In January I attended a workshop on writing and editing flash fiction. The definition of what exactly flash fiction is seems to vary: I tend to think of it as “really short short stories.”
I spent most of the workshop feeling like I was in over my head. Missing the first few days didn’t help, but I was also working alongside much more experienced and just plain better writers. I also found that flash fiction might not be my thing, at least not yet.
But, here is one of my submissions to the workshop. I’ll post the other next week.
At The Diner
by Eric Goebelbecker
It used to be you could go into a diner like this and just order soup and a salad, Eddie thought. A real diner. With booths and placemats with ads on them. With waitresses named Flo and Ruth that had pencils in their big hair and remembered your favorite orders. None of this “What kind of salad? Do you want chicken over that? Salmon? Which soup?” stuff. More than one soup-of-the-day? What the hell is that?
Eddie poked at the “salad.”
“What’s wrong Eddie?” Mike asked as he put picked up his flat sandwich. Paganini or something? Who eats a sandwich like that?
Even though they had his stupid sandwich Mike, or ‘Michael’ as he prefers to be called now, would probably prefer to be somewhere else. One of those places with cute little tables that two plates barely fit on. Where people cover their mouths to chew.
“Why do you gotta force her to move in with you?” Eddie blurted, more forcefully than he intended.
“You know she can’t stay there alone. That was a close call, it could be much worse next time.”
“She doesn’t want to move to Jersey, Mike. Hell, I still don’t know why you did.”
Eddie gestured for the waitress.
“Could I have some oil and vinegar for my salad please? He asked when she came over.
“We have a balsamic vinaigrette, sir. Or ranch dressing?” She offered.
“No. Just oil and vinegar.”
“Oh, please. Not this again. I know you hate Jersey, and you’ve got a ton of material. Are you going to move in with her?” Michael continued after she was out of earshot. “I didn’t think so.”
“But she doesn’t want to leave!”
“I know that, Eddie. But assisted living in the city would wipe out her savings in less than a year, and in-home health care almost as quick. We’ve been through this.”
Eddie looked up at his brother. They both stopped.
“Here’s the oil and vinegar, sir. Crushed pepper?” The waitress held up a pepper grinder. For a moment Eddie wondered how she managed to carry both.
“No. Please. This is fine.” Both brothers looked at the waitress, the silence hanging in the air.
“How am I going to see her?” Eddie asked after she the waitress left with her mammoth pepper grinder.
“How am I going to see her, Mike? I live in Brooklyn. You’re taking her to freakin’ Paramus. I don’t even have a car.”
“That’s it? That’s your problem?”
“Yeah. That’s my problem.”
Eddie put some oil and vinegar on his salad, as well as salt and some not-freshly-ground pepper. The paper placemat had a floral pattern on it. What happened to the ads? Reading ads for dentists, plastic surgeons, and dog trainers used to be part of the experience. He needed to find a new place for lunch.
Michael put his flat sandwich down without taking a bite.
“We work 5 blocks from each other. You want to see her I’ll drive in and give you a ride. You can stay in the basement.”
“You would do that?”
“Of course I would. We’re brothers.”
This soup is good. Eddie thought. Good ol’ chicken noodle. Hard to screw up, really.
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