The most recent flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds: making a sandwich.
While I’ve written a fair amount of flash fiction (stories under 1000 words), I haven’t ever tried one of Chuck’s prompts. For some reason, I couldn’t resist this one. Maybe I was just hungry.
You have up to 1000 words to write a story — not a scene, but a story — where a character makes a sandwich. Any kind of character, any kind of sandwich, but the point is to infuse this seemingly mundane act with the magic story-stuff of drama and conflict.
I have little else to explain on the matter, so here ya go.
by Andrea Drugay
After four months of hard-boiled eggs and apples, all Casey wanted was a sandwich. The ceremony wasn’t for another hour, and she’d already gotten her hair, makeup, and nails done. Heck, she was even in her dress—and it fit perfectly, thanks to the excruciating diet her mother had suggested. Deep beneath the corset boning and stomach-flattening shapewear she’d never let her new husband see, her insides grumbled.
From the miniature fridge in the back room of the cottage, she pulled out a jar of strawberry jam and one of peanut butter. The peanut butter was the all-natural kind that had to be refrigerated. The jam was a gift from her sister, a recent convert to homesteading tricks like canning and crochet.
Why don’t you make the sandwich beforehand? Her sister had asked. Better yet, I’ll make it for you.
They were afraid she’d get jam on her white dress. It wasn’t even white, but ivory. Casey was no virgin.
She had sighed in response. She only wanted an hour to herself before walking down the aisle. Was that too much to ask? She wanted to make herself a sandwich and stare out the window at Lake Wessley, the last view of nature she’d have before boarding Exlon 9 and shuttling off to deep space for the rest of her life.
Of course, once they reached Chyrid, it wouldn’t feel like deep space. It would just feel like home. Or so everyone said.
She’d bought the bread, a whole-grain loaf, from Lake Wessley’s eighty-year-old bakery. All the bakers were old humans with white hair, and Casey insisted on picking up the loaf herself that morning. She wanted to see wrinkles and age spots and suntanned skin.
In the cottage, she sliced the bread on a rickety table with chipped white paint. Through the window above the table, Lake Wessley shimmered in the summertime sun. Though the glass was sealed shut, she could hear muffled activity in the yard as the band arrived and the caterers prepared last-minute details.
The other women were in the main house, drinking champagne while putting on their finishing touches. Her husband-to-be and his family were secluded in their pod, performing the traditional Chyridian groom ceremony, an ancient ritual that included bathing, anointing, and a family dance. The rest of the wedding ceremony would be just like the ones Casey grew up with.
Except instead of a ring, she would have a Chyrid implant placed behind her right ear. And at the end of the reception, instead of leaving in a Rolls Royce for a tropical honeymoon, she would enter a starship as a mdgango, or Chyridian wife.
Casey unscrewed the peanut butter jar and stirred the cold spread with a fork, mixing in the oil that had become separated. The band began tuning up in their off-pitch way. Her sister had chosen the band, a group who played banjo, fiddle, stand-up bass, and piano. The event space had a piano on site, which the event staff rolled onto the lawn early in the morning before setting up the stage. Casey watched the event staff through the window as she got her hair and makeup done. It took four men to maneuver the piano onto the stage. There were no Chyridian males around, as it was the custom for the bride’s family to manage the event.
A shame, she had thought. One Chyridian male could have set up the entire stage in three minutes.
She knew she should consider her marriage a blessing. After all, she’d known her destiny her whole life, and the Chyrid males were top tier. As the eldest daughter, she would marry Velgt. Her sister, two years younger, would marry Ssriptat, but she would be allowed to stay on Earth. She wouldn’t even have to see Ssriptat again, although their minds would be connected via her implant.
The war had ended before her birth, but the Agreement marriages didn’t start to take place for a few years afterward. According to her mother, Casey’s father was a rebel, killed by Chyridian forces two months before Casey was born. After the Agreement, rebellion was abolished, in addition to anger, humiliation, and greed. But the programming wasn’t perfect, as everybody knew. They hadn’t yet been able to control sadness, nostalgia, or longing.
Casey dipped the fork in the jam without cleaning it of peanut butter first. The utensil left streaks of light brown through the gleaming red spread. She dropped a forkful of the homemade jam onto the other slice of bread and painted it evenly across, as she’d done with the peanut butter.
Muffled laughter batted against the window, as guests arrived. Casey pressed the two pieces of bread together, merging the peanut butter and the jam. She placed the bread in her mouth and took a bite.
The band began to play a mellow folksy tune she recalled from her childhood. With each bite of the sandwich, her body relaxed. There would be music on Chyrid. There would be food, lakes, and other wives. She swallowed the last bite as there was a knock on the door. It was time to go.