In a Nutshell

By Sterling Ungerman

This is a serialized set of semi-fictional short stories that are published every week into your email. For now, I’m calling it In a Nutshell (until I find a better name)

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Episode 1: Fetid Meat Pot

Metal Garbage can


Stepping out into the crisp fall, morning surrounded me with a cacophony of distinctive sensations. The damp, cool air playfully nudged at my senses as if they wanted them to come out and play. Unfortunately, I abhor everything about mornings and I barely took note of the sparkling sprigs of frost clinging proudly to every blade of grass. The streaking rays of sunlight racing over the top of the mountains, didn’t even register. The faint honking from a skein of Canada Geese flying overhead… nothing.

What I did notice was the powerful aroma of gasoline mixed with the stench of rotting, maggot infested, flesh. What I did hear was the sound of a metal garbage can lid being slammed back into place. What I did see was dad place a can of gas next to the garbage can that was still sitting out by the curb.

I stood motionless on the steps fearing that if he noticed me, he might think twice about what he was going to do. I didn’t want that. I wasn’t sure what he had in mind. I did know, that I wanted to see exactly what happened next. Like spectators watching golf. Standing as close as they can, but not close enough to distract the players.

I could hear the narrators speaking in a whispered tones as I watched.

“Jim, it appears as if Grant has chosen the 85 octane to eliminate the fetid flesh pot. Most curious.”

“Well–– Roger, only once before have we seen this tactic employed. The fumes eliminate the larvae and slow down the decay process. You just don’t want to be within a mile of that can with an open flame.”

Roger and Jim chuckled in unison. “Kaboom!” whispers Jim.

Dad reached in his pocket and brought out a box of matches.

“Roger, I’m not sure if this is a good idea. This can’t end well.”

“Jim… I’m… I can’t begin to imagine what the strategy is here. He’s not going to…?”

Dad removed the garbage can lid and tenderly propped it up next to the garbage can. He stepped back, plucked out a single match, lit it, dropped the match book to his feet, carefully picked up the lid, then tossed the lit match into the can and quickly slammed the lid back down.

For a brief moment, I worried nothing was going to happen. Then, a curl of flames, like the very claws of hell instantaneously snarled around the garbage can lid and flung it into the sky. FFFFFOOOOOM! A spire of flame and smoke angrily chasing after it. Dad recoiled back in scorned fear. The flames belched out of the can and lashed out at him.

Faster than they had sparked to life, the flames withered away in retreat.

Dad’s head swung back and forth as he scanned the neighborhood to see if anyone had witnessed his unintentional pyrotechnic display. That is when he noticed me. He smiled sheepishly with a wry, lopsided grin.

“Whew!” he exclaimed. His eyes sparkling behind a charred set of eyebrows and eyelashes.

Behind him a the garbage can finally came crashing down like the final cymbal note in a climatic symphony piece.

“I’m not sure that round went the way he thought it would go, now did it Jim?”

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