Use the spice mix in the packet–but not all of it, only half. Or a teaspoon more than a half if you’re feeling funky. Fry it with a sliced onion and two crushed cloves of garlic, sauté for a minute, then add the not all that mushy bell pepper bought on the black market not all that long ago. Keep cooking it all until it was aromatic and just about to burn, and then add the noodles. Stir it all around, serve on a chipped ceramic plate, and then, if you dare, add a drop from the bottle of soy sauce kept in your father’s safe.
And there he had it. The perfect plate of stir-fried noodles. Forget that they were noodles from a packet–that was all anyone could afford these days–and besides, packet noodles were what they’d eaten whenever the show came on. They were all that they ever ate when the show came on.
Mark was the one who usually prepared the vegetables and spices. Fabian had the noodles, because that was all he could be trusted to do, according to Mark. Mitt’s job was to fiddle with the bunny ear antennae on top of the TV until coherent shapes appeared out of the static, and then yell for his brothers when the show finally began.
The signal conked out, half the time. And the other half, street urchins would stand on their shoulders to peer over the compound wall and through the metal grate installed on the window, to try to get a look at the TV. At these points, Mark or Fabian, usually Mark, would have to let off a curse or a shotgun shell to get them to scurry off into the night again.
But times were different now. Now it was Mitt with the gun, and it wasn’t a shotgun, it was a Kalashnikov. Such precautions had become necessary as the years had gone by and the neighborhood had gone bad. But so be it. This was his home, his childhood home, and he was going to stay up until midnight to watch his show with his brothers, and if the scum didn’t like that, then he’d kill them all.
And so he entered the living room with his rifle on his back and his meal in his hands. It was almost exactly how he’d remembered it on the last night he and his brothers had watched the show together. The TV was larger and flatter and the signal was stronger, but the stained knotty wooden bookshelves, the sparkling marble floor, the sofa, all of these had been maintained well over the years, and so they had lasted.
And Mitt had maintained himself well over the years, too. His hair was still thick and dark and sleek and his frame was still strong and narrow. And his brothers were still in shape too, from what he could tell. Mark ran marathons when he was between vacations and wives, and every one of his mansions had a weight room and a pool. As for Fabian, there wasn’t much to do in prison other than to get strong and to test your strength on other strong people.
Mitt forced himself to smile. And then he sampled a forkful of noodles. They were spicy and aromatic and chewy, but that alkaline aftertaste, that just wasn’t right.
Mitt put the plate down. Wiped his mouth with a napkin. Of course the noodles weren’t the same. The company that made the noodles he remembered, it had gone under years ago.
He looked outside and saw the muzzle flare of not too distant small arms fire. He looked back inside and saw a room that was too clean, too pristine, like a museum that no one ever bothered to visit. And he was its curator.
The show was starting, but without anyone to watch it with, and without even the noodles he’d grown up eating, it was an under-produced animation, a half hour block that needed to be filled up with something other than infomercials.
And so Mitt turned off the TV. And so he sat there in his clean room with his cooling noodles, all alone but for memories which seemed more and more like dreams with each passing day.
Jay Roberts is a writer and dark satirist originally from the New York metropolitan area who got his start on a few websites here and there when he was a teenager. When he started to realize that writing is something that he really enjoys, he started to take it a little more seriously, and the result was Mercy, his first published piece ever. He has other novels and short stories planned, so look out for those soon.
These days, Jay is gainfully employed in aerospace/defense and spends his non-writing free time on Reddit, Youtube, 4chan, et cetera.
A Found Thing
I found a Thing on the floor today.
It’s silver, metal, round,
with a hole in the side
where it screws
It likes to roll around
the creases of my hand.
Maybe it’s vital to the bed frame
and I’ll be jostled awake
during a dream where I win
the lottery and revisit Europe
but can’t because my head has rammed
the headboard since this Thing decided
to unscrew itself. I’ll yell and scream
and it will stare up at me
like a puppy that’s been bad.
Its surface will glimmer
as if to say, I didn’t mean
to make you mad. I just wanted
I’ll feel sorry, apologize,
tell it it can stay, that I
know how it feels
to be far away from home,
lost and alone.
Kat Bodrie holds an MA in literature from UNC Wilmington. Her prose and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in Pilcrow & Dagger, Slim Volume, and Coraddi, in which she won first and third place in poetry. A freelance writer and editor, her articles have appeared in Winston-Salem Monthly, Forsyth Woman, and Forsyth Family. Visit her website, katbodrie.com.