Monday creativity wake-up challenge: The Last Thing You Expected to See on the Menu

The Last Thing You Expected to See on the Menu
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

The waiter handed you a menu. Only what was written inside wasn’t merely a listing of food.

* * *

And on a quick Monday side note, thanks to everyone who submitted their hilarious and awesome awesomely bad endings over the weekend. I reached into the Promptly Random-Commenter hat, and pulled out a name: Nathan Honoré. Nathan, can you shoot your address to me at, and I’ll get your book shipped out? As always, thanks again to everyone for sharing their work!

(Image: Salvatore Vuono)

Learn how to help your writing career survive—and grow—in the current economy. Break into corporate writing. Discover the art of taxes for writers. Absorb lessons and insights from an author-turned-agent. Read Elizabeth Berg’s thoughts on life after Oprah. Click here to check the March/April 2010 issue of WD out.

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3 thoughts on “Monday creativity wake-up challenge: The Last Thing You Expected to See on the Menu

  1. Dorraine

    kudos for the fun prompt! Fun reads, Martha and Mark.

    Zombie Burgers

    Our Menu——————————-

    1 Double Meat Zombie Burger ————

    You ever heard of mystery meat? For over twenty years we’ve kept our diners guessing.

    2 Grilled Zombie Chicken Sandwich —————-

    This ain’t your mama’s chicken. Eat it and die.

    3 Triple meat and triple cheese Zombie Burger—————

    You’ve already been warned.

    Meals come with small fries and a drink

    Would you prefer a medium order of French fried fingers instead? And do you want your swamp water at room temp or on ice?

    Actually, don’t get too excited. You are not going to eat. You are to be eaten…wha… ha… ha… ha… ha!

    I peered up over my menu at Steven, who was still looking his over, whistling and smiling. Was I losing my mind? No. Zombies adored that sort of thing. Oh, never mind.

    “Honey, let’s leave. Now!”

    He stared. “God, Jules, it looks like you’ve spotted a ghost.”

    Groans came from the Zombie Burger Kitchen. We threw menu’s up in the air and tore outside. We ran across the bridge before stopping to catch our breath.

    “Slow, stupid Zombies,” we mumbled.

  2. Martha W

    Zac – I luved this prompt…

    Mark, I want a chicken nugget kid’s meal please.


    Carson stared at the building in front of him. Lily wanted to meet here? The windows flashed neon peace symbols, beads hung in the door and someone had painted the walls like a tye-dyed shirt. Of course, the name spoke volumes.

    The Luv Shack.

    "Great place, isn’t it?" Lily’s silky voice stole under his skin, rocketed straight to his belly.

    He rocked back on his heels, turned his head slightly. "That’s one way to describe it."

    "You don’t like it?"

    He didn’t have to see her to know her lips were pursed in a pout. They played this game every time she picked the restaurant. "I didn’t say that. I’ve never been here."

    She giggled, slipped her hand into his. "Come on. You’ll love this place. Ginny said it’s a treat."

    He let her pull him forward, flinched as the B-52’s blared out at him from a little model of a Chrysler hanging from the door hinge over his head.

    A waitress scampered across the makeshift bridge in the lobby, her t-shirt barely holding her in. Her eyes skimmed over Lily then lit on him and stuck. "Hi-ya folks! Just the two of you?"

    Lily tucked herself under his arm, leaned in tight. "Yep. Just us."

    The girl turned without a word and grabbed two menus, not caring if they followed.

    They were led three steps past the black sheer curtain separating the two halves of the place before she dropped the menus and some silverware on the table. She flicked her hand at the booth and left.

    "This is a dive, Lily." Carson waited for her to sit then took his own side. "Why are we here?"

    "A friend at work recommended it." Lily couldn’t keep the smug grin off her face as she watched the waitress whisk by with more customers. "Guess she’s not feeling so friendly anymore."

    And Carson couldn’t let her keep it there. "Too bad."

    A flash of rage lit her eyes before it was doused with the tears that pooled there. "Oh."

    He felt the instant sting of remorse. "We’d get better service if she flirted a little."

    Lily sniffed quietly, rubbed her palms on the edge of the table. "Let’s just order."

    Carson struggled to suppress the smile. He flipped open the cover just as garish as the building itself and stared at the contents. He couldn’t quite believe what he was reading.

    A tiny gasp from across the table told him it wasn’t his eyes playing tricks. He raised his gaze until his locked with hers. They smiled simultaneously.

    "Well, which do you want to try first?"

    She moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue, her eyes glazed. "How about the Rabbit?"

  3. Mark James

    I’m heading out to track down a chocolate milk shake a seriously big order of fries. Remember that. . . chocolate.
    Zac, good one.

    Nothing can just be something anymore. Everything’s gotta have a gimmick. Dentists have teeth that talk, doctors’ needles tell bad jokes, and now, for the love of God, funeral homes have menus.

    The whole freaking place was black. I kid you not – the floor, my marble table, the curtains, the walls, even the ceiling.

    The guy gliding across the black plush carpet toward me looked like Dracula’s little brother, the one who got the hand-me-downs. “Wow. Thanks for coming,” he said. “We called like, a thousand agencies.”

    I looked at the menu he was holding out. First rule in advertising—never take nothing from nobody or next thing you know, they’re suing you for copying it. I folded my hands on the cold marble table. “What did you say you’re planning to call the place?”

    He fingered his black shirt collar like it was too tight. “The Black Box.”

    “All the coffins gonna be black?”

    He licked his lips. “It’s the only color we could afford.”

    I didn’t roll my eyes, but it was tough keeping a straight face. “Look. It’s interesting. You’re gonna have to cook it a little more. Call me in three years.”

    “Don’t leave.” He blocked my way so I couldn’t get up. Never a good thing when they get that desperate. “Would you look at the menu? It’s the sh – -”. He cleared his throat. “We really worked hard on it.”

    I opened the leather menu.

    The second rule of advertising? Never laugh at a concept, cause you don’t know who’s gonna be the next Walt Disney. Lots of people laughed at those big ears before that mouse made it.

    He held out a little case. It was shaped like a coffin. Of course. “Wait,” he said. “Put these on.”

    I took out funny looking glasses. The lenses and frame were both jet black. “How am I gonna see?”

    He reached over, pressed something on the bridge of the frame. “You’ll see fine.”

    With the glasses on, the menu came alive. The top half of the first page showed a black heart, smiling. It was surrounded by French fries, burgers, fried chicken, and a dancing Bible. “Why shouldn’t your loved one take their favorite foods with them?” the heart said. “Our Junk Food Black Box comes with burgers, a milkshake in their favorite flavor and an extra large side of fries.”

    The fries and everything else jumped off the page, joined little hands, and danced in a circle around the heart and the Bible. “As you can see,” the heart said, “our foods are molded on the real thing. At The Black Box, we say, ‘you can take it with you. And supersize it if you want.’”

    I took off the glasses. “You think this up yourself?”

    The smile dropped off his face, and he kind of backed up. “Yeah. My brother thought it was dumb, too.”

    I slid my card onto the table. “Not if U. S. I. A. is your biggest client. Get a presentation together. Call me.”

    Life’s funny isn’t it? Two days before I heard of The Black Box, U. S. Insurance Actuaries, Circle K’s fattest client, threatened to pull their business if we didn’t come up with the right campaign.

    Now, I knew exactly how to put fast food out of business. Forever.


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