The Lunch

“I s’pose you’re wondering why I brought you here,” Harry said with a knowing grin. Indeed, Dr. Wertlos had been wondering – this dive was far from The Supper Club he’d been expecting. The décor was garish and revolting and the patrons were making him uneasy: deliberately sitting facing the window, was able to keep one eye on his Mercedes in the carpark. He rarely stepped foot on this side of town and he was sceptical of the motivations behind such a meeting place; Dr. Wertlos held a measure of respect towards Harry Skelling as the CEO of the only local pharmaceutical company left in the state, but on a personal level he couldn’t stand the man.

“Really, Mr. Skelling, that is something of an underestimation if ever I heard one,” he snapped. “Wait, are those . . . are those two both men?” Both Harry and Dr. Wertlos turned to look over the edge of the booth at two people in leathers leaning against the bar drinking beer, their black hair teased and make-up outlandish.

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry drawled. “Trust me, this place is great; no one gives a damn who you are, no one wants to know your business, and the food is pretty good for what it’s worth.” Dr. Wertlos had already noted what it was worth, and it wasn’t much. “Anyway, I need your . . . expertise. As far as microbiologists go, you’re the man, and you’ve got the know-how to make us both very happy people, if you get what I mean.”

“No, Mr. Skelling, I don’t ‘get’ what you mean,” sniffed the doctor as a waitress slammed a limp Caesar salad on the table. Harry tucked into his steak having already slathered it in barbeque sauce before the plate had barely hit the table.

“Well, Prof, let me put it to you this way: my Granddaddy’s company has been around a long time now, and the Skelling family has put a lot into it. But we’re not gonna to last forever. Them multinationals are baying at my door and they’ve been getting louder ever since my Daddy handed over the reigns. And I need your help to get this business back to what it once was.”

“And how do you propose I do that?” said Dr. Wertlos as he sipped his mineral water.

“It’s simple, but hear me out before you jump to any conclusions, alright?” Harry paused to mop the errant blobs of sauce from his jacket. “I need you to create me a disease. And you gotta have a cure too. I don’t want no AIDS epidemic, just a common cold’ll do. Something that will make people feel like crap but scared enough to want to take a pill. I want new, I want effective, I want something that’ll shift units. This should be a breeze for you, hey Prof?”

“I’m astounded,” Dr. Wertlos stammered, his fork dropping to the table. “People could die; you could unwittingly start a pandemic! Your absolute floccinaucinihilipilification of human life frightens and disgusts me!”

“I don’t know what that means, but I’m not asking for something dangerous. Just something that’s going to tick people off. Like the flu. The flu never killed nobody.”

“Mr. Skelling, the flu has killed lots of people!” Dr. Wertlos said, grabbing his coat. “I don’t think we have any more to discuss on this matter so I’ll bid you good day . . .” Harry wrote a number on his napkin and slid it across the table, stopping the doctor dead. “Are you serious?”

Harry nodded. “You better believe it. And that’s just your cut.”

“Skelling Pharmaceuticals stands to make that much?” ask Dr. Wertlos, sliding back into the booth.

“It’ll bring this company back into the big league. I’m gonna make my Granddaddy proud, God rest his soul. Heck, I’ve already got over 200 potential medicine names copyrighted. If anyone makes knock-offs they better have a damn good imagination ‘cause I can guarantee the name’s already been taken.”

“And why me?”

“No one knows germs like you, Prof,” smiled Harry, dabbing at the grease on his plate with his chips. “Plus I know the way you work. I’ve seen you fudge results for the sake of a ‘cure’.”

“You have no proof!” hissed the doctor.

“Oh yeah?” Harry threw a small wad of print outs across the table. “That’s a record of everything deleted or altered from our lab’s database. You really should use some else’s log in when you tinker with things. Oh, and I could show you security footage of a certain professor’s actions at a certain German lab . . . I could finish your career so fast you won’t know what hit you, Prof.”

“How dare you!” snarled Dr. Wertlos.

“Hey, pal, it’s no stress! I’ll even give you a week to think about it, and we’ll do lunch again,” beamed Harry, grabbing the doctor’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “It’s been a pleasure, Prof!”

And as the doctor sat shaking in the booth, he could just make out the taillights of his Mercedes speeding off into the distance.

The Lunch


Abbotsford, Australia

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Artist's Description

Just a quick short written for a challenge to include the word floccinaucinihilipilification. I did my best . . .

  • All constructive critique welcomed!

Artwork Comments

  • Laura Grogan
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