Flash Fiction Challenge: The Barbecue of the Damned

burgers and dogs
burgers and dogs
by K.S. Brooks

They say the best memories don’t come from the vacations or family get-togethers where everything goes off without a hitch. I think there is something to that.

We had just gotten settled into our new home and decided to throw a barbecue to get to know our new neighbors.

It is safe to say it did not go as we had hoped, but it certainly was memorable. In the pantheon of our family stories, we refer to it as the barbecue of the damned.

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

On Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Barbecue of the Damned”

  1. Title: Boom

    Fourth of July fireworks were nothing compared to the explosion which rocked the neighborhood.

    First of all we were all recent first time home owners. Young, in love, without many cares in the world, or children to interfere with the remnants of the honeymoon. Glad to be out on our own and with someone very supportive.

    Well, having just moved in, we thought it would be great to have a block party barbecue. However, the unsightly cardboard moving boxes which failed to be picked up by the collection department were a problem. Hauling them from the street to the backyard was getting to be a weekly problem.

    Fireworks gave me an idea.

    I piled up the boxes, spread a little gas and tried to light the pile on fire. When I finally threw the whole book of matches, I felt the hot wave crash against me. The glow off the trees lit up the entire street.

    Now you might wonder went on in all the houses after that explosion. These houses were all fueled by gas. Panic set in. The stories we still heard even weeks later, made us all laugh, but the night I met the neighbors in my back yard, nobody was laughing.

    One informed neighbor asked me if I had paid the trash collection people, and told me that might have been a better method than setting off my own fireworks display.

    The barbecue was a success, but I could see the fingers being pointed.

  2. It started with the wieners. You know that tiny little scree noise that cooking meat makes sometimes, that little high-pitched whine that you’re not actually sure you’re hearing? Yeah, it started there. The wieners started to move just slightly, that little wobble, as if they were beginning to plump. Only they didn’t just plump. They jumped. To their feet, so to speak. And started coming for us.

    Then it was the burgers. Again there was just that slightest tremble, that little vibration as the flames seared the meat and started them shrinking. But instead of just shrinking, they began to curl up, tighten up, like a man doing sit-ups, and then they, too, leaped up and began advancing on us.

    We laughed at first. It was weird, funny, until they jumped off the barbecue and began to herd us toward the house. I kicked a burger away, but it just got up out of the dirt and started coming again, silent and faceless. My daughter screamed. My wife hurried the kids to the house and when I ran through the sliding glass door behind them, I locked it. Spatula in hand, I peeked out from the blinds.

    They had us surrounded.

    It’s been a week now. Our neighbors think we went on vacation. They don’t know we’re trapped inside the house.

    At least our char-broiled jailers give us buns to eat.

  3. For certain, it was a cook-out we’d never forget. And trust me, my wife NEVER lets me forget whose fault it was.

    When we moved into our perfect house in the perfect gated community, the neighbors came in droves, thoughtfully bringing some god-awful health food.

    We decided to repay their kindness and throw a big July 4th barbeque.

    The day arrived. The guests brought their usual compost pile specialties. Smoke rose from the sizzling grill. I waved my wife over and piled the burgers and dogs, cooked to perfection, onto the patriotic platter.

    “These are vegan, right?” she whispered.

    “What?”

    “Bob…tell me you bought vegan, please.”

    “I bought vegan,” I said convincingly, with a nod, even.

    Meatless hot dogs and hamburgers? Now THAT was ridiculous. A little bit of meat wasn’t gonna hurt anybody.

    At first, the oohs, ahs, and mmmms sounded so happy. But then they morphed into growls and snarls. My wife came running, screaming, “Bob! Help me!” Some mangy, furry…people were chasing her. Their fangs and claws were bared and swinging and snapping and we ran like hell into the garage. I started the car and burned rubber right through the door before it could even open, splintering it with a loud crashing sound.

    The creatures flung themselves at our car, but at 50 miles per hour, they couldn’t keep up. I barreled through the gate and onto the main road. In the rearview mirror, I saw the sign for WereVegan Estates get smaller and smaller.

  4. It was sad knowing that the previous owners of this house had been killed in a freak accident, but it has always been my dream to move my family out into the country. This small rural country town just seemed like the perfect place to give my writing career a second chance.

    In order to get to know our new neighbors, I decided to throw a barbecue for all the families around our farm. Our closest neighbor Malachai, which was the person who helped us find this house advised us he would provide the meat. With the expense of moving, I could not turn down such a gracious offer.

    As everything got underway things seemed to be going very smoothly. All the families that were invited were here, and everyone seemed to be so happy with us joining the community. I was so happy that we decided to put on this get to know you event; everyone was so warm and welcoming.

    As everyone was starting to leave, I caught up to Malachai to thank him for his part.

    “This turned out to be a great day, and thanks for supplying the great tasting meat”.

    “You are so welcome; I just wish you could have met the family”.

    “From what everyone was telling me about them they seemed like nice people, it was sad with what had happened to them”.

    A slight grin came across Malachai’s face, “Yes, it was so sad, but do tell me, how did they taste?”

  5. I was four. My memories of the day are based on stories I’ve heard.

    My mother and father were proud of their new house. Previously, we’d lived in a second floor apartment in Abington.

    My father was proud of the charcoal grill he’d bought. To give my father a chance to use his new grill, he and my mom invited folks over for a cook-out.

    Mom and Dad purchased several steaks. Everything was going well. Guests arrived, Mom gave tours of the house, and I played in the yard.

    Then came time for the steaks to go on the grill. The charcoal burn had down to a bed of coals. The steaks were put on the grill.

    My father, having forgotten the tongs he needed, ran into the kitchen. While he was gone, I wandered near the grill for a look at what was going on.

    The steaks were on fire. Flames leapt up on all sides of the meat. If I didn’t do something the steaks were going to burn up.

    There was a pile of sand near the driveway. With handfuls of sand I put out the fire.

    When my father came out the kitchen door, I expected him to praise me for putting out the fire. Let’s just say he wasn’t happy. Expecting to be the hero, I was anything but.

    Afterwards, everyone laughed about it, and assured my dad they enjoyed the hot dogs as much as they would have the steaks.

  6. My old man had just moved house, we’d all busted a gut helping him, and so he ‘treated’ us with his culinary skills.
    He was master of the Barbeque, his was an old and rusted thing, and he was dead proud of it.

    Soon one of the neighbours dropped by.
    He arrives with a fixed smile and face that looks like it’s made of wax.

    “Hi neighbour, new here?”
    “That’s right,” says my dad, “read the brochure, it said it was the perfect town to be in.”
    “It sure is,” said the neighbour full of cheer, “say, that barbeque of yours, sure looks old.”
    “It’s done us proud for many years,” replies my pop flipping the burgers with a well-practiced twist.
    “It’s not regulation,” says the neighbour, he looks round the lawn littered with gnomes and flowerpots, the grin became wider but there’s horror in his eyes.
    “None of this is regulation. I can help, come with me.”
    “But… the food, it will burn.”
    The neighbour ignores him and begins to drag Dad away.
    I try to intervene, but he is strong. He hits me; I fall to the ground unconscious.

    When I come too all the gnomes are gone.
    I look to the BBQ where I’d last seen my father, he still stands there, but he’s different. A grin is plastered across his face; his skin looks waxen.
    “We’re going to like it here,” he says.
    “We?” I ask horror stuck
    I’ve noticed his hand, it’s started to melt.

  7. “Shoot”

    Greg bit back an even stronger expletive as he struggled to get the burgers and hotdogs moved away from the flame that had suddenly grown above the rack of the Barbecue. If it weren’t for the little kiddos around him he’d have let loose with a good one but he refrained, smiling reassuringly at the two boys that were watching him closely.

    Being on the road all the time, Greg wasn’t able to spend much time with his family including twin boys, Jeff and Jack. He’d wanted this day to be perfect, but so far it was looking to be anything but. He had had to go to three stores to get the hotdogs, burgers, and buns needed. The ice cream, which was now in the freezer, had started to melt and the hot dogs & burgers had thawed more than he would have liked.

    Now the dogs & burgers were threatening to become char-burned rather than the nice char-broil that he was after.

    “Food’s ready” Greg announced a few minutes later, having finally gotten the flame under control.

  8. “I tell you, they’re not our kind of people!”

    Candace gave me ‘that’ look. The one that trumped all my arguments. “Hush, dear. It’s just one night. Besides, I think he’s a Freemason. You’d do well to be well in with him.”

    I grumbled right up to when Karl opened the door to us, clinging to the wall and looking oddly flushed.

    “Jack, Candy. It’s just you two we’re feeding tonight, so go right on through and help yourselves. Jeannette’s been busy all day making up sausages and steaks, so I can guarantee it’s all good meat.” He waved us along, leered sickly at Candace as we passed and then lurched after us.

    I waited for a few moments after Karl had gone off, doing hostly things. “I told you. Drunk already. And I bet Janey’s bombed too.”

    “Shush. Look, she’s coming!”

    Jeanette looked pale, unusually forgoing her usual summer two-piece for an unseasonably full maxi dress. She reeled awkwardly, falling heavily into her chair to face us.

    “Hi, you guys. Excuse me, I’m just a little hot. And not stoned like you said,” she slurred, fanning herself and kicking off her sandals. “Honestly. I heard you both. As if we ever would!”

    But whatever I thought of them, they knew how to entertain. The steaks were exceptional. Veal or venison or something. And then I noticed something.

    “Candy,” I mumbled, hurriedly dropping my sausage. “Don’t say anything but… have you seen her feet?”

  9. I had always owned a gas grill. So when Betty bought me this charcoal grill after we had moved, I was a little nervous. No sooner had I got it set up had she told me that she had invited the neighbors over to break in the new BBQ.

    It started out normally: friends arrived, kids played, grown-ups talked and drank beer. Everything went well until I started cooking.

    I thought I knew what I was doing. I piled the charcoal high and dowsed it with kerosene. Then I lit the coals. I had flames. With that great achievement, I opened another beer and stood over my creation as Betty brought out the burgers and dogs, which I immediately put on the grill.

    It was about this time that our dog, Duke, decided to come up behind me and jump on my back eager to discover the cause of that wonderful smell. As he did this, my entire beer spilled onto the grill causing an instant fireball to engulf the food.

    By the time the fire died down enough to get the spatula and remove the food, the burgers looked like hockey pucks and the dogs like tiny logs of firewood.

    My neighbor came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Looked like the flames of Hades over here. Glad to see you are OK.”

    I laughed and said, “More than I can say for the food”

    The kids all chimed in at once, “Pizza!”

  10. My Uncle Jimmy, not really my uncle more like my mom’s special friend, he was was a fantastic judge of people. He mentioned something when we first pulled into the neighborhood, but mom wanted to give the neighbors a chance, always an optimist. But we should have known, should have trusted the signs.

    Mr. Kratz, call me Bob, kept a well manicured yard. Trimmed, neat, a koi pond with one of those bridges over it in the back. Trees stood at attention, a row of pines, a living wall between yards. And the flowers, how could you miss the flowers. They kept the rose’s heads. Mother would never approve of such a thing. She sharpened the thorns at our old house regularly.

    Uncle Jimmy asked me to put the dogs on the grill when the Kratz stepped into our yard. Not an onerous task once they stop squirming. Bob brought his wife, Janelle but I still call her Mrs. Kratz and their daughter Sally. A pretty girl with blonde curly hair, green eyes like bright seaweed, and a scream unlike any I have ever heard.

    Through tears and continued squeals the only word I could make out was “fluffy,” what ever that means. Bob screamed at Jimmy who gave as well as he got. I was happy to turn the dog once it stopped squirming.

  11. That night I remembered vividly that I was extremely hungry. I had gone to friends and had drank more than enough alcohol. I don’t know how I managed to get home; all what I remember was that I came home safe and sound to smell the sweet aroma of burgers and dogs on fire.

    “What an overpowering smell” I greeted.

    My mother looked at me with a where-are-you-coming-from-looks. Though I was drunk I could make that face out and I knew that it was no good for me to lie. Past experiences with my mom had shown me that she was one person it was difficult to lie to and penalties for it was a long lecture. I refused to lie
    “Where are you coming from?” she enquired.
    “I went to have a couple of drinks”, I replied “I ended up in being drunk. It was not by design”
    “Get inside, have a bath and come back. A party for your father in an hour’s time” she smiled.
    I went inside took my bath and laid on my bed waiting for the alcohol to wane off. I don’t know what happened but I dozed off.
    In my dream, the party had begun and we were all eating burgers and dogs, we all praised the taste of the burgers and dogs to my mom. Within minutes we are began to vomit.
    I woke up with a loud bang and my mom opened the door “Party time”

    BY J.Y. Frimpong

  12. Our neighbours to the left accepted our invitation with glee. “We’ll bring the meat. I have a special recipe.”

    “Great, much appreciated.” I smiled my gratitude. We were new to the street and wanted to make a good impression. The BBQ was Ted’s idea. The move had left us broke so the offer of a meat dish was perfect.

    The day dawned warm and sunny, with a pleasant breeze. Perfect. Mary arrived with lemon squares. Jill brought devilled eggs. Each neighbor brought their specialty. The drinks flowed freely and the conversation never lagged as we chatted around the pool or went for a dip.

    In a quiet moment, when Ted managed to leave the BBQ for a moment, our eyes met and we congratulated each other silently on a grand success.

    When the meat was ready and the table laden with all the donations we called everyone to load their plates and dig in. The food was delicious. Most folks went back for seconds.

    That is, all but the neighbour who donated that wonderful meat, I remembered later.

    As we sat around enjoying dessert one woman, Mary, I think, said, “Say, has anyone see Taffy? She hasn’t come for her milk today.”

    “Come to think of it, Whiskers is missing, too. I didn’t worry as she’s always come home before.

    The neighbour who brought the meat gave us all an enigmatic smile. “They won’t bother anyone any more. Our gardens are safe, now.” She stood up and walked away.

  13. We hosted the Fourth of July potluck so we could meet our new neighbors. It’s Sissy’s favorite holiday. Like our Dad, who works at NASA, she loves things that Go Boom! She accidentally blew up our last house so he restricted her to making sparklers.
    I was hiding in the house, lovesick with Brittany, the girl next door, when Sissy wandered in.
    “Where’re my sparklers?” she asked.
    “No idea,” said Mom. “Take your dad another package of hot dogs.”
    “They’re poison. The nitrates could fuel a rocket.”
    “He has a veggie burger on for you. Take the devilled eggs too.”
    “You mean boiled chicken embryos,” said Sissy. She made a smoochy sound at me. “Brittany is here.”
    I flushed maroon as she ambled out.
    Mom smiled. “Go outside, Ted. Introduce yourself.”
    “Never,” I said. “Sissy watched a YouTube about making a rocket fueled with salami, she put firecrackers between the hot dog slices on her sparkler kabobs.”
    Mom looked out at Sissy and whispered, “Were they kabobs with pineapple chunks?”
    “Yeah. Sugar boosters.”
    Boom! We bolted out back at the sound of artillery fire, dodging flaming pineapple flak and Dad’s greasy spatula. Devilled eggs splattered windows and a whimpering Brittany.
    “Holy hot dog!” said Dad.
    “It’s nitrate!” yelled Sissy, deafened by explosions.
    Burning hot dog pelted Brittany’s house, flames shot out of her bedroom window. She screamed and grabbed me when her purple curtains exploded. She smelled like burnt sulfur.
    “I’ll be damned,” said Dad.
    Aren’t we all? I thought.

  14. I kicked at the black lumps lying on the ground. Less than an hour ago they had been beautifully marbled, glistening slabs of grass fed, sink your teeth in and howl at the moon, carnivore heaven. Cost a small fortune too.

    What a waste.

    I watched Larry right the soot stained, twisted hunk of metal that had been our shiny new, top of the line, stainless steel BBQ. It wobbled briefly, then surrendered to gravity and rejoined the steaks cum briquettes on the charred planks of the deck.

    “Sorry. I thought you said, ‘turn off the taps’. So I checked the sink in the kitchen.”

    I shook my head and walked away from the unsolicited explanation.

    It didn’t look so bad from the front. You couldn’t see the dark scar running up to the eaves, and remains of the vinyl siding, drooping like some frozen black waterfall.

    We had all seen the column of smoke as we cleared from the false alarm. “Who turned off the gas on the BBQ?” I asked, my heart sinking.

    If silence was ever deafening…

    “Heck of a way to celebrate opening a new Station, Captain Bronte.” I’d wanted to kill McCarthy for years, but he and his crew drove away laughing, before I could get my hands around his throat.

    The Captain’s office stank of burnt plastic, but was otherwise undamaged. I sat at the desk and began working on the report that would forever after be known as ‘Bronte’s Inferno’.

  15. It always rains when Mother plans a barbeque.

    I’m not allowed to commune on the porch with the adult coven, I share the garage with the idiots.

    My family is bizarre. Do you have a cousin who collects toenail clippings? Or a cousin who’s an arsonist? A garage full of chemicals isn’t the place for juvenile delinquents.

    “Hey Bridget, you think your dad has propane on his tool bench?” My cousin Toby’s head leaned to the side because he’d run into a cement post skateboarding.

    I looked up from the bacon-wrapped hot dog I was dominating and shrugged. Dad was obsessed with bacon and had put a taste of it in every dish we’d eat that day. Toby had scarfed down three in a matter of minutes. Porker.

    “Hey Bridget, what’s that?” I followed his frightened gaze toward a dark corner of the garage, and before you could say pig-in-a-blanket Toby grabbed the other dog off my plate. Foolish glutton.

    Jasper, recently released from juvie, assisted Toby in placing an M80 upright in an empty glass Coke bottle. It ignited, and before they could get away, the pyrotechnic exploded shooting flames onto Toby’s corpulent mass. He fell onto a heap of drop-clothes soaked in mineral spirits.

    “Bridget, help!” he screamed.

    I chanted as the swine burned orange and yellow.
    Jasper ran for assistance, but I watched as the flames licked the flesh off the hog’s tortured frame. Redemption.

    My name is Bridget Bishop, Salem’s first witch, and ruthless bacon lover.

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