WRAPPED IN BLACK
Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult
by Aaron Gudmunson
Chet fancied himself a mustard aficionado. It was more than that though; mustard was his passion. Chet loved red meat, period. He didn’t care that he stood shy of six feet and pushed 300 pounds–food was his life and if that meant forfeiting a few years at the far end, that would suit him fine. Nothing compared to food. Not his ailing mother, who he’d placed in a cut-rate nursing home last May, not his lackluster job as a claims adjuster for a second-tier insurance company, not even his Great Dane Groucho. Food. Was. It.
In his lifetime, he’d scarfed bushels of burgers, mountains of meatloaf, bundles of bratwurst, and cables of kielbasa–all of them enhanced by the glorious spice of mustard.
Arch’s Market was a throwback to the years before big box stores combined gardening with groceries. Arch’s was old school, a squat seven-aisle shop smack in the center of town. It specialized in specialties–it was the only place within a hundred miles where you could buy thirteen varieties of honey and three hundred types of cheese. The in-house bakery pumped out pumpernickel–his all-time favorite bread–in basket after basket of steaming loaves. Arch’s butcher was an artist, fileting and dicing and chopping like a master craftsman, which he was.
And then there was the mustard aisle. Well, half an aisle anyway. The opposing shelving held standard condiments like ketchup and pickles and corn relish and the like, but Chet never even glanced their way. They were all so pedestrian.
His pulse quickened every time he stood before the golden wall of goodness. There were Dijons and deli-styles, honeys and hots, spirited and sweets, whole grain, fruit, beer, and lovely simple yellow. He’d sampled many brands and varieties and had narrowed down his favorites. But there were still so many to try!
Chet loved the 4th of July because the Park District held an annual pig roast and oyster bake. For eight bucks, you got a plate of seared pork with baked beans, cole slaw, a buttered roll and all the oysters you could shuck. Now the rest of the stuff could go to hell, to Chet’s mind, but the pork was utterly to die for. He’d stand soaking in the smoke at the edge of the stone pit while the pig spun over the open flame. He’d savor it. Foster it. Turn it into a deep crave which would start as a black hole in his belly and threaten to devour him whole. By the time the beast finished blackening, Chet’s mouth would fill with saliva so fast he’d have to subtly spit into the grass. By the time he got his plate, he’d pay extra for doubles.
And he always brought his own mustard. He’d carry the jar in a fanny pack, usually a spicy brown. Mustard made everything taste better. Everything.
Read the entire story in
WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014
Aaron Gudmunson lives and writes in the Chicagoland area. He has worked as a contributing writer and columnist for local and regional periodicals. His work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Apex, Dark Moon Digest, and Empirical Magazine. His debut novel, Snow Globe, is available now in Kindle and trade paperback formats, as is Emma Tremendous, his first novel for young adults (written as A.D. Goodman). Visit him on the web at http://www.aarongudmunson.com.