This is my short story contest submission for September 2019.
See the rules on the official forum post
if you'd like to participate in the voting (voting open for 7 days at the end of the month, must read all entries in both novice and veteran categories, vote for your favorite 3 in both categories).
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series, but each part is a stand-alone story, so you don't have to read the other parts to enjoy this.
This story features the servants for the Straud family, of which Vlad is a human teenager. The Strauds make an appearance in Part 2.
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Bad Apples, Part 1
Rhoda transferred the basket from her arm to her hand, swinging it to the front as she maneuvered around the heavy black door that lead into the house from the side yard. She stepped into the kitchen, the cold autumn wind swirling her long skirt about her ankles. Florence was on her before her other foot passed the threshold.
“You’re late” Florence snapped, “What, did you stop to take a nap? Oh, that’s right. You slept in, so you’re probably not tired.”
“I’m not late,” said Rhoda as she placed the basket on the counter a little more forcibly than needed. “The Mrs. asked me to stop by the pharmacy after the market. And I only got out of bed about 15 minutes after you.”
The two old women shared a room and got up around dawn every day, but Florence was almost always up and dressed before Rhoda ever opened her eyes. Florence, being Florence, never missed a chance to gloat about this or use it to imply that she was a more dedicated worker than Rhoda. This annoyed Rhoda to no end.
Florence placed a towel over the iron oven door and pulled hard to open it. A ham was cooking in the upper chamber. Florence piled more wood on the low fire burning in the bottom of the oven while Rhoda unloaded the basket.
“Did you get the apples?” asked Florence.
“Of course I got the apples,” Rhoda said.
“Auhh!” Suddenly Florence let out a panicked yelp.
“What is it?” Rhoda asked, alarmed.
“Ants!” Florence cried, “I hate ants!” She stomped her foot angrily, obliterating the tiny things. “Not in my
kitchen,” she said.
Rhoda rolled her eyes. Again with the ants. She finished unloading the food. As Rhoda put the basket away, Florence began to cut the apples.
“Auhh!” Florence let out another cry.
Rhoda, didn’t bother to turn around this time. “More ants?”
“No. These apples are bad!” said Florence, panicked, holding half an apple in her chubby, white hand and waving it at Rhoda, its black insides betraying the shiny red exterior. “You sabotaged me. You knew the Mrs. requested applesauce tonight, and you purposely bought bad apples. You always sabotage me!”
“I didn’t sabotage you. You’re being ridiculous,” Rhoda said impatiently. “I don’t know why you say such things about me. I’m only ever nice to you.”
There was no way for Rhoda to have known it was a bad apple as it looked fine on the outside. At Rhoda’s suggestion, Florence cut into the rest of the apples. She only found one more bad apple; most of the apples were fine. She sat the two bad apples to the side and began to prepare the rest of them for the applesauce. She would need to peel, core, chop, cook, and mash them. Rhoda left the kitchen to clean house, relieved to have some time away from Florence and her theatrics.
An hour later, Rhoda returned to the kitchen. Florence had her back to her at the far end of the room, busy at the stove. The enticing smell of simmering apples drifted through the air, mixed with the aroma of roasting meat. As Rhoda approached, she could see Florence beginning to add the spices to the applesauce.
Still annoyed at Florence for their earlier conversation, Rhoda asked, “Isn’t that too much spice?”
Florence stiffened, and her face contorted in anger. “I’ve been a cook for this house for 43 years. I know how to make applesauce. Everyone loves my applesauce.”
Happy with the reaction, Rhoda nonchalantly turned away. “Okay, if you say so,” she said as she got out the silverware to set the table.
Florence finished adding the spices. She took the wooden spoon she’d been using to stir the applesauce, gave it a sharp rap on the edge of the pan, and placed it aside. She walked quickly out of the kitchen, no doubt to go on one of her frequent trips to the water closet.
Rhoda saw her opportunity and seized it. She picked up a spice jar and began to shake it vigorously over the bubbling apples, sabotaging Florence’s hard work.
“We’ll see how much the Mrs. loves that
,” she muttered to herself as she shook and shook and shook the jar, her thin lips curling into a spiteful smile.
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Did you like this story? Keep reading--.