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Look, I Just Want My Sandwich · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Just a Sandwich
The sign approached rapidly, blue in spite of the dark tint lent to the world by the windows. The symbols of service stations and the number 3 stood out. Then the sign was gone, disappearing into the world behind him.

John leaned across the foot well and opened the small fridge. Everything an important man might desire was inside: bottled water, foie gras, caviar, oysters. But the stomach could be as fickle as the needs of the nation.

He closed the fridge. For a moment he noted how everything sounded muffled: the distant engine, the humming motor inside the fridge, the voices that Aidan was listening to on lunchtime radio.

John sighed and sat back in his seat. “Aidan?”

Aidan looked across the car at him, removing headphone buds from his ears. The voices grew clearer for a moment, though not such that John could hear what they were saying. But he was sure he heard his own name regardless.

“I’m quite hungry,” John said. “Could we stop for something to eat?”

Aidan glanced at the closed fridge, and his eyebrows climbed his forehead by a fraction of an inch. Didn’t they?

Aidan looked down at his tablet. The buzz of haptic feedback keys pervaded the atmosphere for a few moments.

“There isn’t anywhere suitable on the way, sir.”

John felt himself frown, so he schooled his expression. “Is that so? Won’t there be a service station on the way?”

Aidan never frowned, but it seemed his eyebrows crawled back down his forehead, just a fraction. “What would you like, sir?” he asked.

John sighed again. “I don’t know.” He thought about the food in the fridge. Still, none of it suited. “A sandwich,” he said.

Aidan looked at his tablet again, his fingers flying across its gleaming surface. “What kind of sandwich?”

Beyond the partition window, a faint voice murmured. The car didn’t slow, but John felt them change lanes, momentum pushing his body to the right, pressing against his seatbelt.

He hummed to himself until the pressure on his right shoulder decreased. “I’ll decide when we arrive.” A thin, delicate slice of pink salmon came to mind.

“Sir,” Aidan said. He sounded reproving, although he continued typing frantically.

The salmon was sounding more and more appealing, but Aidan’s tone frustrated John. “I haven’t decided yet, Aidan,” he said levelly.

“I suggest a BLT.”

John didn’t bother to conceal his frown. “Might I ask why?”

“The BLT would be an appropriate choice, sir. It appeals to all classes.”

“I would prefer something with salmon.”

The corners of Aidan’s mouth dropped, opening his mouth slightly, and John thought about fish, their mouths opening and closing as they breathed.

“It’s just a sandwich, Aidan.”

The car began to slow. Aidan put his tablet on his lap and knocked on the partition window. “One BLT sandwich for the Prime Minister,” he said.

“Aidan,” John said. “I can buy my own sandwich.”

“That wouldn’t be wise, sir.”

John put his hand on the car door.

“Sir, you cannot be seen to be a hypocrite, favouring one type of food that gives off a certain impression over another. You want to be seen as a man of the people.”

John looked out of the window at the cars they began to pass in the parking spaces. Ordinary. Normal. Of the people.

He took his hand off the door handle.
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#1 · 1
The scene is well painted; I never had any trouble visualizing the action. You also do a good job conveying nuance and emotion, which actually ends up making me a little confused about his relationship with Aidan. He sounds like some sort of secret service agent, but then it seems odd to me that they'd override the Prime Minister's stated preference.

Also, there's the line "Could we stop for something to eat?" which is phrased deferentially.

Between those and some of the body language, I end up getting the feel that John has a surprising lack of agency for a leader.

Still, it makes for a novel, if understated conflict. It ends up feeling muted, perhaps like the prime minister views the world, from behind his tinted windows.
#2 · 2
· · >>Xepher
I guess the idea here is that "for some people, it's not just a sandwich."

Still... is this person seriously expecting to find salmon at a gas station? Couldn't his aide have simply pointed out how unlikely that is?

Unless this is set somewhere where salmon is common and cheap, I guess. I dunno.

There was also some weirdness for me about the minifridge. I consider salmon a high-class food. That may be because I usually subsist on noodles, rice, and beans, but this guy seems to reject the fridge, and I originally thought that was because he didn't want something high-class, since the fridge has 'Everything an important man might desire'. So, when he rejected a BLT (which I have a hard time imagining anyone disliking, although I'm sure such people exist) it threw me a bit.

I dunno. I guess I'm not really getting a very clear picture of what's actually driving John. I have a slightly better picture of Adrian, perhaps, but... I dunno. This one is just really fuzzy for me, overall.

And I had a hard time chewing through your first paragraph. Something about the arrangement of the words in that first sentence had me going back three or four times before I felt I really understood what it was saying about signs and tint and windows.
#3 · 1
· · >>horizon
A part of me has to wonder if they're not coming from a failed meeting or something along those lines. That would explain why the Prime Minister seemed a tad bummed.

Not bad. I liked the interaction with his aide Aidan (ohhh...) It hints to a stronger bond than boss and employee bit still mantains an air of professionalism.

However, I can't help bit feel that the Prime Minister is a weak character. We never dwell on how he feels, or what he's thinking beyond a superficial glance, and that drags down the rest of the story.
#4 ·
>>Not_A_Hat makes good points here. The little details of what is or is not in the fridge vs. what he wants (and why that'd be at a gas station) need to be sorted out just for the sake of consistency. Honestly, I'd drop the fridge entirely, and have Aiden explain they'll have some fancy dinner later that evening or something. Give him a stronger motivation for just wanting something simple.

Overall though, I quite enjoyed this one. I think there's a really strong message in the way power can become its own prison in ways. The character interactions reminded me a lot (in a good way) of the movie "The American President" which shows a president who is trapped in many ways by the appearance he has to project to the public, and can't do even the most simple of things without it being a potential problem/incident.
#5 ·
It took me a re-read or two to get the image of the first paragraph clear in my head -- that they were passing a motorist services sign on the road, and the 3 was the distance. It might simply be because of that disorientation that I feel the opening is kinda weak, but the other half of that is that I don't feel like there's much emotional resonance to it -- you're just establishing scene/place before zooming inward later to your character. That does reinforce your theme of emotional distance and isolation, but it also makes the opening feel muted. You might want to try playing around with opening closer to John, establishing him along with the scene, and see if that works with what you're going for.

I think this meets its storytelling goals, though some central questions gnaw at me, in a they-would-be-nitpicks-if-they-didn't-strike-so-close-to-your-premise way. Mainly: I'm having a lot of trouble with the idea that John literally can become the Prime Minister before running into these sorts of behavior constraints. Before that, they would be the leader of their political party, and go through a lot of election cycles along the way; you don't just flip a switch one day and become forced to eat BLTs. Of course, if >>ZaidValRoa is correct and "Aidan" is a meaningful signal here (AI Dan?), then this is sufficiently sci-fi that the solution may be to roll your own government, where suddenly relatively normal people do get thrust into that sort of spotlight. It would require a lot more exposition than we're currently seeing, though. In fact, if this is meant to be more than immediate-future-buzzword sci-fi, I think it needs more exposition in general; I never would have caught the Aidan thing if Zaid hadn't pointed it out.

I also share the concerns elaborated above about the fridge and the class consciousness of the food.

On the whole, though, this paints a good verbal picture; while a lot of the side elements feel underexplained, that does help create a welcome feeling of depth to the world outside, and this does a strong job with theme and tone. Just get John sorted out.

Tier: Strong
#6 ·
Oh, John. Don't you go listening to that Aidan fellow. He obviously didn't learn anything from pasty-gate.

Plus, like, you can get salmon sandwiches in most supermarkets these days... I don't think people would make judgement on your class leanings from that alone. I'm pretty sure they're cheaper than a BLT in some places. Well, in the UK, at least.

I quite liked the tone of this story, and felt the characters slotted in well to the general sense of isolation and distance underpinning it. Nice work there. One or two nitpicks with some word choices (I'm not sure 'important' was the right word to use in relation to the caviar, etc. Importance doesn't necessarily infer a taste/need for the finer things).

But yeah... pretty decent, this. Thanks for sharing.
#7 ·
I have little to say that has not been said by the previous commenters. Some details: I wouldn't expect the PM's adviser to listen to radio using earbuds. Oysters, foie gras and caviar form a ragtag set of food items; Besides, I don't think it's a really good idea to eat oysters (nor caviar) in a car. You know, potholes and humps.

The rest is as the others said: the opening is somewhat bland, but helps underlining the feeling of solitude and detachment/aloofness which pervades the whole story.
#8 · 5
The only thing I'll add:

To the pot here is the bacon on the BLT being neither kosher nor halal. So eating it will be seen as a slap in the face to certain segments of the electorate. :)

Of course, getting into all that will send the story spinning off into a stronger sort of satire than you might be interested in, author, but if you're going to venture into the politics of food, you've gotta be prepared to get mustard on your necktie. As it were...

#9 ·
Seven Word Review

Plastic lives, an odd thing to pity