Short Story Sunday

I am in the process of moving from an apartment unit to a small ranch house in Syracuse. As such, I’ve been going through plastic totes, digging up old manuscripts. And this has inspired me to search through my digital archives, the literary treasure (or trash) I have collected over the years and stored on my computer and external hard drives.

I decided I would start posting some previously published short stories. Pull them up on the computer, do a quick edit in Word and re-release them on my blog. I’ll try to post one every Sunday for a number of weeks.

This first one is a flash fiction piece entitled “Slices.” It was published by Emerge Literary Journal in the summer of 2013. Although the story is set in Toledo, Ohio, a Famous Ray’s Pizza shop in a sunbaked shopping plaza on Bell Road in Phoenix, Arizona, served as the inspiration. I used to go there for slices when I resided in the Valley of the Sun from 1998 until 2006. The owners were transplanted New Yorkers, and I loved seeing Yankee pennants and New York-themed photos scattered throughout.

Famous Ray’s Pizza in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Jackie Mercandetti.

Fiction is not my primary genre, and I don’t know if this is a good short story or not. However, what I love about the story is that the character of Hilde came to me with her authentic voice, demanding to be released. I did not write this story, but merely served as a portal for Hilde to come into existence.

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“Slices”

Hilde wears her jeans low on her hips, letting her love handles fold over. She doesn’t care. She knows what men want. She knows they don’t need slim hips and flat tummies to get off.

And she’s willing to let them use her body for a few minutes at a time. But they have to pay; they all pay. She doesn’t give away shit for free.

She’s eating a slice of mushroom pizza at Ralph’s Italian Pizzeria on Reynolds Road in Toledo, Ohio. She’s sipping a Coke and staring at a black and white photo of Al’s great-grandparents hanging above the counter. The place is called Ralph’s, but Al is the owner; his father was Ralph.

Hilde needs to finish eating and pick up her son Carson at school. He’s in second grade. She comes to the pizzeria every day after working at her house, which is located just down the road off Airport Highway. She looks forward to eating slices of pizza after she finishes for the day, like it’s a reward for spending all the time on her back, letting men do what they need to do.

She likes the satisfaction of eating food paid for with money earned through her body. She knows God didn’t give her much, but she has smarts and her body works in all the right places. And the men find her. She doesn’t need to advertise on Craigslist or in the back pages of weekly newspapers.

She earns enough to have a nice house and provide for her son. She’s happy. She can’t complain. She’d rather fuck every day than be one of those snotty bitches carting kids to daycare in a Lexus, putting on makeup at a stoplight and teasing their hair so their pervert boss may give them a promotion.

She watches as Al shoves a Sicilian pizza into the oven. The phone rings and he answers it. At this time of day, he starts getting early dinner orders.

“Who?” he barks into the receiver. “Who you looking for? Hilde … no she ain’t here and don’t call back.” He hangs up the phone and steps out from the counter. He points at Hilde with his thick right index finger.

“Goddammit, Hilde, what did I tell you? I don’t care what you do with your life or how you make your money, but don’t give your clients my number. I mean it.”

Hilde takes another sip of her Coke. “Yes, Al, sorry, Al, you’re right, Al.”

“I fuckin’ mean it. I’m not running a whorehouse.”

“All right. I get it. But I didn’t give out your number.”

“Don’t you have a cell phone for Christ’s sake?”

“Yeah, but word gets around that I stop here after …”

“Yeah,” Al says as he walks back behind the counter. “They want another kind of pie.”

“Don’t be gross, Al.”

“Just don’t let it happen again.”

“Well, I can’t help it if people call looking for me.”

“Yes you can. Stop making it so obvious. If it happens again, I won’t serve you.”

“Come on, Al, don’t be like that. We’re buds aren’t we?”

“No we’re not. Look I have no problem with you, just don’t make things hard on me.”

“I gotta go,” Hilde says. She takes the last bite of her crust, opens the top of her soda cup and swallows some crushed ice. She wipes the crumbs she made off the table and onto her paper plate, and then stands up and tosses the plate and her soda into the garbage. She walks to the door and with her back to the counter says, “I’ll see you, Al. Watch that blood pressure.”

“Watch your ass,” Al says. “It’s getting big enough.”

Hilde opens the door and looks back at Al. “Yup, and I like it. It means more money for me and more slices for you to sell.”

“Get the fuck outta here,” Al says. He shakes his head and smiles at her.

“See you tomorrow,” Hilde says and goes outside.

Al turns to his sister, Ann Marie, who is standing behind the counter and making trays of antipasto. “Can you get over that girl? She comes in for two slices every day after she finishes screwing guys for money.”

Ann Marie lifts her head from the prosciutto, provolone cheese and assorted olives spread out on the tray and says, “Well, a girl’s gotta eat, doesn’t she?”

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Man Inside Nighthawks: A Flash Fiction Story

Here’s a flash fiction story inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks.

I assume I was nothing before I found myself sitting here, staring straight ahead. But I don’t know for sure.

This is what I do know: I can’t move my head. I can’t smoke the cigarette pressed between the fingers of my right hand or drink the cup of coffee resting on top of the counter. I can’t touch the woman seated next to me or talk to the other two men.

This is my life. Suspended in warm, yellow light. Unable to move, locked in a soundless existence—no water running, fan whirring or grill sizzling. No sirens or street sounds beyond the glass.

Time drags on with no discernible shift—no transition to morning. Here night never ends.

Yet my mind still works. In fact, it never stops; I’m cursed with thoughts that run continuously.

I wonder: Why am I here? And where exactly is here? What purpose do I serve? Why put me next to these people and not give me an opportunity to interact with them?

Do I have a past? Did I exist before I became frozen in this moment—captured and imprisoned for eternity?

As you can see, I have nothing but questions that yield no answers. If only I could talk to the other people. If only I could pry open my lips and make a sound. Then maybe we could communicate. Maybe we could figure out our reason for being here. Then I could scream for help. But who would hear my voice and who would come to our aid?

If only I could stand up and walk around, stretch my legs and peek outside the window.

But then I would upset the balance of the composition. And so I will stay in place. Funny, right? I don’t have a choice. I can’t move even if I wanted to. So I’ll be here any time you feel like looking at me.

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Filed Under Miscellaneous

I’ve been busy with video projects and working on my long-term nonfiction project, so I haven’t had time to blog much lately. But I wanted to share a few items worth noting.

The No Extra Words flash fiction podcast has produced one of my stories, Frozen Food, as part of its Episode 39: Sum of the Parts. The story was originally published in the online magazine The Literary Hatchet. You can listen to the podcast from the website or access it here.

Secondly, one of my essays, on the topic of “the writing life,” has been posted as a blog entry by the online magazine South 85 Journal. You can read the story here.

I also have good some good news about my experimental short film Fragments of the Living. The piece has been accepted as an official entry in the 2016 Athens International Film + Video Festival in Athens, Ohio. It will be screened on April 10.

And NewFilmmakers NY has selected Fragments of the Living to be part of its Spring 2016 Screening Series on April 25 at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

new filmmakers laurels 2016

Lastly on the writing front, my full-length stage play Beyond the Glass, inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks, was read by actors recently at the WILDsound Writing and Film Festival in Toronto.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942.

Here’s the link with some information about the project, which I still consider a work in progress. When I get the time (and the courage), I intend to watch to the table reading with headphones and a notebook so I can jot down ideas and notes about problem areas in the script. Revision Awaits Me!

And finally I have one personal note I must share. And this trumps everything else. My wife Pamela gave birth to our son, Colin Joseph DiClemente, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, at 10:29 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

Colin Joseph DiClemente at the pediatrician's office.

Colin Joseph DiClemente at the pediatrician’s office.

Both mother and baby are doing well, and we are getting used to having a little one in the apartment. Of course, this means less sleep for us and short writing blocks for me, before I get pulled away from the computer by the sound of Colin screaming or a request by Pam for me to make up a bottle of formula. So I will be writing in bursts, trying to get down bits of text before duty calls. I hope the words I type in first-draft form will make some sense to me later.

 

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An Assortment of Prose and Poetry

I haven’t had a chance to blog in a while, as I have been busy with video projects in my full-time job and a long-term writing project in my off-hours. But I wanted to point out that a couple of my stories have been published online. The first is an essay that was originally published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology; it’s now posted in the Life Tips section of Medium. You can read it here.

The second story is a fantasy flash fiction piece that was originally published in the magazine The Literary Hatchet. I recently received an email from the editor of Sub-saharan Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to publishing speculative fiction with an African flavor. It was a nice surprise, having someone from across the globe read something I had written and want to use it. The editor asked if he could re-publish the story and change the characters’ names to African names so the piece would be consistent with the magazine’s mission. I said sure and the story is now online. You can read it here.

Now switching gears, I would like to mention I’ve been reading some poems by Samuel Menashe (1925-2011).

Samuel Menashe

Samuel Menashe

He was a master of compact, precise poems that leave an impact; it seems Menashe never wasted a word or wrote more than was needed to produce the desired effect. I’ve been scanning through the website Poem Hunter to read some of his works. Here are a few I found memorable:

The Living End

Before long the end
Of the beginning
Begins to bend
To the beginning
Of the end you live
With some misgivings
About what you did.

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Rue

For what I did
And did not do
And do without
In my old age
Rue, not rage
Against that night
We go into,
Sets me straight
On what to do
Before I die—
Sit in the shade,
Look at the sky

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Here Now

Now and again
I am here now
And now is when
I’m here again

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I need to check out a Menashe book from the library to really probe his work; online skimming doesn’t do justice to a poet of his magnitude. Reading Menashe also brought back warm memories of when I discovered two of my all-time favorite poems—both great examples of brevity and wit. They are Langston Hughes’ Suicide’s Note and Dorothy Parker’s Resumé, and I think they resemble Menashe’s style.

Suicide’s Note

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

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Resumé

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

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That’s it for now. I hope to come back to the blog more frequently, but alas I make no promises. Happy reading and creating.

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