portion of the artwork for Steven D. Stark's fiction

I Don’t Eat Risotto
Steven D. Stark

He said he wanted to cook a dinner for me.

So I let him.

He made risotto with sausage and peppers.

I’m a vegetarian. And I don’t like spicy stuff.

My name is Jennie Wolfe and you might think from all this that I really like this guy but I don’t. I mean, I don’t know if I like him or not because I just met him, really. He usually sits a row or two in front of me in film class. You would think he’d sit in the back since he usually comes in late and looks as if he’s been partying all night and just remembered he had to go to class. I mean, his laces aren’t tied and his T-shirt is bunched up funny like he either just put it on while he was walking to class or fell asleep at his desk. And he’s never dressed for the weather though he always wears a scarf, even in September.

And get this: He also wears a red hood. No coat, just the hood.

He also talks in class all the time as if he knows everything. Not my taste, really.

But he has hound-dog sad brown eyes and I’m a sucker for those. So as he walked past me one day after class last week, I said something.

“Didn’t like that movie, huh?”

“Yeah, right. I notice he doesn’t look at me but at his feet, though maybe not because then he might tie those loose laces.

“Tell me what you think of it, really.”

Like we don’t know since, as usual, he told the whole class exactly what he thought and a lot more.

“I thought it was typical bullshit,” he said. “Americans can’t make serious films. This is what always happens.”

I’m sorry I asked. He seems genuinely upset.

“Are you going to lunch?” I ask, more to just change the subject than anything else.

“I’m not on a meal plan.”

“You live off campus?”

“No, I live in Buckingham,” and he points to a dorm behind a building.

He frowns. Looks like I raised another bad subject, though with this guy, everything looks like a potential bad subject.

“The food sucks,” he says, as if that explains everything. “A friend and I cook all our meals in the dorm kitchen.”

And so, after he had told me about all the great stuff he made with his friend which didn’t really sound all that great—I mean chicken parmesan wasn’t invented yesterday and I doubt his grandma’s recipe tastes all that great when cooked on something one step up from a hot plate—he invited me to dinner, Friday at nine.

I did something very clever before I went. I ate first.

And I did something equally smart right after we finished. I opened his front door and allowed all his chipmunks and squirrels and even his pet badgers to escape. Every last one of them.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 41 | Summer 2013