Thursday, September 26, 2013

FLASH FICTION: A Taste of Temptation

Here's another of Patti Abbot's Flash Fiction Challenges. This time the idea came from her perusing an old newspaper and being intrigued by the headline "Michigan Man's Taste Gets Him into Trouble." We were to write a story of about 1000 words inspired by the headline and could if we wanted to change the state from Michigan to anywhere else. I guess mine would be better suited for Oregon, but I stuck with the one in the headline. Not that the setting really matters for my tale.

For more stories on the theme visit Patti's blog page here where some stories have been posted along with links to stories on other blogs.

A Taste of Temptation

Shall I tall you a tale of forbidden fruit? Oh, no metaphors for you, my friend. This is juicy, ripe and literal. So modern yet still so Old Testament. There may be no snakes and no stand-in for Eve but you do get a tree and fruit. But not an apple. Even if the tale is set in Michigan. Not cherries either. Patience, my friend. You will soon know. This is a tree that holds out one sole piece of fruit, the most tempting delicious fruit that you can hardly blame the poor man.

This man –- with the preposterous name of Jarvis Angelica -– considered himself the consummate gourmand. An explorer not of countries and cities but of international cuisine. Restaurateurs clamored for his attention and his highly developed palate. Jarvis’ taste buds were the envy of the foodies, his pronouncements of a cheese sample, for instance, were anticipated as would be the final verdict in a sensational murder trial. Jarvis tasted and passed judgment. A condemnation might ruin a produce seller, a retailer, a chef or the restaurant itself. But his praise often reaching states of ecstasy was a reward worth waiting for. Business always increased, doubling or even tripling profits. Jarvis’ taste was mighty and powerful.

His adventures in food were not solely confined to the table, however. In fact, he more preferred hunting down the raw ingredients that resulted in five star dishes served in Zagat rated eateries. If word reached him of an unsurpassed wine he needed to see, smell and taste the grapes. If he was told of a heavenly dessert of unmatched decadence he wanted to find the trees that bore the fruit, pick one, and taste it right off the branch.

A pear tart would be his undoing. The signature dessert at a little known bistro only insider foodies knew of and supposedly kept secret. No underground cult sensation would be kept from reaching Jarvis for long. If the secret had anything to do with food he could ferret it out better than the best truffle pig in search of mycophiliac wonders. Yes, in a pear tart Jarvis met his match.

Through his network of restaurant worker spies (the kitchen prep staff were his best informers) he soon learned of which orchard supplied the pears for the fabulous dessert and from there he obtained the exact location of the trees that were reserved as the private supply to the bistro’s pastry chef. Any attempt to cajole and flatter, however, fell on unimpressionable ears. Jarvis was barred from visiting the orchard. No one but employees were allowed on the premises.

But rules meant nothing to Jarvis. Once on his quest he was unstoppable, an indefatigable hunter who needed his trophy. His senses fueled him. The promise of fragrant bouquets, the fervent excitement of touching, feeling, groping those pears, and ending in taste sensations one could surely drown in, all culminated into one superhuman power that kept him going. He was going to pick one of those pears himself if he had to climb the highest branch and set it free from its arboreal prison.

Never mind how exactly he got into the orchard. Bribery of a low paid security guard no doubt. The fact is he infiltrated the portion of the orchard that was like a Fort Knox of golden fruit. Equipped only with a flashlight and a pair of heavy duty, fleece lined, gardening gloves he made his way to the select trees.

Imagine his surprise when he saw them stripped bare. Not only were the trees barren of the prize pears none could be found on the ground beneath. It was impossible, yet his eyes did not lie. The harvest was complete. Stubbornly he refused to believe he had been too late. Passing his flashlight over the tops of the branches, muttering a string of foul curses, he was determined to find the last remaining pear. Surely a few were overlooked, maybe one not yet ripe enough allowed a day or so to reach piquant flavor. And then he saw it. One lone pear ignominiously abandoned on the uppermost twigs. He had to have it.

Now athleticism was never Jarvis’ forte. Before you imagine him to be some portly cliché of a glutton let me assure you he had a trim and handsome figure. Good eating will do that for you. But for running, cycling, working out of any fashion Jarvis had no time. The ascent into the tree to reach that treasured pear would be perhaps his greatest challenge. He inhaled to prepare himself and caught on the wafting night breezes the perfume of fruit like none he had smelled before. That was impetus enough.

Grabbing the nearest branch he surprised himself with the execution of a expert flip worthy of any Olympic gymnast. Soon he was making his way through a maze-like cage of gnarled limbs and torturous pricking twigs. The scent of the fruit leading him ever upwards. Just a few more feet, an arm’s length away. Jarvis plucked the pear and held it gingerly in his hand.

Now most of us would pocket that pear and make our way safely back to earth before eating it. Not Jarvis. He was entranced. He and the pear were as one, alone in the universe. The tree ceased to exist. He took in the aroma, fondled its shape, caught the gleam of its skin in the waning moonlight, then took a bite. A light exploded. Jarvis traveled out of himself and was transported to pear Nirvana. It was delectable, dream-like, he savored the mouthful and sank his teeth into the fruit once more.

Then a voice cried out, “What the hell are you doing up there?”

Jarvis startled by the sound, realizing that the explosion of light was not an ecstatic response to the unique flavor of the pear but a powerful searchlight held by some invisible man below, turned suddenly and lost his balance. He came crashing out of pear Nirvana, tumbling through the pricking twigs, scraping his designer suit on the rough bark of the branches and landed with a painful thud on the sodden ground.

The security guard (a more officious and tough one from a different part of the orchard) came over to investigate. He knelt beside Jarvis and asked if he was all right. He was curious to find out why this well dressed guy was in a pear tree at 2:30 in the morning. While officious and unbribable he was also kind and wanted to know if Jarvis was injured.

All he heard was one word from the orchard’s trespasser. “Divine.” And with the last brief taste still lingering on his lips and quiet smile on his face Jarvis Angelica took one last trip to pear Nirvana and never returned.

6 comments:

  1. Poor Jarvis. With a name like that, you knew he wouldn't come to a good end. Well done, sir.

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  2. A well written and well told story, John. Pear nirvana? This was perfect for the Flash Fiction theme.

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    1. Well, I guess "pear Nirvana" is a cheap Western joke, Prashant. It was my jokey way to show that the narrator thinks Jarvis is a pseudo-sophsticate and a poseur. I know that it's a state of being but the addition of pear as a modifier was my attempt to show that Jarvis thinks there are different types of Nirvana. Maybe it doesn't really work -- just my odd style of humor. Thanks for the compliments all the same.

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    2. John, I thought the humour worked very well in your story. I ought to have mentioned it. I was intrigued by the term "pear nirvana."

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  3. What a treat to read your fiction. I enjoyed it very much. I regret that I didn't finish my entry in time, but I might do something with the idea anyway.

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