Fries for Weeks

Prompt: Argument


He hadn’t seen his childhood best friend, Denny, in over five years. They’d had an argument over a woman, which should have seemed crazy at the time, and was incomprehensible now. They both wanted this particular woman named Donna, whose qualities Dominic could not remember, and the boys took it upon themselves to decide who would win her, as if her opinion on the matter was irrelevant. Funny.

Then Dominic’s parents had the accident, and while the argument was forgotten, he’d had no time to rekindle the friendship.

So now he tracked down good old Denny to a residential hotel. The place was grim on the outside: dirty, needing repair, windows with cardboard-patched holes, and limp curtains hanging from detached rods.

Denny’s room, however, was surprisingly clean and bright, all things considered. It smelled of Pine Sol, and was tidy and uncluttered, with freshly washed dishes in a rack by the sink, and a vacuum cleaner propped up in the corner as if in a place of honour. Denny himself was a little thinner, a little hairier, with a wispy beard growing in and raggedy sideburns.

They caught up on old times. “Donna?” asked Dominic.

“Dumped me,” said Denny. “It must have been you all along.” They laughed.

“When did you decide to grow a beard?” Dominic asked.

“Three years ago,” said Denny, and they laughed again, then Denny asked, “Your parents?”

“Dad gone. Mom at home with me,” said Dominic.

“Rough,” said Denny.

“Sometimes,” said Dominic. He was a bit thirsty, and wondered if there was beer in the lightly stained, but obviously scrubbed, refrigerator. “Drugs?” he asked.

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Denny with a smile. “Oh, you mean do I do them now? Yeah, for awhile, trying to get clean again. For the second time. This place, the methadone, the social worker, even my last haircut— all courtesy of you and the rest of the hardworking, tax-paying public. Thanks, by the way.”

“No problem,” said Dominic. “You can pay be back.”

“Sure! I’ll give you access to my bank account.”

“I need about two hundred dollars,” said Dominic. “Like in a couple of days.”

“Urgent? Like the fries we wanted that day?”

“Exactly like that,” said Dominic. “That’s why I came to you.”

Denny was the best friend who never laughed at him, always took him seriously, was game for foolish adventure, and kept the shared, stupid, embarrassing secrets to himself; yet his moral compass was so fragile that he rarely tried to actually protect his friend.

“We could have had fries for weeks,” said Denny, “if you hadn’t jammed out.”

“I’m not jamming out today,” said Dominic. “I won’t knock on doors asking for quarters, but I’ll do what it takes.”

“Have you thought of giving blood?”

“I give blood every six months, since the accident, you know.”

“Oh.” Denny went to the fridge and took out two cans of Five Alive. Without asking, he opened them both and handed one to Dominic.

“Rob a bank?”

The Five Alive was barely cool, and only just drinkable. “I considered it,” said Dominic. “But I’d get caught, and who would look after my mother?”

“Ok,” said Denny. He went to the sink and poured the rest of the can down the drain. “Fucking shit,” he said. “I can’t even have a beer.”

“Sorry, must be hard. But good on you for trying.” It was such false sympathy, and the compliment so shallow, that when Denny laughed, Dominic joined in.

“I know someone,” said Denny. “Not a friend or anything, but I trust him, and he is always looking for, um, fresh new people like you.”


“No criminal record,” said Denny. “I’m just assuming…”

“Go on.”

“Compensation is good, risk is high, but for a first offender the consequences aren’t that fierce.” Denny then washed his hands in the sink. “I’ll call him and set something up,” he said as he dried his hands. “Now— sorry man, but I have an appointment with a government official, much as I would like to talk about old times and all that.”

Another blatantly insincere sentiment expressed, but this time neither of them laughed.

They shook hands, and Dominic left, wondering if Denny even had an appointment, or simply was bored or irritated and not interested in spending time with the kid from his past. Denny tolerated this clean, inexperienced, clueless, sheltered, privileged young man whom he had once loved, but whom he thought, Dominic was certain, knew nothing about needing money, being afraid, or being desperate.

Denny was right of course. The need for two hundred dollars now, to spend on his mother, seemed petty, insignificant, selfish, indulgent, blindly naive, and foolish.

But he would get the money anyway.


  • Image: The Balmoral Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, one of the worst residential hotels in the city and accused of taking advantage of the poor, the homeless, and the physically- and mentally-challenged. Promises to enforce standards and take landlords to task have gone unfulfilled for years. 

Membership in Heaven

Prompt: Realize


The restaurant was called Liquefy. Dominic had walked past it a hundred times. It had a sage green stucco exterior and white-painted slatted wood blinds, usually open just enough to see the shadows, animated by the flicker of candles, of the privileged, a group that did not include Dominic.

He had been privileged once, though not through his own ambition or talent. His parents were both established day time soap opera stars, with fan clubs, event appearances, a dash of glamour, and a steady, handsome income. Then came the accident, killing his father and disabling his mother. They received help from Actors’ Guild, but not much and it was down to Dominic to care for his mother, who did not want an institutionalized life, however comfortable. Dominic indulged her, helping her cook her meatballs, her fried eggplant, her fruit layer cakes; doing most of the work, in fact, under her supervision. Her passion now was her kitchen. She occasionally did voice-overs for commercials, but even her voice was losing its velvety power. Dominic would get his mother settled in bed in the evening, then go to his overnight security job, during which he studied in the hopes of finishing his degree in engineering.

He was far too busy for a man his age, who needed and yes, craved adventure and experience. His last girlfriend, he was certain, had left him because of his his inadvertent neglect of her in favour of his mother, his studies, and his job. Fair enough. Maybe now was a bad time for a relationship, though he longed for someone with whom to share his small victories, and to commiserate with him over the hundred tiny failures that made the days long, and the nights even longer.

Dominic paused in front of the restaurant and peered at the menu posted in a mahogany-framed glass case. They still had the eggplant gnocchi appetizer, which his mother would love. They had the sage and parmesan meatballs, the duck breast risotto, the flat iron steak with fire-roasted sweet potatoes (his preference). The prices were posted too. Dominic sighed heavily. His mother’s  60th birthday was in a week. This would be a gift she would never, ever expect, or forget. She didn’t need a scarf, or perfume, or another cookbook. He had to do this, somehow. And he had to figure it out quickly, since he was sure that successful Liquefy reservations were made days in advance.

He remembered as a child, when he and his best friend Denny were desperate for a plate of french fries at the local diner. Desperate. They had no money or prospects. Allowances spent, parents unsympathetic, they spent the entirety of an afternoon plotting income strategies. In the end, they came up with a charity scam, wherein they would tear the labels off of tin cans and go door to door, soliciting money for hungry children in India (which was, according to his parents, who reminded him regularly at dinnertime, a real and current issue).

The plot never gelled, thank goodness, Dominic thought. That would be a horrid addition to his resumé for membership in heaven, which would leave out no job, action, or thought. Dominic believed in heaven. Why not?

Still, the larceny of the plan he and Denny hatched to acquire a plate of french fries crept into his consciousness. He realized he could not risk breaking the law and leaving his mother alone, but he wanted this, his mother’s special birthday dinner, a night of spending and relishing and enjoying life, more than anything he had ever wanted. It was crazy, of course. But he walked past the restaurant every day. It was meant to be. Maybe he could come up with a plan. He would talk to Denny. Denny would understand.


  • Image adapted from a still from Bridges to Love, a soap opera that debuted on The Filipino Channel in March, 2015 and unrelated to this piece of fiction.

Magical Ingredient

Prompt: Expert

french toast 1

“I’m actually an expert in French Toast,” said Stuart, as he looked at the menu. The restaurant had only one menu for all day, so the breakfast selections were listed, even though, a warning said, they stopped serving at 11:30 am. Lunch, however, was available at dinner time, though the dinner entrees were not offered until 5:00 pm. It took a little expertise to navigate the menu at Chez Tout le Monde.

“Are you?” said Envy, actually interested. “What is the secret to perfect French Toast?”

“Well, use French bread, add a dash of vanilla to the egg and milk custard, and a dash of salt, and let the bread soak up the custard for about 4 minutes before frying in a hot, buttered pan,” said Stuart. “There, now you know everything, I might as well leave, I have nothing more to give.”

“Hold on,” said Envy. “Salt?”

“Yes, salt, the magical ingredient in all sweet dishes.”

“Ok, wow. Well yes, you may go now,” said Envy. Stuart returned her smile.

They both ordered linguine with clam sauce, and a half a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc. This lunch offering was also available at dinner, should they choose to return to Chez Tout Le Monde at a later date and time.

“So how’s the date going so far?” Stuart asked.

“Pretty good really, don’t you think?” said Envy.

“Even though I’m gay and have a boyfriend?”

Especially because you are gay and have a boyfriend,” Envy said. “But do you know any straight guys? Because I’m getting desperate.”

“Dr Chao?” said Stuart.

“He’s married, and seems happily so, as he was not thrilled when I almost asked him out,” said Envy.

“Oh dear,” said Stuart. “Marcus is a tough act to follow.”

“Yes,” Envy said with a sigh. “So gorgeous and charming and talented in many ways. A shame he tried to murder me.”

“I know, right?” said Stuart.

They both took a thoughtful sip of the wine, which was ice cold and refreshing on a warm afternoon.

“Wait,” said Stuart. “I think I do know someone. Greg’s half-brother, who I met one Thanksgiving. He’s kind of hunky and definitely free.”

“Why is he free though?”

“How cynical we are,” said Stuart. “I believe he is misunderstood. He does like his sports, can be a little bit careless in his speech, holds a few politically incorrect opinions, but has impeccable grooming.”

“I’m interested,” said Envy, not caring how desperate she sounded.

She was desperate. It had been a long time.