Flash Fiction Extra: A Special Meal

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece featuring the Regents' head cook, Sandra, was written for Sunday Scribblings. It is not part of the novel and it contains no spoilers. I've embedded links to spoiler-free supplemental information, where appropriate. Be sure to drop by Sunday Scribblings for more fun!

Sandra flung open the door to the walk-in and hung her electric lantern so she could see. She had instructed that any food that might get eaten by rats be kept here in the defunct cooler, but as she examined the pitiful assortment of bags and boxes, she frowned.

A special meal. That's what she had been charged with cooking. Why it had to be special, Sandra didn't know or care because what could she possibly make with this? She had a few cans of Spaghetti-Os and evaporated milk in the pantry, and she was pretty sure she still had some peanut butter and a few cans of chickpeas, but...

She heard footsteps and turned around.

"Here." David held up a box of melba toast. "Someone tried to put it where the rats might get it."

Sandra snatched the box from his hands. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

"Hell if I know. I'm in charge of foraging, not cooking."

"And you keep bringing me crap." She waved a hand that indicated the stale fig newtons, half-empty box of cous-cous, and lone box of cheese crackers.

"Crap is all that's out there. You don't like what I bring you, go out there and fight the other kids for it yourself."

"I'm supposed to make a special meal tonight."

David shrugged. "That shouldn't be hard. All your meals are special, as in Special Olympics special."

Sandra threw the box of melba toast at him and watched in satisfaction as he slunk away. What a jerk. But then, what could one expect from a former Kevork? David used to run with one of the most violent gangs in the city, which made him a good forager, but not someone she wanted any dealings with. She had joined the Regents to get away from guys like him.

She picked up the box and set it on a shelf, then returned to her dilemma. Spaghetti-Os over cous-cous, perhaps? Or maybe a Spaghetti-O casserole with the cheese crackers and some garbanzo beans? What could she make with this odd assortment of items?

Well, peanut butter on melba toast, for starters. It would look nice on one of the hotel's silver trays and would be a good appetizer. And for dessert, she could make a sort of bread pudding with the fig newtons and condensed milk. But what to make for a main course?

Sandra stared so long at the shelves that everything started to blur in her mind. Green chili enchiladas - that's what she would make for a special meal, if she had the right ingredients. Or maybe stuffed quail with orange sauce. Sauteed scallops with a side of grilled vegetables in garlic butter sounded good, too. Her stomach rumbled with hunger.

Suppressing a sigh of discouragement, she reached for the box of cheese crackers. Spaghetti-O casserole it would be. And if they didn't like it, well, no one could say it wasn't special.


Denise Moncrief said...

an interesting meal indeed. what you've posted makes me want to read more. thanks for sharing.

Tammy Brierly said...

I'm glad I wasn't invited. lol

Old Egg said...

Yes, this was a lot of fun.

Deep down however I had that niggling feeling that there are still many people struggling to feed families on an inadequate diet.

This does not take anything away from your well written post.

Dee Martin said...

While hunger is always the main issue and getting the nutrients needed - I never thought about what it would be like to be a true cook...

Business IQ said...

Sadly, sounds like something my kids would love for me to make.

Gemma Wiseman said...

There seems to be niggling stories behind the story! Love this feeling of small references to a far bigger picture!

Alice Audrey said...

At least her special meals don't have to include everyone. The melba toast might stretch far enough if everyone only has one, but the pudding would be barely a spoonful each.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

This is the part of your fictional vision that freaks me out the most. The food. How on Earth do these kids eat?

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

@Susan: There are few enough survivors that they can get by with scavenging for now. They find food in boxes and cans, eat stray animals, and collect edibles from parks and gardens.

Toward the end of the novel, a couple characters mention that it's getting harder to find food in the city, and if I ever finish the sequel, the issue of food is going to be much more important. Zoo Tribe might become a major player, since they've done pretty well with the petting zoo animals, breeding the goats for milk and meat, eating duck eggs, and things like that.

Water is another long-term issue, since existing commercial water filters will only work for so long. Luckily a savvy teenager with the right books can figure out how to make filters with sand and charcoal, and then pasteurize the water by putting it in clear bottles and leaving them in the sun on a metal surface.