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A Wanton Display of Skill

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Eddie was the best writer in the world. Perhaps even in the universe. There was no feeling so vague, no concept so strange that he could not convey masterfully in only a short sentence or two. He could churn out an unforgettable novel every other month and almost did.

He had to work for a living, and that took time away from his writing, as work tends to do. Because there were no buyers. Their usual reply went something like this:

Dear Author,

Thank you for your submission.

Unfortunately, I don't feel that this is right for us, so I'm passing on it. I wasn't quite drawn in. I encourage you to continue to submit elsewhere.

Thank you, and I wish you all the best in your endeavors.



Eddie worked in an office, where he felt his skills were wasted. He felt a need to write something. Anything.

His final break came when he overheard a friend of his who was working at a restaurant: “I have no time to write the menu! I have to do the books and keep the bar!”

“I can help,” said Eddie. “With the menu, I mean.”

“You can?”

“Yes, just tell me what's supposed to be on it.”

Eddie got the job of writing the menu. And a masterful piece of literature it was, rivaling The King in Yellow for sheer effect. Eddie was sure it was his best work yet.

And the customers had never before encountered such a gripping, engrossing menu. It had them on the edge of their seats, biting their nails, sighing loudly and even honking into their hankies. Word got out that the restaurant had the greatest menu ever written, and more customers came to read it.

Business did not fare as well. Most people only read the menu and had some coffee. The owner, concerned, substituted a more normal menu, one that was less evocative and plot-heavy.

Eddie was sad to hear his menu had been replaced. But the memory of his visit to the restaurant always warmed his heart. Once, he had heard one of the many customers exclaim with ecstatic relief as the menu concluded, “The cook did it!”

He never got such work again.

Copyright © 2017 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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