A Ring On The Table

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box: A Ring On The Table, A Fiction Sketch]
~~~
An empty ring box on a table at McDonald’s. Romance Spinners: Now I wonder … saw this and asked for speculation. Here is mine.

(Pauses in trepidation.) May I emphasize the sketch-like nature of what follows? A sketch is only a step up from a doodle.

(Pauses again. Imagines fiction career as a tiny plant sending up first tentative shoots. Has images of weed whackers and lawnmowers.) Okay, here it is.
~~~
You Had Me At Blue Hair
by Katherine Walcott

What first caught my eye was her hair. She was sitting a few tables down from me at a late night McDonald’s. You couldn’t miss the hair. Screaming, neon, electric blue. I didn’t think you could get that color outside of a cartoon. I stared. You would have too.

She caught me looking. I looked away. I hadn’t missed the self-defense spray canister of Mace sitting on the table next to her left hand. Move along. Nothing to see. No one here but us harmless fellow french fry aficionados.

The hair said Notice Me! The Mace said ‘That’s close enough.’

I saw her again a few nights later. When you work the graveyard shift and work 80 hours a week, the choice of places to eat is limited. Sneer if you must at the health value of a Big Mac, lament the loss of local cuisine to an over-arching global corporate culture. Over-arching, see what I did there? I crack myself up. Anyway. At 2 am, on a cold night, hot greasy food is both warming and comforting.

So, it wasn’t a surprise to see her there again. There was a rotating cast of regulars who knew each other on sight. We’d nod. Maybe make a remark about the weather. General neighbors-in-the-big-city behavior.

What was a surprise was her hair. It was lime green.

A week later it was blond with red tips. As I walked out past her table, I gave a friendly smile and said, “Color-coordinated. Nice”

She gave me a flat stare. I left.

Shit.

Did she not get it? I mean, she’s sitting at McDonald’s with yellow and red hair, how could she not realize she matched the decor?

Shit.

Of course she realized. She just thought I was an idiot for pointing it out. I was going for clever and overshot. I obsessed about the Internet adage: “The failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ ”

Shit.

It was a few days before I saw her again. When she came in, she ignored me. She sat down. Ate without looking at me. I tried to be encouraged that she chose a seat approximately the same distance away. At least I hadn’t caused her to retreat to the far side of the dining area.

She finished her meal – grilled chicken, double fries, water – gathered her garbage and rose to leave. Passing in front of my table, she stopped. Without looking at me, she said, “Originally, the chairs were designed so you would hunch over your food and eat faster.” Then she walked on, dumped her tray, and left.

The next time, she was there before me. I sat a few tables away from her. A little closer than previously but nothing that would qualify as stalker distance. As the mandatory unwrapping and meal preparation commenced, I held up a fry. “McDonald’s uses an average of 250 pounds of potatoes per day per store.”

She nodded. We ate in silence.

A few minutes later, she held up one of her fries and regarded it. “I wonder if their potato chopping machine is big enough to chop up a person.” She looked over at me. “A night-shift worker could have a side hustle of disposing of bodies in between fry batches.”

I probably should have looked horrified. A normal person would have looked horrified. Seven years of working in an ER does strange things to your brain.

I shook my head. “Wouldn’t help. You’d still have the same amount of material when you were done, just sliced. A proper body disposable service would reduce the amount to be disposed of. Dissolution. Combustion. One of those methods.”

She nodded. We finished our meals in silence and left.

I wish I could say that I sensed her deep kindness. Or I that sensed her pain and knew she must be approached as one would approach a wounded bird or some other condescending animal trainer bullshit. The truth was simple. I was bored. I was lonely. And I really wanted to know what was up with that hair.

I didn’t see her for a few weeks. Changed jobs? Changed McDonald’s? I was surprised at how much I missed her. We had not exchanged more than a few words. Yet I was starting to count her as a friend.

Which says something about our mutual attraction, and about my limited social life.

She came back. Her hair was jet black with a wide, white stripe. As she walked over carrying her tray, I nodded and raised my eyebrows.

‘Business trip.” She paused. “Long one.”

I nodded again. “Did they have a McDonald’s?”

She smiled. She sat down at my table.
~~~
A few months later, we were sitting at our table.

“If we got married, we could have the wedding catered by McDonald’s,” I said.

She sat back in her seat, “We are getting married?”

I held up an admonishing finger. “If, IF, two people, who had meet at a McDonald’s, were to get married, hypothetically, it is amusing to envision a wedding reception with burgers and heat lamps.”

She leaned forward. “The cake would be a fortress made of apple pies.”

“You would wear a – I paused to check her current hair color – magenta taffeta gown.”

“What would you wear?”

“Oh that’s easy.” I gestured at myself. “Matching scrubs.”

“The wedding favors would be in Happy Meal boxes.”

We both paused to imagine the uproar this would cause. We both smiled.

And that is why I proposed to her at McDonald’s.
====finis====

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Best Laid Plans, Writing Accountability, August 2019

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box: Best Laid Plans, Writing Accountability, August 2019]

I need a new plan.

In August, I signed up with 750 Words, an online writing site. Does one need a computer site to write? No. Does it help me? Yes. I talked about it earlier [A Place To Write].

Writing for the blog happens in the morning. I like to get the next day’s post done and scheduled. Writing for work happens when it needs to. So, the plan was to write my 750 fiction words at night. Freewheeling creative work right before bed would fire up my resting neurons to worry about plot details rather than letting my brain gnaw on itself.

It was a great plan. Thinking about fiction allowed me to separate from the activities of the day and put me in a better place to get to sleep. I came up with some cool ideas. I even wrote an entry that might charitably be called a sketch. Another time I started with a fiction idea and ended up with a blog post.

So, it worked great. When I got to it. The plan utterly failed to take into account the fact that I crash like a falling tree immediately after dinner.

Yes, yes, if I really wanted, I would do it. Fiction writing is like exercise. I should do it. It would be good for me to do it. I enjoy it when I can – metaphorically – drag my ass of the couch. I certainly enjoy having done it. Alas, as with exercise, I am full of good intentions.

August stats. I wrote anything at all on 8 out of 31 days. I wrote over 750 words on 4 of those days. This is ridiculous. I can bang out a 1,000 word blog post without breaking a sweat. I am capable of generating a cover letter that is longer than the article I am submitting. Surely, I should be able to write 3 pages of fictional nonsense. But then, I should be able to exercise for 30 minutes a day as well.

How are you doing with your projects?

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

As I Said, A List of Writing Links

Crossposted on Virtual Brush Box: As I Said, my daily blog.

In an effort to organize – and possibly jumpstart – my writing career, I have collected my past posts on writing. From here on, writing posts will self-collect here on the writing blog. At least, that’s the plan. For the moment.

Virtual Brush Box/Rodney’s Saga
(Why the two names? [Introduction])
2019
[Daily Inklings, Another Internet Writing Site]
[Now Or Forever? Six Publishing Possibles To Ponder]
[Branding Without Having A Brand]
[Writing Rules, Which Ones?]
[State of the Blog: A Marketing Haiku]
[750 Words, A Place To Write]
[Writing Utter Nonsense]
[Schadenfreude Saturday, My Pain Is Your Amusement]
2014
[10 Reasons to Get Paid to Write]
[Off Topic: My Origin Story]

Off Topic
A secondary blog I had for a while.
2014
[My Origin Story]
[Two Sentence Genre Stories]
[Two Sentence Horror Story]
2013
[You Say Escapism Like It’s A Bad Thing]

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

Step One, Think Of Myself As A Writer

Crossposted on Virtual Brush Box: Step One , my daily blog.

Fiction is different.

When I wrote for the newspaper or as a freelancer, every word was promised before it was written. Twenty inches of school board meeting? Sure. Two thousand words on the History of Dressage? No problem. I had a buyer before I started typing.

In a fiction career, so I gather, one writes the short story or novel or ground-breaking synthesis of text and etext and then looks around to see who might be interested in giving a home to one’s precious creation. Stephen King could sell a book based on a proposal, probably based on a text message. Us unproven writers need to prove that we can reach the finish line.

Fiction requires faith.

As a journalist, I never questioned what I was doing with a particular article. I might have questioned what I was doing up at 2 am transcribing an interview. That was tactics, not strategy.

Fiction is going to require believing in myself. Belief that I can get to the aforementioned finish line. Belief that I will have something usable once I get there. Belief that my plot makes sense. Belief that my characters will sparkle with life rather than lie on the page as lifeless lumps of text.

Earning the fiction label.

I’m a writer. I know that. At what point can I call myself a fiction writer? When I start? When I finish? When I get published? How about now? I am a fiction writer.

I am a blogger. What better way to announce this than with a blog post? So this is me. Thinking of myself as a writer. A fiction writer.

Your turn. Who is a writer? Who is not? Who gets to decide?

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott