Blondie's Southern Rabbit
I decided to participate in flash fiction challenge this week from Chuck Wendig's blog Terribleminds, and chose the title "Blondie's Southern Rabbit." Enjoy.
Jack drove past the diner slowly, staring longingly. He had been wanting to try Blondie’s Southern Rabbit for a long time now. Almost a year. It was a little hole in the wall trucker stop near a hole in the wall, town, and they didn’t take very kindly to outsiders. They liked to stay within their own community, and anyone who did happen to venture into the diner, while, they were just never seen again. Probably because they went back to wherever they came from, Jack thought, people liked to make things bigger than they were. Even so, it was enough to scare off most people, including Jack, until he just couldn’t take it any longer. Their rabbit stew was supposed to be the best around, and he just had to try some of it himself.
It might seem odd that Jack was so fixated on rabbit stew. He even considered moving closer to the town, in order to be considered a local, but he could never bring himself to make the move. Something always stopped him. Okay, it was the fact that he didn’t want to wake up in the middle of nowhere to the smell of cow manure. Honestly, he didn’t know how these people did it, unless there was some kind of magic chemical in that stew, which according to legend, there might be.
His grandmother had lived in that town where the famous rabbit stew was made. She was dead now, but he remembered the many stories she passed onto him. About how the rabbit stew was so good, and so strong, it could make the blind see and the deaf hear. Jack brushed it off as nonsense, but it drew his attention. He begged her as a child to let him have some, but she always refused. His mother had moved away when she was sixteen and pregnant, and his grandmother had never forgiven her completely. She loved them well enough, and would let them visit. But no rabbit stew.
Jack circled back to the diner and pulled his truck into the parking lot. He had rented one just for the occasion. He didn’t want to admit it, but the rumours of what happened to non-locals scared him, so he tried to make himself fit in as much as possible. He felt silly in what he called his “trucker garb” as he got out of the truck. He was wearing rough, worn jeans, and a flannel shirt that was starting to rip at the seams. Why did I have to dress like a homeless trucker? he wondered. Surely I could have bought clothes that looked less like they just came out of the garbage bin? He shrugged his shoulders, hoping no one would pay him any attention, and taking a deep breath, headed into the diner.
Inside the air was jovial. People laughed and joked as they ate their meals. The rich smell of home cooked food filled the air. Jack breathed deeply, his mouth watering from the scent. As he got to the counter of the diner and sat on one of the stools, he noticed it became quieter around him. That’s odd, he thought, taking a quick glance around. He felt several pairs of eyes on him, but they looked away as he looked back at them. Feeling a tingle of fear, he tried to push it away and waved to the waitress behind the counter.
“Well, hello there,” she said, her voice deep and smooth, “haven’t seen you around here.”
“I’m from out of town,” Jack said, almost hesitantly. He was beginning to think this was a mistake.
“You must be a brave man to come around here after all the stories,” she said, smiling at him. “I’m guessing you want some of that rabbit stew you’ve heard about?”
“Yes, ah,” he faltered. He was used to waitresses who had name tags.
“Blondie,” she said, “I’m the one who owns this place.”
“Nice to meet you,” he nodded, and she smiled again, then went off to place his order.
Ten minutes later, he had a steaming bowl of southern rabbit stew in front of him. He almost licked his lips at the sight of it. People were now whispering around him, stealing glances at him, but Jack didn’t notice. All he could think about was eating the stew. Just as he was about to place a bite in his mouth, Blondie came back to him.
“I hope you enjoy it,” she said, winking at him.
He smiled absently, pausing for only a second before putting the spoon in his mouth. His taste buds exploded. It was everything he had hoped for and more. It was hearty and smoky. It tasted like the rabbit had been alive five minutes ago. It was dark, and rich, and had this amazing taste underlining it that he just couldn’t quite put his finger on. He had dabbled in cooking himself, and loved to know what went into a meal. When he had finished, Blondie came back to take his bowl.
“How was it?” she asked, smiling at him.
“Amazing,” he said, not noticing how no one in the diner had left since he sat down. “I’d love to know how it was made.”
“Oh, are you a chef?” she asked, pretending to be excited. Jack nodded. “Well then, why don’t come round back to the kitchen, and I’ll show you what we really put in it to make it special. Hint, it’s not rabbit.”
Jack got up eagerly and followed her around the counter. The people behind him closed the space, but he still didn’t notice. Standing in the kitchen, the smell of the rabbit stew was even stronger. People worked around him, mixing spices and chopping things. He loved the business of the kitchen. Jack froze. He caught something from the corner of his eye. Something red and dark. Something pale. He walked over to it and almost vomited on the floor. It was a smattering of human parts, bloodied and cut up.
“I see you found our secret ingredient,” Blondie whispered in his ear. “You should have listened to the rumours.”
Jack whirled around and saw a butcher knife in her hand. He screamed for help but the staff didn’t even look up. He made a run toward Blondie but she tried to trip him. She cursed when he shoved his hand hard against her and managed to make his way past. He ran into the diner and stopped. There were the customers there from before. But they were different now. They weren’t wearing the same clothes. They looked like they were out of the 1800s or something. This can’t be happening, Jack thought, this can’t be real. He backed up and felt the cool tip of the knife press into the back of his neck.