Welcome to Stranger Than Flicktion, our new Flickr-inspired column. We provide writers with five random food-related Flickr images and ask them to construct a fictional short story in under five days. In our first installment, we asked MUNCHIES contributor Alison Stevenson to write a tale surrounding one of the most indulgent of food topics: gravy.
It was the summer of 1996.
I was 25 years old, just finishing my obligatory three years of post-collegiate soul-searching. I had two weeks left before starting my internship at the advertising agency that one of my dad's clients owned. I was determined to make those fourteen days the most memorable of my life.
I decided I should travel.
My friends suggested all the cliche destinations: Thailand, Europe, India, and Japan, but I didn't want to be a cliche. Plus, I had already been to all of those places. I wanted to go somewhere that no one would ever think to spend their last two weeks of freedom; the very last place a white, single American male would think to go to in search of finding his last few moments of bliss before having to submit himself to the prison sentence that is a full-time job. After a few days of researching, the answer came to me thanks to a misspelling in my AOL search bar. I meant to type "BBC" but just typed "BC," which lead me to a website about British Columbia.
The next day, I arrived in Quebec with nothing but my backpack, guitar, and my father's credit card in tow. I didn't know where I'd be staying that night, but the more pressing matter was my hunger. I wandered a few blocks until I found a small fast food joint. My French was quite poor—at that point in my life, I had only been to France twice—but I managed to order poutine without any cheese curds. After getting my food, I sat down at a table across from the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. She was thin with long brown hair and breasts. She hadn't noticed me because of the book in her hand.
Not only was she beautiful, but she could read. I knew I had to say something to get her attention.
"I noticed you also don't have cheese curds in your poutine."
She looked away from her book and replied to me in perfect English: "I eat the cheese first. Old habit."
We got to talking. I told her about my travels, my poetry, and my reluctance to be anything like my father. She then told me about herself. She was in Quebec because she was visiting her best friend. She was going to start law school in one week. I knew she kept speaking after that, but I couldn't focus on any of the words coming out of her mouth. I was too lost in her eyes. They were blue. Really, really, blue.
"You know, my friend isn't going to be home tonight. Why don't you stay with me and you can find a hotel in the morning?" She asked as I ate my last French fry. I knew what that meant. We were going to have sex.
We arrived at the apartment 20 minutes later. After finishing an entire bottle of wine, we got hungry again. I proposed that we make a gravy dish from my childhood. This was the dish my mother often purchased for me when she had forgotten to tell the maid to cook my dinner before she went home: Sausage Gravy with Biscuits.
We opened up a second bottle of wine and took to the kitchen. Luckily, she knew how to make gravy. However, she only knew how to make it the Canadian way. It looked nothing like the ready-made gravy mother purchased.
"This gravy is too dark. I remember it being lighter." I then added two cups of mayonnaise to the sauce. It was suddenly white, and looked exactly like the gravy I had as a child.
"Perfect," I told her.
After we made the biscuits, I poured the sausage gravy on top of the warm, flakey bread. "Now this is poutine!" I exclaimed.
"No it's not," she said. Bitchily. "Poutine is poutine. This is something else entirely." I let her have it. I didn't want to get into some dramatic argument and have her start crying, which would have probably made her not want to have sex with me.
After we finished our meal, I offered to read her my poetry.
She sat there as I read her some of my poems and explained what all of them meant. I made sure to clarify that the beer can on the ledge was meant to be me. It wasn't actually about a can of beer. She acted like she had known this all along, and insisted that I didn't need to explain any of my poems to her. God, she was so adorable. Her breasts were perfect.
We made love that night. It was real hot. We both fell asleep on the floor. The next morning, she woke me up and told me that she had to leave Quebec that day. Her grandfather had a heart attack, and she had to rush home immediately. She found me a hotel to stay in and even called me a cab. I thanked her for a wonderful evening, and that was that. We never saw each other again.
Now, I'm married. To Deborah. She's alright, I guess.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about my woman from Quebec—who isn't actually from Quebec—but that's where I met her. Because of her, I learned how to make gravy on my own. Because of her, I make gravy every day of my life. Sometimes, when it's late at night and my wife is fast asleep, I'll sneak to the kitchen and drink up all the gravy in the fridge. It's the closest I can get to reliving that magical night.