Monday, November 9, 2009

Best Of: "Peanut Oil"


"Peanut Oil" originally appeared on Powder Burn Flash.


It’s hot. Almost “ Death Valley kills the pioneers” hot. Which is no easy feat, considering that this is October in usually foggy San Francisco. But the Northern Californian version of Chandler ’s Santa Ana winds, the "Diablo," is seeing to that, making everything as arid as the Sahara.

Kelly Boles has it in his head to take a week off…unpaid. Fuck the mounting pile of bills on the stand by the door; he feels a novel running through his head like a dam about to burst. Kelly though he would he would try “kickwriting” like Kerouac did with “On The Road,” minus the rolls of tracing paper taped together and the Benzedrine.

Nothing doing.

He over-caffeinated himself and as a result, every single thing is a distraction: the wailing cries of his computer’s overworked fan, his dying piece-of-shit refrigerator, his growling stomach, and the ambient noise of his neighbors that is bouncing off the heat and into his open windows.

The couple next door is particularly vexing, as they argue about how to prepare a dish.

“It’s not Szechwan beef if you cook it vegetable oil! You have to use peanut oil!”

“Then why don’t you go buy some fucking peanut oil, already?”

“I will!...uh, can you lend me some money?”

Kelly cannot believe that she tolerates this tool. She’s beautiful and she can cook? That idiot should be kissing the very ground that she walks on. Women like that might become extinct within his lifetime.

Kelly’s stomach is grumbling, so he drinks a glass of water to shut it up. He looks across the street and sees “Szechwan Beef” dash into the corner store. Kelly thinks about the wonderful aromas from next door that are to come and his stomach grumbles again. He gulps down another glass of water.

As he puts the glass in the sink, he notices a balding man in a trench coat dashing into the store. Who the hell wears a trench coat in this kind of weather? A flasher? The guy has to be a flasher, because porn theaters don’t exist anymore.

“Open the register now!”

“Jesus, that guy had a shotgun under that trench coat,” whispers Kelly. The store’s owner reaches under the counter and oh shit, watch out Szechwan Beef! He didn’t see or hear “Trench Coat” and he panics, dropping the bottle of peanut oil and startling everyone.

The store’s owner brings his pistol up and “Trench Coat” pulls the trigger. Good God, the roar is deafening as the heat ricochets the sound all over the neighborhood. The store’s windows are peppered with blood, gore and holes. The store’s owner is nowhere to be seen. Trench Coat turns toward Szechwan Beef, but he already fled during the first shot.

Trench Coat pumps a shell into the chamber and takes a step. He slips, he disappears, a foot comes up, and there’s a muffled boom.

Kelly looks left and right, but there seems to be nobody in the store. He gets his phone and dials 911. He grabs a chair and stands up. Kelly can barely see Trench Coat’s feet twitching in the window and he sees what he guesses are teeth or bits of bone, right by the front door. It’s hard to tell from this distance.

The panicking footsteps of Szechwan Beef echo outside in the hallway. As the 911 operator puts him on hold before he can say anything, Kelly shakes his head. Not because of the operator, but because this would’ve made a great story. Unfortunately, Kelly feels that just like stickups, crime fiction doesn’t pay enough.



Note: I added a line to this version, because it's not entirely clear what happened to Kelly's obnoxious neighbor.

6 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

A Fantastic story. One if my faves.

Cormac Brown said...

Paulie Decibels,

Thank you, sir.

quin browne said...

AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

you had me at peanut oil!

Cormac Brown said...

Quin,

I'm glad, it means I don't have to work as hard with the story then ; )

Randal Graves said...

I'm making sure I have peanut oil in the house for next time.

Cormac Brown said...

Randal,

And a sawn-off would help as well.