Flash fiction and artwork by Benny Feldmann. Click on pictures to enlarge.
Deep within Jack’s stomach, a mass of seven partway digested mangos clumped together to form a large obstruction which plugged entry into his small intestine. His stomach protested in a deep, bellowing roar, sending pain thrashing through his belly. Jack was overcome by an urge to throw up, right then and there, fifty feet from the Intelligentsia Cafe, five minutes before his 3 o’clock interview, surrounded by the slow, thick afternoon crowd of downtown shoppers. It was as if a rubber hammer was swung upwards into his abdomen.
He groaned, grabbing his button-up shirt and twisting. His tie hit his face when he bent down, and as he pulled it away he had no choice but look directly at his black slacks and glossy new shoes. The interview. He forced himself to a standing position, ploughing forward and swallowing the urge to puke.
Normally at this time of the day, Jack could be found on the corner of Union and Raymond, standing behind a cart which read in thick, sloppy paint, “Delicious Mangos. Cheap as Hell.” A cardboard add-on read “Buy One Get One Free.”
Jack ate seven whole mangos out of frustration earlier that day. Perhaps to prove nothing was wrong with them.
He spat out frequent “mmmm!”s and “so good”s, and chewed loudly at people passing by.
He never understood why nobody ever bought any, and out of exasperation picked up a copy of Working World. He sent in an application for a position at an upscale coffee shop, the Intelligentsia Cafe.
The door swung open, and Jack was engulfed by a powerful aroma. Pure, black coffee.
People everywhere. Chattering. Laughing. Every inch of the room sang with conversation, which hit Jack in his current state like a nauseating brick to the head.
Bare light bulbs hung from ropes on the ceiling, their cords interwoven to form a net that looked very much like a spaciously knit blanket. Small, metallic tables filled the room, two or three steel-framed chairs with red cushions to each one. There was a line from the register on the far right wall to the middle of the room, and the employees scurried around wearing white, latex gloves, behind the counter.
A man standing directly to Jack’s left caught his eye, arm extended. He wore a brown, plaid suit and had curly hair. He looked to be about 30, slightly older than Jack, and had a noticeable amount of stubble layering the sides of his face. He was fairly thin, and not much taller than Jack.
On the table beneath him lay two crumb cakes and two steaming coffee mugs, a clipboard, and a pen.
“Morning, sir!” Jack shook the man’s hand. Each pump was like a knife to his stomach.
“Why don’t you sit down, Jack?”
“Why of course, sir.”
He tried to keep his composure when he hit the seat.
“So why,” the man squinted like he was searching for the right words, “why do you want to work here?”
“Well, uh, I’ve always loved coffee, and actually ever since I was six is when I’ve actually been drinking coffee from.”
The interviewer nodded, as if in agreement, and his pen wiggled behind the plastic clipboard.
“What do you think qualifies you for this position?”
Jack slid his fingers under the mug’s handle and lifted it slowly to his lips, trying to prepare an adequate answer.
And at that exact moment inside Jack’s body, the blockage between his stomach and small intestine reached its threshold. An upsurge of digestive juices and compressed food exploded upwards, crashing through the barricade and sending Jack lurching forward, spitting a mist of coffee into the air, his body convulsing to keep him from throwing up all over the table.
His face pinched into a painful grimace, and his hand slapped hard onto his mouth. He dropped the mug, heard it crash on the table, and continued struggling against the rising slop of food stuff.
His bodily convulsions slowly lessened in amplitude, and within 15 seconds Jack had once and for all beat down the urge to puke.
His stomach calmed, and he sucked in a deep breath of air, chest expanding and muscles relaxing.
Every inch of the coffee shop was filled with silence.
The interviewer stared Jack directly in his eyes, coffee spilling from his clothing to the table and floor, and roared, “GET OUT.”