2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 21 – “Baggage” #FFC52


This week’s challenge, from the lovely Thain in Vain:

“A woman purchases a cookbook at a charity book sale and discovers a note tucked in the pages.”

As usual, 500 words or less. This one comes in right on the nose. Here we go, with “Baggage.”

“Karen! Cookbooks!”

Molly knew the exact words to catch Karen’s attention. Molly was her best friend, and she knew that Karen’s great loves in life were reading and cooking. When Molly got word about a book sale to raise money for the battered women’s shelter (Molly’s passion, thanks to her abusive ex), she knew she had to drag Karen along.

But Karen was reluctant. It was harder and harder to get out of the house since her husband Dean died. He had ignited her love of cooking – a passionate chef, he awakened her inner foodie, exposing her to strange and exotic tastes, expanding her appreciation for food and the world. Dean was a contractor, flying all over the world, and everywhere he’d go, he’d find new recipes and bring them back to share with her. That way, even though they couldn’t see it together, she could get a taste of the world. It was on such a trip that he’d died in a plane crash.

It was hard at first, going into the kitchen without him. Just looking at the stove would cause her to burst into tears, grasped in the clutches of inconsolable grief and shaken violently by its unrelenting pain. Time, though, made it more bearable. Eventuall6y, she found that cooking was a way of making things feel normal again. In the kitchen, she could almost feel Dean’s presence behind her, guiding her steps, advising her choices of spices and ingredients. She could, for a while, pretend he was there. She always cooked for two.

It was how she and Molly had come together. They had never really talked while they were both married, but had lived across the hall from each other for years. Things with Molly’s ex had come to a head not long after Dean passed; it was Karen who called the police, who escorted Molly to the hospital with a broken jaw, a dislocated arm. It was Karen who stood by her side when time came to prosecute. It was Karen who always had an extra plate of dinner to comfort her.

The two began flipping through the stacks of cookbooks.

“I wonder where they come from?” Karen mused.

“All over,” Molly answered. “Some are donated by clearance houses. Some from libraries. Some even come from that place that processes lost baggage.”

Karen picked up a book. Around the World in 80 Recipes. She smiled sadly. Dean probably would have loved this one. She picked it up, leafed through it.

Something fell out, a small folded bit of paper.

She bent and picked it up, unfolded it.

Her heart nearly stopped as she began to read.


 This next trip is going to be a long one. I found this at the airport bookstand. Their prices are ridiculous, but I couldn’t resist. I know I’ll miss you, and that you’ll miss me, but maybe these recipes will help make it feel like I’m there.

 I love you.


Karen closed the book and wept.



    1. *bows* My deepest, humblest thanks. Believe it or not, that wasn’t the direction I was originally going to go, but as the story came out, it was clearly the direction it wanted to be. I love moments in writing like that, so it makes this tale especially satisfying to me. To know it touched the heart of an awesome lady makes it doubly so. :)

  1. Such serendipity! Voices of our loved ones always speak to us–even from the grave. What a touching tale! I agree with your comment about a story telling itself. For me, that the awesomeness of writing. Great work, Mark!

    On another note, how would you like to come up with next week’s writing prompt? For your efforts, you will get kudos for the prompt! Let me know. TiV

  2. Very moving, sir! In response to your comment, sometimes where we think the story will go is not at all where the characters take it. When your characters surprise you, that’s how you know you’ve written something truly worth reading.

  3. I hope this isn’t lame, but my first idea is a short short short one:

    Vanessa sat on her couch, her knees to her forehead, her arms wrapped around her legs, tears streaming down her thighs.

    It can’t be it can’t be it can’t be it can’t be!

    These words only. No other thoughts made it through to her conscious mind. Bracing herself and commanding her body to move, she took one last long brave look at the note in her husband’s favorite cookbook. In between the pages where a picture of her favorite German chocolate cake kissed its own recipe stood a note, wavering in the stream of air caused by the ceiling fan. In an unknown hand was written the note: “Make sure to mix the arsenic in thoroughly, and to add a teaspoon more vanilla extract, to cover the acidity.”

    She was dying to know what Steve had done differently this time. It had tasted so yummy!

    She pushed 9-1-1 and SEND, then brushed a shaving of coconut from the corner of her mouth.

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