A Cold Dish

Photo Prompt Flash Fiction Challenge from ECCENTRIC CHAI.

The challenge rules are simple: must be based on/include somehow the photo, and be no more than 700 words.

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A Cold Dish

  

Damn!  I’ll never get them clean!

Tabatha put her pink fingertips under the faucet again, gritting against the pain of the scalding water, and scraped under her fingernails with her file.

Never eating another croissant again … never!

The file slipped and jabbed her painfully.  She jerked and broke her middle fingernail.

“Goddamn it!” She flung the file.

Tabatha looked up at her reflection in the fogged up mirror.

Her hair, wet from the steam, stuck to her cheeks and forehead.  Her face was bright red and sweaty from the heat in the bathroom.  Her eyes were bloodshot.  Her lips quivered.

Don’t you cry!

Tabatha threw open a drawer and violently sifted through it, then snatched out a pair of fingernail clippers.  With it she chopped each of her nails right down to the quick.

“Break now, Goddamn you.”

All because of that damned croissant.

Tabatha had met Stephen for lunch.  He resisted coming—she was aware he had other plans—but she pressed him, and he finally capitulated.

She went early, and chose a table in the back for privacy, and near the window so she could see Stephen arrive.  He was late, and stayed in his car on his cell phone for several minutes.  Finally he strolled in, saw Tabatha, and ambled over.

He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Hey, Hon, how are you?”

He sat, then placed his napkin in his lap, completely unaware Tabatha had not returned his greeting.  He offered a salesman’s grin. “Well, this is a nice surprise—been a long time since we had lunch together.”

“Yes, it has.”

“I figured you’d be downtown all day.”

“Yes, I know.”

The waitress brought water.  Tabatha realized how incredibly thirsty she was then.  She took the glass to hand.  Condensation ran cold over her fingers—so cold!  She was hot—her whole body burning up.  Stephen ordered the Rueben, as he always did.  Tabatha ordered a croissant.

Their waitress sped away leaving a long silence in her wake.

“You look stressed, Hon.” he said.

“Yes, I am.”

“You need to relax more.”

“Yes, I do.”

Another silence.

The waitress returned with their food.

Stephen dug into his sandwich.  Tabatha picked at her croissant.

“You need to eat more.” Stephen said, taking another bite of his Rueben.  He looked up when he realized she had not responded.

His eyes found hers ice cold—murderously so—and then she spoke. “I want you to kill her, Stephen.”

Stephen froze mid-chew and stared at her.  He struggled to swallow.  “You what..?”

“I want you to kill her—kill that little whore.”

The blood drained from his cheeks, and his eyes widened in slow, steady measures.  “What the hell are you talking about, Tabby?”

She hated it when he called her that.  “I have videos, Stephen—videos of you committing statutory rape with Allison.”

“You’ve what..?  No, no … I—”

“They’re very clear videos.  Any judge and jury will plainly see it’s you in them.  Your wife did.”

He dropped his head in his hands.

“Look at me, Stephen.”

He did.

“I want you to kill her.  Do you understand?  I want you to kill that little babysitter-whore niece of yours.  Kill her, or I will go straight to the police.”

Stephen shook his head. “I’m not killing anyone.”

“Fine.  Enjoy prison.  I understand they love rapists in there.”

‘Why are you—”

“Because you deserve it—both of you.” She sipped her water. “Kill her today, or be in jail tomorrow.  Your call, stud.”

He pointed his finger in her face. “You’re crazy.” he threw his napkin onto his plate, then hurried out, taking his phone to hand as he did.

Tabatha sat for ten minutes, shaking, and tearing her croissant into tiny pieces.

That’s how she’d gotten all the oil under her Goddamned nails.

It’s okay, though … it’s okay.  It will all be better soon. 

Tabatha looked out the window to the back yard where Stephen was still working.

He’d be through by midnight.  Yes, it will all be better after that.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  They will be a family again, and she could get herself some new nails.

 

~CLS~

 

Word Count: 700

 

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10 Comments

  1. Yowch! Truly twisted. An excellent piece of flash fiction – the depravity is rampant in this one! You handled it extremely well.

    ~ Nina 😉

    (Just an FYI – I don’t get any of your notifications, what am I missing?)

    Reply
    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  September 20, 2013

      Hey Nina! I moved to CA, and haven’t been online in a while. Thank you so much for reading this piece.
      I don’t know why you aren’t getting notifications. Dang… I’l check with some other people and see if they are having a similar issue.
      Thank you, again!

      ~Chris

      Reply
  2. Dave Rocco

     /  July 24, 2013

    Quality work my friend.

    Reply
  3. Yikes! This is a hair bit disturbing… this woman’s anger is crazy. Like out of her mind crazy. Good grief! I am without words except to say, the story itself, is so well written Christopher. I am 100% uncomfortable. It’s almost as if I am witnessing a situation where I have to decide whether I’m going to keep quiet out of fear this woman will come after me or go to the police to report what I’ve seen!

    You know how in real-life someone can plead “insanity” because they were so passionate with anger in the heat of the moment, they literally cannot decipher or care between right and wrong? That’s where this woman is. I feel bad for her, but I am scared out of my mind of her.

    Nice work!!

    Reply
    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 23, 2013

      My only mention of the waitress’ take on what was happening at her table was that she left quickly. Imagine how viscous and foul the energy about that table must’ve been. Imagine trying to serve them while hatred and murder bubbles over and spills across the entire restaurant. You don’t know what or why, but you feel it.
      Nightmares for her for a while I bet.
      Thanks for reading, Leanne. I learned a lot doing this piece. I made notes of all the specific details in the picture and made sure I accounted for them all, and let them drive the story. Even the shades on the table lens-down spoke of her not being present when she took them off, something was tearing her up and she didn’t know or care if her lens were scratched. The details really helped me build this one.
      A shout out to the Hostess for that!
      New WWBH today! woot-woot! Cya then.
      ~Chris

      Reply
      • Oh yes, I hadn’t thought about the waitress. I think it’s neat you narrowed in on the details of the photo. I hadn’t noticed how you accounted all the minutia, but that’s good. Because if it would have been obvious, the story wouldn’t have seemed so real! That takes great skill! Good job, Chris!

        You helped me become aware of details in photo prompts before. In fact, the last WWBH with the building, I combed through that picture and found a tiny figure standing in one of the windows… that’s how I came up with the title “Woman in the Window” and wrote the story around it.

      • Christopher Shawbell

         /  July 24, 2013

        That’s so cool. I didn’t see that. It’s fascinating how the photo-prompt works different for everyone, and then even more so when it works the same like with the doll heads picture. Love this stuff…so much to explore!

  4. You’ve done a marvellous take on the prompt, Christopher. The depth of the story, the suspense and the characters all top notch. I definitely do not want to meet this woman!

    Reply
    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 22, 2013

      It’s such a sad story to me. Beneath her vengeful façade is an terribly disturbed & wounded woman. This callous, controlling, soulless, meat-sack, vague-shadow-of-a-man just tore her down, exposed her most vital and vulnerable part, then plunged the hated dagger home. It’s just an ugly story all around, but I had a great time writing it. This was heavily dictated by specifics in the pic…how much was drunk, the condensation on the glasses, the napkin on the plate, the half sandwich, her posture… then, once that’s all observed, just add crazy. ; )
      At the end of the day though, it’s all about the nails. ; )
      Thanks for reading this one, Lyn.
      ~Chris

      Reply

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