing it for the first time. “Man, this whole time I’ve been ignoring you because I thought it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to even think about using magic to make you like me, but. I mean, that sort of thing is always there in the mind of every witch. Just this once. The temptation to use magic selfishly just this once is—”
Britt cuts her off with a passionate kiss that tastes of salt, sugar, and rind.
“You didn’t ensorcel me,” Britt says. “But you can sure make up for all the time you spent ignoring me.” She gives Shelby what she hopes is a coquettish grin.
Shelby’s face is red, her mouth a lopsided three quarters smile. “Why don’t we start with a movie, huh? And maybe if you feel like falling asleep, do it on my shoulder?”
“Deal,” Britt says, looping her arm around Shelby’s and guiding her toward the living room. “So all this fruit preserving—is that a witch thing?”
“Mostly no,” Shelby says wistfully, “that was all angst brining. But then you didn’t say anything about it, and I just sort of went on brining, and…”
The infatuated new couple recede into the living room, leaving jars of lemons, blood oranges, clementines, and tangerines to sweat in the dense summer heat, their rinds softening for the sweet love of their acidic brine.
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 03:58|
Three Alarm Chili
Agni prefered the dry heat of the Mojave over the monsoons of Mumbai. He’d even taken to the boots, wide-brimmed hat and dungarees, but he furled his brow at the unappetizing pot of slop bubbling on the campfire. Chili shouldn’t have been so hard to master. Beans, tomatoes, and spices--essentially an American curry. He’d even telegramed his mother for advice, but she always replied “just add more yogurt,” which wasn’t helpful.
Dale, Agni’s ranch-hand partner, scooped a cupful of chili and took a giant first bite. “Your chili is the best, even if you don’t use any meat,” he said with his mouth full. “Gotta be some of your voodoo magic, but I’m not complaining.” He cut a piece of cornbread from the dutch oven with his knife and stuffed it into his mouth.
Agni sighed and walked to the edge of the camp. In the low light of the setting sun he could just make out the silhouettes of the herd grazing in the valley below. More cows than he’d ever seen back home, and he alone was responsible for their wellbeing. Well, Dale too, but his routine was usually chili → bourbon → snoring, and Angi wouldn’t trust him with even a single peacock.
Agni pulled a ganjha cigarette from his vest and leaned against a sandstone outcropping. He meditated to the sound of a sloshing bottle and distant thunder.
He met Prajapati in a field of lotuses, making an intricate mandala out of spices on an old wooden table.
Angi watched him for a while, not wanting to interrupt.
“I always like making the middle of the mandala the most,” said Prajapati without looking up. Every small addition grows the flower by leaps and bounds, but towards the outer ends you can work for days and never notice the difference. It’s very frustrating, but important to finishing. Without the edge, the mandala would be incomplete.”
“Your chili. You are working on the outer rim, but the heart is corrupt.”
“What do you mean?” Angi asked. “My heart?”
Prajapati shook his head. “The heart that beats beneath your chili. You of all people should know this. Fire is the great creator, but your chili is not in the fire, is it? It’s sequestered away in your metal bowl.” His hand arced along the edge of the mandala, pouring a thin line of red spice, but it never seemed to fully loop back and complete the circle.
“But I can’t light a fire in my chili,” Agni protested.
Prajapati looked up and brushed the dust off of his hands. “Purity comes not from the surrounding heat, but from the fire contained within. Learn to control that, and you shall have what you seek.” The god took a deep breath and blew the mandala, sending a flurry of spices at Angi.
The crackling of brittlebrush stirred Agni from his oblivion. The sun had finished setting and it was dark except for the glow of fire. A gust of desert wind blew smoke and embers of paper into Angi’s face and his belongings; a small brushfire burned close enough that Angi felt the sting of tightening skin around his eyes. He grabbed the shovel from next to the fire pit and scooped heaps of earth onto the fire as fast as he could until he had smothered the fire. A blanket of red dust settled on everything in the camp. Dale, passed out in his tent, coughed a few times and rolled over.
Agni pulled the remains of his burned pack from the pile of dirt.
“Aw, man,” said Agni, dropping the hot satchel back to the ground as it burned his hand. He licked his singed fingertips and looked down at the bag. A pack of cayenne peppers wrapped in smoldering paper fell out, which startled him, since he hadn’t packed any peppers.
He bent down and poked at the package with a stick. The peppers had been charred and dried in the fire, but their aroma was unmistakable. He separated a single pepper from the others and cautiously picked it up, tossing it back and forth between his hands until it cooled to a manageable temperature.
Angi took a bite and gasped for air. It was hard to determine where the burning from the fire ended and the spice began. He spit it from his mouth but the burning continued.
He’d had spices before, naturally, and even been goaded into trying peppers too hot for him to handle by his friends back in Bandra. But these gifts from Prajapati burned with heat from the gods.
A group of men gathered near the brick oven tucked between the general store and the brothel, all holding a cup, bowl, or some even with a full pot intending to return a hero to their family.
“No way it’s better than meat,” said a soot-covered worker from the nearby silver mine.
“It’s perfect, best chili that ever existed,” said another.
Agni mumbled to himself, stirred the pot, and dipped his dirty finger into the chili and brought it to his lips. “No, not right. Never right. Never finished. The edges are never finished.” He sprinkled a bit more stone-ground, fire-roasted cayenne powder into the chili. He took another long drag of ganjha and closed his eyes. He’d taken to lacing it with a small amount of peyote he’d traded some Navajo they’d crossed paths with. It helped him chase down that slippery sunuvabitch Prajapati.
“What’s wrong with him though?”
Agni looked up from his pot. “He knows the secret, but he hides in his fields of flowers. Hard to find him. But need the peppers.” He resumed his work of tinkering with the chili. “Too cold,” he said. Another dash of ground cayenne and he tasted it again and then threw his satchel of herbs to the ground. “Too hot! It’s ruined!” He stormed off toward the room he rented above the apothecary, and the crowd set in to scooping the boiling chili into their cups, bowls and pots.
The crowds had grown, as had the distances from which they hailed. There was a system now, a line to distribute the chili after Agni invariably threw up his hands and abandoned it. Grease the right palms and you could find your way to the front of the line. Own the right people, and you could have it delivered to you in your own parlor.
The alleyway was lined with offerings of dried beans, pallets of fresh tomatoes, and canvas bags filled with peppers and other spices. Agni would browse through them each morning as he began his cooking. Ads were hung up around town boasting that Agni had used a store’s tomato or beans, hoping to lure customers who hoped to recreate the dish for their families.
Horses on the street just outside the alleyway had to walk around dozens of tables that had been either dragged over or built on site to give the lucky dozens a place to sit and eat their chili.
Agni mediated more often and grew less coherent. Men that complimented him were ignored, women that propositioned him were shunned. Agni talked only to himself and his invisible compatriot, only leaving his room to cook or disappear into the hills on horseback at breakneck speeds into the black night that even the most foolhardy cowpokes were wise enough not to attempt to follow him.
It was a Sunday when Agni finally perfected his chili; the women were waiting patiently in dresses and with parasols, the men in top hats and three piece suits.
Agni, his face somehow sallow despite his days spent in the sun, dipped his finger into the chili and tasted it, then stood up straight. “I’ve finished it!”
The congenial conversations in the crowd died down as everybody turned toward the Indian specter, his clothes ratty and knotted from impromptu patches and his face streaked with mud of dirt and dried tomatoes.
“Perfectly balanced. A gift to the gods!” Agni laughed manically at the sky as his chili, settling into its triple point, wafted from the pot as vapor.
The spicy fog drifted through the crowd. Children cried and spit as they breathed in lungfuls of Agni’s consummate creation. Dogs barked and bit at the air that stung their eyes. The whole cloud of chili rose into the air on the desert breeze as the townspeople wiped at their faces with handkerchiefs and fumbled through the crowd looking for their loved ones.
Agni laughed a bellowing, otherworldly laugh as the chili fog in the air above him spontaneously turned back to liquid and rained on the onlookers. The women with their parasols were initially spared, until the rain drops transmuted into solid balls of baked beans and tomatoes and tore through the gossamer fabric and left welts.
The whole process repeated a half dozen times, with the chili shifting from vapor clouds to liquid rain and a hail of diced onions.
Panicked people slipped in the capsaicin-ladened mud and grasped at the tables to pull themselves up before being knocked back down by the nuggets of finely pureed tomatoes.
“Stop this madness!” somebody screamed, but Agni’s laughs thundered through the skies and echoed off the hills as he unlocked his Brahman.
Agni met Prajapati in his field of flowers and walked over to the unfinished mandala. With a steady hand, Agni reached out and poured the final rim of the cayenne border, and then with the acceptance of the protector, erupted into flame.
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 03:58|
The Kitchens are Closed.
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 04:19|
Thunderdome Week 420: Guys we made the weed number
I want to keep this post frank and productive, so instead of writing a big gushy paragraph about what a good job you're all doing at writing lovely words for 8 years, I sat down briefly with Sebmojo to talk about 8 years of this contest, as well as what it means to do and be Thunderdome in 2020.
Right. So whether you are an old hat at Thunderdome, a newbie, or one of our prompt contributors from BYOB, welcome!
Many of you have commissioned stories by submitting one or more outlines to this form (which is now closed—thank you so much to everyone who contributed). It's possible you didn't know you were commissioning a story, but that's what's going to happen!
We're keeping it simple this week. You sign up, you receive a random outline from the above form, and do your damndest to write a story that uses all the details in the outline you receive. Outline contributors get to watch their stories come to life! Much to their delight, or dismay.
You couldn't ask for a simpler prompt. Most of the thinking has already been done for you; you get the fun job of stringing it all together!
The winner of this week will have the option of receiving a free custom week 420 av. The loser will receive a free, non-optional custom week 420 av
The top outline contributor was Tyrannosaurus! Wow. Thanks buddy.
The top genre category was magical realism, followed by science fiction, fantasy, horror, and general/literary fiction!
UPDATE: Re-roll opportunity!
As promised! A re-roll opportunity. Read the following statements carefully, and only quote the portion of this post that applies to your situation. Failure to follow these very simple instructions will result in me ignoring your post and probably making fun of you in public. If you don't want to re-roll, don't do anything. Just go write your story. FFS do i have to spell out everything.
(this is mostly for my benefit tbh)
Sign-ups post 1
Signups post 2
Fumblemouse (post 3)
Signup post 4
Signup post 5
Signup post 6
Signup post 7
Something Else (post 8)
Signup Post 9
Reroll post 1
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 23:10 on Aug 20, 2020
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 07:18|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 13:58|
Week 420 post part 2
To kick things off, here is an example of what an outline will look like. The first person to sign up gets to choose whether or not to use this outline, or to receive a random one from the list! If the first person to sign up does not opt to use this outline, it will go back in the hopper for random distribution later
If you want a longer explanation for each category, please consult the Google form, which has more detailed explanations. Feel free to hit me up on the Thunderdome Discord as well!
What the protagonist wants:
On Earth, sometime in history or pre-history
The Great Depression
Feels guilty about what they want
Your protagonist's attribute...
Seems to help, but backfires
Your protagonist's obstructor...
Takes the character completely by surprise
At the end of the story...
The world problem is no longer relevant to anyone
|# ? Aug 17, 2020 07:19|