Fast Fiction: Cooking a Peacock to Impress a Lady

Hello again everyone,

Here’s another quick recap of the rules of these little fast fiction writing exercises:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random during one of my monthly writers’ group meetings. I will label that prompt at the top and where I use it in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all these posts set up to go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am on a Sunday. I reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

And that’s it. Here we go.

Prompt:

Olla looked up from her plate. She said, “I always dreamed of having me a peacock.”


Olla looked up from her plate. She said, “I always dreamed of having me a peacock.”

“I beg your pardon?” I said.

“A peacock. To eat.” Olla said again.

“Is there something wrong with the chicken?” I asked, concerned. Normally I cut both ends off a lemon and then shove the mauled citrus up the chicken’s bottom before roasting, but I forgot to buy a lemon this time and worried I had disappointed her. Our courtship was in its early days, then, and impressing her was very much on my mind. A disappointing chicken was not part of my plan.

“Oh no!” She said, relieving me. “It’s just that I took high school Latin. The Cambridge Latin texts were all built around this series of stories, and one was about the host asking his cook to prepare a peacock for a feast. It came out to the table with the tail feathers back on. I always thought that was a neat idea,” Olla said.

We spent the rest of the dinner enjoying my dry, citrusless chicken, while I plotted my next move to impress dear, sweet, apparently Latin-speaking Olla.

My first stop was my local butcher, but of course he could not help me.

“Peacock? No sir. Would a goose do?”

“No sir!” I said.

“What about a swan? I might be able to get you a swan?”

I suspected he would hand me a goose, call it a swan, and I would know no difference.

“No sir. No swan.”

“Well, what about a peahen? Not a peacock, but a peahen?”

Again, I expected he was about to sell me a duck or a pheasant or a quail. “No sir!” I said, and I left him.

Next I called around to the local vets. People have peacocks. I’ve seen them! Visit a farm or a private park. Peacocks walk around to the delight of the children. Surely a vet could tell me where they come from and how to get one?

“What do you want it for?” The vets asked.

“I want to serve it to my girlfriend for dinner to impress her. Hello? Hello?”

So that didn’t work.

Finally, I tried a private zoo.

“How much for a peacock?” I asked.

“What do you want it for?” The farmer asked.

I explained myself, and he sold me one far too quickly for my liking. I learned in the car ride home that they are evil, foul-tempered birds. I was happy to hand it over to my local butcher for slaughter.

“You found one!” He said.

Thunk went the cleaver.

“What do you want me to do with the feathers?”

“Oh, I’ll keep those!” I said.

The next dinner, I wowed Olla with my presentation. The cruel bird had much less to squawk about without a head, and I brought it out on a platter with its tail feathers arrayed, just as she had told me about.

She chewed and chewed and chewed.

It really was a tough, gamey bird.

“Well? I asked at last, plucking up my courage.

“Well, it’s a beautiful bird…” Olla began.

“Yes?”

“But…” She said, not wanting to hurt my feelings. “Have you ever tried cooking a bird with a lemon shoved up its butt? It does wonders for the tenderness and flavour!” She enthused.

Note: So, a couple of things. First?

Olla looked up from her plate. She said, “I always dreamed of having me a peacock.”

Is a really weird prompt, right? I mean, it’s not as bad as this one, but I still think the guy who is picking these prompts at ‘random’ is actually choosing them to challenge us. I’ve never heard of a woman named Olla, and she’s speaking in a strange vernacular. Beyond that, I needed to decide how important was it that she’s making this statement over a meal?

Without a better idea, I decided that was vitally important, and that I would make it the very start of the writing exercise and build up and out from there. I also decided I would lump in my high school Latin course –which did indeed feature a family whose cook specialized in peacock feasts– because a member of my old high school Latin class recently joined my writers’ group, and I wanted to make her laugh.

The lemon thing is how I cook chickens, and one I wrote it out the first time I knew Olla with her strange patter would get to repeat it at the end for a mild comedic effect. Once I knew I wanted to end with humour, the farce of shopping around for a peacock came very naturally to me. If memory serves, I finished this one with time to spare and actually set my pen down for a good minute or two while my colleagues continued to scribble away. It was a rare treat for me to watch them labour away while I knew I was content with my monthly offering to our shared merriment.

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