Oven Fire

“Are you still cooking?” Shelley’s husband asked.

It was a rhetorical question, of course – dinner had been laid upon the table already, the wine was poured, and Shelley had finally fallen into her chair after being on her feet all day. Rather than simply switching off the oven or even pointing out that she had forgotten to turn off the oven when she was done, Rodney always turned it into a sort of disingenuous question. “Are you still cooking?” Or, “Are you using that towel?” (The wet one, draped across the bedroom chair.) “Do you need that bathroom light on?” (As they were walking out the door to drive to work.)

Shelley sighed. “Sorry, no. Would you get it for me on your way by?”

Rodney turned the oven knob and sat down at the head of the table. They ate in silence broken only by the murmur of, “Pass the vegetables, please,” and, “Could I have a napkin, please?” Except, Shelley realized, the “please” was mostly in her head – a rhetorical, perfunctory, and therefore pointless “please” that existed only as minor annoyance – like a mosquito buzzing – in her brain. She resisted the urge to say, “You’re welcome,” as she handed Rodney the salad dressing.

One night, Rodney didn’t sit down to dinner. Smoke began to leak from the oven vent as Shelley sank deeper into the couch, sipping a fine Malbec, and she barely noticed it. Except that Rodney’s voice – as he’d always imagined it would – popped into her head like a habit. Shelley pushed herself off the couch reluctantly and slipped into the kitchen, wrinkling her nose at the smell of burnt meat. She opened the door and wafted away the acrid smoke. Peering into the oven at the large ribs, she smirked, “You still cooking?”


This was one of the pieces I entered into the OWFI contest, in the Flash Fiction category. There was a 500 word limit; this is just under 300 words. Rather than share the feedback on this one, I’d like to ask you for yours. Please be honest and constructive! 


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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4 thoughts on “Oven Fire”

  1. I don’t know what construction I could add after one read but I can say that I truly the sense of resignation to the insensitive moments that left Shelley reflecting on those missed moments.

  2. I love the wonderfully clever ways of reminding the other when something was amiss. It makes me want to use that one about the lights on Mr. Quantum lol

    Very good!

    1. Thank you! (I was starting to think I’d been TOO subtle; the judge suggested I could’ve used the extra 200 words, but honestly – I used as many as I thought it needed. Re-reading it, I can see ways to make some things clearer, but I thought it was enough for “flash fiction” as written.)
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