Noir at the Salad Bar
Culinary Tales with a Bite
Level Best Books
Featuring my story "Petunia at the Tip Top."
Billy, the invisible regular, feels the electric sparks of danger in the diner where he is eating his Sunday special. An abstract menace, a wild-eyed man, enters holding a bulging beige tote bag. He grimaces and struggles to keep it over his shoulder.
The small diner, lined with six booths along the walls, has a counter that sits ten. Billy is in his regular spot, in the first booth to the right of the entrance, facing it, always attuned to how quickly the restaurant's atmosphere could change with each swing of the door.
Billy's spoon hovers between a sunken slice of lemon meringue pie and his mouth, still smudged with lipstick. He forgets the tart delight is on its way. He forgets the opened, drooling creamer containers scattered around his half-empty coffee cup, and the scratch of polyester against the back of his thigh and that his hairdo has started to collapse. He is proud of his hair, and stands up for it when he's in the club, happy to convince others that it is not a wig.
Billy used to be an innie. Now, sitting in the Tip Top diner, his shy navel protrudes below a belly shelf. While its permanent emergence was depressing, he was not dissuaded enough to avoid the late, luxurious lunches or the powdered sugar on his fingers.
But for this uncertain moment, when the frail, angry man stands so close to him, breathing heavily under the weight of his bag, none of these things are real.
Fiction by D.C. Area Women
Edited by Richard Peabody
400+ pages of remarkable reading.
Featuring my story "Fireflies."
"Charlie was full of the biggest secret of all, and he knew it was only a matter of time before it came shooting out of him like a bottle rocket down a long narrow highway. It would not be ignored. He would get into the most amount of trouble he could ever get in for letting it out.
He was constantly aware of the possibility of a spark."