chewing the fat – a short story

jack-sprat-small

 

Black Friday. the streets were mean and surly as the hustled bustle of frenzied Christmas shoppers began to reach fever pitch and a new-found level of savagery.

still owned by the same family, now in its fifth generation, Mickey’s Diner is the oldest diner in Brooklyn and it hadn’t changed one iota since the 1900s.  the smell of Irish stew and coffee became as synonymous with Brooklyn as the Bridge itself.

Escaping the Christmas contagion and mass hysteria, Harold and Maeve Spratt entered the diner, as they did every Friday.

Harold sat opposite his wife, Maeve.  he motioned to the waitress that he’d like a coffee.  “black n bitter” he scoffed.

the diner was busy and crammed with people.  people loitering; people taking seats and leaving seats; people with harried expressions; people hugging and laughing; people impatiently roaring “check please!” – to which the waitress would roar  “i said i’ll be right with you, goddamnit!”.  there were lovers in corners, huddled over steaming bowls of stew; there were whining children – pissed because they’d been trailed from shop to shop on a promise that they would get to go see Santa Claus if they were good little boys and girls but their whines seemed justified – it was a little after 4pm and they knew that they’d been duped; little kids, stropping, rigid in strollers, screaming for attention, their bottom lips quivering and their faces red.  poor little bastards.  what a toil for them, being pushed through a noisy jungle of legs, ill smells and the odd dog’s unwanted overfamiliarity.

Kim, the waitress, had waited these tables for thirty six years. “in with the bricks” she’d cajole, with a tired smile and swollen ankles, smiling lamely at customers as she waited to take their order, stabbing her chewed pen on the notepad in her slender hand.  “what’s it to be, Harold?” she asked, arriving at Harold and Maeve’s table.

Harold ordered another cuppa Joe “black n bitter” and a naked mixed green salad “no dressing”.  Maeve was still pondering over the menu.  “should i get the blueberry pancakes, with maple-cure bacon, Harold?” she asked “or should i have the a big slab of that pecan pie…?  i just love pecan pie… ooh peaches…”.  Harold silently scolded her with a glower, cutting her off bluntly,  as he casually unfolded today’s Gotham Gazette and snapped it open, putting it up as a barrier between him and his wife.  he quietly sipped his coffee and muttered, from behind the headline: “have whatever your heart desires, Mae – what the Hell do i care!?”.

“aw come on, Maeve, i got other people waiting” said Kim, loudly cracking her gum, like a gunshot.

“ok… i’ll have the blueberry pancakes, with the maple-cured bacon – and two eggs, over-easy… and i’ll have the corn muffin with peaches and syrup please” she said, looking pleased with herself, smiling smugly at Kim as she handed her the menus.  Kim stuck her pen behind her ear, took up the menus and zig-zagged off in the direction of the kitchen hatch, where she brayed the order at the cook.

Harold and Maeve had been coming to Mickey’s Diner for almost 50 years.  every Friday, since before they were married.  those early Fridays saw them sit, as young lovers, huddled over a milkshake with a stack of quarters for the jukebox.  Hell, they’d even been known to get up and dance, like there was nobody else around.  later Fridays saw them bring their children for birthday balloons and sparkling sundaes.

but today Harold and Maeve sat in silence.  she, now 40lbs heavier, sat looking around her, with her hands close-knit in her lap while he sat, quietly sipping his coffee, reading the funnies.

Harold was 78 and a retired cop.  He was a tall and intolerant man, with a wiry frame. granted, it was a little bent out of shape nowadays but he tried to keep himself lean. still, he had a bone-dry sense of humour, a boner for the waitress’s legs and a bony face, to boot. he was an ugly man and had been known to make children cry with just one glower; his piercing eagle eyes and hanging monobrow made him look like ‘the bogey man’ to the children in the street where they lived. however, with age, the severity of this look was lessened by the thick horn-framed spectacles that were now perched on his prominent aquiline nose.

Maeve was a retired cook.  she loved food. oh boy she loved ‘a good eat’.  “a little too much” Harold would say, to his friends at Tuesday night poker club, when Jimmy ‘One Shoe’ McGonigle and Tom ‘Crab’ Fisher would ask after ‘the good lady’.  “gah, she’s as good as an old slipper” he would say “a little worn and twice the size she was when i first tried it on with her”

yes. it was true.  Maeve liked her food. she loved to eat. she was 72 and overblown. “a diet of fat and flour will do that to ya”, as Harold would say.

amid the rabble of babble and clatter of crockery, the cook roared “one mixed green salad, one pancake pig-out for table 17!”

Harold squirmed in his seat, shaking his head with embarrassment and burying his face in the day’s obituaries.  Maeve smiled with glee as she watched Kim weave through the tables, a plate in each hand. cracking a large gum bubble loudly in Harold’s ear as she laid their food down at their table, Harold tutted and threw her a contemptuous glance.  “sorry” she said, huskily, with a nonchalant shrug and ‘like-i-give-a-fuck’ smile.  Maeve began to sweat and squirm with excitement. her eyes widened and lit up like cooker rings when the platter was put down in front of her.  she pulled her seat in close to the table.  so close, her huge tits pushed the plate three inches away from her.  “thank you, Kim, you’re a sweetie” she said, cloyingly to the waitress.  “can i trouble you for some extra bacon – two skinny rashers like that ain’t gonna fill me up?”  Harold rolled his eyes to the waitress: “… and a heart attack on a plate, if you got one of those too?” he snarled.

Harold neatly folded his newspaper and laid it to one side.  he picked up his fork and began to eat. quietly, in silence.

Maeve picked up her napkin in her plump hands and tucked it into her blouse, near spilling her cleavage onto her plate.  Harold looked at her with equal parts contempt and dread.

a few years ago, Harold had grown to hate eating with his wife.  her ill-fitting dentures and vile table manners filled him with anxiety.  his intolerance of messy, noisy eating had grown exponentially over the years.  there were many occasions where he would sit at the dining table, in the comfort of their home, silently plotting ways to kill her as she chewed hungrily on a turkey leg or slurped her coffee or spoke with her mouth full of ham and egg sandwich – plosively spatting slimy chunks of half-chewed bread and mush across the table, often onto his plate.  he now found this woman, the former love of his life, disgusting. repulsive. like a pig.  an old sow.

today was no exception.  he sat and picked at his leafy veg, polite forkfuls of spinach and lollo rosso quietly masticated in his closed mouth, as he ruminated on her demise.

with a whore of an appetite, she attacked her plate… chopping up her pancakes with the fork gripped tightly in her chubby fist.  her eyes twinkling as she greedily licked her painted lips. she was hungry.  she was always hungry. she stabbed at pancakes, bacon and blueberries – stacking them on the four prongs of her fork, closing her eyes as her mouth yawned open like a whore’s cunt, stretching and glistening with greed.  Harold watched in horror, at what seemed to occur in slow-motion, as she slammed that fork in her mouth, cramming it full of what she craved; thrusting it deep inside that gaping cavern. her pink painted lips creased around the fork as her eyes rolled back in her head in ecstasy; her chubby fist deftly removing the licked-clean fork and returning it to the platter only to be stapped full of more fat and flour; more glutinous grease, as that ugly and guilt-free grin opened across her puffy face like a septic wound, seeping and encrusted with crumbs and spit.

and that sound!  Harold hated the sound.  the sounds were the worst imaginable.

the rattle and clicking of her ill-fitting dentures frayed his nerves with each bite. the jaws snapping, snapping; her poorly painted and puckered lips smacking, smacking… and the gulping.

Harold hated the gulping.

she would take a swill of her coffee, gulping down air with her mouth full of pancake and pig.  the squelching and sweating.  she would sweat with excitement and effort. how could she fill that mouth so full. the sweating… as her stomach succumbed to the stretching, she was like a foie gras goose. her eyes would gleam and her mouth would glisten in her unabashed gluttony, her chin wet and shiny with trails of jus and bacon fat. but it didn’t stop after the plate was empty… oh no. this was the bit Harold hated the most.

the rattling.

after eating, she would rattle her dentures around her mouth; her tongue poking around in there, scouring for remnants of half-chewed food. her painted mouth stretched outwards like the muzzle of an adult baboon. oh that sound.  it drove Harold crazy.

*cough* *splutter*

suddenly, Harold’s murderous fantasy was interrupted by a violent coughing fit. it took him a while to realise that his wife was choking.  he sat, quietly forking away at his salad.

“don’t talk with your mouth full, Maeve” he said, awkwardly, loud enough for all to hear, as he quickly polished off his salad.

the coughing and spluttering grew increasingly more urgent…

“someone call 911 – that fat lady’s choking!!” someone yelled.

for Harold, everything seemed to be in suspended animation, surreal. he watched, chewing on his watercress and kale, as a young bearded hipster guy in skinny jeans and man-bun tried to pull the Heimlich manoeuvre on her but he could barely get his arms tight enough around the bulk of her corpulent form to perform the move effectively.

Harold sat and watched, in disbelief and quiet amusement,  as his wife’s face reddened and her eyes bulged as if fit to burst. Harold watched as everyone rushed and fussed around her.  he glanced outside, it was starting to snow.  he turned back to his wife and stared into her eyes, her watering and bloodshot eyes.  he watched as her face turned purple and her heaving mass slumped, hard, onto the floor.

“call 911… QUICK!! she’s not breathing!” yelled the bearded hipster.

“Jesus, man, what’s wrong with you!?  your wife is choking!” he barked at Harold, as he took a hold of Maeve’s hand.

Harold couldn’t move. he seemed blissfully paralysed.  he simply sat and watched the drama unfold before him.  he sat and stared at her plate. he sat and watched as the Coroner came and took her body away.  he sat there, still.

“it’s not like her to leave food on her plate…” he thought.

damn.  she hadn’t touched that corn muffin.

“what a waste!” he thought, as he stabbed his fork into its peachy depths.

 

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2016

~ an idea for a screenplay.

 

 

delirium

a new fever has me in its clutches… i can feel her long, bony, icy fingers twist my spine and contort my brain… i need paracetamol… i need a glass of water… i need to sleep…

but sleep won’t come easy…

paracetamol… a glass of water… bed.

i climb into bed… i am shaking… my hands are tingling… am i hungry..? am i over-tired..? i feel exhausted… i feel sick… nausea rushes at me like a jealous mistress… my head feels twice the size it should be… my forehead is hot… my feet are cold… i am shaking… i swallow the pills and wash them down with a long drink of water.

i climb into bed… the pillow feels cool beneath my heavy skull… i close my eyes and then it starts… i must ride this out until it breaks…

micro flashing neon lights spark inside my minds eye, igniting visions… visions… murky, but i look deeper… deeper into the grain and chaos… i see a face… a man’s face… it is Stalin… he is standing outside an old house… a house on a wild beach… a house with a red door… suddenly, he vomits all over himself… then dissolves into a puddle on the ground… i look out to sea… but the sea is not a sea… it is a vast expanse of rippling silken fabric, billowing in the breeze… i look up to the sky… a pterodactyl swoops in low over the water towards me… i duck for cover and close my eyes tight, anticipating being snatched up by the giant predatory bird… nothing… the wind has picked up the pace and snatches my breath… i gasp and open my eyes… i find myself atop one of the steel eagles that grace the lofty Chrysler Building in NYC… i am terrified… the wind is strong… my hair whips my face… i am too scared to look down… but i do… and now my palms are wet, sweating… i cannot hold on, i lose my grip… but wait! i am typing… i am sat at a desk, in the middle of a forest, and i am typing… typing incoherent words on a sheet of stiff, white paper… The typewriter is old and battered and clunky… a pale blue Olivetti electric typewriter… my curious eyes follow the flex… it is plugged into a giant snail… the sound of my fingers tapping the keys rattles my brain… the words make no sense… the words make me shiver… i open a cupboard… an old farmhouse style larder- just like the one my Aunt Mary had at Fullerton Farm… i open the door and find hundreds of tins of Baked Beans… i close the door… but the door is a mirror now… i stare at my own reflection… i smile to her, but she does not smile back… she is naked… pale, gaunt… two headless horses appear behind me… one black as night, The other white as snow… the white one speaks to me in a language i cannot comprehend… but we start to dance… the floor beneath me turns to silver sand… the sun is beating down on me… i pull the quilt around me and nestle into the comfort and familiarity of my bed, despite the madness of these visions… visions i have no control over… i cannot make them stop… they come, in a flood… my mind is a fairground… i look at my hands… six fingers on each hand… i cut off the tips of my fingers with a large pair of shears… they are bleeding… i put on a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves and go outside into the night… there are two moons in the sky… both are full and resplendent… the night is cool… i am alone… i look to my left and the buildings start to crumble and fall… an apple falls from the sky and rolls towards me, stopping at my feet… It speaks to me… beckoning me to take bite… i pick up the lilac apple and bite into its soft, juicy flesh… it tastes salty… so i throw it away… it explodes on impact… in the distance, i hear a child’s voice… it is my lover’a son… he appears out of nowhere, wearing a flappy bird t-shirt and red jeans… he is barefoot, as i am… he takes my hand and tells me to follow him… i do… suddenly, i find myself, alone, inside a computer… i look at my hands… i am made of pixels… i peer through the screen and see a morbidly obese man, sitting on his sofa with a boxful of donuts… he is playing a computer game… he is controlling me and my movements… he is controlling the CGI world i now find myself locked in… i like it here, but i cannot stay… i call out for my lover’a son… but he is gone… he has left me a note… it reads “gone fishing, be home Tuesday!”… i smell coffee… i look down and find myself in a bathtub full of warm, steaming coffee… it stains my skin… my lover appears… he dries my wet skin with a cloud, gently patting it dry… he lovingly combs my wet hair and strokes my face… we kiss… and float out the wind into space… we swim through the stratosphere and look back at Earth… it looks radiant and blue… i take a bite… it tastes like battery acid… the shock cuts my tongue and i spit out blood and a chunk of France… “it never used to taste like this…” says my lover, his eyes filled with tears… he spits a mouthful of India out into the blue stratospheric air… he fades into the night… “soon…” he says, blowing kisses as he dissolves into the ether… i find myself in a deep, Belfast sink… the cold tap is turned on and the sink is filling up with tiny sea horses and goldfish… they sparkle and shimmer and swim around me… but i need to urinate… i open my eyes, climb out of bed and make my way to the bathroom across the hall… my legs are shaking… i feel weak… perhaps sleep will come soon… i hope for a dreamless sleep… but instead, i find myself in a field full of rabbits… hundreds and thousands of rabbits… rabbits of all different colours… the pink ones are my favourites… odd… i hate the colour pink… but they are the friendliest… i reach up to the sky and reel in the sun… i hold it in my hands… it burns, but only momentarily… my cold hands chill its fire and it turns from burning amber to brittle blue… the sun shatters in my hands… i am left holding fragments of turquoise glass… i throw the shards up into the air… they tinkle and twinkle against the sky, like dying light… The tranquility of their peaceful chimes turns into an ugly chaos as the fragments of harmless light turn into bullets… they rain down all around me… everything has turned to dust… children lie dead around me… women scream… another bomb goes off… the ground shakes, like the thunder of the apocalypse… there is no colour… everything is grey… the course of death… i hear the wail of an electric guitar… someone, somewhere is playing a guitar… it wails, like a wounded animal… i cover my ears and crouch down, holding myself… crying… i open my eyes and see a young deer, chewing a leafy twig, at the foot of my sweating bed…

the pillow is damp… i turn it over and, with trembling hands, i gulp down a glass of cold, clean water… i close my eyes… please let me sleep… a dreamless sleep… please… these rapid fire flashbacks of former trips inside my minds eye and visions of my subconscious’ innermost thoughts and fears, as surreal as they are, are raping my brain… i am exhausted… i want calm… i want to feel well again… i look at the time… three hours have passed… i have been away for three hours…

i take two more pills, and water… and close my eyes…

but wait! my feet are covered in sand…

(c) Kat McDonald 2014