Many people have something about them that makes that person special. Some of us are artists, being able to create works of art or play beautiful music. Many people are athletes while others are just good with money. These are special traits that each and everyone of us tend to excel and try our best to make a shining focal point of our lives. People around us appreciate us and praise our accomplishments. This gives us purpose and sense of value.
But for Thomas Sowster, his special talent is food. A national competitive eater and self-declared food aficionado. Thomas Sowster has made himself known for his insatiable appetite in the realms of speed eating. Born with an endless skill of devouring any food, Thomas has never lost a single competition and just as his physical size grows… so does his legend and prominence.
There isn’t one middle class American town with a board of directors that is not aware of him. Known as ‘The Mighty Sow’ in the professional circuit, Thomas Sowster enters food eating competitions like a king. The summer months are his hunting season and the festival tents are his stadiums! Beef, pork, fish, bird, sugar or vegetable, the entire food pyramid is his consumption victim. He absorbs his adversaries. Exhausts the exhibits! He lays waste to the festival feeds! No man and no challenge can proceed his likeness! The Mighty Sow… is a master eater and will consume any threat to his title! Look upon the Sows works yea Mighty… and despair!
On this particular occasion in the high month of August, the festival season is in full swing. Three months into the multitude of town events and Thomas Sowster is going strong. Already, he has achieved ten victories. Three of which are class titles and he won’t let up. His penchant for competitive eating is almost as strong as his desire to be a small town celebrity. Once more The Mighty Sow finds himself headed to a new location with new challenges to gobble. And on a long and sleek road do we find our champion traveling in a giant tour bus.
“What’s this new town we’re headed to called, Jake?” asks Thomas as he sits in the back of his rig. Thomas with a bucket of chicken nuggets takes aim and chucks a golden morsel to the front of the bus. Nearly hitting the driver Jake in the head.
“It’s called Pepper Creek and I would say we should be there in about two hours. The directions Mayor Ford gave me are kind of odd.” Jake said from the front pilot seat. He turned is head for a moment to look to Thomas, but quickly corrected his glance back to the road. Being a tour bus driver wasn’t really what Jake was trained for. Neither was being some fat lards torture puppet.
“Well the sooner the better. I need something else to eat other than this shitty chicken.” Thomas says while tossing the bucket to the side. Not that far though… in the likely case he changed his mind for another bite.
Thomas got his hotel room on wheels right after his second title victory in the Gut Buster Festival in Watkins Glenn NY back in the fall of 2002. An endless supply of beer dipped chicken fingers that he won by a landslide and Fatties Chicken instantly took notice. Thomas came out of know where and the companies CEO saw him as a perfect walking billboard. Being one of the biggest fast food chains in the upper north east, they made Thomas’ endeavors an easier task and along with a tour bus so too came Jake.
Jake was intended to be a manager and assistant to Thomas, but in recent months demoted to tour bus driver and all around servant. For reasons unknown Jake couldn’t determine why he stuck around. The pay was good but what does money mean when you’re stuck driving a bus for a highly decorated glutton he couldn’t stand.
“Sure thing Sow.” said Jake. Instantly Jake regretted what he said. He glanced up into the rear view mirror and saw Thomas turn red.
“I told you to not call me that you… you stupid prick!” yelled Thomas. He plowed his fists down into the couch in a way to demonstrate some sort of physical intimidation. Then swung his hands around looking for something to throw. Thomas then attempted to stand and wobbled. He was wearing brown cargo shorts and a long white t-shirt that had the face of an engorged chicken on the front. Across the top it read “Fatties.” He had a disgusting mullet and wore it with bride. The locks of hair swayed back and forth like driftwood out at sea. Jake couldn’t help but laugh and actually jerked the steering wheel a little to make Thomas stumble.
“Hold the bus still you low life cock!” yelled Thomas.
Jake shook his head and slowed the bus down. To be honest, traveling at sixty five miles an hour meant Thomas himself… was moving at sixty five miles an hour. So if something were to happen and Thomas went flying, it would mean Jake could potentially be in the way of this giant wrecking ball. Jake shuddered the thought of the news anchor reporting his death via flying fat man.
Thomas finally mastered the motion of the bus and got up from his couch. He shuffled to the front and got terribly close to Jakes face. Jake noticed he was out of breathe and could smell his sweat. It stank like Fatties Chicken grease and God knows what else. He kept his face laser focused on the road.
“Listen to me you mindless fuck! I’m the main attraction for this entire thing. What I say goes. You want me to call your boss and get you fired?” he said while hitting the pilot chair in cadence with every syllable he spoke. It rocked against Jakes head and for a brief moment, Jake thought about slamming the brakes. Sending this jack ass out the windshield. But something in him threw that thought out and he relented.
“Thomas, I’m sorry. You’re right and I lost track of what I was saying.” Jake said.
Thomas stared deep into the side of Jakes face. Jake felt like his face was mutating in size and shape. He turned his head and gave a small smile. Thomas pouted his mouth as to illustrate some severity in his threat and then turned. Being so big must have filled Thomas’ head with delusions. One of those delusions was that Thomas mistook his size as strength.
“I’m going to take a nap. When I wake up then we better be there.” Thomas said while going to the back of bus. He hefted his massive body through the accordion plastic doorway into the back and only bed. With an awkward effort he turned and glared into the rear view mirror for Jake to see him. He didn’t say a word and just stared. Then quickly shut the flaps to the door. His fat arms flailed like a jello mold and Jake hated him more than ever.
“Sleep tight you two ton freak.” Jake said under his breath while reaching down for a swig from his soda. Thomas going to bed was the best thing that could happen. Driving through the night having to be in the same space as Thomas was hell. This way Jake could drive in happiness. Just sitting here thinking of a way out of this twisted scenario. Jake swore he would get out of this mess and away from this waste of life. But this was a conversation he had with himself many times before and like many times before; it always ended up the same. Jake driving a bus, towing this sack of shit around the country. A spectacle of some sick and twisted sense of accomplishment. His anger swirled.
Thomas and this entire freak show was a disgrace. Jake hated Thomas and he often hated himself for having to being the one to do this job. Babysitting this less than glimmer of a man. It wasn’t because he was large. Jake had no problem with overweight people. He understood the problematic state of it all. Health was hard, hell even Jake had his own shit he was going through. But this! This was something different. Thomas was everything Jake despised in a person. The guy was a constant complaint and couldn’t live without voicing some negative comment. The food he devoured was never good enough. But he ate is anyways. If he couldn’t fit through a door then it wasn’t his fault. Thomas made request after request and his wrath was that of a fog horn. Jake despised him and he despised this tour bus. Every time he stepped in it, it made him feel like stepping into a deep fryer.
Upon everything else, Jake loathed all the towns he went to and despised their festivals. The Lilac Festive in upper Ohio. The Acorn Festival in west New York. The Grease Festival in the panhandle of West Virginia. The Beer Toss festival in Agatha Pike… they were all the same. Some stupid festival with a theme. Usually it represented whatever product the town relied on. One town had a Fungus Festival because they had mushroom farms everywhere. The place smelled awful.
But the thing that bugged him most about these festivals and towns was each one had a beauty pageant as a statement of prideful glamour. They crowned some teenager as festival queen and everyone cheered. But then held these food eating competitions and crowned the gluttonous winner as king. King of what, killing yourself? This is what bothered Jake so much.
“What are we glorifying?” Jake said out loud in a question know one heard.
Jake shook his head in disgust. He’s been doing this for three years and each festival only disgusted him more. Maybe not the festival themselves. Just this portion of it. But what really grinds his gears is that sleeping tub of slop in the back. Thomas ate up the attention like he ate up his food. Would you believe that Thomas actually deems himself an athlete! That’s right! Tom Brady, LeBron James, Tony Hawk… and Thomas Sowster. Jake laughed at the thought.
All of these things ran through his mind and like many times before… he ended the debate in his mind like always. By shaking his head and forgetting it all. He looked at the directions and realized they were making good time and pressed on.
“That’s right Jake my boy. You got to press on and keep your chin up.” Jake told himself. He pressed the button to the radio and let the tunes entertain the rest of the trip.
The next morning the bus rolled into the town of Pepper Creek. The morning mist was rising, leaving a blanket of dew on the grass that would eventually be swallowed up by the blazing sun. It was a normal looking town, the same kinds Jake had seen countless times before. The main street buildings all line the way like connected blocks. There were typical stores you’d find in any small town. Dale’s Hardware for all your appliance needs. Next to that was an American Legion, a Key Bank and then a small diner. Everything Jake grew accustomed to.
Across to the left was a clothing store called Anne’s. A woman was out front arranging a newly sewn dress to a dummy. As she pulled the bottom of the dressed and pressed her other hand to push out any wrinkles. The woman turned and saw the bus. A look of excitement came to her face and she immediately stepped out onto the street. She waved her hand to other folks down the road and in a matter of seconds, a large crowd of Pepper Creek citizens were running up along the road. Either running next to or behind the bus.
“What the hell is wrong with these people?” Jake said to himself.
Thomas made his way out of the bedroom with a look of excitement. He side stepped left to right as he smiled at all the people. Each stepped shook the cabin of the bus. Jake shook his head because he knew this is what Thomas loved most.
“Look at all these people Jake! They love me!” Thomas said in a high pitched tone. Jake swore he sounded like a squealing pig and pressed on.
The crowd amassed in number. Each person yelling and waving their hands like Thomas was a king returning home from long year war. He would open the window and push his bulbous hand out and wave to the thriving crowd. Every so often a child would jump up and slap Thomas high five. Thomas laughed out loud. Sucking it all in satisfaction.
As as the bus rode down the street and into a dirt road that lead to the local fairgrounds, what awaited the bus was obviously the rest of the town. Jake was speechless at the spectacle of people. Usually, they arrive to a town and a few people are there to cheer Thomas on. But this, excessive wasn’t even the word to use. The crowd cheered in thunderous applause. They had balloon pillars that rumbled in the breeze and confetti was flying as thick as spring pollen. The high school band played a trumpeting tune to usher the arrival.
“Thomas, doesn’t this seem kind of… much?” asked Jake. For a few seconds Thomas seemed to ignore the question and kept waving to his adoring crowd.
“What do you mean? This is great. They’re honoring my talents! It’s about time I get more recognition.” Thomas said while making his way to the bus door. He looked like an anxious little child before Christmas morning and he gurgled raspy wisps of breathe from his tired lungs.
Jake pulled the bus in front of the roaring crowd and placed it in park. A sickness overcame him at the thought that someone like Thomas could get such adoring fans and welcome. He got up from his seat and hesitantly went beside Thomas.
“Come on man, they want to see me! Get out there and give me an intro.” Thomas said while pushing on Jakes shoulder.
Jake went to the door and pulled the handle down. The sound from outside hit him like a tidal wave and he stepped out into the sunlight. A man with bush gray eyebrows came up to Jake. He wore a big blue pin that said “MAYOR” on it in that cliche political font face. The man extended his hand to and Jake obliged.
“Welcome to Pepper Creek my friend. I’m Mayor Ford… but you can call me Herb. What’s your name son?” he said while shaking Jakes hand in frantically repetitive way. Jake smiled and turned to look at the crowd. There had to be nearly a thousand people standing before him and everyone of them was howling and clapping in complete bliss. Men and women, young children and even teens.
Jake gained what little composure he had and said “My name is Jake…”
“Jake! Glad to have yah with us for our Pepper Festival.” said Herb.
“Pepper Festival, what genius came up with that?” Jake thought to himself as he looked back to the mayor and then up to the earth. He cursed the notion and this stupid town already. But then remembered what he needed to do. He leaned forward and spoke loudly into the mayors ear.
“I guess I should introduce the main attraction, huh?” said Jake.
The mayor smiled and playfully slapped Jake on the shoulder. “Sure thing my friend, whatever you think is best.” The mayor turned to the crowd and raised his hands to imply everyone lower the volume. Immediately the band stopped playing and the Pepper Creek citizens died down to a low murmur of whistles and praise. The mayor stepped to the side and Jake stood in the open. All eyes were upon him. He noticed a few faces seemed to have tears in their eyes. Which made Jake openly shake his head in disappointment. “Moronic blind fools.” he thought.
To be honest, Jake had never had to do anything like this. But everything kind of made sense to him. Since the crowd was so energetic, then he guessed he could just add to the energy. So he mustered up what spirit he had from the long journey and put his hands in the air.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the greeting. Now, without any further ado! I give you the terror of the north east feast! The food robber gobbler of multitude world class competitive eating challenges! The man that put ‘free’ in freedom! The one… the only! Thomas Sowster!
Like clockwork the band started back with their tune in a roaring symphony. The crowd raged louder as Thomas lumbered down the steps of the bus. He had to turn his massive bodice so he could step outside the doorway and even then he grazed his belly across the frame. He stepped out and raised his hand like a conquering hero. The crowd all gazed in splendor and began chanting out loud the name Thomas hated.
“MIGHTY SOW! MIGHT SOW! MIGHTY SOW!” Over and over again. It reigned out and echoed across the fairgrounds.
Jake knew it bothered Thomas but Thomas still played along. Jake couldn’t help but smile a shit eating grin. The Mighty Sow was a hilarious name. Mainly because a sow is a female pig that hasn’t given birth to piglets yet. Kind of like a heifer cow. But it made Jake laugh and remember when it was given to Thomas. Thomas didn’t even know what it meant at first and thought it was great. He thought ‘sow’ was just taken from his last name and just another simple term for a pig. It burned Thomas deep when Jake had to explain what a ‘sow’ really was. But like all nicknames, once they start, they will never stop. Something that took a while for Thomas to just accept… when it came to his adoring fans. Anyone else, especially Jake; would face trouble like Jake did early.
Thomas came forward and theatrically pushed Jake aside. “This is my show you ass.” Thomas said to Jake without moving his mouth. Thomas turned and smiled wide while he waved to the crowd. A few of the folks stepped forward to shake the hands of their dining champion. Mayor Ford walked up behind Thomas and slapped his back and spoke out.
“Thomas it’s so nice to have you for Pepper Creeks annual Pepper Festival. So glad to have you. So glad.” said the mayor.
Thomas wiped the accumulating sweat off his brow and turned to the mayor. “Likewise my friend. Now, I hear your lovely town here…” Jake paused to let it sink in. The crowd went silent and you could hear the music of a distant merry-go-round playing its turn. “…has a little challenge today?” Thomas said.
The crowd erupted and the mayor laughed. Jake almost fell over. “Holy shit these people love him.” thought Jake.
The crowd parted as Thomas stepped forward. Each person getting a chance to touch the massive man. Jake couldn’t help but think of Jesus Christ walking through a town of worshipers. But instead of a bearded man who was about love, peace and salvation. This messiah was a bloated example of avarice, gorging and oil.
Jake thought about turning and remaining on the bus. He could sleep through this pudgy pageant. Nothing he hasn’t seen before. But a hand grabbed his shoulder and Jake turned. It was the mayor, he stood there facing Jake as the crowd guided their athlete to a large blue and yellow tent. Jake could see large billows of steam coming from a few large grills and instantly knew that was where they were preparing the events food.
“You’re not thinking about decking out on us, are you?” asked the mayor. His smile was warm and Jake couldn’t help but feel strained with his contempt for the mayor and his citizens. But at the same time appreciate the small town attitude.
“Well, I am tired. To be honest, I’ve seen this kind of thing before and…” Jake said but the mayor moved closer and interrupted. Mayor ford pressed his hand on Jakes chest and instantly Jake felt like he was at home.
“I hear you son, but this is gonna be special. I think you…” the mayor said while point his finger lightly into Jakes chest and made a clicking sound with his tongue. “…are gonna appreciate this. Come on with me.”
Jake rolled his eyes and conceded. Doesn’t makes any difference. This was his life and he should just accept it. He thought about all the things he wanted to do with his life. He couldn’t even listen to Mayor Ford as he went on about Pepper Creeks town history. What did it all matter anyways? Thomas would do his thing and they’d get back on the bus and go to the next town. Another chance to perpetuate the notion that being who Thomas is should be praised and adored. It made Jake sick. It made him hate this town even more. To be Thomas was one thing, but a group of people admiring and laud this lards stint was too much. He dreaded everything his life had become. No friends, no family. All he had was this extra sized out of control child.
What bothered him most is that Jake loved small town living. He wanted to live in a place like Pepper Creek. He bet the place was one of those towns where people didn’t lock their doors and everyone knew everyone else. If you had an issue with something then there was that one guy who could solve it and all it would cost is a beer and game of cornhole. Jake slowly returned back to reality and everything started to focus once more. The mayors rant and laughter returning to normalcy.
“So how bout you just sit right here and enjoy the festival?” said the mayor.
Jake didn’t even realize that he was lead into the big tent and was sitting in a typical wooden folding chair. He was in the back of the congregation and took notice of the large crowd. The entire town seemed to be sitting in their own chairs. They all faced one direction and as Jakes eyes scanned onward, he saw before him a stage that was most definitely a local farmers flat bed for hauling straw or whatever thing he grew. There on the stage was a giant table covered with the cliche red and white checkered tablecloth. Behind that sat Thomas, sitting there like a man who had accomplished great tasks. The crowd kept chanting the name “mighty sow” over and over again. Then the mayor walked up onto the stage and stood with his back turned to Thomas. Once again he raised his hands and the crowd hushed.
“Friends and family. We are gathered here for the event of the century.” the mayor said. Hands clapped together in unison and whistles blew from lips. The mayor re-established his hand in the air for silence and simply smiled.
“Today we have a gift. Our hero and reigning champion… the mighty sow!” Mayor Ford said while turning aside to bestow Thomas once again. The mayor clapped and turned to his left and waved a hand. From outside the tent came many people carrying large covered silver platters. The sound of the platters sizzled loud enough that even Jake could hear it from where he sat.
The waiters brought the platters up the stage and onto the table before Thomas. Thomas smacked his lips and seemed eager for his challenge.
“Kind of odd.” thought Jake. Usually there are competitors. But he didn’t read into it and just kept playing along. He saw the mayor approach Thomas and extend his hand to the first platter.
The mayor raised the lid and there before Thomas… were steaming peppers. The crowd all cheered and clapped at the unveiling. Jake was taken back. Thomas had done peppers before. They were actually pretty easy and there were only three platters. Jake for the first time in a long while, actually felt a sense of pride for Thomas. “This will be a sinch!” he said out loud.
“Thomas are you ready?” asked the mayor. As he looked out into the crowd with a wide grin. The crowd seemed to change to an anxiousness. The kind of change that you feel when getting cold water splashed on you while in a hot shower. Thomas simply gave a thumbs up and beamed.
“Ready… set… GOOOO!!” yelled the mayor. The crowd bursted in cheers as Thomas dove into the platter of peppers with his hands. One by one he stuffed peppers into his mouth like a there was some invisible conveyer belt sliding them in.
Jake couldn’t understand. He scratched his head and turned to a Pepper Creek citizen sitting next to him. It was the woman from the clothing store he initially saw earlier. “Are they hot peppers cause it doesn’t matter for Thomas. He doesn’t really chew them.” he asked her.
“Just keep watching dear. He’s gonna make us all proud.” she said.
Jake simply shook his head and for some reason started watching Thomas in a way he never had before. Something about him shuffling those peppers down his gullet made Jake feel… happy.
The crowd kept roaring and a few of the children ran from their seats to the stage. Thomas took notice and gave them all a thumbs up in a “I’ve got this” kind of message. Thomas finished the first platter and quickly slid down the table to the next one. The mayor urgently pulled the lid ofd the next platter and shrieked. Turning to the crowd and shaking his hand as if he was bitten. Everyone (including Jake) laughed out loud. Thomas looked up with three peppers hanging in his mouth. He noticed everyone laughing and gave a smile.
“Keep going there! You can do it son!” yelled the mayor.
Thomas went back to his eating. One after another, he placed the peppers in his mouth and swallowed them. Occasionally drinking water to wash anything stuck down. But as the number of peppers went down, so did Thomas’ need for water. Jake noticed Thomas’ head would seldom shake, but then reach his hand out for another glass of water. At one point, Jake realized Thomas was drinking more water than he was eating peppers.
“The peppers must be hot?” Jake asked his standing neighbor again.
She looked to Jake and smiled. “You’ve got that right.” she said while giving off a high pitched laugh that seemed more menacing than cheerful. Jake looked at her, shocked at her reaction and shrugged it off. When he looked back to the stage, he noticed something wasn’t right.
There was Thomas up on the stage but he wasn’t stuffing the peppers into his mouth any longer. Jake rose from his chair as if standing would make more sense for what he was seeing. He had to rub his eyes and focus harder. The mayor was standing over Thomas and with one hand, holding his mouth open and with the other shoving great heaps of peppers down Thomas’ throat. Two other men were holding his arms down on the table. Making Thomas appear like he was worshiping an idol and screaming out loud. Mayor Ford simply grabbed one pepper after another. Not even caring how many were in his hands. Not even caring at Thomases attempts at biting his fingers.
Peppers would fly out of Mayor Fords grasp and he would slam whatever in his hand into Thomas’ mouth. The excess vegetables would land on the ground where playful children would gather them and place them back on the platter. Mayor Thomas would blindly grab the grassy peppers once more and stuff them like a drunk person stuffing a scarecrow. All awhile singing a drunken chant.
“Oooh cook my little piggy!
Cook for me today.
Bake my little swine
So as a group we can all dine”
Jake instantly made his way to the stage and as he got closer, he could see the terror in Thomas’ eyes. Thomas saw Jake for brief moment between stuffings and seemed to call out to Jake. “Get me out of here” his eyes were screaming and for once Jake felt sorry for him. Jake stepped slowly and tried to yell, an attempt to make the towns people stop. But something held him back. He couldn’t tell, like a force deep in the pit of his stomach. Keeping him from doing what a normal person is trained to react.
He looked back to the crowd. They continued their cheers but in more unified manner. Their voices went up in a high tone and then their chant went down. Low a steady, almost gurgling in a way that mimicked the sounds of a digesting belly. In all this spectacle, Jake couldn’t help but want to join in. But still he clashed with the tempting tune.
The terror of Thomas’ up on the stage turned into gargled screams. At one point the mayor stopped and looked into Thomas’ eyes.
“Please stop. Please! It’s hurting from the insides.” Thomas yelled as the mayor began to laughed.
“But you must finish! Why, you’re the Mighty Sow! Pepper Creeks fine diner!” the mayor screamed as he grabbed another handful and thrust it into Thomas. Continuing his song.
“Ferment and fill with flavor
Give us all a savor
Should I try a sample?
For all there is an ample”
At this point Jake couldn’t stand the torment, yet couldn’t look away. Until in that moment a sound came forth from Thomas and Mayor Ford paused in his culinary violence. A hush fell over the crowd and all you could hear was a sound coming from what was Thomas. He quickly jolted upward. Head tossing back. His fatty flaps tossed about like a stallions mane. Then from his body came steam. Thick and flowing steam that seeped from Thomas’ pores.
Mayor Ford jumped back and off the stage. As did the other two men holding him down. The children took three steps back and glimmered cheerful smiles. Thomas began to shake and his arms went up to his head. He bellowed a large scream that sounded cut and raspy. Jake took a step forward, up next to Mayor Ford. The mayor turned and saw Jake and smiled. “Jake my boy, welcome to your homecoming.” he said while holding Jake.
Thomas seemed to lurch forward in an odd pause. He looked out to the crowd and began to shake. His head and body went red like a giant lobster. The crowd waited like runners for the gun shot. Thomas’ hand went up and then fire erupted from his mouth. The white steam turned to black. Thick as tar and like a rolling smog. It billowed up into the tent peaks and seemed to disperse outwards. The flames grew and wrapped up out of his mouth, engulfing Thomas’ eyes.
Quickly the two men that previously held Thomas down, grabbed the table and lifted it out of sight. Mayor Ford guided Jake forward to the front of the stage. Both of them peering upward to the marvel that was Thomas burning. The mayor continued his sonnet but in a lower tone that seemed captivating.
“We will dine together
Live in peace forever.”
Many from the crowd rushed forward, surrounding Jake. Some holding him or extending their arms. All while Jake kept his eyes focused upward. The presence of the people he didn’t know; felt like a shawl over his shoulders. Secure and protecting like he belonged. But still what he was seeing and what he was feeling seemed at odds with one another.
Thomas sat in that chair on the stage. A focal point for all to see. Burning and withering, twisting and unmoving. He was certainly dead, but the flames kept pouring outward as his skin transitioned to a golden brown. Where once a greasy mullet was, was now charred and scorched baldness. His lifeless arms stayed concreted to his upper torso and in this moment, Jake saw that he looked like a roasted swine. And in this moment, Jake smiled.
Everything was quiet and as if time stood still. Mayor Ford stepped ever so gently forward and raised a hand to his mouth. His lips quivered and a small smack of the tongue made a low pop sound. He turned to his fine beautiful citizens of Pepper Creek. Raised his arms once more.
“Time to eat!” he yelled.
The crowd marched outwards to the left of the tent, taking Jake with them like a piece of paper going down a stream. Jake looked behind to see Thomas’ corpse once more. He saw two men climb the stage and take hold of Thomas’ body. One at a time, each one grabbing an appendage. The last thing he saw before being thrusted outward was Thomas’ arm being pulled outward and the sound of ripping leather. It sent the citizens into a chanting frenzy of “mighty sow” but low and monotonous.
At this point, the sun began to set on Pepper Creek. The golden rays turned deep orange and stretched outward, filtered through neighboring trees. The people who held on to Jake brought him to a clearing. There before him were many tables lined with chairs and adorned with utensils. As Jake and his guides walked closer, he took notice of Mayor Ford sitting at the the end of the table. Children scurried upward to their seating as did countless other people.
Jake was placed in a chair near the mayor. Still in utter shock, he could not move. Or he dared not move. Or maybe wished to not move. The table was quiet and all you could hear was the summer breeze and the merry-go-round far away. As the citizens all sat, they turned their heads to Jake.
He didn’t say a word. But still the citizens stared.
Then from behind, Jake felt someone standing and he turned his head. He looked upward at a form holding something round. From where he sat the sun created the form into a silhouette of black. Jake squinted and then the man came forward and leaned beside and past Jake. He looked back to the table and saw a platter with a charred piece of flesh upon it. It almost disgusted Jake at first but soon he realized the enticing smell. The aroma of the meat filled Jakes senses and he salivated like a dog.
“Jake.” said Mayor Ford from the front of the table. Jake looked to him and then to everyone around him. Children seemed hungry and held their forks up high. “Would you please do the honors my boy?” asked the mayor.
Jake looked down. Deep inside something told him to empty his stomach. But it was like a call from a far and flowing farther away. Becoming weaker and weaker like pulses of thunder when a storm ends. Jake lifted his hands and took hold of the morsel on his plate. It smelled amazing and sunk into his nostrils like fine breathable liquid. He closed his eyes, took a breath and sunk his teeth in and keeping them there for a moment. Jake tore the flesh which came undone like aged silk. He chewed and savored the meat, juices rivered down his throat before he could swallow. Still that small distant voice was lamenting its. He kept chewing, letting the mass of flesh go to the back and slide heavenly down his throat. It was like experiencing all of life in one moment. The good, the bad thrown together but with flavor. Everything Jake should have remembered was gone. The bus, the job, the caring of Thomas, everything was gone. For once in his life Jake felt at home, he felt whole. Whatever he was consuming was filling him beyond any desire of the past and he looked to his neighboring seats. They all glared and had tears in their eyes. He smiled and realized that this was the best thing he ever ate. This was the best he would ever be. These were the best people he would ever know. He was home.
Thanks for reading my short story! I hope you enjoyed it. This was kind of a labor of love that was influenced by two things. One is the story of the prodigal son you find in Luke 15. The other is a challenge to do something with fire and burning. I’ve always wanted to do a story that paralleled a Bible story and this was a perfect moment.
If you would like to read more of my work then check out these posts below!