Noshing with Nate
I have once again entered a NYC Midnight writing competition. This time I had 8 days to write a short story within these parameters: A Romantic Comedy, about moving in together, and with a character who is a food critic, in under 2,500 words.
Romantic comedy is not my thing, but it was a very fun challenge and I decided to make it a Rom-Com / Sci Fi! I give you....
Noshing with Nate
“Read it to me again.” Meghan rolled her eyes as she opened her duffel bag and rooted through it, there wasn’t much for her to unpack. I had to chuckle, I wasn’t sure why she wanted to hear it again, but I cleared my throat and started.
Noshing with Nate 21061103.1842
With only four organic ingredients and one well preserved packet of instant noodle soup, Chef Steele met the challenge and prepared a meal that I never could have imagined. Three days ago she had conferenced with the Chancellor and was told that it was time to open the final pantry box brought from Earth. I was with her when she broke seal and we were both a little bit surprised by what we saw. It was loaded full of items long forgotten, preserved and ready for consumption.
The Chancellor has big plans for that pantry box, to be revealed over the next weeks, but for now Chef Steele’s challenge was this. Take one item from the Earth pantry and one from each of the four food pods on board and create a delicacy never seen before. She carefully chose the envelope of dried noodles and its accompanied foil wrapped seafood flavor packet. She stopped at the market deck to gather a few items then barricaded herself in the deck L kitchen. Her trusted stock pot ready for action.
As Chancellor Kelvin and his wife sat down to dine I watched as they examined, smelled and prodded the exceptionally plated meal. Dot Kelvin smiled as she realized that noodles had been lovingly soaked in squid ink from the seafood farm in Pod Tokyo, no secret, her favorite farm. Giving them a rich full texture that burst in your mouth. A side of roasted kale from Pod Kansas sat on a Pod Paris flat bread, charred and delicate. But the tofu sausage of Pod Germany was as much of a surprise to me as it was to the diners. Chef Steele had seasoned the tofu with the seafood flavored packet before she filled the casing and boiled the sausage.
I admit, I knew what they were in for when they took their first bites, Chef Steele had allowed me a small tasting plate before she served the honored guests. They raved of flavor, texture and subtle hints of aroma that they could not seem to place. She had created a masterpiece worthy of a four-star review.
Next week, Chef Steele will tackle another item from the Earth pantry box and I will be there to share the meal with you. Till then, this has been Noshing with Nate.
I touched the screen closing the daily memorandum. Meghan was hanging her chef’s coat in the closet. My closet. Our closet. “Next time I say you try that bag of freeze dried bananas. Maybe make pancakes out of them.”
Megan sat down on the bed, “It’s so frustrating. I wish I could cook for everyone and not just the Chancellor and his wife. I never thought I’d resent being a private chef.” She slid her duffel bag under our bed and patted the space next to her. “The cooks on deck C get to put together meals for hundreds of people and they never get the recognition for it that I get making one stupid plate of food for two people.”
She was right, her meals were documented in a weekly log for the entire ship to read, if they wanted to or not. The Chancellors wife had this illusion that such stories kept moral up. Telling tales of deck L adventures. The ‘Luxury’ deck as it was known around the ship. Daily articles were posted of card games, model kits assembled, dances, space walks and visits from Pod Commanders. The stories were all fluffed up and photos were staged. But this was how the Chancellor shared his days with the people he watched over.
And I was a part of it all. I was the Nate that they all noshed with in the evening. I wrote the flowery reviews. Even with my well-honed pallet I was little more than a glorified food critic who wasn’t allowed to be publicly critical. “I hate to say it Meg but the noodles were not as amazing as I wrote them to be.”
She laughed, “Oh I know. Didn’t matter how long I soaked those wretch things. They were never going to absorb enough liquid to be appetizing.” We laid back on the bed that we would now share forever and she nuzzled against me. “Are you sure there is enough room here for both of us. I know I don’t own very much, but I don’t want to…”
I kissed her, stopping her from talking. Her soft lips still a bit salty from the flatbread we shared for dinner. “Do you remember the first time we met?” We weren’t a typical ship couple, brought together in a classroom and mated based on proximity. We had grown up in separate pods and it was virtually unheard of for people from different pods to meet and develop a relationship. But she had been brought to the Chancellors pod to become his private chef and I was already writing bits for his daily memorandum.
“Of course I remember. You said terrible things about my food.” She ran her fingers through my shaggy hair as she smirked.
I tried to roll away but the bed was too small, there was nowhere to go. “We are going to need a bigger bed. And I said it was bland, which it was. But I didn’t write that. And you didn’t serve that.” My comment that day had made her go back and add spices from Pod Germany, something I knew the Chancellor would approve. “And you chased me with a knife as a thank you. A very big knife if I remember correctly.”
Meg tousled my hair into my face and crawled over me to get off the bed. “I did not chase you Nate Stringer. I tripped over my own feet with a knife in my hand.” She demonstrated her propensity for clumsiness. It was adorable now, but back then, I wasn’t so sure it was funny.
“You were obtuse when we met.” She was right about that. I was young, younger than Meg by quite a few years. And she was the whirlwind that came into my pod and was going to get me fired or worse yet, jettisoned out to the black. “You didn’t give a muck about my cooking.”
I got up off the bed and came up behind her, wrapping my arms around her and kissing her neck. “You’re right about that. All I cared about was how damn cute you were and how I had better make sure your food was perfect at every meal or Dot would have you sent back to your pod and I’d never see you again.” Who was I kidding, her food was always perfect, but the Chancellors wife was the final judge of things and her tastes were unusual to say the least. She likes salty with sour, food that was mushy, and sweet was just something she had no tolerance for. And if Dot isn’t happy, than the Chancellor isn’t either. And as they say, ‘mucky floats in zero grav’.
“But you fell for me when I was caught in pod T for you.” Even the Chancellor’s food was closely rationed, and Meg had mentioned to me that she had wanted to try and make him something that wasn’t on the ration sheet yet. It was a sea urchin soup and pod T was raising them for market. But they weren’t due to be available for weeks and I hated seeing Meg have to wait for anything. “I waited for shift change, went through three chambers, down to the cultivation deck and grabbed two of those spiny things and put them in my backsack for you. I still have the puncture marks in my side to prove it.”
Meg just smiled and nodded. She had heard this story before. How I had gotten caught on the way back to my pod with spikes sticking out of my bag, a fishy smell, blood dripping and an excuse that no one would have believed. ‘I must be sleepwalking.’ I had said. Obviously I hadn’t thought the entire plan out. Actually, all I had thought about was how I was going to hijack those spiny things, and bring them back to Meg’s kitchen where she’d fall madly in love with me for taking risks.
As it turns out, I was hauled out to the security deck where I was charged with theft of nutrition, the worst type of theft aside from that of fuel. There was no trial, no jury and no way out for someone like me. That was until Dot Kelvin got word of what I had done and came to my rescue. She claimed I had misunderstood her request for sea urchin. And with Meg corroborating the story, I was spared from being jettisoned into the black. Dot may have had strange taste if food, but she was soft when it came to people being banished.
Meg shifted a few things in the room, moving the side stand and I helped shift the bed from the wall so that we could walk on both sides of it. She made room on the table for her screen and card keys. “That was very daring of you Nate, and stupid.” She straightened her clothes in the closet.
“But that was not when I fell for you.” I was surprised. Meg and I had coupled almost a year ago, I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about this brown haired beauty.
She pulled the lounger down from the wall and snuggled on to it with a blanket wrapped around her. “I fell for you before that. Before you got caught stealing, before you watched me cooking every day. I fell for you,” Her eyes shifted from the cut on her hand up to mine, “when I fell for you. I mean, when I tripped over my own two feet with that knife in my hand. Even though you said my food was tasteless. Yes, you said tasteless, not bland. I watched you eat that first bite of soybeans and you tried so hard not to make a face. It took you two tries to swallow it but you did. And I knew it was terrible. I wanted it to be bad. I wanted Kelvin to take one bite and send me back to my pod.”
I watched her face in fascination. I had never heard a bit of this story. “But you chocked it down and you smiled and then you very delicately told me all of Dot and the Chancellors favorite flavors. I could tell you wanted me to do well and there was something in that boyish smile of yours that made me melt just a little bit.”
I sat on the floor next to her, “You had a funny way of showing it. Chasing me with a knife.”
Meg blushed, something she rarely did even around me. “Really, I tripped over myself. You gave me the most timid suggestions and I was blowing up like a moony-case and you just smiled. Like you are right now. Stop it.” I realized that she was right. She had been yelling that day but she hadn’t chased me, she had gone to take a step and she tripped, knife first, toward me.
I couldn’t let it rest. “You were so moony over me from the start I made you clumsy?” We had established over the time we had been together that age didn’t matter to us, deck class wasn’t a factor. We liked each other for who we were and our attraction for each other was all that mattered. But knowing that she had noticed me from the start, this was new and I loved it.
“I didn’t say that.” She tried to defend her magnetism for me.
There was no controlling my laughter, “Look Meg, you either came after me all moony with a big knife or you fell head over heels in love with me. Now which is it?”
She wrinkled her nose at being checked by me. “Forget it, I’m moving out.” She was trying not to laugh.
“You just moved in, five minutes ago.” I knelt in front of her and held her still, nose to nose. “You’ve hung your clothes, you synced your screen. It’s official, this is where you live now, with me. Forever.”
She kissed me. “All this time you thought I had chased you with a knife?”
I nodded. “It would have been more gentlemanly of me to have caught you and helped you up, right?”
Meg nodded, “More gentlemanly than jumping back, screeching like a girl and yelling all moony? Maybe.” She kissed me softly.
Results will be in by mid March.
winda February 04, 2016 04:02PM