Flash Fiction Challenge: Food Unchained

flash fiction writing prompt bluebird diner CROP
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Preston extended his arms and gestured around expansively. “It is pure Americana, snookums. I tell you, no one else is doing this. There is a fortune to be made here.”

Marina scowled, impatiently clicking her Prada heels on the floor. “Yes, the place is positively reeking of prosperity.”

“People complain all the time about chain restaurants replacing everything. What if there secretly was a chain of little diners like this – all different – unconnected by a unifying brand?”

Marina ran her finger over a dingy countertop. “Oh, I don’t know. Widespread food poisoning?”

Preston knew he needed Marina’s financial backing to make it happen, so he had to find a way to warm her to the notion…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

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7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Food Unchained”

  1. Preston stood in the old outdated lunch room. Growing up, he ate there many times helping his family to integrate it and he knew exactly what he was going to do with it.

    Marina had won the lottery and was now in control of all their money. She waved a thick roll of hundreds in front of Preston’s face to remind him of who was now in charge. Mariana sarcastically observed, “What a filthy pigsty, well, it fits you perfectly, old and decrepit.”

    He replied, “Honey, just twenty grand and it’s all mine, this is the last time, I promise you.”

    Mariana smirked, “I don’t care what you to do with it, but I’m done giving you money; however, I will lend it to you at fifteen percent, but you sign for it.”

    Preston signed the loan paperwork and gave the money to the owner, who handed him the keys to the lunch room.

    As Mariana left, “Oh Preston, now that you’re rich, find your own way home. You can afford it now.”

    It went as Preston planned, the restaurant was his to use and remodel anyway he wanted. So he speed dialed the number of the Smithsonian Acquisitions Department. The curator asked, “Did you get it?”

    “Yes, Sir!”

    “Amazing, the old owners would not sell us the Greensboro Woolworth Lunch Counter where the civil rights movement started. I will transfer the million dollars to your account. Thank you so very much.”

  2. Marina’s Van Cleef & Arpels compact snapped shut. Preston sighed imperceptibly, taking care not to further agitate Marina before turning on a heel. “Coming, my dear.”

    That old bitterness filled his palate again, but he hadn’t attained success without setbacks and hard work. Preston gained the esteem of Marina’s father by becoming his most valued employee. He couldn’t blame Marina for being born into such favor. When he promised her dying father he’d care for her he never imagined that promise would lead to marriage.

    Being her husband pulled him increasingly away from work until it practically was his work. Benefits were marvelous, but Preston missed building successful entrepreneurial teams that embraced his core values—the same ethical values embraced by Marina’s father. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t start any venture without Marina’s approval.

    Before Marina had secured her compact a little beauty pageant winner, still wearing her sash and crown, skipped through the door like a photo leaping off a wall. She smiled at Marina. “Hello. Isn’t this place marvelous? The shakes are simply sensational!”

    “Adrianna, no talking to strangers.”

    “Yes, Mother, but she’s a lady. May I sit in a swivel chair?”

    Marina smiled wistfully at the girl before bowing her head. Realizing the girl looked identical to one he’d seen so often in picture frames and albums, Preston handed Marina his handkerchief before squeezing her shoulder.

    “Preston, do all of these little diners have swivel chairs?”

    “If not, I’m sure it could be arranged, my dear.”

  3. Preston sighed, and decided on a new tactic. He relied on Marina’s allowance, but suspected that she was bored with his companionship. Each passing week, the benefits of catering to her waning interest became more tedious. The purse was closing, and panic was tightening its grasp.

    He decided to risk everything on a gamble.

    “How about this, snookums?” he hissed. “You front the cash and we part ways. I get this restaurant and our apartment, while you head home to Daddy and continue your immoral meanderings with Phil. How’s that arrangement sound?”

    Marina smiled, knowing now her affairs were exposed. She found the accusation somewhat liberating. Phil was rich. He was successful and passionate. She flared with new-found confidence.

    “Now why on earth would I give you money to regain a freedom I already possess?”

    “Because, my dear,” Preston began, “you have been careless in your feral wanderings. I have photos that are quite condemning. Pay me the money, and move out of the flat. I’ll expect a monthly stipend, of course.”

    “And if I refuse?” she asked.

    “Then Daddy has his final heart attack. I’m telling you, Marina, my photographer is an artist. Phil is quite photogenic. Now, would that money be by direct deposit or cashier’s check?”

  4. “What if,” Preston said, but then paused. It had to be good. He had to devise a plan so strong that there would be no way she could resist. And it was just then, just as he was searching for the perfect idea, that a furry, prehistoric looking creature scampered across the floor. For a brief moment, Preston thought Marina might not have seen it. Maybe her narcissistic gaze into her compact mirror had pulled her attention away from noticing the varmint. Maybe. The glass-breaking scream a moment later ripped this hope away from him.
    “What was that?” Marina shrieked.
    “Nothing,” Preston blurted out. “I mean, what was what, my love?”
    “No, no, you saw it. It went right under there.” Her shaky hand grasping her closed compact gestured towards the space under the counter. “That’s it! No! We are not doing this!” she yelled as she quickly began to gather up her coat and head towards the door.
    “Marina wait,” Preston pleaded. “We have already signed the papers, we can’t just give up.”
    “No, I will not be a part of this. I will get my money back. I will call Borrev from the car. He will take care of all this.”
    The next morning, Preston arrived at the diner to find it ablaze and surrounded by fire trucks. He sighed. He wished Marina had given him a bit more of a chance, but he knew once Borrev was called there was no turning back. “Pure Americana,” he sighed.

  5. “This is not my idea of a good investment. How do you propose to make any money on greasy diner food?” Marina stood next to the countertop and squeezed a healthy glob of hand sanitizer into her palm She wiped and wiped as if contaminated by one small touch of the counter.

    Preston had once lived low income, middle America. With his experience in the business world, he knew how it worked. Unless you were rich, you ate what was cheap and readily available. Big food along with big government makes sure its public is kept fat and unhealthy, that way the food industry along with the pharmaceutical and insurance companies maintained positive cash flows. Those cash flows line the pockets of politicians. Obesity, cancer and diabetes are only a few of the diseases caused by unhealthy diets, filled with inexpensive processed foods. Preston just wanted his piece of the pie before said America grew wise to the facts.

    “Marina just think. If you provide the funds, you can have control over the designing and naming of each franchise. Won’t that be fun for you?”

    Marina’s eyes lit up at the idea. “Oh that does sound wonderful. Alright Dear, I’ll give you the money. I can see it now. Our first restaurant. It’ll be pure, gleaming white and perfectly pristine. One hundred percent organic with nothing processed and no GMOs.”

    Preston groaned and only rubbed his face in exasperation. Not quite what he had in mind.

  6. Definitely a throwback, Marina thought. It was like being on the set of an old Happy Days episode. The dingy diner needed a scrub. For that matter, the whole neighborhood did. Thirty grand for this?

    “Look,” Preston pleaded. “I’m tired of your father calling me a leech. I need to build something for myself.”

    Still, a risky investment. It was the ‘66 Mustang all over again. She’d bought that for Preston two years earlier and he nearly killed himself. Left it in Holder’s Pond one night after getting hammered at the club. Claimed he didn’t know about the hooker staggering along the road the next day. His love of Americana was getting risky to a woman of her station.

    “So,” Marina sighed, checking her iPhone for messages. “How’d you find this slice of heaven?”

    He pulled out his Tissot Bridgeport pocket watch, another gift from Marina. “I have to tell them within the hour.”


    “Bobby and I came into the city to find that store your father said made snowshoes,” Preston explained. “You know, for our trip upstate after the holidays. Next thing you know we’re…”

    “Drunk and lost,” she snarled. Marina looked out the window at the strip joint across the street. Snowshoes my ass!

    “I can’t live off you forever, snookums,” Preston whined. “Futures are built on risky investments.”

    “And why is this place available?”

    Preston shrugged. “The owner was shot in a robbery. I’ll do better.”

    Marina smiled. Suddenly she liked the odds for her investment.

  7. “Remember our first date?” Preston slipped his hands around Marina’s waist. “Cheeseburgers, crispy onion rings, and a banana chocolate milkshake.”
    “How could I forget?” Marina’s Gucci bag looked out of place next to the soda fountain and glass refrigerator case. She tapped her Prada heels on the worn linoleum floor of the diner. “It took a week to get over all that grease.”
    “But you loved every bite.”
    A grin flickered across Marina’s face. “It wasn’t the food I remember most.”
    Preston brushed his lips against hers, then pulled her onto one of the red vinyl chairs at the counter. Without her on board, this venture was doomed.
    “Iconic American diners have been clobbered by all the chains. People want them back.”
    Marina raised one well-groomed eyebrow. “They want food poisoning?”
    “All this place needs is fixing up and proper oversight. We can do the same with a bunch of other diners.”
    “So, you want to start a chain of your own.”
    “An unchained chain, that’s the genius of it. No one will know all the diners are connected. Buy out a few mom and pop places that are failing, flip them over with our own handpicked chefs, and voila, instant success. All we need is startup money.”
    “You mean my money.”
    “Snookums, it’s a goldmine. Think of the fortune we’ll make.”
    “Think of the indigestion.”
    “Not with healthy menu options.” Preston winked. “We could relive that first date.”
    “Then I’ll have my dessert first,” she said, grinning.

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