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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 108: The Kitchen - Submission & Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Dec 19, 2011.

    Short Story Contest 108
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "The Kitchen"

    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Sadly, there is no prize on offer except pride. The winner may PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "The Kitchen" (courtesy of member irishgirl1616). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the theme explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Monday 2nd January 2012 10.00 am (UK local)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    The next contest will be themed "Flashback" (cortesy of member Pythonforger), the one after that "Attic Treasure" (Tessie), and the one after that "Insanity" (Bran). Be free to prepare an entry for any or all of these contests in advance, but do not submit an entry to any of these contests until instructed to do so.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.


    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.

    Thanks and good luck.
     
  2. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Deeply Wrinkled (2997)

    The blade slices through the threads that hold the buttons onto Marian’s shirt, one by one, with agonizing slowness, until she is left exposed and breathless. As unwavering hands tear her blouse from her shoulders, a gasp escapes the duct tape. Norma tries to call out in her defense, to stop her mentally challenged son from whatever he is about to do. Instead, Norma’s voice comes out a low, inconsequential gurgle as she struggles against the restraints that bind her. The blade continues, now on Marian’s bare skin, winding up her side, circling around her breast, scraping against her ribs as they jut in and out with her ragged breath. When the knife reaches the hollow of her neck, she tries to scream, but the tip has plunged into her soft flesh far enough to render her mute.

    Marian bolts upright in her bed, sweat pouring down her face. At once, she feels for her throat. Although there is a slight ridge of a scar from when she had her thyroid removed years ago, her neck is still whole. She sighs deeply, her relief tinged with an unyielding sadness.

    “I can speak,” she says, just to be sure. She recites her morning prayers aloud more to hear her voice than anything. There is really nothing left to pray for.

    It had only been a matter of minutes before Marian would have lost her voice completely at the hands of her neighbor’s insane son and his very sharp knife. It was a good thing the worker from the landscaping company was insistent on collecting for the week and called the police when he heard strange noises coming from within the house. It had been too late for poor Norma, but Marian had been saved. For reasons still she can’t figure almost a year later, her life had been spared. Only now she has the pleasure of reliving the horrible ordeal every night in her dreams.

    Kicking off the stifling covers, Marian steps onto the cool tile floor, avoiding looking at the alarm clock entirely. She doesn’t remember the last time she’s gotten a decent night’s sleep, and it isn’t worth being shocked by the early hour anymore.

    She heads to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face. As she reaches for a towel, she notices the sheet that shrouds the mirror has partly fallen away. She tries to replace it without even a quick glance, but as she stretches to secure the corner, her reflection scowls back.

    She quickly looks away, feeling shame for being unable to bear even a glimpse of her own face. The wrinkles that formed in the past several years are now enhanced by the scars Dooley carved with his knife. He’d said he wanted to cut away her wrinkles, to make her pretty again. She reminded him of Lydia. At the time, Marian didn’t know or care who that was. She later found out Lydia was a nurse at his psychiatric facility who tended to him before he was deemed fit for society and released. Dooley had wanted to make her into the woman he fantasized about, and so he sliced her and did unspeakable things to her, things that no man should force upon a woman, before the police came and mercifully stopped him.

    The surgeries have created smooth parts between the deepened wrinkles, which makes everything look even worse. The doctors insist her appearance will improve after a few more procedures, but she has finally given up. It is senseless to continue with the painful laser sessions when she’ll never recapture her beauty. Dooley’s knife and her advancing age would prevent that no matter what the doctors did. Her husband was already gone and he was the only one she ever cared to impress with her appearance anyway. Besides, the scars within are much more damaging, and according to her therapist, they are the ones that require her attention most.

    Marian throws her towel onto the mirror. Much better, she decides. Her first inclination is to wallow in despair over what has happened to her. That’s how she usually copes.

    “No!” she shouts to the taunting mirror. “I won’t do it!” Her therapist taught her to fight against those debilitating feelings with verbal refusals. Instead, she knows she must devise a plan so that she doesn’t fall into the inescapable abyss of depression that tends to swallow her whole and spit her out completely shattered.

    “Today I will do something different!” She feels foolish for talking to herself, but who is really around to know or care? “Today, I will take down every damn mirror in this whole house! I will put away all the clocks. And then, I will make some nice pasta and sauce and have a wonderful lunch!”

    Her orange tabby bounds in silently, rubbing against her leg, purring his approval. “That’s right, Whiskers, I will not be terrorized today! You have my word on that!”

    Marian returns to her bedroom and quickly dresses. She grabs her recipe box from the kitchen on her way out. It has been awhile since she cooked anything, and she wants to make sure to get all the right ingredients. Maybe she’ll even make a second batch of sauce and freeze it for Saturday, when her son Jason and his family will be coming down for a visit to celebrate her seventieth birthday. They will surely enjoy gnocci or some meatballs. Yes, making her hearty sauce is indeed a good idea.

    As Marian steps out onto the porch, she glances at the house across the street, a constant reminder of the horrors she suffered. She looks away. There are so many things to avoid that she cannot safely look anywhere anymore. Maybe she should move after all. Although she doesn’t want to part with the home where she and Jack spent so many wonderful years, constantly facing Norma’s old house is still too painful. Jason and Pauline have repeatedly invited her to come live with them, but she won’t agree. She doesn’t want to become burdensome and relishes her independence. However, she could find a nice apartment near them. Her grandchildren have gotten used to her new appearance by now and have stopped asking her about it.

    She is feeling particularly brave today, so she decides it’s time to finally move forward. After she prepares her meal, she will call a realtor and put her house up for sale. The alternative is to remain a prisoner, shackled by the torturous memories. She might as well be dead.

    ***

    The rhythm of cooking soothes Marian into a somewhat content state. She chops and stirs, shakes and rolls, until the sauce is simmering and the pasta is ready to be boiled. She sets a large pot of water on the front burner and then busies herself cleaning up the mess she has created. She’s just about to carefully drop the pasta into the water when the phone rings.

    She hurries to the living room. Tripping over her own feet in her haste, she sprawls across the sofa as she grabs for the phone. “Hello?” she asks breathlessly, trying to upright herself.

    A familiar voice is on the other end. “Mrs. Delancy? Are you alright?”

    “Hello, Detective Archer. Yes, I’m fine. So nice to hear from you.” Raymond Archer had been a savior, aggressively going after Dooley and making sure all the evidence was properly collected. He was very supportive throughout the grueling trial and called Marian regularly to check up on her even after Dooley was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    The detective’s voice is muffled by loud sounds. “Sorry for all the commotion. I’m still at work.”

    “That’s alright. How’s everything with you and your family?”

    “Marla and the girls are doing well.” He pauses as someone shouts something in the background. “Sorry I haven’t phoned in awhile. It’s been so hectic lately.”

    “No apology necessary, Detective. You’ve been so wonderful through this whole ordeal. I certainly don’t expect you to keep calling me. I know you have many other things on your plate.”

    “Think you can get rid of me that easily?”

    Marian smiles as she usually does when talking with the detective. “Thank you for your concern. I’m dealing with things as best I can. Right now, I’m making some nice pasta and sauce. I’ll save some and send it over to the station for you tomorrow.”

    “Sounds great. Listen, I have something important to tell you.”

    A loud hissing drowns out the detective’s voice. At first, Marian thinks it’s on his end, but then she realizes the noises are coming from her kitchen. The pasta! She’d completely forgotten. “Oh no! Detective, can I call you back? I have to get the pasta into the water!”

    Marian slams down the phone and runs into the kitchen. Foam is pouring from the sides of the pot. As she rushes forward, she doesn’t notice the puddle on the floor. She slips and falls onto the hard linoleum, at once hitting her head and feeling a sharp pain shoot down her leg. The scalding water continues seeping down the front of the stove, inching toward her, but for some reason, she cannot move away.

    ***

    The judge is standing at his bench, banging his gavel, trying to restore order. The large audience is excitedly murmuring since the jury has returned.

    “Order in the court!” he bellows again. Finally, the bailiffs head into the crowd to get everyone quiet.

    The jury foreman stands and reads the verdict.

    Dooley is found guilty on all charges. Pauline squeezes Marian’s hand while Jason folds her into a hug. However, Marian only feels sorrow for her friend Norma who had been terrorized by her schizophrenic son for years. She had told Norma it was a mistake to let Dooley live with her when he was released from the mental hospital, but Norma insisted he was on his medications and would be fine. Marian desperately wishes Norma hadn’t had so much faith in her son.

    The bailiffs swarm around Dooley to take him back to his cell. Marian stands on shaky legs, looking anywhere but at him.

    He breaks free, rushing at her, coming within a few feet before the bailiffs wrestle him away.

    “Don’t you close your eyes for even a second, Lydia,” he calls to her. “I’ll be coming for you before you know it!”

    Dooley licks his lips suggestively and laughs loudly as the bailiffs drag him off.

    ***

    Marian’s eyes spring open, and she stares at the mist that is rising toward the ceiling.

    Where am I? she wonders. Pain swells in waves through her legs, over to her hip, and around to her back, but nothing compares to the throbbing at the back of her head.

    She tries to move, but her body is uncooperative. She attempts to call out, but she hears nothing except the hissing of the pot of water on the stove above her. Recalling her nightly dream, she commands her hand to move. Slowly, it rises to her throat. She finds it unmarred and exhales slowly.

    She fades in and out, and soon she finds herself on a bench in the park, eating a tuna sandwich, enjoying the fresh air for a change. She has no idea how she got there, but the sunshine sure feels nice on her skin. A little girl walks by and points. Her mother looks at Marian’s scarred face and yanks her daughter away. Marian finishes the sandwich and picks up a newspaper someone left beside her.

    The second she unfolds the paper, Dooley’s awful face greets her. She’s tempted to throw the paper away, but the headlines jump out at her, forcing her to read.

    PRISONER CAUSES RIOT AND ESCAPES!

    The article describes how Dooley caused a commotion during the dinner hour and broke out through a hole in the prison yard fence along with three accomplices. This happened two days ago, and the foursome are still at large.

    Marian drops the paper, deciding she’s read enough. She isn’t sure if she should go home since that’s the first place Dooley will come looking. She decides to call Detective Archer, but then she remembers he has just called her.

    Marian’s eyes flutter open, and she sees steam wafting upward. She hears a loud tapping at a window nearby. Her heart leaps out of her chest. Dooley is there, as he promised, ready to finish what he started. She struggles to move, but still, her limbs won’t listen.

    She remembers that she keeps some items in a low drawer on her right. A rolling pin and a meat mallet, she thinks. She reaches as far as she can, but she cannot quite grab the handle.

    As a nearby window is shattered, Marian stretches again toward the drawer. Somehow, her fingertips reach it, and she pulls it open. Her fingers find the meat mallet. She grasps it and turns back in the most defensive pose she can manage.

    “Thank you,” Dooley says, leering as he stands over her. He wrestles the mallet from her clenched hand. “This will come in very handy for later.”

    Dooley lifts her over his shoulder like a bag of feathers. Every muscle in her body screams. She feels the sickening sensation of something crunching in her leg. The fear paralyzes her mind, and all she can do is focus on the ground as it bends and twists from tile to concrete to upholstery. She lies face down in a truck, and as it revs to life and speeds away from her house, she decides she doesn’t care where they’re going. She has no fight left in her.

    ***

    The cabin is crudely constructed of oddly-fitted lumber. The floor is bare save for a table, two chairs, and a mattress. Dooley pushes Marian toward one of the chairs and she sits gingerly, wincing as pain shoots through her hip.

    “You sure know how to play hard to get,” he says. “You flaunt it all over the place, but then nothing. Not a scrap. After all this time, Lydia, you give me nothing?” He wraps her wrists in itchy rope and ties them tightly behind her.

    Marian remains silent. Nothing she can say will change her fate. She knows better than to try to reason with a crazy person.

    “Why do you do that to me?” he screams.

    She still says nothing. He slaps her across the face.

    “Why?!” he cries, coming toward her and shaking her in her chair. She braces herself, clamping her eyes shut, hoping her demise will be determined quickly. He continues shaking her, calling her name, shaking her until she can’t take it anymore.

    Finally, she opens her eyes. Detective Archer is staring at her. “Marian! Wake up! Tell me you’re okay!”

    He continues shaking her. She nods as tears fall down her face.

    “I – I fell. Slipped on some water, I think.”

    He examines her scalded leg. “Can you move?” he asks. She shakes her head.

    He whips out his phone and calls for an ambulance.

    “I thought you were Dooley. That you took me to some cabin in the woods.”

    The detective gently strokes the old woman’s scarred face. “You don’t need to worry about that.”

    Marian takes his hand in hers. “I haven’t wanted you to know, but I’m not handling this as well as you think. I have nightmares every single night. I cannot even look in the mirror. He is with me all the time, no matter what I do.”

    “Really, you don’t need to worry about him, ever again, in fact. That’s what I was trying to tell you. But, you hung up before I could.”

    Marian is still half in her dream. “Don’t let him get me! I can’t take it anymore. I’ve tried to be brave, but I guess I’m not.” She clings to his muscled arm, hoping he can protect her.

    “He’s dead, Marian. They found him last night badly beaten and hanging in his cell.”

    Marian blinks a few times. “Did I hear you right? He’s really gone?”

    The detective smiles. “Yes, you heard right. You’re safe now. He will never, ever hurt you again.”

    ***

    Two days later, Marian awakes to beeping sounds. She looks around, unsure where she is. Everything is white, and the beeping is starting to annoy her.

    “Hey Mom,” a voice says. She looks over to find Jason beaming at her. “You’re finally awake! I’m so glad.”

    “Unicorns!” Marian says.

    Jason wrinkles his brow. “Huh?”

    “Unicorns! Pink and white unicorns jumping over clouds.”

    “Should I get the nurse?” Pauline asks.

    Jason stares at his mother. “What are you talking about?”

    Before she can explain, Detective Archer strolls into the room. He’s holding a large paper sack, and he’s smiling until he sees Jason’s concerned expression.

    “There were unicorns!” Marian says again, and the detective’s face mirrors her son’s as they stare at her in confusion.

    “Don’t you see? I dreamt of fuzzy unicorns! For the first time, I didn’t dream of Dooley!”

    “Oh, unicorns!” Jason and the detective say in unison.

    Marian looks to the detective. “That must mean he’s really gone?”

    Detective Archer nods. “Would I lie to you?”

    Marian smiles brightly. “You never have. So, what do you have there?” She gestures to the bag he put on her bed.

    “Well, my wife felt so bad when she found out what happened, she made enough pasta and sauce to last you a lifetime!”

    Marian’s stomach groans. “That’s very nice of her. However, no offense but I don’t think I’ll be eating pasta again for quite awhile.”

    The detective looks at the nearly broken women. “Well, I also know from your son that you love peanut butter cookies. Do you think you can manage a few of those?”

    “Absolutely!” Marian says.

    That night she dreams of making peanut butter cookies for her grandchildren while they ride unicorns over the rainbows in her yard.
     
  3. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I posted twice - sorry.
     
  4. TheDude2002
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    TheDude2002 New Member

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    Sympathy for the Spider (886 words)
    By
    Brian Paul Dunlop


    Upon one Sunday night, as I sat in my kitchen, penning another timeless
    tale about the wretch that has become of humanity, did I feel an
    irritating sensation within my bladder. I turned to get up from my
    chair, but suddenly, I became slightly startled because of a large red
    spider scurrying its way across my kitchen floor towards my brother's
    sandals.

    As I rose from my seat, I saw the spider find sanctuary under one of
    his sandals. My intentions were pure and simple, and that was to kill
    the spider to which had invaded the sanction of my home. I couldn't
    allow it to live, and ignore its presence, for it may crawl on me and
    bite me, at any given moment, if I had put my guard down.

    Now, I wouldn't say that I am totally arachnophobic, but I have been in
    my younger years, but at that time, I no longer feared the spider
    because the spider feared me, and I could tell, as I didn't see the
    spider go anywhere else; it didn't move, all it did was hide under a
    sandal, fearing the intentions of the strange giant that stood before
    it.

    And without a moment to take any chances, I lifted up the sandal to see
    a startled spider trying to move its eight legs as fast it could, as to
    avoid my most judging and biased hand. But it was to no avail as I
    brought the sandal down hard on the spider, leaving it twitching and
    lingering on the agony of life.

    When I saw this, I knew of the pain to which it was experiencing, but
    choose not to finish it off, as who was I to decline this creature, its
    last few moments of life? And I knew, I already had prior engagements
    within the bathroom, upstairs, so I decided that if it’s not dead
    before I came back then I would finish it off, once and for all, myself.

    As I left the bright glow of the kitchen, I was met with the dark,
    errie persence of my dining room. Besides spiders, darkness was
    another phobia of mine that tormented my thoughts during my childhood,
    and even at that point, though significantly lessened, these phobias
    were still present, which caused me to turn on the hallways light as I
    descended the staircase to the bathroom.

    When I entered the bathroom, I turned on the small mirror light and
    rushed towards the light switch at the end of the hall, but it was too
    late as my brother awoke and complained in a grouchy manner as his door
    was missing as a result of many aggressive bi-polar mood swings that
    gradually caused the door to fall off its hinges.

    And just as he had arisen from bed, trifling about the bright glare of
    the hallway light, did I turn off this light, all the while, walking
    towards the bathroom, apologizing to my brother for disturbing his rest
    in such a late hour, during the night.

    While I used the toilet, I forgot all about the spider, downstairs. It
    was as if it had been flushed away with my waste; both useless objects
    that burdened me, greatly - now gone and forgotten, as if they had never
    existed at all.

    When I returned to the kitchen, the memory of the injured spider fled
    back to my mind, and I returned to the very spot where I had first
    began to inflict pain upon it. And this time, as I looked down at the
    spider, it lay motionless, and I realized that its suffering was over.

    So I grabbed for a tissue from off the table and gently poked the
    spider with it, as a way to make sure that it was really dead. And
    then suddenly, the spider sprang to life, and in a dying effort,
    quickly wobbled across the kitchen floor with most of its working legs.

    And when I saw this, I picked up the sandal that lay beside the
    tortured spider, and quickly slammed it down on its body.

    When I lifted the sandal up, I saw that the spider was still alive, as
    it lay with its legs and body, compacted together, but still flailing
    about in every given direction, in immense pain.

    When I saw this, I made it my duty to kill the inflicted spider and end
    its suffering, for good. So I took the tissue, still in my hand, and
    brought it down on the morbidly injured spider to a point to where I
    heard a loud crunch, and I knew that the deed was done.

    After this, I picked up the remains of the spider with my tissue, and
    threw it in the waste basket, then washed my hands with soap and water,
    and thought of the true significance of the deed I had just done.

    Because deep within my conscience, I felt a lingering presence of
    guilt, and with this came with much thought as every time I killed a
    spider or insect, it felt trivial or necessary, or at some point,
    during my earlier years of my childhood, fun and enjoyable, as if me,
    killing these creatures was, but a game. But killing this particular
    spider felt much different than any other spider I had killed,
    previously.

    For in this spider, I saw such raw and pure emotion, to a point that
    whenever I thought of such an occasion, my eyes would become moist and
    glossy with tears. And all I could think about was its never-ending
    will to cling on to the very essence of life, even though, this essence
    proved to be painful and unrewarding.



    END.
     
  5. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    Connate Condition (603 words)
    By mootz

    The strange feeling-less sensation from lack of a letter, they call it an envy. They say there is something wrong with me for wanting to have more. What does logic tell you? Bigger stronger bodies versus constant emotional swings.

    Imagine, higher pay and more social freedom. Consider what it's like to be a player and not a type of dog. To think impulsively and not be controlled by moral standards that affect others. It may very well be an envy, but it's not without warrant.

    If I had a Y, well, then I could disappear. If I had a piece of meat dangling between my legs, I could leave it all to chance. I could, and probably would, abandon responsibilities to someone who cares.

    Instead, dos equis.

    I was condemned from conception. Doomed to a life of cleaning and caring... a life of cooking. A life where I feel the need to constantly work to please others and nurture them. To see those around me grow while callouses and wrinkles collect on my body.

    You see, there are double standards and a glass ceiling, they don't compare to the kitchen. Not to the allure and trap of providing, the pain and pleasure of nurturing. The duties... of the woman. Or, the duties of the gene.

    I am trapped in a body that feels an unwavering pull to please other bodies. I cook and clean, not because I require high standards, but because I require for others.

    If a small, feces filled, body begins to cry, I begin to cringe. I jump into action, my body being torn to the call of doo-dee. I hush. I sing. I cradle. I feed. I hug. I burp. I change. I cry. I want it to stop.

    As a woman, I am as much put down by my thoughts as I am by my society. My urges damage me more than a dis-proportioned barbie doll does. A thousand cat calls pale in comparison to estrogen. Overly sexual media images strangely empower us more than learning the ability to cook a moist Thanksgiving turkey. It's not imagined, it's reality.

    I've noticed that when a lioness goes out to hunt, it isn't because she is the biggest of the two genders. It is because of nature. When a black widow kills her mate; nature. When a bear raises her cubs on her own, she isn't doing it because she thought it was a good idea. She -and it's always she- does it because she feels compelled to.

    If males are allowed by nature to abandon anyone in their way for their pursuit of happiness, why can't all females be black widows? If I must raise your seed, why can't I have your life? You've taken mine, I can't have it back. I can't escape the diapers, parent meetings, illnesses and late night bad dreams.

    I can't stand the heat. And, despite all the warnings and cliches attached to it, I simply can not get out of the kitchen. I have a child, I have no Y, and I must provide. It's love, it's labor and it's life.

    I don't expect you to understand. I am not fooled into thinking anything will change. If you're a man, you'll continue to be one. I am not going to stop being a woman, nor will any others. If you consider yourself something else, good on you, you'll hear no judgment from me. I just want you to know what I go through, what many go through. I can't blame Easy-Bake ovens, it is something I was born with.

    A connate condition.
     
  6. blahblahchoi
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    blahblahchoi New Member

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    The Kitchen:
    (932 words)

    I stand among the remnants of nearly six pounds of toxic materials. Cooking for thirty-two hours straight, I lean heavily against a counter, awaiting the hydrogen chloride to bubble through the liquid meth. My eyes dip low and lose focus. Wearing a mask for this long makes it feel like the rubber is melding with my skin. I miss breathing in fresh and unfiltered oxygen. It agitates me when I have to see the world through these lenses, and I hate this murky film that lays thick across my skin. It’s the chemicals in the air. Might be a month before I feel cleansed again.

    Sleep whispers softly into my ears and woos me towards it. I can see the scenery through the circular lenses, bouncing with my head, portholes to a world shifted by my own despair. I can’t seem to focus. I can hear the sound of dripping… the bubbling of the liquids… a slight cracking from the formations of crystalline methamphetamines. The whirring of a small yet vicious flame and the hiss of the gas that keeps the Bunsen burner alit steadies my breathing - a soothing type of lull that almost makes it all so comfortable.

    I’m shaken slowly back to attention by a weird reverberating type of buzzing. I can hear it. Tight gyrations. It’s rattling on something sturdy. I need to find it. I try to focus on a glowing blue light fading in and out on a near by table. Shit! My cellphone. I’ve forgotten to turn it off.

    Hurrying to my feet, knocking around random clutter on the counter top while trying to gain stability, I get up and stumble towards it. Gloved fingers try to cancel the call and hold the power-button down, but my panicked reaction makes it more difficult to manage. Flames engulf me. I can see little moments where the sparks ignite in the air. I shake my head to relieve myself of these images and slam my cellphone onto the floor. The casing breaks open and the battery falls out. My eyes are tight. My fists clenched. There’s no explosion. There’s no fire burning through the air.

    Fuck staying inside during the cooking process. I pull down the plastic sheets taped around the door, and push it open. It slams against the outside wall of the trailer and I come stumbling down the steps. It’s night, or early morning… I can’t tell. The stars are out and it’s quiet. There aren’t many neighbors, though near-by trailers already have their lights off. I can’t believe I’m cooking again. I haven’t felt any cravings yet, but they’ll find a way. I know what I’m playing with, and I hope to keep it where I need it - right under my thumb, so I can squish it or let it go – no more holding on to it.

    _______________________________________________
    I look back and I can see deep into my daughter’s eyes. Her deep browns, they convey the sweetest emotions. I left her behind in a haze of injections and teeth rotting smoke. For days she would have to fend for herself in a house that had nothing to provide. Ms. Kelley would call and leave voicemails. “She seems to only come to school for lunch. There’s no interest in being educated, and she keeps away from the others, staying to herself with no friends. Please call me. It’s an urgent matter…” I ignored her like I ignored most teachers. I let my daughter die, sad and alone, in a house where I laid dormant, lost in a mask of euphoric highs and the sudden crashes of reality. She too was ignored.

    Blurry memories flash across my mind’s eye. The turmoil of the last few years, released from a punishment for my carelessness. I laid tortured in a bed and clawed at the walls. Solitude wasn’t something I was capable of bearing. The only company was my immediate call to sobriety and my lost child. When would I see her again? The lonely nights spread long and deep into the moon, eventually losing me in a light reflected from the sun. My body, limbo in reality, tossed against the rough punches of depression’s lasting inflictions. I had her, but now she’s gone. I needed her, but never went to her when I could. The days ticked and sweat trickled. Night terrors seemed to be enough to keep my cellmate at odds with me. He must have sympathized with my pain, or feared what tortures a man who never spoke.

    My release wasn’t something I looked forward to when it approached. I realized my thirst was for my addiction, not freedom. I didn’t need it as much as I needed another high. I missed it. I missed it for fourteen years.

    I returned to the trailer my sister kept for me. I looked in my daughter’s room and her things were as she had left them. Maybe as I had left them? They were nice and neat. I was sunken and distraught. The clash in comparisons made me fall. The emotions overwhelmed me and I cried. I needed to get away and I would.

    ____________________________________________
    I have it right under my thumb… I feel it wiggling, trying to get free. I feel sorrow for it. I miss it. Maybe I should let it loose for a bit. I do. Back in the trailer, the crystals have formed nicely. I sift it through my colander and pick out the rocks. I see her face for one last time, and let her go with a roll of my thumb.
     
  7. crossrobertj
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    crossrobertj Member

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    Hallowed Be Thy Name (1,151 words)

    I hadn’t even begun to talk yet, but it was already too late. Her eyes were that shade of blue that is so hollow in its complexity, that you feel empty inside if she’s anything but pleased.

    I was unfaithful. I know that. It was my cross to bear.

    I stood there and just looked in her eyes. I tried to muster up enough emotional energy to mouth an apology, but I couldn’t. It was too much. All the pain and guilt was collapsing on top of me like an avalanche. I could see that I had hurt her.

    She didn’t say anything either, which was surprising. Once she found out, I was sure she’d lay it into me.

    It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

    Then, the quiet broke. A drop of blood hit the floor. Then another. “How could you, Joseph?”

    “Goddamn it Mary! I stayed loyal to you for over 2,000 years!”, I could feel my pulse rise. “The death of our son and the slaughtering of countless people in his name! I stayed with you through all of it, and what do I get?!”

    The blood was streaming from her eyes. “You got the chance to live for 2,000 years while better men died for your con-artist son. I don’t know what fucking curse he put on us, but I’m so tired of living in this inescapable shadow!”

    I had begun to walk out of the kitchen. “He loved you. He loved us both.” I said softly.

    The skyline of L.A. looks interesting behind cigarette smoke, like its lights belong behind a veil. I could see Mary still crying in the kitchen. Her cheeks stained from the blood. I was going to go out on the town tonight.

    -----------------------------------------------

    The middle of the lane drifted underneath my Harley, I could feel the pavement markers underneath the wheels. The streetlights illuminating my helmet and jacket for brief moments in time as I cruised downtown.

    I’d been going to the same Catholic church for almost 100 years. I had to stay faithful, even in this land without faith. He would have wanted that.

    The church was dark, sans the candles near the entrance and the thin veil of moonlight coming in through the stained glass. I walked over to a bench near the middle and took a seat.

    “Hello Joseph.” A voice I was all too familiar with said behind me.

    “Hello son.” I replied.

    I turned and put my foot on the bench, just enough to see Jesus in my peripheral vision.

    “Your mother found out I was sleeping with someone behind her back and now I think she wants me out of the house. I don’t really have anywhere to go and I’m not going back to Israel. You think you can help me find a place?”

    “Why would I help a man who was unfaithful to my mother? Why would I help a man who only comes to talk to me when he’s in trouble? Do you remember what happened in Britain?” He snapped.

    “Look. I fucking raised you as my son, when we both know that your mother had cheated on me with that asshole Roman guard 2,000 fucking years ago. I shoot blanks Jessie, that’s how it’s always been. Now, I come to you and ask for a little favor. You then have the audacity to bring up “Britain”, like it fucking even matters now. That was hundreds of years ago. I’ve more than apologized.”

    “No excuse.”

    “Fine, your holiness. I’ll just ask Lucifer instead.” I joked.

    He was turning red. “Don’t joke about the evils in this world. I’ve seen what men are capable of, first hand of course. Though there is no physical manifestation of Lucifer, it does exist. As does the Lord, the Father.”

    “You’re just as wacky as your mom. I’m outta here.” I said as I turned and began to leave.

    Jesus reached up and grabbed my shoulder. “Go home. Apologize more humbly and with a broader intent than that of a man whom only wants forgiveness so that he has a roof over his head.”

    “I’ll do my best, kid. Adios”

    I walked out of the church and straddled my bike. I could see Jesus standing in the doorway, watching me leave and blessing my passage.

    I didn’t get it. The kid got killed, resurrected, and then anyone he touched became immortal. He’d only touched me, his mother, his girlfriend Mary Magdalene, and Judas. Mary and Judas ended up staying in Israel, together ironically enough. Judas lost a bet with Jesus and had to be the martyr in his life story. Judas never minded it though, he got Mary for eternity and that was enough for him. Jesus got wind of this and left to Europe with me and his mother. After the Crusades and all the other bullshit, we came to America. Jesus thought it coincidental that “The City Of Angels” should be our home. I didn’t argue, I liked the weather and the atmosphere. I took to drinking and hanging out in Biker bars, but I had to change venues once the people around me started asking why I never looked like I was aging. The perils of being immortal.

    -----------------------------------------

    I walked into the kitchen, there was blood everywhere. Funny how if I didn’t know my wife cried blood, I might be worried about her safety.

    “Mary!” I shouted from the kitchen.

    “Go away asshole!” I heard come from our bedroom.

    As I walked into the dimly lit bedroom, I smirked. “Good thing we have burgundy sheets, otherwise we’d be spending a fortune replacing them.”

    “Get the fuck out of my house!” Mary shouted.

    “I love you. You know that in your heart. Hell, most relationships don’t even last a week these days. We’ve stuck it out for over 2,000 years. That’s gotta count for something.”

    “It counts for shit, now GET THE FUCK OUT!” She was starting to get up from the bed. I stepped back and held up my hands.

    “I fucked up, OK? I’m sorry! Nobody’s perfect! You sure as fuck aren’t!”

    “How many times do I have to be reminded of my wrong-doings? If I never gave birth to Jesus, we wouldn’t be sitting here yelling at each other. Not that our immortality matters in comparison to me fucking a Roman 2,000 years ago. Right?” She snapped.

    “Goddamn it, can’t we just start over Mare? I went and talked to Jessie a little while ago and he’s obviously on your side of things, so where is my “savior” in all this? I love you babe.”

    “Just fucking go!” She said softly as I reached over to hold her. Her bloody tears rolling down my leather vest.

    I held her close and I could have sworn I heard singing above the house, could have just been my imagination though.
     
  8. forgebench
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    forgebench Member

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    [1,270 words]


    THE KITCHEN


    The whole place stunk badly. It smelled of rotting meat, grease, garbage, mold and whatever other refuse happened to be laying around. It wasn't cleaned often, and it showed. Even the walls were covered in grease. The paint was peeling off as well, although if this had something to do with the dirt or not Martin wasn't sure. The only thing he was really sure of was the stench of rotting garbage mixed with cooking food.

    The whole place was simply filthy. There was some sort of black goop all around the stove. Martin didn't know what it was. The drains were a train wreck with fungi. Half the sinks didn't work. The hot water hadn't ever worked as far as he knew. Cobwebs were prevalent. The floor was never mopped. It had that sticky feeling to it that threatened to pull off ones shoes.

    Why anyone came to eat here was something he simply couldn't puzzle out. He'd tried on numerous occasions to come up with reasons why but he always came to the same conclusion: there was no reason to eat here. Absolutely none at all. It was filthy, it stunk, and the people that worked here – himself included – were not exactly cheerful people. In fact, they were downright depressed and possibly suicidal.

    The restaurant was small, barely the size of Martin's single bedroom apartment. It's owner was a fat old man, surly in attitude and his smell matched that of his kitchen. Martin hadn't had another choice when it came to a job, so working the graveyard shift here had been the only option. The economy was so bad that he hadn't had a job interview in over a year. He was stuck in a rut, and this was just temporary. Or so he kept telling himself as the days dragged on into weeks, into months. Deep down he knew the truth that he couldn't just admit. He was as much a looser as this restaurant and it's fat, old, surly, mustachioed owner.

    Recently there had been a new addition to the crew of employees. Martin didn't really know what to make of her. She showed up on time, worked her shift and left. She'd wanted the night shift for some reason. She never said anything. She kept to herself, looking around with her piercing blue eyes. There was a certain intelligence and thought process behind those eyes, Martin knew. That scared him. He didn't know why it would scare him, and the whole notion seemed ridiculous, but it did. When she looked at him it felt as though her eyes were daggers and he was her enemy. It seemed wrong somehow.

    Martin was behind the counter at the register as he watched a customer outside pull up. He had seen this man in here before. Always seemed to have a good attitude, but like most of the customers, extremely fat. Martin figured it was the grease and god-only-knows-what-else that goes into the burgers that was the cause of most of the customers being fat. Or maybe fat people just liked greasy burgers. He pondered on that for a moment as the man walked in.

    Something was different about him today. He normally was a jovial gentleman, and walked with a slight limp. Martin had asked him about it once and he'd said an old football injury and then would wax poetic about how good he used to be. But today something was different. Something was off about the man. He wasn't walking with his normal limp.

    “Hey Jack, how are you?” asked Martin with a forced smile on his face. He really just wanted to go home, and only marginally was intrigued about Jack's non-limp.

    “Is Fedor in?” asked the customer. As far as Martin knew, Fedor – the fat, mustachioed owner – didn't know Jack. Maybe they'd met when Martin wasn't here. Martin didn't care. What did catch Martin's attention was the odd monotone in Jack's voice. He hadn't noticed that Jack's eyes were blue before. He'd never bothered to look.

    “No, but he should be in soon.” Fedor had recently taken to working the night shift as well, which had struck Martin as odd as he'd never worked it before. Maybe he thought the new girl was cute. Maybe he wanted to make a move on her. The thought of Fedor naked was sickening and threatened to bring up bile from his stomach.

    “Very well,” said Jack, who proceeded to sit down and say nothing further.

    “Do you want some food?” asked Martin, cautiously. This behavior was odd. Jack ignored him and stared into the distance.

    Martin waited for a moment and figured it didn't matter. Maybe the guy was off his meds. Let Fedor deal with him. A noise from the back drew his attention. A pan slid, then fell. Martin realized it was the one he'd left carelessly in front of the back door when he'd taken out the trash. It was only him and the cook here, he figured he'd let the cook pick up some slack. He was never doing anything anyway, and as Martin looked now the cook wasn't even there where he had been.

    Martin decided to check in the back and see what was going on. He rounded the corner and came face to face with the new girl. She looked at him with those blue eyes. “Is Jack here?” she asked.

    “How do you know Jack?” Martin asked with some sarcasm, some fear, in his voice. Her eyes were doing that thing again. That thing with the daggers.

    “Come with me, Martin,” she replied. She turned on her heel and walked further into the back. He heard more noises, pots and pans rattling. This was odd, but he decided to follow. He slowly walked after her into kitchen.

    The cook sat on a chair, with Fedor sitting across from him. They sat and stared at one another, not moving, not blinking. Fedor's clothes were crumpled and soiled. Upon second look it appeared they were the same ones he'd worn the night before. It smelled different back here. It smelled like someone had left out more rotting meat than normal. The odor was sickening and Martin felt his stomach cringe a little.

    “Um, Fedor.” Martin pointed a thumb back towards the direction he'd come from. “A customer, Jack, wanted to see you. He's sitting at a table out there. He's acting weird. Maybe he's off his meds or something.”

    Fedor didn't move to reply. That was when Martin noticed the blood on the cook's collar. “Dude, you're bleeding!” He pointed and thought for a moment what to do.

    The girl brought her gaze to him. Martin said again, “Hey what's the matter with you, he's bleeding all over!”

    “Shhh. I know. We know.” Her voice was low. She gave Martin a smile. Fedor looked over at him and he got a good look at his face.

    Martin felt all sense leave him and be replaced with fear. His bladder let go and warmed his leg. His mouth opened in disbelief. Fedor's face was covered in crimson red blood, and through his mouth he saw two large fangs where his upper canines should be. He looked at the new girl and saw the same through her smile. Fedor had blue eyes. Martin heard a noise behind him and turned his head. Jack was there, smiling and looking at him with his blue eyes.

    Martin screamed as the girl and Jack advanced on him.
     
  9. huda
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    huda New Member

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    Bread Baker (2,726 words)

    Isole stood with her arms folded in front of her, a few feet away from the oven, staring at her chicken inside, willing it to come out right. This was her last chance. If she got it wrong again, Chef Blanche would dismiss her. She would end up having to go back home with nothing to show for the three dreadful years she had spent trudging through her awful apprenticeship at Chef Blanche's culinary academy. She bent down to get a better look at her work as one of her fellow apprentices walked off with his perfectly roasted chicken.

    She decided it was time. She opened the oven, using a rag to protect her hands, and got her roast out. It did not, unfortunately, look or smell very good. But she needed this moment to be over, for better or for worse. She could no longer stand the strain of wondering whether this would be her last day here. So, she gripped her dish firmly, and went over to Chef Blanche.

    She set down her chicken in front of him.

    “So, Miss Isole. Another one of your magnificent creations.”

    Isole stared miserably at her chicken, “Yes, Chef Blanche.” Her response sounded strange and stilted. But she could not think of anything else to say. Chef Blanche looked at her chicken in distaste.

    “Not good enough. I'm sorry. But your apprenticeship must end today.”

    Isole shifted her eyes from the chicken to Chef Blanche and took to staring at him in disbelief. It took her a few seconds to digest the news. But then she told herself that it was good that he had gotten it over with quickly. She set her rag down on the table and took her apron off. She thanked Chef Blanche for his precious time, as gracefully as she could manage, and then left his kitchen.

    ***

    “What happened?” Isole's mother asked. It was about a week since Chef Blanche had dismissed her from his academy and she had just returned home.

    “He said I wasn't good enough,” Isole replied, trying to keep herself physically occupied by unpacking her belongings while her mother hovered over her. It hurt to admit her failure. She could have cried. The only thing keeping her from crying right now was the meticulous effort she was putting into cleaning her room. So she focused on it as hard as possible while her mother kept questioning her.

    “Why did he say that? What did you do?”

    “I tried my best, Ma.”

    “I don't understand. Brent told me he was one of the best Chefs in the Kingdom. How could you waste this opportunity, Isole. You know I had to ask Brent to get you the position. What am I going to tell him?”

    “Don't tell him then.”

    “How can I not tell him? He's my brother. He is going to ask.”

    Isole decided to not respond to that. She could not think of a response.

    After that, her mother's complaints died down, and soon Isole found herself left blessedly alone to her unpacking.

    ***

    “Isole, how could you let this happen? I made every effort I could to send you out to the city, to the best culinary academy, so you could get out of this dreary life of baking bread all day and this is what you do?”

    Isole's mother was at it again, as she baked the bread for that morning. Isole was trying to help out, but kept getting in her mother's way. “You just wait and take care of the customers. I can bake the bread,” her mother said after a while.

    So Isole moped and sat down at the table, as no customers were around at that moment. She enjoyed baking bread despite her mother's view of it as a menial task. It was one of the few things she could actually do flawlessly. She had figured it out by watching her mother bake bread for the village everyday when she was growing up.

    It ended up that not many people needed bread that day. Only two loaves of bread were sold, and Isole's mother was exhausted. Isole made tea for the both of them in the afternoon and they sat down at the kitchen table, so they could still tend to any customers if they happened to stop by.

    “I don't know what we're going to do,” his mother started off, again.

    Isole tried to stay focused on her tea, and ignore her mother's rambling. “This tea is really good, are these new tea leaves?” she interrupted, unsuccessfully.

    “You were supposed to be back by this time, and hopefully setting up a new restaurant. But you've come back like this. What will we do now? Did you learn to cook anything worthwhile?”

    “It's alright Ma, I'm in touch with a few people who can help me get into another, better academy. We'll be alright.”

    “It's not going to alright! Stop saying that! You spoil everything I plan for and then say that it's going to be alright, just like your father. Well, it's not alright. You have wasted two years, Isole. Two precious years where you could have learned all the skills and gained all the contacts to start a successful business. But no, you have lost it all. You need to focus. Focus and work hard, instead of squandering all the opportunities I find for you.”

    “There's still time, Ma. It's not that bad.”

    “You don't understand Isole. Two years ago, I made a choice. I decided that you would go out and learn a trade and become financially independent. I could have married you off, but I didn't want you to end up like me. So I invested in your career and now you have failed me."

    Isole finished her tea in silence and got up to clean the kitchen.

    “What are you doing? I will do that myself. Leave it, Isole.”

    The door swung open then, and someone walked through. Isole, thankfully released from the her mother's complaints glanced up to see who it was. It was a young man she had seen around the village long before, but did not really know.

    “Hello Aunty Em, Hi Isole, how are you two doing?” he greeted them both, by name.

    “Stork, is that you?” Isole's mother looked up in surprise.

    “Yes, Aunty Em, it is me,” the man grinned. “I'm back in town.”

    “It's been so long. How have you been? What should we get for you?”

    “I'll just take a small loaf of bread, please.”

    Isole went over to pack one of the small loaves. “Will you have some tea?” her mother continued. Isole was sure she had seen him around when she was younger and then she had a vague memory of him leaving the village.

    “No, no thank you, I have to run quickly now. I will definitely stop by for some of your tea later.

    “How long are you back for my dear?”

    “I'm back for good. So I'll be stopping by often now.”

    Her mother chattered on amicably, suddenly put into a great mood by the arrival of this Stork, and Isole slipped outside to discreetly smoke a bit while her mother was occupied.

    ***

    Outside, the air was fresh and raw, and Isole breathed a sigh of relief. She decided that she would go see her old school teacher and ask her if she would be able to get her a place at Chef Douccard's academy. She had heard a lot about Chef Douucard being a great teacher and she was sure she would do really well as long as she had a good teacher. Chef Blanche had been a tedious teacher.

    While she was lost in thought, the door flew open and Stork walked out with her mother behind him. Isole flicked her cigarette away quickly, but her mother managed to catch a glimpse.

    “Isole! Smoking?”

    Isole turned beet red. She wasn't embarrassed at being caught smoking, nor was being berated by her mother new for her, but being berated in front of someone who was pretty much a stranger to her was unacceptable. She could feel her ears growing warm even as she imagined the barrage of insults that was going to come crashing forth from her mother's mouth in the next few seconds. She did not bother to utter anything to fend them off as she knew it would be futile.

    “Smoking! Being a failure like your father was not enough for you! Now you must smoke yourself to death like him as well?”

    She seemed to have forgotten that Stork was standing right next to her. The amount of vitriol she was spewing was enough to make even him flinch, Isole could see.

    He uttered a quick thank you and goodbye, and walked off swiftly. Her mother barely noticed him. Isole got up, and with her mother's continuing tirade in the background, walked up to her room and locked herself in. She could still hear her mother though.

    "All he left me was this kitchen with his ancient oven to bake bread in. Day in and day out. He could have been a brilliant chef, my father held all the opportunities in the Kingdom in his hand, but he refused. Stubborn soul, wasted his life away baking. When he could have been so much more ..."

    Isole knew she had to figure out a way to leave home again soon.

    ***

    Two years into the apprenticeship with Chef Douccard, Isole found herself struggling worse than she ever had with Chef Blanche. However, she managed to scrape through the bare minimum requirements to pass his basic culinary program and took up a position as an assistant in Douccard's kitchen. It paid enough to keep her surviving so she thanked the heavens for what she had and continued. And before she knew it, five years had passed. And Isole kept pushing through, wearily, everyday of her monotonous life.

    And all the while, her bones still ached for home. Her hands ached to bake bread. Because that was the one thing that she was good at. But it would be such a humiliation to return to, not to mention the stress of living with her mother.

    Now, her mother was actually somewhat content with her. She would tell her friends that Isole worked with the great Douccard, although that was a great stretch of her imagination. At the best, Isole got to chop vegetables for Douccard's master pieces and sometimes even that wasn't even good enough for him. He was too kind to dismiss her from his kitchen so she trudged on. To outsiders and to her mother, it looked like she had great prospects. But she was on the inside and she knew that she was nothing.

    ***

    [noparse]Dear Isole,

    I am unwell. It pains me to call on you to come home to help me but I have no other choice. Please come home to look after me and ease my passing.

    Your mother,
    Em.
    [/noparse]

    Isole, almost happily, quit her position and went back home to look after her invalid mother. She felt relief at having the comforting task of baking bread. She had dreaded coming back home to her mother's regime, but soon, she began to realize that she had complete control of the kitchen and her home. People from the village would come and sympathize with her everyday, about how she was such a dutiful child, leaving her enviable position with Douccard to come help her mother. Only she knew the truth.

    ***

    One day, while organizing the utensils in the kitchen, Isole came across a drawer full of handwritten notebooks. Curious, she took them all out and laid them on the kitchen table so she could look over them.

    Later that day, after the baking had been done and the bread had been sold, she sat down at the table with a cup of tea and began to flip through.

    They were all handwritten recipes. The first book was all about breads. Isole baked only one kind of bread at home, as she had seen her mother do. She had seen a few variations at both the culinary academies she had studied at, and those were the few things she had been able to learn properly. But she had never seen such a variety of breads. Apple walnut bread, ginger bread, cranberry nut rolls, the notebook seemed to go on forever. As she went on through the other notebooks, she found all types of confectioneries. Some that were her favorites, some that she had never tasted, some she had never seen, and then some that she had never even heard about. It ignited a strange, warm glow in her soul. Her hands itched to start working on all of these recipes, written down in the strong, steady handwriting.

    That night when she took her mother's dinner, she took the notebooks with her.

    "Ma," she said, as her mother started on the soup. "I found these notebooks in the kitchen, whose are these?"

    His mother looked up gingerly from her food and squinted at him, "Where did you find them?"

    "In the top drawer of the cabinet near the oven."

    "Show me."

    Isole handed one of the notebooks to her. "Here you go, this is one of them."

    Isole's mother took the notebook in her shaking hands after pushing her tray aside, and flipped through. She didn't know how to read, so it amused Isole how she was flipping through them, peering at the cursive strokes.

    "These belong to your father. He wrote about his bread in them. He could write beautifully, but all of it wasted on his silly bread."

    Isole looked at her mother, but she did not have the heart to tell her that the notebook contained much more than silly bread. As far as Isole could tell, from her perusal of the books, it looked like her father had collected baking recipes from the Kingdom and beyond during his life and had then come back to his kitchen to prefect them. He had probably died when his journey was still incomplete, before Isole was born.

    Isole's hands ached to try the recipes out. Baking might be menial, as it was in the mind of her mother. But it was at least something she could do.

    And the next day she did try some of them out. Just some simple cupcakes and a loaf of banana walnut bread, as she already had all the ingredients for them at home. And she laid them out with that morning's bread.

    Stork was the first customer to stop by that day and he broke into a wide smile when he saw the cupcakes. "Ah, these are exactly like the ones your father used to make. I used to eat them everyday!"

    "You've seen my father baking these?"

    "Yes, yes, he did. In your big oven out in the backyard. All of the neighborhood children used to be here first thing in the morning on holidays, and he would let us come see the oven. I've always wondered why Aunty Em never started using that. You could have baked more bread and a lot more if you did.”

    “Try one,” Isole pushed the plate of cupcakes forward.

    Stork took a bite and seemed lost in thought for a few seconds. “This is exactly like I remember! How come you never made these before? I thought you couldn't make them, so I never even asked. Can you do the chocolate muffins ...”

    ***

    Isole ended up learning all the recipes in her father's notebooks. It did take some work, but she eventually perfected all of them. And with Stork's help, she also cleaned up the big oven outside, that her mother had never paid attention to. And she became the village baker. Baker of much more than just plain bread. And over the years, news of her baking spread so far and wide that she was appointed the royal baker. And all this, she got from her father's notebooks that she had always had under her nose.
     
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