Spring, 2002
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

The cryptic message had enough personal information about her that she knew she had to take it seriously. The last part said, "Be at the corner of Third and Main at 10:30 with the recipe and the child or you will be sorry."

She looked at her watch. It was already 10:00!

by Melissa Foxman, Issaquah, WA

She had to admit she really wasn't that surprised. After all, it surely couldn't have been her tanned skin, shapely body or deep brown eyes that had convinced Vincenzo to marry her. No. It had been her grandmother's lasagna.

Mangiare! Mangiare! The words were her Nonna's version of hello. "Eat! Eat," the impossibly short Italian would shout at her family whenever they walked through the front door to her home ? no matter if it was morning or night.

How vividly she remembered the look on her Vincenzo's face when he tasted Nonna's lasagna for the first time. It was pure adoration. When Vincenzo had cleared his plate for the second time that evening, she knew he was hooked.

And she had seen the same look in the eyes of the man in the Armani suit last night. That hungry desire for more. She knew it would happen, which was why she brought him to these outdoor wrought iron tables, beneath the cover of an arbor drooping with grapevines. It was her special spot, somewhere they could be alone.

He wiped the corners of his mouth with a napkin. "That lasagna. It's incredible."

Lucia smiled. "I thought you might like it." She paused, thinking about the operation. "I have a proposition for you."

The man raised his eyebrows.

"I know you want the money in advance..."

But he cut her off. "I see where you're going. Get me the recipe for this lasagna, and the profits will far repay what you owe me."

"What? That wasn't what I had been thinking."

"No matter. It is now the only form of payment I will accept." With that, he rose.

"But I can't!" Lucia cried in protest. Yet the man was already walking away into the night.

She had hoped for some time to figure out a new plan, but looking at the note she had found under her door this morning, it didn't seem as if the man was willing to wait. "Be at the corner of Third and Main at 10:30 with the recipe and the child or you will be sorry."

Child. It was all Carmella's fault. Twelve years old, and pregnant. And of course, she had come to Auntie Lucia expecting her to fix things.

Now, it seemed as if things had gone from bad to worse. Not only was Carmella in trouble, but the only doctor in town who would keep the abortion a secret was demanding a payment too steep.

Lucia could not give away that recipe. She cursed herself for making the lasagna for the doctor in the first place. She had hoped that once he tasted it, he would be hooked, and would agree to do the operation free of charge.

But now he wanted more. He wanted the recipe. And there was just no way Lucia could give it to him.

"Oh..." she groaned. This was why her Nonna had told her never to make the lasagna for anyone other than a true love. For whoever tasted it would find their heart instantly full of desire for the most important thing in their life.

Thankfully for Vincenzo, that had been Lucia.

But apparently for the doctor, it was money. And he saw profits in that recipe. She had called him this morning, after receiving the note, and he had told her how he planned to mass market the recipe. She had tried to talk him out of it, tried to offer double the payment he had at first requested, but he would have none of it.

She looked at her watch. It was already ten o'clock. The street signs read Sixth and Main. Still enough time to turn back. But her niece's sweaty grip in her palm said that she had to move forward.

How was it that Carmella could look so helpless, so young, and yet be the cause of so much trouble? If her parents found out about the pregnancy, she would be shunned, taken somewhere far away, and ordered never to return home. It was not how it should be, but Lucia knew that's how it would be.

Her only choice to keep the family intact was to please this doctor.

There he was. Leaning against a street lamp, under the haze of mid-morning sun. Lucia let go of Carmella's hand, but the girl stayed as close to her aunt as possible.

Looking the man square in the eye, Lucia said defiantly, "You cannot have the recipe. It is too powerful for you."

The man turned, as if to walk away, and Carmella cried out, "Wait! Please! I will give you the recipe."

Lucia turned in astonishment at her niece. What was she doing? Surely they could tempt the doctor with something else besides the recipe. But her niece's cries succeeded in stopping the doctor.

He turned around. "It is your only option."

Carmella gulped, then reached into her pocket, and withdrew a slip of paper. The man read over the ingredients, and gasped when he came to the bottom.

Lucia was upset, but figured she would save the lecture for later. The procedure was performed, and the man had gone on his way.

Walking back to town, the two women stopped to rest on a park bench. Lucia said to her niece, "Why did you give him that recipe?"

The young girl smiled. "I didn't."

"Then what was on that paper?"

"A note from his son, saying that he was my baby's father."

What Melissa won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

Contest guidelines are HERE.


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