Travelling and eating is challenging even for the most seasoned traveller – linguistic ambiguity, weird cultures and just the plain bizarre nature of things folk eat team up to provide … narrative.
A short story humorous or insightful – 250-350 words around this theme.
2 weeks to – eat it.
Whoa, Nelly (And not the Elephant, the woman, or the man).
Due to overlapping holidays and things, Fictitious is going on a pseudo-hiatus for the next few weeks. We’ll be making more Pitches, ready for diving back into action near the beginning of July.
If you’d like to join us, do the register thing. It will instantly add 100 IQ points and make you more attractive to everyone!*
* disclaimer: some or both of these things may be untrue. YMMV.
This will be the one. The one that gets me the nomination. The ones that gets me the award.
I’m fed up being mocked by… by everyone. Producers. Execs. Other directors. Even the goddam actors. I am a good director. I am *excellent* director. Remember the tapes: “You are empowered to be the center of your own excellence.” I am empowered to be the center of my own excellence. I am… shit, I am *something*, and it is great.
This will be the one. The perfect episode. Comedy. Tradegy. I’ll have the audience in tears of laughter one minute and tears of sorrow the next. The ratings will shoot through the roof.
And… glass smash! Fantastic. Great wrist work. The right amount of stiff, the right amount of limp. And… cue tear. Damn, he’s good. Look at that redness around the eye. Fantastic.
“And… Cut! This is gonna be the best damn episode of The Young and The Beautiful ever made. Great work boys!”
The kids down at the bus stop told me you were asking about me so I figured I’d come and talk to you. I don’t really know that guy Harry, we did a few classes together last year at the tech, but I wouldn’t call him a friend. He’s just an acquantance who happens to live opposite my bus stop, I don’t really know much about him, and last Tuesday he was acting crazy.
He had this chick he’d been spading for weeks, ummm, sorry ma’am, this woman that he had been keen on had finally come up to his room but he didn’t have a condom. It was embarrassing! There was this mean looking old man watching from across the street and all these teenagers and this Harry guy keeps going on about this girl. I tried to quiet him down but he was frantic – I gave him a condom from my wallet eventually just to shut him up.
That Romeo was too cheap to buy his own box and he wasn’t subtle about taking it either – I had to tell the kids it was an imported sweetie; I couldn’t tell them the truth, they’re pretty naive about sex; especially that little Warren kid.
Jesus, I can’t believe I’m still doing this after five years. I should have stayed on the stage. Or gone into porn like my agent was suggesting.
“Oh, hi, Honey.”
Eat olive, Smile.
I wonder if my smile still looks good.
“Just out. Relax, sweetie. I was thinking of you the whole time.”
Oh, this day would have gone so much better if this was actually a martini and not just water. Evian, yes, but still. A shaken not stirred would be better.
“I’m fixing myself another. Want one?”
Jeffrey’s character hits glass, shatters, cries.
This is the *third* take for this ridiculous scene. It takes them ten minutes just to hoover up all the sugar glass. Christ, Peter, just move on. It’s not Shakespeare.
Turn around. Hunch. Tense.
“What if I was? At least he’s there for me when I need him.”
And… Scene. At last. Now for that drink. And wardrobe. And makeup.
I suppose officer, there was a guy with faded jeans here Tuesday, we often see him, he takes the number 62, same as Johnny and Ted and Mike and me and that other kid Warren on Tuesdays and Fridays – we see him most days after school. And there was another guy here Tuesday, came down from those flats across the way – he was a weird guy; never seen a dude so desperate for chewing gum – it was real pathetic.
This other guy, he was like excited, but he wouldn’t just come out and say that he needed chewing gum, instead he says all this stuff about this girl who at his apartment and he really needed it right now – I dunno, you know all that crap that the varsity guys talk. Anyway the jeans guy starts on about how much it costs and eventually agrees to sell for like R10 – ja I know man, a lot for a single stick of gum but this guy doesn’t care he just passes the cash over and runs off back to his girl.
But it wasn’t normal gum, that’s what the jeans guy told me when I asked him after that other guy left – he wouldn’t let me see the pack either – like he was ashamed of it – but he told us it was special imported gum.
Lance unlocked the door and swung it open slowly. There was Rod, reclining on the couch, sipping a martini.
“Oh, hi, Honey,” he said, popping the olive into his mouth.
“Goddammit, Rod! I was worried sick. Where were you? It’s been days!”
Rod flashed his bright white smile at him.
“Just out. Relax, sweetie. I was thinking of you the whole time,” he said. He downed the drink. “I’m fixing myself another,” he said, waggling the glass. “Want one?”
Lance smacked it out his hand, sending it into the oak dresser and shattering it into a thousand pieces. A single tear rolled down his cheek and dripped on to his shirt, forming a small, heart-shaped dark patch.
“You were with him, weren’t you? With Dick.”
Rod turned his back on Lance, hunching his shoulders, and tensing his arms.
“What if I was? At least he’s there for me when I need him.”
Lance wiped his eye and sniffed.
“Then maybe he should just have you. Maybe I don’t love you anymore.”
“And… Cut! This is gonna be the best damn episode of The Young and The Beautiful ever made. Great work boys!”
I was standing on the other side of the street waiting, at my age you have to stay away from those hooligan school kids at the bus stop. There were six of them hanging around the bus stop smoking hand-rolled cigarettes; at least I assume they were cigarettes. Five of them looked rough but quite young, perhaps fourteen. They were clowning about while the ringleader, a older kid in stone washed denim, looked for business.
That’s when I saw the deal go down. A twenty-something with greasy hair and a black leather jacket came down from that block of flats across there. He looked very anxious and impatient, obviously overwrought. He spoke to the ring leader for a moment; it seemed they had a disagreement about the price. Then I saw him hand some cash over and the dealer slips him something in an obviously subversive manner. You could just see they were hiding something. The awful cheek of this generation , they have no respect for the law.
- 1 shot Kahlua
- 1 shot vodka
- 1 shot Jägermeister
- 1 pint Pilsner
Fill a glass with ice. Pour over the Kahlua and vodka.
Down in one smooth motion. Chase with the Jägermeister, poured into the Pilsner.
I haven’t had anyone ask me for one of these in years. Who told you about it? He still alive? Shit, have this one on the house. Tell him I said hi.
You know he invented this, right? He was sitting right where you are, about ten years ago. He was about six Black Russians to the wind and he couldn’t decide if he wanted to go home or go on. He ordered a shot of Kahlua, a shot of vodka, a shot of Jäger, a glass, and a pint of Pilsner. He stared at the drinks for a minute, then poured the Kahlua and vodka into the glass, downed it, poured the Jäger into the Pilsner, then downed that. Once I managed to wake him up, I called him a cab and sent him home. He was back the next night and ordered the same again: a Black Bavarian.
4 shots dark espresso
2 tablespoons sugar
125ml Red Bull
3 shots vodka
2 raw eggs
Shake with ice until silky, serve in a tall glass, typically drunk in a single draught.
We get a lot of trainmen around here: drivers, loaders and safety officers mostly. Those guys work hard shifts, if a train is late they might only get out at 11pm and have to start again the next day at 6am.
So if they come in here after work and somehow never leave before that dreaded early start we usually give them this one on the house. Call it a nod to public safety.
- 1 shot vodka
- 1 shot tequila
- 1 shot rum
- 1 shot gin
- 1 shot triple sec
- 1 shot pisco
- 1 shot cola
Pour the shots one by one into a highblass glass filled with ice. Give it a quick stir and serve quickly so that the bubbles can tickle your nose.
So we were backpacking around the world when we were in our 20s, like people do. We were sitting in some dive bar in Santiago and a guy comes up to us, halfway through a bottle of pisco, and tells us he can give us a great exchange rate for our dollars. While we’re trying to explain that we’re not American, he puts the finishing touches to our cocktails-in-progress with the remains of his bottle. The bartender hustles him out, assuring us he’s harmless.
The name of the drink? You’ve seen those Easter Island Maoi heads, right? That’s how yours feels the next day.
3 shots Jim bean
2 table spoons brown sugar
1 shot passion fruit cordial
Rapidly stir the sugar into the whiskey so that it is in suspension in a low tumbler and then float the cordial roughly on top. Serve immediately, before the sugar settles.
They say this one came from East LA, where the muso’s used to hang. It was created by the legendary Harry Hunter at the Velvet club one night for Jim Morrison. Although it did little for his whiny voice it became a favourite among rock musicians needing a bit of vocal assistance before a show: sweet enough to solve the munchies, smooth enough to make you feel like James Brown and rough enough to make you sound like Joe Cocker.
I came to live on the high Karoo two weeks ago. I stopped treatments in March; said my goodbyes; and came up here to feel the clear, cold winds of my childhood.
She strode into my little cabin a few days after I arrived as if she had always lived there. She twisted once between my ankles and then curled her small grey body on my favourite chair in front of the heater. I had come here to be alone at the last but as the days passed I found myself glad of her steady company.
She has spent most of her days around me, sitting quietly nearby as I write my journal on the wide veranda. Sometimes, if the pain is troubling, she lets me run my fingers through her downy fur. Each day we watch the sunset and drink in the clean night air together.
I had always known, in my heart, that I would see my grey cat again one day; but I had never imagined she would come as a friend.
I drop to my knees in front of the pit. The roll of twigs strapped to my back feels suddenly heavy. I untie it and take a moment’s rest. The day is finally here. I will Become.
I pull the twigs out and start constructing the fire. The ritual is precise, clear on the specifics. Six twigs in the middle. Six in the next layer. Six on the outside. One across the top. I add a few more rocks around the pit and start the fire. As the scraps of brush catch, I sharpen my blade on my whetstone. I test the keenness of it on my forearm, as I was taught. It is sharp enough.
I feel the warmth of the fire through my makeshift boots. I say a brief prayer to the stars and begin the ritual.
I remove the pungent fish from its wrapping and slice it open. I smear one handful of its innards across my belly and swallow the other handful. I toss the rest on to the fire.
The worms are still wriggling as I grind them into a paste on one of the rocks. I mark my legs with their remains and lick my fingers clean.
The bird’s carcass is surprisingly tough; I have to scratch off a patch of feathers before I can slice its belly open. The blood I rub across my forehead drips down and into my eyes. I blink it away as I swallow chunks of its flesh.
And now the moment of truth. Without hesitation, I plunge my hand into the fire and scoop up three glowing coals. I stare at them for a moment, my skin sizzling, then throw them down my gullet to join the rest of the sacrifice. I cry out from the pain.
I feel the change begin, deep inside my chest. My heartbeat slows; I feel a coldness in my fingertips and toes. I feel my insides morphing, moving. I close my eyes and plunge my knife into my belly, pull it across, and let free the beast.
I don’t think I was really going to do it, I was just walking the city in the night time mists. It was a difficult time for me; working ceaselessly; trying to cope with being newly single after so many years. When I couldn’t sleep I would walk the streets, especially down near the river.
That’s how I found myself standing on the wrong side of the railing staring down at the cold water below. It was very still and dark: the pale, ephemeral mists drifted over the cold grey surface of the river. I knew that river would close over me silently; that the freezing water would flow on towards the sea as if I had never been.
I saw the cat slip out of the shadows among the railings on the other side of the bridge. I thought she would come over to me, an old friend in a time of need to show that someone cared in the world. But she didn’t. She didn’t even look in my direction: that small grey cat just kept walking on across the bridge.
I watched her receding form for a few minutes, her grey coat less and less distinct in the mist until she was gone. Then I climbed back over the safety barrier and took myself home.
I make sure feet are firmly planted on the rock, then I close my eyes and tilt my head back, stretch my arms out from my sides. I take slow, deep, breaths. There’s not much up this high, but on the light breeze I pick up hints of moss, and some smoke from a fire burning down the valley a ways off. I like it up here. It feels more peaceful. It’s nothing to do with noise, or crowds. I think it’s the bare rock. Not smooth exactly, but rolling.
I take my bow from my back and sit down to tighten the string. I’m not even sure what material this is. I found it on the dead body of a young man some weeks ago. No major marks or cuts, but dead. Most of his things had been taken already, of course, but a few remained: the bow string, some tobacco.
I hear screeching above me: hawk. A sparrowhawk of some kind, I think. I only have three arrows left. I lost two over a cliff on my last trip. I need to be more careful. I spend a few minutes tracking it across the sky. It must be searching for one of the rodents I felt scuttering across my feet earlier. Should give me a bit longer.
I take the hawk down on the third shot. I bag it, collect my other two arrows. The rodent that it almost caught stops for a moment, looks at me, then runs off.
Finally. Finally, I am ready. It has been a long day, but I will pick up my Water and Earth, and begin the long walk to the sacred place.
It was a crazy night the second time I saw the cat. My friends don’t believe it was there, they claim it was the smoke inhalation and whiskey that night, but I saw her that night her fur ruddy red by the light of the roiling flames.
It had started in the early morning hours, two old friends drinking Jack Daniels through the summer’s night: the rest of our party were long unconscious. When we first saw the flames licking between two layers of thatch we weren’t too concerned: in less than ten minutes we knew that the building was lost and our concern was only for our friends and their property.
It was stupid to go back. All the people were accounted for and the cars had been moved out of the garage, but I had left my camera inside. Someone told me it was too late but I had been through too much in the last hour to feel any fear.
As I darted across the living area, shielding my face from heat of the flames I saw the cat. She was standing on the staircase, preternaturally calm among the roaring licks of flame. She looked speculatively at me and then at the burning ceiling above my head.
It wasn’t what one expected in the middle of a burning building: I stopped, shook my head and peered through the shimmering air. That’s when I noticed the rolling balls of smoky flames playing beneath the beams ahead and saw the wallpaper behind the cat ignite suddenly into a sheet of flame.
Somehow the camera seemed unimportant then; and so I walked out of that building on that day. And no-one ever believed there was a cat.
I hang my satchel on a low branch, pick a fruit from one higher up. I don’t even remember what these are called. Red, fleshy, insides. That I remember. I sink my teeth into it and the juice dribbles down my chin. Tart, but it’ll do.
I watch the dark clouds drifting over the hills a ways off in the distance. I hope the rain holds off until tomorrow. I spit the pip into my hand, hold it up, examine it. Solid, wrinkly. Peach. It’s called a peach.
I take a few steps away from the tree, kicking around the dirt, looking for a more solid patch, but mostly finding dust. I find a patch that’s thicker, and lower myself to my knees. I roll my sleeves up, stretch and bend my hands around, then plow my fingers into the soil. I dig down a few handfuls, spreading the dirt around the hole. I sift through it – nothing. The dirt is deep under my nails and my fingers are starting to bleed from the sharp flecks of stone, but I keep digging.
Here. Worms. I pluck them out, wriggling, from the dirt. I pull the plastic bag from my back pocket and drop them in, one by one, then throw a handful of dirt on them to keep them fresh.
Two parts down, one to go.
I stand very, very, still. Only my eyes are moving, watching it. My toes are going numb, but I stay very, very, still, waiting. I watch it swirling back and forth: approaching, retreating. It sees the food I’ve put down to lure it, but it also sees me. It is a cautious fish.
It. It. It. Why not he or she? I can’t tell this guppy’s gender from here, obviously, but I don’t recall people ever referring to fish as a he or a she. Maybe because it can be difficult to sex a fish. Maybe because nobody cares.
A small patch of the river darkens red as I plunge my makeshift spear down hard and fast, through the fish and into the silty bed of the river. The tip breaks, comes loose from the shaft, but it doesn’t matter: I have my fish.
I wriggle my toes and wade across to the shore. I make the required cuts, say the necessary words, then wrap the fish in canvas before throwing him into my satchel. I’ve decided it’s a boy.
Now for the other parts of the sacrifice.
I don’t remember much of my father’s funeral. I was too young to understand and upset by the traumatised adults. I don’t remember the service or the open grave. I remember Uncle Noel sobbing silently; openly. Seeing that paragon of masculinity so reduced affected me more than the tragedy itself. I have been told there was a service by our kindly family priest but I remember nothing of it.
The cat is my clearest memory. I could see it just beyond the grave in the sunny lee of a tumbled headstone. That small grey cat looked up from its grooming directly into my eyes for a long still moment.
The first shovelful of earth hitting the coffin broke me from my reverie and when I looked again the cat was gone. I wanted to go after it, to touch its sleek grey fur, but those kindly adults stopped me: they thought it better to get me away from the burial quickly, distract me with toys.
They insisted that the cat was only a stray.