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Cheat Day

J. Bear McKenna lives in Maryland, USA with his wife (and sometimes editor), a dog, two cats, and a cockatiel, as well as an ever-growing hoard of books. His favorite stories are about following frail threads of hope through a world of sharp edges. When not writing sci-fi and fantasy, he spends his time cooking, running, and being a lawyer. His short fiction has appeared in Little Blue Marble. He can be found on Twitter at @Jairbehr.

"Behold!" Professor von Brandt bellowed. His voice echoed throughout the laboratory. "A vegan cabbage!"
Chuck eyed the leafy green head sitting on a sterile chrome tray. "I dunno, professor. Normal cabbage is already vegan."
Von Brandt slammed a fist into the table. Not his own fist, just one he had lying around from his last experiment. "You fool! Normal cabbage can't do this!"
He pulled a carrot from his lab coat pocket and thrust it at the cabbage. Chuck thought he was seeing things at first, shadows shifting across ridges on the cabbage's surface, until it growled. One ridge split down its middle. The cabbage sprang open, revealing a maw of glistening white teeth, stacked row upon row. It shot forward, snagging the carrot out of the professor's hand. Orange pulp leaked out as it noisily chewed.
"Wow, professor, that's incredible! You made a sentient plant." Why he made it so toothy, Chuck didn't want to ask.
"Incredible, yes. Alas, it is yet imperfect."
"Oh yeah?" Chuck kneeled down to get a closer look. "What's wrong with it?"
The cabbage slowed its chewing. It turned to face him.
"Despite my indescribable genius, this cabbage is not strictly vegan," von Brandt said.
The lab door opened and closed. A clink came as the professor locked it from outside.
"And today is its cheat day!"
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Author Comments

From my early teens to my mid-twenties, I was a vegetarian because I couldn't stand the idea of animals dying just to put something on my dinner plate. Although I eventually quit being a vegetarian (I missed bacon too much), those moral qualms never really went away. I wrote this story because I worry that, one of these days, eating meat is going to come back to bite me.

- J. Bear McKenna
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