On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
THIS MONTH'S CRITERIA
The Cook’s Kingdom
The three judges wait, anticipating greatness.
I place the lunches on the table, and make eye contact with Kate, the Nice Judge.
“We’re looking forward to today’s testing.” She’s the encouraging one. I think I spot a sidewards warning glance at the other, meaner judges, but I might be mistaken.
Lucy’s dish is in a rustic bowl. She is a food critic, rather than a chef, and will be effusive with praise or provide caustic criticism. She is undoubtedly the Scary Judge.
I smile, trying to win her over with my charismatic charm. “Lucy, today I have prepared for you pasta in the shape of tight twisted spirals, representative of our winding path of life. The addition of a rich, three cheese sauce epitomises the depth, richness and pure joy in our experience of life. I have chosen a hand-crafted clay bowl to represent the beauty and fragility of our existence.”
Her eyes are piercing, and I look away. She makes no comment as she begins the tasting.
I wait, anxiously, for a response.
“The pasta is al dente. Could do with a bit more cheese, though, and maybe some garlic bread.”
Kate, the Nice Judge, looks at me apologetically, and sneaks a forkful of the pasta from Lucy’s bowl.
“Mmmmm, delicious….” She arches an eyebrow. I am besotted with her.
I drag my eyes away to face the Other Judge, known for his sullen persona.
“Max, today I have prepared for you an Asian dish of fine noodles, with an exotic Fusion blend of spices sprinkled generously on top, and with a soupy consistency throughout. This represents…”
“Yeah, yeah. It’s all about the taste, though, remember?”
I am contemplating how he has tasted anything given the speed he’s consuming my creation. He slurps noisily, and gives a nod of approval.
But I value the opinion of the Nice Judge the most.
“Kate, for your lunch today I have created a deconstructed smashed avo sandwich assortment with ploughman’s bread and Eggs Benedict. In these uncertain times, even comfort food can surprise and delight us. The addition of the tiny pomegranate jewels remind us to expect the unexpected.”
Our eyes meet. I actually have a bit of a crush on her. She is goodness personified.
Unlike the other judges, her table manners are exquisite. She nods. “Mmmm, very tasty. The Hollondaise sauce is not lumpy, but smooth and velvety.” I start to feel light-headed, dizzy even. She’s gorgeous. “Dan, that was simply the best lunch I have ever had.” She rises from the table and stands very close to me. Without warning, we are in a passionate embrace, much to the shock and disgust of Lucy and Max.
Kate giggles, and clears the table. “Max, can you pack the dishwasher please? Lucy’s clay bowl has to be hand-washed. The Chef and I have to go and pick up a few ingredients for tonight. It’s my turn to be the Cook. Any requests other than cheesy pasta or 2 minute noodles again?”
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.