[Edge1.1.22] Friendly Neighborhood Gossip – Dave Bailey

[Edge1.1.22] Friendly Neighborhood Gossip

She got right to work, chopping, slicing, and dicing. Soon, she had a whole pile of pans out on the stove with all kinds of delicious smells wafting out into Art’s nostrils. His stomach growled hungrily. Art went into the living to get away from it, but he could still hear the food sizzling over the fire. He almost couldn’t take it anymore and was about to go raid the fridge for something to munch on when she brought him out a huge plate of fries. Joanna set them on the table with a large bottle of Heinz ketchup.

“Hamburgers are almost ready, but here’s a little appetizer to get you in the mood,” she said.

Art grinned and attacked the plate voraciously.

“Oh, my goodness!” he moaned ecstatically through a mouthful of fries. “This is sooooo good!”

Joanna grinned with pleasure. “It’s an old recipe that was handed straight down from my great-grandmother. They’re made from the largest, freshest Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes dipped in secret seasoning before being fried at four hundred and twenty-five degrees for exactly four minutes.”

Art grinned and gave her a thumbs-up signal with one hand as he continued to shovel fries in his mouth with the other.

“It’s amazing,” he finally managed to blurt out after swallowing the food he was chewing on.

Joanna beamed with pleasure. “Good. I’m glad you like it.”

She went back into the kitchen and came out a minute later with one of the most delicious looking hamburgers Art had ever laid eyes on in his life.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to finish this one all off, but I made another one just in case because you said you were really hungry. I’ll keep it warm for you in the kitchen.”

It was huge. She must have used at least a pound of meat just for the burgers. There were two large, perfectly round patties stuffed with melted cheese that was drizzling off the sides between large slices of pickles and tomatoes. Art could barely get his mouth over the edges of the sandwich.

Joanna brought out another heaping portion of fries that were still sizzling right out of the pan.

“Can you bring me some mayonnaise, please.” Art asked.

When she brought it out, he spooned out a large portion of the thick, white substance and squirted ketchup across the top of it. He dipped his fries in it and took a big bite.

“Ew!” Joanna said as she made a face. “That looks disgusting.”

“No, way! It’s so good.” Art said. “Besides, it can’t be worse than salt & vinegar chips. Here, try some.”

He shoved the plate towards her, and she tentatively ran a fry through the red and white mixture. She tasted it and seemed pleasantly surprised.

“You’re right. This is pretty good,” she said.

“So, what was that you said earlier?” Art asked. “Something about all the strange things that have been going on around here.”

Joanna got quiet and busied herself by bustling away to the kitchen saying she needed to check on the other hamburger.

Art followed her out into the kitchen as he polished off the rest of his burger.

“Do you want more?” she asked as she poked at french fries and stirred them around.

He shook his head and pulled out a stool to sit down at the kitchen island.

“I’m good. Thanks. That was great though. Leave it there because I’ll have the other one for a midnight snack.”

“So, about those rumors that you heard earlier. What was that all about?” he asked.

Joanna ignored the question again and turned toward the fridge.

“Normally, I’d make you something fancy for dessert myself. But like I said, today was exceptionally busy, and everything I prepared got eaten up. And they didn’t give me much advance notice about your supper. So, the best I can do for you is a slice of pecan pie with a bowl of butter pecan ice cream. Is that okay?” she asked.

“Sure,” Art said with a nod.

“But if you want, I can make you some crème de brûlée,” she added.

“No, no. Pie and ice cream sounds great.” Art said. “Actually, forget the pie. Just give me the ice cream. I’m pretty stuffed from the burgers and fries.”

She scooped four huge spoonfuls of ice cream into a large bowl and handed it to him with a spoon.

“Those rumors, Joanna. What have you heard?” he asked.

She sighed and rolled her eyes.

“Can’t we just forget I said that?” she pleaded.

“No,” Art said as he shook his head. “You got me curious now. I’ve just arrived and want to make sure I’m in the loop.”

Joanna giggled. It was a cute, little sound. She sounded almost like a child when she did that. She looked around carefully like someone might be listening in on them.

“Well, people have been talking you know. Mostly about you and whatever it is that you do,” she said almost in a whisper.

She looked at him knowingly as if she was waiting for him to confirm what she was talking about. Art raised his eyebrows and shrugged as if he didn’t know anything about this.

“Oh, c’mon. Don’t play dumb with me.” she said. “You’ve got some kind of DNA splicing technology. Right?”

Art wasn’t sure how to answer her. He didn’t think that was something that Tony had spread around. And he wasn’t sure how much she really knew. But right now, he needed to learn everything he could so it wouldn’t help to deny it.

“Yeah. My company works with plants though. What’s going on here?” he asked.

“Hmm,” she said and kept drying her dishes as she looked at him for a long time trying to decide what to say.

“I don’t want to lose my job or anything,” she said. “Did Tony really not tell you, or are you just stringing me along.”

Art decided to shock her just to see how she would react.

“Alpha Four was shot today over something he was going to tell me,” Art said. “But he didn’t get a chance to finish.”

“Oh, my!” Joanna said as she covered her mouth with the towel. “Then it’s bad then.”

She tossed the towel to the side and grabbed a clean one from the rack.

“Well, I probably shouldn’t be telling you any of this then, but if you want the inside scoop, you should talk to Carla,” she said.

“What? The cleaning girl.” Art replied in exasperation. “She was just here and acted like she didn’t know anything.”

Joanna grinned. “I know. I think she was just testing you. Did she tell you about her brother?”

Art nodded.

“So, then she must have realized she could trust you somewhat. Her brother used to work down on Sector Seven. They were responsible for the top-secret projects going on here at LocTec. Something bad happened. There was a huge rift in the company. Several of the employees broke off in some kind of revolution. They swore they would bring down the company for whatever it was that had happened. I really don’t know. So, I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to. But Carla’s brother disappeared in the process.”

“Right. She told me about that,” he said.

Joanna raised her eyebrows, “Really? She must have taken a liking to you then. Some say that he’s leading a revolt against the company and that they are going to sabotage Tony’s work. So, just be careful and keep your eyes peeled if Tony wants you to do anything down there. You’ll most likely be on their hit list.”

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>> https://davebailey.me/go/crew