Everytime I Eat Vegetables it makes me think of you by J.R. Handfield

Flash Fiction

I’m so glad we get to do this. Fuck, it’s hard to meet people at our age, y’know? Old punks like me never quite learned how to outgrow that life. We’re still wearing our patched jackets, can’t hear a fuckin’ thing because we never wore earplugs back in the day so we just feel like we’re yelling all the time, y’know?  


But yeah, I’m glad I found you. Must have been a hell of a surprise to see me, right? Like, blast from the past n’shit?  Glad we can put it all behind us. Feels good, feels right…



Oh, this place? It looks worse than it is. We’re in Astoria. Close enough to the city without paying city premiums, y’know? Yeah, it’s still pricey, and I know they kicked out all the quote-unquote “un-desirables” so it’s more appealing. “Up and coming,” that’s the words they use for the fuckin’ kombucha bars and craft brewery shit, right?  


Been here for a little while now. This apartment ain’t mine, but I wish it were. I could do a lot for this dump. Gentrify the whole fuckin’ area but leave some rat nests behind anyway, right? Hipsters don’t give a shit as long as they can do their yoga next door to a Whole Foods and grab a Starbucks on the way to work. They don’t have to come down this far to see how the rest of us live. Big fuckin’ city and they stay within three blocks of home. In-fuckin’-credible.


Whatever, it’s nice enough and the neighborhood ain’t too loud, not much else a guy can ask for given the situation. I mean, there’s a community garden right around the corner from here. Reminds me of you and the asparagus. Remember the asparagus? 



Yeah, yeah, Astoria. It’s a little on the bougie side n’shit, but whatever. It’s nice, it’s quiet, you can just sit there with your coffee and relax, no one’s shootin’ up at your front stoop… No one bugs me here unless I want them to bug me. Neighbors keep to themselves. All that good shit. Nice and anonymous for once.


Anything’s better than that shithole up the L.I.E., though, lemme tell ya. Fuuuckin’ aye, that place. Huntington, Long Island, a piss-poor excuse for a town. That’s where I come from. You know the types from those small towns. Them working class people who know the value of a day’s work, but don’t know enough to get out of their own way, escape their past? A bunch of people who know what they know and it’s all they’ll know, salt of the earth types?



Ever been in a small town? Like, actually lived in one? Yeah, yeah, everyone knows who you are and shit, which is a blessing for some but a motherfucking curse if you ever do anything bad that catches someone’s attention. Yeah, maybe you get to relive your fuckin’ glory days every year at homecoming if it went well for you, but for the rest of us sad sacks? It’s like that old Irish joke, you know? “They don’t call McGregor the pier builder, but if y’fuck one goat…” 



Nonononono FUCK no, I didn’t fuck any goats, I see what you were thinking. I’m just saying that a guy could get a reputation for whatever the hell they get up to if they ain’t careful. 


I could have stayed there, y’know. It would have been easy shit, too. Work at my old man’s shop, take over the house when they got old and died, married some local girl – hey, like, that’s hard too, y’know? Relationships? Especially in a place with the same people you grew up with and then you don’t get that first impression, right? Like, Suzie from second grade got hot when she got older but she also saw you piss yourself at recess, so that ain’t workin’, right?   It’s not the same as being called the goat fucker, for sure, but it’s still some shit. Reminds me of that kid we all called “Boner” back in the day…


Hell, though, Huntington. Lots of old shit in Huntington. Old shit, old people, old blood, old money. All that Bernie Sanders shit about the middle class and “da one puhssent,” that’s Huntington’s other side of the tracks for ya. You know, the rich folks, and then the rest of us. The fact that they had to mingle with us little people in the schools was bad enough for them, so they up and build their own fuckin’ neighborhood instead of catching a case of the poors or whatever. Then you end up with the Romeo and Juliet bullshit where you don’t want your kind hanging out with THOSE people. 


It ain’t a race thing with them, either, it’s all about money. Rich folks don’t trust the poor ones because they think the poor are gonna steal from ‘em, the poor folk don’t trust the rich ones because they think the rich already stole from ‘em. 


Was that my life? Nah. I mean, yeah, I met a girl from there, and it wasn’t one that saw me piss myself, either. But it didn’t work out. It was just bad news for everyone involved. Fuckin’ hell.



Man, now you got me all pissed off about her again. She’s fuckin’ dead to me, I didn’t need to relive that shit. All she fuckin’ did was big time me over and over with her stupid fuckin’ friends. I’m better than that bitch, and now she knows it. 


She fuckin’ knows, because I made sure of it.



I’m sorry, you don’t give a shit about any of this. Here I am, making you listen to my life story like I’m some fuckin’ martyr. Yeah, things went batshit with the girl and I got my ass out of Huntington before people started askin’ around. Moved into the city right after nine-eleven when rent was dirt cheap in Midtown ‘cause of the terrorists. Moved out of the city after that stupid power outage in oh-three, because fuck that shit. 


Man, remember, like, all the day traders n’shit walking down the Brooklyn Bridge like a bunch of fuckin’ rats off a sinkin’ ship after the blackout. If you lived in the city on nine-eleven then stayed around after that squirrel bit the wires and shut down the whole fuckin’ east coast, man, props. But I’ll always remember the girl I was seein’ at the time. She lived in one of those super old buildings that retain heat like a motherfucker, so she decided to come to my place to ride it out. 


By then, I was already lookin’ for a way out of that relationship because she was just fucked in the head. Power outage made it pretty easy since everyone was partying in the streets and shit, so the last fight we ever had stayed between us, y’know what I’m sayin’? When you blast music in the alleys, that sound? It bounces all around and hides pretty much any screamin’ someone might do, and that awkward silence afterward when there’s only one person left after ya’ have at it, all huffin’ and puffin’ and tryin’ to catch their breath like a buncha fuckin’ cage fighters? Yeah, that ended when the lights turned back on and the fireworks started goin’ off. Absolutely brings ya back…



Anyway, that whole episode got me out of the city right quick, and right after that blackout was when we first met, right? Down in New Hyde Park? 



Yeah, yeah, I see it in your eyes, NOW you remember. When I first saw you, man… a fuckin’ vision. You were – you are, you STILL are – the most beautiful chick I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget it. You were at that old produce shop, Horn of Plenty or some shit, and, like, yeah, I saw you right over near the asparagus, and I go “hey, you know what they say about asparagus, right?” and you go “uh, no,” and I go “yeah, it’s an aphrodesiac and you’re fuckin’ gorgeous” and you laughed your ass off. 


Man, to this day no one’s laughed at my jokes the way you laughed at mine. To this day, every time I eat vegetables it makes me think of you. Asparagus, broccoli, lettuce and shit, you name it. If a fuckin’ rabbit eats it, it puts a smile on my face and a rise in my jeans, y’know what I mean?



We were great together! I know, I know, I got a little crazy at the end there. You shouldn’t have had to remember that, I’m sorry. But so many women just give up on me so quick, then I have to take care of it and clean up the mess they made, I just got real excited that you were stickin’ around. 


You didn’t have to go, you know. 


I told you not to go. 


I told you it’d work out. 


You didn’t listen, though. You never fuckin’ listened…



Whatever, I’m here now, so it’s okay. After you got away from me, I kinda laid low for a while. Moved back closer to the city, did some odd jobs here and there for a few years. Saw a doctor, what a fuckin’ quack he was. Put me on some thorazine or some shit, all because he said I was hearin’ things like some sorta psycho. But fine, listen to the good doctor, try to get right, all that shit. All the pills did were keep me up all night and gimme whiskey dick. I finally said fuck that shit, and moved out here to Astoria. Finally settled down and found a place when the stock market went to shit. Not that I was invested or nothin’ like that, but it’s when I realized for good that the big city, that big city people, they ain’t for me. 


Like, I’m almost forty, right? And now I’m the old guy at the rock clubs and I’m still fuckin’ alone, and no one wants to be near you. It’s enough to give a guy a fuckin’ complex. I met this one girl, she was a banker with Bears Stearn or whatever the fuck it was called. Hot shit, that one. She’d show up at the punk shows in her business casuals, pencil skirt with a shiny low-cut top and heels, it was fuckin’ wild. She got fuckin’ sloshed one night and took me back to her place. We had quite the evening. Very memorable. Well, for me anyway… I’d say it was probably a nightmare for her but she ain’t around to tell anybody about it, right?



What’s that look for? Oh, because I slit her fuckin’ throat? 



I wouldn’t touch your throat, honey. Don’t worry. I have other plans for you. A very special evening planned for you and me. Y’see, because after I slit that banker’s fuckin’ throat, I had to go hide out again. The fuckin’ internet, man, it’s impossible to get ridda anyone without the tweets and the Facebooks and stuff just spreading your shit everywhere these days. Growing up, it was easier. You either got on Unsolved Mysteries because it was a weird murder with bigfoot or some shit, America’s Most Wanted if it was a kid you killed, COPS if you were high on meth. Today, like… you remember those two guys that set off the bombs up in Boston at the race? Now we’ve got fuckin’ internet detectives out there trying to piece shit together with camera footage. It’s why we don’t have aliens visiting us anymore, y’know, ‘cause we all got cameras now and we’re livestreaming shit twenty-four-seven.


But yeah, banker bitch goes missing and within hours there’s a “Find Becky” on Facebook. Then some website called reddit has a forum or some shit about the her, and some asshole is like “hey, doesn’t this sound just like that murder in Midtown during the blackout” and the next thing you know they’re talkin’ about me like I’m the fuckin’ Zodiac. Like, I’m honored, but fuck, man, I woulda covered my tracks better.



Why are you crying, babe? Listen, I’m done now. I was angry then, and then you escaped, and I took it out on some people, but now we’re together. Like we should be. Like we’re meant to be. Peanut butter and jelly.  Or, like, salad dressing and lettuce, right? ‘Cause of the vegetables. My grandmother, she liked asparagus on toast. That’s weird, right?


Ehhh, you don’t give a fuck about any of this. You just wanna get outta here. I get that, I do.  Ain’t the first time you’ve wanted that, but it’ll be the last, ‘cause you ain’t fuckin’ leaving this time.



No one can hear you, darlin’. That’s why I gagged you before you woke up, instead of waiting like last time. I remembered last time. That’s why I went with zip ties on the chair instead of the duct tape. Yeah, and if you haven’t noticed yet, the chair is one of them metal folding ones, so you won’t be able to slam around and break it.


Fuck, I miss that chair. That was a good fuckin’ chair you wrecked.



Oh, you like this? I found this fuckin’ knife at some yard sale about a week ago. Didn’t expect I’d get to use it so soon. 


Hey, y’know what this reminds me of? Remember when you and I watched Reservoir Dogs that one time, the part with that song where he dances and then cuts off that motherfucker’s ear? Yeah, classic fuckin’ scene, am I right? And it’s like we could reenact it right here if we wanted. Tie your hair up all nice, take the knife, have a nice little keepsake of our time together. Maybe I can put it in a little green bag, too! Get it? Like the other song in the movie?





Okay, fuck it, whatever. It was great seeing you, and I’m truly sorry it had to end this way. You could have stayed, you know. We could have avoided all of this shit. Instead, now my last memory of you is gonna be you bleedin’ out on this tarp in the middle of some abandoned apartment near the community garden. Fuckin’ poetic, right?


Man, I’m gonna miss Astoria. Dunno where I’ll end up next, quite honestly. Maybe Jersey? I dunno, but I do know that I’ll remember this night fondly. 


Maybe I’ll start a garden at my next spot. Grow some asparagus to remember you by…

J.R. Handfield (@jrhandfield on Twitter) lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife, his son, and his cat; not necessarily in that order.  He is a co-editor of ProleSCARYet: Tales of Horror and Class Warfare, and his work can be found in multiple Hundred Word Horror anthologies from Ghost Orchid Press.