According to this New Yorker piece [linked via Kottke.org], publishers are now scouring blogs for worthy writers to pen novels. Alas, I fear that my blog’s “Food Blog” status will automatically disqualify me from the running; petty publishers dismissing me with the click of a mouse.
And so desperate times call for desperate measures. Tonight I present what may very well be an internet novelty: the first chapter of a first novel written by a food blogger for his food blogging audience. Call it food fiction, if you’d like. And I’m hoping to make the process participatory—perhaps a Choose Your Own Adventure type deal. In any case, please click below for CHAPTER ONE of what is certainly not a masterpiece.
HORACE CHESTERBOTTOM MAKES AN OMELETTE
The dynamic in the Chesterbottom home is one that modern scholars would call “decidedly sexist.” One such scholar, Leelee Greenland of Columbia University, finds the Chesterbottom home to be so “grossly misogynistic as to constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention.”
Zanzibar Chesterbottom–Horace’s wife–sees no such inequity.
“We are the way we are,” she says, “and we’re happy. What’s wrong with that?”
Zanzibar finds little fault in her condition. Chained to the kitchen table with enough length to allow her to traverse the living room, den, and downstairs bathroom, Zanzibar finds her way of life to be incredibly satisfying.
“It’s incredibly satisfying,” she says, not unconvincingly.
Horace–a producer of toothpaste caps, by day–feels that his home life is indicative of a “natural order,” one that “God intended.” He views his wife as a Platonic ideal: “She’s what every wife should be: pretty, obedient, and a darn good cook.”
Social scrutiny be damned, Horace Chesterbottom is set in his ways.
Yet our story begins at a juncture where Horace Chesterbottom’s ways are about to change dramatically.
While Horace is at work at the toothpaste cap factory, Zanzibar sits at home watching her favorite soap opera: “The Sands on the Beach Are Coarse and Grainy.” Her favorite character, Lemondrop Martinez, is trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she only married for his money and stature. Zanzibar feels a deep pang of recognition: Horace, like Lemondrop’s husband, is a man of wealth and accomplishment. Toothpaste cap production is a highly profitable business.
Zanzibar leans in towards the screen as she watches Lemondrop pack a suitcase, ready to leave her husband for the man she has always adored: Captain B.B. Mendehlson of the 83rd artillery. Zanzibar stares down at her chains and begins to cry. She decides that she too must have her freedom, she too must–like Lemondrop Martinez–have her Captain B.B. She finds a creme brulee blowtorch in a kitchen drawer and gets to work.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Horace gets the news, he’s finishing up his last cap of the day. The art of toothpaste cap production requires extreme concentration and extreme precision. He is carving the last vertical notch when Cici Winterthong bursts into the room with a bang.
“Horace,” he says matter-of-factly, “Your wife’s dead. She burned down the house with a creme brulee blowtorch. Boss says you can leave when you finish the cap you’re working on.”
Cici exits with a whirl. Horace hasn’t moved. He stares at the toothpaste cap with razor in hand and, as if nothing has happened, carves the last vertical notch. He blows the dust off lovingly and wonders where he’ll sleep tonight.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As luck would have it, Horace sleeps at home. After the ordeal of the police and the fire trucks and the carrying away of the body, Horace concludes that the charred remnants of his former life are good enough for him. Who needs a roof over their head when there’s God’s brilliant firmament, flecked with golden stars?
Horace sleeps peacefully on the crispy surface of his blackened mattress. When he awakes the next day, he feels pangs of hunger like he’s never felt. Horace makes his way over to the still-standing refrigerator (unplugged, now, of course) and peers inside. He finds, among other things, three eggs in a carton. He decides it’s time he made himself an omelette.
Making oneself an omelette without a stove is a difficult proposition. Even more challenging, though, is making oneself an omelette when one has never made oneself anything before. Horace tackled this problem admirably.
He removes a skillet from the desicatted remains of his kitchen cabinets. He cracks the eggs into it with little fanfare. Perhaps he has unconsciously imbibed his wife’s cooking skills through peripheral observation over the years. Perhaps Horace is a cook after all.
With the eggs in the skillet, Horace scrambles them with his finger. He takes great pleasure in breaking the yolks one by one, watching them bleed into the whites like forces of nature. Horace has a grandiloquent way of thinking about things.
As far as heat, the answer is simple. Horace finds the creme brulee blowtorch that the disinterested cops left on the scene. He begins heating the bottom of the skillet with the instrument of his wife’s demise and listens gladly as the eggs gurgle and crackle.
Over these pleasurable noises, Horace begins to detect another noise. The noise of what sounds like a phone ringing.
This, of course, would be impossible. The phonelines have been destroyed and Horace Chesterbottom is not a man to own a cell phone.
He places the skillet and blowtorch down and makes his way over to some rubble. There the ringing grows louder. He looks down and sees his wife’s pink rotary phone, buzzing now with excitement. He lifts up the receiver and says, rather sheepishly: “Hello?”
“Horace,” says a gravelly voice, “It’s me.”
“Who?” asks Horace nervously.
“Don’t you recognize my voice? I’m—–
[READERS!!! HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN!! WHO’S ON THE PHONE? WHAT DO THEY WANT? FINISH THE CHAPTER’S LAST SENTENCE!”]