A Taste Worth Savoring

📅 Published on July 12, 2021

“A Taste Worth Savoring”

Written by Keith McDuffee
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 11 minutes

Rating: 8.00/10. From 3 votes.
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In between the mozzarella sticks and the second course, I’m thinking about dying.

I don’t think of anyone or anything in particular, and I most especially am not thinking about myself.  I happen to like life most of the time, and as far as I know, I’m not proceeding down that path at an accelerated rate for any particular reason.  It’s the process itself I consider.  Dying.  Emphasis on the “ing.”  Quick or not, the road to death is always a process.  In the absence of immortality, every living thing begins the process of dying from the moment of creation, with each following moment one step closer to crossing the threshold of Death’s door.  Some spend their entire short lives doing anything to stave it off.  Some encourage it, whether meaning to or not.  But in the end — until the end — it’s always coming.  There’s no choice.  It’s a process ending with only one result.

The taste of fried cheese and marinara lingers, and somehow dying comes to mind.  Again, not my dying, and not of anyone in particular.  Not yet, at least.  Minutes tick by, and we sit in wait for the arrival of the guest of honor and of new hot plates to our table of five.  The conversation within the circle is exclusive of me and all but inspired.  And it’s always about work.

Living and dying is a macabre balancing act, where one task takes a fair amount of effort to achieve and the other none at all.  Despite that, they both come to a simultaneous end.  Who thinks about that?  At dinnertime, no less.  I suppose I do.  I suppose it’s because of my present company.  I suppose it could also be because of her.

I spot the old woman about the time our menus are whisked away.  As I said, the gum flapping in the general vicinity is as uninviting as it often tends to be.  With my reading material gone and with nothing in arm’s reach to keep my eyes entertained, my attention is forcibly diverted, and there she is.  Mid-to-late seventies, I’d say.  Probably her name is something like Agnes or Edith.  Helen, maybe.  Or Alice.  Well dressed, but nothing at all fancy.  The sort of someone you’d likely see gladly kneeling in prayer within a church pew or shuffling into a bingo hall like it’s the best part of her day.  Or, I suppose, dining alone in a place like this.  Simple, orthopedic shoes, stark white hair drawn up tightly into a typical bun…she’s been here many times before.  Probably every Sunday.  Probably the same meal.  A nice piece of fish, because it’s easy on the tummy.  Maybe start out with a small salad, or a spicy Minestrone with a side of Saltines if she’s feeling frisky.  Finish off the evening with a nice hot cuppa; only herbal, or else she’d never get to sleep after the local news.  To highlight that she is indeed alone, in the chair across from her table for two sits her fat, gray handbag — a monstrosity befitting a Long Trail hiker — with a knitted shawl draped along the seat back.

And every night, she dines alone.  She chooses to sit in what’s likely the same seat she sinks her skirted ass into every week rather than hole up in her tiny kitchen back home.

Because where else will she get that nice piece of fish?  With rigid posture, she awaits that tea or small indulgence of cake, glancing around at nothing in particular and with a tease of a smile.  And I wonder if this woman is thinking of dying, that the end of the “ing”  is closer at hand for her than for a good deal of the rest of the patrons in this restaurant.  Is every Sunday still just one more spent dying, still one more spent eating in this same goddamn restaurant eating the same goddamn meal alone, and, “Please, God, or Death or whomever I’m supposed to be begging to, just bring me to the end of this journey now so I can cease wondering, day-in and day-out, when it will stop!”

And who, if anyone, would answer?  If not God but Death himself were to take a seat at that table for two — if he were to tell her he was there to dine on mozzarella sticks and to end her part of the process of living and of dying and of dining alone — what of that smile?  Like some inmate on death row, her timer at once becomes set and known.  But unlike the guilty-as-charged, she hasn’t the choice of a final meal at that point; it’s done and gone.  No medium-rare steak.  No hamburger and fries.  Just that piece of goddamn fish.

I remain oblivious to the dialog carrying on in the immediate vicinity and find myself considering ungodly mischief.  “Ungodly”  is the right word for it.  This is unlike me.  I’m generally one to keep to myself, but even more than the concept of dying, this woman fascinates me.  It defies most explanation, other than my feeling the very impatience I face to be distracting and painful.

If I were to become Death, what would she do?  What would she say?  I’d only know if I found out for myself.

The paper napkin on my lap falls to the floor by my backpack as I get to my feet.  The others pay me no mind and likely assume I’m off to hit the head.  My stomach lurches with violent butterflies.  My legs are jelly.  Still, my feet find their way between tables of patrons, along a seemingly endless twenty feet of cheap patterned carpet.  When I stop, I’m standing behind the purse-filled chair.  She looks up and says nothing; her look unchanged.

“May I sit?”  I ask.  I am surprised at my own tone of calm and confidence, but I make no show of it.  She again says nothing and gestures an open hand to the chair in invitation.  Rather than carry a look of worry regarding this strange young man asking for a seat at her table, her slight smile grows.

I place the purse on the floor beside the chair and have a seat.

“Thank you,”  I say.

She nods.

I glance over at the table I’d left and at the others around me.  Those who aren’t eating are chatting or busy with their eyes glued to a phone.  No one is paying us any mind.  All seats remain full.

“What can I do for you?”  the woman asks.

Her total lack of concern is disquieting, and I resist the urge to stammer.  Instead, I straighten then lean in closely, fixed onto her blue eyes beyond thick-framed glasses.

“It’s okay,”  I say.

For a moment, she remains unmoved.  Twice, her eyes blink.  She leans back into her chair as though exhausted, cocking her head to one side to consider me.  But that smile never fades.  She appears amused.

“Okay?”  she asks.

“Yes.”

“Okay for what?”

I relax and match her position.  I’m not sure how the words leave me, but I say them just the same.

“To let go,”  I say “It’s okay.  It’s time.”

Her lips purse and her eyes grow wide.  I expect then that she’ll call for help, or at the very least storm away with a fair amount of urgency.  I begin to consider my own escape plan, not caring for a moment what my dinner-mates might think of my hasty retreat.  But the scream never comes.  She never leaves her seat.  She raises a hand to cover her mouth.  Tears begin to flow, though she doesn’t cry.  From beneath her hand, she snickers.

My performance of appearing dumbfounded is second-rate at best.  This isn’t a reaction I’d considered at all, least of all from her.

“What?”  I ask.  “What’s so funny?”

The woman does a worse job of suppressing her laughter as she attempts to speak.

“You,”  she says.  “So you’re Death now, is it?  Come to take me away from it all now, are you?”

I shoot looks around.  I’m relieved to find no one interested in us, despite the woman’s raised voice.  Regardless, I wonder if I should cut my losses then.  I’m unsure I can recover.  I’m unsure of why I’m even there.

The woman dabs at wet eyes with her napkin as she catches her breath.

“You do think about dying, don’t you?”  I ask.

She laughs again, this time with distinct fervor and zest.

“Think about dying,”  she says.  “You ask if I think about dying?  Me?”  “Yes,”  I say.  “Everyone is dying.  We all are.  Don’t you think about dying?”  Though the words spill out, I’m unsure why I bother to continue the charade.

She removes her glasses and wipes again at her eyes, letting her laughter dissipate.  When she speaks next, she is no longer amused.

“First of all, thank you so much for that bit of humor,”  she says.  “I don’t believe I’ve laughed like that in, oh, a god’s age, I tell you.  But to answer your question: yes, Edward.  I think about dying all of the time.”

The butterflies I’d felt before are now the size of birds.  Though the pull to stand and run is fierce, my body cannot seem to comply.  I’m induced of a high that is neither of euphoria nor calming but of pure perplexity.

“How – how do you know my name?”  I manage to ask.

“I think you know why.  It’s what led you over here, after all.”  What led me was impatience and boredom.  What led me was this woman who intrigued me in a most unusual way.  What led me was the thought of dying and all living things progressing to an eventual end.

“That’s right,”  she says, as though in answer to my thoughts.  She turns to look at the table from which I’d come, and my eyes follow.

All five seats are occupied…all five, including my own.  Seated in it with head rested upon folded arms on the table is a mid-twenties man with an unkempt head of hair and an even more unkempt beard who appears to have succumbed to the premature pull of sleep.  Only this is not sleep.  This is not some man.  It’s me.  Somehow I’m looking at me, and yet I don’t feel quite so surprised.

The old woman’s tone shifts to sincere pity.  “I’m sorry, son, but it looks like they haven’t quite noticed yet,”  says she.

The me seated at the other table remains still with closed eyes, mouth agape and face glistening with a fine layer of sweat.  The so-called colleagues that circle me carry on with their mundane conversation in a murmur I can’t quite understand from here.  They remain either oblivious to my situation or selectively ignorant and apathetic.  I again find myself unsurprised.

“I- I don’t-”

“I don’t expect you to understand,”  says the woman, as I slump back into my chair and face her.  “It’s a lot to take in, I know.”

“How did it happen?”  I ask, slumping back into my chair and facing her.

Her eyes study me as she at first seems unsure of how to answer.  Can’t be a heart attack, I think.  I’m not in that bad of shape.  I must have choked.  Death by fried cheese and in this godforsaken dive, with its loud, red-gray-patterned carpeting and smoke-stained fleur-de-lis wallpaper that’s seen decades of greasy kitchen fumes and smoking-section diners.  I am a dead spoke in a five-person wheel.  At least the tale of my passing in their midst will give them conversation material worthy of paying attention to.  A pity I won’t be around to partake.

“How did it happen?”  the woman repeats of me.  “You walked over here, and you sat down.”

I look at her, quite unconvinced and unsure.  “I got up?”  “Mmhm.  Can’t say it happens very often, but it’s what you did.  You just…got up.”  She makes a lifting motion with her hands as she says this, as though conjuring something from the table.  “And here you are.”

“I know you say I shouldn’t understand, but this makes no sense.  You mean that just because I got up and came over here, now I’m dead?”

“I’m afraid that’s how it works.  Not quite sure why there’s one of the likes of you every once in a great while — one who thinks, ‘hey, look at her’  or ‘look at him.’  ‘Think I’ll go have me a chat because she looks interesting.’  Or in your case, that I look like someone to fuss about with.”

“But…I saw you.  I can see you.  Can’t others see you?  Come talk to you?”

She shakes her head.  “Like I said, it happens once in a great while.  Great while.  Not quite sure how it happens.  I tried changing my appearance to be much less…attractive than I’d been in the past, but it seems this…”  She spreads her arms as though to present herself.  “…was too tempting a target for the likes of you, Edward.”

“Well … if no one can see you, why look like a normal person at all?  I mean, you’re Death, after all, right?  Death’s supposed to be scary looking.  In a dark cloak or something.”

At that, she laughs.  “Oh, and I assume I’d have a scythe as well?  And how would you have reacted if I’d been sitting over here looking like that, hm?  No doubt you’d tell your friends, and they’d just as well think to have you committed, and rightly so.  Besides, what kind of thing would that be to those who see me only once they’ve passed?  Why, they’d be scared to death if they weren’t dead already!  Much better to greet them as a beautiful woman.  Or a handsome young man.  A kindly old lady.”

She pulls her purse up onto the table and removes a compact from it.  She applies a dark pink rouge to her cheeks as she examines herself in its tiny mirror.

“I know you’re confused, Edward.  Lord knows I am as well.  I don’t quite know what to make of people like you and, well, neither does he, if you can believe that.”

“So that’s it, then?  So now I’m just…dead?”  She makes a finishing dab at her nose and stashes the compact back away.

“Well that’s up to you, Edward,”  she says.

“Up to me?  How can me going from dead to not dead be up to me?  What’s done is done, right?”

“You see, Edward, I’m not quite ready for you yet,”  she says.  “Actually, it’s more that I’m not ready to be done with you yet.”

“Done with me?  What the hell is that supposed to mean?”  She cocks her head to one side and looks at me as though she’s about to explain the cruel realities of the world to an oblivious grandchild.

“Edward, have you ever had something so good that you simply wished it would never end?  A delicious piece of candy as a child?  A girl, perhaps?  A…nice piece of fish, as you put it?”

I’m quick to comprehend her analogy and cringe at the thought.

“You’re using me,”  I say.  “You’ve been using me.”  “Using?  More like…savoring.  You need do nothing more than just be who you are.”

“Savoring?  You make it sound like I’m a piece of meat.  Like I’m food.”  “Well, that’s precisely what you are to me, Edward,”  she says.  “I don’t eat, per se.  You’re not food so much to me as you are sustenance, as all the dead are.  As all the dying — as you know — become.  Just ten minutes ago, you thought of dying and of how every living thing undergoes the process from the moment of creation.  Right you are.  Right you are.”

The woman’s eyes dart about, as though to ensure prying ears won’t spy upon what juicy secrets she’s about to spill.

“At birth comes the first bite, you see.  Just a tiny one.  Just enough for a taste.  I suppose you could say it’s quite like the first stage of digestion, actually.  I must say, at times, it’s a bit too good to take from the start, and then it’s all over with right quick; just can’t help myself, I’m afraid.  And then there are the usual ones, the ones that will do just fine as they are.  In due time they’re finished off as well.  But there are some I just want to hold onto a little longer.  Their flavor…it’s too good.  Worth savoring, you see.”

She sits back in her chair.  With a pleased look, she continues, “And that’s you.  Your dying is delicious, Edward.”

To that, I’m unsure of whether to feel offended or relieved.  I am no doubt disgusted.

“Then why are you here?”  I ask, with a sure attitude of frustration and disbelief.  “If I’m not ready — if you’re not ready for me — then why am I here?  Why are you taking me now?”

She pouts with disappointment.  “Isn’t it obvious?  I’m not here for you, Edward.”

“Who, then?”  I ask.

Her lips pout further; her frown grows comically long.  I’m not sure why I asked.

I turn to my table again, where my slumped body remains still.  Those at the table have their attention elsewhere, to the pair just entering the restaurant.

“One way or another, Edward, my dinner is about to be served.  If you want to go, you’d best be doing so now.  Otherwise…I’ve got quite the feast ahead of me, don’t I?”

I’m on my feet before she finishes her words.  As I approach my chair and prepare to sit, I glance back.  The old woman I’d earlier sought to cause trouble upon sat just as she had the first time I’d noticed her, the tease of a smile still brandishing her wrinkled, powdered face.

I feel an elbow jab into my ribs.  I sit bolt upright, a line of spittle trailing from my chin.

“Have a good nap, sleeping beauty?”  whispers Mark from my right.  “Tick-tock.  Target’s arrived.  You’re on, Eddie.”

As though I’d just woken up, it takes me a moment to get my bearings.  I wipe my face with the edge of the tablecloth and look around the table.  Conversation has ceased.  All eyes are upon me.  My eyes are on them, on the families at the other tables.  On her.

I’m unsettled.  This is not me.

“Just like last time,”  Felix says from across the table, sensing my change of disposition.  “Just like every other time, man.  We’ll be in the car.”

The group stands.  They pull several twenties from their wallets and throw them onto the table.  Before he leaves with the others, Mark puts a hand on my shoulder and leans in close.

“Collateral damage is part of the job.  Do this, and let’s go home.  It’s for the good of the country.”

I nod as he exits with the others.  I reach under the table, into the backpack and reach in through the unzipped pocket.  I toggle the switch.

On unsteady feet, I rise and start for the door.  The two agents who’d entered earlier are seated at the counter, reading menus.  They’ll be ten feet from the blast.  But it won’t matter.  This smoky decor, breaded cheese and fish filets won’t matter.

Before the door shuts behind me, the old woman calls out.

“I know most consider people like you bad, foul, even disgusting and vile.  Not me, Edward.  Certainly not me.”

Rating: 8.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Keith McDuffee
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Keith McDuffee


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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