This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge was to choose a song title at random and make that the title of your story. The great god “shuffle” gave me Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Bits and Pieces,” which is some excellent Texas swing. It’s also instrumental, so no preconceived subject matter, though it does soundtrack the story I wrote pretty well. I pulled together a thousand words on a cook turned killer, and looking to switch careers. Hope you enjoy!
Greg Lange’s corpse slumped onto the tarp Kim Nash had spread on the tiled floor to avoid having to scrub blood out of the grout. She was thankful his house was so remote; carving a body his size for disposal wouldn’t be a quick process, so the less time she spent on cleanup, the better. Besides, as executive chef of Max’s, one of Seattle’s best restaurants, Lange had once made her scrub the restaurant’s kitchen floor as punishment for changing one of his dishes, and then fired her anyway. That had been embarrassing as hell, and she’d be damned if she’d scrub another floor because of him.
After he’d tossed her out, Kim found work with Tommy Robinson, a local butcher, who introduced her to Clarence Berry. Clarence was Tommy’s “silent partner.” Tommy introduced them when Clarence needed her skills to make an “unfortunate accident” of his easier to dispose of. In truth, most things Clarence did fit nicely between quotation marks.
The first time she took a hacksaw to a corpse was nauseating, until she convinced herself meat and bone were always meat and bone, regardless of what they’d been in life. Even so, it was hardly where she imagined finding herself after years of culinary training.
When she heard Lange was on Clarence’s “list,” Kim offered to take him out herself if Lange didn’t turn things around to Berry’s satisfaction. While she’d enjoyed her fantasies of ending the man responsible for her current career path, once he’d bled out, so had her vigor. In the end he was just another carcass.
Now she sat in his well-appointed Kitchen and wondered what he had to eat. There was nothing on the counter save a couple pricy bottles of wine. She was curious what he cooked for himself, so while she waited for Lange to stop draining, Kim took a look around. Takeout containers abounded; no raw ingredients in the place.
Greg often left others to cook his recipes, and he never spent longer in the kitchen than necessary to bark at the staff. It made sense for a jerk like him to have a showroom kitchen with no food in it. She had a ninth-rate setup at home, but she also had a loaded spice rack and always kept fresh ingredients on hand. Cooking energized her, no matter how long, tiring, or bloody her workday had been. Lange hadn’t deserved this kitchen, or the one in the restaurant. Now that he was gone this one’d be sold off, and Clarence would take over Max’s.
Clarence. He’d be coming to her place this evening to see how things had gone. He was chatty around her, and prone to linger. A little wine and something tasty might make him amenable to the right business pitch. It was just a question of what to prepare. As she knelt down next to the body and unpacked her tools, Kim began menu planning.
“Shit, you can cook.” Clarence hungrily scooped forkfuls of the meal she’d created into his mouth. The enticing scents of thyme, garlic, and rosemary still hung in the air. She leaned forward to tip more wine into his glass, and to push a plate of crusty bread closer.
“Glad you think so, it leads to a question I have.” Kim felt encouraged, warmed with the same joy that followed whenever she watched someone devour her cooking.
“First, you gotta tell me what this is again.”
She sat back with her own half-filled glass. “Bourgignon, but instead of the usual beef, I used offal. Sweetbreads, liver, kidney, and heart. I like using them because I don’t like wasting, and adults shouldn’t be put off just because it’s not what they’re used to. These are delicate cuts of pork, deeper in flavor than regular beef would be.”
“No arguments here.” He chased another bite with a sip of wine, before picking up his knife and fork and tucking back in.
“I was wondering about your plans for Max’s. I appreciate the work you’ve sent my way, but I wanted to show you that my real talents are wasted there, and might fit better if you need someone to take over the restaurant.”
Clarence swallowed another morsel. “Seriously? I mean, what you’re doing now gives you more free time…”
“Thanks, but c’mon, look at what you’re doing to my food. Any asshole can grill steak. Did you even know food could taste like that? Did you even realize or care what was in that meal before I told you? Offal is cheap meat, too. I could have your customers salivating and paying good money to do so. Meanwhile that wine pairs well with a meal like this, and it’s nowhere near cheap. Low cost for high quality, gourmet meals that also sell expensive wine?”
He sat back and grinned broadly to match Kim’s own generous smile. “I gotta say, you make a hell of an argument, verbally and otherwise. That payroll’s on the books, though. You’re not gonna make the money I pay you for the other thing.
She waved a hand to bat away the suggestion. “This isn’t only about money. I mean, don’t think I didn’t appreciate what you paid me. I’m not even saying I wouldn’t be available if you’re in a pinch. But whatever taste I had for that work is mostly gone. Give me the chance to do a job I’d actually kill for.”
He laughed at that, with the genuine, genial laugh he saved for partners like Tommy. “The job’s yours, and I hope this is on the menu.”
“Tommy doesn’t carry this particular breed of pig, but what he gets is good enough you’d barely know the difference.”
“I hope so, because that was amazing. I’m feeling good about this, Kim. I could eat like this forever.”
Kim sat back with her glass of Merlot, and contentedly watched as her former and future boss took bread, and sopped up the vestigial evidence of her previous career.