Flash Fiction - Grated

Hopefully this qualifies as ‘Flash Fiction’ on two counts – firstly it’s under the requisite 1000 words and second I wrote it in a flash just this afternoon.

There’s a note about the inspiration at the end but that’s probably better left until after.


“What the hell is this?”

It’s not going well, this day. Not well at all.

“It’s the ‘Spaghetti al Forno’ sir”

“Al who?”

“’Forno’. Like you ordered.”

“Naw, ‘couldn’t be! I never eat anything with a name.”

Appreciative laughter all round the table. Christ, business lunches are the worst of all.

“Plus, it’s very undercooked. It’s tough.”

“It’s ‘Al Dente’, sir.”

“Another ‘Al’, what are they? Cousins?”

More laughter from the three other suits. Bordering on raucous. Two bottles of Chianti down, the third just opened.

“Plus this wine is corked. Here, taste it.”

Yes, yes, yes, how often is the poor wine accused of being corked? As if this Philistine would have any clue. I raise the bottle to my nose. I don’t need to taste it to tell if it’s corked. I sniff it gently of course it’s completely…

…corked. Jesus Christ.

“Sorry, sir, I’ll bring you another.”

“Do that. And get Al out here too, I want to talk to him.”

Haw haw haw.

I’m not even meant to be here today. The owner deserves one day off a week and Tuesdays are usually quiet. But Marco has to pick Monday evening to twist his ankle at five-a-side.

Thanks Marco.

And when somebody twists something, I’m never that hard to find. I live right up over the restaurant. People think it’s a hardship but really it’s quite elegant.

I was looking forward to catching up on my videoed shows too. One glorious day. Then I got the call. To tell the truth, I wasn’t all that annoyed. Maria had chosen today to do that thing she does – that gross disgusting thing – and she was doing it right in the TV room.


“Sorry sir. What was that?”

“I need some Palmerstown Cheese, for this ‘Al-Stuff.”

Is this fat bastard actually for real?

“You mean Parmesan?”

“Palmerstown, Parmesan, I need some of it before ‘Al’, here, freezes over.”

Hardy har harrrrr.

Parmesan. Right.

I go to the servery to get the prick his Parmesan cheese and a new bottle of wine.

There is none.

Not wine. There’s plenty of wine. Gallons. There isn’t any Parmesan, though. Not a speck. Oh my God, an Italian restaurant, without any Parmesan? Tell me why, I don’t like Tuesdays.

In the kitchen, Giovanni is sweating just like that pig which he is carving used to in life. He doesn’t have any Parmesan either. It’s on order, it’s being delivered any minute. Yeah, yeah, it’s not here though, is it? It’s no good to me 'on order', is it?.

Back at the table with some new wine, Porky and his cronies look up at me, ready for more fun.

“Here’s your wine.”


“Sorry we’re out.”

Silence. Loops of linguine dangling from pursed lips.

“You’re what?”

“Out. Sorry.”

Then I get the Litany. I’ll spare you. Just fill in the blanks, you’ve seen it often enough. The service staff get caught short for something. The head of the table uses the opportunity to enforce his alpha-male status by shitting all over the poor beleaguered guy. Blah, blah. Here’s the end of it;

“… and if you don’t get me some Palmerstown Cheese for my Spaghetti Al Caponey, I will refuse to pay for anything and I will never come back here again.”

Oh yeah, that last bit is worrying me – not. The first bit is though. These guys are three bottles in, four if you count the corked one. That kind of ditched bill can really sting.

I think I might have some spare Parmesan in the fridge upstairs. I bloody hope I do.

As I enter the apartment, I glance in at Maria in the room. She’s still doing that disgusting thing of hers. God, how long can it take?

Just Call me 'Old Mother Hubbard'. The fridge is bare – well, not ‘bare’ but bare of ‘Parmesan’. I kind of thought it was, but there was a small chance.

Maria looks up from her task as I slope in. She looks alluring in her dressing gown, maybe I should just stay up here with her. Good idea, except she’s doing that ‘thing’ and it’s a total passion-killer.

“Hi honey, 'you all right?”

“Trouble below, I’ll handle it.”

“I have no doubt you will handsome.”

I stare.

“Sexy stuff eh?”

“No… Why do you have to…?”

She shakes her head and smiles. Yup, still alluring despite this ongoing gross practice.

“We’ve talked about this. The soles of my feet get really really hard. It’s the sandals. This pumice stone takes off the hard skin and keeps me beautiful. I know it bugs you but…”

I stare at the newspaper on the floor. The shavings, so much shavings.

“Are you finished?” I ask, fake-distractedly.

“Just now. Why?”

“Nothing, it’s just that, I could take that out for you, as I go.”

“Could you darling? That would be great. I’ll just roll up this newspaper.”

I smile at her. She's lovely, really.

“No, don’t do that. I’ll get a little bowl.”

(c) Ken Armstrong 2009

This story was inspired by my friend Kathy's post of today over at her excellent Junk Drawer.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

I'm laffin and laffin. My daughter wanted one of those Ped Egg's for Christmas. The visuals are going through my mind.

Susan at Stony River said...

Oh, gross, Ken, and I was eating food here.

At least, I *hope* it's food...


The laugh made up for it! Great little story!


quite clever~

Kathy said...

Oh my freaking God. Too funny! Could you, would you? Nah.....

I hated to suggest on my post that feet residue even smelled like grated parmasean, but I know it does, you know it does. But do we know if it tastes like it?

hope said...

And just as I'm about to go into the kitchen and pull chicken lasagna out of the oven. Sigh.

But you are a clever one. ;)

Ken Armstrong said...

Elizabeth: I wondered if I actually named Kathy's Ped Egg in the story would they give me a small commission? :)

Susan: Gross indeed. I always shave my own Parmesan (no bad jokes please) I find it's safer.

Susan (Sonnen): Thanks Susan, I like that. :)

Kathy: It's all you! This whole story is in your current post, I just dickied it up a bit. Don't sue me though, eh? :)

Hope: Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Lasagna: 'Stinky Jaws 2' :)

Rachel Fox said...

I like the crisp style of it...the writing...not the topping!

Dave King said...

We've all known guys and situations like that. You have caught both excellently well. Reminds me of an occasion when the temperature was in the high nineties and a diner demanded a fresh bottle of wine because the ice was melting in the ice bucket. He got it, of course.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,
Very well written as usual, with the laughs/smiles in between.

Do you know I also posted a shorty short..lol.,.okay flash fiction in my blog with the same setting...It;s good I posted it Feb 20, he he he, so I would be free of guilt..lol...

God bless.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Gross but very funny. This one is going to have me giggling for a long time.

Cleveland Real Estate said...

Awesome, Kenneth... And you thunk this up that quickly... nice.

If I could Stumble this, I would...

I love giving myself pedicures... I may always think of you now as I...

Anonymous said...

Very nice, Ken. I've played around with flash once or twice, but can't ever quite make it work. Of course, this doesn't really separate it from any of my other writing, when it comes to that.

It's a good little twist, and of course the guy deserves to eat some foot shavings.

Beamer said...

Very nice and twisted. At least he won't have to eat the Bill. Good service at times requires thinking out of the box.


Reese said...

I will never order Palmerstown cheese again! As if I don't have enough issues with food. Thanks, Ken, thanks!

*Very funny*

Unknown said...

G-Ah! Wow, Ken- you and Kathy managed a gross-out double-whammy with that Ped-Egg. :) I'm sort of impressed...

Once I stop vomiting, I will be, anyway.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

I saw that ending coming. Just wondering, have you ever worked in a restaurant? Where did the inspiration for this one come from?

Ken Armstrong said...

Rachel: crisp style... heheee, the 'gross' continues... :)

Dave: I just hope nobody does this and blames me. Well, I *sort of* hope that. :)

Jena: Hi! I'll have to drop by, will do shortly. Sorry to be tardy.

Lyndi: Giggling is good. (Open the fridge...WATCH OUT!!) :)

Cecilia: Can't we get you back on Stumble? 'Could sure use you there. That's for kind words and muchos good advice. :D

Mike: Your 'playing around with flash' might be something you may wish to keep under the radar. did you have a pair of those special pants? :)

Beamer: Good to see ya man! Thanks for the Stumble too. I won't share with you where the expression 'thinking out of the box' took me. I'm in enough trouble as is. :)

Reese: We shall all have to get over this glitch and come back to out Palmerstown cheese. I always grate mine straight of the block for reasons which may now be becoming clear. :)

Why Kathy and I unite, the world of grossness is our oyster. Hmmm... oysters... :)

Matt: This is just bad blood because you lost our... oh crap!! :)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

LOL...not bad blood at all...I've worked in the restaurant industry for a decade, and was a server for 3. You don't think I know how to think like the server in your story? C'mon, mate! So, did you work as a server at one time? Where did the inspiration come from?

Ken Armstrong said...

Oh yes, I did my time. :) If I'm going to write this blog for the rest of my life, then I guess it will all come out.

As for the inspiration. The inspiration is 85% of the fun in this little post. Click on the link to Kathy's Junk Drawer in the last line of the post and read what I read just before I got writing. :)

McGuire said...

Ken, did I lose your following on my blog? Did I transgress on your sensibilities?

Anyway, love this flash fiction, particularly the italian bent (I'm in Italy right now) it was comic and absurd in equal measure. I'm going to reread and comment again in greater detial.

buon appetite

Ken Armstrong said...

McGuire: Gosh no! I haven't had my iron-clad sensibilities rattled yet! :) however I too have lost over 20 'followers' in the last day and I've seen other people say the same. I don't understand it but I'll go and add you back in straight away.

Italy, eh? There's posh! :)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Ah. I see the inspiration now. And Kathy had to go there with her comments, didn't she?

Anonymous said...

Ouch! Disgusting! But the bugger probably deserved it.

Markchop said...

I stumbled this.
It was marvelous.

Ken Armstrong said...

Matt: I guess if Dear Kathy hadn't gone there then I wouldn't have either. :)

SS Tragus: I wonder how it would taste? I think texture would be a bit of a giveaway but if the shaving were sufficiently fine, it might go down a treat. :)

Markchop: Thank you very much and thank you to all you lovely Stumbleupon people who are currently passing through. Green thumbs make a big difference to how many are directed here and they are always greatly appreciated. :)

Loretta said...

Oh honeybunch.... That made me laugh just when I needed it! StumbleUpon rocks.

Why can't I write little perfect gems like that?

Anonymous said...

pigs don't sweat.

Unknown said...

That was hysterical. And what a build-up. I think I'm going to pass on the Palmerston from now on..

Peace - Rene

Pamila Payne said...

That was really gross, but so funny. The lead up was just enough and the pay off was great.

IanKR said...

Just desserts, sort of.

Jena Isle said...

You made my day Ken. I was laughing, really. :D . Now I know the two Als are cousins, and feet shavings as "Parmesan cheese"? You still have that "funny devil" in you,

Jules said...

Well, they do say your feet smell cheesy...

Nicely done - and it's great how you captured the "put-upon" feel that the hospitality industry often has to bear unspoken.

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh, the stories you hear about what waiters do to customers’ meals. I think the worst one I heard about concerned an Indian Restaurant where, after eating the meal, the customer fell sick and doctors discovered the sperm from a dozen or so men in her (I think it was a woman) stomach. Why exactly they thought to test her stomach contents I’ve no idea—is that normal procedure?—but that’s how the story went.

Excellent story, Ken. A trifle contrived perhaps—I saw where you were going with this—but I really didn’t mind. I have to say this seems a bit long for flash. I know flash can officially be anything under 1000 words but this feels too well-rounded to call flash. Flash, to my mind, tends to leave a lot more for the reader to have to do to complete the story but here you hand it to him—if you’ll pardon the pun—on a plate.