Paul Beckman


Columbia Market Delivers

I started up the back stairs with the box of groceries I was to leave in the kitchen, but the third step squeaked, and I froze and could smell my fear mixed with sweat. I saw a light through the balustrades and peeked in the open door and saw a fat, naked man lying on a metal table. His death smell rose like heat, and it hit me, and I ran up the stairs to the apartment over the funeral parlor and without knocking, I opened the door to the kitchen and put the groceries on the counter and headed back for the other box.

A stream of smoke cut off my exit and a man asked if I happened to see a fat, naked, dead man, on the way up. I starred at Mr. Dichello, and he smiled and asked again, said he misplaced him, and the smile showed his two gold teeth, one above the other, shining bright from the overhead light.

“I’m going down for your other groceries,” I said.

“Where’s Burt?” he asked.

“He’s in the truck waiting for me so I’d better hurry.”

“Well, if you see that naked, fat, dead man hold onto him and give me a yell, willya?”

The Devil Dog come up in my throat. I’d swiped it from the store and ate it quickly before Burt came down with the order. “Get two empty boxes and I’ll call out the items. You bring them over and I’ll pack em up and you can come with me to Dichello’s to deliver them.”

I ran down the stairs and didn’t look back at the naked, fat, dead guy on the table and was sweating and shaking when I got to the truck.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Burt laughed. “Bring this other box up quick so we can deliver the rest of the groceries.”

As soon as the back door closed behind me, I stuck my head in the box and breathed in the fresh seeded rye bread. I sucked in the smell afraid I’d suck the seeds out. Finally, I lifted my head and took the stairs two at a time barely glimpsing the naked, dead, fat man’s feet.

Contributor Note

Food and Family Often Show Up In My Stories

I don’t set out to write about food, but like family, it shows up often in my writing without an invitation. Take mac and cheese, please. It pops up every now and then and I’ve never tried it and have no plans to ever try it even though some restaurants are including lobster to try and get people like me or my doppelganger, Mirsky, to hop on the mac and cheese bandwagon.

In my 297-word flash story, Goodbye Already published in Brilliant Flash Fiction there are both food and family making appearances. There are serving stations for pasta, porchetta, mac and cheese, and the dessert station featuring cannolis, panna cotta, sfogliatelle, and gelato. There are also waitresses walking around serving appetizers: pigs in a blanket (kosher), 12-15 size shrimp, and a raw bar with clams and oysters. Grappa also makes a cameo.

In 2008, my first ever story published I set the food and family tone in The Hartford Courant’s Parade-like magazine, Northeast, with my story, “Gramps.” This story features a mother and her brother not speaking for years because she wouldn’t give him her recipe for her “Famous Chicken Fricassee.” Sponge cake and fresh strawberries also had supporting roles.

In 2008, my 1100-word flash story, “Two Ships” was published by Playboy. It featured the cuckolding Mirsky brothers and restaurants from 4 stars to take out. And there are more, many more stories where food either makes a cameo or is the featured player. It pops up and I go with it.

Paul Beckman is a Connecticut writer whose latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Connotation Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Monkey, WINK, Jellyfish Review, Wax Paper, Blink-Ink, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was shortlisted in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Paul curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly in KGB’s Red Room (Currently Virtual).

“Columbia Market Delivers” was originally published in Fictive Dream and will be in Paul’s forthcoming collection next year.

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Issue One