Saturday, February 21, 2015

TMoH #1: Slurpburger

Here's my inaugural self-inflicted sojourn into thirty minutes of hell! If you don't know what I'm talking about, my introductory post on this topic provides a quick summary.

The writing prompt from NANO fiction is: Write an essay, flash fiction piece, or prose poem of under 300 words about junk food..  And without further ado... here we go!


"I don't think I want to eat there," Kimmie says.  John nods right away.  He is only surprised on the inside.

"That's probably a good idea," he says to his daughter.  Still, he drums his fingers against the steering wheel, some part of him not quite ready to turn the key in the ignition.  "So, where do you want to eat?"

Kimmie shrugs from the back seat.  She is still dressed in her karate gi, her yellow belt loose around her waist, and John suddenly realizes that the knot is not quite properly tied.  This shouldn't irritate him.  Should it?

"Come on, Kimmie," he says.  "Make up your mind.  Where do you want to eat?"

His daughter yawns.  "I don't really care," she says.  "I'm not that hungry.  Can't we just go home and eat later?"

They could go home.  That is true, a true fact.  Something else that is true is that John does not want to eat at home.  Not in front of his wife, not in front of her smile, not in front of her eyes that can't quite hide the faintly distressed pity within.  Something else that is true: he should not be eating at Slurpburger.  And a fourth thing: right now the thought of devouring a greasy bacon cheeseburger with a side of bacon cheese fries and a large Coke (diet, of course) is so tantalizing that he wants to scream.

All this is true, and none of it can be said.  Instead he says, "Okay, let's go home."  Then he turns the key in the ignition with fingers that feel like brittle iron.  He has a plan.  It's a good one.  He knows it is.  As he wends his way through the parking lot and towards the turn onto the local highway, he casually says, "Didn't you want that new toy, though?  Those things?  You know, the cats with the wings?"

Kimmie had been idly staring out the window; now her head snaps to attention.  "Kittyflies?"  Her voice grows excited.  "We can go get a Kittyfly at a toy store?"

He hastily retreats.  "No, I meant - aren't they giving away little ones at Slurpburger with the Yum-Yum Meals?"

"Oh." John peeks in the rearview mirror.  With a sinking heart, he witnesses the disinterest spread across his daughter's face.  "Those aren't real Kittyflies.  Kathy brought one of those in to school, and she said she had to glue one of the wings back on because it came loose."

"So you don't want to eat at Slurpburger?"  John can't help asking the question even though he already knows her answer.

"No, I just want to go home."

"Okay.  Sure.  That's fine."  The Slurpburger is approaching on their right, and in a few seconds he will have driven past it.  It's better this way, he reassures himself.  Eating there isn't good for you.

And so he surprises even himself when he turns into the Slurpburger lot at the last moment.  The

beep-beep-beep...   Time's up!

That was surprisingly painful to write.  One problem: I wrote a short flash fiction piece about fried chicken not too long ago, and it was difficult to sweep that out of my mind to make way for something new.  As a result, I'm not quite sure I was going anywhere with the above.  Some sort of contrast between the father's furious need to eat at Slurpburger versus his daughter's slightly negative ambivalence...

Other notes:
  • I hate coming up with names, but John is incredibly generic, even for me.  I still don't understand how other writers think up original (yet natural) names.
  • I think there's an implication that John is heavily overweight, but that's not my intention.  In my mind he's not actually all that unhealthy; perhaps the division in his mind is due to a throwaway comment from his last checkup ("... and remember, people your age should start worrying about cholesterol!").  In other words, this story is really about a man in conflict with his own sense of himself.  This theme is something I'd try to layer in on a successive draft.
  • Slurpburger!  Kittyflies!  Yum-Yum Meals!  I've obviously missed my calling as an advertising executive.
  • Kimmie is wearing a karate gi because my daughter used to take tae-kwan-do classes.  "Write what you know": maybe that's not so much a rule as a piece of advice for writers that are having trouble figuring out what to write about.

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