Suess’s Pieces: Writers’ Week 2012 Contest Entry
Simple concept, great prizes, stiff competition. And when they said “weird prompt”, I was all in. I’m all about weird and unexpected fiction. I especially need the bonus prize of the copy of Scrivener. I recently switched from Mac to PC and Scrivener is an absolute MUST for me as a writer.
So without further ado, here is my humble entry in the Writer’s Week 2012 Fiction Contest:
FRYING PANS AND FIRES
A flash fiction by J. Whitworth Hazzard
You just can’t trust a smuggler. No matter how important a part they played in your survival, nothing that came out their mouth should be taken at face value. Just let go and play your part, Martin thought. The chef took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
The wiry gentleman in the black suit came down the warehouse stairs and shook Martin’s hand. He was older than Martin imagined, but looked… competent. He was not someone you would fuck with. Not if you wanted to live long, anyway.
“Tony, thanks for meeting me,” Martin said. “Blaise said you would have what I need.”
“Well, we’ll see, Chef. Any friend of Blaise is a client worth meeting,” Tony said. “You’ll have to excuse me, but before we go any further. Jake, scan Mr. Brooks.”
Martin put his hands on his head and waited. They told him this would happen. Tony’s associate —hired thug–ran a wand over Martin’s body. Adrenal suppressors kept him calm and focused while his mind freaked out.
“He’s clean, Boss.”
Two beeps sounded in Martin’s ear; the transmitter finished rebooting. He was back online.
Proceed with buy.
The green text appeared in the corner of his eye, the Feds were recording everything from the camera in his contact lenses.
“Have a seat and run me through it,” Tony motioned to a chair across from him. Martin watched Jake retreat to the little office at the back of the warehouse. It was set adjacent to the exotics market; two rows of refrigerated display cases surrounded by deep bins filled with produce and rare ingredients that made his mind whirl with possibilities.
He sat down, trying to keep his hands steady and his voice calm. “Private dinner tomorrow night for four A-listers and guests. Fifteen plates altogether.”
“What’s your cut?” Tony said.
“Eighty grand after expenses. Twenty grand for supplies, fifteen for you if I can find what I asked for in ingredients.” Martin pulled an envelope from his jacket and put it on the table. Crisp $100 bills peeked through the gap.
Tony pulled a black semi-auto from his jacket. “Why shouldn’t I just shoot you and take the money?”
A single bead of sweat rolled down Martin’s forehead, he had to finish this before the injected dampeners wore off. “Because I’ll be back with twice this amount if dinner for Senator Kline goes well.”
“Senator Kline?” Tony put the gun down and grinned. “He was a co-sponsor of SB2022. Seems kind of hypocritical to eat food he helped make illegal.”
“He’s a politician. Do as I say, not as I do, and all that jazz,” Martin said.
Tony chuckled. “Fair enough. Now, are you aware that the sale of genetically engineered super-food is a felony?”
“I am,” Martin said.
“Which begs the question. Your flash restaurant was raided three weeks ago. How are you not in a holding cell?”
Stick to the script.
The Feds came up with a simple lie to cover his flip for the Justice Department after getting busted. Without him, they’d lose their best lead to suppliers.
“I plated dessert and left. I’m no fool. Once my work is done, I’m out the door with the money.”
“But you were raided?” Tony leaned back and watched Martin’s reaction.
Martin’s face fell. He was conflicted, “Yeah. It happens. I can’t do anything about that.”
“Why GE-exotics? You’re a talented guy. I ate at your place two years ago,” Martin put his fingers to his lips. “A symphony.”
“I’m broke. That’s why. My partner fucked me over. One day, he up and cashed out the credit lines, sold off the equipment, and disappeared…like a ghost. I need cash and this is the quickest way.”
“I don’t buy it,” Tony said. “So what, you get wiped out? Guy like you can go work in any top kitchen and be back flush in two years.”
“I don’t have two years.” Martin said. “My wife is…she needs gene replacement therapy.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Tony looked Martin in the eye and saw the very real pain there. It must have convinced him, because he pulled the envelope across the table and stuffed it in his suit pocket. The smuggler stood up and waved Martin towards the clandestine market. “Come on, let’s get you what you need.”
Martin followed Tony into the bright lights of the market. Tony had a well-rehearsed sales pitch for each selection of illegal foodstuff.
“Taiwanese carrots with triple anti-oxidants and bio-stabilize cholesterase. Yellow-mellow tomatoes with THC-expression plasmids. A starter of Caprese salad with these and your guests would eat cardboard and love it. Super-Shitake mushrooms with slow-release statins, diners go home and lose three pounds overnight. Purple asparagus with nitric-oxide synthetase, organic viagra. And here, my good Chef, is the piece-de-resistance.” Tony waved his hand over a refrigerator case of gorgeous porterhouse steaks.
“Damn,” Martin whistled. “They look real.”
“Finest craftsmanship in Thailand. Grown from bovine stem cells on a cellulose matrix, 50% more marble than Kobe, one-third the cholesterol, and…digestion-resistant seratonin uptake inhibitors.”
“Sex on a plate.”
“Exactly. $500 per,” Tony said. “Non-negotiable.”
Get the gene scan.
Martin ignored the readout in his eyes. He wanted to touch and smell all the ingredients anyway, “May I?”
“Be my guest.”
Martin smelled and caressed each ingredient and fell in love, while the genetic-scanner on his thumb took a microscopic chunk out of each. He be damned if he was going to let the Feds fuck him out of his freedom and sentence his wife to a slow painful death. Thirty-six hours was all he needed to serve the greatest meal of his career and be on his way to Japan with his wife and $60,000 in cash.
Product confirmed. Raid commencing.
“I’ll take it all.” Martin opened the cooler and shoved the groceries into the ice. The counter in his contact readout showed 15 seconds left.
“What’s your rush?” Tony’s smile disappeared.
Martin didn’t get to answer. Flash bang grenades whizzed through the skylight and exploded in mid-air over the market. The Feds cut the power and the warehouse plunged into darkness. Shouts and shotguns roared as Tony’s goons tried to slow down the SWAT team smashing through the front door. Tony swore and ran for it, away from Martin.
“You set me up! I’ll kill you!”
Martin grabbed his cooler and ran through the haze of grenade smoke. He pulled out his contacts and crushed them under his heel. The Feds couldn’t track him now; he was on his own.
The plan: get out the back door, evade the cops, give Tony’s thugs the slip, spring his sous-chef from a Federal holding cell, cook like his life depended on it, and flee the country with a cancer-stricken wife. And I’ve got a whole thirty-six hours, Martin thought.
What could possibly go wrong?
I hope you enjoyed the ride. It was a ton of fun to write and think about the weird future of illegal foods.