Black Petals Issue #101 Autumn, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
Dig Deep, the Therapist Said: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Dinner Club: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
God of the Winds: Fiction by Scáth Beorh
Head Pot: Fiction by Spencer Harrington
His Deadly Muse: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Patrick Hatrick: Fiction by Bruce Costello
Squawking Chimes: Fiction by Robert Pettus
The Courier: Fiction by Billie Owens
The Midnight Sonata: Fiction by David Hopewell
The Wolves are Coming: Fiction by Mauri Orr Stone
Abduction: Flash Fiction by Laura Nettles
I'm Your Garlic:Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Ho/Ma:i - (Ho-maaa-ee): Flash Fiction by Rani Jayakumar
Mona Wants to Die, but She Lets the Weather Decide:Flash Fiction by Riham Adly
The Cookie Crumbles: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Right Knife: Flash Fiction by David Barber
A Devilish Matter of Disinvitation: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Abhor the Light!: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Shadow House-A Writer's Retreat: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Accursed Personae: Three excerpted Poems by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Remember When We Watched "Kill Bill" Together: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
I Die, You Die: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Northbound Train: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Haunted Liquor Cabinet: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Candlelight Killer: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Wooden Soldiers: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Curse of Verse: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When a Star Dies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker

Mark Jabaut: Dinner Club

Art by Michael D. Davis © 2022

Dinner Club


Mark Jabaut



The bartender leaned over the bar and put his face close to mine. I could smell garlic and cigarettes and see black pores on his nose.

“I know of a restaurant,” he said softly, his German accent clogging the ends of each word, “where you can eat food that you can eat nowhere else. Very special. Very private. Is this something that you might be interested in?”

The words sounded gently menacing. I felt the hair on my arms stiffen. “Food you can eat nowhere else?” I said. “What do you mean? Are you talking about, like, tiger or something? Endangered animals?”

The bartender smiled and leaned away from me, swiping at the bar with his towel. “No,” he said, “not endangered animals. That would be illegal. This is not illegal, per se. It is_”  he paused and searched for the correct word – “questionable. Controversial. I cannot tell you much about it here. But it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The towel wiped at unseen spills on the bar. “Or so they tell me,” he added.

I looked around the dark room. The only other customer was an old man sitting alone at a table in the rear of the room, half asleep. He looked like some sort of war veteran, with scars for ears and a missing arm. I turned back to the bartender.

“You’ve never eaten there?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “it is not for me. I am not the adventurous sort. But many are.”

“Where is this place?”

“Nowhere, and everywhere,” he answered, and chuckled. “Like I said, it is very special. Very secret. The location changes. Very few know where. Even I do not know where it is. But I could connect you with those that do.”

I stared at him, frowning. I didn’t understand. I had told him I was looking for a new eating experience, away from the usual tourist joints. I was looking for unique, not extreme. Nowhere, and everywhere. Before I could ask another question, he spoke.

“You think about it,” he said. His blue eyes shined even in the darkness. “Go back to your hotel room and think about it. If you want to try something incredibly special, come back tomorrow night. Eleven o’clock again. I will be here.”  He took my plate and set it behind him. “But now I have to close.”

I drained the last of my beer and reached into my pocket for some German marks, which the bartender helped me count out to pay for the meal.

“Okay,” I said. “Well, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow night.”  I got up and headed toward the door.

“Only come back if you are serious,” he said. “It is a commitment. Not to be taken lightly.”

I nodded uncertainly and went out the door.



                   I was on what I poetically thought of as a “journey of restoration.”  Others might call it a midlife crisis, or a gentlemen’s vacation, or perhaps just plain old running away. I preferred my version. I had come to Germany for change.

After twenty-plus years of raising a family and building a career I had been hit with a shitstorm of change:  my wife had found being married to me “unfulfilling” and had filed for divorce, my children had gone off to start their own lives on the other side of the country, and the firm that I had labored for tirelessly for most of my adult life decided I was an unnecessary expense and cut me loose.  I found myself living in a cheap, gray apartment with rented furniture and moldy-smelling carpet. The severance package I had been given when I was unceremoniously canned was not bad, but I foresaw it quickly dwindling in future attorney fees and alimony payments. I figured I had a choice:  be the responsible guy my parents had raised me to be and start over – find a new job, raise some cash, buy a new home, maybe start dating again – or start drinking heavily.

I chose the latter. I know, I know – I was disappointed with myself, too. I had never been a quitter. I was a bootstraps guy, a self-made man. But the weight of all that crap – spousal hate, employer disregard, filial disdain – had beaten me down like nothing ever before. I bought two liters of Grey Goose and locked myself inside my malodorous apartment.

Halfway through the second bottle it came to me – I needed to get away. A long trip would be just the thing. I could rent a place on a beach or fly down to one of those all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica or the Dominican and just bake and drink myself back into shape. It was an exciting idea the way all drunken ideas are. I immediately grabbed my laptop and began a search of vacation spots.

I had been thinking beaches and drinks with umbrellas, I had been thinking sun and sand and surf, but somehow my vodka-addled brain ended up booking a flight to Germany. When I awoke the next morning I found, in addition to a half-dried pool of alcohol-reeking vomit on my kitchen floor, an e-mail confirming my flight to Berlin and a one-week reservation at an old downtown hotel. The flight was for the following day, and I tried not to look at the cost I was charged for the last-minute booking.

Why Germany, you ask? I wondered the same thing. I had taken German in high school but barely remembered a word of it. I had never been there before, so perhaps that was part of the reason. I had had my share of beach vacations over the years but had never been to Europe aside from one quick business trip to Paris. So perhaps my drunken mind had chosen Berlin because it was new.

The old me – the pre-divorce papers and pre-pink slip me – would have quickly cancelled the flight and hotel and used it as a funny story at the bar Friday night. The old me would have gone directly from Expedia to or one of the other job-hunting sites to make up for the guilt of my drinking binge. But that me was gone.

I took a swig of the remaining Grey Goose and pulled out a suitcase and began packing.




The next night at 11:00 found me standing nervously outside the quiet bar. I felt very foreign at that moment, as if I didn’t belong. I grabbed the door handle and turned, but it wouldn’t move. It was locked. Blinds were drawn across the windows and the place looked more desolate than it had the night before. I wondered:  had I misunderstood the bartender? Or had he purposefully misled me, having some fun with the American? His mysterious demeanor of the night before now looked like a farce to me. Still, he had told me to return only if I was serious. Perhaps it was a test, to see just how serious I was.

I knocked on the door and waited, then knocked again. Eventually I saw the blinds on the window to my right shimmy as if someone were peering out at me. Then the door opened and there stood my bartender friend, smiling.

“Come in, come in,” he said, stepping aside. “I had thought you might not come.”

“I’m here,” I said. It was very dark inside; the only light was a dim bulb at the rear of the bar. He closed the door behind me.

“So, you have thought it over, yes?” the bartender said. “You wish to try this dining experience? You are serious about it?”  He nodded his head with each question, seeming anxious and nervous himself.

“Yes,” I replied, “but, I want to make sure – this is not dangerous, is it? I won’t be eating anything poisonous or anything, right?”

He smiled at me and nodded. “Yes, yes, it is all right. Nothing poisonous. These people don’t want their diners to get ill, they don’t want to poison their diners. Where is the profit in that?” 

I nodded. “Okay, then,” I said,” I’m ready. Let’s do it.”

He led me to the back of the bar and through a door into an office. There was a desk with a lamp and cases of liquor stacked randomly along the walls. Behind the desk sat the old, deformed man I had seen at the bar the night before; the one I thought was a war veteran.

“This is Mr. Mueller,” said the bartender. “He is with the Dinner Club. He will get the process started for you.”  He nodded and backed his way out of the room. I turned my attention to the elderly man and tried not to stare at his missing ears. This felt like a detour. I had expected to be partaking in a new culinary experience, not standing in a back room with – with whatever this guy was.

“Do you speak English?” I asked, trying to look at only his eyes.

“Ja,” he answered in a slow, phlegmy voice. “Enough.”  He seemed in no hurry, but I wanted to get on with it.

“So, what do we do now?”  I asked.

Mr. Mueller squinted up at me and ran the index finger of his remaining hand around the inside of his ear hole.

“You are sure you wish to have this meal?” he asked.

“Yes, yes, I’ve been through this with the bartender,” I replied. I felt like I was getting a run-around. “I am sure. It’s a commitment, I understand. I’m serious about it, whatever the hell it actually is.”

“Good,” he said. It sounded like goot. He pushed some papers and a pen across the desk to me. “Please complete. I will also need to see your passport.”

I picked up the papers and read them – they were printed in both English and German. It appeared to be an application of some sort.

“I’m not trying to open a bank account,” I snapped. “What is this? Why do you need my passport?”  I looked back at the papers. “Why do you need my hotel room, my cell number? Is this some sort of scam?”  I threw the papers back onto the desk.

“No scam,” Mr. Mueller said calmly. He coughed into his hand and wiped it onto his slacks. “You say you are serious. We must verify. If everything is okay, then you can eat.”

I retrieved the papers from the desk.

“Verify what?” I asked as I shuffled through them. “And what is this? A release? Or, wait – it’s a what? A contract? What does this mean?”

Mueller pulled a cigarette out of a pack on the desk and placed it in his mouth, then lit it with a lighter he retrieved from his shirt pocket.

“It is legal, binding agreement,” he explained. “We are very secret, yes? You agree never to speak of us, of our food, of our Dinner Club. Of me. If you do, this says you agree to pay us the sum of one million dollars.”

“A million dollars?” I laughed. “I don’t have a million dollars. This is crazy. This is a scam; you’re trying to extort money from me.”

“Is not a scam,” he insisted.

“How would you get me to pay a million dollars if I broke this contract?”

“Of course,” he answered, “you are correct. Not everyone has this kind of money. We take what we can get. Whatever you might have.”

I stared at him. “Like my ears?” I asked. “Or my arm?”

Mr. Mueller smiled. “No, no, you misunderstand. We are not animals. We have never even had to enforce such an agreement. It is, what? – insurance? I think yes, it is insurance.”

“All this for dinner?”

He smiled and I saw brown, stained teeth. Then he nodded and looked at the papers.

“Alright,” I said, sitting down in the chair across from him. “Fine. I’ll give you all my information. What do I care anyway? What the hell.”  I began filling out the forms – my name, home address, all the details of my life, as well as the name and address of the hotel I was staying at now. I signed the agreement and pushed everything back across the desk to him.

 “You have cash, or traveler’s checks?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Well, not a lot with me. I have traveler’s checks in the hotel safe. How much is this going to cost?”

“Nothing now,” he answered. “You pay when you eat. The cost is, American, about five thousand dollars.”  He shrugged as if this was a great deal.

“Five thousand dollars? What are you serving, solid gold?”

Mr. Mueller smiled. “Not gold, no. The fee is – what is the word?— commensurate with the food. You will find it worth the price, I think.”

I thought about that. One dinner was going to cost as much as my entire vacation. I would need to call my bank and have them wire some money – this was beyond a trip to the lobby ATM. It was insane – I didn’t even know what I would be eating. What if I paid the five grand and they served me a hamburger? I had signed the contract. What could I do about it? This had all the hallmarks of a great, big rip-off.

The old me would have walked away from this, would have run away. But the old me would never have taken this trip. I swallowed and made up my mind right then to see this through to the end.

“So now what?” I asked.

“You may go,” he answered, picking up the papers and looking them over. “If everything is okay, we will contact you.”

“When?” I asked, annoyed. “I’m not going to eat tonight? When will you contact me? I’m only here for a few more days. How long will this take?”

“You will hear when we are satisfied,” Mr. Mueller explained. “I cannot say when.”

“Well, what if I’ve already left for home?”

He took a drag of his cigarette, and the smoke seeped out between his grubby teeth as he answered.

“Then you will not eat.”




          For three days I moped around Berlin and saw the Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. I ate pork and veal with spaetzel and wondered about what I might secretly eat later, and if I even would. I returned to the bar, but the bartender was some young guy, and even the old, deformed fellow wasn’t around. I began to think that I wouldn’t hear from these mysterious Germans again until I returned home and found my identity had been stolen and my bank accounts drained.

          Despite my misgivings, I had withdrawn five-thousand dollars from my savings account and was carrying the money in cash, in a tight roll in my front left pocket, wherever I went. I had never walked around with so much money before, and I felt like a mugging about to happen. Every face I saw looked like that of a thief, and everywhere I went I anticipated a knife or pistol in the small of my back. I was afraid to leave the money in my room, and I didn’t want it locked up in the hotel safe in case I was contacted and needed quick access to it. By the third day I was so stressed I couldn’t make myself go out on the street, and I spent most of the day huddled in my hotel room. I laughed at the idiocy of my situation:  I was in a European city full of wonders and afraid to leave my room.

          I was laying on my bed on this third night, bored out of my mind after having spent the day watching German television and eating room-service. It was about eight o’clock and I had just called down to order dinner – a steak, potatoes, the day’s vegetable, and a couple bottles of beer – when the room phone rang. I picked up the phone and said, in the minimal amount of German I had picked up, “Guten tag.”

          “Are you ready for your meal?” a lightly accented voice at the other end asked. I glanced at the nightstand and saw my wad of money, my five-thousand dollars rolled up tight with a rubber band.

          “Yes,” I said. “Ja.”

          “There is a cab waiting for you in front of the hotel. It will take you to dinner,” said the voice. “Okay?”

          “Ja,” I managed, “okay.”  My mouth was suddenly dry. It was really going to happen. Or something was going to happen. In the back of my mind, I still expected to be robbed, kidnapped, sold into slavery, or something even more dramatic. Did they use middle-aged men as slaves? I thought probably not.

          I found the cab waiting at the curb and got in. The driver pulled out immediately into traffic and we zig-zagged our way through downtown Berlin, passing from the trendy high-end section into a poorer, industrial neighborhood in just a short time. The ride was frenetic and brief. The cab driver pulled the car to the curb in front of what looked like an old warehouse. There was no other traffic on the street and no pedestrians – it appeared to be a desolate area of the city. When I hesitated to get out, the driver turned to me and said something in German, and then made a shooing motion with his hand. He nodded to encourage me. I smiled at him and got out.

          “Where do I go?” I asked him through the window.

          “Okay,” he shouted as he drove off.

I was standing before the sole door of a gray, 1930s-era warehouse. An old industrial metal lamp hung above it, but there was no sign. I knocked and a man in a black tuxedo answered the door. He was tall and had a shaved head. He looked at me silently.

          “Hi,” I said. “I – I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. They didn’t give me a password or anything.”  The man only stared at me.

“I’m here to eat,” I tried.

“You are here for the club?” he asked in perfect English.

“Yes,” I answered. “The Dinner Club.”

He smiled. “Wonderful, sir,” he said as he opened the door wider and motioned me inside. “Please come right this way. We have a table ready for you.”

I followed him down a dimly lit hall of concrete block walls and painted masonry floor. Two-tube florescent lamps hung from the ten-foot ceiling. We passed several closed metal doors, took a left turn onto an adjoining hallway, and then stopped before another door, as gray and nondescript as the others. The man knocked twice, quickly, and then that door was opened from within.

“Have a wonderful evening, sir,” the tuxedoed man said to me, and then turned and walked back the way that we had come. Inside the room the light was dim. I could see some small square tables with white tablecloths, napkins, and silverware. Each table had a lit candle on it. It looked like I was going to eat after all, rather than be robbed or assaulted. At one of the tables sat two men, one young and one older. The other tables were empty. The only light appeared to be from the candles on the tables and in a few wall sconces.

Another young man in black slacks and a shirt approached me. “Right this way, sir,” he said, “your table is over here.”  He led me to a table in a corner, pulled my chair out for me and unfolded my napkin. The silverware looked expensive, the candlesticks heavy and antique.

“My name is Carl,” he said. “I’ll have the chef begin preparing your dinner. Can I bring you a drink while you’re waiting?”

“Vodka,” I said. I wasn’t sure what to expect and felt some hard liquor was in order. Carl left to get my drink and I surveyed the room. There were only four tables – the one with the two men, two empty tables, and mine. The walls were the same concrete block as the hallway; there was no decoration of any kind. Only the dim light made it less severe.

Carl came back with a heavy crystal glass and set it on the table in front of me, and then returned to the kitchen, wherever that was. While I sipped my vodka, I watched the two men at the table on the other side of the room. Only the young man was eating, I noticed. The older gentleman was just sitting there, watching. He didn’t even have a plate or a drink in front of him. He simply sat there and watched the younger man eat. Neither man spoke.

The younger man ate his food slowly, almost carefully. Occasionally he looked at the older fellow while he chewed a mouthful, but beyond that there was no contact between the two. It was almost as if they were strangers.      

I finished my drink and examined the unattended tables. They both had only one chair. I guessed most of the guests of this “Dinner Club” were single patrons – at five-thousand dollars a pop, it was no surprise.

Eventually Carl entered the room again carrying a tray and came straight to me. Finally, I was going to see what the big secret was all about, and what five grand was getting me. Carl took a silver dome-covered plate from the tray and set it in front of me. As he was doing that, another waiter appeared from the back pushing a woman in a wheelchair. She was approximately my age and wore a beautiful silver evening gown. Large emeralds laced in silver hung from her ears. The waiter wheeled her over to my table and pushed her up to the side opposite me.

“I’m sorry,” I began, confused, “I – I don’t know this woman, I think there’s been a mistake.”

“No, everything is fine,” explained Carl. “This is your dinner companion, Liesel.”  He lifted the silver dome off the plate and a delicious scent wafted upward with it. “Your meal tonight is kidney two preparations. On the left you have it sliced, poached in Madera wine, and then seared with shallots and garlic. On the right, a play on the traditional kidney pie – kidney, mushrooms, baby heirloom carrots and onions en croute, topped with a small salad of micro-greens. There is also a pea puree and some grilled native squash. Enjoy.”

The food looked intriguing and smelled delicious, although I had never been much of a fan of kidneys, or any organ meat for that matter. However, I had committed myself to try anything. And it was making my mouth water.

This strange woman still disturbed me, though. Before he left, I grabbed Carl’s sleeve.

“Carl, I’m sorry,” I said, releasing his sleeve, “I don’t know what this woman is doing here.”

Carl tilted his head and smiled at me, and then frowned. “Oh,” he said, “perhaps you do not understand. Liesel is the donor. This is her kidney you will be eating.”

“What?” I said, horrified. “What?”  I knew I must have misunderstood him.

“Please calm down, sir,” Carl continued. “Perhaps we could step away for a moment, so as not to upset your dinner guest?”  He led me to a nearby corner.

“The premise of this restaurant is based upon the diner and the donor sharing the eating experience. We recommend that you try to look your donor in the eye as you eat of her, and she will do the same as you eat.”

“That’s cannibalism!” I nearly shrieked and saw the men at the other table look at me. Liesel stared at the table.

“For lack of a better word, that is correct, sir,” replied Carl, unfazed. “Many of our diners, as well as those who have donated, report that they find it almost a religious experience. Imagine watching a part of you being voluntarily consumed, or alternatively, imagine eating a piece of someone while sitting across from them and looking into their eyes. Some say they are able to touch the other’s soul.”

I nearly wretched. I strode back to the table, grabbed my glass, and drained the last of the melted vodka-tainted ice.

“Would you like another drink, sir?” Carl asked.

“God, yes,” I gasped. Carl took my glass and left while I sat down. For the first time I really looked at Liesel, the woman in the wheelchair. I saw that there was an IV bag attached to a bar above her head, with a tube leading down to the back of her right hand. She looked terribly pale; the emerald earrings were unnaturally green against her bloodless skin. Her eyes watched me without expression. I suddenly felt as if I had insulted her, or perhaps at the least hurt her feelings. If she had willingly given a kidney for me to eat, she must at least be disappointed in my reaction. It was absurd, but I felt it.

This was her, Liesel, on the plate in front of me.

Carl returned with my drink, and I gulped down half of it in one swallow. I took a deep breath and tried to relax and looked at Liesel’s face again. She gave me a weak smile.

“Do you speak English?” I asked her. She knitted her eyebrows and shook her head.

“Liesel speaks only German,” Carl answered for her.

I looked at Carl. “Does she really want me to do this?” I asked. “Does she want me to – to eat her? Her kidney?”

“Of course, sir,” replied Carl. “She has gone through much trouble to be a part of this experience. Yesterday afternoon she was on an operating table, and now tonight she is here to watch you eat. She is likely in some pain, so soon after the surgery. But she chooses to be here. It is the whole point.”

I stared at her, hoping to confirm this information in her eyes, but I could read nothing.

“Our donors are not paid, sir,” Carl continued. “They donate a part of them to be eaten, and in exchange they live the experience. It is certainly not for everyone, but we have a wide variety of people who volunteer. It is not life-threatening – for practical purposes, it could not be. People donate a couple of ribs, or some muscle from their thigh or arm, a small slice of liver, a kidney as you have here, even a uterus. These people continue to live normal lives, but lives greatly altered by the dining experience. You should honor your donor by eating and enjoying your meal. I guarantee that you will not regret it.” 

“How can you do this?” I asked. “I mean, from a practical standpoint – how are you allowed to do this?”

Carl cleared his throat. “No one here is forced to eat or to donate. It is all purely voluntary. Still, you are correct, there is a concern about public attitudes and opinions that are less enlightened, who may not understand. We have two surgeons in Berlin sympathetic to our purposes. We have several excellent chefs we work with, and as you are aware, we take great care to protect our privacy. The restaurant is never in the same place. Tomorrow this will be an abandoned warehouse again. We are entirely exclusive.”  With that, Carl left.

I looked again at Liesel. She looked tired but gave me a small smile again. A religious experience, Carl had said. Fine, I thought. What did I have to lose? Perhaps I would touch her soul.

I picked up my knife and fork, cut a tiny piece of kidney and placed it in my mouth. It was delicious. I chewed it, swallowed, and managed not to gag. The flavors were utterly amazing. I looked at Liesel and she smiled again; her eyes closed down almost to slits like a lazy cat.

I finished everything on the plate. It was worth the five-thousand dollars.



Since that time, I’ve visited Berlin annually. I found a new well-paying job that allowed me to afford a yearly two-week vacation there. I look a little thinner now, my silhouette having been altered by the removal of my bottom two ribs. My left arm is fairly useless now – I offered up a chunk of bicep to an angry-looking man from some small Eastern-European country, and three fingers to a middle-aged woman from Scotland. I’ve dined a few more times as well.

I’m still trying to decide what to donate for next year’s vacation.

# # #

Mark Jabaut was a playwright and author who lived in Webster NY with his wife Nancy. Mark’s play IN THE TERRITORIES, originally developed via Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Workshop and Festival of New Theatre, premiered in May 2014 at The Sea Change Theatre in Beverly, MA. His 2015 Rochester Key Bank Fringe Festival entry, THE BRIDGE CLUB OF DEATH, went on to be featured at an End of Life Symposium at SUNY Broome County and is listed with the National Issues Forum for those who wish to host similar events.

 Mark also had entries in the 2016, 2017 and 2019 Fringe Festivals, THE HATCHET MAN, DAMAGED BEASTS and COLMA!. Mark authored several short plays performed by The Geriactors, a local troupe of older performers. Mark’s fiction has been published in a local Rochester magazine, POST, as well as The Ozone Park Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spank the Carp and Defenestration. 

Mark Jabaut passed away on November 3, 2021.

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