Friday, January 27, 2012

Write on Edge: Between Conversations

            Henry counted the chrome light fixtures on the diner ceiling. He was sitting in the corner booth for the third time that week. He was there to see Karen. She was so different from the girls at school. She held her head high like she was an empress. She didn’t giggle and flirt. She also didn’t seem interested in Henry.
The college girls loved Henry. He could charm them with his whiskey colored eyes and his devilish grin. Rumors of his trust fund was a lure they didn’t resist. They flirted with gold bands on their minds. But it didn’t work on Karen.
He could tell she liked to talk to him, but she kept her distance. When he asked her out she said she was working or had to help her mother out at home. His buddies called her the Ice Princess and he could see why. If this was a game of hard to get, she was winning and Henry was losing. Thoughts of her legs woke him up at night. Thinking about her glossy black curls and cobalt eyes distracted him in class. So he kept coming back to the diner, hoping for a break.
Today she wasn’t there. The diner was short-handed and an older and tougher waitress brought him his coffee with a side of attitude. It tasted bitter. He added extra sugar and cream but it didn’t make any difference. He finished his pie, left his usual generous tip, and walked away. He wished he had brought a text book so he’d have an excuse for staying. Maybe Karen was just coming in later.
Henry opened the door and the early spring air cooled the sweat on his face. He saw Karen hurrying towards the diner. Her coat was open and she was trying to straighten her apron as she moved. As she got closer, he could see that her makeup was worn away and her eyes were red and puffy.
“I missed you today,” he said, startling her.
“Oh, Henry, I’m sorry. I can’t stop to talk. I’ve missed too much work already.” she answered as she sped past him.
He held the door for her and thought about going in for another cup of coffee. But he heard the older waitresses scolding Karen. She was in enough trouble. He wouldn’t make it worse for her.

Today’s prompt from Write on Edge was to write a piece using one of our writing tools that needs polishing. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback complimenting me on my use of dialogue. I’m a theatrical director and actor, so dialogue comes pretty easily for me.  I feel as if I’ve used it as a crutch to lean my stories on. But any director will tell you that a play that has no action will make the audience snore. So this week I decided to write a piece that is mostly description. There are only two lines of dialogue. You can read more about Karen here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shakespearean Anxiety Dream


Lance, over at My Blog Can Beat up Your Blog has launched a new writing prompt—100 words, based on a song. This week’s song was “Take me to the Pilot” by Elton John.

         “Veronica, you must trust me,” he said crushing out his cigarette. “I know you’ve directed but now I’m the director and you must give up control.”
            “Frederik,” she said. “I realize great theatre means taking risks, but this seems somewhat…”
            “Yes, but...”
            “But you’re worried? Darling think of me as the pilot of this production. Together you and I will soar towards greatness.”
            “Please understand my reservations. I’ve wanted to play Lady MacBeth my whole life and now I have the chance.”
            “And I don’t think the audience will understand why Lady MacBeth is dressed as a ninja.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

RemebeRED: The Box

            Finally! I thought I’d be on that shelf forever. Oh sure, she’s taken me down every once in a while—like at Halloween or if someone needs to borrow some stage blood or spirit gum. But it’s been ages since she’s brought me to a theatre. That’s where I belong, you know. I don’t belong on the top shelf of a closet with that dress she’s never going to fit into again and her son’s baptism outfit. I belong in the theatre making people look older, or younger, or tired, or scary. 
            She bought me back in the early nineties. That’s why my colors are so garish—teal and raspberry. They’re eighties colors really. She picked me up on clearance at the Poughkeepsie Jamesway and filled me with makeup from Max Factor and Ben Nye and Mehron. Before she found me she was using an ugly old fishing tackle box. Can you imagine?
            When she took me down on Saturday, I knew this time was different. She didn’t just rifle through me for one or two things. She cleaned my brushes. She threw away makeup that was past its prime. She emptied everything out and cleaned me with Clorox wipes. Those stung a little. But now I feel really sharp.
            She bought new makeup. She’s gotten smarter over the years. She didn’t bother buying a whole kit full of things she’s never going to need. How many skeins of crepe hair has she thrown away over the years? How much nose putty? This time she ordered a couple of containers of base and bought eye shadow and lipstick at Target. She even bought something called eyelid primer. Apparently in the new millennium, one needs to prime one’s eyelids.
I’m on my way! She left me on a chair in the living room next to some shopping bags. I bet they’re filled with costumes. I wonder who I’ll turn her into this time. Usually, I just make sure her pasty Irish skin doesn’t get washed out under the stage lights. But once I got to make her look like an old lady. Another time she was a witch with green skin and purple lips. I’ll be there for whatever she needs. I’m returning to the theatre. That’s where I belong.

Do objects have a memory? Does a rocking chair hold the essence of the snuggles it has witnessed? Does a pottery mug remember the comforting warmth it offered a struggling soul?
The dictionary defines personification as “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.”
Now it’s your turn to tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness in 400 words or less.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiction on Friday: The Bathing Suit

            Karen rubbed baby oil into her skin. She closed her eyes listened to the water as the sun warm her body. She tried to forget about the diner with its greasy food and greasier customers. She ignored her sore feet and the little burns dotting her arms and hands from the grill and the fry vat.
            She turned over on the folding chaise and tugged the royal purple Jantzen one piece over her behind. She loved the way the bathing suit showed off her curves and made her blue eyes look violet.
“Why are you wasting your money on a bathing suit?” her mother yelled when she bought it.
 “Mum, it was on clearance at Edgar’s. It was less than half price!”
“I don’t care how much of a bargain it was. You’re waiting tables six days a week and we don’t have a car. You’re living in a fantasy world Girlie if you think you’ll get to the beach any time soon.”
“You’re right. I’m working my tail off and I spent some of my hard-earned money for myself. I give you almost every dime I make for the rent. I bought this one thing for myself. I deserve it.”
“Might as well flush that money down the toilet. Besides, you’ll look like a bunch of grapes in that purple.”
But Karen knew the bathing suit was worth every dime. She felt like a movie star, not a waitress. The diner seemed miles away for now. The lousy tippers couldn’t touch her here. Here in the sunlight there were no complaints and no greasy dishes. The warmth soothed her no achy back and fraying nerves.
Sweat beaded up on her forehead. She stood and stretched and then dashed through the lawn sprinkler. Maybe getting to the beach was a fantasy, but for now a fantasy was better than nothing.

This week for the Write on Edge prompt we were given this quote for inspiration, ““The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. Word limit 300.

For more about Karen click here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

RemebeRED: Title and Tagline

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

This week, the good people at Write on Edge have challenged us to write a title and tag line for a time in our lives. 

God has a Sense of Humor

A girly girl with a love of audiences, cute shoes, and things that sparkle becomes the mother of little boys who like wrestling, playing in the mud, and fart jokes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Fiction: Toast

            The frat boys came into the diner every Sunday morning to nurse their hangovers with grease and caffeine. They always made a grab for Karen’s ass and left lousy tips. Still, a bad tip is better than no tip at all. That morning there was a new guy with them. He had his head on the table.
            “Do you know what you’d like?” she asked as she turned poured coffee.
            “I sure do,” said the smarmiest one, staring at the neckline of her uniform.
            Karen said nothing. She pasted a look of indifference on her face and waited with her pen poised to write. They got the hint and rattled off their orders.
            “What about your friend?” she asked nodding towards the kid resting his head on the table.
            “Get him the lumberjack special with the eggs runny,” the leader of the pack said. “A big breakfast will set him right.”
            “No!” the boy whispered. He lifted his head slightly. His amber-colored eyes were bloodshot and bleary. He said, “Just toast… please.”
            Karen smiled. These guys never said “please” or “thank you”. She felt a faint trace of pity for the boy’s self-inflicted wounds.
As she walked away, the greasy one said, “Nice going Hank. You got a smile out of the ice princess. Maybe next time I should come in I should be all red-eyed and bushy-tongued.”
“Maybe she smiled because I’m not a dickhead,” the nice one said.
Karen suppressed a laugh as she handed the order over to Freddy. By the time she returned with their food the nice guy was sitting up and looking less bleary-eyed.
“Thanks,” he said when she set his toast down. The other boys looked a little surprised and also mumbled their thanks.
When Karen went to clear the table, most of the frat boys had left. But the nice one was still there.
“How was your toast?” she asked.
“Best toast I ever had. What’s the secret ingredient?”
“Bread?” Karen said awkwardly. Usually the frat boys only gave orders and made dirty remarks. They never made conversation.
“Did anyone ever tell you, you look like Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride.”
Karen laughed. No one had ever said that, but she secretly thought so herself.
“Thanks. Do you need change?” she asked picking up the bill.
“No. It’s all set. I’m Henry, by the way.”
“Can I have your number so I can call you some time.”
“Oh… um… I don’t have a phone…”
“It’s okay, you can just say no. There’s no need to lie.”
“I don’t tell lies. My mom and I can’t afford a phone. Have a nice day.”
She felt her face flush as she walked away leaving a trail of toast crusts. Of course he would think it was a lie. What kind of a family doesn’t have a phone in 1965?

Four hundred words or less, fiction or creative non-fiction, linked up on Friday morning’s post, based on one of the following definitions:

flavor |ˈflāvər| ( Brit. flavour)
1 the distinctive quality of a particular food or drink as perceived by the taste buds and the sense of smell : the chips come in pizza and barbecue flavors.
• the general quality of taste in a food : no other cracker adds so much flavor to cheese or peanut butter.
• a substance used to alter or enhance the taste of food or drink; a flavoring : we use vanilla and almond flavors.
• [in sing.] figurative an indefinable distinctive quality of something : this year’s seminars have a European flavor.
• [in sing.] figurative an indication of the essential character of something : the extracts give a flavor of the content and tone of the conversation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sweet, Sour and Sorrowful

            My Aunt Donna died last week. I’ve started  and stopped several different posts about it. There is a lot to say about her courageous battle with cancer, about how she lived her life on her own terms, and of course the things that got on my nerves that seem so petty now. There were poignant moments to commemorate—some sad and some joyful.
But I’m not up to the task of writing about life and death this week. The Irish side of me handles grief by finding something to laugh about and the Italian side of me uses food to handle strong emotions. So today, I’m going to write about something that combines both: Wake Cakes. That doesn’t sound very appetizing does it? Wake Cakes—blech. It sounds like some dry and crumbly Irish invention made with oats that need to be dipped them in whiskey to choke them down. That’s what you would think. But you’d be mistaken.
Wake cakes are lemon squares—delicate bars made with shortbread crust and lemon topping and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. For years someone in my vast network of family and friends  made lemon squares for the gathering after a funeral. Some resourceful ladies have been known to keep lemon squares in the freezer just in case an unexpected and unfortunate occasion comes up. So somewhere along the line those marvelous sweet and sour treats became known as “Wake Cakes”.
So when my mother asked if I had time to bake something for after the service, my mind went right to Wake Cakes. The lemon square recipes I had all called for an 8 x 8 pan. I can guarantee you, that does not make enough of these tasty morsels. So I did a little tinkering and came up with a larger version. Don’t wait until someone dies to try these out:

Wake Cakes
(aka Lemon Squares)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
finely shredded peel from one lemon
6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (1 1/2-2 lemons)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
additional powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350º

Stir together 2 cups flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt.

Cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Press into an ungreased (really—don’t even use non-stick spray)13x9 inch pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes

Beat eggs.

Add granulated sugar, lemon peel, and juice.  Beat until smooth and slightly thickened.

In a separate bowl, thoroughly stir together 1/4 cup flour & 1/2 t. baking powder. Add to egg mixture and stir until just moistened.

Pour over crust layer and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar on top.

Cool completely and cut into squares. The first one or two bars are tricky to get out of the pan. Offer these less pretty Wake Cakes to anyone who may be helping in the kitchen. If you’re working on your own, eat them yourself. Calories don’t count when you’re grieving.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Edmond O'Brien

            He showed up on Karen’s doorstep the morning of her mother’s funeral. Dad looked like he had made an effort to clean himself up. He was wearing his favorite suit—the one that always made him look so slick. Now it was out of date and much too big. Dad had gotten smaller since he walked out of their lives six years ago.
            “Hey Princess,” he said when she opened the door.
            She had practiced this moment in her head a thousand times. Each time she answered with cool disinterest or a well-timed scathing remark. But when the time came, she couldn’t deliver. The man in front of her wasn’t the sly con man with a line for every occasion. He was just a sad old man.
            “I came to see your mother one last time,” he said. “But I heard I’m too late.”
            “Why?” Karen whispered not know if her question was “Why did you want to see Mom?” or “Why did you wait so long?” or “Why did you leave?”
            “Can I come in? Look Sweetie. You don’t owe me a damn thing, but please? After all I put you and your mother through I’m too late to even tell her I’m sorry,” he began to cry. Big messy tears rolled down his shrunken cheeks.
            “I’m on my way to the funeral home,” she said trying to be cold. “You can come with me if you pull yourself together and stay sober.”
            “Thanks Darlin’. I haven’t had a drink in six months. I was on my way back to make amends with you and your mother, That’s part of the AA thing, you know? Making amends for all the people you’ve hurt.”
            “That ought to take a while.”
            “I know. I won’t get to everyone. I’m dyin’ Sweetheart.”
            Karen didn’t believe him. She thought it was another one of his cons. But it turned out to be one of the few truths he ever told.

“How shall we inscribe the stone?” The funeral director asked Karen a few months later. She sat with a pencil and paper trying to decide.

Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970

Absent Husband, Deadbeat Dad, Con Man, Drunk

She crossed it out. It was a little too honest and a little too mean.

Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970

isn’t buried with his wife.
Maybe he’ll get it right
in the afterlife.
            Karen giggled. “I’ll never be a poet,” she said as she scribbled over it.
Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970
He wasn’t much, but he was the only father I had.
            She stopped giggling and cried for the first time since the day he walked out. She cried for their time together at the beginning of her life. She cried for their time at the end of his life. Mostly she cried for all the time in the middle they never had.

            This week’s Write on Edge prompt was to “Write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently.”If you're interested in reading my first piece about Karen you can read about it here.