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Funny

“Now,” Vivian began gently, “the first thing we need is a strong, flavorful stock to act as a base. Why don’t you pick out a few ingredients to start with, love? See what you have a taste for.”

She and Hester watched expectantly as Roberta leaned into the pantry and peered at the shelf of boxes and Tupperware containers, carefully selected two, and carried them over to the massive pot heating up on the stove.

Hester made a disappointed noise when she read the labels on the containers. “So predictable,” she muttered, making a move toward the pantry.

Vivian put out a hand to stop her. “We have to let her experiment. That’s the best way to learn. There’s no shame in starting simple.”

Roberta turned the box labeled actors upside-down over the pot and shook it. Her aunts watched as a venerable old dame of the stage and a dark, mysterious lothario plopped into the warming water, sending ripples lapping against the sides. Next she opened the container labeled musicians and, looking them all over carefully, selected a shaggy-haired bassist to drop in as well. She looked up at her aunts for approval.

“Don’t forget, love, we want some variety in our flavors,” Vivian coached her. “Otherwise it might be rather bland.”

Looking a little less certain, Roberta returned to the pantry and scanned the character shelf once more. After a moment’s hesitation, she unscrewed the top of the athletes jar and tossed a defensive end into the mix.

“An unexpected combination,” Vivian remarked approvingly.

Hester merely gave an unimpressed grunt. “Let’s see what we have, then.” She stepped forward and gazed into the pot.

*****

“Oh my,” Dame Carole said. “This is very awkward, isn’t it?”

Chris was tapping his foot impatiently, the cleat making a neat clacking sound on the floor.

“Don’t know what’s taking them so long,” Lance murmured without taking his eyes off his phone screen, where the selfie camera was flawlessly reflecting his own piercing smolder back at him. “Some of us have places to be.”

Murray put a foot up on his instrument case and leaned on his knee, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a cellophane baggie. “I’m in no hurry,” he said. “Anybody want some?”

*****

“That’s a good start, love,” Vivian said encouragingly, “but a clear broth isn’t terribly appetizing. Why don’t we add a bit of color?” She conducted Roberta over to the pantry once more and directed her attention to the settings shelf.

Roberta dug through the contents for some time before emerging from the pantry with a packet of coffee shop in her hand. She tore it open and sprinkled the contents into the pot.

“Been a while since we’ve used that,” Hester observed under her breath to Vivian as she leaned over to give the pot a sniff. “Hope it hasn’t gone stale.”

*****

“Carol!” Barked a barista, holding aloft a lidded paper cup with the string of a tea bag dangling from the side.

“Oh dear,” Dame Carole murmured as she stepped daintily toward the counter. “They forgot the ‘e’ at the end, I can just hear it.”

Lance glowered at the room in general. “I could have sworn I put my order in before her.”

Murray pulled a red jelly bean from the cellophane baggie and plopped it in his mouth. “Yeah,” he said, “but like, what did you order? A triple half-caf something or other with two pumps of something and five shots of something else and a cool doodle in the foam? But--how long does it take to dump a teabag into hot water?”

Lance glowered specifically at Murray, now. Murray just gave him an obnoxious grin. There were globs of jelly bean stuck to his front teeth.

Chris was stretching each of his deltoid muscles in turn. “I’m gonna be late for practice,” he groaned.

Dame Carole adjusted her fashionable shawl, slipped on a pair of oversized sunglasses, and took her tea out to the patio.

“And just what did you order?” Lance asked, looking down his nose at Murray. “A plain Americano, I imagine?”

“Nah,” Murray said, stuffing more jelly beans in his mouth and answering as he chewed. “Six chocolate croissants, three slices of coffee cake, and a cranberry scone. Oh!” He added, spitting flecks of purple glop onto Lance’s sleeve, “and a to-go cup of cream.”

*****

“Now,” Vivian continued, “Let’s add something hearty for texture, and let it simmer until it thickens.”

Roberta nodded thoughtfully and went to the refrigerator, pulling open the plot drawer. Withdrawing a hunk of plot wrapped neatly in deli paper, she carved off a generous slice and diced it into oversized pieces.

“Is that the deviled romance or the smoked dystopia?” Hester asked.

“We used the last of the deviled romance for brunch yesterday,” Vivian reminded her.

“This one’s corned robbery,” Roberta said, dropping the diced pieces into the pot.

“Oh, right,” Vivian said. “I picked that up on this morning’s shopping trip—I suppose I just had a taste for it.”

*****

Dame Carole was just enjoying her oolong in the morning sun when, over the top of the new script she was perusing, she noticed a black balaclava bobbing along.

She lowered the script slightly. The balaclava was, in fact, covering a head, and that head was attached to a body, and that body was walking into the coffee shop.

It was a bit cool for April, certainly, but it didn’t feel like ski mask weather.

She lowered her designer sunglasses, revealing her shrewdly narrowed eyes. “Oh, dear.”

Inside, the barista yelled, “Venti Frappuccino with seven pumps of caramel, five Frappuccino chips, four bananas, one pump of honey, heavy cream, extra ice, extra cinnamon, extra whipped cream, extra caramel drizzle!”

Finally!” Lance scoffed, shoving his way to the counter and nearly knocking Chris, who was standing on one leg stretching his quad muscle, onto his butt.

Just as Lance was about to take his first glorious sip, a gruff voice yelled, “EVERYBODY FREEZE!”

*****

Roberta peered into the pot. “Do you think it’s time to bring it to a boil yet, Aunt Viv?”

“Let’s add some seasoning first,” she replied. “Then you can let it cook.”

Roberta certainly looked more comfortable in the kitchen now. She confidently grabbed three little bottles off the spice rack and carefully measured out amounts of each. “A tablespoon of unlikely heroes,” she muttered. “Maybe half a teaspoon of plumbing problems? …And a dash of cat, I think.”

*****

The masked man had emptied the contents of the tip jar into the black backpack he carried with him. He waved his gun at Lance. “Wallet,” he ordered.

Giving him a scowl that could curdle milk, Lance reached into the breast pocket of his suit coat and dropped his billfold into the waiting bag.

The gunman moved to Murray next, eyeing his instrument case suspiciously. “What’s in there?”

“Just my bass,” Murray replied. “And Chester.”

“Chester?” The gunman repeated uncertainly. Then his eyes hardened. “Open it.”

Shrugging, Murray knelt down and unlatched the top of the instrument case, the gunman leaning over as he did to get a look inside.

Immediately, an earsplitting yowl caused Lance to fling his coffee into the air. A blur of orange fur launched itself out of the case and latched onto the front of the gunman’s balaclava. As he started back in surprise, he was pelted with ice cubes and the sticky drippings of Lance’s beverage.

“Chester!” Murray yelped, dropping his bag of jelly beans and moving to excise the cat from the gunman’s face.

Chris saw his opportunity. Putting his whole weight into it, he charged the gunman as if he were the rival team quarterback, shoulder-checking him hard and knocking him off balance. The gunman stumbled into the minefield of spilled jelly beans and went careening into the counter, knocking his wrist against it and accidentally discharging the gun.

Chester fled at the sound of gunfire and retreated to curl up once again on top of the bass in the instrument case. The bullet pierced the espresso machine, sending a fountain of boiling water arcing from the bullet hole right onto the gunman’s face and soaking into his ski mask in steaming liquid. As he dropped the gun to claw the mask off his face, Chris punted the weapon expertly out of the way, and jabbed his cleat into the gunman’s backside for good measure.

His face now exposed, not to mention swollen with angry red burn marks, the defeated gunman turned toward Chester the cat with murder in his eyes.

“FREEZE!”

Everyone turned toward the doorway to see Dame Carole, staring disapprovingly at the gunman over the rims of her oversized sunglasses, leveling a little, dainty, gold-plated pistol right at his face.

*****

“What do you think, Aunt Hester?” Roberta asked anxiously as her aunt lifted the spoon to her lips.

Hester took a small sip and let it roll around on her tongue for a moment. “An admirable first effort,” she finally said. “It’s quite interesting, really. An unusual combination of flavors.”

Vivian tasted a spoonful as well. “Well, love, you’ve certainly got good instincts,” She declared. “Everyone’s going to want a full serving of that, I’d wager. I’d even go so far as to say that this dish is quite…novel.”

April 22, 2023 03:35

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3 comments

Amanda Lieser
02:50 May 09, 2023

Hi Laura! Oh, what a wonderful take on this prompt! I loved thought it was a story with an a story and I thought that you did a great job of providing explanation in the little details. I loved all of these characters, and I thought it was incredibly sweet that you created such a wonderful family dynamic between your characters. If only it was so easy to write brilliantly. :) nice work!!

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Mary Bendickson
04:49 Apr 26, 2023

Witty and fitting from title to novel.

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Nancy Hibbert
12:12 Apr 27, 2023

Like the ending. I know it was a hard prompt to write about. I found the story itself confusing. I know the prompt was about a plot thickening, which the story was about. I found each piece interesting description. But it seemed to make an awkward story. It worked well for the actual prompt, 'plot thickens.' But I think if you were going to use it as stand alone story for something else the separate pieces would need to flow better together as a whole.

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