Flash Fiction Friday: Birthday Edition

Hello Readers, Writers, and Friends,

Tomorrow is my birthday!! I will not be forty. I am counting my blessings while I can.

For my birthday my wonderful hubby took me on a date to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix. It is a really beautiful space tucked away amidst the urbanity of a major American metropolis. Despite being much smaller than its San Diego compatriot, the koi alone are worth the trip. It was a supremely peaceful experience.

Due to it being my birthday weekend today’s flash fiction will have the added prompt/context/inspiration of someone’s birthday. Birthday’s are a great source of inspiration since everyone’s experiences with birthdays is different. Maybe they were always small affairs, large presents a financial impossibility. Maybe there were always great intentions that fell flat. Maybe there were disastrous and embarrassing parties, the kind that bring to mind “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To.” Or maybe they were full of touching gifts that solidified the bonds between dear loved ones. The best experiences are a massive mixture of all of the above.

So let’s get to it!

Today’s prompts are: cook, nobody will listen, and BIRTHDAY

Us at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Slightly out of focus, which is pretty much how I live my whole life.

Ricardo Vasquez ruled his catering business with a flare his competitor’s envied and grudgingly respected. He was the show up early, stay late, get it all done rebel with a purple bandana and a double pierced ear. He left every client taking for weeks about his bacon wrapped jalapeños with agave reduction drizzle and his dulce de leche cheesecake bites.

So his sudden withdrawal from the local food scene came as quite a shock to everyone that knew him. Everyone understood, rightly, that it had to do with a gig. A birthday party for a ten year old boy, whose parents had more money than sense. It was a lavish affair and caterers had been placing bids for the job three months in advance. When Ricardo won he started working on a whole new menu. Something that would really wow future clients, and might just make him enough capital to set up a proper restaurant at last. Rumors abounded about what these new concoctions would be.

Then rumors started to circulate about Ricardo himself. He started showing up late and leaving early. He stopped participating in the usual catering discussion groups online. His friends and his family watched as he grew more erratic, talking to himself about ingredients and measurements, throwing his apron against the wall and storming out of the rented kitchen space he used.

His employees grew nervous. Thy hadn’t tasted any of this new menu, and the day of the party was closing in.

The thing that sent a small group of employees and colleagues, headed by his fearsome Nana Vasquez, to an intervention was he missed a job completely.

“The only thing that saved your miserable hide was your good workers,” Nana Vasquez said, finger right in his face. “If not for all these people who have been covering for you while you run around daft, your business would have collapsed already.”

Ricardo nodded, but the look on his face was as wild and unrepentant as it had been since all this began.

A week before the party, when presumably everyone on staff should have been familiar with the new menu and practiced at getting it put together in swift order, Ricardo entered the kitchen with a plastic squeeze bottle labeled “Secret Sauce.” He handed out four new recipes, hardly a full menu, and said that those would be added to the existing menu. They consisted of a chimi-mini-changa with shredded chicken topped with a dollop of guac, sour cream, a sliced olive, and a drop of secret sauce; an asado steak kabob with roasted potatoes and a drop of secret sauce; a new salsa that would accompany the tortilla chips, secret sauce added of course; and chocolate chili cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting drizzled with secret sauce.

No one in the kitchen felt anything but deep foreboding. There was no way one sauce could complement so many different foods. And when the dishes were cooked and the staff taste tested each, they all agreed they were good, but not spectacular. With a bit of dramatic flair Ricardo brandished the bottle, put one drop of sauce on a chimi-mini and handed it to his SuChef. With dubious expression he took it, popped it in his mouth and chewed.

He looked at Ricardo with astonishment, then took off his apron, and quit.

“Philistine!” Ricardo called after him. And he refused to let anyone else try the sauce.

The day of the party arrived. The catering crew showed up as always, food ready, Ricardo directing everything with more than his usual enthusiasm.

A flock of children laughed and ran from game to game, entertainment to entertainment. Adults dotted the edges, talking in groups, drink in their hands.

When the food tent was set, the cake ready for candles and singing, everyone gathered.

And that’s when it started. Someone took a bite of this, another a bite of that. Then they were grabbing for the next, the food too good to let pass by. Then there was shoving, people started pushing, grabbing after the last canapés on the plate. Adults shoved children out of the way. Children grabbed at food in adults’ hands. It became an absolute feeding frenzy.

The cake, all lit up, was knocked over, setting the table, and then several people ablaze.

The fire caught a nearby tree which finally sobered a few of the grownups enough to search for hoses and fire extinguishers and call 911.

To this day no one knows what was in that sauce. Ricardo never cooked again. He became an accountant. Who avoided the break room whenever anyone had birthday.

Have an excellent weekend. Celebrate whatever is good in your life.

~Anika

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