One burger, carnivorous style (Writing Prompt 1)

Writing Prompt 1:

On a recent trip back from NYC, my 11 year old overheard the following while waiting in line at McDonald’s. “I’ll never look at a burger the same way again since what happened to Peter.” We decided to turn it into a 30 minute writing prompt. Below, is one of my very rare attempt’s at fiction.

It was late and raining hard when Margaret finally cleared traffic and headed into the store for dinner ingredients. After a long day all she had wanted to do was to go home and crawl into bed, but text messages from her hungry kids – and an absence of take out options – found her instead wandering the aisles of the first market she’d found courtesy of a new Waze shortcut.

As she began to realize that nothing was inspiring her, Margaret heard someone’s throat clear.

“Can I help you?” asked the old woman who suddenly appeared from behind a rack of hamburger buns.

“Oh! I didn’t see you there,” said Margaret. “I’m trying to think of something for my kids for dinner and nothing’s coming to mind.”

“I wondered if that was it,” said the women, now smiling and moving from behind the rack to stand closer. “If I could suggest something?”

“Anything,” said Margaret.

“Follow me,” said the old woman, moving surprisingly fast toward the back of the store.

“We’re having a special on ground beef,” she said, motioning toward a brightly lit meat case. “Kids love burgers. At least my greedy boys did.”

“That’s a great idea,” said Margaret. “I’ll take a pound.”

The old woman slid behind the back of the case, placed her hands into clear disposable gloves, and reached inside to grab a pile of meat. She carefully placed it on a scale and then wrapped it in crisp white paper.

“Here you go,” she said. “If you need buns I can show you where they are.”

Margaret placed the meat in her basket and followed her back to where they first met.

After paying and thanking the woman for her help, Margaret ran back out to her car, careful to avoid the large puddles now forming in the dark lot. Once again, Waze found her a shortcut back to home where Margaret began cooking, the sounds of her children fighting and the sizzling meat providing background noise.

“Dinner!” she yelled up the stairs before bringing the food to the table. Peter and Lori pounded down the stairs and sprinted into the kitchen, jostling to be first.

“Burgers!” yelled Peter, greedily grabbing two for his plate.

“Hey!” yelled Lori. “I wanted that one,” she said, pointing at the bigger of the two burgers now on Peter’s plate.

“Got it first,” sneered Peter, looking down at his plate and then back up at his sister who had stopped yelling, her jaw hanging open, eyes still focused on his plate.

“Huh?” said Peter, looking from his sister back to his plate. One of the burgers really was bigger than the other now that he looked at it. And as he continued to look, Peter became aware it was becoming even bigger.

“Mom…” he said in a shaky voice he barely recognized. “What’s happening?”

Margaret, rubbing her eyes with her still greasy hands, slowly looked up at her son before following his worried gaze down toward his plate where something was indeed happening.

The burger, once regular size, was now pulsing as it expanded, tumbling off the sides of Peter’s plate where it pushed against his glass of milk and knocked it over.

“Mom? What’s happening!” screamed Lori, as the burger suddenly launched itself off of the plate entirely, hitting Peter with enough force to splatter grease and sesame seeds across the kitchen wall behind him.

Still in his chair, her brother fell back from the table, clawing at the burger inexplicably latched on to his face. His feet kicked against the chair as he wriggled, his fingers tearing at the bun.

Margaret jumped out of her chair and pushed Lori away from the table. “Run!” she yelled before throwing herself onto the floor next to her son, joining him as they tore away bun in an effort reach the meat.

Peter didn’t make a sound. He couldn’t. While his feet still kicked at the floor and he continued to tear at the bun, his efforts had slowed considerably to the point of appearing in slow motion. The meat had begun to fill his mouth, stifling both his screams and breath.

“What’s happening?!” screamed Lori from the other room.

“Call 9-1-1,” yelled Margaret as she continued to battle with the burger, her hands struggling to grip the meat through the grease. She heard Lori run into the living room for the phone and the buttons being pushed on the cordless.

“Help! We need help!” yelled Lori into the receiver. “We need someone at 43 Cedar Brook. My brother’s being attacked by… by… by… I don’t know by what exactly. Carnivorous meat! Just send help!”

Years later, Margaret would struggle to explain what had happened that night – to friends, family, the community, and even to herself. What she did know is that it hadn’t been a dream. Peter had been attacked. She had tried to save him. The burger, seeming to sense that help was on the way, had ended the attack after Lori’s call, launching itself out of the kitchen window, shattering dishes and glass as it went.

With nothing but grease, sesame seeds, bread crumbs, and shattered glass left behind, the police had initially accused the family of making a false police report, accusing them of staging the scene for fame. They were eventually forced from their home because of the constant and unwanted media attention.

Peter? He’d had never recovered, but because of her company’s excellent health insurance, Margaret had found him a place in a highly recommended institution where hopefully he’d get the lifelong care he now required.

As they started over just the two of them, Margaret thought it time to reclaim some normalcy with a dinner out. She decided on a new restaurant that Waze had suggested during one of its mysterious shortcuts, the labyrinth of meandering side streets she never seemed to be able to recreate on her own.

“What do you feel like?” she asked, now seated and looking over the menu.

Lori’s eyes followed the menu down from appetizers and salads to the entrée selection. As she began to realize that nothing was inspiring her, she heard someone’s throat clear.

“Can I help you?” asked the old woman who suddenly appeared from behind a stack of menus.

Lori jumped and then caught herself. It was just a waitress. “Sorry,” she said self-consciously. “I’m having a hard time deciding.”

“I wondered if that was it,” said the woman now smiling and setting the menus down at the next table before stepping closer. “If I could suggest something?”

“Anything,” said Lori.

“We’re having a special on burgers,” said said. “I’ll warn you that they’re on the big side so the two of you may want to share.”

Lori began trembling. Tears rolled down her face. “I’ll never look at a burger the same way again since what happened to Peter!” she screamed.

Published by Karina Coombs

Freelance writer

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