Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deep In The Ocean’s Treasure
We were coming home from an evening at church, as we did almost every Saturday night.  I could see through some of the gaped window curtains as my mother and I made our way down the street to our house. The lights were twinkling on the Christmas trees alternating red and green in my neighbor’s homes. Families were gathered inside celebrating this Christmas Eve with large meals and bountiful company. No lights trimmed our house this year, even though I begged my mother to let us put up some lights. Our house was the only house in the neighborhood with no lights and no joy. We did not celebrate Christmas, or any holiday and birthdays for that matter due to our religious practices that limited our participation. But I longed to be free each chance I got and would fuss at my mother to let us. The beautiful twinkling lights etched in me that I was missing out on the greatest holiday ever celebrated.
            “Mom, I’m missing out on celebrating with my friends at school. Can’t I just participate in the school parties so I can fit in, please?” I pleaded. There was no immediate response; she pretended to be focused on parking the car in the driveway. The car was finally still and she had rested her hands on her lap, sighed and turned to look at me.
            “You know it’s not appropriate for you to participate because you don’t believe in what they believe in. Besides, you do fit in, you have friends who have you over and come by too,” she said. She turned her head back to look again at the dark house and reach behind the seat for her purse.
            We got out of the car and walked up the pathway to the door. I wasn’t going to argue any further. It was Christmas Eve night; there was no need for a debate tonight. I put my white marshmallow looking coat in the closet underneath the stairs and stuffed my gloves and hat in the pockets to hang together. My mother patted my shoulder and hummed church hymns in attempt to sooth my temper I was containing. I was upset, but I knew there was no point in asking her to change her mind tonight. It was too late. Christmas was four hours away and my chances of seeing a tree in our house and opening presents tomorrow was a farfetched idea.
            “Don’t you want to watch a movie and have some popcorn with me?” my mother asked. Her warm hand moved up to cup my cold chin and pull my face out to meet hers. Her soft brown eyes and puzzled look could not soften my stolen heart. Tonight it selfishly belonged to Christmas; I wanted it to come to me this year if it were not for her.
            “No thank you, I want to go to bed,” I said.
            “But it’s only eight, you can’t be tired,” said my mother.
            “I am, I’m tired of not getting my wishes met every year,” I said and broke into a thumping march up the stairs and into my room. My fluffy red warm comforter was waiting to embrace me. I gathered my pillow into my face and let out the tears I had been holding. My face grew hot and wet from soaking in the now wet pillow. Blocking the world out and sulking in my sorrow, I curled up under the covers and started to drift and sleep the night away.
            Waking up to find dim sunlight coming in through my bedroom curtains, I felt the dread of another Christmas that had come, but not for me. I pulled the covers off and felt the cool brisk bite of a winter chill. My church outfit was still on. I did not change last night because I had cried myself to sleep. I heard pans rattling and smelled eggs and frying bacon. It was only seven in the morning; my mother could not possibly be awake yet. But I was anxious to find out what was happening. I hurriedly changed into pajamas and wrapped my tattered robe around me for extra warmth. As I flew down the stairs, the tail end of my robe draping like a cape, I find my mother making breakfast.
            “Good morning, hon. Are you feeling better?” she asked with a forgiving smile. She was not mad at me for last night. Not vengeful for the temper tantrum I threw and closed her off from my world.
            “I am. Why are you up so early mom and making breakfast already?” I asked.
The kitchen table was set for her and I, but this was different. There was a tiny box wrapped in magenta foil wrapping paper sitting on a plate with a hand written note that was addressed to me in gold ink. It was not my birthday and I had never gotten anything on Christmas day before.
“You went to bed early last night and so did I. I hope you can forgive me for the many things you have missed out on in your childhood. Are you always going to be mad at me?” she asked. Her face looked nervous and anxious for my response. She stirred the yellow runny eggs more and more, scrapping the pan with the spatula to hurry along my response.
“I’m sorry mom. It’s not what I meant to do. I didn’t want to hurt you but I just feel like I’m missing out on something special. I’ve always wanted to celebrate Christmas. I really am sorry. But why are you up so early and what is this on my plate?” I said
 “I don’t mean to cause you to be upset and feel like you are missing out on something special. But you hopefully will see one day that there are many more special things that will consume your life,” said my mother. “But for now, open your gift. Don’t think of it as a Christmas present, just as something from me to brighten up your morning.”
I sat down at the kitchen table and tore the foil off adorning the tiny box. It was a box that obviously held jewelry. Its distinct curbs and gold hinge on the back was unforgettable. We didn’t have much money to spare this end of the month since our heater needed more repairs and was evidently acting up today again. I couldn’t believe my mother was giving me an obviously expensive gift. My fingers gripped the little box and pried it open to reveal its treasure. It was my grandmother’s ruby pendant necklace that she always wore. I hadn’t seen it since she passed away when I was only five years old. It was my most memorable of her possessions and she loved it very much.
“Wait mom, why are you giving this to me? This was left to you from grandma,” I asked.
“I’m giving this to you because it was your grandmother’s treasure once and you are mine,” She said. I could tell she was cold because she was now hugging herself and the end of small slender nose was turning pink from the heaters selected operating times.
I rose out of my chair and hugged her. I buried my face into her chest and felt her warmth. She wrapped her arms around my head and kissed the top. The eggs forgotten and the bacon still simmering; I held on to her for as long as I could. I did not want to lose my mom or make her feel like she hadn’t given me enough in this life ever again, because she had. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chocolate Cream Pie

I really liked this piece because it is a combination of some of my girlfriends real stories. Although it is a little sad, in the end everyone is alright. So here is my second piece...

Chocolate Cream Pie
            “You’re going to be in charge of zone three tonight, Clair. Did you hear me?” said Mark irritated because Clair was obviously in a daze looking at the rush of customers flooding into the restaurant. Within an hour of opening for dinner, every table was full and the wait was almost an hour long.
            “I heard you Mark, zone three. I’m sorry I just feel a little nervous about tonight, I’m still getting the hang of this,” exclaimed Clair nervous and sorry for not paying attention. She forced her eyes to meet Mark’s and smiled half heartedly; pushing some loose strands of soft brown hair behind her ear. She knew she had to focus her mind on the guest and service.  
            “It’s going to be ok, just ask for help if you need it,” replied Mark. His words were difficult to hear from all the noise but his message was clear enough through the reassuring look in his eyes. The restaurant was growing louder with clanking of plates and chatter of the guest and waiters throughout the dining room.
            “Ok, that makes me feel better. Thanks, Mark,” said Clair determined to win back Mark’s trust for the night. He smiled and nodded as he patted Clair’s shoulder and walked away to take care of the seating issue he spotted at table nine across the room. This job was given to Clair as a favor for many long nights of babysitting for her neighbor, Mark’s children, and he was willing to repay her with a job at his restaurant. Coming home for college was not easy, especially since Clair had not spoken to her best friend Anna in a year. Not since she was hit on by Anna’s boyfriend, Jason, and Clair could not find a way to tell her. She just stopped answering Anna’s calls and found excuses not to come home from college.
 The aromas of the firewood grill in the kitchen burning carried its smoky scent throughout the restaurant and the candlelight luminescence made it a popular place for dates in the small town of Golden. Carmela’s was a small family owned restaurant that offered only the best Italian food in town.
 But all Clair could think about as she lit the cinnamon scented red candles on the table was Jason’s breath on her of vodka that summer night. Her hands trembled and her heart felt heavy. Sweat began to beat down her brow and nausea made her lose a little balance. She did not want to remember how his hand slipped up her thigh and his other hand gripping on her neck as he whispered in her ear one night at a graduation party. He offered her an opportunity to sleep with him, told her in fact that he desired her deeply and Anna never had to know. Clair closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, it was over and her past was behind her. She did not have to be afraid any more of being powerless and how she lost a dear friend.
“Hey Clair, your guest are seated and waiting for you at table twelve. Are you alright?” asked Mark as he put his hand on Clair’s firm shoulder and smiled reassuringly. It eased her trembling and the warmth of human contact with someone familiar made her feel safer.
“Yes I’m fine thank you. I just wanted to relight this candle, it went out after our last guest,” said Clair.
She smiled and more reassured now that she can focus on her work, she went off to table twelve to take care of her guest. Clair walked steadily with her menus in hand and order pad at the ready. As she weaved between chairs and watched out for flying trays carried high above the waiter’s heads, she locked in her vision on table twelve and froze in her step. Her heart pounded against her ribcage like a mallet on a base drum and her neck and face grew hotter all in an instant. Jason and Anna were her guest at table twelve. What could she do; she thought? There was no chance of her trading with another waiter; it would not be a possibility on a busy night like tonight. Her only option was to step up and face her friend. Having no other way out, Clair tightened her grip on her menus and list of wines and moved her heavy resisting legs to table nine. Not prepared with what to say to Anna, she advanced none the less.
“Good evening and welcome to Carmela’s” said Clair, fumbling through her apron for her pen in attempt to avoid the inevitable.
“Clair! Oh my gosh I can’t believe it! You work here? I had no idea, I tried to call you all this time and you don’t return my calls,” says Anna desperately. She stands up from her chair and puts her arms around Clair’s neck. Her flowing black dress sways with her happiness and her signature Channel perfume consume Clair’s nostrils for that instant.
“Hi, Anna. I’m sorry, I’ve been so busy but it’s nice to see you,” said Clair. She embraces her long lost friend for just a moment and let’s go. Clair wanted to hug her longer and cry from all the anger and hurt she experienced. She wanted to bury her face in her friends welcoming shoulder and let out all of the hurt and anger inside. But she could not. The guilt of not telling her friend the truth about her unfaithful boyfriend had been a heavy price to pay, but not as heavy as the price would be for telling her.
“It’s nice to see you for once Clair. It’s been a while,” says Jason. His eyes gazed and piecing at Clair made her knees buckle.
“Yes it’s been a while,” said Clair. She glanced at Jason for just a moment and returned her attention to Anna.
“Were here celebrating our five year anniversary but it’s so nice to see you. Let’s see each other now that you’re in town,” said Anna with her hands folded and eyes pleading for a yes. In person, Clair could never turn down Anna’s request.
“Sure, that sounds nice. But first I want to take down your drink order. What will it be tonight?” asked Clair.
“I’m not sure yet. Could you order for us, Jason? I really have to go to the ladies room,” said Anna. She stood up and took her purse and darted through the dining room to the restrooms. Alone now with Jason, Clair felt an air of suspicion. She wondered what Jason was planning to say as she felt his grin grow wider.
“Well take a bottle of the house champagne with a special request,” said Jason.
“Ok Jason. What is the special request?” asked Clair. She was not looking at him as she continued to scribble on her notepad in order to avoid his beady black eyes.
“Can you slip Anna’s engagement ring in her glass for me? I’m proposing to her tonight and I want everything to go well. I mean everything,” said Jason menacingly. He slipped out a black jewelry box from his pocket and pried it open with his long pasty white fingers to show Clair. “You see Clair, Anna trusts me. She knows I’m faithful and would never do anything to hurt her. Much like you, right Clair?”
“Yeah, I can do that,” says Clair. She looked at Jason and before she could think, she snatched the jewelry box from Jason’s hand and slipped it in her apron. In escape she marched off to the wine cellar in the back of the kitchen. Clair felt the walls closing in all around her and her head spun as it became difficult to breathe.
Anna had to know the truth. Her boyfriend made a move on Clair, a violent and aggressive move. He could potentially hurt Anna and she had to know before it was too late. The tiny ring box in her apron weighed a ton all of a sudden and Clair knew she had to carry it all the way to the ladies room and find Ana before she went back to her table and Jason. Off Clair went straight to the bathroom, almost tripping over her feet that resisted any command of movement Clair demanded. She pushed through the heavy black bathroom door with the crooked Ladies sign hanging over head and spotted Anna bent over the counter and her eyes gazing at her own reflection in the mirror.
“Hey there,” said Anna in a mumbled tone as she applied lipstick to her full plump lips. “I can’t believe I got to see you but guess what? I think Jason is proposing tonight, he’s been planning this for us for weeks now and I’m highly suspicious that he has been up to something special.”
Guilt rode over Clair’s conscious and her body trembled as she thought about her friend and Jason promised to each other for life. Anna deserved better, she was always so kind and loving towards others. Clair took one deep sigh and looked into her best friend’s eyes, ready to speak about the last night she saw her friend one year ago.
“About Jason, I have something to tell you and you have to promise me that you will believe me,” said Clair with warms tears now streaming down her face as she looked at Anna.
“Yeah of course, Clair. I’ve known you practically all of my life. What’s the matter Clair?” asked Anna
“Well Anna, last summer at the Thompson brother’s graduation party, Jason made a move on me. When you and the others were downstairs at the basement and I went upstairs to get another bag of chips, Jason followed me. He said he wanted to help me even though I said I didn’t need him to. I was in the kitchen and going to the pantry when he pulled at my arm. Jason pushed me against the wall and his hands were all over me. He gripped my neck as I tried to resist and with his other hand he groped me. He said he wanted to sleep with me and that you didn’t have to know. I bit his hand when he slipped it up to touch my lips and ran out of the house. That’s why you haven’t seen me or heard from you all of this time,” said Clair. She did not feel relieved in telling her friend such a horrible story. She felt ashamed that she did not tell her before.
“That can’t be true Clair, how can you say that?” Jason would never hurt anyone,” said Anna with disgust reflected in her narrow gaze set on Clair.
“It is true Anna, you have to believe me. He is proposing tonight and I wanted you to know this before you commit to him for life,” said Clair now hanging her head low from the shame in having to deliver embarrassing news.
 She reached down in her apron and pulled out the ring box. In her hand it felt heavy still and she placed it on the counter in front of Anna. Anna picked the little black box and put in her black beaded purse and walked out of the restroom without looking at Clair as if she were invisible. Clair felt a cold shudder as her friend left and thought that she had for sure made the biggest mistake of her life by unleashing the truth.
With nothing else holding her in the restroom, she walked out and returned back to work. Clair walked back into the cool wine cellar and picked up the bottle of champagne Jason requested with two glasses and a cork screw. With her hands full, she walked through the dining hall and towards table twelve. Clair could see Jason and Anna now both standing and looking at each other. They both paused and looked at Clair as she was now standing at their table with their champagne.
“Oh and Jason, you can take this with you too,” screamed Anna. She pulled out the small black box and put it on the table in front of Jason. He took it without looking up at Anna or Clair and walked out of the restaurant. Anna folded her arms and looked down at her shoes. “Well that scumbag won’t be coming around either one of us ever again.”
“You broke it off I’m guessing with Jason. I’m so sorry Anna but I love you too much to see you get hurt,” said Clair still holding the bottle and glasses.
“It’s ok; I knew you wouldn’t lie to me. He’s a creep anyways. So what do you have for dessert here that’s good and we can split?” asked Anna now smiling at Clair. She hugged Clair with her arms full still and sat back down at the table.
“We have a chocolate cream pie that I know you will love,” said Clair.
“Good let’s share it,” laughed Anna. This was going to be a new beginning for both of them and it needed to be broken in with a dessert

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First Creative Story

This summer I took a creative writing class for the first time. It was a big risk for me because I don't like others to read my writing because I'm just not a confident writer, or speaker for that matter. Luckily I am only facing one of my fears through this challenge, the public reading my writing. So here goes my first creative story and it's based on a true experience that I had one summer before my second year of college. With a little comic relief I can share my experience of getting to know a new family and trying a southern dish for the first time. So here goes my first attempt.

Deep Fried Southern Guilt
            The sun was going down and shinning its last bit of light on the green grass that was covered in dew from this afternoon’s rain. August was still a rainy month and it made the air unpleasantly warm and humid. My clothes and hair was sticking to my damp skin and the air felt stuffy with so much moisture lingering. All moved into my new home for the school year; my roommate and I stood outside of our new house waiting for her black and white collie to follow us along as she was a puppy and easily distracted. We walked along the black asphalt creating a mirage of water to the end of the street where Cristen’s grandmother lived. She would be feeding us dinner every night and checking on us throughout the school year as was arranged by our families. Crossing the black river of pavement separating the two properties my roommate, Cristen began to giggle.
            “I hope you don’t mind some hearty southern cooking, it’s all my grandmother knows how to fix,” she said with southern twang and her searing sweet smile. Her eyes were illuminated with her endless stock of kindness but expressing she was tired in the manner in which they were drooping, weighed down and in need of rest after arranging our living quarters.
            “I don’t mind. I can eat just about anything right now. That move took it out of me,” I said. I was exhausted from carrying box after box of books and clothing for this school years use. Growing up with my mother’s Mexican cooking, I really could eat almost anything. From beef tongue to cow tripe, I had fooled my palate to think almost everything tasted like chicken.
            “ Just follow my lead, eat only what I eat,” whispered Cristen in a now concerned and quiet tone as we walked up the driveway passing her grandmothers 1984 pearl white Lincoln.
We were almost to the door and I hadn’t noticed it was open. Only a screen door with its wire protection was blocking me from dinner. My stomach was clenching and it felt like I had a belt cinching it. I was so ravenously hungry that as soon as Cristen opened the screen door, I stepped right in and did not wait with her at the entrance for her and the dog to come through. I could not smell food, but cigarette smoke. Then when my nose breathed in deeper taking in more scents; I detected frying bacon. My mouth salivated at the crispy and salty blissful memory of eating bacon sandwiches at home all the time. Although the smell of the cancer causing substance was strong and holding steady, I was too hungry to care much and refuse any food offered to me tonight. I turned my attention to my roommate’s grandmother, June as she greeted me.
“Hi Nancy, come in and have a seat at the counter,” she said. “Glad you girls came over, it’s nice to have some company to cook for. How was the move?”
“Thank you for having us. The move was not bad, just really muggy outside. Makes it feel like your swimming and not just walking,” I said. I peered at the stove in front of the counter to try and guess at what was for dinner. Steam was rising from one pot and there was some steak frying in a dark brown cast iron skillet next to it. She turned the steak with the toothy tongs and sparks of grease sparked out like a fourth of July kid’s sparkler.
“I hope you girls are hungry. I’m making country fried steak, rice and black-eyed peas seasoned with bacon!” she said with her back still turned to the counter and her attention on finishing this promising meal. I glanced at the pictures on the stainless steel refrigerator and saw a younger Cristen in wigs and costumes that she must have played with when she suddenly came in to the kitchen with her dog trailing behind.
“Hey grandma, dinner smells good,” she said. “Do you want to check out some of the garage sale treasures grandma has found, Nancy?”
“Yes of course. I keep hearing you mention the famous collection and I want to brows. Let’s take a look,” I said.
For the first time I was looking with my eyes and not my stomach. As I peeled my sweaty thighs from the plastic covered seat to follow Cristen; I looked all around, up and down and made a full circle turn as I shuffled my bare feet to follow her throughout the house. The walls were made of dark wood boards and had almost every inch covered with pictures of the family. Her couch was tan and protected by a plastic clear cover set in front of the ancient boxed television with rabbit antennas. All around on every shelf, cabinet and table, there was spread out; grandma’s finds from her garage sale adventures. She had stacks of newspaper in between her treasures and I was worried that this was going to become another episode Hoarders. I walked up to the dinner table and looked at all the crystal bowls that were shining and reflecting a kaleidoscope of lights. They were each labeled with a ripped tan piece of masking take.
“Grandma has everything spread out now but it was all boxed up and put away. She took everything out because she is going to sell everything on eBay. My father and her are working on taking photos and loading them,” said Cristen offering an explanation to settle my worried look.
My forehead was still dripping sweat and stomach now making loud groaning noises broke our silence.
“Oh that’s cool, a good way to make extra money,” I said and smiled. I was hoping my smile was convincing enough. The wide-eyed look and mouth gaped open must have been seen by Cristen or else she wouldn’t have offered an explanation to clarify this unique spread.
“Dinner is ready!” grandma shouted.
We looked at each other and without words exchanged, a nod passed between us that reaffirmed our previous pact. I will only eat what she eats. We walked back down the hall and found our seats at the counter. There were “Happy Birthday” paper plates placed before us and Fourth of July napkins folded next our plates. The silverware sitting on top of the red, white, and blue stripped napkins did not match each other and were from different sets that had been mixed and matched throughout the years. This was a truly unique set up.  Before I said a word, a slab of fried beef was forked onto my plate by grandma.
“Help yourself to some beans and rice too. I also made something extra special for you to try. I hope you do try it even if Cristen tells you not too,” she said. Our game was up; she knew Cristen had warned me. Feeling guilty now for possibly insulting the woman who promised to take care of me all year, I took my chances and did not refuse her offer.
“Sure I will, I am always up for something new,” I smiled and laughed nervously.
“Good, have a bite of this fried chicken I fixed,” said grandma and forked a little piece from her plate to put on mine next to my steak.
How bad could it be if her plate was filled with it and some rice and beans I thought? I picked up my fork and knife and began to cut into the middle of this little cube of chicken surrounded by a thin layer of fried skin. It was brown and crispy on the outside and white and juicy looking on the inside. It looked like chicken, how bad could this be? I forked one of the pieces and put it in my mouth before my nose could change my mind. As I bit down, tasted the greasy fried skin and savored the juice of the meat for just a moment I detected a minor unfamiliarity. It looked like chicken and tasted a little bit like chicken. But it was chewier and much greasier. I chewed and chewed and with my tongue pushed the ground up food to the back of my throat and swallowed.
“That’s not bad but it has a unique flavor,” I said.
Cristen’s gaze had not broken and her eyes looked horrified. Her nostrils flared up and her lips pursed together as if she had just eaten a lemon. I cocked my head and raised one eyebrow to clearly state that I did not think that was all too bad.
            “What? It’s not that bad,” I said reassuring. But Grandma June’s grin grew wider and she tipped her cigarette into the purple ceramic ashtray placed next to her paper plate.
            “You just ate gator tail my dear!” said grandma. Her body began to rumble with laughter and her head tipped back. “A little welcome to the family tradition.”
            “Well it wasn’t that bad,” I said defeated but now welcomed to the Felder family. I experienced a Florida tradition and delicacy only found in the south. Now my only worry was not gaining weight from eating such hearty fried foods.