#1MinFiction: Thanksgiving Calories Don’t Count

Grandma hobbles around the kitchen, fixing everyone’s plate.

She’s deep fried the cornbread, and the turkey. The yams are mostly sugar. So is everything else on the table.

“A salad?” she says, hand on her hip. “Girl, don’t you know Thanksgiving calories don’t count?”

“Thanks, but no thanks, Grandma.”

I’d rather have both my feet than diabetes.

—Nortina


Do you follow the #ThanksgivingClapBack memes on social media? I imagine that last line could easily be one of them, though I wouldn’t dare say it to my Grandma. By the way, she has both her feet. ūüėČ

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. All November, I’m giving you Thanksgiving-themed prompts. Today’s prompt is thanks, but no thanks

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: After She Cooked You a Feast for the Gods

Woman!
Loosen my belt,
unbutton my trousers,
release this belch—
there’s room for more.
And how stupid are you
to not know stuffing
from dressing? Baste
the bird, gobble its
giblets; gravy pairedfe1f64b599ed42caf657a7b99a0ee401
with rice; mac missing
cheese; ham baked
in honey; hocks season
collards, turnips; yams
from a can, needs more
sugar, overcooked like
sweet potato mash.
Don’t speak while the
‘Boys are on, spoon me
berry cobbler, pumpkin
pie; pound cake apple
chai sits like a boulder
in my gut. Still there’s
room for more.

—Nortina


Thanksgiving is next Thursday! Are you ready for the gluttonous feast? 

Originally published November 24, 2016.

After She Told You to Get Up the Second Time

Too full—stomach tight—
I can balance this plate
on top of my belly button.fe1f64b599ed42caf657a7b99a0ee401
Thanksgiving tastes even
better after two days in
the fridge. Yams sweeter
with extra drizzle of syrup.
Ribs more fat than meat—
Cajun spices in the dry
rub. Boil stuffing down to
gravy over rice. Hush up,
woman, carb conscious.
Doing sit-ups with every
bite—I’m moving, dammit.

—Nortina

Hot Like an Oven

“It’s almost poetic, isn’t it?” Drake leans forward and opens the cooler. All the ice has melted, but the water is still cold. He dips his glass inside and pours the cool¬†liquid down the front of his shirt. “100 degrees on the first day of summer.”

Melanie peels dry skin from her bottom lip. “I’d agree with you, but it’s been 100 degrees for three months straight.”

“Kinda makes you wish you didn’t vote yes for that¬†drilling¬†referendum.”

“At least we have power now.”

“But at what cost?” Drake suddenly coughs from deep within his chest, and it burns, like someone sprinkled dried hot chili peppers down his trachea.

“You should go inside.” Melanie pats his back and hands him her glass of water. “This heat — it’s hotter than it was yesterday. It’s not good for your lungs.”

Drake gulps it down, water dribbling from¬†the corners of his mouth and down his chin. “I’m fine,” he says then clears his throat. “Just a little choked up is all.”

Across the street, their neighbor’s screen door slams. “Hi ya, Meladrake!” Yonni calls. He skips across the yard holding¬†a frying pan, a heavy Harris Teeter grocery back slung over his shoulder.

Drake and Melanie each take a handle on the cooler and carry it down to the curb.

“What’s on the menu today?” Drake asks.

Yonni begins to lay out the ingredients in the street. He cuts a thick slice of butter and drops it in the center of the pan. “New York strip, roasted potatoes and green beans.”

“I never thought I would live in a place where I’d be able to cook in the street,” Melanie says.

“It has it’s advantages. This way I won’t have to turn on the stove, and my house stays cool . . .” Yonni twists his mouth and shrugs. “Relatively.”

The butter in the frying pan quickly melts. “It doesn’t bother you? It’s so hot you can actually cook a steak,” Drake says.

Yonni rubs salt and pepper on the meat¬†with his index and middle fingers, lays the strip¬†in the pan. It sizzles immediately. ¬†“I guess the time to worry is when I’m able to boil water.”

“Interesting.” Drake flips open the lid on the cooler and sticks¬†his fingers into the now warm water. “It won’t be too long.”

Yonni shakes his head. Using a spoon, he scoops up butter from the pan and drizzles it over the steak.

“Let’s just focus on dinner tonight,” Melanie says.

—Nortina

Southern Cooking

He calls me weird because I like cheese
on my hotdog, slaw on my burger.
When the fire dies down, I pour lighter
fluid on the charcoal pyramid, blacken
my chicken. He tells me I burn all the
flavor, but he’s never had salmon coated
in butter, a mix of paprika, cayenne pepper,
salt, onion and garlic powder sprinkled on
both sides, charred in a cast iron skillet.

I take him down South where the Spanish
moss grows heavy. We dip our toes in the
bayou, and he says I’m crazy not to fear
the gators, but we catch them and fry them
like chicken, dip in buttermilk ranch and
pop them in our mouths. In the morning,
I’ll show him how to saut√© Cajun shrimp,
garnish¬†it over sharp cheddar grits. He’ll
learn cheese goes on everything, and
nothing he’s eaten before ever tasted better.

—Nortina


frapalymo#frapalymo (the German version of NaPoWriMo) is hosted by FrauPaulchen¬†and translated from German into English by Bee at Just Fooling Around With Bee.¬†The double prompt for yesterday & today is: ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ and “crazy.”

Veterinarian Val

I lost an hour listening to Uriah. The residents had filled the cafeteria by then, each with a plate in front of them, munching slowly. A few stragglers wandered in from their rooms, including Tammy, refreshed from¬†a three¬†hour nap. She walked¬†straight to our table when she saw us, leaning heavily against her walker—the balance in her legs not fully awake yet. She wrapped her arms around Grandma’s shoulders and gave her a tight squeeze.

“I had a dream about you.”

“That doesn’t sound¬†good,” Grandma said between chews.

“Is that all?” Thomas asked, clearly anxious to know if Tammy remembered Grandma’s disturbing confession about Pete that sent her fleeing to her room for a “nap” in the first place.

“It was about you and your husband.”

“Which one?” Jerry carved his knife across his half-empty plate.¬†The silver¬†scraped harshly against the ceramic, making a high-pitched sound that rivaled dog whistles. I rubbed my knuckle against my eardrum and tried to ignore him, staring at Tammy’s wrinkly, age spot covered hand instead.

My mind lingered on the thought of whether Jerry would stab Tammy¬†if she mentioned Pete, to protect Grandma—maybe between her fingers just to scare her into silence. The knife was a dud, barely sharper than a butter knife. Even in this fragile crowd, it couldn’t do any real damage. The chicken meat seemed tender enough, but the knife couldn’t even¬†cut through the thick crust of the skin. Frank had actually¬†peeled the skin away and started picking the meat from between the bones, licking the tips of his greasy¬†fingers as his tongue looped¬†the chicken¬†into his mouth.

“The doctor,” Tammy said, and Jerry dropped his knife, seemingly satisfied with her answer.

“Aw, Tammy, not while we’re eating!” Grandma covered her mouth, spat her food into a napkin, then folded it neatly into a triangle and tucked it under her place mat.

V“No, I don’t mean Burt. The animal doctor.”

“Oh. Val.”

“Yes. You always spoke so fondly of him. What happened to him again?”

Grandma pushed herself back from the table. I could hear the echo of the clock ticking in my ear as she twirled her tongue around the molars in the corners of her mouth, preparing to talk about another husband.

“Tammy, would you like to sit?” I said quickly, getting up to offer¬†her my seat.

“No! She can pull up¬†a¬†chair.” Grandma snapped her fingers behind her where two men sat at a table of four.

“Grandma, I really can’t stay.”

Grandma waved for me to sit back down. “Val will be quick. I was only married to him a year.”

“You were married to the last three for a year!”

Ignoring me, Grandma scooted her chair down closer to Frank to allow Tammy to sit between us.

“I feel like it would be wrong of me to talk about Val while I’m eating this chicken,” Grandma said, picking at the crispy skin with her fork. “You see, Val wasn’t just a veterinarian. He was a vegetarian too. It would’ve been hypocritical for him to be a devoted animal lover and still eat meat. So he gave it up a long time ago, and when we got married, he made me give it up too.”

“Must’ve been hard after all that food Uriah was feeding you,” Thomas said.

“Any other time, I would’ve flat out said no. You can’t make me give up my chicken, and my bacon, oooh, and that spicy smoked sausage. No way! But we all needed a diet after Uriah. Linda was getting teased at school, Rick couldn’t walk up the stairs without losing his breath, and I was starting to look pregnant.”

“Maybe you were,” Thomas said.

Grandma rolled her eyes. “I think I would’ve known if I was pregnant, smarty pants.”

“So you only ate vegetables?” Jerry asked. “What a waste!”

“Fruits, vegetables, beans. It’s amazing how great they taste when that’s all you’re eating. All that weight just shed right off. It was the healthiest I’ve ever been. Even though Val’s gone, I still try to stick to that diet, avoid meat a few days out the week. Keeps my brain from turning to mush.”

“That why you ain’t touched your chicken?” Frank said. Brown crumbs and spittle collected around the corners of this mouth.

“You think I got to looking this good eating fried chicken everyday?” Grandma said, twisting her hips.

“Not by a long shot,” Thomas said. He had that look in his eyes that said, don’t lock your door tonight.¬†Grandma read¬†it and immediately shied away, her cheeks turning a bright violet again illuminating tiny brown freckles around her nose and cheekbones.

“Meg, are you hungry?” She asked, directing the attention elsewhere. She looked over Tammy’s head and slid her plate down the table to me. “They’ll feed you here, but it’ll cost more than eating out. You can have my plate. I’m done.”

“I’m actually going out,” I said.

“I’ll take it.” Tammy didn’t wait for my response. She snatched the plate in ¬†front of her, took my fork and knife, and dug in.

“By yourself or with someone?” Grandma asked.

I hesitated to answer. If I said with someone, she¬†would only interrogate me on who he was, how long I knew him, his age, if he was married, if he had kids, if we had a future. I quickly checked my watch and jolted from my seat, knocking my chair into the back of the man behind me. “Sorry,” I mumbled as I scooped up my purse from the floor and slid the chair under the table. Another thirty minutes gone.

“Is it a boy?”

“Grandma, I’m twenty-six.”¬†I sighed. Would I ever stop being a child to her?

“I’m sorry. A man then?”

“Wait!” Tammy shook Grandma’s shoulder. “You didn’t say how Val died.”

“Oh, he was bit by a rabid dog!” Grandma said hurriedly. She slapped away Tammy’s¬†hand and looked up at me expecting an answer.

“You’re ringing.” Frank pointed to my purse. I hadn’t¬†heard my ringtone at all, but now it was loud and clear as a siren. I wondered how long it’d been ringing. I pulled out my phone, and Kyle’s number flashed on the screen. He’d better not be calling to cancel.

—Nortina


Don’t forget to check out other blogs participating in the A to Z Challenge. Maybe you’ll come across one¬†that’s¬†not two days behind. ūüėČ

Urgent Uriah

I couldn’t believe it was almost five.¬†¬†I hadn’t planned on staying¬†to dinner, but already the nurses were collecting chairs, pushing tables together, setting the place mats and¬†lying forks, knives and spoons on either side.

“Anyone ready to eat?” a nurse standing¬†behind Marcos asked.

‚ÄúYeeeeeaaaah!‚ÄĚ

Jerry rubbed his stomach. “I’m famished.”

“Well, I would guess so. You ain’t ate nothing since you threw up lunch!” Thomas pointed at the pink stain on the floor by his feet.

Jerry smacked his lips.

“Would you all like to sit together?” the nurse asked.

“Yes, dear,” Grandma said.

The nurse grabbed the handles of Marcos’ wheelchair and turned it toward the cafeteria area. “I’ll be back for you,” she said over her shoulder to Frank.

“One of us can push him, dear,” Grandma said as she stood and stretched her back. She snapped her fingers¬†in my direction. “Take him. Follow that nurse.”

“I was actually thinking about leaving.”

Grandma cocked her head to the side. The look in¬†her eyes told me she was¬†preparing her¬†usual¬†stall routine. “It won’t kill you to¬†take the man to the table, will it?” she said.

That was how it always started. “It won’t kill you, will it?” No, it wouldn’t kill me to do one simple task, but that one¬†simple task always turned into one more, then a third and a fourth, and before I’d even realize what time it was, the staff would be setting up a room for me to spend the night.

I pushed Frank¬†to the end of the table¬†across from Marcos. Jerry and Thomas sat on one side of the table, and Grandma sat on the opposite side. I looked around from Drake, but the man had wondered off in our migration, probably to the bathroom. I wouldn’t miss him or his roaming hands. Maybe I could escape before he came back.

“Won’t you come sit?” Grandma patted the empty seat next to her. Her eyes drooped down like slanted almonds. “I haven’t finished telling you about all of my husbands yet. You’ve listened for¬†this long. You can’t stay for six more?”

“It’ll have to wait until my next visit, Grandma.” I glanced down at my wrist watch. I had three hours to get ready for my date with Kyle. The drive home was about twenty minutes with rush hour traffic. If I left now, I would still have plenty of time, but three hours quickly dwindled to¬†three minutes when listening to Grandma. Her stories were endless, and she told them with such¬†emotion, we were always drawn in,¬†reliving¬†every detail¬†with her, losing track of time all the while.

Grandma hung her head, digging her chin into her chest. “It’s not often that I see my only granddaughter,” she said barely moving her lips, the words coming out muffled.

“You sure she’s your only?” Jerry said out the corner of his mouth.

Thomas snickered into his glass as he took a sip of water.

“Grandma, you act like I don’t come to see you every week.”

Grandma raised her finger. “Key word, week. That means I have to wait seven long, excruciating days.” She wobbled her head around her neck dramatically, touching an ear to each shoulder.

“Careful, for you snap your neck,” Frank said in his gurgly voice.

U“Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Grandma barked back, then said,¬†“Where are you in such a hurry to get to?” when she noticed me¬†sling my purse over my shoulder and check my watch again. “You’re like Uriah. He rushed himself right to the grave.”

“How? Let’s hear it,” Thomas said.

Grandma crossed her arms over her chest and turned her head. “I’ll tell when Meg has a seat.”

“Grandma—”

“Sit!”

I threw my purse over the back of the chair and flopped down beside her. One more. I would stay for one more, and then I was leaving whether Grandma liked it or not.

“Uriah was a chef. Well, not officially, but he was the line cook at one of my favorite restaurants. Leroy’s Heart and Soul. They had the best fried chicken in town. Skin so crispy, it flaked in your mouth.

“He spoiled me when we first got married. Every night, dinner was fried chicken, mac & cheese, collard greens with smoked ham hocks! Mm, mm, mm!” Grandma licked her lips. “I gained fifteen pounds that first month. Linda was getting chunky too. Rick had started college by then, but you wouldn’t even know it, as often as he was home, eating all our leftovers.”

I tapped my foot under the table. The background information was what made Grandma’s stories so long. She had to set it up, introduce the characters, deliver the stakes. She couldn’t just dive into the climax out the gate, start with their individual deaths, even though their deaths were what initially hooked our interest. Where would the thrill of suspense come from if there was no build up?

“Uriah always wanted more. He eventually got tired of working in a small town soul food restaurant. He wanted to be a head chef, but he didn’t want to go to school to get the proper culinary training.” Grandma pressed her finger to her temple. “He thought he knew everything. One day he tried this new recipe at the restaurant— a secret ingredient to give the chicken a nice kick, but not too much that the kids couldn’t still eat it. Everyone loved it, but the executive chef thought Uriah¬†was trying to undercut him. They fired him the next day. That’s when¬†Uriah decided to open his own restaurant out of our garage instead. It was the dumbest idea if there ever was one!”

“Damn, you couldn’t be¬†the supportive wife?” Thomas said.

“No! He had complete strangers coming in and out of my house all through the night. Linda was on waitress duty when she should’ve been doing her homework. Of course, she didn’t care because she was making tips. A dollar from this and that table was a lot of money to her since she ain’t never have none.”

“You never did allowances in your house?” Thomas asked.

“How, when she’s burying a husband every year?” Jerry cracked.

“Where’d you get the money? All of them couldn’t have had life insurance,” Thomas said.

“Who said I had a funeral for all of them? Andrew’s parents buried him in their backyard.” Grandma didn’t wait for Thomas or Jerry to ask about the others.

“Uriah thought he was saving money putting the restaurant in the garage and making me, Linda, and Rick when he was home, host and wait tables. But cooking for a restaurant and actually running the business are two different things. Our customers where just a few family and friends, and Uriah’s regulars form Leroy’s. Still, that was a lot. It was hard cooking for ten to fifteen¬†people a night with one oven, four burners on the stove, and that’s not including the fact that our family¬†still had to eat.

“I was hostess by the door, making sure nobody wandered off where they had no business. You can never be too careful with strangers in your house. Even people you know. They’d be the main ones to steal from you. Linda and Rick were our wait staff. They ran back and fourth between the kitchen and garage carrying thin paper plates with heaping piles of food on them. One night, Linda dropped a whole table’s meal on the stairs. Uriah liked’ve slapped her. That was the only time I’d ever seen her actually want to do her homework.

“After three weeks of breaking out necks,¬†the oven finally gave out. On top of that, we lost two burners on the stove. Uriah bough a crock pot to ease the load, but nobody wanted to wait two hours for their food. Eventually we lost our customers too.

“Uriah kept going on and on about how we’re losing money, we’re losing money, but we weren’t making any money! Not with that grocery bill from buying all that food and that light bill from cooking it! It was a miracle we still had a house!

“Uriah wasn’t having it though. He was so mad—slicing onions, crying and sniffling, mumbling about what he needed to do to get his business back. He wasn’t paying attention at all. Chopped¬†his middle and index fingers clean off. He was so hysterical, swinging his arms all around, that he slit his wrist too before I could finally get the knife away from him.¬†We didn’t have any insurance for the hospital, so I took him to the urgent care clinic, hoping maybe they could stitch him up, but he bled out before the doctor could see him.”

“Christ Jesus! All of that over some fried chicken?” Jerry said.

Thomas nodded to me. “You better stay. We don’t want you hurting yourself like Uriah.”

“That chicken must’ve been damn good,” Frank grumbled.

“Oh, it is!” A¬†nurse pushed a cart of food up to our table. She took one of the plates¬†from the cart and¬†extended her arm¬†over Frank’s shoulder to¬†lay it on the place mat in front of him.

Dinner was fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and to add a little tangy sweetness as a dessert, cranberry sauce. After listening to how Uriah had sliced himself open while cooking, the last thing I wanted to see on a plate full of food was anything red.

“Not the healthiest choice for this crowd,” I said looking down my nose at Frank’s plate. It screamed diabetes.

The nurse shrugged. “It’s Friday!”

“We ain’t dead yet,” Frank said with a mouth full of potatoes.

“We will be after this.” Jerry tucked his napkin into the front of his shirt then took his fork and knife in both fists and slammed them down on the table. “Now come on with my food, girly. I’m hangry!”

Grandma sucked her teeth. “Just don’t throw it up this time.”

—Nortina


Apologies if I missed any typos. I skipped lunch to write this post. Is April over yet? This A to Z Challenge is kicking my ass! I’m playing catch up once again¬†—¬†losing track of the days. What comes next? Oh, right. “V’ & “W” will get¬†posted . . . eventually . . .

Overeater

“Room for dessert?” the perky waitress asks.

“Ah, I’m stuffed.” Rico¬†rubs his round stomach in a circular motion.

“C’mon. We have cheesecake, apple pie¬†√† la mode,¬†chocolate lava cake,” she lists, counting on her fingers. “Ooh! And¬†a red velvet cake to die for!”

“Sounds delicious, but I’m¬†trying this¬†diet—”

“Diet? You look great!¬†Splurge a little.” She nudges his elbow. Rico suspects flirting with customers is part of¬†her job description.

“Well, one slice of cheesecake wouldn’t hurt.”

Rico finishes only half. His stomach stretches taut. The bathroom calls him, but he can barely stand.

word count: 99

—Nortina


moral_mondays_logoJoin Moral Mondays, a new weekly challenge to write a 100-word fable or story based on the moral/lesson provided in the prompt. Today‚Äôs moral: Don’t take on more than you can bear.

Feast

CSI crew members sifted threw the dirt in the backyard barbeque pit on their hands and knees. In the kitchen, they snapped photos of the stove, collected samples from the pots and pans—leftover chili, dry rub ribs on a foil sheet, a cut of flank still warm in the cast iron skillet. They sealed bottles of Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, basil leaves, Montreal steak seasoning, and¬†minced garlic¬†into plastic evidence bags.

“I don’t think they’ll find anything outside,” Williams said as he wheeled a skeleton into the kitchen. “Take a whiff.”

Johnson leaned forward and inhaled. The hint of hickory smoked bacon filled his nostrils. “Oh my god.” His widened eyes nearly met at the center of his face. “Where’s the rest of him?”

“I imagine whatever we don’t find on the stove, or in the freezer, will be in her stomach.”

Johnson doubled over, dry heaving into the pit of his elbow.

“Hell hath no fury, right?” Williams said dryly.

“Yea, and Satan hath no appetite.”

word count: 169

—Nortina


photo-20160104141846369Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 75-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Anniversary

“Your dinner’s getting cold,” he said.¬†Using his tongue, he¬†plucked partially chewed steak from between his teeth, then flicked it to¬†the back of his throat¬†and swallowed. “A little chewy.”

She sat across from him. Her head lay on her outstretched arm. Her food was untouched—fork and knife still on the napkin next to the plate.

He shook his head and looked behind him into the kitchen. Black smoke rose from the¬†oven. “You never were the best cook.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a shame because that dress looks stunning on you. I would’ve loved to have taken it off.”

He pushed his plate over the edge. The china shattered against the hardwood floor. He stood behind her, lifted her head and unwrapped the torn hem of the tablecloth from around her neck.

He whispered into her ear, “Looks like I’ll be burying you in it instead.”¬†He let her head drop. It¬†slammed into the dinner plate—a rattling echo—and smeared her¬†makeup in lumpy mashed potatoes.

word count: 173

—Nortina


girl-961354_640
Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 100-150 words (give or take 25 words) using the provided photo prompt as inspiration.