Life at the workhouse was not much fun for a small boy. Oliver spent twelve hours a day picking oakum apart with his fingers along with forty other boys. At noon and the end of the work day they would receive a small bowl of watery gruel and that, along with one onion and one roll on the weekends, was supposed to keep them going during their weeks of manual labor. Needless to say, they were hungry all the time and frail from lack of nutrition.
After a few weeks of this routine, Oliver grew tired of watching the overseer hunch over his meat and potatoes while the boys slurped down their swill. He decided to say something at the very next meal, even though the other boys warned him not to.
That day they received their regular portion of gruel, except that this time it had more bugs and mealworms than usual – sadly not more disgusting than it was welcome for the additional protein. When Oliver finished his, he took the empty bowl up to the overseer’s table.
The overseer looked down at him, startled. “Yes?”
“Please sir,” said Oliver hesitantly. “I want some more.”
“You do?” said the overseer. “In that case, come with me.”
He led Oliver into the back kitchen, where trays and shelves were overflowing with pork pies and kidney puddings and sausage rolls.
“Help yourself, my dear,” said the overseer, with a wicked cackle. Oliver was suspicious, but he couldn’t stop himself. He reached for a golden brown sausage roll, and with the first bite was instantly transported to a dragon lair far away from Victorian London, out on the steppes of northern Scotland.
“Oh hello,” said a young man wearing a ringlet and lying back against a pile of dragon treasure. He had a golden scroll in his hands and appeared to be taking notes with a golden quill.
“You must be from the workhouse. The dragons were telling me that there’s an enchantment that sends them young boys to eat every now and again from a different era of British history.”
Oliver shivered. “I don’t want to be eaten,” he said.
“Neither do I,” said Prince Magorn, because that’s who he was, of course. “That’s why I bring the dragons lamb pies every time I visit. Did you bring any lamb pies?”
Oliver checked his empty pockets and shook his head forlornly.
“No worries mate,” said the Prince. “I’ve got enough for both of us. Sausage rolls too. Here.” He tossed a couple extra pies and rolls towards Oliver, who looked at them hesitantly but again couldn’t stop his stomach from growling. He took a bite and this time was magicked to the east side of Manhattan, where he found his aunt in the kitchen baking a batch of sausage pasties.
“Well hello Ollie!” she greeted him. “You’re just in time. Hot out of the oven.” She handed him a sausage roll and this time, after biting into it, he stayed in one place. Manhattan was a dog eat world, but he preferred it to Victorian London and Scottish dragon lairs so ultimately he decided to stick around and see what else his aunt would cook for him.
- For the full recipe, check out Best of Flash Fiction Kitchen, available here.
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