• • •
“Listen lady, nobody knows better than me that we’re livin’ in strange times, but, that don’t mean I’m ‘bout’a let my old-school vintage nineteen’seventies souvenir limited-edition illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art recipe pad go for eight bucks. That sucker’s worth fifteen at least, you’re not gonna go up to the gift shop and get another one. Plus, you know, I’m not naïve. You’re gonna buy it from me and sell it for double, just like the rest of the resale shmucks out here.”
Vallory doesn’t know what to say.
“Yeah, yeah that’s what’s going on. I know your type, lady. I know y’alls all too well, because I used to be you. Do you know how much I made in a year slingin’ wares through Craigslist? Well? Do ya?! ”
She’s not going to cry. She’s not letting this mean ‘man get one over on her. Vallory is not going to cry.
“I made t’ree-fi’ty! In profit! ”
Silence hangs heavily in the air. Vallory is the only shopper at this furry man’s garage sale. She was the only shopper when she parked her car and she’ll likely be the only shopper when she inevitably gets back into that car and gets herself home. It’s just her and him out here, just these two ‘man beings standing on a lawn of chopped grass as the wind continues to blow and the rain threatens to pour. If she speaks she’s going to cry and if she cries the awful furry man will win, and that can nor will not happen. Vallory stands her ground, keeps her mouth shut, her eyes peeled, her chin up.
Four minutes pass like this.
“Fine,” concedes the awful furry man, “y’know what? Fine. “You win, you can take it… for ten. Do we have a deal?”
As it turns out, they do indeed have a deal. Vallory takes her old-school vintage 1970s souvenir limited-edition illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art recipe pad, shamelessly sprints to her car, hops in, hits the start, and races towards the horizon.
“Yeah? It really sold? Well no shit, that… that’s fabulous! I never thought it would move! The electric knife maybe, but I…
“…yeah, no, you’re right. The Universe takes care. I’m just surprised is all…
“Yeah. Yeap. Yeppers…
“Yeah, good call. Hopefully she’ll find the number and place an order, that would be stellar. All right Mahty, I’ll hit ya later on if I hear from her. Thanks again, buddy!”
Vallory Does Dinner
Sweet, savory barbecue sauce. Molten cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Buttery, grilled corn. Cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese tossed into a vat of pasta shells and hit with a blowtorch for a slight char. When Vallory does dinner, Vallory doesn’t tool around.
“Val’,” gushes Manja as she attempts to work down another mouthful of this phenomenal banquet Vallory threw together for them, “this food is phenomenal! ”
A smile which stretches for miles spreads across Vallory’s face. “Well there’s plen’y more where it came from, butterbuns. Eat up!”
To think, Manja almost canceled tonight. She almost let the strange world she’s living in scare her out of spending a lovely evening with her friend – her friend since kindergarten, mind you – eating delicious food and catching up after months of not seeing each other. That’s just how Manja gets sometimes, the state of the world troubles her very much. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenic delusions, conversations in her head that make her think she’s harboring extraneous spirits up there without collecting rent; life is kind of tough for Manja. It wouldn’t be if she didn’t spend so much time watching mainstream media and scrolling social media and waging relentless flame wars against random human beings she’s never met over topics she knows nothing about, but she does all that toxic shit, and most folks begrudge her for it. But not Vallory. Vallory makes time to see Manja, Vallory invites Manja over to eat dinner. Honestly, Manja doesn’t know what she would do without Vallory. Manja likes to spend all her waking hours watching her horrors, films like Human Centipede, like Green Inferno and A Serbian Film and other exemplifications of high art like them, and that about sums up the route of her standard train of thought. Most folks don’t like that in another human, most folks find that creepy. But not Vallory.
Honestly, Manja doesn’t know what she would do without Vallory. And tonight, Vallory is lucky Manja is here, too. After tonight, Vallory won’t know what she would do without Manja. It all starts to unravel when Manja finishes working down that mouthful of the phenomenal pulled pork.
“Good Christ, Vallory! This pork! It’s, it’s just… I’ve never had anything like it!”
Another handful engulfed – dinner started with forks, but, you know, that’s how it started – and then, as druplets of thick brown barbecue sauce dribble down her stuffed, rosy cheeks, Manja asks, “What did you do to it?”
“Not a whole lot!” Vallory raves as she follows a handful of pulled pork with a ladleful of barbecue sauce. “The guy who shipped it to me included all the fixin’s, all I did was follow the instructions!”
Manj’ grabs herself a wad with her grubby, saucy little hand and starts chewin’. “A guy shipped it to you?! Oh honey, you tell me more about that right now!”
“Well, sure!” Vallory squeals, hardly able to contain herself. This pork is so good it’s driving her stark mad. “I was at a little garage sale the weekend before last, I don’t even remember the town, and I bought an old recipe pad from the Metropolitan Art Museum! It was all blank, so I could fill it in myself and ooooohit has all different sections and illustrations, oh Manja it is to die for I love it so much! ”
“The pork?!” as Manja sips the bottle of barbecue sauce.
“The pork! Yes! So in the back of the section titled Meat and Poultry there was this little message. This little ad, it said Want that longbelly? Call this number and get yerself some longpork. Fill you up right. It even said yer self, like whY-eEe-aRe. It was so clever I just had to call. Wouldn’t you?!”
Manja would not have called, but she can’t explain why at first. Her stomach, her esophagus, her mouth, her fork, and now that she’s given up on the fork, her hands, it’s all slathered with Vallory’s magic pork. That long pork, fill you up right. Get that long belly, y’hear?
See, Manja isn’t a normal ‘man being. Manja likes to spend her time watching horrors like Human Centipede, high arts like Green Inferno and A Serbian Film. They’re practically all she thinks about, and most folks begrudge her for it. Most folks just think she’s creepy, but Vallory? Never Vallory. Vallory makes time for Manja, Vallory invites Manja over to eat dinner. Manja doesn’t know what she would do without Vallory, and in just a moment, Vallory will feel the same way about Manja. Vallory will have no idea what she would do without Manja, she will refuse to have that idea. She could picture it in her head, sure, but she would refuse to look at that picture because that picture is already all around her. Vallory is little more than the stroke of a paintbrush dipped in barbecue sauce, and without Manja, she would have absolutely no idea.
“Val’…” Manja trembles, letting the chewed pulled longpork fall out of her mouth and back to the plate. “Vallory… longpork is… longpork is human flesh…”
This has been the tenth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~