Category Archives: creative

Creative Writing samples. Enjoy my disturbed mind.

Mr. Belardi – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest, Round 2 (10/2017)

Here’s my second round entry into the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest last year. Again, the rules are 1,000 words, 48 hours to write an original work of fiction based on prompts for GENRE, SETTING and RANDOM OBJECT.

GENRE: Mystery (which I’d never written before)
SETTING: Physical rehabilitation facility
RANDOM OBJECT: Fried chicken (What is it with me and food?)

MR. BELARDI

 

“Mr. Belardi, wake up. It’s time for lunch.”

A yawn stretched across the patient’s scratchy patch of white stubble.

“Anna?”

“No, it’s Letty. Brought your favorite — fried chicken.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“Letty, the day shift nurse. Same as this morning. Same as yesterday. Let’s get you upright so you can eat. Kevin’s gonna work on your core today.”

Letty freed his left hand from the Velcro restraint and repositioned the bulky sling protecting his right arm. As the bed cranked into its upright and locked position, she pushed the tray table across his lap.

“Where’s Anna?”

“Not here.” The forty-something black woman busied herself with the triptych of charts and monitors behind his head.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” He flicked the plastic spoon with his good thumb.

“Use it for the mashed potatoes. You can eat the drumstick with your hand.”

The purple starburst of bruise that surrounded his right eye contorted into an angry scowl. He stabbed the spoon into the sodden white blob.

“Can I at least have a goddam fork and knife?”

“Not after what you tried with Ben last night.” The nurse had a good thirty pounds on him — none of it fat. She wasn’t afraid of a scrawny, ex-mechanic with a broken wing. “You watch that language around me, sir.”

Outside the door of Room 418, a gold star identified Mr. Belardi as a fall risk.

A red stop sign warned visitors of his disposition.

As Letty emptied the urinal and checked the motion sensors tethered to his gown, the old man started to flop his legs beneath the white starchy sheets.

“My feet!”

“What’s wrong with your feet?”

“They’re burning — I have diabetes!” He jerked his leg against the restraint in ratcheting agitation. “My left foot! It’s on fire!”

“OK, OK. Calm down.”

She held her breath, raised the sheet and unfastened the Velcro strap on his right foot. Untended talons of yellow toenail jutted from the gray twigs of flesh.

“I said my left foot, goddammit!”

“There’s nothing wrong with your left foot, Mr. Belardi, and don’t use that language with me.”

“I’ll say whatever the hell I want, you bitch!” He spat out the words with flecks of potato and half-chewed peas. “When the police come back, I’ll tell them what you’ve done to me!”

Dr. McCormick and his bleach-blond hair jutted around the curtain.

“That’s enough, Mr. Belardi.” The title in front of Rob McCormick’s name commanded immediate respect from a patient that was old enough to be his grandfather. “Letty, I need to see you.”

The plastic sippy-cup smashed against the doorframe as she followed him out. Mr. Belardi’s left arm worked just fine.

“Detective Perry is coming back today,” Dr. McCormick said. “Hold off on his next round of Percocet.”

“He’s in a lot of pain.”

“Yeah, he’s a pain in our ass, but he has to be coherent for the interview.”

A clatter of plastic and metal crashed across the white laminate tiles as the sensors shrieked in panic. A wet thud of flesh smacked the floor. Inside, Mr. Belardi belly-crawled toward them, his broken shoulder splayed out to the side. His hospital gown gaped like a noose around his head.

“My foot! My foot!”

The left stump hung limp from the tangle of sheets cascading over the bedrails. The flap of skin, smooth and brown, folded into a tidy crease.

“Anna! Anna! They took my leg! They cut it off!”

Arms beneath his waist, orderly hands pulled the gown back across his naked loins. He twisted and writhed, kicking the stump against the men that held him fast.

“Three, two, one, lift!”

His sobs dwindled down the hollow point of Letty’s needle.

*******************************************************************************

The sergeant stood at parade rest outside the door with the gold star and red stop sign.

“There’s nothing more we can do for your father,” Dr. McCormick said. “We’re a rehab institute, not a memory care facility.”

“It’s gotta be the anesthesia — that’s why he’s confused, sir. The surgeon said it’d take a while for him to get right.”

Sergeant Drew Belardi followed in his father’s fleet footsteps, fighting in Golden Gloves before enlisting in the Army. In another twenty years, he’d have the same wispy smattering of hair across the crown of his head. In another forty, he might find himself lost in this same dark tunnel.

“It’s more than anesthesia,” Dr. McCormick continued. “He’s refusing therapy. He’s been abusive to the staff — tried to attack one with a fork. We didn’t report that when the police came.”

Sergeant Belardi dug his fists into his green Dickeys, his posture faltering.

“I hope you told them what happened,” Sergeant Belardi said. “That’s why I filed a report.”

“He lost his balance and fell into a concrete planter box in front of a dozen witnesses. It wasn’t elder abuse… Spatial issues are a symptom of Alzheimer’s.”

The men exhaled together under the weight of their generation’s new burden.

“I’m sorry I’m having a hard time believing you, sir. He’s a fighter… worked hard on his rehab when they took his foot two years ago. It’s gotta be the anesthesia.”

In four years as a physician, Dr. McCormick had seen this play out too many times: Patients rallied for favored sons and favorite nurses. Between deployments, Sergeant Belardi would get the good stuff, while Anna would suffer the daily decline.

He played his final card.

“Look, we can do in-home physical therapy for the shoulder. It makes a big difference for patients to be in a familiar environment with people they love. It’ll probably do him a world of good to be back at Glen Acres with Anna.”

“Anna?”

“Yeah, he’s been asking for her every day.”

“My Mom’s been dead for two years. We lost her in the car accident that took Dad’s foot.”

Mr. Belardi returned to Glen Acres that evening with orders for an Alzheimer’s evaluation.

Four Chefs – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest, Round 1 (7/2017)

Backstory: On the recommendation of my friend Laura, I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest. Basically, you have 48 hours to write 1,000 words using a randomly assigned GENRE, SETTING and RANDOM OBJECT. You are judged on how well you adhere to those rules. So here’s my first story from last year — YOU be the judge:

FOUR CHEFS
GENRE: Romance (And I never in a million years would’ve ever considered writing a romance)
SETTING: Waiting Room
RANDOM OBJECT: Banana Split

FOUR CHEFS

Four chefs, three courses, only one chance to win: A game show for chefs with a $10,000 ticket out of the kitchen for Amanda Wolfe.

“It’s not like being in a kitchen at all.”

With its chrome wire shelves and aluminum platter cart, the waiting room played the part, but there were four of them here, sitting on metal stools, trying to make small talk in front of three cameras.

No one sat down in the kitchen during service. They rarely even stopped to pee.

“I know, right? There’s so much space. Having my own table is like… damn.” Nat owned a Creole bistro in Houston. He needed the money to cover a storm-damaged roof.

A butcher from a Phoenix steakhouse, Amanda was thrilled to get the table closest to the pantry. It should’ve given her an advantage during the basket-opening melee, but that didn’t stop ‘Best New Chef’ Jean-Claude from checking her into the anti-griddle so he could grab the meat grinder.

Fat lot of good it did him: Not adding bacon to the venison dried out his appetizer. His five-star attempt at sabotage made him the first to walk the long Hall of Shame.

In the entree round, poor Braedyn nearly vomited when his Whole Chicken in a Can evacuated its container with a flatulent splat. He cooked exclusively with organic, in-season ingredients at his upscale, upstate New York inn. The man-bunned man-child had never worked a four-hundred-cover Friday in his life.

“I’m so hungry right now, I’d eat the whole can.”

“Said the woman who makes hot dogs for a living.”

Nat shot a side-eye at him, but Amanda didn’t mind. She spent every shift dodging screaming-hot pots, sailor-mouthed insults and grabby-handed line cooks. This twerp wouldn’t be around for dessert, not after forgetting the greens on one plate.

Nat leaned on his elbows, eager to talk shop. His skin was the color of caramels. Working side-by-side with Amanda, they’d spun a graceful pas de deux across the rubber safety mats. Suck in, swivel around, shimmy to the stove. Hyperaware of their bodies in motion, they cut a cool contrast to Braedyn’s panicked tantrums over canned chicken, sardines, dandelion greens, and a banana split.

“Dude, your curry… using the ice cream to thicken it? Genius.”

“My grammaw’s recipe. I was a little worried about the spice level.”

He dragged a calloused hand across his bald head. His lion’s mane of dark lashes closed languidly over dark brown eyes.

“They loved yours.”

“I don’t know if a chicken salad sandwich is enough to call an entree.”

“Don’t make excuses for your food. The fried fish bones blew their minds.”

“It’s just Japanese bar food. I used to have it all the time in Kyoto,” said the petulant Millennial, before he, too, was dismissed.

Dessert Round: If it’d been Jean-Claude or Braedyn, Amanda would have embraced the trash talk, but she felt foolish, looking up at Nat’s wide smile.

The network didn’t do hair and makeup for the chefs. She rarely managed a swipe of mascara at home, but she cursed herself now for forgetting her lipstick, a subtle pink that brought a little color to her delicate cheekbones.

“This Sausage Party ends today.” She cringed hearing herself say it. Nat burst into giggles. Another three takes finally quieted their laughter.

“I’m taking dessert back to the desert!”

“Looking forward to the fight.”

Araucana eggs, feta cheese, shoo-fly pie, and kiwi fruit. With the dance floor rearranged, their careful quickstep clattered into one another, swooping, stopping, stooping, dipping. The judges called the play-by-play through the swirls of her bubbling caramel, the churn of her feta ice cream and the brown-sugar warmth of his oven-full of cupcakes.

Banished to their kitchen-themed prison, they slouched, weary and worn, onto their stools. Twelve hours’ worth of culinary fire drills had begun to take its toll.

“So what took you to Phoenix?”

“Followed a boy.”

“Oh.” Nat glanced at her hands, tattooed with old burns and past cuts.

“And then I realized I liked the desert more than him.” She twirled a dark, shoulder-length curl around her index finger. “And you? Anyone special waiting at home?”

“Two of them.” Her heart now wallowed in her empty belly.

“Boy or girl?”

“Pit bulls. If I win, I’m buying a new couch.”

“I thought you said you needed to fix your roof.”

“I do, but the dogs got bored and tried to tunnel out. I’d like to have a place for people to sit.”

“You say that like you have friends over all the time.”

Amanda’s last day off had been thirteen days ago: She never bothered to make her bed anymore. She didn’t remember the last time she’d made a friend who didn’t work in a kitchen.

“So what are you gonna do with the money?”

“Food truck. Take the Sausage Party on the road.”

That sly grin danced across his face.

“Maybe you can come to Houston.”

“Call me when you get a couch.”

The production assistant called them back to the kitchen. The cloche revealed his crumbling cupcakes.

Her hands to her mouth, her heart on the floor.

“I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry for. You killed it.” He folded her in his strong arms, their sweaty, exhausted bodies leaning into each other.

He disappeared down the hall, leaving her to a lonely hour of post-production paperwork and congratulatory interviews. Back home, at eight o’clock, she’d still have three hours before she could escape the greasy smog of fryers and steam tables and emerge beneath the faint stars and blue-black sky.

She had no plans for the night in the city that never sleeps. The streets buzzed with headlights and taxicabs. The evening chill shivered through her damp T-shirt.

“Wanna go celebrate?” Nat emerged from the shadows in his street clothes, enveloping her in his oversized jacket.

“God, yes. I could use a drink.”

“Let’s go. You’re buying.”