Charli Mills had challenged us to write a 99 word flash with food at its core.
September 3, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include food in your story. Is it the focus or part of the setting? Does it speak, smell or feel slimy? Is it sensual or practical, basic fare or feast worthy?
It is difficult to be ambivalent about food. One of the Vet’s closest friends doesn’t ‘get’ food. She will only eat it if it is beige and doesn’t contain fruit. But she is the exception in my circle. Food is a part of the fabric of our lives, not just as a power source but as a glue, a catalyst, a magnet, a stimulator of conversations, a source of argument and a tool of forgiveness.
Even the way it is consumed can be important. I eat ridiculously fast; I don’t know why. It’s not as if the Archaeologist tried to eat everything and I had to fight for my share. My memory of him and food is he loved parsnips, Brussels, spinach and grapefruit while I devoured eggs, offal and those slimy puddings beloved of 1960s schools – tapioca, rice, semolina. This would have been the classic Jack Sprat and Mrs Sprat scenario, save our mother came from the ‘clear your plate or it will be there for breakfast’ school of home economics; which meant one of us had to force down something ghastly and inedible while the other watched with undisguised glee (help each other out by sneakily eating the other’s portion? I don’t think so!). By university I guzzled so fast I was nicknamed J Edgar because I was the nearest thing to a hoover at the table. Starting work didn’t slow me down; my first lunch with a client had me pushing four peas around my plate waiting for the others to catch up, me feeling mortified as I saw the disdain on the partner’s face. He, by the way, ate with his mouth open – I recall the way the client tried to brush the crumbs from the roll that the partner sprayed about, oblivious to where he was spreading the debris. I doubt we secured any new work between us.
I’m also a messy eater. I have this thing about boring lawyers in grey/blue suits. They are the classic city lawyer’s uniform, or at least they were until dress down Friday became a daily phenomenon and brought the tyranny of choice into our lives. I rebelled in my small way by indulging a propensity for jolly (some would say childish) ties. They were loud and pretty dazzling and have one big advantage over the plain red or yellow – they don’t show the stains. Now I don’t wear ties (thank heavens – there is really nothing more irritating) so it I left to my shirts, lapels and belt buckles to collect the bits that slip from my fork or miss my mouth. The family know to cough if there’s been a spillage I haven’t spotted. If they don’t and leave me sporting a dollop of cream or a soupçon of mash I know family loyalty is no more.
And so we come to the flash and the next stage of Mary’s story….
Something to chew on
‘Where are you going, Penny?’
‘Great Aunt Alison is dying…’
‘She’s not your Aunt.’
‘What is she then?’
Mary couldn’t say ‘Grandpa’s mistress’.
‘Please Mum. She’s old and ill.’ A tear slipped down Penny’s cheek.
Rupert answered. ‘Do you want to help with supper?’
Mary watched Penny spoon food into Angela’s slack mouth. She looked dreadful.
Rupert whispered urgently. ‘She needs proper care.’
Mary nodded, understanding why they had challenged her father’s will. ‘I…’
Alison started gagging, her eyes bulging. Rupert lunged for his mother as Mary pulled Penny from the room.
‘What have I done, Mum?’