Food for thought
Here is my January 2021 entry for the Furious Fiction Writing Competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. It had to be 500 words or less, contain the words bicycle, signature and patient, begin at sunrise and include a character who had to make a choice.
The sun cut a line across the water, like a blazing Bombe Alaska. It was her signature dish and her customers loved it when she doused it in Cointreau and lit it up. How she longed to be back in her kitchen, yelling at her Sous chef and creating one-of-a-kind culinary wonders. Her feet were usually sore after a nine-hour shift, but it was a comforting, satisfying kind of pain. The walls of her tent wobbled and she smiled despite herself. She’d tried a new dessert at one of her restaurants and it had fallen flat, but that was okay.
‘It looks like swamp jelly’ the boy had said, which made her laugh. Despite the pitfalls, experimenting was part of her job and necessary to maintain her competitive edge. She unpacked some dried fruit and nibbled on it as the sky turned pink and gold. Waves rolled in, the roar of the splash pounding on the beach. The world keeps turning, she thought, no matter what. To the south, she could see a man winding his way up the narrow track. The wheels of his bicycle creaked in the frigid air and she instinctively reached for her hat and sunnies.
‘You spend the night up here?’ The man said, sweat glistening on his temples.
‘Uh, yeah,’ she replied, averting her gaze.
‘Well, you’ve timed your breakfast to perfection. Look at that sunrise! It’s a shame most people are still in bed.’
I’d love to be snuggled up in bed. Who in their right mind would be stupid enough to camp on the top of an exposed bluff in the middle of winter?
‘Right, well, I’d best get on,’ the rider said, more to himself than her.
How much longer could she stand it? She’d tried to be patient, but her resolve was wearing dangerously thin. Her life had been so pumped with adrenaline that she hadn’t even had time to get her hair cut but now, the days stretched endlessly and she barely spoke to anyone. Sighing, she opened the flap of her nylon abode and slid back inside her sleeping bag. Next to her, a container of wigs, coloured contact lenses and fake tan reminded her that for now, the nomadic life was all she had to look forward to. She curled up and her phone pinged. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone?
‘Will you testify?’ The text read. ‘We’ll put you in witness protection, so there’s nothing to worry about but we need your statement in order to convince the jury.’
If only it were that simple, she thought. If only every new day was a clean slate. Her teachers had always said that but in reality, it was a lie. People held grudges, criminals plotted revenge and henchmen lurked in the shadows. Glancing at the wigs, she knew she had a choice. Create yet another identity and keep moving or go back to Sydney and face it all.