the sauce

Photo courtesy of Michelle Weber.

Roberto prepared to spoon on the sauce.

This wasn’t just any sauce, mind you, it was his special creation: the culmination of his years of experience and expertise, his signature dish.  But, it couldn’t stand alone.  It needed something to be drizzled over to truly be complete.  Thus, he waited.

Carlo carefully plated his own masterpiece.  He took his time to make sure the presentation was perfect.  It simply wouldn’t do to have a single item out of place.  Genius cannot be rushed.

The two brothers, Roberto and Carlo, chefs extraordinaire, were known across the land as the finest cooks one could ever have the pleasure of being served by.  Their restaurant, Intingolo, had started humbly enough with the two of them working every shift on a shoestring budget and barely making ends meet.  Over the years word of the food had spread and the customers and rave reviews had poured in, allowing them to expand, hire help, expand again, and finally look around and feel like they had made it to where they wanted to be: working on their specialty dishes and leaving the rest of the business in capable hands.

Life had been good.

Then famous customers had started coming in, politicians, actors, sports stars, and the pressure to create works of art, pleasing to all of the senses, mounted.  Roberto and Carlo scrambled to find something that would define them and their restaurant, something that would appease the masses but also appeal to the more discerning palettes of their upper echelon clientele.

It was Roberto who had stumbled onto the sauce, and its secret ingredient, late one evening after the doors had been closed and the last of the staff had gone home for the night.  Carlo had worked countless hours after that to create a dish to compliment the sauce his brother had created and he too finally stumbled onto the right combination of flavors and textures.  They combined their creations, and, voila, they gave Intingolo a dish that would be raved about, craved, obsessed over and sought after through the country.

Roberto was clamored with request after request to give out the secret of his sauce.  The public wanted to know.  His peers wanted to know.  The world wanted to be able to at least attempt to make the delicious gravy in their kitchens at home.  He always refused.  He smiled, a knowing, sad and tired, smile after each attempt at getting him to divulge the ingredient list, but as long as the brother’s continued to garner fame and attention, as long as their restaurant was the one on the tip of everyone’s tongue, as long as they were the darlings of the kitchen, Roberto knew he couldn’t share the secret of his sauce with anyone other than his brother.

Carlo knew the truth of it, of course, he had been there the night Roberto had created it.  Plus, they were brothers and they shared everything anyway.  Roberto would have told Carlo how he had come up with the sauce even if Carlo hadn’t been there in those fateful late night hours.  Just as Carlo had shared the secrets of his dish with Roberto once he had perfected it.

They knew the “how” and the “what” of each others’ signature creation but they never once attempted to make them.  They were a team, they each had a role to fill, and they were okay with that.  It was as it was supposed to be.

The years passed, the restaurant thrived, Roberto and Carlo were offered guest appearances on several cooking shows, were asked for critiques on up-and-coming chefs, and were afforded every opportunity to thrive and grow their business, but every afternoon they returned to Intingolo and made sure they were on hand to create their dish whenever it was ordered.  It was their passion, their calling, their true love.

Eventually the truth came out.  When someone, or two brothers to be specific, has a secret that other people want to know they will find a way to discover the truth of that secret.  Staff members at the restaurant were bribed, money exchanged hands, hidden cameras were set up to record the brothers’ movements and after several weeks of having to move the cameras around to capture the right angles and the right settings of every step of the process, the entirety of the steps and ingredients to create the sauce and dish were caught.

It took less than 24 hours for the news to go public, for the restaurant to get shut down, and for Roberto, Carlo, and a third, unidentified, man to get hauled off to jail where all three were held without bail for their crimes.  In hindsight it was a marvel that the secret had lasted as long as it had.  Expose after special after investigative report was thrown together to track how they brothers had gotten away with it for as long as they had and to ensure that other famous restaurants and chefs weren’t employing similar tactics.

Due to the overwhelming and damaging evidence, all three men plead “nolo contendere” to the charges leveled against them.  As first time offenders, despite the overall mass of their crimes against humanity, the brothers were only sentenced to ten years in prison.  The public was outraged that the sentence was that long as the two chefs were still generally beloved by all.  The third man, received his third strike, and was sentenced to life in prison with the first possibility of parole in ten years time.  Though it was still his third strike and the Judge could not overlook that, it was statements from the brothers claiming the man’s innocence as to the purpose of the drugs he had been dealing Roberto for the past several years that the court factored in to being slightly lenient on the man.

The drug dealer truly hadn’t known the mdma (ecstasy) he’d been selling the elder brother was being used in creating the world famous sauce.


Word Count: 1,000

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge.
“This week, tell us a story based on this photo”

Pictures truly are worth 1,000 words.

step into the…

Something was wrong.  I knew that straight off, from the moment my eyes opened and I laid awake trying to will myself to get up.  I didn’t know what had been wrong though until much later when I reflected upon it and realized that I had been woken because I could no longer smell the strawberry fields.  But that is not part of today’s story.

I glanced at the clock and saw that I still had an hour to sleep before my alarm would go off.  Unable to sleep, and knowing that something didn’t seem right, I flipped the switch to turn off the alarm, to keep it from beeping at the appointed time, and flung back the covers.  I’d be early, it was early, but I’d grab some coffee on the way and that would waste at least a few minutes.

Showered.  Dressed.  Breakfasted.  I climbed back upstairs to brush my teeth and was hit by the same nagging sense that something was very wrong.  I brushed it off as just the odd feeling of being up so early.  The sun had not yet risen into the sky, and while that was normal for me, the time left until that would happen was not.  Teeth cleaned and breath freshened I grabbed the few odds and ends I’d need for the day and headed out the back sliding door onto my postage stamp of a patio.

The sky was overcast, normal for living near the beach, I could tell that even though it was still dark.  The chill of morning ate at my exposed arms.  A slight breeze tickled the hairs on the nape of my neck.   Shivering, just a bit, it took an extra try to get the key in the lock after sliding home the door behind me.

Three steps across the patio and I was unlocking the door to the garage.  If I had been paying attention in those three steps of being outside but still being “home” I would have noticed that beside the lack of smell from the strawberry fields the reason I could tell it was overcast was because there was a orange glow pulsing on the western horizon.

The sun rises in the east.  I live on the west coast.  The only thing west of me was the ocean.

I was not paying attention.

I stepped into the garage, happy for the brief reprieve from the morning air and happy to see that the garage door was still down.  I didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods and I was always a little concerned that someone might break into the garage at night.  Therefore, every morning I went out to find the two cars right where they had been left was a little win to start the day.

My hand slid up the wall and pressed the button to open the door.  The wheels and chain creaked and groaned in protest.  I didn’t blame them.  I didn’t want to have to work either.  But, we all must play our part.  We all must do what we are meant to do.

I passed between the two cars, intending to head down the alley to where I had parked my work truck, but the instant I crossed the threshold, leaving my garage behind and stepping into the alley, my world changed.

More specifically, I guess, my time changed.

The keys in my hand disappeared.  The clothes I had donned for work changed.  The alley in front of switched from well-kept asphalt to a broken and disintegrating mass of tar and dirt.  Weeds, years and years of them, had split through the surface and reclaimed the driveway for their own.

The first thought I had as my eyes finally opened to see, to truly see, what I had stepped into was “the world has moved on.”

The wall across from my garage was in shambles.  Entire sections had crumbled away to nothing, and only those pieces directly next to the stretches of iron lattice work stood whole.  My gaze would have normally had to lift over the wall to see the business park beyond, but in the absence of the normal obstruction I could see that the buildings were matching the wall in their state of disrepair and neglect.  Little more than the framing remained.  The signs that once adorned the rafters of each business had disintegrated away to nothing.

The pulsing orange glow I had missed earlier finally caught my attention and my swung my head to the west.  From the corner of my eye I could see that the rest of my complex also matched the wall in it’s state of decrepitude.  Essentially it no longer existed at all.  I resisted the temptation to slide past the orange glow entirely and turn in a half circle to peer back at the condo I had just left.  That visage, whatever it would be, would wait until I had spent at least a few minutes marveling at the glowing horizon.

There was no set cadence or tempo to the throbbing light.  It pulsed quickly then slowly, in brighter and then softer bursts.  The color remained constant though: day glow orange.  It wasn’t quite neon, but it was brighter than Halloween pumpkins.

I couldn’t see the source.  The whole horizon seemed to pulse with the light.  I couldn’t see all the way to the water, but there were fewer buildings in my way than there should have been.  Finally I turned back to face the garage I had exited moments before.  The door frame stood solidly but everything else was gone.  The cars I had just squeezed between were gone.  The back of the garage was gone.  The framing to my condo was gone.  The entire second story, where I had woken earlier in my bedroom, was gone.  A few beams from the framing remained in place, but not a single one was still wholely intact.

It was at that exact moment I realized that I was no longer holding the keys to my truck in my right hand and that I was no longer wearing the slacks and button-up I had put on after my shower.  In place of my typical Monday through Friday garb I was wearing some sort of grey jumpsuit.  It wasn’t anything I recognized from my closet.

My mind reeled.  My vision blurred.  My legs gave out and I sat down before I fell.

I sat there for a long time.  I’m not sure how long because I couldn’t see the sun behind the cloud cover, and I didn’t have a watch or a cell phone (both also having disappeared when I crossed over into this when).  It was long enough for me to feel like I could stand again and then what felt like 30 minutes more, but was probably only 5.  Time is tricky like that.

Regaining my feet, I immediately stepped back through the open garage door, hoping that I could return to my time by backtracking.  I continued through the garage, noticing that my clothes hadn’t changed, passed where my two cars should have been, out to the small patio on the other side, and into the wreckage of my condo through the spot the sliding door would have stood if the glass hadn’t shattered and turned to dust years before.  I stood in what had been my kitchen, still without my car keys, watch, and cellphone.  Still not dressed in my work clothes.  Still wearing the grey track suit I had never seen before.

I rummaged through the remains of what had been my home for any clue as to what had happened.  Questions flooded my mind: was this a dream? what year is it? what is the orange glow off the coast? where did everyone go? why did the world move on?  But there was nothing left in my condo to answer any of these questions.  I went back out to the garage to search it as well and also came up empty.

With no idea of what I should do or where I should go, I turned west again and started walking towards the coast.  Perhaps if I could get a clearer picture of what was causing the pulsing light I would understand what had happened to me.  I searched everything I passed for some hint, some clue, that could help answer the questions that were plaguing me but continued to find no trace of anything useful.

It was only a couple miles out to coast, a trek that normally would have taken only 30 minutes, but it took me several hours to get there.  Stopping to search homes and office buildings that still stood delayed my progress.  Plus, things were not as they had been in my when.  The landmarks I normally would have used to navigate the streets were mostly missing, and the streets themselves were all but gone as well, and occasionally littered with debris so completely that I had to change paths to continue heading west.

I eventually broke free of the commercial areas entirely and entered what had been the luxury homes lining the coastline.  At least that’s what I pictured in my head.  The visage in front of me was starkly different as where the multimillion dollar beach fronts homes had stood nothing at all remained except the foundations, and in some places even those had disappeared under the encroaching beach sand.  I saw a pole with a sign still standing in what should have been the middle of a street that ran perpendicular to the coast.  I walked up to it to see if it was still readable.

The letters were cracked, but the pole was still in somewhat decent shape, especially considering the carnage all around it.  I could make out the words, barely, but I could read them: Danger – Volcanic Activity and Tsunami area.  Do NOT Enter.   – Danger

My eyes flitted up to peer into the pulsing orange glow.  I wasn’t sure if my mind was just making it up or if I really could see something way out in the distance bulging into the heavens… something in the shape of a cone, with orange and red streaks streaming down its sides.  Was that cloud cover overhead or ash built up in the atmosphere?  Could I smell a faint hint of burning being mostly overpowered by the smell of the ocean?  Could that pulsing light be caused by lava spewing out of an active cauldron?

My eyes returned to the sign, and in the bottom right hand corner I saw the following: Trespassing here is against the Federal Safety Act of 2313.

My eyes returned to the ocean and the hint of the volcano on the horizon.  At least I knew it was sometime after 2313…

I turned from the beach and headed north.  There was a river that had run through the city in my when and I would need fresh water if I was going to survive.  I would need shelter too, but that could be built.  I would need food, but that could wait until after I had secured water.  Water, above all other needs, was most important.

As I walked I thought about all the things I would need to survive… and I also thought about the wife and child I had left behind in my when.  Did I wish they had stepped through whatever time portal I had crossed through that morning?  Or, was I happy they were safely back in a when that didn’t have a super volcano that had wiped out at least the entire coast if not more…?

I missed them already.

I pushed those thoughts aside.  There would be time to dwell on them later, hopefully.  I needed to figure out how to live first.

I didn’t give myself good odds on that…


Written in response to this week’s Writing Challenge – Door:

The door to your house/flat/apartment/abode has come unstuck in time. The next time you walk through it, you find yourself in the same place, but a different time entirely. Where are you, and what happens next?


What would your story be?

can you see it?

She sat alone on the windowsill, the sun streaming through the slanted wood blinds and warming her black fur.  Her right paw was stretched out between the two bottom most slats, resting against the screen, and the other three paws were tucked neatly under her body.  Her lids were only half open, squinting against the brilliant light, but still she saw everything going on beyond the large bay window barrier.  The ledge she sat on was only just wide enough for her, but it was five times over again her length.  Her tail, with just a dabble of peach in a circular splotch a few inches from the tip, the only blemish in her midnight coat other than the white of her paw pads, hung off the edge of the windowsill and twitched lazily.

In the warm afternoon light, her black fur blended almost seamlessly into the dark brown mahogany of the window blinds where her paw passed between them.  The screen bent every so slightly outward under the pressure of her extended foot.  Her owners learned long ago to only crack the glass pane a few inches to let in the fresh air or she would attempt to climb the crisscrossing mesh that kept her safely locked indoors.  She yawned in a wide grin, exposing her sharp fangs for a second, and then leaned her head down to rest gently on her right paw.  Her nose came to a rest just breaking the plane of the nearest reaches of the blinds.  Twitch, twitch, twitch went her tail.

She contemplated sticking her head in between the blinds to get a better view of the world beyond, she ever so much did enjoy that, but the luxurious warmth in her current position dissuaded her from further movement.  The shadows cast by the filtered sun spread out behind her on the carpeted floor.  Soon enough she would jump down from her perch and stretch out in a warm spot on the speckled carpet but the time for that had not yet arrived.  When the evening marine layer started to roll in and assault her crack of fresh air with a gentle cool breeze, only then would it be time to abandon her current spot.  She kept her eyes half open, peering out the window, daring the world to take notice of her.  Twitch, twitch, twitch went her tail.

when in doubt

He slammed his hands down in frustration.  The keyboard rattled.  The monitor swayed slightly on its pedistal.  But, nothing changed.

“Blue screen of death again,” he mumbled under his breath. 

The oft cursed adage about Windows products, “when in doubt, restart,” ran through his thoughts peppered with the colorful langauge he had learned long ago was not suitable for polite company but perfectly at home in his mind.  Though he wasn’t currently in polite company and could have spouted off as much black and blue (bruises) and red (blood) as he desired without offending anyone, old habits are hard to break, and he found he could only rarely allow the creative combinations of four letter words from his mind out into the open.

Sighing, he leaned forward and used the index finger of his right hand to hold the power button on the CPU at his feet.  The grey tower leaned back every so slightly as he pressed into it.  After two seconds the spinning sound of the hard drive beneath its metal case disappeared and the blue screen on his monitor blinked off, leaving the blank reflective surface and nothing else.

He sneered at the faint copy of himself as he pulled his finger off the power button and sat back into his chair.  He was not the man he had thought he would be.  Not only had he never fulfilled any of the dreams he’d had in childhood, he’d also lost any resemblance to that exuberant youth.  He wasn’t a copy of a copy of a copy.  He wasn’t a shadow of his former self.  He had turned into something altogether unrecognizable.

He knew it was time to get a new computer, but his old Pentium II processor powered machine was the last remaining tie to his old life.  He had believed he would change the world when he first purchased the computer.  Paid for with money he had earned on his own, it had been the inspiration for most of his dreams, for the goals he had set for his life rather than the goals his family had set for him. 

His reflection laughed at him.

If he bought a new computer it would be admitting failure.  As long as he could continue to fix his worn down desktop he could hang on to that last sliver of hope that one day he might turn his life around and reach some of the goals those first few years clicking away on it had originally inspired.

His reflection laughed at him again and he felt the corners of his lips turn up even further.  The sneer had turned into a smirk. 

He hated waiting.

The prerequisite thirty seconds elapsed and he leaned forward to reboot the machine.  His finger depressed the button again and then quickly released it.  The hard drive spun up with a few clicks and a few beeps.  He straightened up in his chair again and watched as his reflection on the blank screen was replaced by the start-up prompts.

“Would I like to start in safe mode?”  His left hand found the “3” to select that option on the keyboard and his right hand selected “Enter.”  He could make that selection without looking at the keyboard anymore.  His hands new the desired paths from multiple repetitions.

“Here I go starting over again…  If only I could do that with my life.”

After some thought, while still waiting for the computer to boot fully, he added, “Wouldn’t mind the safe mode option either.”

My life through maps

Feeling inspired to challenge myself today and do something a bit different, I’m going to use the Google Map embed feature to provide a (very) brief history of my life.

From 1981 through the summer 1999 I grew up in Ridgecrest, CA in the middle of the Mojave Desert:

It was a great place to grow up though I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  Quiet, peaceful, safe, and with easy access to both the western and eastern side of the Sierra. 

I was baptized in the Kings River, Zumwalt Meadows, Kings Canyon National park:

These driving directions are pretty good.  Take the 180 to Zumwalt Meadows, park, and then step down the trail a little ways.  I don’t think I could find the exact spot anymore, but once you are there you’ll get the idea.  And, yes, it was cold.

At the ripe old age of ten I went on a backpacking trip that, among other things on the week long adventure, saw us summit Mount Whitney:

These driving directions will get you to Whitney Portals and, if you have the proper permits and are properly conditioned, you can do the day hike up to the summit and back from there. On our trip we went in over Kearsarge Pass and hit Whitney on our way out of the backcountry.

We went on several family trips growing up.

Washington DC:



In 1999 I graduated from high school and moved to San Diego in the fall to attend UCSD, Revelle College. I lived in La Jolla (2 years), Serra Mesa (3 years) and Mira Mesa (3 years) until I left in 2007:

My alma-mater:

Shh, don’t tell my parents, but I may have taken a couple trips down to Tijuana:

After graduation, I took a trip out to Catalina Island to, er, um, “rest” and “recuperate” from the long and arduous years studying for school. (Can you hear my parents laughing in the background?):

I headed east to Prescott to visit my brother who went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and then worked for the school for several years after graduating as a flight instructor before eventually winding up in Phoenix:

All of those trips were about resting and recuperating as well.

In 2007 I moved from San Diego to Camarillo where I lived with my soon to be wife until 2009:

We ventured out to Colorado on several occasions to visit her sister in Gunnison and to go snowboarding at Crested Butte:

The Rockies are as enchanting as the Sierra. Each of those trips was an absolute blast.

We took several trips up to Mammoth to snowboard, and we married there in April of 2009 at McCoy Station:

Eventually I’m going to have to do a separate post about our wedding. It was amazing. The picture at the top of my blog page is from that day – Top of the Sierra, standing on 18 feet of snow. We had some of our pictures taken with us sitting on that sign. Anyway, if you’ve never been to Mammoth, winter or summer, stop whatever you are doing (after you finish reading my blog of course) and go now.

In 2009 we bought our first house (a condo) in Oxnard and that is where we still find ourselves today:

We still venture out and about though, and aside from our normal trips up to the mountains we’ve also made it out to Pennsylvania a couple times and even to Playa Del Carmen:

Who knows where we will head next.