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Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Hi, hello, I would like to join in.

I'll try to write some noir.

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Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Prompt: Noir without “city”, “eye”, “detective”, “crime”, “woman”, cigarette”, “street”, “car”, “boss”, or “door”.

Going Back
1750 words


When Corrections Victoria let Blake Campbell out of prison, he told them he felt thankful and lucky. It would have been true, if he’d ever killed that ice dealer. If the original life sentence hadn’t been a set-up.

***

Blake’s house keys still worked. He was two steps inside when Mel saw him.

Mel said, “You... You're supposed to be in prison.”

Mel wasn't being reasonable to him, not empathising with his circumstance, but at least she was being honest.

“I got out.”

“They let you out?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

He let her question hang. Hoping she'd feel bad for asking. Maybe she did. It looked like she might be about to tear up. He went to the pantry and opened it, looking for whisky but finding only cooking sherry.

“I’m sorry, Blake,” Mel said, following him to the kitchen. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit much. I thought you were never getting out.”

He poured sherry into a tumbler and downed it. He hadn’t liked sherry much before, but as his first drink back out, it tasted good. He poured another.

“Hey, c'mon! I'm out of jail, we should be celebrating!”

Mel put on a smile, and said:

“What are you going to do now, for money I mean?”

“Whatever works,” he said with a shrug. “Mel, I just wanna live. It's me first day out. I'm just glad yer still here. It's okay, I get that I spooked ya, but it's okay.”

“The things they said you did.”

“Like I said when ya used to come visit, don't believe it. I didn't do any o' that.”

“So it was Chuck?”

“Mel, honestly. I've had a long time to think. There's a part o' me, big part, that wants to take everything from Chuck for what he did. Where's that gonna get me though? Bloody back in the clink.”

“So what's your plan?”

“I'll work construction, or Woolies, or even fucken Maccas.”

“No more burglaries?”

“No more fucken burgs, don't even worry.”

***

Mack was six foot two, all muscle and love. He embraced Blake and complimented him for getting through his time.

“So,” Mack said, “whatcha gonna get on with?”

“Mack mate, I gotta get me a burg or two. Start the party fund back up.”

“I hear ya, Blakey, I hear ya. But isn’t that what got ya in trouble?”

“Yeah-nah mate. That was all Chuck’s fuckup.”

“Chuck?”

“Yeah, fucken Charlie. How’s he doing, anyway?”

“Chuck’s up in a fancy house, big garden, gate n’ everythin’, over in Camberwell. Haven’t seen him round here in years.”

“How the gently caress he swing that?”

“He’s big in the ice game now.”

Blake’s grip tightened around his beer bottle, he stood up.

***

“You believe this poo poo!” Blake yelled at Mel.

“I heard he was doing well for himself,” Mel said.

“Oh yeah, Chuck’s doing real well for himself. Off the back o’ my fucken work! My fucken five years in Ravenhall!”

“Babe, what does it change?” Mel came close and put her arm on Blake’s chest. “What about your plans to go straight, work construction?”

Mel was closer to him than she’d been since he got out. He’d slept on the couch, knowing that he’d made her nervous with his homecoming. But now she was right next to him, he could feel her skin on his. It was more intoxicating than the cooking sherry.

Blake pulled Mel closer and she blinked and angled her head toward him. They kissed the way he’d imagined they would kiss when he first walked in.

He wasted no time getting her into bed, and after he was inside her, she said:

“Choke me!”

That was new. He put his hand around her neck and squeezed, surprised at how much he enjoyed it. He let his hand on her neck be an anchor as he worked like a piston. Over and over. She went limp.

“gently caress! gently caress!”

Blake jumped off her, immediately deflated. He shot glances around the room, looking for something to help him.

He grabbed her shoulders and shook.

She convulsed, then gasped.

“Je... Jesus!” Mel said.

“Oh thank gently caress,” said Blake.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha, oh wow,” Mel said as she sat up, swinging her legs off the bed. She pushed against the headboard to hold herself up and rubbed her neck.

Blake was just staring at her.

Mel stood up.

“I need a glass of water,” she said. “That was good though!”

Was it? He thought he had killed her. Now she was laughing as she walked to the kitchen.
Abruptly, she was silent. Then the sound of smashing glass.

He rushed into the kitchen. Her body was lying on the ground.

She started laughing and stood up.

“Ah, you should have seen your face!” she said.

“What the gently caress?”

She was alive, again. She had scared him on purpose.

“Haha, can you imagine if I had fainted though? Cracked my head on the bench going down? They’d think you killed me!”

They’d send him right back, he knew. It wasn’t funny.

“Don’t choke me so hard next time, okay?” she said, smiling at him.

He forced a smile back. All he could think was: Am I a joke to you?

***

Charlie Stilon’s house was three stories of white and grey contemporary extravagance, each level jutting out from the other like the base of a collapsed Jenga tower. It was softly lit from spotlights in the gardens. Blake waited for the light on the top floor to go out.

Mack had driven him, shown him the house, and even said if Mel asked he’d tell her they spent the night drinking. Mack wouldn’t come in though, not for all of Blake’s pleading.

Blake had seen cameras on the front porch. He went around to the neighbour’s place and slipped through their yard. Now he was standing behind Chuck’s house, on the brushed steel veranda. He stared at a fountain of a horse spitting water while he tried to figure out whether to climb upstairs. He was thinking about how stupid the fountain looked when he felt a crack on the back of his head and the lights went out.

***

The room Blake woke up in was maybe five feet by twelve and between the washer, drier, and sink there wasn’t much room left for the chair he was tied to.

On top of the drier sat a thin guy with a Mediterranean complexion. He was blowing clouds from a pen-sized vape. Behind him, on the drier, was a red tackle box.

“Are you gonna torture me?” Blake asked.

“Woah, torture, hey man, no. No. I’m not gonna... no. Eh, besides, that poo poo doesn’t work, man. I saw this documentary on Guantanamo. It’s messed up, huh?”

“So what, you gonna get me a burger and a beer and we’ll sing kumbaya?”

“You want a beer?” The guy pointed with his thumb at the only entrance and exit the room had.
Blake said nothing, but the guy got up anyway, coming back quickly with two black cans of beer covered in yellow print. He put one on the drier and cracked the other and held it up to Blake’s lips.

gently caress that’s good.

“Haha! How’s that Blakey boy!”

“It’s good... have we met?”

“No man, but I know you. Knew it as soon as I saw you on the monitors, there're some photos of you around the house, you’re Blake Campbell.”

Blake nodded.

“So, what you doing here?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Leo, Chuck’s security. Kind of a bodyguard. Sleeps sounder with me around, you know? So, what are you doing here?”

“Chuck and I are old friends. I came ta say hello.”

“Haha, oh man. At 2AM? by sneaking round the back? Don’t mistake my kindness for stupidity, Blake. Makes me rethink my whole approach.”

“He owes me.”

“Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. This aint the way to figure it out. You gotta come during the day, phone first, make an appointment. Sit down real nice and polite and share a few good stories of the old times first, so you both relax.”

“You think that’d work?”

“It’d work better than this what you’re doing right now.”

Leo took a knife out of his belt. Blake tensed up and Leo cut the rope binding Blake’s right arm.

“Cheers,” Blake said.

“Don’t mention it,” Leo said as he handed Blake the opened beer can. Then he cracked his and took a drink.

They drank their beers and stared at each other. After a while, Leo spoke:

“So, I gotta call the cops or what?”

“Nah mate. I’ll go.”

“Good, man, good. And look, call for that meeting, I’ll make sure Chuck puts it on the books. You seem all right for a guy that just got outta the joint.”

They finished their beer, then Leo untied Blake. He kept the knife in his hand and kept Blake in front of him. They walked to the entranceway, their footsteps silent across the deep shag carpet.

Blake glanced at the photos in the hallway, finding one of him and Chuck just like Leo had said. There were newer photos too. One had Mel in a pink dress Blake had never seen, at the races, with Chuck. He had his arm around her in the photo.

“Hey who’s this oval office?” Blake asked, pointing at a photo.

Leo realised what Blake was doing, but not before Blake had broken his attention just long enough for Blake to get his hands around Leo’s throat.

Leo stabbed at Blake with the knife. It slid into Blake’s belly. Blake shoved Leo down onto the carpet, barely making a thud against the thick shag. Blake got his knees onto Leo’s arms to pin them in place. Leo slashed at Blake’s legs. Blake squeezed and squeezed and Leo fell unconscious.

Blake thought about killing Leo. He figured he go down for what he was about to do, witness or not. His blood was all over the place and soon he’d have to call an ambulance for his guts.

Blake strapped Leo to the chair and took the knife. After finding the remainder of the Mornington Pale Ale in the fridge, he took the beer and the knife upstairs. Time to see Chuck.

Soon he’d be going back. Not as a chump this time, though. Not as some patsy for people to laugh at and feel pity for when he insisted he was innocent. No, this time he’d go in for something he’d done, for good reason. For himself.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Antivehicular posted:

Interprompt: Things you can't say out loud
200 words

Line Noise
200 words

A thousand raindrops patter and plink on the walls and ceiling around me. My frantic inputs rise above the din of the rain, a symphony of clacks in Cherry white key. Moonlight bathes the world outside my little box, while I am lit from the projected amber of the terminal. The glow intensifies as my flow takes me to the height of programmatic composition. I know what I must say to the machine.

“Goodbye,” would be a fitting translation for the litany of arcane instructions that I will send. As I encode the final glyph, I stare at the screen. I am awash in its glow and in the silencing power of the rain that is more quiet than silence itself, for its beat blocks out the world.

Compiled, Uploaded. Perhaps “shut up” is a better translation. Soon the worm will activate, generating a horde of email addresses and phone numbers, using them to birth accounts on social media old and new. Flooding the world with posts. They will call me vandal, and worse. They will try to tear down everything I’ve built. For some, though, my rain will block out the world, and they will live again. Disconnected. Themselves.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


In. Give me the item.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Prompt: Shaggy Dog inspired Anti-Story
Item of disproportionate importance: floor

No More Plucka
765 words

“Jim, you’re a goddamn son of a bitch!” Ardie blasted at the room once he had cleared the pub’s double doors.

He threw one leg after the other in a conniption toward the bar, and with a meaty paw he ripped his broad-brimmed cattleman’s hat from his bald and weathered dome.

“Fucken hell, Ardie, calm down. Sit and have a drink,” said Jim, behind the bar.

Ardie got in front of the taps and swung a leg out over a stool. The cushion’s exterior had split years ago, the soft yellow foam inside showing through open arcs. No stool on the wooden boards of The Railway Hotel’s floor looked any better.

Jim pulled the lever and out poured a stream of draught. ‘Carlton Draught’ the brewery named it, but no one ever said the first bit, just ‘draught’. Jim caught the draught flow in a schooner glass at perfect angle, adjusting pitch as the glass filled. Jim looked at Ardie the whole while, hoping they’d soon reach agreement, and when the glass was full with beer but for the foam on top, Jim put the schooner on the bar right where Ardie sat, dead centre.

Ardie wore a navy-blue canvas work-shirt rolled up past the elbows. He had swollen arms and fat hands made rough from hard work in the hot sun. He clasped the cold glass of draught and lifted it up and looked through it, at Jim’s amber ghost. Then, he drank.

“Bloody alright that,” he said. It was his ritual. He’d labour from dawn until someone said it was after five or until he felt it was. He’d drive his busted-up ute to The Railway Hotel. He’d drink the night away with Plucka. To start things off, he’d savour the mostly foam mouthful off the top of that drought-breaking, thirst slaking, first beer. Then he’d express himself. Ardie was a man of consistency; the drink was always ‘bloody alright’ after a day of hard yakka.

The start of his ritual complete, Ardie turned his attention back to Jim.

“You’re a son of a bitch, you know that?”

“Yeah mate,” Jim said, “I heard ya.”

“Got no bloody appreciation for your regulars. No bloody appreciation for me or for Plucka.”

“C’mon Ardie, don’t tell me you didn’t see this comin’.”

“See what comin’? You barring me best mate from the only pub in two hundred kays? In the summer heat! You’re a dog oval office you are.”

“Ardie, mate, c’mon, seriously. Plucka brought this on himself. He’s got no control. All you do, by the way, is egg him on! You sneak him beers and just sit up here laughing while Plucka harasses people.”

“They fucken love it. Everyone loves Plucka.”

“You know how many times I’ve had to have these floors cleaned?”

Ardie took another mouthful of draught and looked at the polished floorboards. They were heritage, from 1859, when the pub was first built. They hadn’t been well taken care of.

“Yer floor looks like poo poo,” Ardie told Jim.

“Looks like poo poo. That’s very funny Ardie, very loving funny thing to say after your mate Plucka shat on the floor. Five days in a row! Last Thursday he shat on the floor three times! Three times! We can’t have that in here. And you come in and call me a son of a bitch?”

“Ah plenty of your regulars have done worse, don’t lie.”

Jim put both hands flat on the lowered work area of the bar and looked into Ardie’s eyes. They weren’t exactly friends, but when you spend five nights a week in the same room telling tales to one another you develop a certain familiarity. They were bar mates. It wasn’t a fondness either would dare express, but it was a bond that went back to before Plucka had come on the scene.

“First off, Ardie,” Jim said, “I don’t bloody agree with that, not for a second. Second, no one else has tried to take my eye out.”

“He was just playin’. Besides, you’d stopped serving him, I think you made him upset.”

“He shouldn’t be loving drinking to begin with!”

Ardie took another drink of the draught. It was true, all of it. Plucka had been a scoundrel, he’d taken poo poo after poo poo on the floor, and he’d nearly taken Jim’s eye out. Maybe it was time to accept that Plucka’s days at The Railway Hotel were over.

“All right Jim,” Ardie said, “it’s your bar. You made yer point. No more Plucka.”

Jim said, “Not just Plucka; I don’t want any more emus in the bar!”

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Thank you for the crits and crudgment!

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


In. Blade Runner.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Film: Blade Runner

Authentic Los Angeles Ramen
850 words

Enji Kato’s chefs stirred, poured, and ladled around him as he stared at the assortment of alcohols on the back wall of his open-air diner. The two customers that had shown up right after opening, for an early lunch, didn’t seem to mind that he had his back to them while they finished their noodles. He wasn’t in the mood for his usual banter.

Should I just change that, as Hitomi does? he wondered. She had married him forty years ago, back in Sapporo, and now every day she was happy. Ever since she bought that mood-link.

The afternoon darkened as gravity dragged curtains of water from the sky, separating the oblong diner from everything but the immediate sidewalk. The building’s neon rimmed roof like an island shore in the deluge.

Enji continued his distracted inspection of the intoxicants. All the local favourites were on display: whisky, vodka, rum, gin, coffee and hazelnut liqueurs. There was sake. There was shochu for highballs, those were getting more popular. Beer was on tap, of course, that was more popular than all the rest put together.

A dozen different paths to the same place. Some placed importance on how they travelled. A few wouldn’t go down those roads at all. Enji didn’t care when his wife got drunk, he liked it. She spoke fearlessly and told more jokes. She was more fun, even when the jokes were at his expense. Her drinking didn’t bother him. The mood-link, though, he cared about.

What if one day she’s not supposed to be happy? What if she shouldn’t be happy with me, and she doesn’t even know?

“Excuse me,” said a voice behind him.

He turned around to see a young woman in a blue polyethylene coat and an expensive haircut.

“Douzo,” he said, waving a hand at the bar stools.

In Enji’s head, a voice chastised him for not welcoming the customer to the store.

“What’s the most authentic one?” the woman asked, pointing at the noodle menu.

Enji thought about telling her the very question was a sign it didn’t matter. She shouldn’t care. What’s the point of finding an authentic dish if not to recapture part of yourself? Why want what’s authentic to someone else when you could instead seek something delicious to your own taste? He thought about telling her the Japanese took noodles from China and made of them what they liked; there was nothing more authentic about Japanese ramen than American ramen.

He’d have to say a lot to get all that across, though. He’d have to say it in proper English. That would make him seem less authentic.

He knew what she wanted. She wanted to like something and feel good for liking it. She wanted to feel, on her lunch break, she was engaging with a deep cultural history as she fumbled with her chopsticks.

“Numba 6, very authentic. Tonkotsu ramen,” was what he went with.

“Okay sure,” she said, “Tonkatsu ramen!”

He didn’t correct her. It didn’t matter. Perhaps anything he served would have been considered authentic because he looked the part. As though there was an art to boiling noodles and marinating pork that could only be passed down through blood. Enji barked orders at the chefs, in Japanese, to get her order ready as he attended to the next customer. He welcomed them as cheerily as he could manage.

Shadows in the rain became people on the sidewalk, and enough became customers to pack the line of barstools tight like a roll of hungry quarters. Noodles boiled and fried; steam clouds filling the diner before being gathered up by the exhaust fan in the ceiling. From there the fan whipped streams of steam out of the kitchen and through the roof, onto the street. Using mood-links on the public for any purpose, including inciting a desire for fatty pork and silky noodles, was strictly illegal. What was perfectly legal, however, was the filter between the exhaust fan and outlet. A filter Enji coated each day in an oil he infused with pork and soy extracts.

“Thanks!” said the woman, placing her empty bowl back up on the bar.

Enji bowed toward her.

“Oh-eee-sheeee!” she said, smiling right at him before darting off.

A terrible pronunciation, one of the worst he’d heard in his sixty-one years. It made him smile. She’d enjoyed the experience. She’d had a good meal. What more did he want for his customers? Why else go to the trouble? The bowls, the chopsticks, the seats under the neon dragon looking onto his team of chefs shouting in Japanese, the enhanced smell of pork and soy wafting on the breeze, his charmingly quaint accent and disarmingly limited vocabulary, a meal made to exacting standards. Parts of it were fake, but the experience was real, and the customers enjoyed it all.

A faint shadow of a smile stayed with him as he worked, his mood for banter growing. He thought of Hitomi. She didn’t seem like a different person; just happier more often. Maybe he’d get a mood-link himself. Authentic was a fake idea anyway.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Thunderdome Week 419: The Thunder Chef!

"Tell me what you eat,
and I'll tell you what you are."

- Brillat-Savarin

Announcer: "Nearly a decade ago, one sub-forum's fantasy became reality, in a form never seen before: The Thunderdome. A giant writing arena. The motivation for spending the sub-forum's fortune to create this arena was to encounter new and original works, which could be called true artistic creations.

"The challengers have one week to tackle the theme ingredient of the prompt. Using all their senses, skills, and creativity, they're to prepare artistic words never read before. Every battle reputations are on the line in the Thunderdome, where writers pit their artistic creations together to find out who... will become.... the Thunder Chef!"

If my memory serves me correctly, it was a humble ingredient that first launched the Thunderdome. Yet has there ever been a suitably bacchanalian celebration of cuisine?

This week, depictions of food and drink in your submission should be lavish or pivotal.

Your descriptions might be vaguely pornographic, but please do not write actual porn. No loving with the food. No gross out stuff. Be merry, celebrate the vittles.

I want to sink my teeth into these culinary constructions, so you each get 2,000 words. But of course you know, using an ingredient just because it's in your pantry and there's space left in the pan isn't likely to improve what you end up serving.

If you would like a specific ingredient, you may ask for one, and it should become important to your story.


Sign ups due: Midnight of Friday, August 14th (America/New York)
Submissions due: Midnight of Sunday, August 16th (America/New York)


Judges
Chopstick Dystopia
Mocking Quantum
UraniumPhoenix

Entrants
Sparksbloom - Cinnamon
GrandmaParty - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Antivehicular - Yellow Bell Pepper
Sitting Here - Preserved Orange
Saucy_Rodent - Lamb Fat
CaligulaKangaroo - Hummus
Thranguy - Dark Beer
Something Else - Water
Noah - Butter
Cache Cab - сало
Freakie - Duck Eggs
Ceighk - Rye
The Saddest Rhino - Fig
Crabrock

Chopstick Dystopia fucked around with this message at 06:25 on Aug 17, 2020

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


sparksbloom posted:

in! and I'd like an ingredient

Cinnamon

GrandmaParty posted:

In. One ingredient, please.

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Antivehicular posted:

In, and toss me an ingredient, Chairman

Yellow Bell Pepper

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Sitting Here posted:

ingredient me bb

Preserved Orange

Saucy_Rodent posted:

In, gredient

Lamb Fat

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


CaligulaKangaroo posted:

IN

GIVE ME AN INGREDIENT

Hummus

Thranguy posted:

In with an ingredient

Dark Beer

Something Else posted:

I'll get in and I do need an ingredient please

Water

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Noah posted:

In. I am requesting an ingredient, please.

Butter

Cache Cab posted:

I will go in, and give me an ingredient please!

Ukrainian Salo


edit: spelling

Chopstick Dystopia fucked around with this message at 05:38 on Aug 11, 2020

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Freakie posted:

Hello I would like in(gredient).

Duck Eggs

Ceighk posted:

in & ingredient please

Rye

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


The Saddest Rhino posted:

Gimme an ingredient

Fig

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Sign-ups: they're closed!

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


The Kitchens are Closed.

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Judgement: Week 419
This week saw some very enjoyable fare. Thank you to all who submitted. There was something to like in every story, and a lot to like in most.

Before we get to that, however, a special shout-out to those who couldn't stand the heat and got out of the kitchen: Something Else, Freakie, and Ceighk :(

While I had originally planned to mostly ignore the work of the notorious Cache Cab, after reading the other entries it was clear that Alien's Sexy Mushroom deserved the loss. You know what you did. Also, salo is served cold. There is no opportunity for it to burn!

A DM this week for CaligulaKangaroo with Closing. For how little happened, this was hard to follow at the start and underwhelming at the end.

GrandmaParty also DMs this week with Locals Only. A story of trials where the trials don’t matter.

A HM goes to The Saddest Rhino for Kimberly's End of Summer Fig and Port Trifle. This vibrant fever-dream was a gripping, unsettling, tale that seemed to mourn the ephemeral nature of life.

Victory is Antivehicular’s with An Oral History of Bryce Allen Gifford's Last Meal. This story was well structured and well paced, with a beautiful ending that every judge enjoyed. Congratulations!
(it's probably obvious but you will judge week 421)

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


In

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
k


Judgecrits: Week 419

Cache Cab’s Alien’s Sexy Mushroom
Muru’s boyfriend, an indie chef, cooks her a mushroom pasta. He mistakenly uses a large quantity of horny mushroom, and they must gently caress.

This is the first Cache Cab story I’ve read after hearing a lot of hype. Turns out it’s not my style. Some of jokes do land, but for me a lot of it falls short of the so-bad-it’s-good threshold.

Use of the salo feels very tacked on here, there was no need to request an ingredient and mentions of it here are distracting more than anything.

I didn’t hate it, but it felt like an acquired taste I just didn’t understand. Kind of like Muru trying salo.


Noah’s The Secret of the Churnkeep
A buttermonger serves butter degustation. His explanation of the provenance of the highly-sought after final course dovetails with the terrible fate that awaits the diners.

This is atmospheric and nails the food descriptions. This felt like an old pulp horror tale and I was drawn along by the mystery of the Mčre Céleste and the fate of the buttermonger.

The ending lost me. Not only is this sort of customer treatment unsustainable, I don’t understand the greater why of its happening. The buttermonger and his associate were punished for their blackmail, but why are the patrons to undergo this punishment?


sparksbloom's Real Cinnamon
Kasia is shown up by Greta and then relegated to cleaning duty. After finding out that Greta is a witch, Kasia quits to find something more fulfilling and is confronted by Greta. Kasia resists, but her will might fail after the end of the story.

This was a good opening and I felt Kasia’s frustration at Greta noticing the dark edges, supplanting her in the kitchen.

I liked Kasia’s nervousness with Joshua, her struggle for the place she once had in the bakery that Greta now rightly occupies. It feels like an injustice but it’s a reality Kasia has to deal with.

Or maybe she doesn’t have to deal with it because Greta’s actually just an evil witch. Kasia theorising that Greta is a witch, I thought was going to be about her inability to handle her own loss of status. I was surprised that Greta was indeed a witch. Why is someone with the power to create life (Tuva) working at a bakery for Joshua?

Then we end without really knowing what happens. Kasia may still eat the pasty (and then be under the witches spell?) or she may not, in which case what’s she gonna do?

Ultimately, I liked the start of this and then it lost me completely.



GrandmaParty’s Locals Only
Beebus, Shapiro, and Davis are home from Vietnam and Beebus takes them to a legendary bar. The bartender tells them its locals only, then says if they win the challenges they’ll drink on him. One the challenges are completed the bartender reneges. Slighted, the returned soldiers burn down the bar and leave.

My feeling is this story needed some cuts in the beginning setup and more going on later.

The whisky was okay as a mcguffin, but other than being a good local speciality didn’t seem to mean anything to the characters.

I liked the stuff about Shapiro the quartermaster feeling off when people asked him about his service. I didn’t feel that really jived with the way he acted thought.

I liked Beebus the local understanding the pickled chitterling challenge and getting it over with quickly. The third challenge being a fight between them, and them getting straight to it, I also enjoyed.

I didn’t really like any of the characters in this before the boys burned down the bar, and after they did that I didn’t even understand them.


Saucy_Rodent’s Do as the Witches Do
Kyle agrees to go with Brooke to a ritual sacrifice, even though its not a date and he might get sacrificed and there’s an orgy where he might do some gay stuff. In the end, he just chills with Brooke and they develop their friendship.

Both of these characters, Kyle and Brooke, are pretty chill. As a result this is a bit of a relaxed, enjoyable read. My biggest issue with this is what Brooke tells us that Kyle is super wound up, always studying and having to get As and not drinking, but he’s actually been super chill up to this point about the sacrifice, his sexuality, and stealing. He is not worldly about tequila or witches, but he doesn’t seem tightly wound to me.

There is some tension around what will happen at the orgy, but instead he ends up sharing a joint with Brooke so as to not disrespect the moon.

The lamb and the lamb fat here feel perfunctory, but I don’t mind because the story feels kind of nice and easy, like hanging out with Brooke.

Please don’t write “said chipperly” again, though, thanks.


CaligulaKangaroo’s Closing
A restaurant is going under and the owners, a couple, are having a tense time of their relationship. Many customers come for the last night.

What I liked most about this was the tension of Ana and Owen was shown to us. I also liked them laughing over Ana’s mother’s insistence on not using the food processor in their restaurant.

Unfortunately both the start of this was difficult to follow and the ending didn’t fit. I thought at first they were about to open for the first time. Then later realised they were about to close for the last time. When Ana is reminiscing about the past at the start it is not clear why or what time she is in relative to that.

At the end when they laugh about the town being weird I don’t get it.


Thanguy’s A Matter of Meat
Talon, Joven, and Quiz retrieve a dragon’s corpse and put on a feast

I really liked the premise of this. I was excited for where it might go, but it was mostly about the logistics of moving a dragon and then cooking it.

I liked them tasting the meat and comparing it to different things they had tried and figuring out how to cook it. I enjoyed them having to use the dragon’s own parts to cut into it.

What was not so great was that the tension from the start quickly evaporated and the ending felt anticlimactic. The challenge of the broken carts was solved by them finding money under the dragon, and the challenge of buying enough ale for the feast was solved with them finding gold in the dragon’s belly.


The Saddest Rhino’s Kimberly’s End of Summer Fig and Port Trifle
A grandparent in the autumn of their years reminisces on an unforgettable summer.

Starting with the prep time and servings, then finishing with the recipe, gives this the form of a recipe blog with a meandering intro. Except here we have a fever dream portended by the opening gif. One in which we contemplate natural cycles, ends and beginnings, through the memory of a summer's end.

I liked a lot about this. The imagery is vibrant. The depiction of revelry, and nature, is simultaneously pleasant and disconcerting.

What a lot of stories missed this week is ritual. The sharing of food to mean more than just having a meal. This story felt more magical to me than the ones that actually involved magic.

At the same time I think I might have missed something. The mention of grand plans that bookend the story - I'm not sure what these are. I also found a couple of items too cute, such as "bee-utiful", "15. [Instructions obscured] 16. wasps.".

It felt like a memory worth remembering. Figs were important. Descriptions were lavish. Well done.


Antivehicular’s An Oral History of Bryce Allen Gifford’s Last Meal

I like the story here. The anticipation and deliberate anti-climax. That he wanted to eat his mother's cooking the way everyone else had. The pacing here was good and the whole thing flows.

The connection between food and memory is invoked here, but for a memory that never was. It hit me.

I don’t have a lot to say here. The writing melted away and I just enjoyed the story.


Sitting Here’s Salt and Acid, Sugar and Rind
Shelby and Britt confess what each thought may have been unrequited love while preserving fruit. Also Shelby is a witch.

Shelby using the pretext of the perfect way to consume a preserved orange in order to have Britt quietly listen to her was fun. The orange is described wonderfully. I especially liked "a bloody bloom of its own brine" and "the cool gradient of flavors". I would like to be in the brinezone.

Then we have the second surprise witch turn of the week. What's with all these secret witches? I wonder. Once again, I don't see the need for the witch part. I thought the story was just fine without it. Maybe this is more about me.

Otherwise I liked this story of room mates who have fallen in love but aren't sure about the other's feelings. It felt a little formulaic in this genre (which okay, I mostly read in the r/relationship thread) but I couldn’t help but want for them to get together!


Crabrock’s Three Alarm Chili
Agni from Mumbai cooks chili so well the Americans treat him as a phenomenon. He is never satisfied with his own work, using meditation and psychoactive to commune with his god. Eventually, he creates a chili he considers perfect. This chili transcends physical laws, as does Agni as he is now worthy of his god.

I think you open very well here. I have a feel for Agni at the end of the first paragraph that the story expands but does not contradict. I’m immediately drawn in.

I feel like you should explain what a mandala is, even a little, considering how central it is to the story.

The triple point cloudy with a chance of meatballs ending climax was good silly fun, and I enjoyed this being where things went after how religiously serious Agni takes his cooking.

This story is nice and complete. I’m not sure what to offer here other than it didn’t grab me emotionally the way the HM and Win did. I still liked it a lot.

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Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010


lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
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Contributor: Musluk
Genre: Magical realism
Protagonist attribute: Magical equivalent of TFR agent who is constantly high from busting into weed farms
Protagonist obstructor: Weed makes them paranoid
What the protagonist wants: They want the wanton property destruction from busting to stop
Story setting: On Earth, but magical realism
Setting details: 1992 LA
World problem: Cyberpunk and technology is on the rise
Your protagonist... Just wants to stay alive tbh
Your protagonist's attribute... Becomes an OBSTRUCTOR
Your protagonist's obstructor... Doesn't seem so bad, then it gets worse
At the end of the story... The world problem is made worse by the protagonist, The world problem makes itself worse, The world problem is not solved, and will get worse (Judge note: if you can't make all of these work, pick one or two)


The Constant Speed a Freely Falling Object Eventually Reaches When the Resistance of the Medium it is Falling Through Prevents Further Acceleration
2420 words

Glass shatters. Bullets fly. The tall green plants are engulfed by fire, the work of one of mine. A mistake.

A man in front of me is standing tall. No good.

My arm shoots forward with killer reflex. My gun clicks impotently.

The man smiles and levels his weapon. His bangs join the chorus of screams and crackling fire. My chest aches from punctured skin and burning lead. Fear forms. I’m alive! I know it because I’m dying.

“Hahahahahaha!”, I laugh, dropping my gun.

Three more times the man fires. His smile is gone. My laughter grows. He could have fled, but he has given the gift of pain. I use it to pierce the veil.

I find his soul standing there. Neither soul nor body pull at each other’s strings. I cut the strings, the body falls, the man floats away.

My body slumps to the ground. Atop my body my spirit dances. We will dance together soon.


I wake up with what feels like a foot of pipe down my throat and start to convulse. Something beeps. I fight back my reflexes and still my body. My eyes open. A hospital room. The sensation of the tube is overwhelming. I gag. I rip off the tape and grab the tube. It pulls out rough and bloody and I throw up blood and bile on the floor right after it.

I rip the electrodes off my body and the IV out of my arm.

A nurse comes in.

“gently caress off!” I say.

She runs.

I stand. I stumble. I do not fall.

I turn to the mirror. It’s me.

“I’m back!” I tell my reflection, hands out like I’ve just jumped on stage.

The cupboard has slacks, shirt, and jacket. They’re mine.

Gown off. I touch my body. Parts scream silently when touched, others just for fun. The pain is real, it’s physical. It’s not hope or desire or dream. It’s as real as blood and bone. I’m alive.

A woman comes in. A doctor by clothes. An Asian face whose age I can’t tell. I’m wearing the white shirt, I don’t remember putting it on. I’m not wearing anything else.

She looks at my penis - probably involuntary - then the blood and bile on the floor, then my face, then my penis again - that second time she might have been checking me out.

“You should go back to bed, you’re still recovering,” she tells me.

Her voice is a cool balm. I give her a crooked smile. It’s the only one I’ve got.

“If you come with me.”

She leaves. I might have been wrong about her checking me out. I need something to clear my head, coke would do it. Some weed for the nausea I’m starting to feel. Then I remember. The weed was burning when I went down. We didn’t get it.

I’m in the hallway, fully dressed. I’m looking for an elevator. I can hear raised voices behind me, are they calling my name?

The elevator doors open and Benny’s inside. I push in and hit the button for the first floor.

“Benny!” I say. “You knew I’d be ready.”

I open my arms wide for a hug and when comes in I shift and swing at his chest. He catches the punch.

“You sure you’re ready?” he asks. “They told us you’d be in for another week.”

“Just try to keep up.” I say.

The doors open and we race through the lobby. We pass receptionists that could be waving and yelling for anyone. We get onto the street.

For a few weeks now, life has been coming in flashes. Even last Thursday when I didn’t smoke. Except just before bed. Now I’m always in the moment. Short term memory had been holding me back.

“Got any weed?” I ask Benny.

He gives up a joint and I light it while we walk to his car.

“I told you boys not to burn that gear,” I say.

“Rohan went off book, that’s for sure,” Benny says. “TFR aren’t happy.”

“gently caress headquarters. I didn’t bring you onto this team just because you can pierce the veil.”

We reach the car. I look into Benny’s eyes and continue:

“You’re real Benny! Not some ball of fear in a starched shirt playing a part. Not out for fake respect from the other play actors. You’re your own man! Where’s my gun?”

Benny throws me my .45 and we get in his sleek grey Acura.


We speed along the highway. The radio plays a haunting tune. The singer tells me, “Even the folks in town would say with prejudiced eyes, ‘that boy’s not right.’”

You shouldn’t have left the hospital.

I can handle it. I had to leave; debts to pay.

You probably shouldn’t have hit on that doctor. What if she files a complaint?

“How long was I out?” I ask.

“Three days,” says Benny. “They reckon you needed a week at least.”

“So it’s the 29th? April?”

“Yeah, it’s Wednesday.”

“Alright, take us to Lennox. West 119th and Attica.”

“That church?”

The song continues, “There’s no escape for me this time. All of my rescues are gone, long gone.”


The gaze of the crucified god reaches to all ends of the church. Benny waits in the car, unable to meet the lord’s gaze. A man in the back pew scribbles in a notebook. My bookie, Fats. I shuffle into the pew. My sides scream as I lower my body onto my knees.

“You don’ look so hot, Johnny.” Fats tells me.

“gently caress you.”

Fats kneels with me and drops his voice to a whisper:

“Dat’s no way to talk. No’ to a man youz owe fifteen clams.”

“I’ve come back from worse.”

“Sure. So whatta you wan’?”

“Got any coke?”

Fats gives me a look I’ve learnt means he’s not happy. He rests a pouch on the back of the pew we’re leaning against. He draws a line. I swipe my head across the back of the pew, breathing deep.

“Hallelujah!”

Fats looks around. The church is empty.

“Dat all you come for?” Fats asks.

“Gimme ten on Portland to beat the Lakers tonight. I want five on Vlade Divac to score at least twenty points, and another ten on Portland to win by exactly two points.”

Fats makes the sign of the cross. I see through the veil. The crucifix glows white. Is that new? I turn to Fats. His soul is like a counterweight to his body. Moving with him, anchoring, swinging.

“In da name o’ da fahter da son an’ da holy ghost, ya bet has been placed. Amen.”

Fats sits. I stand.

“You lose I’m a come for you,” Fats tells me.


A few blocks from the church is The Trunk. It’s dark enough you don’t feel on display and the drinks are cheap. They have a TV and it plays the game.

Benny drinks larger. I drink cheap scotch. Benny’s quiet. My mind isn’t.

What’s headquarters going to do when they realise you’ve just been ripping off weed farms?

They won’t do poo poo. Benny’s the seer. He’ll tell ‘em he saw a hole. Had to investigate.

What’s Fats going to do when you can’t pay up?

I look at the score. Portland’s sixty-two, Lakers forty-nine, Divac on ten points, it’s not yet half time.

I’m fine. I’ll have enough cash for months.

The game goes on. The bartender brings a fresh round. Benny looks at me. He wants to say something.

He’s going to betray you to TFR. He’s lost confidence in you. Seeing you like this.

“You once told me you’re just trying to get through,” Benny says. “To survive. Is that still true?”

I tell him it is. I sip my whisky and look at the score, still fine.

“So why are you ripping off dealers, placing bets that could land you in debt to the mob?” Benny asks.

“So what, you think I should sit in an office by day and an apartment by night. Go from one cell to the other while saving for a hole in the ground for them to chuck my corpse into? I need to live Benny, that’s what I’m doing. Going on living. Not dying in a series of grey boxes.”

Benny’s thoughtful for what feels like a long time. He says:

“What do you think happens to our souls after our bodies die?”

“I dunno. You’ve seen what I’ve seen. They float away. After that, who knows.”

My pain’s too numbed for me to look past the veil. I want to though. I want to see all of Benny.

The siren sounds. The game is over.

Divac scored eighteen, not twenty. The game is won by exactly two points, but it’s won by the Lakers.

Fats knows you come here.

I stand and walk. Benny follows.

Two men in cheap suits come in.

They’re here for you.

I draw my gun. They panic. One flees.

Benny has his gun drawn, but he’s looking at me. He doesn’t know what we’re doing.

“Show me your ID! Slowly,” I say.

I pretend to look at it. I holster my .45.

“Sorry,” I say. “You match a description.”


Benny drops me off. He tells me to rest. Says that maybe I should even go back to the hospital.

He doesn’t see you as a leader anymore.

You shouldn’t have pulled your weapon on that businessman. Those types are more likely to file a complaint.

The doorbell rings. I didn’t order anything. I feel something pulling my strings.

No. Resist.

I open the door.

Two men in suits. Not cheap.

They walk in like they own the place. The weight on my strings fades away.

“Who the gently caress are you two?” I ask.

One kicks at the fast food wrappers by the couch then finds a Sports Illustrated on the coffee table. The other looks at me like you’d look at a horse that just broke its leg.

“Where’s the money?” he asks.

“I have until Thursday,” I say.

He looks at his watch.

“That’s in three hours,” he says.

“So give me three hours.”

“You owe fifty. That means management wants to know how you’re gonna settle.”

“Fats knows I’m good for it.”

“Not Fats. Time to meet the man behind the man.”


We’re at what must be the top floor of a skyscraper I don’t remember coming into. The office has blue carpet with yellow accent lines running on top of it. The furniture is black leather with hard corners and glass triangular tables and desk. TVs line the walls but for the floor to ceiling window at the end of the room. They’re black, curved screens playing a distorted reflection of reality.

The toughs that picked me up flank me. There’s an old man behind the desk. He’s fat and Asian and he looks more at a small wooden box on his desk than at me. I don’t know him but he’s talking like we’re already past introductions.

“Yamatel is LA, Johnny. The street lights, the phone lines. We can read your facsimiles and command your terminals. At the library, at the DMV, at the LAPD. But not at the TFR.”

“So what do you want from me?”

“You need to pay your debt, Johnny, Fats has told us all about you. We want the contract to rebuild the telecommunications at the TFR building.”

“I don’t approve contracts.”

“Oh, haha, no. We’re quite confident we can win the rebuild contract. We just need you to help us bring a desire for such a contract into the world.”

“How do I do that?”

“You take this box, Johnny.”

The man slides the wooden box across the glass desk. It glides over the glass without friction. It slides off the desk and comes toward me. I catch it. I feel pain. I pierce the veil by reflex. The box has a soul. Inside the box is a swirling red and black void. A soul like I’ve never seen. Even through the box it fights me.

“A demon.” I say.

“Yes,” says the old man. “Only a veil piercer can open the vessel. We could never get inside your building. You will open it there. The demon will take care of the comms system. As the one who opened the vessel, you will not be harmed.”


I wake up. I slept. I slept pretty well it feels like. It also feels like I’m still high so I figure rolling a joint can’t hurt. The wooden box is on the coffee table next to the Sports Illustrated. The buzzer rings. Benny’s downstairs.

“Captain heard you’re up, wants to see you.”


The Captain’s office. Uncomfortable chairs. Degree on the wall. Photo of her kids. The box is in my hands.

You can’t free the demon here. She has kids. It could kill her. Benny’s downstairs.

You were wrong about him betraying you. He doesn’t deserve this.

“Theoretical Fringe Reconnaissance,” the Captain says.

“TFR,” I say.

“Reconnaissance, Johnny. Not destruction. Not seizure.”

She knows. You’re going away.

“People here,” she continues, “can do incredible things. We face incredible danger. That doesn’t make us above the law.”

No no no no. You're done. You're going to die in a cell.

“You should still be in hospital,” she says. “We had a call yesterday about a bar incident. The Trunk. What we’re you-”

The fear is real. I pierce the veil. I open the box.

Glass shatters. Bullets fly. The building is engulfed in flame. I run. I’m in a stairwell, hiding from a chorus of screams and crackling fire. My mind aches from dread and regret.

You had no choice!

I did. I chose this.

gently caress. It’s too much. I don’t need to hear all this! Shut up!

The evidence room is underground. No one is in it right now. The cameras hang limp. All systems down. I find some opium I know is there. I need to relax.

When it’s quiet I go up. Everyone is dead. The demon is gone. Later, investigators assume I fought it. Papers think I killed it. I’m a hero.

I’m the Director of Theoretical Fringe Reconnaissance. I’m Nationwide. I’m responsible for two-hundred-and-fifty-six-million souls. Yamamoto Telephone Corporation, Yamatel, their head of Americas knows the truth. I learn his name. We see each other often. They get the contracts. They get the terminals. My spirit will not dance with me. It floats along instead. I keep tight on the strings.

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