Pasta

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On changing names.

Published August 5, 2014 by mandileighbean

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I wonder if I’ve been struck with that “Summertime Sadness.” It is now August, and my dreams have included school more and more, so maybe it is simply anxiety stemming from the upcoming school year. I should try and refocus it into excitement, into positive energy.

There are so many things I’ll never tell the object of my affection so this person will never know, like how many chocolate donuts I’ve devoured to compensate for his absence. I think he’s the kind of man who never has to drink alone.

I love how, in movies, you can always tell which couples are going to form based on who watches who walk away, especially after a seemingly irrelevant conversation.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #17: “I love the way she says words that begin with ‘cr,’ like ‘crisp’ and ‘crunchy.’ How bizarre is that?”

supermarketromance

Ally had the shopping list in hand and was intently focused on securing the various items. She was expertly maneuvering her way down the aisles with Michelle in tow. Michelle had only agreed to come because she was sick of sitting at home alone with a severe case of writer’s block. She thought getting out and about among people would be inspirational, and she thought bouncing ideas off of Ally, her best friend, would be beneficial. After the supermarket, they would go back to Ally’s apartment, drink some wine, devour some pasta, watch some bad television, and have themselves a relatively unproductive but enjoyable weekday. They tried to do this every so often to maintain the friendship among differing schedules and ambitions and so far, it had been a success.

Part of the success, or most of the success actually, could be attributed to the level of comfort between the two women. For example, Michelle knew Ally was only half listening as she scoured the shelves for what she needed, and Michelle kept talking anyway. She was eager to work out some tricky dialogue between the romantic leads in her latest literary endeavor. “So,” Michelle began, resting her elbows on the handle of the shopping cart and propelling it forward in the laziest of ways, “I wanted him to say something super specific but still adorable to show how much he likes her. Only he wouldn’t be talking to her, he’d be talking a friend.”

“Uh huh,” Ally said. She wasn’t listening. She was trying to decide between vermicelli and angel hair pasta.

“Like, he’ll say … I don’t know, something like, ‘I love the way she says words that begin with “cr,” like “crisp” and “crunchy.” How bizarre is that?’”

“Very bizarre,” Ally answered.

Michelle sighed. “No, you’re not supposed to answer. That’s the dialogue.”

Ally turned to her friend, a box of pasta in each hand. “But that’s stupid.”

“Well, don’t hold back, Ally. Tell me how you really feel.”

Rolling her eyes, Ally turned back to the many, many boxes of pasta neatly stacked on the shelves before her. “A guy would never say that. A guy would never notice that.” She put one of the boxes back on the shelf, and stooped to examine another. “Unless she just got braces or something. Does she have braces?” She turned to her friend, suspicion and skepticism obvious in her expression. “Are you writing about yourself again?”

Michelle self-consciously placed her hand over her mouth. The braces had ceramic brackets so it was nearly impossible to tell Michelle had braces until the onlooker got really close, like all up in her grill as it were, but she still blushed whenever they were mentioned. “No,” she proclaimed defensively. “I think you’re being close-minded. I, for one, think a guy would totally say that.”

“How often does one even use ‘crisp’ and ‘crunchy’ in regular conversation?” Ally asked. She paused to think for a moment. “Great; now I want potato chips.” She completed an about face and headed toward the aisle with all the snacks; the chips, the crackers, and the cookies. Michelle hurried after her, nearly running over some small, silver-haired ladies mulling over the canned soups.

“That’s the point, though. I want it to be singular and memorable. This will be the romantic quote my female audience will swoon over, you know?”

Ally threw two bags of potato chips into the basket of the shopping cart. “I don’t know if it’s authentic. I think you should ask someone.”

“What?”

“Let’s find a dude, and you can ask him if he would ever say that.”

Michelle paled. She was definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert, and the thought of stopping some stranger and asking him if he could possibly emulate a character seemed absurd. The man who they stopped would probably be a Neanderthal of sorts, nothing like the wonderful invention of a man Michelle had imagined. She would lose undoubtedly. “That’s a dumb idea.”

“You’re just afraid of talking to people.” Ally was abrasive and logical, which was completely unlike her best friend and most likely why they got along so well. She looked up and down the aisle and smiled. There was a handsome employee about their age at the far end, mindlessly stocking twelve packs of soda cans. His muscular arms moved gracefully, and Ally took note of that, as well as his dark hair. “C’mon; we’ll ask tall, dark and handsome over there.”

Michelle tried to discreetly sneak a peek. He was definitely handsome, but he really wasn’t all that tall, and his hair was dark but truth be told, his skin was actually pale. Michelle leaned close to Ally. “No, no way. He doesn’t read. He’s not a good person to ask. Let’s just go.”

“Oh, stop it,” Ally commanded and grabbed Michelle’s hand. She literally pulled her down the aisle while Michelle mumbled a million different protestations. They all fell on deaf ears and Michelle clammed up once they halted behind the employee, their backs against rows of pretzels. “Excuse me,” Ally called politely.

The employee turned and upon seeing it was two young women instead of the usual seniors who argued about coupons and prices with him even though he was not a cashier, he smiled brightly. “Hello; can I help you?”

“Yes,” Ally smiled. “My name is Ally, and this is my friend, Michelle. What’s your name?”

“I’m Justin,” he said. He held out his hand. Michelle and Ally shook his hand in turn, and everyone agreed that it was a pleasure to meet. “What can I help you with?”

“My friend Michelle here is a writer –“

“Really?” Justin interrupted.

“Really, really,” Ally confirmed and was incredibly proud of her friend. Michelle blushed and looked down at her feet. “She had a book published about two years ago and is currently working on her second.”

“Oh, yeah?” Justin leaned back against the shelves he had been working to fill and crossed his muscular arms over his firm chest. He was interested and was settling in to enjoy the conversation. “What’s this book about?”

“Well, here’s the thing – she doesn’t want to give too much away because the project is still in development and whatnot, but she’s trying to work out some dialogue. She ran an idea by me but really, it needs a masculine touch.”

Justin smiled. “Okay; shoot.”

Ally turned to Michelle, who was still not looking up and who was still not talking. She waited for her friend to man up, to say something – anything – but the silence was becoming awkward and Michelle was making an absolute fool of herself, so Ally intervened. “Well, she wants this male character to say something unique and romantic, something totally quotable. She came up with a line about how he likes the way she says words like ‘crisp’ and ‘crunchy.’ Would a guy ever notice that?”

Justin looked off to the side, thinking the question over seriously. Ally watched him with patient eyes, while Michelle only stole furtive glances spasmodically and sporadically. Michelle thought him handsome and despite thinking Ally was full of shit and only liked to torture her, she was still interested in his response. When Justin turned back to the pair, he caught Michelle looking at him. They made eye contact and he grinned. “I think it’s possible, sure, if the guy’s name starts with the same sound, like if it’s a Chris. Is his name Chris?”
Ally turned expectantly to Michelle. She shook her head.

“Oh,” Justin said and he seemed disappointed. “Well, maybe you should change the words, then, to match the guy’s name. I think every guy loves the way his girl says his name, and not just while they’re doing it. Guys like the way their girls laugh, too.”

Ally smiled. “Well, thank you, Justin. You’ve been very helpful.”

“You’re welcome,” Justin said. He turned from Ally to Michelle. He was smiling. Michelle was only staring. The awkwardness was building and fast.

“Well, okay then. We’ve got to get going,” Ally said, leading Michelle back to the shopping cart the same way she had dragged her to Justin. Justin watched them go.

supermarketromance1

On trepidations and self-imposed writer’s block.

Published October 6, 2012 by mandileighbean

“Nobody said it was easy.  No one ever said it would be this hard.”

– Coldplay

 

I am powerless against pasta.  Nothing makes me happier than slurping strands so that it sounds like a quick, childish kiss as sauce splashes around my lips and covers my mouth in tomato red.  Last night, Mom added sausage, chicken and shrimp to the sauce.  How could I resist?  It was unfair of me to even ask myself to say no.  If pasta is my kryptonite, then I wonder what my super power is?

I have newly discovered tea with orange honey and I absolutely love it.

Today, my friend Raina and I are going to Sleepy Hollow.  I cannot wait to hit the road and am elated to be celebrating Halloween.  As an avid horror fan, I thoroughly enjoy and become involved the October holiday festivities.  Last year, just after Halloween, I traveled with my little brother’s Boy Scout troop to where “Friday the 13th” was filmed and even stayed in the same cabin the final fight scene was shot in.  Last night, I watched the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” with my mom.  It was not terrifying, but was unnerving and certainly creepy.  I was in awe of the dialogue and Hitchcock’s ability to turn what should be cheap and easy into something artful and masterful.  To transform a somewhat simple and clichéd plot into a piece of film that makes the audience cringe and want to turn away is a talent I admire, respect and covet.

I suspect that is why my latest writing endeavor is not capturing my interest the way Her Beautiful Monster did.  I am trying my literary (and I use that term loosely) hand at romance – a much older, married man striking up a relationship with a much younger girl to try and stave off aging and death.  To add complexity to that storyline, I made the much older man a famous musician and I made the much younger girl a fan.  I wanted to explore what it means to be an adult and the power death has over us from the very moment we take our first breaths.  I also just wanted to be romantic and passionate – imagining scenes between the two to fill some kind of loneliness and ache within me, which is a tool I most certainly employed throughout Her Beautiful Monster and if it worked once, why not use it again?

But I felt the plot was lacking in suspense, which I believe to be my forte.  I decided to develop the much older man’s wife into a fuller character and in a desperate fit of revenge, she would claim a younger lover of her own.  But this young boy toy would prove more dangerous than anything else, as I envisioned him becoming more and more obsessed and less and less emotionally stable.  For the ending, I had decided the young girl would die in an ironic twist of fate, since she was always accusing the much older man of using her to feel young and invincible.  I wanted the obsessed lover to be responsible, figuring in some kind of car crash scenario a la The Great Gatsby.  Clearly, I am still working out the mechanics and logistics in my cluttered, tired mind.

I have a few other ideas that seem promising, but I am reluctant to give up on the much older musician.  I was working on beginning to write near the end of the summer and was shocked when I pumped out twenty handwritten pages, front and back.  I am a big believer in fate, so I do not believe it is an accident that I was able to do so.  This story is within me and wants to be released, and so I will.  I think I am hesitant and unsure because I have a full-time job now and more adult responsibilities than I did when I wrote Her Beautiful Monster and for some weird reason, that scares me.  But writers write; so if I want to be a writer, I have to write.

I have to stop over analyzing every blessed thing and just do it.  Hopefully, this inspires some of you to take one last deep breath and dive in to whatever it is you wish.  And if you do, know that I am cheering from the stands and wholly and completely on your side.

On delivering pizzas.

Published April 20, 2012 by mandileighbean

My little brother made his Confirmation today. It was a very nice ceremony, and I was happy to see so many students with their families. Afterwards, we had a nice pasta dinner.

I finished lesson plans, and plan to get my gradebook up and functioning this weekend.

I wish I had an update about the publishing of my manuscript, but alas; I am empty-handed. I sent in my unformatted manuscript so the editing process could begin and while that is underway, I am beginning to fill out the media forms. I am to provide the publishers with contact information for local media sources so the publishers can send out a press kit. It’s exciting but if I’m being honest, I’d rather be writing – just simply writing.

That being said, enjoy tonight’s prompt.

🙂

PROMPT: “Pizza Delivery Driver”
You’re a pizza delivery driver and it’s your last stop of the night. The house is on an unlit, unfamiliar street. As you ring the doorbell, you’re greeted by an unusual character who invites you in while he gets cash- and abruptly knocks you out cold. When you wake up, you’re tied to a chair. What happens next?

PIECE:

My eyes blinked slowly and out of sync. My left eyelid rose higher and just a moment before my right eyelid, so that it took a few blinks before the room surrounding me came into focus. At first, it was only two halves that my sluggish mind was having a hell of a time connecting. I went to bring my hands to my face to rub my palms up and down my cheeks in an effort to wake myself up, but my hands were tied securely behind me. The fear and implications of the realization were enough to jolt me to reality, and revitalize my lethargic senses. The room came into a startlingly specific kind of focus; the walls that were not quite white with the cobwebs hanging in the corners; the scratched, wooden floors that had probably been a point of pride some time long ago; the chair across from me; the emptiness of it all. I could find no identifying detail that would be used later to apprehend the individual who lived here, and who had clearly tied me to a chair.
I tried to recall what had happened. I was working at the local pizzeria, delivering pies for lackluster tips. My 1995 Ford Explorer was wheezing away from the pizzeria – and unknowingly away from the safe harbor there – towards an address I had never delivered to before. The rain had just let up and as I neared the destination, I let my foot off of the gas pedal so I was just rolling along, the rubber tires crunching against the damp pavement in the still night air. It was late, true, but it was eerily quiet. No one stirred, and there were no lights – not even lamps besides televisions that could just barely be seen through curtained living room windows. When I stopped outside 85 Potter Lane, the house was just as dark as the street and I debated on whether or not I should even get out of the truck, let alone walk up the driveway and knock. But I knew there was money to be made, cash to be in hand, so I willed the hair on my arms and neck to relax and headed for the front door. I knocked, and it sounded casual and sure.
That confidence with which I knocked quickly fed when the door opened and revealed a stooped, older man with delicate, fragile-looking hands that were clasped together and resting against his thin, frail chest. His hands were the first thing I noticed and from there, my eyes observed his dark blue velvet sweater, and loose jeans that had never been and never would be in style. He had no shoes to cover his wrinkled, nauseating feet and he was bald. I wonder if I observed everything I possibly could before meeting his eyes because in some unexplainable way, I knew it would be creepy. The lines were muted so that though he was older, his face did not show it. His eyes were nearly blank and unremarkable, as was his small and twitchy mouth. He smiled wide and it did nothing to disarm me. “Oh, pizza’s here,” he breathed. I could smell tuna and an abundance of patchouli – a combination that offended the nostrils and turned the stomach. “I just have to get some cash from my dresser. Won’t you come in?” He was still smiling.
I stepped in, smiling and holding the pizza box as if it ensured a barrier between the two of us. He shut the door behind me, and I silently prayed he would be quick in retrieving the money. I also scolded myself for my unwarranted feelings of distrust and hostility to this stranger who had so far been awkward and nothing more. Turning to look at a picture hanging on the nearest wall, the world fell to black.

I awoke tied to a chair, with only an empty chair before me to keep me company.

“You’re awake,” he breathed from somewhere close behind me. I couldn’t help it; I screamed and struggled against the ropes binding me.

“All the cash is in the car, and you can have all of it! Just let me go, please! Please don’t hurt me!” I screamed.

“I don’t want money,” he argued, sounding offended. “It’s not about what I want at all. It’s about what you want.”

“I don’t understand,” I readily admitted. Ignorance could translate to innocence.

“I saw you, looking around my home. You were looking to rob me, to take from my home!”

Clearly, this man was psychotic. “Sir, I was just looking around because there was nothing else to do! I swear, I had no intention of robbing you!”

“They sent you to spy on me, then.” He walked around the chair to stand before me, and his blank eyes were no wild. His hands were at his sides and his fists were clenched tightly. There was a palpable energy exuding from him, one of rage and paranoia. I swallowed hard.

“Sir,” I gasped, trying to relax and be rational, “I’m just a delivery guy. You ordered a pizza, so I brought it to your house. If you keep me here like this, you’re going to be in trouble.”

“Let them come,” he said. He seated himself in the empty chair opposite me. He leaned over to his left and pulled a knife that had been resting on the floor. Delicately, he placed it on his thigh and looked to me. “I’m not afraid anymore.”

My jaw dropped open and I screamed. What else could I do?
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On wishes.

Published April 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was a great day. I had an absolutely wonderful time with my oldest sister and her family at the beach. Afterwards, I made myself an absolutely delicious spaghetti dinner. You know, sometimes, I think there’s no greater feeling than when you’re so completely stuffed with pasta that your chest becomes tight and breathing is momentarily impeded. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I had some beer and enjoyed some really great movies, too. I just watched this one movie titled, “All Good Things” starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Lagella. Apparently, it’s based upon the true story of the missing person case of Katie Marks. I’m currently investigating the veracity of the facts as portrayed in the movie, but OH MAN – it was so entertaining! Gosling and Dunst had a totally believable tortured chemistry; Gosling himself is so beautiful but there is something mysterious, and possibly dangerous, lurking beneath the surface, and that is truly where the attraction is. I really believe that a strong majority of women prefer attractive men who are vague and impossible to fully figure out. Hell, I’d even say that we all prefer a partner who keeps us on our toes and keeps us guessing. If there is no mystery, than what is left? In my opinion, that complacency I so fear is left. Also, that movie (for me, at least) really proves that well-known saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” It had me captivated because the male protagonist is mind-boggling; suspected of murder, cross-dressing, pretending to be mute, confessing to murder … he’s a strange, strange character who lives, breathes and currently resides in New York City. He’s a veritable goldmine of inspiration. There has to be more out there, no?

Excuse these ramblings – I had a few beers with dinner. That, coupled with the movies I watched, seem to have inspired me and stimulated my creative neurons. I hope you enjoy the result.

🙂

THE PROMPT: “Three Wishes”
You bump into a genie and she offers to grant you three wishes. What are your wishes and why?

THE PIECE:

Sean was on his way out; leaving the party that was, by all other accounts, still raging. He had to be up early the next morning for work and unlike some of his friends, he couldn’t meddle through the day hung over. A couple of years ago, in college, he would have certainly stayed past 2:00AM and convinced everyone else to stay as well. With an air of nostalgia hanging about his small smile, his feet hit the pavement outside the apartment building, and headed towards the right. Thinking back to college kept Sean distracted and as one foot was put in front of the other, he was unaware of the sights, sounds and smells around him – the same sights, sounds and smells that captivated so many others. Mindlessly, he reached inside his coat for his battered pack of cigarettes. Not pausing as he lit the cigarette he had chosen to dangle from thin lips, he bumped hard into another passerby. The cigarette fell to the ground, wet from the rain just an hour or so early, and his spirits fell with it. He looked to the stranger with a markedly adolescent pout.

“Oh hey, I’m sorry,” the stranger replied. The reply was not at all what Sean had expected – and not at all what Sean would have offered – so he focused on the human being before him. She was very thin with long, dark hair. He wondered if she had styled it or something, like before the rain came, because now it just hung heavily. Her eyes were ringed in dark, smudged eyeliner and mascara and Sean also wondered if she had been walking in the rain. Did she not have a car? Was she poor? Why was she being so nice? She pulled her hair back as best she could, but really, all it did was stick to her fingers and the wet mass was now surely knotted.

“It’s my fault, really. I should have been looking where I was going. Truth is I’m coming from a party and things are fuzzy,” he said, smiling weakly. Stepping closer, Sean asked, “Are you okay? You’re all wet. Do you need me to call you a cab or something?”

The lines in the young woman’s face seemed to lengthen and become smooth. A change of emotion was passing over her, but Sean was not sober enough to follow it. Her tone was kind when she said, “That’s very sweet of you, but really, I’m okay. I’m on my way to a party, too.” She indicated what she was wearing and Sean felt very stupid for not noticing earlier – she looked like Jasmine from “Aladdin.” The light blue bikini-kind of top with the billowing pants that rode the hips, complete with sandals, made for the perfect Arabian princess.

“I like your costume. Jasmine, right?”

She looked down to her feet, as if she were embarrassed. “No – actually, I’m supposed to be a genie.”

“I see that,” Sean suddenly insisted. “I totally see that! It’s well done.”

She laughed and shrugged good-naturedly. “You really are sweet.” She paused for a moment, perhaps to consider him, before she said, “Is there something I can do for you? Do you need more cigarettes?” Her dark eyes lighted at the fallen nicotine between them.

Sean shook his head. “Nah, I should quit anyway. I’m always game for three wishes.”

“Three wishes?” The young repeated the words because she was confused. Sean had thought he was being clever.

“Genies give three wishes, right?” he explained, feeling more and more stupid. How dare he try to be anything but buzzed and tired?

The young woman stood tall before him, straightening her back and squaring her shoulders. She shook her long, dark hair and looked incredibly proud. In a way that was more impressive than insulting, she looked down her nose at Sean and said, “Your wish is my command.”

“Okay,” Sean laughed. “First, I’d like enough money to pay off my student loans and never work again. I don’t have to be crazy rich, just comfortable.”

Nodding, she crossed her arms over her chest. “Why?”

Sean laughed. “Genies don’t have to know why. They never ask for reasons in the movies.”

She didn’t laugh or smile. She remained stoic.

“Well,” Sean began haltingly, “I hate my job. I only show up to the office for the paycheck because in this society, you need money. You need money for food and clothes and shelter, and you need it to be able to do what you want. For example, I would love to spend a week in every state in this country. I could do it in a year, probably, so I have the time. Hell, I have nothing but time. I have the desire, the opportunity, but not the means. I would need to pay for gas, food, hotels and to do that, I would need an income, but there is no income when you’re road-tripping. I just want to live, you know?”

“You have two more wishes.”

Sean was less amused and this time, answered brusquely. “I’d want the same for my family. Immediate family, that is; mom, dad and my two sisters and their kids.”

“Why?”

“I thought that would be obvious,” Sean sighed. “It’s because I love them and I care about them, want to share my happiness with them, and want them to have the same opportunities.”

She took a step backwards. “You have one more.”

“Look, this isn’t fun anymore. I’m sorry I ran into you. Enjoy your party.” Sean made to walk past the young woman, but she blocked his path, moving deftly. After all, she was sober.

“You have one more, Sean. Use it,” she said.

“Fine; I would love to bump into Christine Horton from high school and tell her I’m sorry. I’d tell her that I really did like her, and that I should have been man enough to admit that. I’d tell her I’m sorry no one would sit with her at lunch, and that I didn’t know they were going to read her diary out loud at the lunch table, or post copies of entries in the bathroom. I wish for this because it still bothers me. I think about her all the time and the awful things I did. I’d want her to forgive me.”

She softened and seemed to shrink before him. “There was no hesitation on that one. It’s late, you’ve been drinking and yet, that was surprisingly lucid and specific.” Covering her mouth with her hand, she mumbled, “You’ve been holding on to that one for a while.”

Sean pushed past her. “Goodnight; I’m sorry I knocked into you.” Decidedly grumpy, Sean was walking fast, mentally kicking himself for leaving the party at all. He had been so carefree and had so been looking forward to falling into bed with a dumb grin stretched across his face. Now he was bitter and regretful. Why couldn’t he have bumped into some hot chick? Why was it always the crazies he met? Why hadn’t he left well enough alone? Why had he tried to impress her with the cleverness he didn’t possess, drunk or sober?

Sean made it home some time later, crashing into bed.

He awoke late for work the next morning, just barely making it to the staff meeting on time. The meeting was long, tedious and awful. To avoid falling asleep at his desk, Sean decided to head out for lunch. He was devoid of cash, so he made a quick stop at the ATM. Green in hand, he waited for his receipt. It printed and as Sean turned to walk away, he read the information.

There was suddenly $500,000 in his checking account.

 

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