Samburger and Flies

by Julie Frayn on August 28, 2012 in  Fiction - short stories

This is a fiction piece (the first I’ve shared on my blog) that recently came in third (out of 300!) in the Writer’s Digest Write it Your Way contest. Entries were to be 1200 words or less and have a summer theme. Enjoy! But don’t read while eating…

Samburger and Flies

The sun came off the horizon steaming like a fresh pile of dog shit.

Maddie wiped her brow, grit from dirt that clung to the hair on her forearm scraping across her forehead. It didn’t matter how early she started digging, she couldn’t beat the summer heat.

She lifted one last shovelful of soil and tossed it over her shoulder onto the impressive pile she’d been unearthing since before dawn. She stepped out of the shallow hole and sat on one of the cardboard containers that held prefab parts of her future gazebo. Her breath came labored and raspy. She needed to rest for just a moment. This was much easier when she was a younger woman.

Aging poplars provided little privacy from her neighbors. She peered at the houses on either side of her overgrown yard. Still no sign of life. Yet. But she’d better haul ass before prying eyes started waking up.

A rolled rug sat nearby, buzzing flies flitting around the open ends in frenzy. She waved them away, dragged the heavy load and positioned it alongside the hole. With the toe of her garden clogs she pushed the lump, unrolling the rug.

The remains of Sam, her fourth husband, rolled into his grave. And not a moment too soon. What flesh remained was starting to thaw.

The rug was a total loss. She would miss the beautiful floral pattern, lilacs and fuchsias. It really brightened up the living room. But the rubber underlay made it a great cutting surface, protecting the hardwood from all the blood.

She tossed it over him, rubber up, then grasped the shovel and threw a few dirt clods on what was left of his head. Her shoulders ached from the renewed effort. This might have to be the last time. Or she had to find an easier way.

She retrieved a snow shovel from beside the house and used it like a bull-dozer, pushing the dirt pile back into the hole, covering the mangled flesh and exposed bone. When the last of him was under earth, the flies took off in search of gorier pastures. Maddie stomped on the fresh grave to set the soil and flatten the surface.

Janice’s sliding patio door screeched in its track and the hollow echoes of her overweight footsteps on cedar decking announced she was awake and ready to start another day nosing into Maddie’s business.

“Morning neighbor!” Janice waved a pudgy hand, a mug of hot coffee gripped in the other. “You’re at it bright and early today. What’s the project this summer?”

“Gazebo.” She poked the box with one clogged foot. “Prefab. I should be done by two.”

“Prefab? You getting lazy in your old age?” Janice laughed until she wheezed, then coughed into a Kleenex. “Hell, that fake wishing well in the corner took you a week.”

“Not lazy. Just tired. Very, very tired.”

“Why do you always wait until the bums leave you to do a project? Why not get them to do it, and then kick them out?”

“Just a way to get my mind straight. You know, recover from the terrible pain of being dumped. Again.”

“I see. I would just drink.”

Don’t need to lose a husband for that. There was probably whisky in the coffee.

“Maybe a drink later. I’m going to fire up the barbecue and make burgers for supper. Do you want to join me?”

Janice’s eyes lit up. Food and drink, her two triggers. “Love to! You make the best burgers.”

“See you around five? Just come sit on my patio.”

“Deal! I’ll bring the beer.”

Maddie pulled a carpet knife from her pocket and sliced the boxes, ripping into the package to expose wooden parts, a bag of bolts and screws and Allen keys, and instructions in four languages. She would construct le belvédère en Francais. Much more romantic than ‘the gazebo.’

Piece by piece, screw by screw, le belvédère took shape. She wasn’t done by two, but at three-thirty she stood at her kitchen window admiring the result.

A gulp of icy water left a trail of glorious cold down her throat before dissipating to nothing in stomach acid. The glass, slick with ice cube sweat, slipped from her fingers and shattered in the sink.

“Damn it!” She picked up the big pieces and turned on the tap to flush the little ones, leaving a bloody thumbprint on the faucet. “Shit, damn, shit.” She ran water over her sliced thumb. Blood mixed with water. She winced at the sight of pink swirling down the drain. She couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Her own, anyway.

A long cool shower refreshed her body and spirit, allowing a happy whistle to escape her lips. In the kitchen she made a cup of tea, then pulled a bag of meat from the fridge and the meat grinder from the cupboard.

Each piece of almost thawed meat went in the top of the grinder and came out the other end, landing in a bowl in twisted red and white marbled strings. She loved the feel of the old wooden handle against her calloused palm, the sound the cast iron cutter made against the tin grinding plate.

She dug her hands into the bowl and married the meat to a mixture of eggs and breadcrumbs, herbs and spices, and her special ingredient, crushed dill pickle potato chips. She formed four perfect patties and set them on a plate. The door slid noiselessly in its track. Her footsteps on the stone patio made no sound.

She lit the gas barbecue, sat on the chaise, then lit a cigarette.

Janice will love Samburgers. At least the name sounded right. Better than Georgeburgers, or Ethanburgers. Or worst of all, Ralphburgers. It didn’t matter what she called them, or even what she put inside, Janice loved them all.

Janice popped around the corner, a six pack of beer clinking in its case, an opener in her other hand.

“Gazebo looks great! Is it a little crooked?” She popped the top off two of the bottles and handed one to Maddie.

Maddie took a long swig then stood. “Maybe a bit. The ground will settle.” She opened the barbecue and placed all four patties on the grill. Sizzle filled the air and the aroma of herbs and burning flesh filled her senses.

“How do you like yours?”

“Is the meat fresh?”



They slathered condiments on their burgers. Maddie eyed Janice as she took her first bite.

Her eyes bugged out and she groaned. “Maddie! That’s the best burger yet! What’s in it?”

“It’s Sam’s secret recipe.”


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn August 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Congratulations!! I’m so very proud of you!! Hugs and kisses.


Julie August 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Thank you, lovely Systir.

Sean P. Farley August 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Holy christ! How creepy! Lovingly creepy, though. I admire how brief the descriptions are – to the point but very strong. Good work, Julie. This should have been a first placer for sure!


Julie August 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Thanks, Sean. I thought it should win too!!! 😀 But I may be biased. Glad it was creepy. The plan was gruesome with a humorous twist.

Jester Queen August 29, 2012 at 11:11 am

Ohhhhh!! I love this!!! I’m totally delighted that you got a real prize for it. (And not in the way I was ‘awed’ about someone’s prize on my most recent blog post. I add that so you won’t think that my most recent post has anything to do with you if you come visit.) I STILL have to claim my blogging award you gave me (speaking of awards) but now that things are sane, I might get that far. Anyway, I just loved the whole thing, especially feeding him to the neighbor. And having the pickles be the secret ingredient!


Julie August 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thanks Jessie! I promise not to pull a Camille. 😀

Mike Schulenberg August 29, 2012 at 11:42 am

Great opening line, and it only gets better from there. Great job…and congrats on the contest :)


Julie August 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Thanks Mike. Appreciate you taking the time to read it, and tickled you enjoyed!

MJ Monaghan August 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm

That was a good one, my friend.

Did we just get a glimpse into the mind of Julie?? Hmm …


Julie August 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Oh MJ, beware of getting more than just a glimpse. It’s scary in there… I’m told there is a theme to my short stories. The husband always dies.

Heather September 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

SERIOUSLY! Julie! This was a ‘delish’ read. Congrats on placing and please give me a second helping!


Julie September 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

Seriously, Heather, that is one of my favorite comments, ever!

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