Friday 19 October 2012

Flash Fiction: So You Think You Can Cook?

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck him. Fuck them. But him most of all. With a rolling pin. The fucker.

"Mmm, cooked in a reduction of quality with a drizzle of mediocrity." Live. On national TV.

Camilla wiped a tear from her right eye. Then another from her left.

"You know I can't be seen to have favourites," he'd said. "I can't let what's happened between us affect my judgement."

"Of course! I wouldn't have it any other way."

Of course. She hadn't realised the way he had in mind was live sacrifice. She wiped away more tears. Jason was so practised at living a lie for the camera that nothing had any truth to it, no matter how he'd whispered it in her ear. The fucker.

Besotted, smitten, flattered. He'd made her feel young... like a fucking schoolgirl. How could she have been so blind, so stupid?

No point in wiping away tears, no stemming a stream now sobbed into a flood.

But what could she do? Go to the press? Even if he didn't deny it, she'd be taking herself down with him. She had further to fall, with narrower shoulders, and husband and children in tow.

How she wished none of this had happened, that she couldn't cook — well, according to him, she couldn't — so she'd never have accepted encouragement to apply, to have been overjoyed at selection for a qualifying round, to have made it through to the televised show, to have welcomed time away from home, to have met him, to have looked forward to getting through to the next show to see him again, to have been lifted up by him, to have been smashed down by him. The fucker.

"So you think you can cook?" His catch phrase, delivered with a smug smile and a verdict, "I don't!"

She'd dammed her disappointment behind a fixed grin until she was off set. She'd held it until she'd found a corner, away from the roman holiday of lights, crew and studio audience.

He'd moved on to the next contestant, Sandy, a woman her age, pleasant enough but unassuming. Her cooking hadn't seemed particularly special, so Jason was probably well into his clever put-downs by now. But they wouldn't cut Sandy as deeply, couldn't reach as far as her heart.

"So you think you can cook?" he boomed. Camilla turned to watch from her corner. "I don't!"

"You smug bastard, I hate you! How could you do this?" Sandy grabbed the boning knife lying next to her rejected dish and thrust it into his chest, again and again, repeating, "I thought you loved me, you bastard!"

The set was bloody, the studio bedlam. Sandy staggered back, dropping the knife, her crazed eyes and lopsided smile a fairground mirror to his glazed stare and frothed mouth.

Camilla's quandary had been resolved. She'd simply return home and her family would learn to love ready meals. As if this had never happened, could never have happened. The two-timing fucker.

"So You Think You Can Cook?" was first published in Word Gumbo. More background here.