The Quotable


Delicious. You spear the last bite of Crispy Orange Chicken with your fork and use it to dab up the remaining rice scattered on your plate. Pulling the sweet, tender, breaded meat off the fork with the back of your teeth, you chew slowly, savoring the tangy sauce that covers your taste buds. “Chinese Take-Out Tuesdays” at the office seem so indulgent, with the multitudes of meats, sauces, vegetables, rice, and roll combinations. You are, of course, still hungry, but vigilant to never overeat. There is always a little space inside that remains empty.

You swallow, regretting that the experience must end. The paper plate lies empty, stained, spotted, and smeared with trails of that wonderful red-orange sauce. There are leftovers, but they won’t be eaten tonight. You will be going out to a restaurant you have never been to before. The possibilities of what might be on the menu make your mouth water.

“Hey, Richard, want to know your fortune? Maybe it has advice about your date tonight.”

Looking up, you see Louis staring across the table at you. Teeth as white as china plates offset by his olive complexion. He grins, dangling a cellophane package between the two of you.

“There is no date. It’s a work related dinner,” you tell Louis.

“Whatever,” Louis says as he shakes the crinkly cell. “Cookie, will Richard get lucky tonight?”

“It’s not a magic eight ball,” you say.

Louis slides the toasted cookie across the table. It will be crunchy with a hint of vanilla. You swallow in anticipation. Reaching out, your fingers close around the smiling shape and you start to think about the slightly sweet and citric aromatics the bag will release with a puff of preserved air when it is pulled open. Then, there will be a pleasant feeling of the ridges as they cross your tongue.

Before the cookie can be lifted from the table, a heavy stack of binders slam down on your hand. They have crushed the once delightful treat to rubble. Your eyes find the culprit. Cynthia is glowering down at you with honey-colored eyes. Her brown hair falls past her shoulders in perfect cascades. It makes you think of milk chocolate. A strawberry tinge flares in her cheeks.

“I told you I wanted this list before the end of the day,” she scolds.

You watch her ruby lips. Her warm and spicy perfume teases your nose, playfully. She leans in towards you slightly, her eyes widening. “Richie!”

“Richard,” you remind her, though you know she has shortened your name on purpose. “I don’t like nicknames.”

“That’s surprising,” she feigns. “I would have thought you’d prefer Dick.” She punctuates the last word and pauses a moment before continuing. “What about this list?”

You look down at your empty plate, a warm flush coming over you before murmuring, “Sorry. I’ll get back to it.”

Louis speaks up. You wish he wouldn’t.

“It’s only twelve-fifteen, Cynthia. He’s been working on it all morning. You’ll have it by five, so just chill out.”

She stands up straight and focuses on Louis. “Aren’t you supposed to be collating info packets about the listing? Right now there is nothing more important than the open house tomorrow night. Lawson is counting on us to make this event something special to sell the property.” She points at the files she slammed on the table, glaring at you and lowering her voice so the other agents in the lunchroom can’t hear. “Finish this guest list and don’t fuck it up.”

She stalks away quickly. Your eyes follow her. She carries herself with poise and determination. Louis breaks your concentration.

“What a bitch! Who needs a guest list for a damn open house anyway?”

You flip through a few of the files Cynthia has left. “She just wants to make sure she knows who to talk with to make the sale.”

“She likes to forget she is on the same level as us just because Lawson put her in charge of the Oak Lane property, which, by the way, is impossible to sell. If she didn’t have a telephone pole stuck up her ass —”

You stand up and throw your plate and fork away. Louis’ face changes from annoyance to apology.

“Hey, I’m sorry. I’ve seen the way you look at her, but come on. She may be gorgeous, but who could put up with that bitchy attitude? I mean, giving us a hard time for eating lunch? I certainly don’t envy the dinner meeting you have with her tonight.”

“She’s not a bitch. She’s just —”

“An aggressive pit bull with a bone?” Louis offers.


Louis rolls his eyes and gives a snort of disagreement.

“I’m done with lunch anyway,” you say. “I’ll catch you later.”

Louis shakes his head. “You work too hard. What you need is to get laid and relieve some of that stress. Maybe then you wouldn’t be whipped by that ‘focused’ witch.”

“Too bad I am not very good at dating.” You start to walk away.

“You’re a good looking guy, Richard. You just need some confidence. At dinner tonight, try acting a little more sure of yourself,” he calls loudly as you navigate the crowded lunch room full of co-workers shoveling Lo Mein and General Tso’s into their mouths. “She will be like a Thanksgiving turkey just begging for you to stuff her!” A few people in the lunch room turn to look at Louis as you exit.


The binder of client files on the lacquered table top looks out of place in the restaurant. Cynthia talks about tomorrow’s open house itinerary. She pauses a moment to let her lips encompass the blue straw sticking out of the fruity, sugary, alcoholic drink. She begins sucking. Her perfectly manicured fingers run along the curves of the glass causing condensation to roll down to wet the napkin under it.

“I want you to pick up the wine from Walton’s at two-thirty. It is already paid for and they will have it set aside for you. Do you need the address?”

Louis’ words about confidence are buzzing in your head. “No, I can find it myself,” you tell her. “What kind of wine did you order?”


“You should go with a Riesling. It’s more versatile. It compliments a wider variety of foods than Chardonnay.”

“It is?” she says, looking a little off her game. “Walton’s suggested a Chardonnay, so that’s what I ordered.”

“Don’t worry about it,” you tell her as the waiter approaches. “I’ll take care of it tomorrow and you will have the perfect wine to go with your hors d’oeuvres.” You give her a little smile.

“Thanks.” She sits back looking more relaxed.

You order the filet, rare, a baked potato with butter, sour cream, and chives, and the Thai honey-ginger carrots. She orders another drink and a side salad, no dressing and no cheese. This strikes you as strange. She insisted on this steak and seafood restaurant to have the meeting, but all she has ordered are overpriced mixed drinks and a salad. Confusion tightens the muscles on your brow as the waiter leaves with the order. Cynthia notices, sits up straight, and looks agitated.

“What?” she chirps.

“Just a salad?”

“I’m a vegetarian.”

You hear the words, but the shock of the confession stalls the information from getting to your brain. It seems inconceivable that someone like Cynthia would only eat vegetables.

“A vegetarian? This is a steak and seafood restaurant.”

She picks up a roll, her third this evening, and breaks it apart. The moist, warm vapor of garlic and sharp cheddar melted into cornmeal dough trails over to you. Her explanation comes through a perfect set of teeth. “I know, but these cheddar biscuits are amazing.”


The vegetarian lies naked on her stomach as you place small kisses along her spine. It took a lot of play wrestling to get her into this submissive of a position from repeatedly trying to straddle you. She giggles, partly from your lips brushing her skin, but mostly from the four mixed drinks at the restaurant.

“I never expected the night to end up like this,” she laughs as your kisses continue over her buttocks and down her right thigh. “You don’t need to worry about being gentle. I like it a little rough.” She giggles again.

The light in the bedroom is dim and her tanned calf against the white sheets reminds you of what Louis mentioned at lunch.

It is Thanksgiving. A huge turkey leg, on a bed of mashed potatoes sits before you. Aromas of the autumn holiday arouse your senses. The turkey leg resists your bite at first, but you break through the thin shell of baked skin and find the warm, moist meat underneath. The juices fill your mouth.

“Ow!” Cynthia kicks you in the face and sends you backward off the bed. “What the fuck?” She turns on the bedside light and looks down at her leg. Your body is tingling and only vaguely aware of what has just happened, but you understand when you see the marks your teeth have made.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Get out!” She reaches down to grab a high heel, launching it at your face. Ducking the shoe, you start retrieving pieces of your clothing as she continues to shout insults and finds more things to throw.

“You’re sick!”

A book narrowly misses you.

“I’m sorr-”

“Get out! Get out! Get out!” She throws her vibrator and the hard plastic connects with your temple, painfully. You run out.


Leaning on the porcelain sink of your bathroom for support as you stare in the mirror, the face that looks back is pale with pupils wide. A bruised lump is forming on your temple. It won’t be a good look for tomorrow’s open house. Using a finger to push on it, you wince from the sharp pain that pulls your lips back from your teeth. The appearance of canines and incisors in the mirror distracts from the injury. Leaning in and looking closely at your teeth, the sensations of biting into her flesh returns. The face grins and flexes its jaw like a wild animal. A tongue slowly travels across the contours of your teeth.

The phone rings.


“Hey man, it’s Louis. How’d it go tonight?”

You lie. “Fine. We worked out the game plan for tomorrow. You’ll need to be there by five.”

“I don’t give a shit about how planning for the open house went. How did the date go? Did Cynthia eat your heart directly out of your chest for the main course, or did she save that for dessert?”

“It wasn’t like that. We had dinner, finalized the event tomorrow, and that was it.”

“So you didn’t bang her out?”

“No. I didn’t. You don’t know everything about her. She’s…” You struggle for the right word.

“A man-eater?” Louis makes himself laugh. “Sorry. Okay, I promise no more remarks about Cynthia, but after the open house tomorrow, you need to ask her out on an actual date. I guarantee she’ll tell you to go to hell, but then you can move on and find a girl with loose, uh, morals. Hey, my sister will be in town next month —”

You cut Louis off before he can pervert himself further. “I am not interested in asking her out anymore. I need to get some sleep. See you tomorrow.” You hang up the phone and return to your reflection. After a moment, you grab the toothbrush and load it with toothpaste. You brush so hard that you spit out pink foam.


It is ten-thirty-seven and Mr. Lawson is the last person to leave. “Excellent job tonight, both of you. This open house was a huge success. I’ve got quite a few people that are interested in making an offer. Thank you.”

“It was no problem at all, sir,” Cynthia says through a huge smile directed at your boss. “Whatever helps out the team!”

“I will see you tomorrow then. Good-night.” Mr. Lawson shakes both of your hands and walks out to his Jaguar. She closes the door behind him, lets out a sigh, and her smile is suddenly gone.

The open house for the completely furnished, two million dollar listing on Oak Lane had been well attended. The evidence is scattered around the room in the form of crumbs, half eaten hors d’oeuvres, wadded up abstracts of napkins, and empty wine glasses. There was only half a bottle of Riesling left. You force a smile and say, “Wow, huh? Glad that’s over.” You wait for her to agree.

“What are you smirking at, asshole?” She moves off and begins to clean up. “I was here all day cleaning, cooking, getting things ready, and you didn’t show up until three.”

“You told me to be here at three,” you remind her as you pick up plates and forks from the mantle and follow her to the kitchen. Her back is to you as she turns on the water to rinse dishes before loading them into the washer. “Everyone said the food was amazing. You must make a great meal.” The compliments are ignored.

“I’ll be here all night cleaning up this mess,” she sighs.

“I’m going to help. You don’t have to do it alone.”

“I don’t want your help, Richard.”

“And if I don’t, I’ll never hear the end of it,” you say.

“Maybe I should have invited Louis to breast feed and babysit you. Then you wouldn’t have followed me around all night.”

“You are acting like this because of last night.”

She spins to face you, eyes wide. “Oh, you mean this?” she says sarcastically as she pulls up her trouser leg. There is an oval pattern of purple and blue bruises on her calf. “Yes, it’s because of last night, you demented freak! You are lucky you didn’t break any skin. I would sue but I’d be too embarrassed to admit I let you into my bed.” She turns back to the dirty plates in the sink. “I can’t believe I got that drunk.”

Holding back frustration, you bite your tongue as you dump the remains of a plate into the garbage and hand her the dish. There was no time between running errands today and talking with clients this evening for you to find time to eat. Your stomach rumbles loudly, upset with the lack of attention. She snatches the plate from your hand.

“Just leave. I don’t want to spend any more time with you now that this project is over. Stay away from me. It makes my skin crawl to constantly have you hovering around and staring at me.”

You remember the face that was in the bathroom mirror last night. Quietly, you take a gleaming frying pan down from over the stove. She continues with the insults.

“And I certainly don’t need to listen to your goddamn stomach growling in my ear. You know, I had the perfect outfit picked out for tonight, but since it was a skirt —”


The oil in the pan ripples and is beginning to give off a little smoke. You drop in the minced garlic, careful not to let it burn. Burnt garlic would lend an overwhelming bitter flavor. As the fresh slice of meat is laid into the pan, it sizzles. The fragrance as it cooks is amazing — a little like ham, but softer somehow. The savory scent practically rolls around on your tongue. Your stomach rumbles again, this time in excitement. You pour the last of the Riesling into a glass and lift it to your nose. There is a delicate floral perfume. Taking a sip, you note the sweetness of the pale berry and the crisp finish. The wine is extremely versatile in complementing different types of meat.

You are completely relaxed, full for once, and feeling oddly refreshed as you take out the last of the trash to the curb. The night was spent cleaning up quite a mess. Dawn is beginning to bleed across the sky. The garbage truck down the street growls as it is fed.

Putting the lid on the can you say, “You do make a great meal, Cynthia. Just delicious.”


A.C. Katora grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh where she unexpectedly found true love. She graduated from The College of William & Mary with a BA in English and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Old Dominion University. Even though she dreams of a cottage in Scotland, she currently lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with aforementioned true love and two dogs, who might as well be her children.​

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The Quotable Issue 3 - Transformation