The sins of the chef

Day 10: Delicious
No Novel November 2019

A decadent chocolate cake with a slice on the side and a cup of coffee - Chocolate torte by theresahelmer via Deviant Art

It’s not the worst cake I’ve ever eaten, but it’s damn close. The center is nearly liquid, drying to a sedimentary crust where alleged frosting smoothes the whole thing like adobe. The menu proclaims it “better than sex,” which knots my stomach worse than the leaden ball of pastry; what is this person doing in their private time?

And yet my fork keeps moving, bite after horrendous bite, until the entire slice is gone.

I sit back with the exhale of a triathlete crossing the finish line, then check my notes on the ordeal. This is going to be a hell of a review.

Delicious.

My eyebrows shoot up at what I’ve written. Brow furrowed, I look at the rest of the cake revolving in its case. It’s perfectly normal: moist, chocolatey, light. Nothing like the monstrous confection I just ate.

The sinking feeling that follows has everything and nothing to do with cake.

I peer through the counter window at the chef, her head drooped between bowed shoulders, face thick with tear-streaked makeup, jaw set hard.

My stomach churns and groans loudly. As if my gastrointestinal distress is a signal, the chef’s face brightens and her body unbends. She looks around questioningly, but I’m gone.

I toss a $20 at the waitress and duck out, crumpling my notes. I’ll find another joint to write up—right after this lady’s issues settle themselves in my gut. I should have known.

Food critic by trade. Sin eater by fate.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

What sleeps in winter

Day 9: Blanket
No Novel November 2019

Bright street lamps in a snowy scene at night - In bright white snow when everyone sleeps by maaykeklaver via Deviant Art

Silence falls on snow falls on leaves falls on the sleeping earth, tucked in tight with her secrets to dream slow dreams until the coming of spring. We walk arm in arm down the empty sidewalk, sliding between the night’s blankets, each keeping secrets of our own.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Pulling up stakes

Day 8: Season
No Novel November 2019

Photograph of three old frying pans against a wood background - Frying pans by Lestrovoy via Deviant Art

Butter and oil.

Salt and pepper.

Seasoned side down. Don’t jump when it screams.

More salt.

Three and a half minutes. Don’t touch.

Flip.

Three more minutes. Resist.

Onto the plate.

Rest.

I sit at my end of the table, knife and fork in hand, looking straight down at my plate and not at the seam in the center where I took out the leaf to make the room less empty.

A single slice through the crust, top to bottom, left to right.

It’s perfectly seasoned: butter and oil and salt and pepper and time and distance and relief and sorrow.

But it will never be as good as yours.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Take a flying leap

Day 7: Jump
No Novel November 2019

Photograph of sunset at a rock canyon with a pine tree forest - The Knob by jonathanjessup via Deviant Art

No. Oh, nonono.

He skitters to a stop just before plummeting into a chasm hidden by dense pines. Rocks and leaves leap down the side and into oblivion. He listens for them to hit bottom, but all he hears is the baying of hounds closing the distance.

His eyes trace the ragged edge of the landscape for a crossing. There’s none—but in a stroke of good luck, he realizes he’s standing at the narrowest point of the gorge.

A sharp howl pierces the moonless night. His rubbery legs jolt into motion, churning backwards toward the forest. His brain screams at him to stop, to find another way, but lacking a better suggestion, it’s overruled by adrenaline.

He crouches next to a dead birch for the second it takes to fill his lungs with what might very well be his last breath. Then he bunches up and heaves forward.

The frozen ground hits back as he pounds across it full tilt.

Fifty feet.

Forty.

He drops his eyes to a point on the near horizon like an anchor and secures his will there.

Twenty feet.

Ten.

He waits to jump until his toes dip over the rim. Then he launches through the air with the grace of a cannonball: smooth and heavy, soaring and weightless. The icy wind slaps the breath out of him, but he doesn’t care. He’s almost there. He’s going to make it.

That’s when the teeth close on his ankle.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

One last thing

Day 6: Address
No Novel November 2019

Painting of a low-rise apartment building complex - Israeli Apartment House by saltytowel on DeviantArt

Cora leaves the black suit at home and covers her shock of red hair with a stocking cap despite the summer heat. Although no one would likely recognize her after what’s happened during her time away, she’s not taking any chances. The last thing she wants is for some former “friend” to shanghai her down memory lane as she wraps up this final piece of unfinished business.

This used to be their apartment. She feels a twinge of heartsickness looking at it, sweet nostalgia for another life in which she thought she had everything she wanted. But it’s easily silenced. That’s exactly what she came here to do, after all.

She closes her eyes, draws a lung-bursting breath, and lets it out one molecule at a time.

I forgive you, Jeremy. For not understanding. For being weak when I needed you to be strong. For running away without leaving. I release you to yourself and take back what’s mine.

The air is fresher somehow in the next breath. Lighter, freer.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a handful of gravel that she hucks at the bottom right window. The familiar face that appears there drops instantly from anger into gobsmacked disbelief. His eyes widen, his jaw drops.

Cora grins and waves.

Then there’s a crack of blue lightning so bright he falls away from the window. When he scrambles back through the curtains, she’s gone.

He wonders if she was ever there at all.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.