It was Ruby’s first day working in her aunt’s crossroads restaurant, but it wasn’t her first time seeing someone drop dead in front of her after she gave them something to eat.
There was something strangely nostalgic about it, when the heads banged on the hard wood of table two as the guests collapsed. The kind of nostalgia one might feel remembering their school bullies. Ruby stood, holding the jug of water she was ready to put on their table. Slowly, she turned and walked back behind the bar. When was the first time you witnessed Death take a soul?
Her first time was Billy. That fat, freckled kid, who would not leave her alone at school, and when she went home crying, her aunt, Katherine, comforted her and offered her wise advice.
Kill them with kindness, my dear.
Of course, Ruby didn’t think Billy deserved any kindness from her after sticking his disgusting chewing gum in her hair, throwing her pencils out of the window and stealing her chocolate bars, but after some coaxing, she baked a batch of peanut butter cookies to give the boy the next day. To make peace. He loved cookies, so it seemed like a good idea, and though they didn’t become best friends, it still fixed the problem: he really did not bully her ever again.
He was allergic to peanuts, you understand.
Since that day, Ruby was only allowed to bake for herself. She might have the touch, her aunt said. That theory was confirmed when she tried to share the sandwich she made with a poor stray dog. It wasn’t intentional, Ruby didn’t understand it back then.
Aunt Katherine glanced at the table and sighed.
‘Did you mix up the bread baskets, my dear? Table two is always gluten free.’ She shook her head with stoic disinterest, sipping a glass of wine as Kyle pulled out a black screen to separate table two, and Jimmy carried the limp bodies hauled over his broad shoulders behind the kitchen door.
‘Could you get Kylie to collect the plates from table five?’ Katherine asked, picking dirt from underneath her fake nails.
This was not what Ruby expected from her first day at work when she put on her new uniform, pinned her name badge onto her white shirt with pride, and gathered her dark hair into a neat ponytail. I’m ready, she thought as she checked herself over in the full frame mirror, admiring that timeless, chic penguin look of waiters so many fell in love with. That was the first step towards her future: Aunt Katherine said one day the restaurant would be hers. She promised her that, when she had to transfer to another school, and moved into Aunt Katherine’s house after the incident with the peanut butter cookies. She was looking forward to her first day there ever since, despite the fact it was the worst rated crossroads restaurant. You will forgive her for thinking she could fix that, won’t you? Ruby was set on running a five star place.
At first glance, The Last Meal was just like any small pub, with its six, constantly sticky tables, mismatched old chairs, ugly chandeliers providing weak warm light illuminating pretentious wallpaper. It was run by Katherine and her small team consisting of Jimmy, the cook who wore a location tag around his ankle, a skinny boy called Kyle, the waiter, and…
‘Where is Kylie?’ Aunt Katherine asked when she was introducing them to Ruby.
‘Changing in the staff room, I’ll go get her.’ Kyle offered and disappeared behind the kitchen door. In about five minutes, a girl appeared.
‘Kylie, finally. This is my niece, Ruby.’
‘Nice to meet you.’ Kylie said with a smile behind her rashly applied makeup.
‘Yes…’ Ruby stared at her asymmetrical eyeliner. She was the same frame as Kyle, only slightly taller in her high heels. Ruby squinted. Is this a prank?
‘Are you and Kyle related?’ She asked carefully. Kylie laughed, throwing her long, purple hair behind her shoulder and over the candle by her side. Ruby noticed how a strand melted into a lump, smelling like burnt plastic. Nice wig Kyle… ie.
‘No, why’d you think that?’
Because you look like the same person, she thought, but she wasn’t quite sure because of the makeup. She glanced at her aunt and then Jimmy but they didn’t seem to be holding back laughter. Was she the only one to see, this was the same person? They employed them twice?
‘Kyle, could you get the plates from table five?’
‘That’s Kylie’s table.’ He smiled, unaware of how he forgot to change the name tags on his shirt. His lips were still red from scrubbing off Kylie’s lipstick.
Ruby resisted rolling her eyes.
‘Could you get Kylie to get the plates, please?’
‘Sure!’ He darted off in the direction of the staff room, and in fifteen minutes, Kylie was back in her stilettos, purple wig and quickly slapped on makeup. Wearing the correct name badge and balancing a tower of dirty plates. Ruby held the kitchen door for her.
‘Where’s the dishwasher?’ she asked, as Kylie put the plates down one by one.
‘I don’t know.’ she said, and scraped back the leftovers into the pans over the heat. Jimmy started to plate up onto the filthy plates.
‘Get me the ketchup, love.’ he grunted. Ruby opened a fridge and one of the dead bodies fell on top of her.
‘No, that fridge is for meat, for god’s sake.’ Jimmy said as he pulled the corpse off her and shoved it back in the fridge, hitting it hard five times with the door before the bones broke in just the right places and he was able to bang it shut.
Ruby got onto her feet, the room spinning around her like a nightmarish carousel. This was not how she wanted her future restaurant to operate.
‘Which fridge is the ketchup in..?’
Kylie pointed at a leaking red bottle on the table with dead flies sticking to it.
‘R-right.’ Ruby picked up the revolting item with a teatowel. Jimmy squeezed it over the plates, over all the appetisers, mains and desserts alike. A few dead flies also went in, along with the sweat dripping off his nose.
Ruby felt her stomach do a backflip as she watched, but still helped Kylie serve up the atrocities to table one, watching as her wig dipped into a bowl of soup when she put it down.
Ruby excused herself — but can you judge her? — and went to take orders from table three.
‘Good evening, have you all decided?’ She asked, picking up the information leaflets on end of life assistance and the liability weavers, all signed and dated from the guests. ‘What can I bring you for your last meal?’ she asked with a pleasant smile, notepad in hand.
‘I’ll have a steak–’
‘Can I suggest something vegetarian?’
‘No… No, thank you, I really would like to have a steak, just like my mother used to make.’ The guest asked with a warm smile. Ruby jotted it down, feeling sorry for them, and turned to the other guest.
‘The same for me, to remind me of my first day with the love of my life.’ the other said. Ruby shrugged, trying to rid herself from the awful feeling of not delivering perfection. She thought they should get something nice, something worth dying for, not just dying after. Something like those peanut butter cookies she once baked. But she knew already they were not going to get anything half decent, no matter what, not from that kitchen, so it didn’t really matter. They were not going to be back to complain either.
She asked Jimmy for the steaks, and watched as he chopped an arm off one of the fresh corpses, and began to dice it. When he tried to bang the fridge door shut again, it broke from the hinge and the corpses tumbled out onto the kitchen floor. Ruby threw up into a pot of soup and ran out of the kitchen before she could see it put on a plate.
‘Dear, you look ill.’ Her aunt raised an eyebrow, and put her wineglass down.
‘I’m fine, Aunt Katherine.’ She wiped her mouth with her apron. ‘But… I just think… I don’t want to inherit the lowest rated crossroads restaurant. We should put in some more effort… shouldn’t we? Other restaurants do. They do twentyfour carat gold sprinkles over desserts, gold shimmer in champagne and… It is their last meal, after all, and they pay well. It should be really good. I want them to leave happy. I’m sure Billy also felt like his life was complete after trying my peanut butter cookies. I want a Michelin star. Or at the very least, food safety compliance. According to Reaper’s Net, we have the worst ratings on the planet.’ She let out a deep, frustrated sigh.
‘Bless you, Ruby.’ Aunt Katherine chuckled, already drunk. ‘It’s alright, dear, not like our guests would return or would have the time for food poisoning symptoms to develop.’ she laughed. ‘Have you seen Kylie?’
‘No…’ Ruby said as she watched Kyle take orders, with the obvious remains of heavy makeup on his face and still wearing Kylie’s stilettos. She wondered if her aunt was secretly blind.
‘What a day.. They decided they don’t want a last meal just yet!’ Kyle said as he picked up a jug of water, Kylie’s fake eyelashes hanging on by the holy spirit unglued completely from his eyelid and fell into the water. Ruby wondered if Kyle-ie, had a true self. To her, both of the personas looked equally fake and lazy. And yet, they will get double the pay for less than half the work, at the end of the day.
Kyle served water to the customers who changed their minds, and opted out of dying. On their way out, they dropped dead anyway. He mixed up the waters. Ruby cursed under her breath.
‘Auntie, whe should really make some changes.’ She said, watching Kyle fall over in the high heels as he pulled out the black screen.
‘It is my rules, my dear, as long as I live. But don’t worry, you and your magic touch will surely improve this place, there won’t be all this troublesome mix up with the poisons anymore. You will just touch the food, and ta-dah! Job done. From tomorrow? Trust me, it’s going to be marvellous!’
‘Yes, Aunt Katherine.’ Ruby sighed as she carefully dipped her finger into her auntie’s wine when she wasn’t looking.
‘As long as you live.’
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This was a LOT better than you were giving yourself credit for (wait until you see my hot mess of a story, IF I even post it, LOL), especially for a last-minute piece. The setting was entertaining (and disgusting) and the ensemble cast was a lot of fun to follow. Before anything else: OMG, that opening sentence is everything! Hook with a capital H. You had my full attention (I mean, you always do regardless, but this time especially!). Side note: I think (?) this is your first story in third-person POV if I recall correctly, so kudos to yo...
Hey Zaddy!❤️ (My phone autocorrected this to "Daddy" and I cringed so hard when I saw. So damn glad I noticed..! 🤣) As always, thanks for your lifesaving line edits! All fixed now Xx Kyle-ie knew how to survive a bad job, hack the system... (Can you blame a restaurant server?!) I don't even remember how I came up with that idea, I probably didn't have time to cast many characters, but it was fun. And yeah I know psychic distance (#ilearnedlastyear), so I get what you are saying - it was a rushed piece of work so I can't admit to taking t...
I'm just here for the Zaddy comment☠️☠️☠️
So, this reminded me of an RPG game that me and my friends played xD we were prisoners in a Cannibal BBQ, and had to escape. It was hilarious. Just like this. I love the ending line "As long as you live" ... as long as YOU live. so very well done!!
Thanks, Hannah! Canniban BBQ does sound hilarious xD I'm happy you found this fun, I struggle with writing funny stories, never quite sure if I'm being entertaining at all, and this one one of those I doubted, so thank you very much for your kind comment :)
read that as canadian bbq
Oops, I made a typo?! But Canadian, that makes it even better - those savage Canadians..! 🤣
Yesssss canadian bbq though
Ri Ri~ What a fun story you delivered. The cast of characters was perfect. I could picture them all like it was an after-school sitcom. There was enough humor injected with grotesque imagery throughout (my stomach churned at the descriptions of corpses in the fridge and bones breaking to shut the door). Kyle/Kylie was a hoot. And I'm not sure if you ever watched Will and Grace, but Aunt Katherine gave me Karen vibes. Either really smart and aware (but acting aloof) or just flat out ridiculous. Your first line was EVERYTHING. After I read...
Who's this if not my favourite hermit? I feel so honoured you came all this way for a chat! Xx Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I kind of wish I had more time to work on this one, so I'm really happy to hear the characteristics were easy to picture..! And thanks so much for the heads up - you're right, "Kathrine" was a typo, the name is Katherine :D I've not watched Will and Grace but I think I know what you mean, and I don't even know which one she is, dumb or smart xD
This story is so great! I was hooked from the first paragraph! Your stories are quickly becoming some of my favorites! I can’t wait to read more if them. This concept is so creative, and I love this as a horror take! Thank you for a great story!
Thank you! My newest I just posted is probably the most unhinged of all so far, I was scared uploading... also horror but not this funny, haha. Thank you for your comments, it means a lot to me that you enjoy my stories!
I love the message of the story! You had a great hook, and I enjoyed reading this! I think the peanut butter cookies for the bully were hilarious, and I was wondering, was ruby aware of the allergy, or just unlucky? (or lucky, as some might say :)
Thank you! I can't say as its not part of the story, but I thought Ruby didn't know anything at that time 😃
OMG! This was amazing. I was eating while reading this and it made me want to stop. (complement) This story was amazing. I was waiting to go to the next page like I was reading a book. it drew me in like a New York Times bestselling author!!!!! Have to really make it clear now. . . I'M IN LOVE WITH THIS SHORT STORY
OMG, I wasn't expecting this! Thank you so much for taking your time to read and for leaving this lovely comment - you made my day! ❤️
Great opening line, definitely an attention grabber. I love all the casual mention of death and last meals alongside Ruby worrying about ratings and the customer experience. Also the Kyle/Kylie thing was some great entertainment in the midst of it too. Also a great line to end with!
Thank you Kelsey! This was an odd one for me so I'm delighted I managed to entertain... And oddly enough I quite enjoyed writing those casual deaths!
This is great! So fun. I was almost swatting the flies away as I read. This would make an awesome pilot for an off the wall, cultish sitcom. Late at night on an obscure channel that would pick up huge momentum and be moved to a primetime slot and channel. It is delightfully gross. Well done!
Haha, thank you! I like the off the wall, cultish sitcom idea - though I don't know if I would be able to watch this on screen myself, it's too gross!
Hi Riel, I have to be honest and say that this was an amazing read. I think this is the first story I've read from you and I was not disappointed. I loved the humor you added and found myself laughing out loud at times. You definitely have a talent for storytelling and I can't wait to read more from you! Great job on this one, I loved it :)
Hi Daniel, thank you so much! To be honest I think this story is quite different from my other ones, but I'm happy you enjoyed it and took your time to let me know! :)
My favorite line was “He was allergic to peanuts, you understand.”🤣🤣. I loved this story. The dark humor was spot on!
Hey Brandon, thanks for taking your time to read and comment, I'm glad you liked it!
Haaaahaha!! Love it! This is so much fun. From the very beginning, you had me happily horrified and laughing at the same time. “There was something strangely nostalgic about it, when the heads banged on the hard wood of table two as the guests collapsed”😂 Love this sentence. You can see and hear it and it got me hooked right away! “few dead flies also went in, along with the sweat dripping off his nose.” -Ewwwww!! * the description of the cook reminds me of this horrific grotesque game my daughter played called Little Nightmares. “Kyle s...
Hi Sharon! This means a lot coming from you, a seasoned master of funny horror stories! Thanks for taking your time to read and comment, I'm glad you enjoyed my story.
Riel this was a sure clever read! I enjoy your style of horror, it's got a certain quirk to it that's very individual and I love it! This line was my favorite because it really set the tone of the story for me: He was allergic to peanuts, you understand.
Oh thank you so much! I'm not sure if this style is my style for horror to be honest, I was trying something new and I think it was somewhat inspired by my memories of watching "Pushing Daisies" (don't know if you're familiar with it). That line especially, and that was also my favourite one to write!
“I want a Michelin star. Or at the very least, food safety compliance.” This kind of writing always makes me laugh. I love how you don’t spoon-feed your world to readers; you give us enough action and clues to figure things out on our own. I absorbed your tale and imagined what the rest of the world must look like at the same time. If it were a novel, I’d keep turning pages, Love it!
"If it were a novel, I’d keep turning pages" If this isn't the best compliment to a writer, I don't know what! Especially coming from a super talented writer such as yourself. So, thank you. I'm happy you enjoyed my story!
Perfect title for a Good Friday story! Perfect story for the prompt! Gruesome menu and horrendous servers. I am especially scared of ever having Ruby as a waitress. (I would have wiped the ketchup bottle off with a Chlorox wipe..but I am obsessive.) So many good sentences but I understand this so well: "admiring that timeless, chic penguin look of waiters so many fell in love with." Black being a good color to hide blood stains, for example. I really enjoy the way your and Zack support each other. You are kindred spirits I believe. I did sug...
Hi Lavonne, Happy Easter! If you celebrate it (as for me, I simply eat an inexcusable amount of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns but when I still lived in Hungary we had some odd traditions... Such as, boys spraying perfume on girls - or throwing a bucket of water on them, if you are going for a more traditional take! Because girls are flowers that shouldn't wilt ;) - and the boys got eggs in return.) I'm very sorry for putting that image in your head about the meat fridge - as for the ketchup bottle, I think I'd want to bin it, it's too ...
A win is for judges. You and Zack have such a sympathetic ear for each other that it shows in your comments back and forth! You are both truly creative and aware writers. If not on Reedsy, then maybe a place and time that lets you two write together... in the future. I have learned about Hungarian Easter traditions AND psychic distance in your one comment! Thank you, teacher of writing. I actually did not dream about meat fridges last night so I think I feel safe to read your future stories ;) ;) Yours in writing, Lavonne
Joining ranks with Sharon! Great mix of funny and gross. “He loved cookies, so it seemed like a good idea, and though they didn’t become best friends, it still fixed the problem: he really did not bully her ever again. He was allergic to peanuts, you understand.” Subtle…😉
Thanks! That peanut allergy line was my favourite. 😁
Ha! Funny story. As soon as I saw the funny and horror tags, you had my attention. Then, as Zack said, your opening was outstanding! "The Last Meal" is an amazing/terrible name for a restaurant :) And I liked the line "Or at the very least, food safety compliance".
Hey, Thanks for reading! Yes., I would not go to a restaurant with this name, it is terrible! And they were so very far from food safety compliance...