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Bacon Lettuce and Tomatoes

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 27 October 2016
Word Count: 2342
Summary: Just a bit of fun. Comments on content and writing please. New member so hoping for constructive help.

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Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes
Janet Baldey
‘God, if only I could get some rest.’
Bernard’s ample bottom came into violent contact with his chair.   Ignoring its protesting squeal, he sat glowering at his computer screen;   blank - except for the cursor capering in the top left hand corner.
‘Think, damn you, think!’  He thumped his head, but his mind was as empty as...as…as…the Gobi desert.   Christ!  Not one idea and now he couldn’t even think of a decent simile.
Yawning, he rubbed grit deeper into his bloodshot eyes.   He’d had no sleep for nights, every time he closed his eyes the words ‘bacon, lettuce and tomatoes’ danced in front of them.
It was the woman’s fault.   She’d sounded so delectable over the ‘phone; as  smooth as honey, her voice had flowed down the wire and trickled into his ears.   He’d always had a soft spot for the fairer sex and he remembered imagining the face and figure that went with that voice.
‘I know that you must be so busy Mr Bellemaine,’ she’d purred, ‘but it would be such an honour to have a man of your talent address our writer’s circle’. 
Her tone had mellowed and deepened into treacle.
‘Do say you’ll come.’
‘Oh yes.’ 
The words were out before he could rein in his imagination.
What a let down!  He’d gone expecting the Sistine Chapel and had found an ancient ruin.  Mind you, the evening hadn’t been completely wasted.  There were some very attractive women in the audience and Bernard always enjoyed talking about himself.
 But it was afterwards that things went downhill.  When he’d finished and  the Chairwoman creaked from her chair and looked towards him.
‘There’s just one more favour, Mr Bellemaine,’ she cooed in that treacherous voice.   ‘We’d so like you to judge our writing competition and perhaps, as a special treat, you’d enter your own contribution.   Just to show us how it’s done.’
She’d tilted her head to one side, like a toucan eyeing a tasty nut.
Bernard was astounded.   His mouth was already forming the word ‘no’, when he looked down and saw a pretty girl gazing at him with shining eyes.  Again, he was lost.
After that, the evening slid out of his control.   A tin box was thrust under his nose.
‘Could you draw the subject for us?  Every member has chosen a theme.’
Warily, Bernard  retrieved a slip of paper and glanced at it.  Blinking rapidly, he took a deep breath and when at last he found his voice, it was several octaves higher.
‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.’
He glared around the hall;  what joker had thought that one up?  There was a group of men sniggering in the back row, he bet it was one of them.
Ever since , he’d lain awake, desperate for inspiration.  Now, he was starting to panic, his mind fluttering helplessly like a trapped bird.
‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes,’ he muttered.  ‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.’
To make matters worse, other entries were flooding in.   Some of them depressingly good.
If only they knew, Bernard thought morosely.   A writer’s life is not a happy one, especially if they had an editor like his.
He hadn’t worried when he received a summons to attend a routine editorial conference.  Old Arthur Gratton, who was well into his dotage, would mumble and dither and Bernard would agree to a few minor changes and that would be that.
He’d got his first shock when he walked into the office to find, not old Arthur, but a stranger.   The usurper regarded Bernard out of flat, black, almost lidless eyes, his face contorting into a shark-like smile as he introduced himself.   Apparently, Arthur had been retired. 
As Bernard sat down, he looked at the desk with surprise that rapidly deepened into misgiving.  Lying by the side of his manuscript was a book and it was one he recognised. 
The new editor’s voice rolled towards Bernard like an oil slick.
‘It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Mr Bellemain.   I’ve looked at your novel with a great deal of interest.   Tell me, have you ever read anything by Nimrod Binns?
Bernard’s Adam’s apple convulsed, apart from that not a muscle of his face moved.   His head twitched.
‘No?  That is surprising.   Your book reminds me very much of his work.   Let me see….’
The room suddenly felt very hot and Bernard felt his forehead moisten.
The editor picked up the book, variously marked with post-it notes and started to read passages aloud, alternating them with pieces from Bernard’s work.   Bernard thought he had a particularly nasty voice, both slimy and rough at the same time.
            At last the man looked up, his eyes glistened and once more, Bernard was reminded of a predatory fish.
‘Tut, tut, Mr Bellemain.’
Bernard cringed as he remembered the rest of the meeting and the fact that, ever since, there had been a steady seepage of money from his bank account to the editor’s.   It made him want to weep to think that these poor fools were queuing up to put themselves in the hands of swine like that who were all too ready to take advantage of an author’s honest mistake.
He closed his eyes and once more the words, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes flashed before them.
 He sighed, his throat felt like a rusty file.  Cupping his mouth with his hands he expelled a deep breath and sniffed.  ‘Yeugh.’   No wonder Gloria wouldn’t have anything to do with him.   Not that it was anything to do with his halitosis;  his wife was having an affaire.  He recognised the signs, the long hours spent in the bathroom, the stream of glossy packages from expensive stores, the unexplained text messages.   What’s more, he knew her lover.   Carole, her best friend.  They’d always been close but never in his wildest dreams had he thought that Gloria would be besotted by a hairy-legged dyke.   Except that she wasn’t.   He groaned, visualising Carole’s smooth, ivory thighs.   He’d always fancied her himself;   just his luck that Gloria had got there first.
‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes,’ he crooned.   God, he needed sleep.
A sudden squall shook the windows and a veil of rain obscured the trees.   As he watched, he saw a flash of light and froze.   A shape was moving furtively across the lawn.   Damn!  They were watching the house.  He glanced at his ansaphone, the red light was blinking and his hand crept towards it, then drew back.   He’d no wish to hear that hoarse voice yet again.
‘Tell us where he is, or else.’
That particular threat had been accompanied by the stiff body of a cat stuffed into his letter box.
Thing was, he didn’t know.  Trust Justin, that randy son of his to land him in the shit.  For heaven’s sake, if he had to sow his wild oats, why had he chosen the daughter of a gang boss?   Now, he’d gone to ground and Bernard didn’t blame him.  He’d do a runner himself in the circumstances.   He imagined the wedding, the bride, a veil concealing her moustache, and his whey-faced son both surrounded by her father and his  henchmen all with suspicious bulges spoiling the lines of their tuxedos.
Bernard wrenched his mind away.
‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes,’ he intoned.
Where had he gone wrong?  
There was his daughter, little Lola, the light of his life.  Even she had grown away from him.   Okay, so she thought killing animals for food was murder.   Okay, she hated McDonald’s.   He didn’t care for them much either, their burgers were revolting.   Okay, she’d tapped him for the fare to America.   He knew she had principles and he admired her for them, but did she have to try and assassinate Ronald McDonald?   Now she was on the run, holed up in some shack in the boondocks and rapidly running out of money.   It was no good expecting any help from Gloria.   She and Lola hadn’t spoken since Lola made a bonfire of her furs.   His poor little girl, what was to become of her?  If he didn’t have other things on his mind, he would cry.
‘Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes…’
There was a faint scratching at the door that he ignored, he had more on his mind than bloody mice.
Suddenly, he snapped.
‘BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATOES’, he roared, pounding the desk.  ‘BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATOES!’
There was a muffled squeak and then silence.
After his outburst, Bernard felt drained and a little light-headed.   He got up and wandered around the room.   Outside, the dismal day was darkening to an even more dismal evening.   He switched on the standard lamp.   A watery pool of light illuminated his bookshelves and Bernard’s eyes lit upon a dictionary.   He looked up the word bacon (n) cured meat from the back or sides of a pig:  lettuce (n) a plant of the daisy family:  tomato (n) a glossy red, or yellow, pulpy edible fruit.   His shoulders slumped, no help there then.
Suddenly, the door opened and his wife burst in.   From the top of her sculptured head to the tip of her Manolo Blahnik shoes, she was quivering with rage.  Without speaking, she thrust a plate towards him.  Bernard gaped at a dispirited roll surrounded by wilting lettuce and scraps of tomato.  Extruding from the roll was thick, pinkish slab that vaguely resembled the underbelly of some obscure sea creature.
‘What’s this?’
His wife shot him a scorching look.   She was blazing, put her in a pair of jackboots and she could have taken on the whole of the Western Alliance.
‘It’s what you asked for!  Bacon, lettuce and tomato.’
Then, her voice rose to the level of a geyser about to blow.
‘While you are still here, Bernard….’
His heart plummeted, there was menace in that voice and after all, it was her house.
He forced himself to look into the icy blue fire of her eyes.   He didn’t know how it had happened but sometimes he thought the magic had gone out of their relationship.
‘While you are still here,’ she continued.   ‘I should be grateful if you would not shout at the servants.   Daisy has just given notice and you know how difficult it is to get staff.’
Bernard blinked.   He had quite forgotten how beautiful she looked when she was angry.
Bernard hadn’t realised he’d spoken aloud.  Gathering all his courage, he pushed back his chair and stood up.  
‘I said you were beautiful.’   All at once he felt invincible, like a knight in shining armour – to use one of his more memorable phrases.
Gloria stared, then her face softened and its lines melted away.
‘It’s a long time since you called me that.   I thought you were so engrossed in your writing, you didn’t notice what I looked like.’
‘And I thought you were so caught up with Carole, you didn’t care what I thought.’
Gloria took a step towards him and put a hand on his arm.
‘Bernard, Carole is my dearest friend.   I have to help her arrange her wedding.   I’m sorry that it’s taken up so much of my time.’
 ‘Carole’s getting married?’
‘I did tell you.  Don’t you remember?’
He didn’t.  He supposed he’d been too busy thinking about bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.
‘And the new hairdo…?’
‘A girl’s got to look her best.’
A trace of impatience was back in her voice but Bernard ignored it.   In spite of everything, he was starting to feel ridiculously happy.  After all, no other woman could hold a candle to Gloria.
Later, Gloria sat up and smoothed her hair.
‘Now Bernard, I want you to set the alarm.  We have to get up early to meet Lola’s flight.’
Bernard goggled.  ‘Lola’s coming home?’
Gloria nodded.
‘But how….?’ 
‘You talk in your sleep Bernard.   I find out lots of things that way.’   She shrugged.   ‘A few words in the ear of the Ambassador, who happens to be a friend of Daddy’s, and it was all sorted out.   Storm in a teacup really.’
Just then, the strident peal of the doorbell interrupted them.
Bernard froze.
‘Aren’t you going to answer it?’ asked Gloria.
A hunted expression enveloped Bernard’s face.   He had a horrid feeling that those Ansaphone messages hadn’t just been empty threats.
Guided by the moonlight shining through the windows, he slunk down the stairs, his shadow wavering behind him.   It occurred to him that he should arm himself but the nearest thing to a weapon he could see was a drunken umbrella propped up in a corner.
Through the front door’s frosted glass he could see a grotesque black shape.   As he watched, the shape reared and the doorbell shrieked again.
‘Answer the door, Bernard!’  Gloria’s impatient voice echoed down the stairs.
Abandoning all hope, Bernard undid the catch.  Immediately, the door was pushed open and an arm thrust itself in and towards the light switch.
‘What’s up?  Why no lights?’
Blinking in the sudden glare, Bernard thought, for a man on the run, Justin looked remarkably chipper.
‘Hi Dad.   This is Gina.  We’re getting hitched in the morning.’
A small figure detached itself from Justin’s side.  Gina was small, dark and pretty with only a faint trace of the moustache that Bernard had feared.
Later, Justin took Bernard aside.
‘You know, Dad, once Mario had put me straight, I realised I could have a worse father-in-law.  He’s a useful chap in many ways if you ever have a problem that needs sorting.   Know what I mean?’
He rubbed a finger along his nose and winked.   A sudden vision of a shark gutted and hung up on the quayside flashed before Bernard’s eyes.   Yes, he knew exactly what Justin meant.
It was while he was busy with his toothbrush that Bernard realised he hadn’t thought of bacon, lettuce or tomatoes the whole evening.   He bared his teeth at the mirror and felt a surge of euphoria.   With such a fine family, who needed competitions?
It was at that precise moment, he got his idea.

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Comments by other Members

scriever at 12:47 on 28 October 2016  Report this post
I liked the humour in this cautionary tale, and you established Bernard's voice well. I was left wanting to know what his idea was! I wonder if a little more backstory might make us like Bernard a bit more, given that it has such an optimistic ending. The story makes it seem that he's had writer's block for some time; was he successful at some point, without resorting to plagiarism, for example?

Thanks for sharing your story, and from one newbie to another, welcome to writewords!


Chestersmummy at 21:05 on 28 October 2016  Report this post
Hi Ross

Thanks for your comments and for your welcome to the site!.   In answer to your post - yes Bernard had become a successful 'mid-list' author in that he had a few books that had been published and had gained some aclaim.   Unfortunately, like so many others I guess, his ideas dwindled and panicked he took the easy way out and  stole a story from an obscure author without reckoning on his rather dozy, old editor being replaced by someone who was well-read, sharp-witted and unprincipled.  Poor Bernard!   However he came out of it better than he deserved when he realised that there were things in life that were more important than writing.   Can you believe that?

As to the story that flashed into his mind - who knows?  Let's hope it was good.

Best wishes

TassieDevil at 11:50 on 01 November 2016  Report this post
This was an impressive piece, Janet,
It'ssubtle humour reminded me of my own, the unexpected direction changes engaged rather than distracted, the pace and resoltion were excellent and i especially loved the clever use of images like 'doorbell shrieking'

Her tone had mellowed and deepened into treacle.

his mind fluttering helplessly like a trapped bird


Just then, the strident peal of the doorbell interrupted them

I found it refreshing, packed full of plot woven intricately together with clever dialogue. Generally I couldn't fault it. Some of the spelling like ansaphone threw me a little but I accept yourspelling. There was another word affaire with it's French spelling. Also I would normally tone done the adverbs and adjectives a tad. Less is more. Overall my impressive comment stands. This is far better than I expected and I'm glad I looked on this Short Story site as the activity seems tobe stronger on Crit Central these days.
I'd suggest it would do well in comps if you were that way inclined but it's not my forte.
Thanks for sharing. A smile to brighten up my day.

Chestersmummy at 17:31 on 02 November 2016  Report this post
Thanks for that Alan.   Are you the same Alan that critiqued my Disruption piece?   I am just testing the water at the moment.   Will hit you with a proposed novel soon!

Best wishes Janet

michwo at 17:42 on 02 November 2016  Report this post
Thanks for your comment on "The Moneylender of Kolomna", Janet.
I thought that the least I could do was to try to return the favour.  My problem is that I'm not very good at writing critiques and all I really have in common with Bernard is a weakness for attractive women which, even at the age of 67, is embarrassingly obvious sometimes.  You seem quite tongue-in-cheek with this.  I met not so long ago a Mario in Oldham who would have fitted quite well into the Polish mafia.  Maybe he's a gang leader too.  It's nice to read stories with a happy ending and this story has one.  I'm afraid that my stories are only as good as the books they flow out of.  While not daring to be plagiaristic verbatim I did, I have to say, take my moneylender story from a tale by the 19th century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol entitled "The Portrait".  I do tend to be in awe of published writers as I'm more of a translator from French than anything else.  Suffice it to say that if Valerie Martin can write Jekyll and Hyde from the point of view of a housemaid in "Mary Reilly", it sort of empowers me to re-write "The Portrait" from the point of view of the subject of the portrait who is straight out of Ghostbusters 2 in the original work!

TassieDevil at 17:54 on 02 November 2016  Report this post
Not me Janet,
I'm the Aussie Alan. Not around that much these days apart from Flash Fiction and Fast First Draft. You can always check profiles by clicking on our user names.

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