Cast Iron Delight Must-Read Crime Flash Fiction By Michael Carter

Cast Iron Delight: Must-Read Crime Flash Fiction By Michael Carter

Michael Carter, author of Cast Iron Delight, has previously published short fiction at The Molotov Cocktail, Scrutiny Journal, Mystery Tribune and Coffin Bell Journal. He grew up in Washington but currently resides in Montana.

*****

“How could this happen? What did I ever do to Mom to get axed from the will?” Jamie said when she arrived at her childhood home in Deer Park, now belonging to her older brother Terry. She was still angry, but three weeks to the day had passed since Mom died, so she felt she could contain herself. The attorney said that besides the cardboard box meant for Jamie, everything the whole family had, went to Terry—the prefab home, the three acres, even Mom’s truck that, old and primered as it was, still ran fine.

“I don’t know. Come on in,” Terry said as he wiped his forehead with a blue-and-white paisley hanky. Summer had finally faded, bringing the cool fall air, but he was perspiring. “Maybe she left you some savings.”

Terry had invited Jamie over to give her the box, per the attorney’s instructions on executing Mom’s last will. It was the least he could do for her—have her over for a cold brew and maybe reminisce about Mom. Every penny mattered to Jamie after her separation from Jim, and the never-ending medical bills from her last bought with lung cancer. She needed the dough or a place to stay, but he knew she wasn’t getting either.

Terry had invited Jamie over to give her the box, per the attorney’s instructions on executing Mom’s last will.

Terry grabbed a paring knife from the kitchen and cut the tape on the box. “Good ol’ Dewey, Cheatem & Howe said Mom was adamant about you having this.” He handed her the box as she entered the kitchen, her arms dropping.

“Jesus, Terry, you didn’t have to dump it on me like that. What’d she give me, bricks? Guess I’ll be building my own home with them.”

“I know this has been tough for you; it’s been tough for all of us. Who knows what Mom was thinking. Maybe she just figger’d I was older, and you’ll get this spread when I die.”

“Lovely way to think about it, Terry. What am I supposed to do with the kids? Where are we supposed to go?”

“Well, you can get a trailer, park it right out here.”

“That’s great, you get the home, while the kids and I are out in a trailer. You know how cold it gets in those things in the winter; the damn pipes freeze.”

Jamie opened the cardboard flaps. She could see her reflection in the thin layer of oil at the bottom of the pan as it rested in the box. Her brow creased.

“Oh, she gave me Grandma McShirley’s favorite cast iron pan. I barely remember Grandma, and what’s this supposed to mean? I should go work as a cook while I’m sick like this?”

Oh, she gave me Grandma McShirley’s favorite cast iron pan. I barely remember Grandma…

“As I said, I don’t know. Mom’s head wasn’t on straight before she died,” Terry said as he cracked open a can of Schlitz Ice.

Jamie pulled the pan out and placed it on the stove. “And look, her cookbook, too,” she said as she removed it from the bottom of the box. “I guess that’s a woman’s place, right, in the kitchen? I can’t believe Mom would do this.”

“Just relax. They’re hair looms, or whatever they’re called. You know how she loved Grandma’s cooking.” He cracked a second can of Schlitz Ice and slid it down the counter toward her. “We’ll figure something out. Hey, maybe we can make her favorite mac n’ beef recipe, what’s it called?”

“Cast Iron Delight?”

“That’s right. Mom was going to make it for me last time I saw her. She changed her mind and popped a Tombstone in the oven instead.”

“Must’ve been slippin’, as you say. Not like her to pass up on cooking for frozen pizza.”

“We’ll make the meal in her honor. What d’ya think?”

Jamie thumbed through the cookbook, bringing back memories of the days she and Mom cooked together. The recipes bore handwritten notes, tweaking ingredients and measurements this way or that. The pages had torn three-ring holes that were taped and re-punched.

“Let’s find it, and I’ll see if I have everything,” Terry said as he cracked open another Schlitz for himself.

Jamie continued to fan through the cookbook, careful not to disturb the hundreds of Post-its Mom had affixed to her favorite recipes with additional notes.

“Here it is, ‘Cast Iron Delight.’”

She scanned the ingredients, and then looked at the Post-it—bright yellow, not tattered and faded like the others—attached to the side. Jamie could barely recognize the scribbles of Mom’s usual near-perfect penmanship.

Jamie continued to fan through the cookbook, careful not to disturb the hundreds of Post-its Mom had affixed to her favorite recipes with additional notes.

Jamie looked closer at the note Mom had left for herself, dated exactly three weeks ago: “Terry coming over – wants to talk about the will – make this for him.”

She glanced back to Terry, who was standing in front of the fridge with the door open.

“What? What d’ya lookin’ at me like that for?”

Terry bent over, pulled out the fridge drawer, and reached for a half-rack of Red White & Blue Beer.

Jamie’s hand felt cold, and when she looked to it, she discovered that her palm had wrapped around the metal panhandle. The back of Terry’s white tank top, yellowed at the neckline, faced her as he crouched.

She lifted the pan with both hands above her shoulders, and she noticed how Terry’s greasy part ended in a swirl on top of his head.

She raised the pan higher, looked up at it, then back to his head.

As Terry straightened, and his glistening forehead turned toward her, she swung. Again, and again, and again.

*****

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