Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 25
Challenge #11: Write a story featuring a protagonist whose occupation is chosen at random from the following list: teacher, actor, medical professional (nurse, doctor, etc), retail worker, postal worker, management (of any kind), military, engineer/maintenance. They must have a rival, also chosen at random: brother/sister, childhood friend, co-worker, competitor. Optionally, the story must also take place in a random setting: zero gravity, wartime, post-apocalyptic, underwater.
My randomly selected elements were: retail worker, competitor, zero gravity.
The travellers’ lounge of the Uranian Orbital Waystation was not a great place to run a diner. For one thing, it was way out in the sticks so there were hardly any customers. For another, its extreme distance from Earth necessitated the use of hibernation pods, and nausea from the drugs involved tended to exacerbate the already considerable problem of space sickness. Finally (as every single visitor to the station just had to quip), “Nobody wants to eat a meal while staring at Uranus.”
Adding insult to injury, however, everybody wanted to eat while staring at Uranus. A research vessel docked, and its team of scientists immediately flooded into Dave’s Chicken Popper Palace (which had a full-length window looking out onto the planet’s surface), completely shunning Darren’s Premium Chicken Poppers (which was on the opposite side of the station, and therefore had a full-length window looking out only onto the radiator fins of Auxiliary Coolant Pump C).
Needless to say, Darren was peeved. He took a small amount of satisfaction in seeing one of Dave’s customers try (and fail) to keep down his poppers, turning green for a moment before just… turning, spinning in midair, propelled by the force of his own projectile vomit. Darren took a larger amount of satisfaction in seeing the sight and smell of this set off a gastric chain reaction that spread throughevery patron ofDave’s establishment.
Darren’s satisfaction immediately evaporated as it spread to the three customers in his own shop.
Reacting quickly, he grabbed the miniature vacuum from its bracket under the till and got to work before too much of the splatter had a chance to reach any surfaces. Chicken poppers (coated with a non-fragmenting breadcrumb substitute) were one of just two foods permitted to be sold in zero gravity without a Class II Atmospheric Particle Extraction System. As difficult as it was to compete with Dave and his window while selling the exact same product, it was times like these that Darren felt strongest in his conviction that switching to takoyaki would be a bad idea. Dealing with vomit was inevitable. Dealing with octopus vomit was something he’d really rather do without.
Suddenly it dawned on him. Perhaps he should start offering a new product after all.
By the time the next ship docked, Darren was ready. Gone was the centrifugal fryer. Gone were the velcro-coated seats. In their place were stacks and stacks of boxes, readily accessible and held in place by cargo nets.
The passengers swarmed into the lounge, and Darren whipped the cover off his shop’s new (though admittedly rather slapdash) sign.
“Darren’s Barf Bag Emporium!” he announced. “Any size you want as long as it’s large!”
Absolutely nobody took any interest.
Nobody, that was, except for Dave. He pressed his feet against the big menu on his shop’s back wall, launched himself across the lounge and came to a halt clinging to Darren’s massive cargo net.
“I’ll take eight boxes,” he said.