Tuesday, 22 November 2011

F3 - Cycle 57 - '57 Ways To Leave Your Lover'

F3 (Flash Fiction Friday) has, apparently, had 57 different flash fiction challenges! I haven't been able to contribute to all of them but I couldn't miss this week's cue: a tale involving ketchup, courtesy of the association of the number '57' with a well known producer of said, rosey-toned condiment!

Anyway, the challenge was for a 1,000-word (max.) tale where ketchup was involved. Clocking in at exactly 1,000 (following some judicious pruning!) here's my offering for you to savour! And if you'd like to comment, that would be most appreciated :-)

57 Ways To Leave Your Lover

It started with a silly argument, as most great conflicts often do. A simple slight, a perceived lack of value, an unkind word; but really – had this all come to pass over a bottle of ketchup?

Myra looked at the empty side of the bed. It lay cold and uninviting, the covers still in place where she had smoothed them back, the pillow still plump and pristine, devoid of the rumpled hollow where his head should have lain.

Sitting up, knees drawn forward she rested back against the headboard, cradling the cup of warmth in her hand and sipped at her early morning tea. Dawn was still far off and night lingered, unending and sleepless. Her head ached, not a crashing pain but the tension of an oppressive compression as if her skull was trapped in a vice that insidious demons were slowly but surely tightening with each turn of the screw.

She closed her eyes and thought back to a few hours earlier, when her world was so different; blemished and a little out of kilter maybe, but going according to plan.

Daniel had been singing in the shower, off key as always but he knew all the words; Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan would be proud of this ‘modern major general’! She’d encouraged him to find something to do outside the home although she’d been a little surprised when he’d joined the local operatic society.

Downstairs, Myra had cooked his breakfast, a ‘full English’; a weekend treat, even though weekends didn’t really exist for them anymore. A week ‘end’ implied the end of a week of work, a time for rest and relaxation. Since Daniel had lost his job months ago, the days had rolled one into the other. Myra’s part-time job at the dental practice had helped but there was a big discrepancy between her meagre earnings and the bills that fell through the letter box with alarming frequency.

The usual morning pleasantries as he’d sat down at the kitchen table gave no hint of the furore which was to follow. She'd finished ladling out sausages, bacon and eggs on to the plate and set it down before him.

“Where’s the ketchup?” he'd asked, a little curtly, without even a simple word of thanks for the fact that Myra had risen early and cooked him a wonderful breakfast. She'd picked up the bottle, not six inches from his plate and set it in front of him.

Daniel had picked it up with his fingertips and peered at it as if examining something crude and distasteful.

“What is this?” he'd said slowly.

“Ketchup”, she'd replied.

“No, this is tomato sauce. Where’s the ketchup?”

She'd looked at the offending article he’d replaced on the table, then pushed away as if to distance himself from something unpleasant. The chubby plastic bottle with its white flip-top stood desultory and disregarded. True, it bore a different label from his favoured variety and it wasn’t the usual slender glass receptacle with its customary white screw cap but the contents were the same, mostly. It was red and it tasted of tomatoes at any rate. It was also a lot cheaper and in their current financial state it represented a valued economic cut to the weekly food bill.

The tantrum that ensued had taken Myra quite by surprise. As Daniel had leapt to his feet, knocking his chair to the ground, she’d watched in disbelief as he swept aside his plate, accompanied by a tirade about her rubbing in the fact that he could no longer provide the standard of living they had once enjoyed and oh, how much she must enjoy seeing him reduced to seeking state benefits.

As he stormed out of the room she’d watched the congealed mess of egg yolk slowly making it’s way down the wall accompanied by greasy smears left by the bacon and sausages until it reached the mess of broken crockery lying on the floor.

She’d still been considering what had just happened when she’d heard the defiant stomping footsteps coming down the stairs and the echoing slam of the front door which announced Daniel’s departure.

That had been yesterday morning. Now, the house was curiously still and quiet; peaceful in a way that had not been the norm for quite a while. Myra had to confess, as the warmth of the tea bathed her belly in a sea of contentment, that she was really rather relieved he’d gone.

After months of speculation, she’d discovered the real reason for Daniel’s extra evenings out ‘rehearsing’ with the chorale society. Her name was Deanna and she sang soprano. Although Daniel was not the world’s best singer he was blessed with an impressive skill on the piano and spent hours as repetiteur, while the society rehearsed and refined their performance for the forthcoming production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.

For Myra, it had explained a lot of things, including the frequent times she’d ‘interrupted’ him answering yet another call about a last minute 'rehearsal' and the distance that had grown into a no-man’s-land between them in bed. This had apparently not been anything to do with his diminishing role as provider, as he’d intimated.

Now, as she surveyed the half empty wardrobe devoid of the bag full of clothes Daniel had taken, Myra was only a little disconsolate to realise that the ‘special’ breakfast over which she’d taken great pains had ended up in the garbage bin. She would have liked to have seen Daniel doubled up in agony on the toilet as the massive dose of laxatives she’d stirred into his coffee would have eventually taken effect. It had been only number one on her list of acts of retribution for his betrayal.

How odd that a simple matter of budget cutting, instead, would rid her of Daniel’s treachery. There must be 57 ways to leave your lover, she hummed to herself, smirking that Paul Simon would now be forever linked in her imagination to a bottle of sauce.


  1. just pur on the ketchup, Fletchup - and set yourself free... As usual you had me at "It started..."

  2. Clever, Sue, such a clever use of the ketchup angle. Obviously he was just using the bargain brand ketchup as an excuse to start a fight to leave her and try to make her feel bad. Mission accomplished for her though--she did get rid of that dead weight. Unfortunately, she did miss out on the ultimate revenge! Great story.

  3. On the one hand; hahahaha. Nice imagery with Myra trying to spike his eggs at the end.

    On the other hand, it's a sad tale. It's amazing that an object as simple as a bottle of ketchup could be the catalyst to such self destruction.

    Nicely Done :).

  4. Hi Sue .. loved this story - great murder mystery tale .. and the twist to the sauce bottle .. cheers Hilary

  5. It had been only number one on her list of acts of retribution for his betrayal.

    The old saying, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" comes to mind. And to think for a couple of paragraphs I was actually feeling sorry for Daniel.

    Great story!

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  7. Thanks for the comments, folks! I must admit - as soon as the challenge was announced I had that title running through my mind! When I started, I'd planned it with a different ending - but 'Myra' had other ideas......! ;-)

  8. Very kewl story. Great way to use a bottle of ketchup as an incidental to something a bit more devious. :D

  9. Any way you slice this was a nice clever story Sue. Well done and over easy.

  10. Terrific story, Sue. I like that there was no blood-letting. :) Just ketchup.

  11. Ketchup is kind of disgusting on breakfast food anyway. Relationships can be tough and often the real roots of a problem surface over something nonsensical.

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