flash fiction by David Douglas
February 7, 2017 — 498 words
Guiding Helen and her aged mother, Martha, into the cafeteria, Alan explains, "And this is why all the other communal areas have been vacant, because our guests are in here having dinner."
"Oh, look, Mom. Imagine all the new friends you could make," Helen says to an uninterested Martha, who blankly stares across the crowd of elderly people.
Abruptly, an old man stands, flails his arms, and repeatedly heralds, "Soylent Green is people!"
Alan excuses himself from the ladies' presence and rushes to the old man's table. "Mr. Craig! Mr. Craig, please... You're disturbing everyone."
"Me?!" the old man questions. "I'm disturbing?! What's disturbing is that you're forcing us to be cannibals."
"Mr. Craig, no—"
"Is that what happened to Henry? Is this him?" The old man gestures to his tray of food. "Will this be me in a few months? Will my remains be scooped onto a chip and eaten by someone?"
"I'm sorry about Henry," Alan says. "I know he was your friend, but I assure you, no one is eating his remains."
"And I'm supposed to just believe you? What if I don't? Are you going to sedate and force feed me."
"Mr. Craig, no one will force you to eat anything you don't want. And you were there, remember? Last week, when Henry was buried?"
"Remember? He was buried in a silver-colored coffin? You said he'd like it, because everyday he'd mention how much he loved his first car — a silver Cadillac."
"Heh, Henry drove that car for nineteen years until his son wrecked it," Mr. Craig recalls.
"Yes, and you said, 'He's buried in a Cadillac coffin like Willie the Wimp.'"
Mr. Craig chuckles. "So... this isn't Henry?"
"Of course not."
Helen and Martha walk up to the table.
"Then explain this." Mr. Craig picks up a white plastic container and hands it to Alan.
"Explain what, Mr. Craig? It's sour cream."
"No!" he objects. "It says, 'Soylent Green.'"
"Where're your glasses, honey?" Martha asks.
"I–uh..." Mr. Craig pats his pants' pockets then his breast pocket. "Here." He puts on his glasses, reads the label, and blinks in disbelief.
"It's sour cream, hun," Martha says.
Mr. Craig opens the lid and cautiously peers into the container. "Blah!" he says, tossing it onto the table. "I always hated sour cream."
"Well, at least you know it's not people," Alan says.
"Okay, but what's that?" Mr. Craig points to the green mound on his dinner tray.
Martha picks up a chip from the tray, dips it into the green mound, and eats it. "Mmm. It has a nice smoky flavor. Was Henry a smoker?"
"What?!" Mr. Craig gasps.
"I'm kidding. Here." She dips another chip into the green mound and holds it to Mr. Craig's mouth. "Try it."
"What is it?"
"It's guacamole, hun."
"Guacamole?" Mr. Craig eats the chip. "Mmm."
Helen smiles at Alan and whispers, "I think Mom will like it here."
"And I think Mr. Craig will like having her here."