A Valentine’s Ficlet

The chili sloshed in the crock, and Janie stopped her slow, unsteady pace to the back door of the building she worked in. Whose bright idea was it have a chili cook-off the day before Valentines?

Oh, yeah. Her crush. Carson McMichaelson.

Which was why, even though she was a vegetarian, she’d spent fifty bucks on ingredients, borrowed her neighbors crock pot, and made chili last night. She’d left it on cooking all night on low; she;d had to, it hadn’t been put together until five minutes past her bedtime.

So the pot was hot, wrapped in a large bath towel, and set into her laundry basket for the ride into base and for the treacherous walk across the lot to the building.

It still might not make it all the way in.

Struggling–her purse wanted to slide down her shoulder and it took her three minutes to find her badge onthe end of the lanyard withonly one hand while resting her laden laundry basket against the wall–she made it into the building and to the conference room where everything had been set up the day before.

“Just put yourpot nextto a number, thenput your name by that number on this sheet of paper.” Karen, fromaccounting, waved the printed paper in her face.

Janie wasn’t overly fond of Karen; the young woman had a tendency to wave papers–and other items–in her face. She was also pretty and slim and talked with Carson a lot.

Doing as she was told, Janie left the room in a rush, basket and towel in hand, and marched to her desk. Being on the bottom of the ladder in Admin meant she needed to be at her desk, working, before the supervisor came in.

Mrs. Bradshaw was nice to work for, in all honesty. She didn’t expect Janie, only 3 months in to the job, to know everything she needed to know and was a very good teacher. There were instruction and policies to follow, and Janie appreciated that to no end.

The woman just had a few odd rules that Janie sometimes had trouble complying with. Like being at her desk, busy, when walked in the door.

Mrs. Bradshaw smiled at Janie then frowned at the empty desk on the other side of the room. “Millie not in yet?”

“I haven’t seen her, Ma’am.” Janie winced. Poor Millie was going to get an earful later. Even if she had a good reason.

“Did you bring a chili in?” Mrs. Bradshaw smoothed her dark grey curls away from her face and hung her grey greatcoat on the coat rack.

“Yes, I did. I took it in sgtraight away.”

Mrs. Bradshaw smiled, “Oh, good,” and went into her office, almost closing the door behind her.

It was a busy morning without Millie–who had indeed gotten an earful from Mrs. Bradshaw when she’d finally called in to let them know she was sick. there was a slight easing of the lecture when Millie explained she;d been at the hospital emergency room.

At lunch, everyone crowded into the conference room to hear the announcment of the winner and then to chow down on the offerings. It would cost money to get a bowl of the winning chili (as well and second and third)–that would go tto the winners as part of their prize. Everyone else was free.

Carson–who was a stand-in judge when the Deputy had a meeting–was pale and sweating. Janie wondered ifhe had the same bug as Millie.

Janie hadn’t won, of course. She hadn’t expected to, after all, her’s didn’t even have meat in it, but a soy and wheat substitute.And it was her first chili.No one won with their first chili.

Though getting her picture taken with the Colonel and Carson would have been nice.

A loud retching noise made everyone pause and look.

Poor Carson wasn’t pale anymore, but flushed, with vomit on the floor in front of him.

“Oh, God!” Karen gasped–she’d been standing closest to him–and waved her papers in front of this face, backing away. “Carson!”

The Colonel, who’d been standing next closest seemed unfazed–which was probably a good quality in a Colonel. “You okay, buddy?” He called everyone Major and below “buddy”, even his civilians.

Carson shook his head,doubling over. “Soy..wh..wheat. Allergy..allergies.”

Janie felt sick herself. She’d poisoned Carson with her chili.

[I hope you enjoyed this little fic–inspired by the chili cook-off at my work–dubbed “heart-burn day” that we hold the Thursday before Valentine’s.]

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