Funny stories in under 500 words.

Beef Hearts for Christmas



Tariq prodded a wary finger at a plate of heart-shaped cookies topped with red icing, and added one to his plate. One door down the buffet line lived grilled beef hearts, cut in chunks and threaded on bamboo skewers. Morbid curiosity won out over good sense.

Tariq’s eyes did a walk-about to make sure only his wife was in whispering range. “Why does Janice host a Christmas party? She’s the least festive person I know.”

“To annoy her second husband,” Jennifer said.

“Has it always had a creepy Valentine’s theme?”

Jennifer pursed her lips. “That was to annoy her third husband. He didn’t like Valentine’s Day. Neither does Janice, so they should have gotten along swimmingly. Police reports say otherwise. She hopes the party will continue to annoy him in the afterlife. I keep telling her that he’s not dead, but you know Janice.”

Tariq jabbed his fork into the oily conglomeration on his plate. Two grinding passes of his teeth unleashed an overwhelming desire to retch. A masticated beef heart left an orange trail across the carpet.

Tariq scrubbed the stain. Janice’s beige carpet shredded the cocktail napkins like a steel brush attacking wrapping paper.

“I’m making it worse,” Tariq offered. “We should turn this problem over to the host.”

“And get tagged as the relatives who make a mess? No way.”
“I might not be good at cleaning, but I am good at scheming up ways to avoid cleaning. Let’s pretend nothing happened.”

A hot-air-balloon-inflating rise made way for the tiniest of head nods. “That could work, but Aunt Janice is clever. If we spill beef hearts on the rest of the carpet to match this stain, we’d have a better chance of pulling off the scam.”

“So she’ll notice an orangish splotch - which could be under the couch with some creative feng shui - but she won’t notice if her beige carpet has a new pattern?” Incredulous wrinkles ran the length of Tariq’s face.

“If we mention her second husband, she might blame the whole thing on Walter.”

“Your plan involves a lot of work just to weasel out of cleaning. I enjoy shirking household chores as much as the next guy, but not if it means taking up a huge home redecoration project. It’s a violation of the first rule of shirking,” Tariq said.

“Evading household duties has rules?”

“I learned it at the church’s marriage preparation retreat.”

“Funny,” Jennifer said, “I don’t remember learning about shirking.”

“You wouldn’t. It was in the men-only group. We also talked about boobs. Very enlightening discussion.”

“Are we going to doctor the carpet, or not?”

“I’ll go with not. This calls for a more basic trick - ignore the problem.” Tariq pressed his palms together. “The mind of the shirker must let go of the past. That is the path to true dereliction of duty.”

“How Zen. I hope you’re making up this crap. Because it’s a clear violation of the first rule of shirking.”

This story was written by Caleb Echterling, who tweets funny twitter-sized fiction @CalebEchterling.




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