Friday, October 1, 2010

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Round 1 - "Coming Clean"

This writing competition was tons of fun.  It's a $39 entry fee, but they promised reviews from the judges, and at least two rounds of competition.  While the judges feedback was marginal, there is a forum option which allows other contestants to critique your work, and you get to read theirs.  That alone was worth the entry fee.

The contest premise to write according to an assigned literary genre, taking place in a primary location, and mentioning a specific object, all under 1,000 words.

COMING CLEAN- Romance/Restaurant Kitchen/Ladder

Scrubbing dishes sucks.  I’m pretty sure it’s a living hell; a never ending pile of miscellaneous dishes with the leftover remnants of trivial formalities and hollow conversations.

            Except tonight, it was heaven.  The lemon scented water and sparkling silver contributed to an amorous ambiance.  I was even singing along to the cheesy soft rock love songs. She whispered those three words in my ear last night as way lay skin to skin. I was in a floating world of sudsy bliss.

            I almost missed it, but the clink against the glass dish snapped me out of my trance.  On the bottom of the ice cream dish was a gold ring with a round, small, and defiant diamond on the top.
            I took it to Heidi, the head chef, who affirmed that one of our patrons had asked her to place it in the dessert for a surprise proposal.  JJ was their waiter.  He remembered that they were there celebrating the time they first met, and that things seemed to be going well until he delivered the dessert.  At that point, the woman was gone, and the man had his head in is hands, visibly upset. He had the receipt from the bill, which gave us the name on the credit card.  Pascal Davidson. I looked him up in the phone book.
           “We think you may have left something valuable at the restaurant.”
           “No, she left me.”
           “Excuse me?”
           “Nothing, never mind. What do you have?”
           “A ring sir, we’re keeping it back in the kitchen, just come on back.”
A full sink load later, he came through the swinging doors, lean frame, angled face, and eyes that had been drenched in acidic grief. He came back to me, and I placed the ring in his hand. His hand closed tightly around it, as though he was trying to squeeze it out of existence.  He turned to leave.
            “Love sucks.”  He muttered
            “It’s better than washing dishes.”  I casually commented.
            He paused.  His lip quivered.
            “She was perfect.”
            He held my gaze for a moment, searching for validation.  Dishes could wait.
            “I know.”
            “She was my life.   Everything I did, every breath, every blink, it was all for her.  Do you know what that’s like?”
           “I think I’m starting to.”
           “Then it was just gutted from me, wrenched out from within, leaving me with nothing but this godforsaken emptiness. How could I have been such a fool? I’m sorry.  I don’t even know you and I’m dumping this heaviness on you.”
           “Don’t worry about it.”
           “Thanks. It’s just so much to handle right now.  I was all ready to marry her, then I find out that there’s someone else. I feel so dumb.”
           “Man that’s rough.  If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one or first one who’s put up high stakes for a relationship. Take JJ over there, he married a firefighter and lost her.  He tattooed a fire truck on his chest with a ladder going to his heart so she could rescue him. It may seem cheesy, but in a way it’s pretty cool. Heidi, our head chef, moved across the country to work near her boyfriend.  I guess what I’m saying is that, even though there may be pain, to have had that time, that moment with someone that changes your entire universe, its worth it.”
          “I hear you.  Thanks for the talk.  I’ve got a lot to think about.  Thanks again for finding the ring.”
          “You never got a chance.”  I said aloud to myself, but he heard me.
          “Excuse me?”
         “Well, I was just thinking, that since I found the ring, you never even had an opportunity to ask her to marry you. It sounds like it may be too late now, but just on the off chance that everything you had together wasn’t meaningless, maybe you should let her know just how far you were ready to go. You’re not out of the fight yet.”
          “You’re right.  I was just so shocked when she told me. I didn’t know how to react.  I won’t give up, not yet.”
            I pointed him to the phone.  He called her and told her he was still at the restaurant, and that he needed to give her something.  Then he came over and because he had nothing better to do, started cleaning some pans.   We enjoyed some small talk, he gave me his business card, and JJ showed him the tattoo.  Finally, the hostess came back and told us the woman had arrived and that she was going to send her back. 
            The double doors swung open revealing legs wrapped in blue denim, a torso caressed by a black blouse, and hair laced with copper, gold and bronze.  The plate in my hand slipped to the floor and shattered into a galaxy of glass.   I stood frozen as Pascal Davidson grabbed my lover by the hand and sat down with her in the back room behind the kitchen. The world I thought I knew did a back flip and turned itself inside out. 
            I stepped outside to get some fresh air.  The moon and stars were a poetry I no longer enjoyed. I don’t know how long it took for my breaths to slow, and my heart rate to come back, but somehow they did. 
            When I came back, they were standing together, her ringed hand in his, waiting for me.  She came up to me and pressed her mouth to mine and whispered her apology.  Then they were gone, except for a ghost of a glass, with her lips on the rim.
            Scrubbing dishes sucks. 
In retrospect, I should have researched romance genre more because it is supposed to have a happy ending.  This was also before I started understanding what Flash Fiction really is. 

Here's what the judges thought.
HAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT - ..................Some of the dialogue seemed real, particularly the narrator's deadpan, stock responses....You managed to make rather implausible elements seem realistic. The story has a very good surprise ending. I love the detail about the firetruck tattoo. ......................................................   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - ..................There are a few typos. Paragraphs are inconsistently formatted--either indent or use an extra line-break. The conversation flows well enough, but the narrator needs to feel surprised, to react to a total stranger opening up so completely. For that matter, that man needs to react to his girlfriend kissing a dishwasher on the lips, right in front of him....Try revising the first paragraph to start with "It's a living hell." Tone down "eyes that had been drenched in acidic grief." Leave out the "a" in the "moon and stars" sentence.

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