Campbell’s Chicken & Stars
I was a chef when I first started stealing the stars. I figured out the secret of it all, something only a maniacal, wasted idiot would think of. You know how they put those stickers on things like CDs and videos? Use a little rubbing alcohol to peel the last bit off. Same applies to stars, if you’d like.
When I figured it out I was temporarily a master grave digger. I drank all the sherry in the kitchen, wine in the cellar, Listerine in the bathroom, vanilla extract in the cupboard, rotten apple juice from the storage room. All of this until I finally had to drink rubbing alcohol in a sad attempt to stay anything but sober. And out of politeness I held the plastic bottle to the sky as I laid on my back in the gutter. I asked God if he’d like a swig. But as I did a little of the solution splashed from the bottle and settled on the nearest star. I watched bleary-eyed as the white speck drifted downwards and landed on my cheek, the same as a dandelion seed might.
As the warm wind blew across the gutter the aroma hit my nose and nearly made me sing. So sweet and yet so savory, glistening with joviality like a glass of expensive champagne. So I wearily lifted an arm and picked the gleaming grain up gently, placing it on my tongue. The taste was even better than the scent.
I began to cook with the stuff, carefully scraping a small bowl of stars from the sky every night. I kept the secret ingredient disguised in my at-work coffee cup, throwing a few specks in the sauce before the food went out to the guests. Compliments always came to me, the sauce chef, the sudden hero.
My drinking slowed and my pride increased. My pay skyrocketed and my mom talked of me in terms of admiration. No longer the drunken cheese-melter daughter; I was now the queen of the Art of the Sauce of the Greatest Restaurant of all the West Borton County. Everything was going uphill until the clones all popped up.
I did notice that stars I could’ve sworn I’d collected reappeared a week or two later. But I paid it no mind, blamed booze for the memory lapse. But strange things had started to happen.
The first Bortonian to watch herself ride the bus to work was Amanda Allmansar. At the dogged hour of 6 am she barely kept her eyes open, staring at her reflection in the window. Until she realized she was standing with her arm wrapped around a plastic grip; the reflection sat reading a book, just as Amanda had two weeks ago.
Emile Rosareo watched herself panic over a non-existent parking ticket she had already received a month prior. Her husband Luis was eating a sandwich of peanut butter and bananas that’d been gone for days. You don’t even want to know how awkward things got at bed time.
And of course, the one recurrent thing through every complaint? They ate something that I’d made.
I was forced to put back all of the stars I’d removed, though this was difficult as my own clone kept taking one down every night as I had that first evening.
My mom returned to shaking her head as the world watched the rocket containing every clone shoot off into deep space.
“Only my daughter, I’ll tell ya.”
I did do humanity some good, though. About five years later NASA finally got passed a Morse code note from the popular kids of space. It took them a little while to translate, all of those scientists probably busting a vein to know what the aliens had to say. And after much deliberation, an answer came.
“Come on, take them back. We don’t want any.”
Every story Maggie writes is a culmination of all her temporary or current interests. Ghosts, incense, Robert Smith, or girls with too much cake. She aspires to bend the world, never break it, maybe just over-season it a bit. She hates apples, 80’s beach music, and skeletons. She loves macaroni, steam, and Bob Dylan. She loves when you love the things she writes. Maggie is nineteen and resides in Southeastern Pennsylvania.