By Jeff Dosser
tablespoons of organic butter melted into the saucepan, one tablespoon of
minced garlic, and two tablespoons of minced ginger,” I say the words aloud, so
Gerald can hear, scraping the garlic and ginger into a pool of golden liquid at
the bottom of the pan. A thick aroma swirls from the mixture like delicious
two strips of meat, I ease them into a second pan, the smoldering olive oil
popping and hissing in protest as the tender red flesh goes in. The scent of
the basting strips mingles with that of the butter, garlic, and ginger to
create a symphony of smells that caper in the air.
I have the recipe right so far?” I ask.
seems to consider the question before answering in his melodic baritone. “So
far so good, but the key is to only sear the meat. I know the cookbook says ten
minutes, but trust me, you're gonna want to cook them only eight.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he asks. “Did you set the
hurriedly lift a white plastic grocery bag from the counter then check behind
the blender. I know I've seen that stupid timer somewhere, I just can’t recall
worry,” Gerald says with a chuckle. “I knew you'd forget. I started my own
timer the second you dropped those steaks in.”
God for small favors,” I say, stirring the butter, minced garlic, and ginger
until the sauce becomes translucent. Then I scrape in the chopped Shiitake
mushrooms and add three pinches of sea salt.
will need a minute or two to simmer before I add in the sake and mirin.” I grab
a dish towel to pat the sweat from my brow then lift a glass of Chateau Le
Boscq and take a sip savoring its dark fruity tang and swanky texture.
where were we in our discussion on sanity?” Gerald prompts.
legs of my wooden kitchen stool scrape noisily across the tile floor as I drag
it in front of the stove and drop onto the seat. “I believe you were making the
allusion that genius and insanity go hand in hand.”
yes,” Gerald says. “My quote from Aristotle, the first of the great
philosophers I might add.” He clears his throat dramatically before going on.
“No great mind existed without a touch of madness.”
you're implying genius' are mad?”
acknowledges with a grunt.
I continue, “If I might use Aristotle’s own form against him, we must conclude
that madness is simply that element which all geniuses possess? Therefore,” I
tap my chin thoughtfully, “the capacity to think at levels beyond the norm is
in itself, madness.”
grab a pair of tongs and lift the sizzling steaks from their olive oil bed and
flip them over; fiery pinpricks dust my hand as the oil seethes and spits.
at all,” Gerald counters. “I'm simply pointing out that to think outside the
box is what defines insanity, not simply the level of thought. Sanity is, after
all, dependent upon our environment. Wasn't it Ray Bradbury who said, and I quote:
Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in a cage.”
laugh, shaking my head at Gerald's uncanny ability to recall the mundane.
“Okay, okay.” I wave my hands in surrender. “I'll agree that for those of us
touched by genius, insanity is simply an element of our natures, but what of
those who might be considered of average intelligence? How does sanity, or more
importantly, insanity, apply to them?”
high pitched chirp announces the timeout on Gerald's alarm. “Out they come,” he
says. “And I bet they smell delicious.”
arise from the stool, lowering my nose as close to the sizzling steaks as
safety allows, then take a great whiff. Oh and how my mouth waters.
right,” I say, lifting the steaks from the oil and depositing them on a plate.
I give the sauce a stir, then lick the dark brown residue from my wooden spoon.
Not quite thick enough. Lowering the heat, I raise my wine glass for another
friend Josh is here,” Gerald announces. A quick glance at my phone shows Josh
sauntering down the hall towards the door. A heartbeat later there is a knock.
“I guess we'll have to finish our conversation once he’s gone,” Gerald says.
on in,” I yell, “it's open.”
steps in as I flip off the oven heat and lift the saucepan, drizzling the rich
brown concoction across the top of the steaks.
and I have known each other for years, frequenting the same clubs and enjoying
the same tastes in music. It's there, however, that the similarities between us
end. Whereas I might be considered thin, even frail by modern standards, Josh
is a man of Thor like proportions with delicious broad shoulders and
scrumptious muscled thighs. No, we've never been together, but it's not like I
my friend, where ya been,” Josh says. He closes the door his head tilting back
as he takes a sniff of the fragrant air. “Whoa, what are you cooking in here?
It smells delicious.”
kitchen's generous window overlooks my apartment’s cramped living room which
holds a leather couch to the right of the front door, a guitar pick-shaped
wooden coffee table and two three-legged chairs. As he always does when he
drops by for a visit, Josh plops onto the couch and picks up the remote
flipping on the TV and changing the channel to some kind of sport, in this
case, a football game.
leans close to the screen checking the score, then apparently satisfied with
the results, sinks into the cushions and slings an arm over the back of the
was getting worried about you,” Josh says, “you’re not returning any texts or
sigh out my frustration. Eating in front of a guest would be the paragon of
rude behavior, yet this meal was not intended for Josh.
been…well, a little preoccupied with my cooking,” I tell him. “By the way, can
I get you something to drink?”
remove a wine glass from the shelves and prepare to pour when he says, “A beer
cock a brow and somewhat sarcastically ask. “A beer?”
if ya got one.”
Ah, but for the joys of the common man, I
think pulling out one of the beers I keep in the fridge for just such
occasions. I’m certain Gerald and I will find no signs of insanity when we
examine my friend Josh.
what brings you up today?” I ask. “Stories of your weekend conquests?” I pull a
pilsner glass from the cabinet and slowly fill it with amber fluid.
I came to make sure you were okay. Haven’t you heard about the hacks?”
hacks?” I set down the glass and let the foamy head subside. Pouring beer just
isn’t my forte.
mean you haven’t heard? It’s been front page news since Friday.”
there you have it,” I say. “I rarely watch TV on the weekend. So what was
hacked this time? A nuclear power plant? The stock market?”
the new iFriend apps.”
hardly a person on the planet who doesn’t own the much-publicized iFriend
application, America’s demonstration of preeminence in the Cloud AI computing
arena. It was advertised as a program so sophisticated that it not only passed
the most advanced versions of the Turing test, the bookmark for determining
intelligence in machines, but acted as personal assistant, counselor,
librarian, and best friend all rolled into one. At only $1.99 to download, who
I knew you had one,” Josh says, “What do you call him, Gary?”
Gerald. Anyway, I thought I’d come by and make sure you were good.”
don’t understand,” I tell him. “What does my iFriend app have to do with
the North Koreans,” he pauses rubbing at his neck and looking skyward in
thought, “or maybe it was the Russians. Anyway, I can’t remember which, but one
of those guys hacked the iFriend protocol. iFriends all around the globe have
been convincing people to do horrible things. The news says it has to do with
sub-audible suggestions, and the hack only seems to affect a small segment of
the population. Still, there’s been, like, two-hundred deaths an’ thousands
more hurt by people going completely off the reservation. I just wanted to make
sure you were okay.”
off his beer and wipe away the overflow. “So you’re saying I might be crazy?” I
bob my eyebrows and give him what I think is my best ‘crazy’ smile.
not you. But you got neighbors, right. What if the old woman next door went
bonkers? Or the couple across the hall?”
grab Josh’s beer, stifling a grin as I glance down at the cooling strips of
meat on the platter.
I can assure you that despite the proclivity of my neighbors to meddle, they
will not be causing anyone any trouble.”
You’re right,” he says. “I just wanted to make sure.”
a butcher knife behind my back, I step into the living room and hold out his
know,” I say, standing just close enough so Josh has to lean out to accept it
his arm outstretched, his weight off balance, his neck exposed.
having a discussion with a close
friend of mine. We thought you should stick around for dinner.”
is a burgeoning writer living with his family on their wooded property outside
of Norman Oklahoma. Retired from the Tulsa Police after eighteen years of
service, he works as a software developer and spends his free time writing and
cycling through the Oklahoma hills. Jeff’s short stories have been picked up by
Shotgun Honey, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, and Pulp
Fiction magazines. His first novel, The Crew, was published in 2017.
KJ Hannah Greenberg captures the world in words and images. Her latest photography
portfolio is 20/20: KJ Hannah Greenberg Eye on Israel. Her most recent poetry collection is Mothers Ought to Utter Only Niceties (Unbound CONTENT, 2017). Her
most recent fiction collection is the omnibus, Concatenation (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2018).
Recently, Hannah’s seventh short story collection was published
by Bards and Sages Publishing.
The publisher writes: "Bards and Sages
Publishing is pleased to bring readers Walnut Street, our seventh short story collection by KJ Hannah Greenberg.
Greenberg’s flair for the peculiar and eclectic shines through in this collection of over fifty flash and short fiction
works featuring anthropomorphic starship pilots, angsty authors, strange neighbors, and more."
Walnut Street is available on Amazon:
Volumes One through Five of the KJ Hannah
Greenberg Short Story Collection at 50% off the list in an exclusive bundle only at