Monday, February 28, 2011

FFF #20 - Mel Gibson Verses The Korean Bagel Lady

Submitted for this week's Friday Flash Fiction:

Prompt: ANYTHING GOES – Battle Royale with your favorite villians, monsters and myths.

Genre: Open
Word Count: Under 1500 words

Dedicated to Dale, who fought the Korean Bagel Lady in the original series.

It was a hot day in Tijuana, but it was a good heat, in that it was dry and several degrees higher than the current temperature in Canada. And several is a lot when you're talking Celsius. I was in the middle of my vacation, knee-deep in margaritas, burritos, and lots of direct sunlight. But it was about the time in a vacation where I started to need a taste of home. Also, there was going to be a beheading downtown in the evening and I really wanted to change into something more appropriate first.

I started the long walk back from the beach to my hotel, but there was a prostitute jam, so I had to side step it into an alleyway. I thought that if I continued in this direction then I could eventually take a right and another right and I'd be back on track towards the Casa del Suave Rico in no time.

I soon found myself wandering around and ending up in the "Real Mexico." It was tough and gritty and I was conspicuously sunburned. I kept my pace and continued in what I thought was a westward direction, hoping to at least get back to the beach, where I could be a victim of tourist traps rather than an abduction or worse.

As the sun began to set behind the buildings, a sign caught the light in a specific way, such that I was temporarily blinded. I stopped and rubbed my eyes. When the psychedelic retinal burns subsided, I was able to read the sign: La Tienda del Panecillo. There was a picture of a bagel on it. I couldn't resist heading over there. I was intoxicated by the bready aromas and the promise of some food that wasn't tortilla-based.

The bell jingled as I entered the bagel shop. I was hoping to find that they offered a cheese bagel and cup of coffee, an old favorite of mine. I hadn't stepped foot in any bagel shop since The Korean Bagel Lady closed hers down for good three years ago. She said she was retiring, but I believe she may have actually killed someone by adding bleach to his coffee and was skipping the country to head to Panama with her husband and stay one step ahead of the Mounties.

There was a small crowd around the counter. These were North Americans, if all the L.L. Bean labels and the highlighted hairdos I saw indicated anything. A man was shouting. I edged my way forward to see what was going on.

"There is something wrong with this coffee," he yelled.

"No there isn't, dumbass," came the reply.

That was all I needed to hear. It was her all right; that was what she used to call me. I could also tell by the antidulcet tones and the smirk that went with it. I was sorry I didn't already have my coffee and bagel as I settled into a chair near the fracas to take it all in.

"Yes there is something wrong with this coffee!! My tongue is numb!!!" he repeated, an edge settled on the side of his voice that made me take a good look at his face. He sounded familiar and with one good look, I knew where I knew him from: The Lethal Weapon movies they played on channel six.

"You think you famous and that mean you can yell at me, blame me for your coked-out tongue, but you can't!"

"Listen, lady," he said, wiping his face with his bandana and trying to calm himself, "I am not on coke, ok?"

"If you say right, you too fat to be on coke."

Ignoring this, he pressed on, "My company hired you to provide coffee and bagels to us while we worked on our film..."

"You mean you try hire my shop but pay Mexican prices," she corrected. "I not Mexican, I Kor-e-an, deserve better. Go get some huevos rancheros from Juan if you want Mexican prices."

"But we still paid you, lady," he said keeping his calm, but I could see his hands were starting to shake, "That means we bought this coffee from you. It is bad. You need to either give us our money back or give us some new coffee, that's how it works."

"Pfft," she splurted and yelled something incomprehensible to the back room. More shouts returned.

"You know what she say about you back there?" she asked him.

"No, I don't speak Korean," he replied wearily.

"That not Korean, dumbass, that Spanish," she grinned, mocking him. "I'm bilingual, not stupid and ignorant like you."

"Fine, what did she say?" he asked. He really should have kept his mouth shut, took the coffee and headed back to work at this point. He's asking for whatever he gets now.

"She say you crazy, don't deserve good coffee."

"I...don't...I'm crazy?!?"

"Yes, and I agree. Get lost, fatty," she said, waving the back of her hand at him.

"That's it," he said, his eyes bulging, "You cannot tell me that I don't deserve good coffee!"

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah!" he retorted. "I have Oscars! I have money! I am the most feared man in Hollywood! I am beholden to no studio and I don't have to kowtow to anyone. I produce my own work and I say what I want, I drink what I want and I interpret history how I want! How would you like it, lady, if my next movie was an expose on how shitty Korea is? Huh?!? How about I tell everyone what a jerk you people are?!?"

"You think you can tell the world how shitty Korea is? What, you think you surprise them? Why you think I not in Korea? I'm smart, that's why...unlike some other people in this room like you," she snotted and pointed into his face.

He jumped over the counter and grabbed her finger and twisted with all of his might. The Lady screamed and fell backwards toward the dual coffee machine. She reached for the decaf pot and pitched the contents into his face and then slammed the empty pot onto the edge of the countertop, shattering it.

"You want a piece of me?!?" she yelled, waving the shredded remains of the pot in his face.

"Aaargh!" he screamed as he toppled backwards, his face sizzling.

"Come on, fatty dumbass!" she taunted, "Show Lady Gin what you're made of!"

His assistant caught him and handed him a can of Red Bull. He hefted it in his hand and hurled it at her head with all of his strenghth. She ducked in plenty of time, then leapt onto the counter, weilding the jagged coffee pot.

"You leave now," she yelled.

"Not without my coffee!" he screamed and bounded toward her.

She shrieked and swung her leg around and nearly caught his jaw with her shin. He grabbed her by the ankle and gave her the crazy eyes and pushed her backwards.

She staggered and nearly dropped off the counter, but caught her balance. They locked eyes and began to circle one another. She dropped down from the counter and they squared off, grabbing each others shoulders and slamming each other into things.

My need for a bagel and a cup of coffee started to wear off. I thought I'd better leave before I was noticed and dragged into this affair.  I got up from my seat and sidled over to one of the members of the production team.

"Psst," I hissed to one of the ladies. She appeared to be holding the movie star's keys.

"Huh?" She said, turning to me, slowly tearing her eyes from the dannybrook.

"Jessica?" I asked, recognizing my former co-worker.

"Dale?!?" She squealed.

"Shhh..." I hushed her and signled for her to join me outside this little Casa de Loco.

We slipped out of the front door as a table crashed through the front window.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. "I thought you were working for the Ministry of Labour not Mel Gibson."

"I am working for the Ministry of Labour," she expained, "I'm just undercover right now. Come on, I'll take you back to your hotel and tell you all about it."

"Won't they miss you?"

"Nah," she waved her hand in dismissal, "That prick can find his own way home. Here, jump in the HumVee."

I hoisted myself in and plopped down on the luxurious leather front seat of the paramilitary monstrosity. She climbed in to the driver's seat and got situated. She turned the keys in the ignition. The engine roared in the way that only eighty thousand dollar engines can and I was immediately chilled to the bone by a  fierce blast from the air conditioning and the Adam Lambert CD in the stereo. I hoped the windows were bullet-proof.

"Yeah, we almost had her in Toronto, but she figured out how to get to Panama on a loophole in the immigration policy. We had to let her go, but I followed her."

"Seriously?" I asked, "I mean, seriously? Why?"

"Violation of minimum wage laws. And attempted murder. I'm working with the Mounties on this one."

"How did you get in with Mel Gibson's crew?"

"Well, you'd never know it, but all of his productions are covers for covert investigations. It's a win-win. We clear the way for him to film his crack-pot histories and we slip in while the local government is temporarily blinded by Hollywood glamor."

"Wow," I said, stunned.

"Yeah," she replied, "But he might be at the end of his usefullness. I'm not sure he'll be able to take the Korean Bagel Lady down."

"Shouldn't you stick around and make sure?"

"Nah, policy says Canadians first and you are that, so I'm getting you out of this hellhole and taking you to the Mexican opera. We'll leave them to it and let the best asshole win."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: Execute!

People waste a lot of goddamn time. They waste a lot of time dithering about this or that. I'm tired of all the indecision, chief, and I'm here to show you how cut out unneccessary mental processing so you stop wasting my time.

I always hear you talking about giving people "the benefit of the doubt." This means that you start every interaction trusting people. There's your first mistake, Johnny. You've got to let go of that instinct that everyone has some good in them. That kind of thinking may have worked for Anne Frank, but it won't work in this day and age. People need to earn their credibility.

If we all assume we are all untrustworthy from the get, there'd be a lot less heartache and drama, I guarantee it. And a lot less time wasted on waiting for these cheeseholes to follow through with what they promised to do. There's many a scoundral who count on your credulity, sport, and use it to their benefit and your expense.

Next step to saving time: never order Italian food in a restaurant in the Bible Belt. My neice dragged me to Nashville for her annual nerd migration. Jesus Christ, you'll never seen more buttheads in one room than you would at the Nashville Comic Con. But we were staying at a Hampton Inn and didn't have a car. So, we had to rely on the hotel bus to get around. My neice, being the kind of girl who tromps along where the wind blows her insisted that we get the driver's advice about where to eat. "He's a local," she said. Local, schmocal, says I. I mean, he was wearing diamond encrusted horseshoe ring, for Chrissake! What the hell does he know about a decent place to eat?

He asked us if we liked EYE-talian food; he had a favorite in mind for us. My neice of course said yes. She loves Italian food. We're from the northeast and we've got real Italians in our town who make real Italian food. What's not to love? I was skeptical. I didn't recall seeing any Italians wondering around the Nashville Music Center. I didn't see any Italian restaurants between the airport and the hotel, other than 'Sbarro, if you can count that, which I don't. I don't remember seeing any shows on the History Channel about any "Great Italian Migration" trapsing through the south, dropping pockets of immigrants who carried with them hundreds of years of traditional Italian cooking. There is no reason in the world that the meal we were about to eat would be memorable other than by the misery it would cause.

And I was right.

I might as well have ordered ramen noodles with ketchup on top. When I asked for crushed red peppers, our waitress looked at me like I'd asked for an Alpha Centauri Whoredog. But rather than admitting she didn't know what the hell I wanted, she suggested that she could come back with some fresh ground pepper, the old condiment standby. But I ate this abomination abondanza and thought of my possibilities in the afterlife as a distraction. It was gross, son.

I don't fault the driver; how the hell would he know good Eye-talian food from a kick in the nuts? But I say this: If you want a particular type of specialty food, don't get it in a place not known for that thing. You wouldn't order hush puppies in don't order Italian food in the South. Trust me on this one; it'll save a lot of time. And you can trust me; I've pulled your dumb ass out of more tight spots than you've got holes in your head.

And don't give me that business about how I shouldn't judge the entire Bible Belt's Italian food offerings based on one experience in one city in one state. I'm sure some people there know Italian from Shinola. But I'm not going to waste my time looking for a noodle in a haystack, bub. And that's what I'm talking to you about right now: My time and not wasting it. And I'm sharing my wisdom with you, so don't you give me any lip.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

FFF - Cycle 18 - Raw

A poem submitted for Flash Fiction Friday.
Prompt: PHOTO (below)

Genre: Open
Word Count: Approximately 1,000 words
Deadline: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 4:30 pm EST

There's a worn patch
Where my elbow-through-denim
Bruised the body
As I strummed.

A tiny blood stain
Rests near the first fret
Left by my ring finger
When we played all night.

And I broke a tuning key
Trying to run for cover
When the rain startled us
That day in New York.

You remember how it felt
To strum, to sing, to unify?
We transformed ourselves
Into aether and atmosphere.

We were breathed in
By gods who breathed back;
Our muscles remembered,
Our minds unfettered.

I touch the neck and brush the strings
And memory echos back
Through the body in faint waves.
It's almost like you are here.

And I am grateful for
Whatever whiff breezes by
Carrying with it your scent,
As proof I haven't forgotten.

Your absence dims my senses.
I can't fly without you.
But I can be a person
Who knows what music feels like...or knew.

If you are gone, you're gone
But not without a trace
I present my soul
As evidence.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

FFF - Cycle 17: An Alien Abduction in the Gay 90's

Sumbitted for Friday Flash Fiction

Grab the book closest to you right now. Open to pg. 56. Choose the 5th sentence. Prompt: RANDOM FIRST SENTENCE – Following the rules of the game listed above, find your first sentence. I chose my sentence from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This is dedicated to Randal Graves, whose style inspired this story.

One of the problems, ironically, was that there were too many observations, which when brought together often proved contradictory and impossible to resolve. We had spent a better part of the weekend trying to put two and two together and kept coming up with seven. We still do not understand what happened to John and Ludwig.

Mary had been in the garden sitting at the white wrought iron tables. She claims she was daydreaming or woolgathering; she couldn't settle on what. What is it called when you stare at the flowers and let your subconscious rumble around freely, rethinking past events and formulating alternative outcomes? Either way, she was seated and staring at flowers, wearing a floral dress and rosy cologne, immersed in gardenry, as it were. She said that her reverie, if that's what it was, was shattered by a loud zing. She said she blinked and looked out over the vast yard to see John and Ludwig disappear in a puff of smoke. She was sure some of the Independence Day fireworks had been set off accidentally or on purpose and blew them to smithereens.

Pierre was in the balcony above Mary, wooing Martha. Well, he didn't say he was wooing. Specifically, he was looking into her face and noticing the flecks of steel silver in her lovely blue eyes. He remembers telling her that her softness was betrayed by her inner strength and he had yet to see such a marvelous combination in any woman anywhere, even in Paris. She bent her neck and leaned toward him, finally crossing the bridge from skepticism to trust, recognizing the goodness and artistry housed in his soul, when the sky went dark. Startled, Pierre looked up to where the sun had once been, baffled by its absence. He was then blinded by a heavenly beam that shot from the darkness into the middle of the yard by the well where John said he was taking Ludwig to show him some arrowheads he had found. Pierre assumed it was heavenly intervention and felt blessed to be in the presence of an angel striking down sinners who lived in defiance of God's Law. Martha just marveled at the sound of Pierre's voice and the wisdom it communicated.

Old Man Jenkins was in the west garden closest to the well. He was on his hands and knees, clawing through the loose earth and sifting out the detritus. He was behind on his planting and was working tirelessly to catch up so that Mrs. Melody would have her impatiens in time for the flower show she put on for Founder's Day. As he readied the bed, he was planning the planting, working and reworking the layout over and over again. He was no fan of blueprints or graph paper. A garden must be organic, that is, it must be born from the heart of the gardener, he claimed. Otherwise, what was the point? How do you adjust for the unforeseen that Mother Nature inevitably puts in your path. No, he would not put anything on paper. It was a testament to his skill that Mrs. Melody didn't object to his methods.

He was rethinking the purple to pink ratio when he felt a breeze, which refreshed him at first. But then it became the absolutely frigid wind of February on the cliffs. His nose began to run and he stopped digging to reach for his handkerchief. He looked up to see John and Ludwig standing stock still, forty feet away from him. They glistened in a beam of light as Old Man Jenkins realized that the breeze was blowing down on him instead of across him, as it had for the prior seventy-some years he'd been noticing. When he looked up he was knocked down flat. When he came back to, Jack and Ludwig were nowhere to be seen and the field was burnt around where they were standing.

So there you have it. We are no farther along then when we started. Mary and Old Man Jenkins both saw smoke or something burnt but didn't notice the darkness. Pierre saw darkness and a beam of light, the Hand of God maybe; Mary heard a zing. And Martha was too besotted to notice anything other than the fireworks going off in her head, lit by Pierre. When you put everything together, we know less than we did when we start with the idea that John and Ludwig are missing.

The rest of us saw nothing, as we were embroiled in a debate about and whether women should vote or not. They shouldn't, we determined and the women stormed out in a huff.

For the moment, this case remains unsolved. We shall carry on with our leisurely summer and loll in the heat of August. Perhaps then, in the high heat of summer, we will be off on a stroll or having a picnic and some fact or other may drift through our minds and give us a thread that leads us to the truth or something like it. Until then we can only list what we know and astound ourselves by the multitude of things that we do not know.