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Annette Billings



Hello readers. In addition to poetry, I love writing fiction! Each month I will write a form of fiction, thusly named because of its brevity. Each story will have a Topeka connection. All characters and situations will be fictitious, but I'll include real Topeka locations. Enjoy and be generous with feedback!



Kim foraged in her pockets for change for the parking meter. Nothing. A search of the ashtray was next— three pennies. She made an annoyed sound and wondered if the scarcity of coins was an omen. A deep dive into the passenger seat cushion yielded a quarter and a lint-covered dime. The conversation from the night before looped in her head as she exited her car and dropped both coins in a meter.

Sairath had lamented, “I want to be with you. But I don’t think we can sustain the kind of relationship I have in mind.” She’d continued. “You live in this black and white—this—this—salt and pepper world, Babe. The world I live in has more,”—she’d searched for a word— “more spice!”


Kim, a prosecuting attorney, had wanted to present a suitable rebuttal, but before one formed, Sairath stood abruptly and reached for her coat.


“Kim,” Sairath said softening her voice, “here’s an example. I bought you a grinder for pepper at Christmas and you had no idea what it was. Our tastes are too different in far too many things. I need a relationship with more range than this. I need— cardamom.” With that, Sairath had donned her coat and left.

Cardamom?, Kim thought. In the context of the one-sided conversation, Kim was fairly certain cardamom was a spice. She was sure she’d warned Sairath she didn’t cook when they had begun dating.

“Why cardamom?, she’d wondered out loud in the empty apartment.

Kim hadn’t argued with Sairath the night before because she was correct. The majority of Kim’s life was dull. She walked the line of straight and narrow with boring precision. Her life was playing out like she dressed and ate— carefully and blandly. She was not a pinch- of- this- or a handful- of- that type of person. Hers was essentially a by-the-recipe life and, until she met Sairath, that had suited her well. What she realized in the quiet after Sairath’s departure was that she was in love with her. Kim had glanced at the nondescript salt and pepper shakers on her table. She had shaken her head and reached for her phone. She looked up area spice stores. A shop called “Moburts” was listed first. She recognized the name as a place she’d driven by many times en route to her bland job.

The following morning found her standing in front of the shop. She inhaled deeply, exhaled and opened the door. A bell announced her while unfamiliar, but pleasant, scents welcomed her.

From behind the counter, someone smiled. “Good morning! Welcome to Moburts.” Kim smiled back. “Is this your first time here?”

“Yes,” she answered, “ it is.” Words began to tumble out.  “I’m here on behalf of a friend. You see, this friend of mine,” Kim stopped, began again, “ this woman I’m dating, wants— needs cardamom in her life. I’m in love with her. I must be because, before her, the most daring thing I’ve ever cooked with is seasoned salt. I don’t want to lose her, so I’m willing to try cardamom. That’s crazy, right? Can you help me?”

“Well… yes, yes I can.” The storekeeper, still smiling, came from around the counter, “Let me show you what we have and we can talk about simple ways you use it.” Kim sighed.

Back at the apartment building, Sairath dropped the key Kim had given her into the mail slot.


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