Fiction Friday–The Diner

(I’ve been grading papers and Friday escaped when I wasn’t paying attention. Since it’s fiction, let’s all just pretend that it’s Friday.)

Scene: a diner–you know the kind: red vinyl booths, laminate tables, chrome, and stools at the counter. The waitress is wearing a shirt dress in mint with short, cuffed sleeves and comfortable shoes. The man in the booth looks like a lumberjack who’s never seen a tree–all clean, pressed flannel and a creative beard.

“Hiya hon, what can I getcha?” The waitress plops down flatware wrapped in a napkin along with a laminated menu card. Breakfast food predominate.

The man immediately opens up the package and starts examining and polishing the fork. He looks up. “How are these cleaned?”

“Paulo, in the back. He’s our dishwasher. Faster than a blink of a gnat’s eye.”

“At what temperature are these cleansed?”

“I don’t know about cleansing, hon, but it’s hot enough to burn. You from the health department? You wanna go back and look?”

The man sighs. “No, I guess it’s okay. Where are your eggs from?”

“Chickens?”

“What breed of chicken?”

“I don’t rightly know. The package just says ‘Eggs.'” She thinks for a second. “The eggs are white, if that helps.”

“Hmm. Do you think you could check?”

“Check what, hon?”

“The breed of chicken.”

“I… suppose. I can ask the manager, but I don’t think he knows.” The waitress goes to the manager and they have a conversation with many glances towards the bearded man and shrugs. She comes back. “He says they come on a truck. They’re real fresh, though. Arrived this morning.”

“Fine. Now, about your flour. Where is it grown? Do you know the varietal?”

“The what now?”

“The var… the kind of wheat.”

“I’m not sure. It comes in a sack with a crown on it.”

“Hmm. And your water?”

“It comes out of the tap, and I don’t know anything else about it.”

“Your coffee…”

“Winner of the Best Cuppa Joe award three years running,” the waitress says proudly.

“Would you know how long it’s been roasted? What beans are used? Are they fair trade?”

The waitress looks at the man for a long moment. “The come out of the can. I made a new pot about five minutes ago. And if two bucks for endless refills isn’t a fair trade, I don’t know what to tell you.”

This time the man stares at the waitress for a good long time. He nods. “I’ll have the hash with two fried eggs on top, some white toast, and a cup of coffee.”

“How you want that coffee?”

“Oh, with foamed skim milk, a shot of caramel, and cocoa-dusted whipped cream.”

“We got sugar, creamer in those little cups, and black.”

“Cream, then?”

“You got it, hon. Be right up.”

 

Things I Say When I’m Driving*

*Minus the profanity. That’s a given.

  1. Oh, are you turning? If only there was some way to signal that.
  2. Why are you slowing down for the green light? That’s what the yellow light is for.
  3. What are you doing?!? Why would anyone do that?
  4. Turn signal!
  5. No, I’m next. That’s how a four way stop works. Yes, even though I’m turning left.
  6. Why are you in my lane? It’s mine. You have your own lane. Be there.
  7. Green means go. Hello!
  8. I think maybe you need to go back to drivers’ ed.
  9. Perhaps you shouldn’t be doing that in the car?!? (This applies to applying make-up , getting dressed, eating soup, talking on the phone, texting, and doing paperwork, all of which I’ve seen).
  10. No, no, no, no!
  11. Stay! Good car.
  12. Is this your first time in a motor vehicle?
  13. How does that make sense to anyone?
  14. Please don’t rear-end me. Because I will die and you’ll be inconvenienced.
  15. Well, that was interesting.
  16. Are you turning any time soon? Then turn of your signal. Oh, you are turning. Thanks for the two mile warning.
  17. Why are you doing that?
  18. Do you know what the speed limit is? Because I do. That’s why I’m going this speed.
  19. In some places, tailgating me like that makes us officially married.
  20. I can’t go any faster. Can you see the enormous truck in front of me? I can’t be where that truck is. Do you not know your physics?

Letter to My (Ex-) Exercise Instructor

When I first heard about your class, I was ecstatic. I’d missed exercise classes since moving away from college, and having one in this place in the middle of nowhere was surprising and welcome. And the fact that it was Zumba, which had a philosophy of fun+exercise rather than torture+ exercise was most excellent. I’d enjoyed my previous experience with Zumba, so I was happy.

And the classes were good. Okay, it was Zumba with weights, but I’ve never been afraid of weights. And for a really long time, everything was good. I noticed an increase in lean muscles and endurance. Plus, it got all those feel-good endorphins going. All good.

So, I ignored the “Biggest Loser” that cropped up every January, because other people liked it, although I would never do such a thing. I’m fine with other people getting things I don’t out of something. It’s all good. And I put up with the videotaping, even though it increases my anxiety, because there didn’t seem to be a way to opt out. And the photographs, same deal. And the other time I left early, because you wanted to go into the room with the mirrors so we could watch ourselves as we worked out–well, you never did that again.

I suppose, if someone has never been truly fat or truly out of shape, it’s hard to understand why that sort of thing makes the fat and the out of shape uncomfortable. For you, your body is a marvel that allows you to do wonderful things. I appreciate my body, all the things it does, but I don’t like how most of it moves. I don’t like realizing how awkward I actually look when I move. And I don’t like the voice of criticism that points out all of my flaws from every angle with visual aids. I persevered, however, because of the benefits I got.

But tonight was the last night I’ll be attending your class. It started well, with dancing. But you said something about challenging yourself which rang alarm bells. As well it should have. Because I spent the rest of class–before I left in disgust–watching other people exercise. Sure, I modified, but when you can’t even do the modifications, then what’s the point? I know I’m out of shape–thus the exercise class. But if I wanted to watch incredibly fit people do things that I could never do, I’d watch some sports.

And doing the same exercise over and over again until a song is over and then switching to another impossible exercise for the next whole song isn’t fun. It’s torture. It’s why people hate exercising. What was wrong with the routines, the ones with different exercises throughout? The ones I could actually do and enjoyed (for a certain value of enjoyment)? Why do I have to miss out on my exercise class, the one I adored? If you want to challenge yourself, do it on one of the five days you aren’t teaching the class. Post it on Facebook and we’ll all ooh and ah. Have an advanced class where the fit people can become fitter. But don’t advertise your class as one thing and have it suddenly be something else entirely.

Because after all these years and all these classes, I’m done.

Fiction Friday–Roll Call

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Sociology 105. As soon as I’ve gone through the roster, we’ll begin.Si-o-bi-han Branch?”

“It’s Shivon.”

“Really? Why is there a ‘b’ in it? How do you get a ‘sh’ from ‘si’?

“I dunno. It’s Irish.”

“So the Irish don’t believe in phonetics? Okay, good to know. Moving on… Oh dear lord,  Richard Iago-Macbeth?”

“Present.”

“Do you ever find people distrust you for no reason?”

“No, why?”

“No reason. I assume that you will blithely name your kid Adolph… Hmm. Frederick Murillo?”

“Yo. But I prefer to be called Bob.”

“Is your middle name Robert?”

“Nope.”

“Sure. Bob, short for Frederick, as one would expect… John Smith?”

“That’s John Smith the Fifteenth.”

“There are fifteen of you?”

“Yes.”

“They found John Smith so evocative that they went with it fifteen times in a row?”

“Yep. And I prefer to be called John Smith the Fifteenth.”

“That whole thing, every time? Sure. We don’t have anything else to get to. Let’s see, Elizabeth Travis?”

“I like to be called e.”

“E? Just the letter? Not Eliza or Liz, or Beth, but E?”

“Yes, but it’s not capitalized.”

“You can hear the capital? Okey doke. I’ll do my best. Next is.. ah… RemingtonMaximillianFinnegan Werner-Rodriguez?”

“Here.”

“Were you a difficult birth?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason. You must have a blast filling out forms…. LaShonDra Williams?”

“Here.”

“And what do you want to be called?”

“LaShondra?”

“Thank God for that. I thought I’d never get an easy, normal name in this class. My name is Dr. Willow Tree. Please turn to page ten of your book…”

Rules for the Cinema

  1. We’re all in one line here. Do not attempt to jump the queue because the cashier asked for the next customer. You’re fifteenth in line. You aren’t next. Also, we aren’t doing three lines; we’re doing one. Getting in line behind one of the people at the check-out doesn’t make us all think that you’re clever. It makes us want to garrote you with a fifty-eight dollar box of Twizzlers. Especially after the system’s been explained to you by you wife/carer and you try to do it again.
  2. Don’t talk beyond an occasional low-voice comment to your friend. You should not yell at the screen, talk on your cell phone, or, as happened behind me once, narrate the movie for the stupid. “Oh, he’s picking up that baseball. I wonder what he’s going to do? Oh, he’s tossing it up in the air. Now he’s caught it. And he’s throwing it again, just over and over. Now he’s looking in the desk. What is he going to find there? Oh, it’s a book. He’s says it’s a ledger. What’s a ledger? Oh, it’s a book!” I nearly throttled that woman. I can’t think of a judge or jury who would have convicted me.
  3. Please don’t look at the lit screen of your cell phone at any point during the film. It’s dark in here; we can see you. In fact, let me clarify: It’s like the sun has left its orbit and shrunk down to glare directly into my face. I loathe and repudiate you and all your works. Frankly, if Deadpool isn’t exciting or entertaining enough for you, life obviously has no meaning and you should probably think about poisoning yourself with carbon monoxide. You can stare at your stupid lit phone until you breathe your last.
  4. If your cell phone goes off during the movie, the audience is allowed to confiscate it and do something quite uncivil with it. Fair warning.
  5. Big headed people should be forced to sit in the back. This also applies to tall people and those who wear hats the whole time. If that’s not acceptable, you may choose beheading as an alternative.
  6. Perhaps, if you’re unable to sit still through a two hour movie, you’d be better off renting so that you can pause as often as you need for your frequent trips to go to the bathroom, talk on your phone, or learn salsa dancing–whatever it is you’re doing on those forty-seven trips in and out. My elderly mother who has a bladder the size of a sippy cup managed to stay in her seat, so I don’t know what your problem was.
  7. I’d mention the inexplicable under-tens who were brought in by their parents to see the ultra-violent, sexy, and sweary Deadpool, but since they were some of the best behaved audience members, they get a pass.
  8. If you’re not going to stay through the credits, then leave. Don’t get up realize the credits are cool and remain standing to watch them. See, we’re in a public place, and the people behind you can’t see through you. Either sit down or leave. Make a decision, for the love of all that’s unholy (this is Deadpool, after all). Otherwise, we might have to make the decision for you. It might involve amputation.
  9. All food is going to make some noise. But your crinkling of plastic, paper, or what I can only assume was bubble wrap needs to be quieter than the very loud action movie we’re trying to hear. And if I can hear your chewing, according to the Geneva Convention, management is allowed to waterboard you. It’s the only exemption.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I enjoyed the film immensely. Well, the parts I could see around Mr. BigHead.

Fiction Friday (postponed to Monday)

(Yes, I know I could just call it Fiction Monday, but where’s the alliteration in that? If it helps, I wrote it Saturday)

This prompt is from February’s Writer’s Digest which I just subscribed to (so far, I’m quite liking it). It’s “Use the ‘un-moral’ [It’s best to count your chickens before they’re hatched] to conclude the flash story you are about to write…Start with: ‘She was not a…'”

She was not a rich woman. Brit wasn’t even middle class. She was poor, more appropriately working-herself-to-an early-grave poor. But her Tommy needed to be fed, needed a warmer coat, needed allergy medication that was only over-the-counter and therefore not paid by the state or anyone else but his mother. And it was never on sale. But Tommy needed to breathe and he couldn’t concentrate when he was stuffed up, so Brit worked and saved other places and, after she got Timmy to bed, collapsed onto the sofa and stared at the third-hand TV until she fell asleep.

All of that meant that Brit spent spare moments running numbers in her head. To keep getting her EBT, she needed to earn under $20,709 a year which she did scanning food she couldn’t afford, on her feet for hours everyday. EBT didn’t pay for much, but it kept food in their bellies for at least some of the month. Her job let her take home expired food once the manager had caught her in the dumpster. Half her paycheck for rent in someone’s basement that was never warm, never dry, never light. If the mushrooms in the bathroom got any bigger, she was going to see if they were edible. Utilities weren’t included, so that was another five hundred a month. She allowed herself basic cable because her television couldn’t pick up any stations otherwise.

Tommy had a scholarship to St. Francis Assi. Five hundred dollars a month after the scholarship and worth every penny. They weren’t Catholic, but Brit didn’t care if Tommy picked up some God with his miles-better-than-the-local-public school education. Since he’d gotten in, he’d started sleeping through the night again. His uniform was just as nice as everyone else’s and his teachers all knew his name. Enough money every month to keep the creditors off her back.

She’d been doing better, once. Before her parents died in the crash, she and Tommy had been able to live with them. The house was gone now, of course. She couldn’t afford the mortgage, let alone property taxes. Tommy’s dad had paid some child support before disappearing out west somewhere, starting another family like he was a franchiser. Her friends all disappeared because she wasn’t much fun any more.

Brit was walking to St. Francis’ library to pick up Tommy when a man wearing a suit stopped her. “Can I ask you a quick question? If you had a thousand dollars, what would you spend it on?”

Brit replied instantly. “I’d buy my son a parka, repair my car’s brakes, and pay off the doctor’s bill.”

“And how much would that be?”

“One thousand and four dollars and twenty-three cents.” Brit said this without hesitation.

The man looked at her, assessing. Then he nodded, reached into his coat pocket, and handed her two thousand dollars. “You have impressive math skills, my dear.”

Brit stared at the money in her hands, open mouthed. When she looked up, the man was gone. She stuffed the cash into the most secure pocket she had and kept walking.

When she entered the library, Tommy had cleared the area in front of him and was reading a thick book with a dragon on the cover. When she sat across from him, he looked up and his face blossomed into a grin. Brit returned the grin. “How about we go shopping and get you a new coat?”

Tommy put the dragon book into his book bag and pulled on the threadbare coat on. “I’m okay, Mom.” Tommy had already learned to sacrifice his comfort for their paltry budget.

“No, sir, I insist. And then we’ll eat out.”

Tommy’s face brightened. “We will?” He pulled his back pack on and they started walking out of the library to the bus stop. “Did you win the lottery?”

Brit thought about it. “More that I won something based on a skill I have.”

“Like sword fighting?”

“Like chicken counting.”

 

Gratitudes and Groans

Gratitudes:

  1. Spell check, how I love thee. I spent some time this week attempting to write and type things in front of other people, always a dicey proposition. With spell check on the computer, I was bad, but without it, I was awful. I misspelled “lake” for goodness sake (it wasn’t a typo because I wasn’t typing. A write-o?). Oh, how I would embar…embara…embarr… humiliate myself without it.
  2. Casual games. I have a free membership on one of those sites with hundreds of games. Each day, they have a badge that players can earn. I have played a lot of really fun games that way. It’s a great stress reliever and it’s apparently good for anxiety. Almost all of the games are clever and well-designed. I haven’t been able to concentrate enough lately for full-on console playing, so this feeds that need easily.
  3. Subbing. Rather than cancelling classes, the college I work at sends out notice that they need a sub. Because I teach at only one place, I’ve been able to pick up a number of these opportunities lately–and if my math is right, I’ll be able to pay off the first part of my dental work that way. Since I don’t get paid very much to start with, this is an excellent thing.

Groans:

  1.  So, my birthday is approaching as I mentioned last week. Because I have a February birthday, planning is always tricky, so we tend to celebrate when the weather is nicer. For instance, right now, as I’m typing this, it’s seven degrees outside. It snowed most of last night. It’s going to snow more today. So I wanted to take advantage of yesterday’s relatively nice conditions to get my cake. It’s not like I want a fancy cake. One from the grocery’s bakery does me fine. Well, the first place we went to only had chocolate cake. I don’t like chocolate cake. At all. We live in the boonies, so it’s not like we could just go to the next place. We ended up driving another twenty or so miles to try the next grocery store. Luckily, they had a white cake (my favorite) with roses (a requirement), so all was saved. And, I should add, the NICEST bakery person ever. But I wasn’t happy that we had to go in the first place.
  2. My dumb anxious brain. As I mentioned, I subbed this week. I like subbing–once I’m there. Beforehand, I’m anxious and stressed, going over every possibility of things going wrong (never does my brain tell me that everything will go well). The weird thing is that when things do go awry, I’m fine. I got to the second classroom I was subbing in and I didn’t have the door code (not one of the things my brain had brought up, by the way). I didn’t panic or cry; I went down the hall, got the information from the secretary, and was still in the room ten minutes before class started and there weren’t further problems.
  3. Not having enough time (a common complaint, I know!). I just got into the routine of my classes. Then I add in more classes (even though the teacher does ALL the prep), and my schedule is now complicated. I have to work in my other stuff on top of the travelling and subbing, so anything I want or need to do at home goes by the wayside. Even though I had a basket of clean clothes on Monday, they didn’t get put away until today. My writing rate drops dramatically as well. But, since I need the money, I will keep on and manage as best as I can.