Presidential Soup - By Zack Mitchell, p.1Zack Mitchell
A Short Story By: Zack Mitchell
Copyright 2013 Zack Mitchell & Danny Mendlow
DBA: “Mitchell Mendlow”
All Rights Reserved
Short Stories by Mitchell Mendlow available at
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Everyone has something in their kitchen they would eat last in the event of starvation. For Gordon McKenzie, it was soup. He had only bought four cans of it in his life. Lurking deep in the top shelf of the most inaccessible cupboard, dust-covered and potentially expired, were the same four cans. It was assumed he would never eat them. Yet something was different tonight.
Gordo arrived home from work and looked in the fridge. Nothing much. He picked up the phone book and flipped through the take-out menus. Then he delved into the boring depths of the dry-storage cupboard. Probably nothing more than some jello packets, iced tea powder, maybe pasta (with no sauce or butter in the fridge, nor any oil), pancake mix (and not the kind that calls only for water, it called for milk and eggs, both of which were also not in the fridge, not to mention any sort of syrups or jams), maybe a sprouted potato or two and finally a bottle of honey, its ancient run-off crusted the surrounding surface.
There was nothing in the cupboard other than what he had predicted. Except...the soup on the top shelf.
Soup? He asked himself. His stomach grumbled. I'll see what kinds they are at least.
He grabbed the canned undesirables. First up was an overdose of sodium in the form of a generic Tomato. It was likely the colour of neon orange glistening sickly in the reflection of fluorescent lighting. A misplaced radioactive substance that when ingested might transform one into a new type of superhero, or give one cancer, or merely bring on a case of heartburn, depending on what your story is all about. He could imagine the soup showing off its clusters of oily residue and ever-split watery-appearance. Next up was a weak broccoli and cheese. A pulpy matter devoid of any discernible broccoli, it had been blended to a hot smoothie of faded green. Also there was a strange specimen of a long-since discontinued chain of an immensely unpopular Chili-like substance (this beauty expired nine years ago). Finally there was a can of Plain Lentil.
The Chili-stuff was ruled out for mere health issues, as was the sodium-bomb Tomato. He further inspected the Broccoli and Cheese and grew to suspect it did not actually contain any elements of real food, but was a clever rouse of flavouring made from a complex arrangement of totally synthetic materials. That left the Plain Lentil, which was actually the name of the brand. Gordo thought it was an honest name that didn't try to sell itself as more than it was. The wrapper was also very plain, listing nothing other than the scant ingredients and a complaint-line phone number. None of the usual indulgent hype about how the vegetables were supposedly grown and harvested by authentic, rustic farmers living on the slopes of some distant mountain.
Gordo got a pot from the cupboard and placed it on the burner. He then opened the can of soup. Something rank beyond anything he had ever experienced emanated from the smell. He could have nearly passed out. He looked inside. There was no soup in the can. Taking up all the room was a dead rat. The smell escaped with a violent explosion. Gordo threw up. He didn't clean it up but instead went to lie down.
He awoke several hours later. The rank smell of the dead rat had now permeated across the entire apartment, oozing into every forgotten nook and cranny. Gordo choked. He promptly made himself a makeshift gas-mask with a towel doused in something resembling Old Spice, as if he were a character in a movie that didn't show brand-name logos. He put the can in a plastic bag (not before writing down the complaint phone number), sealed the bag and placed it on the balcony.
Must hold onto the evidence.
Gordo phoned the complaint hot-line. He was greeted with a voice that was not organic.
“Hello, you have reached the hot-line for Plain Lentil Soup,” said the automated, androgynous robot voice. “We must place you momentarily on hold. Please remain calm and listen to a minute or two of snyth-pop elevator muzak.”
Approximately three and a half hours went by before the voice returned.
“Thank you for momentarily holding. To continue in English, press 1. Pour Francais, deux--”
Gordo pressed 1.
"If you have a complaint about Plain Lentil soup, press 1. If you have a compliment, press 2.”
As with most callers, Gordo pressed 1.
“If you are unsatisfied with the flavour of Plain Lentil soup, try adding a lot of salt. If that does not work, press 1. If you are unsatisfied with the texture of Plain Lentil soup, add crackers or press 2. If you are worried about accidentally ingesting the metal shavings that are scraped off the can and deposited into the soup when using a low-budget can-opener, buy a better can opener or press 3. If you have a more complex and unrelated complaint, hang up or press 4.”
Gordo pressed 4.
“Please enjoy another brief interlude from the playlist of chart-topping techno-synth pop-muzak while we attempt to connect you with an actual human operator.”
An extensive repertoire of weird sounds paraded through the telephone. A human voice finally answered.
“Hello, this is Janet for Plain Lentil Soup. How can I help you?”
“I found a rat in one of your cans of soup,” said Gordo.
“Not mine,” replied Janet. “Yours.”
“It was your can of soup, was it not? If you were opening it with intentions to consume, that is. If it were my can of soup then it would make you a thief.”
You made the soup,” said Gordo. “That's what I meant.”
“I didn't make any soup. Never in my entire life have I made anything more complex than rice, toast or hot dogs,” argued Janet. “I answer the phone and talk with irritating people who look for excuses to be rude. That’s my job.”
“I meant your company made the soup!” said Gordo. “And aren't you the one being rude?”
“Well, I've yet to say anything to warrant the use of an exclamation point.”
“Listen, I found a rat in a can of Plain Lentil Soup. It made me throw up all over the floor. I still haven't cleaned it up. I want retribution for this horrible experience. You can start by sending someone over to clean up the vomit.”
“We here at Plain Lentil Soup apologize that you were a victim of AWP.”
“What is AWP?”
“Accidental Wildlife Placement. Approximately 1 in 10,000 cans of soup contain some sort of rodent-like creature. Was the rat still alive?”
“Alive? Of course not, how could it have survived being canned?”
“You'd be surprised.”
“Mr. McKenzie, we--”
“Call me Gordo.”
“Once again, we apologize for your misfortune. We would like to offer you a lifetime supply of Plain Lentil Soup to make up for everything. No need to thank us now, you can mail us a thank you card or cheque when you begin receiving the shipments of soup. I believe a lifetime allotment is roughly two crates per month. Each crate contains forty cans of soup. That's almost enough for you to eat three cans of soup per day for the rest of your life. Ok, thank you for calling, goodbye.”
"Hang on!” shouted Gordo. “That doesn't work for me! I don't want a life
“You may give the soup away to a shelter or charity.”
“I don't want to donate soup that might have a dead rodent in it!”
“Remember, sometimes the rodents are still alive,” said Janet.
“Dead or alive, I don't want rodents anywhere near the soup!”
“Fair enough. I'm sorry Mr. Gordo, we don't have anything else to offer you. Goodbye now.”
“I'll spill the secret!” blurted Gordo. “About AWP. About how people might find a rat if they buy your soup. I'll bankrupt Plain Lentil.”
“How do you expect to do that?” asked Janet.
“I've been recording this entire conversation,” claimed Gordo. “I'll leak the tape. Word will get out that 1 in 10,000 cans of Plain Lentil Soup have a disgusting animal as an added ingredient. Do you think people will take the chance and keep buying your soup? I don't think they will.”
Janet fell silent for the first time in the conversation.
“Hello?” asked Gordo.
"Thank you for your call,” said Janet. “Someone is on the way. Goodbye.”
Gordo was unsure of how he felt about Janet's last statement. Someone is on the way? He did ask for them to send a cleaning crew over. That or he was about to start receiving crates of rodent-infested soup.
But what if she's sending some goon over to collect the apparent tape I recorded? What will they do when they find I don't have it?
Gordo grew apprehensive. First he made some iced tea and jello.
Presidential Soup - By Zack Mitchell by Zack Mitchell / Humor have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes