Problem Recipe 2: Judgment Day


(All fan works are posted as sent, in the style of the submitter.)

     Casey watched the box intently, stealing surreptitious glances over his shoulder. There was Anna, laying on the couch, head resting on her arms, and grinning at him from ear to ear. Finally he could take it no longer.


     “Nothing. Can’t I just look at you and be happy?”

     “Yes, yes you can, it’s just... that grinning makes me wonder.”

     “What are you wondering? About just how awesome I am?”


     “I got an A in my creative writing class, my mom should be getting my poem soon, and those mashed potatoes we made yesterday were yummy. Weren’t they?” she was definitely beaming at him.

     “They were okay.”

     “Okay? They were delicious! And now that I have that whole spoon thing sussed, I think I’m ready to try something else.”

     “Uh-oh, I knew there was trouble behind that grin.”

     Casey stood up and began gathering his things.

     “What are you doing?”

     “I think I'm gonna finish this over at Kevin’s. It’ll be gastronomically safer.”

     “You’ll eat those words and my food, Casey, you just watch. Besides, I haven’t even decided what to make yet! I’ll probably have to do some shopping tomorrow.”

     “Shopping too? This is going to be bad. Please don’t do this, Anna.”

     “It’ll be good, I promise. I’ll study really hard to make it first and I will triple check every step. I think I will try something sweet. A lot of people told me that desserts were easiest for beginning chefs.”

     Casey chuckled.

     “One edible batch of instant mash and you’re a culinary queen? Wow, call me if you ever take up gaming. Kevin’s been crap since he had to start running to work off all those pounds his girlfriend’s put on him.”

     Anna bit her lip to fight back jealous tears.

     “Well, you better get your gym membership ready then,” she muttered trying to cover the squeezing feeling in her midsection that was much more doubt than the bravado she was somehow managing.

     “I shall, my love. Just remember: K.I.S.S.”

     That made Anna feel a little better. “Aww, kisses to you too, honey-honey,” she shot back with sweetness.

     “No, not kiss, you bubble head. K.I.S.S. K-I-S-S, Keep it simple stupid. Don’t try anything fancy, just get not killing me down first.”

     “Oh, I thought you were being nice, I guess I was wrong.”

     Anna’s final words were to herself. Casey had already left.

* * *

     “Okay, that’s definitely what I’ll make. It looks easy enough and I will only have to buy a few more things.”

     Anna was delighted that she could find something that seemed so easy to make but looked so beautiful. She fingered the image on the screen as she planned out each step and the page printed slowly and in color from her ancient printer.

     With that out of the way she began to consider the other tasks ahead of her. She knew she should call her mother back. She’d hoped her mother had received her poem and letter by now, but thought that it might still be too soon. Ultimately she decided she would put off the phone call. Anna had no great desire to speak to her mom without the buffer of her A grade assignment in her mother’s hot little hands.

     Which led to her other chore, her new writing homework. She thought that with her last success and the nature of this assignment she’d have a much easier time. This would be her first foray into the world of free verse, but she began this maiden voyage with a bit more confidence then her first poetic attempt.

     “Let’s see, write about what you feel, what’s important to you. So... what is important to you, Anna? Where is your passion? Passion is love. What do you love? I... love... Casey.”

     She grinned at the thought, but then remembered his earlier remarks and lost her smile.

     “It’s okay. When he tastes my sweet... my heart... my sweetheart, he will be happy and nicer and gentle like he used to be,” she squealed thinking about the way his eyes would go when she fed him her excellent dessert.

     “I got it,” she said to herself and then began writing furiously. Why? Because...

Cooking for my love
frees me.
I sing the hearth electric.
I dance on hot coals and griddles
for your pleasure.
Bake you a kiss,
my love?
Fry you a hug?
Broil an embrace?
Make love to you with chocolate truffles,
semisweet, dark, sinful love...
With a cherry on top!
Eat me.
Eat me.
Eat me.
Eat me.
Eat me.

     She read it to herself three times silently then twice aloud and liked it more each time. Anna didn’t think she’d have time to wait for Mrs. Myers’s praise, she’d have too much shopping to do. Not much to buy, but she wanted the exact ingredients to do the best job she could.

* * *

     “Did you get any mail from me?”

     “No. Should I have?”

     “Well, yes. I mailed you a letter and a copy of the poem I did for school. I got an A, mom.”

     “Well that’s fantastic, Anna.”

     “You really think so?”

     “Of course I do. Neither your father nor I wanted you to bother with those types of classes. Being creative was never your strong suit, Anna.”

     “Mother, why do you always have to do that?”

     “Do what, Anna?”

     “Tear me down when I’m feeling good about something.”

     “I’m not trying to tear you down. I’m looking out for you. I know where your strengths lie, Anna, and I don’t want to see you get disappointed by veering too far off course. I don’t want to see you fail.”

     “Why do you always assume I would fail?”

     “I don’t. I am just concerned.”

     “Is Dad there?”

     “No, he’s at a conference in Tokyo.”

     “I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.”

     “Perhaps one day soon we’ll all have a reason to go together, Anna.”

* * *

     “Casey, I did it! Come see!” Anna was so delighted she was skipping.

     “Can it wait? I’m a little busy. This level is really tough.”

     “No it can’t. You have to come quick while it is chilled and ready.”

     Casey reluctantly emerged from the bedroom and followed Anna down the short hallway.

     “Wait a minute. Chilled and ready? Oh jeez, Anna, tell me you didn’t... cook,” he demanded, overacting the tremble in his voice.

     “I did and it is perfect and delicious and you will love it!”

     “I’m afraid. What did you make?”

     “That!” Anna shouted with glee and pointed to the large glass bowl containing a swirl of color.

     “What... is... that?!”

     “It’s a trifle! It’s an English dessert, honey-honey.”

     “You were supposed to keep it simple. Remember? Simple.”

     “It was simple,” she replied a bit more sober, dejection beginning to set in on her.

     “Anna, my mom used to make a Welsh trifle that she saw on a cooking show once. Sometimes I’d watch her for a bit, maybe even help to tear up the sponge cake and sneak tastes here and there, but eventually I always got bored and went away before it was done. A trifle is not simple and there’s no way you made a good one by yourself.”

     “Casey, I can do things!”

     “Not cooking. I told you I wasn’t going to be your guinea pig anymore,” he said, cautiously moving closer to the counter where Anna’s deed loomed.

     “Well you don’t have to be, Mr. Grumpy. I already had a big piece. See?” she turned the bowl to show him the large void in one side, “And I ate it all, it was delicious!”

     She scooped him out a big piece (though not as large as hers had been) and placed it on a clean plate with a soup spoon.

     “Okay, if you ate that much then I guess a taste is safe.”

     “Your faith in me overwhelms, Casey. Truly,” she rolled her eyes.

     Casey began to fiddle with his portion of the trifle, pushing the more gelatinous bits here and there. He searched for the morsels that seemed the most benign.

     “Try to get a little bit of each layer, that’s the best,” Anna told him and she nervously fingered the lucky penny in her pocket.

     “My mouth is only so big.”

     “Oh, now you have a little mouth?” she teased. ”More than that, Casey!”

     “You’re lucky I’m going to chance this much,” Casey jibed as he pinched his nose close and shoved in a spoonful, “Oh my God, Anna!”

     “See? I told you it was good! I knew I could do it,” she rubbed at her penny until it felt hot.

     “This taste like athlete’s foot!” Casey shouted, deliberately spewing the contents of his mouth all over the counter.

     “What?!” she asked, disbelieving his reaction.

     “You must really hate me. Are you feeding me disease now? Did you find a dog playing with an old gym sock and decide to feed it to me?!”

     “You’re so mean!”

     “I’m mean? You tried to poison me! And what is this... this.. stuff??”

     “That’s the custard. I made it from scratch!”

     “Did you scratch it out of a diarrheic camel’s rump? Because that’s what it tastes like.”

     “Oh my God! How would you even know what camel diarrhea taste like?”

     “Actually, this custard maybe an insult to good camel diarrhea everywhere. And I wasn’t even brave enough to taste these... ummm, what are these used tampon things?”

     “Those are lady fingers!”

     “I’m sorry ladies had to die to make your trifle. Or did they die from eating it?”

     “They aren't really fingers, jerk! They’re the cookies.”

     “Lady finger cookies do not look like this.”

     “They’re soaked in cherry liqueur.”

     “Liqueur? I hardly knew her. What’s this chunky stuff then?”

     “That’s the raspberry/cranberry compote.”

     “More like compost. Why would you even try to attempt to make a compote? You can barely pronounce it. How could you not know that this was too advanced for you?”

     “I didn’t think--”

     “OH! And you lied to me!”

     “What?! I never lied to you, Casey.”

     “Oh yeah you did, you told me you tasted this yak.”

     “I did! I ate a whole bunch!”

     “There is no way you ate any of this and then made someone else eat some afterwards.”

     “I did!”

     “Eat some now,” Casey demands and uses his spoon to shove a giant mouthful at Anna.

     “I’m full.”

     “Ah-ha! That’s what I thought. You won’t eat it yourself!”

     “Of course I would, I already did. I ate a lot of it and it was good!”

     “You lie. You probably dumped it down the drain and waited to test your little experiment on me.”

     Unable to bear the abuse any longer, Anna grabbed the spoon and shoveled the huge bite into her mouth.

     “It’s fine!” she told him around the cream.

     “Eat some more,” he said and began to gather an even bigger portion.

     “No, I already ate too much, I can’t eat anything else.”

     “Don’t want to you mean.”

     “I ate a bunch by myself and, even though I was full, I ate more in front of you and it still tastes good. Maybe your taste buds are just too... snobby!”

     “Snobby? I’ll be lucky if they ever speak to me again. I wouldn’t blame them,” on that note Casey tossed the spoon across the room into the sink, which caused quite a mess before coming to a rest in the drain catcher, and then headed for his jacket and the door.

     “Where are you going?”

     “I need to find something to burn this taste out of my mouth, maybe a flaming Zima or some after shave lotion or something. I’ll be back much later,” and without another word he was gone.

     Anna got the sponge and began cleaning up the mess Casey left. Once again she felt like crying and it was all because of someone she cared so much about. She leaned against the counter and played with her penny. Sticking a finger into her trifle she popped a dollop of custard into her mouth.

     “It tastes fine to me. He thinks he’s funny when he’s so mean.”

* * *

     “You were supposed to bring me luck. Did I use you all up?” Anna said, chastising her penny on the way to the bus stop. She tried casually tossing the coin in the air and catching it like the gangsters did in old movies, but being not as coordinated, she found herself leaping forward to barely snatch it with both hands and keep it from falling.

     There was only one old man sitting on the bench and waiting for the bus when she got there. She stood next to him and continued tossing her coin haphazardly.

     Normally a little distracting game like that would have cheered Anna up, but after the trifle disaster with Casey last night, she couldn’t help but feel like her entire body was frowning, and it showed clearly.

     “Why’s such a pretty girlie like you looking all sad?”

     “Huh?” was the best she could do, not completely realizing the old man had spoken to her, let alone had been watching her.

     “You just look very sad. A young, pretty thing like you should be more cheerful. It makes dirty old men like me smile, even when there’s not much to be smiling about except for living to see another bright day.”

     She didn’t know why, but the old man’s words seemed to put her at ease. She continued her tossing game as she spoke to him.

     “It’s nothing really.”

     “It don’t look like nothing.”

     “Well, my boyfriend... sometimes he’s mean--”

     “He don’t hit you or nothin’ do he?”

     “Oh no no! Nothing like that. It’s just that sometimes I want to cook for him or do things for him to show how much I love him, but he never appreciates the effort.” Anna sucked on her top lip and continued after a short pause, “Even if the results aren’t always so good-- cooking is hard, but even if they aren’t so good sometimes I still wish he would show me love for the efforts I make for him. Instead of calling me names or getting upset with me. I do try, I try so hard.”

     “That’s rough, girlie. My Jacqueline used to be a great cook. Do you mind if I ask what you tried to make?”

     “Well... recently I made mashed potatoes and they were great!” Anna fudged the facts a bit. “I also tried soup, and cookies, and an omelet, and waffles. Those weren’t so good. Then last night I tried a trifle and it was a disaster. Sort of. He didn’t like it.”

     “A trifle?”

     “It’s like a layered cake... dessert... thing. I guess.”

     “It sounds complicated.”

     “I didn’t think so, at first, but now... It was really pretty though.”

     “Sometimes pretty you don’t eat. You just look at. You know my Jacqueline, whenever I was down or too tired from work, she’d bring me a tray of deviled eggs and a sweet, mint iced tea to snack on before dinner. It was one of the best things and I always appreciated how much it would bring me up. They’re not that hard to make and you can make ‘em real pretty, real easy too.”

     “Really? They’re that easy?”

     “I think the hardest part is shelling the boiled eggs. You can shell a boiled egg, right?”

     “Oh yes, sir, boiled eggs are one of my most favorite snacks.”

     “You got something to write with? I think maybe I can remember the recipe. I’ll write it down for you.”

     “You will? Thank you so much!” Anna squealed and began digging in her bag for a pad and pen. The old man simply glowed with pride at how happy he had made the young stranger.

     As the old man began writing, the recipe flowed back to him easily and he took care to write out each and every step for her.

     Anna went back to her catching game. More than ever she knew her penny had luck in it and she delighted at how it worked for her. And that’s when disaster struck. She missed the catch on what would have been her last toss before the old man would have handed back her notepad and pen. Her lucky penny chimed as it bounced on the ground before settling into a steady roll. Anna gave chase.

     “Oh no! Please land on heads. Please land on heads,” she pleaded as she ran after her prize.

     “Catch it, girlie, catch it,” the old man on the bus stop bench cheered as he chuckled at Anna’s clumsy chase.

     The penny began to circle a few feet beyond the old man. Anna continued her chase, at first trying to right her shoulder bag and keep it steady, then tossing it to the side all together. To the old man she looked almost like a puppy chasing its tail.

     “Don’t let it get away, girlie,” he added with a grin.

     Anna gave up her chase and decided to let fate have it. She stood back and watched the penny circle awaiting the outcome. She bit her lip and clenched her hands together. Finally the energy from the fall dissipated and her penny came to a rest... on its edge!

     “What the--” Anna began then trailed off staring at the peculiar sight.

     “Now that is something,” the old man began, edging further off the bench to check if what he thought he was seeing was actually what he was seeing.

     “Girlie, they say when you toss a coin in the air you haves a half and half on how it’ll fall. When a penny hits the ground and lands on tails half the time, you let it lie. A penny, tail-side up, is bad workings.

     “If’n you toss a penny, or finds a penny, or drops one, when it come to rest on heads then you pick it up and kiss it. That’s all kind of good luck and a charm you shouldn’t forget.

     “But some say sometimes, just sometimes, like in a billion billion chances and happenstances, a penny, or maybe any coin, will come to rest upright on its own edge without no other mechanics holdin’ it up. People forget that coins have three flat edges: one heads, one tails, and one that come all the way 'round. And if you toss a coin and it comes to rest like that, on its edge... well, that’s magic, girlie, and interesting things are bound to happen if you pick it up. So if you don’t take that penny, I think maybe I will.”

     As if to punctuate his story, the old man leaned closer towards Anna and the penny as if he were going to stand. Anna, fearing she was about to lose something special, quickly snatched up her penny and began turning it her hand as she held it up to the light and looked for signs of magic. The old man laughed at her study.

     “Interesting times is definitely in store for you. Seems to me that there was an old saying about ‘interesting times’ but for the life I can’t remember who said it or what it was about exactly.”

* * *

     Anna returned home that afternoon very tired. She found Casey passed out on the sofa with his shoes still on. She had planned on taking a nap before starting on her deviled eggs, but after seeing Casey sleeping so peacefully she thought it might be a bit more fun to awaken him to her tasty surprise so she put away her groceries and set large pot of water on to boil.

     She looked around for something else to do in the meantime and did a little straightening, all the while anxiously checking her pot every few seconds.

     “A watched pot never boils,” she said aloud and to no one in particular.

     She yawned and thought perhaps she’d have a quick cold shower to freshen herself up before chopping her onions. It occurred to her that the water would probably be ready for the eggs by then and she headed straight for the bedroom.

* * *


     Anna found herself waking up on the edge of her bed, shoes kicked off and pants around her ankles. The first thing she was aware of was Casey shouting and frantically flinging things from the bedroom closet. The second thing was the apartment filled with smoke and Casey’s wheezing and coughing.

     “Casey-- Wha--?”

     “SMOKE, Anna! Where’s the frickin... AH!”

     Casey yanked something from the closet and ran out of the room. Anna yanked her pants up, completely ignoring the sweat shorts she’d laid out earlier, then followed Casey. She reached the living room in time to witness Casey putting the last of the flames in the kitchen out with the fire extinguisher. He coughed and spat and cursed as he worked.

     “I’ll open some windows and the balcony door,” she told him.

     When she got back she found him sitting on the sofa. His cheeks were touched with charcoal blush and he looked exhausted.

     Anna walked into the kitchen to examine the damage, but decided things didn’t look too bad. She clutched at the lucky penny in her pocket. Most of the fire had been contained right on the stove, localized around--

     “The egg pot,” Anna said louder than she’d meant.

     “What? What did you say?” Casey inquired still seated on the sofa but now turned towards Anna.

     Anna grabbed a sponge and began trying to wipe soot off of the stove. With her penny hand, she tried to grab the burnt pot to toss into the sink for later. The red hot handle sizzled audibly in her hand and she immediately dropped it with a loud clang.

     “Don’t try moving anything on the stove yet, it’s probably still hot,” Casey offered from his perch.

     Before she could attend to her hand, something caught Anna’s eye. Her lucky penny laid face up in a mess of something she didn’t recognize. She had to peel it out to retrieve it and it left the tails impression in the muck. She stared at the grossness on the floor as she transferred the penny to her burnt hand (which didn’t feel very bad at all) and ultimately decided that it looked like silly putty or gum.

     A sharp pain shot up through her burnt hand from the penny and caused Anna to jerk her hand out of her pocket quickly. The world went gray for a moment then slowly came back into focus. The sludge on the floor was quickly forgotten as Anna realized it was time to confess. She stood leaning against the kitchen portal with her injured hand tucked under her arm.

     “I must’ve fell asleep. I put a pot of water on to boil and it wasn’t boiling fast enough. I thought I could take a quick cold shower to freshen up. I must’ve fallen asleep. I guess the water all boiled away and then the hot pot sparked and caught something on fire.”

     Anna was devastated. She looked back at the burnt wallpaper and then slowly, as slow as she could possibly manage, turned towards Casey. Casey sat there, just looking at her and blinking. Then something Anna had not expected to happen happened next. Casey began to roar with uncontrollable laughter. He laughed so hard he rolled onto the floor and held his stomach. The sight began to make Anna smile, then even chuckle a little. Then Casey spoke.

     “You... burned... water,” he managed between gasps, “you actually burned water. You have got to be the worst cook in the universe! Dumb as rocks! Tell me you have the recipe for ice written down somewhere and I will die right on the spot.”

     His last joke sent him into a completely new fit of hysterics.

     Anna’s smile turned quickly into a frown. Her frown faded into a downward look of utter shame and humiliation. Her look of shame began to melt into something that resembled rage.

     “Stop laughing at me,” she said quietly to deaf ears. “Casey, I swear-- stop... laughing... at me,” her words came steady.

     Casey got off the floor still laughing. He approached the kitchen, clutching his stomach, fully intending to give his beautiful, yet bubble headed girlfriend a hug.

     Anna backed away as Casey approached. Her hand trailing absently across the counter until it met smooth, cold, metal.

     “STOP... LAUGHING... AT ME!!”

     Her outburst caused Casey to immediately pay attention, but it was too late and Anna’s hand was already in motion. Casey barely saw the tiny aluminum mallet before it broke his jaw. He got a clearer glimpse of it right before it tore open his brow and the world was flooded crimson. He didn’t even feel the last blow that sent him sailing across the room to slump in the corner motionless.

     Anna found herself stroking her lucky penny again while trying to decide where to clean first and what to make Casey for dinner now.

* * *

     “I was so worried that something bad had happened, Officer.”


     “People were complaining about the smell. Such a nice pretty young couple too. I mean sometimes you could hear them arguing, but everyone argues, right? That’s all I’m saying.

     “Anyways there was complaints about the smell so I knocked real hard. I mean real hard and for a long time. You know what I mean? I knocks hard and all, then I uses my pass key. I never expected to see-- My goodness, who would’ve? You know? And I sees him in the corner like, all propped up and junk. You don’t think that girl coulda done this do ya?”

     “Sir, I promise you there will be a full investigation. You’ll have to stay behind the tape though.”

     Sheriff Hornblower ducked under the yellow police tape and immediately saw the medical examiner finishing up. Her aides were placing the young man’s body into a bag.

     “They say his car is missing from the lot. The girlfriend good for this, Khandi?” he asked the M.E.

     “Not unless she’s a world class body builder, Hornblower. I won’t know the c.o.d. for sure until I examine him back at the lab, but these blows to his face, I’m almost sure were done with a meat tenderizer. The handle on one of those things is so small and these impacts were made with such an amazing force... no, not many females in the world could do this.”

     “Who was first on the scene?”

     “That was me, sir. Sheriff. Sheriff, sir.”

     “Officer... Officer Van O’Rodriguezapopolousettistein-Brown. Ah, I remember you. That gorgeous new rookie from up north, with the pretty eyes.”

     “Yes, sir, Sheriff, sir, I guess.”

     “Sheriff is fine, rookie.”

     “I’m not a detective yet, Sheriff, but I thought there seemed to be clear signs of a struggle when the manager let me in. I immediately called in the detectives and taped off the area. We think maybe they took the car and the girlfriend.”


     “The place was just like this when we found it, all torn up. There was a fire in the kitchen and blood.”


     “There were spatters leading here from over there at the counter, but not enough to account for dragging. It looks like he might’ve been thrown. Then there’s this...” she signaled to her aides and they turned Casey on his side.

     “What is that, Khandi?”

     “It’s a meat thermometer. It’s lodged in his rectum.”

     “Rookie, put out an APB on the boyfriend’s car, there should be details on it in the parking sticker records in the manager’s office. I think I’ll look around a bit. See if I can find contact information on the girlfriend’s parents and close friends, maybe get a bead on her schedule.”

     “Yes, sir.”

     “Well, it looks like,” the Sheriff paused to put on his sunglasses, “ a clear recipe for murder and this turkey’s not done.”

     “Yeeeeeeeeeah,” shouted Roger Daltry over the sounds of guitars, a drum, and a synthesizer, “We don’t get fooled again. Don’t get fooled again.”


     “Sorry, sir, it’s a new phone. I thought it was off.”

* * *

     “Well I am, mother.”

     “You really don’t sound okay, Anna. You sound... strange.”

     “I’m just very busy. I have a lot of homework and I’m cooking huge meals all the time for Casey now.”

     “Oh, you’re not still bothering that poor boy with your cooking.”

     “I’m not bothering him. He loves everything thing I cook now. He always cleans his plate and comes back for more. He loves me and that’s just the way it is now.”

     “Well. Well I am glad you found your culinary niche, Anna. What are you making tonight?”

     “I’m not sure yet. I still have some errands to run, shopping to do. I’ve been looking for a new knife, like the one on TV, but no one has it. I need a new knife to cook for Casey. My old ones are gone.”


     “Ever since the day the penny bit my hand, the last time Casey and I had a fight. Everything’s okay now though.”

     “Penny bit your--? Anna you’re not making any sense.”

     A chill ran down Anna’s mother’s spine. She didn’t like the way her daughter sounded at all. The implications were not thoughts she wanted to entertain just yet.

     “Can I speak to Casey, Anna?”

     “Casey hasn’t been speaking much lately.”

     “Anna, put Casey on the phone.”


     “I want to say ‘hello’ to him.”

     “He isn’t here. He’d been moping in the corner for a few days, but he must’ve gone out while I was in classes this morning. I think he’s in a better mood though. He played a trick on me before he left.”

     “What kind of trick, Anna?” Her mother measured her words carefully as to not excite or upset her daughter.

     “He put tape all over the door, yellow tape. My hand hurts.”

     “Because the penny bit you?”

     “No, because I burned it.”

     “You burned your hand, Anna?”

     “Yes, when Casey was yelling, right before I got bit. The burn is ugly. I wore gloves to hide my scabby, but the gloves itch too much now... I think.”

     “Anna, I need you to listen to me very closely. Do you understand? Can you concentrate on what Mommy says?”

     “Yes. I guess so.”

     “Okay, Anna, listen closely: epsilon, phi, phi, four, two, eight, seven, mark, zero, zero, zero,” Anna’s mother spoke rapidly then waited listening intently to the silence.

     “What?” Though her mother’s phrase made no sense to her, Anna began biting her lip. Something about what her mom said was bothering her profoundly and she knew she didn’t want to listen anymore.

     “Did you hear what I said, Anna?”

     “Yes, I heard your words, but you are being very weird, mom.”

     “Anna: epsilon, phi, phi, four, two, eight, seven, mark, zero, zero, zero.”

     “I don’t have time for this, mom. I have to go back out before I do my chores. I have to go.”

     “Epsilon, phi, phi, four, two, eight, seven, mark, zero, zero, zero, Anna listen! Epsilon, phi, phi, four, two, eight, seven, mark, zero, zero, zero!”

     “I have to go now! Casey will be upset if he doesn’t have dinner!”

     “No don’t-- Epsilon, phi, phi, four, two, eight, seven, mark--”

* * *

     Mrs. Meyers turned the corner down the corridor to her office. Besides her office door, normally the only things down this hall were the fire stairs, hose case, a mostly unused unisex bathroom and a water fountain. This meant very little traffic and very little disturbances for Mrs. Meyers that didn’t concern her and that is exactly what she liked about it.

     Today, as she turned into the short hall she noticed something else down there. Something very out of place. Something dangerous that made her approach with caution. Someone had apparently stuck a knife through her office door.

     Mrs. Meyers looked around and checked the unisex bathroom for any more surprises... or suprisers. Feeling comfortable that she was alone she read the note that the knife was holding to her door.

What Happened? Casey dead.
Blood ran red.
Mallet smacked.
Hit on head.

Said my dessert
tasted like dirt.
Cannot help it;
Must make him hurt.

My heart is so true.
Felt you always knew.
Ev'rything I did
I did it for you!

Didn't care, made me cry.
Now he sits up on high.
Never what I deserved.
Wasn't love, only lie.

     She read it twice to make sure she’d taken it all in, then fumbled around in her purse for her red marker. She put a large red “C-” at the bottom of the paper before heading into her office and calling campus security.

* * *

     “Okay, rookie, this is going to be your show. Those soft brown locks and sweet face of yours will put a look of kindness on the department. I’m thinking she will respond better to you.”

     “I’m ready, sheriff.”

     “You better be... you better be.”

     The rookie cautiously approached the vehicle with a shaky and unsure hand on gun, unclipping it from the holster.

     “Lady... Miss... Anna,” quivering from the embarrassing start-stop, the rookie began again with more force, “Look, Anna, you have to get out of the car. You’re making a lot of people, a lot of armed people, very nervous here. We have to bring this to a resolve soon, Anna. One way or another...”

* * *

     A few yards back, just beyond the police barricade, a simple looking, wood paneled station wagon screeches to a stop behind the crowd. A frenetic, tousled, mousy haired woman in wired rimmed spectacles and a lab coat leaped from the drivers seat and pushed her way through the crowd.

     “I’m Anna’s... I’m that girl’s mother. You must let me through officer. I’m sure I can talk her down without anyone else getting hurt.”

     Anna’s mother fingered the small metal box in her pocket. She received a small shock from an exposed wire and quickly tucked it away. She cursed herself for the haphazard cobbling job she’d done creating it and wished she had had an hour or two more to increase the range before leaving the house, but she knew time was of the essence and that this would have to make do. Only, she needed to get much closer.

     “Come with me, ma’am.”

* * *

     “...or another, this is going to end. Now... get out of the car.”

     “I have to make dinner for Casey. He’s hypoglycemic and gets grumpy when he doesn’t get to eat,” Anna tried to tell the officers.

     She looked at the growing crowd and couldn’t believe what a mess she’d made. All she wanted to do was cook a good meal for Casey, just one delicious dish and she knew he’d be like he used to be to her. One delicious recipe and Casey would love her again. She could feel the tears, scalding hot, streaming down her face. The sound of boiling tears sizzling in her lap was deafening in Anna’s mind. The pain in her injured hand grew. She opened the car door cautiously and began to slink out of her seat with head down.

     “That’s right, Anna. Just come out slowly with your hands up and everything will be okay.”

     Anna hesitated. She clutched at her package. Why couldn’t she stop crying?

     “Please. Please. Let me make one meal for Casey. I bought the special knife I needed. Now my meals will be perfect like they said on TV. I finally have the knife and the food will be good and he will love me again. See? I have the good knife now,” she held up her purchase.

     The rookie stood back, gun flinching from the holster in a flash and held ready. The other officers watching followed suit.

     “Put it down, Anna. Drop the knife and get out of the car now.”

     When the officers’ guns came into view it made Anna shrink back into the vehicle. She looked from face to face and weapon to weapon and couldn’t believe the mess, the very terrible dilemma she’d caused for everyone. The pain in her burnt hand began to throb maddeningly. She looked at the knife still in its clamshell packaging. She looked at the officers. She looked at the gun closest to her, unapologetically honed on her center mass. Its meaning was definite and frightening.

     Suddenly, over the shoulder of the wielder of that weapon, Anna saw a familiar face. A face that should've brought at least a modicum of comfort. She dropped the cooking tool on the seat beside her and stood up.


* * *

     “Sheriff Hornblower? This woman says you know her, she claims to be the perp’s mom.”

     “Don’t call my Anna a perp, she needs help, not--”

     “Yes, we’ve met, officer, you can leave her,” Sheriff Hornblower turned his attention to Anna’s mother, “you shouldn’t be here. You may complicate things.”

     “I may be the only one that can end this without anyone getting hurt. Let me talk to her.”

     “I’ll get you a megaphone.”

     “No, I need to speak to her face to face.”

     “Letting you get close would just put you in harm’s way. I can’t do that in good conscience.”

* * *


     Anna took a step forward to get a better look. There was a glinting at her side. Everything unraveled all at once.

     “GUN!” someone yelled.

     “It’s not a gun! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot my daughter!”

     “Mom? What’s happening?” Anna pleaded and began walking towards her mother’s voice.

     The Sheriff turned just in time to see the look in Officer Van O’Rodriguezapopolousettistein-Brown's beautiful hazel eyes. “Don’t shoot, Officer Van O’Rodriguezapopolouse--” he shouted, his voice lost in the sound of gunfire.

     “It hurts, Mommy, but I have to make dinner for Casey,” Anna gasped as she walked defiantly forward through the hail of bullets ripping at her. Sprays of what seemed like ichor firing like geysers into the air from her major arteries.

     “She’s still twitching,” one of the officers remarked as Anna’s halved body came to rest just at Officer Van O’Rodriguezapopolousettistein-Brown's feet.

     “What in Hidden Valley Ranch is going on?” was all an exasperated Sheriff could manage as he and Anna’s mother rushed to the rookie’s side.

     Anna’s mother pressed a button on the device in her pocket and Anna became very still.

     “My husband and I were so busy with our work, we never had time to stop and have children. It’s ironic that our work is what finally gave us our daughter, Anna.” She knelt beside the ruin of what was Anna and stroked her synthetic hair.

     “Lady, you need to make some good sense and real fast,” Sheriff Hornblower told her.

     “Sheriff, Anna was the greatest achievement of our lives... in more ways than one. For you see, Anna was a robot all along!”

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