Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SOUL FOOD by Thomas Miller

Harold flipped the sizzling patty, and most of the Netherlands slid into the sea.  “How’s the headache?”

Nigel massaged his forehead.  “Better.  The cognitive interference isn’t nearly as bad now.”

“That’s good.”  The ground beef settled out a little as the ice caps turned to slush.  “How’re the wife and kids?”

“Gone by now, probably.  But they were doing well, last I checked.  Cheryl had just gotten a new dress.”

“Ah.  Well, they might still be around: North America doesn’t go until I get the pickle.”  Harold slid the hissing meat off the range and onto a lightly toasted wheat bun; no sooner had cow met grain than every nuclear missile and power plant on Earth suffered catastrophic meltdowns.

“Ah,” Nigel sighed, easing back into his chair and taking a sip of cola.  “That’s much better.”  He could feel originality and honesty flowing through every neuron.

Harold mutely laid hand-sliced cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on the steaming patty, and the lakes, rivers, and oceans evaporated in an instant, coating the planet in a dense layer of scalding steam.  Nigel glanced out the window as Harold poured out some ketchup and mustard, smiling himself as the cars rapidly piled up, their owners stumbling out into a hazy white oblivion; he hadn’t felt this good in years.

The top half of the bun plopped into place just as the first volley of meteors fell.

A serrated knife slid smoothly through the expertly crafted burger, touching the plate a few milliseconds before every volcano and fault line on the planet tore itself apart, exposing the Earth’s hot, molten flesh.

The sun exploded and blew away the atmosphere as two toothpicks slid into place, holding the masterpiece together.

Nigel admired the sight of the ground slipping away into oblivion as Harold fished out a dill pickle spear, placed it on the plate, and slid the whole thing across the counter.

“Smells amazing.”

“Wait until you taste it.”  Harold began putting away his supplies, then idly remarked, “That’ll be five ninety-five, by the way.”

Nigel ran his hands over his pants, then leaned on the counter, chuckling a little.  “Well, this is awkward.”


“I left my wallet out in my car.”

Harold glanced at the starry nothingness beyond the glass doors, shrugged, and picked up the burger.  “Your loss.”  He took a bite.

And every star in the universe exploded.

A BETTER SHOVEL by Joseph J. Patchen

Mother picked herself up out of the garden and glared at me through the window. Her skin was pasty and peeling and her eyes burned as red as the sports car I purchased with her insurance proceeds. Either I didn’t do a proper job of killing her or I buried her too shallow; or perhaps, a little of both. I should have placed her face down.

I would have cut her head off, but all I had to work with was a small hand sized silver garden spade. It took me hours to bury her. Besides, who figures on decapitation? --- It already took almost two boxes of rat poison in her meals.

We never lost eye contact as I carefully rose from the couch and went for the door. I made sure, though, before I slid outside that I had a surprise for the old bat. She turned to face me as I emerged with my hands behind my back.  Blood, earth and vomit were caked on her blouse and culottes. She was still glaring, but then she began to growl and show teeth.

“Mother” I said dryly and firmly. At once she twitched to the right. “Mother” I said again with the thinnest of lilts. And she charged with arms outstretched, spitting blood and dirt. My timing was impeccable: that brand new round point shovel whacked through her skull, slicing it like the ripest melon.

Besides that new car, a wide screen television, and some other entertainment purchases, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a better shovel.

I’m glad I did. 

GUM SMOKE by John H. Dromey

The disparate desperadoes who comprised the Hole-in-the-Wallet gang were running low on cash, as usual. They were also almost out of bullets and didn’t have enough six-shooters to go around.

“We’ll have to be creative,” their leader said. “We’ll send Curly in first with a finger pistol to take a hostage.”

“How do I do that?” Curly wondered out loud.

“You poke your trigger finger in the ribcage of a submissive-looking customer and say, ‘Stick ’em up!’ We’ll do the rest.”

Curly squared his shoulders and swaggered into the lobby of the financial institution.

The remaining outlaws tied bandannas over the lower parts of their faces and were waiting patiently outside the entrance to the bank when they heard a muffled, “Bang! Bang!”

A few anxious moments later, Curly came swaggering out through the door blowing imaginary smoke away from the tip of his extended index finger.

“I had to shoot her,” he announced. “Instead of reaching for the ceiling, she laughed in my face.”

“Why do you suppose she did that?” the leader asked.

“For a couple of reasons I reckon,” Curly said. “All she had to do was look down to see that I didn’t have a real pistol… and she was ticklish.”


I was at the convenience store not too long ago when I noticed a slew of snack foods on the shelves with labels toting the fact that the snacks contained zero grams trans fat, this information often conveyed with an exclamation point or two: Zero Grams Trans Fat!

The strong emphasis the snack manufacturers put on this presumably very significant and positive nutritional fact suggested that all these snack foods were, if not healthy, then at least semi-healthy choices.  What can I say?  I believed them.  They sold me.  So much so that I decided to part with $1.27 to purchase one such snack.  The one I picked, a Fun-o-Face®, is a hockey puck-shaped devil’s food snack cake enveloped in a chocolate coating.  On one side of the cake is a simple smiley face drawn in white icing.  The center of a Fun-o-Face is filled with cream. The phrase “Zero Grams Trans Fat!” appears like fifteen times on the front of the wrapper.

I took my Fun-o-Face home and sat down on my couch to eat it.  Although I knew the snack did not contain one drop of trans fat, I knew nothing about what the snack did contain.  So I read the back of the wrapper.

Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, a Fun-o-Face contains 4,000 times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of saturated fat; 5,000 times the RDI of polyunsaturated fat; 6,000 times the RDI of cholesterol; 10,000 times the RDI of sugar; and 15,000 times the RDI of sodium.  In addition, a Fun-o-Face contains “lethal amounts” of arsenic, cyanide, strychnine, hemlock, deadly nightshade, puffer fish venom, black widow venom, rattlesnake venom, box jellyfish venom, and radioactive toxic waste, among dozens of other unknown toxins.

But hey—at least it has zero grams trans fat!  Right?

Those neurotoxins didn’t waste any time shutting down my lungs and heart.  I died within about forty-five seconds of biting into the thing. 

What’s more, that Fun-o-Face was so damn poisonous that in the middle of my open casket wake, my belly exploded right there in my coffin, raining a terrible, radioactive fatty acid on all nearby friends and family members who had come to pay their respects to me, melting them like slugs, killing over fifty of them, including six babies, four toddlers, and my sister who was pregnant with twins.

But, hey—at least it had zero grams trans fat!