#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Undercooked #NaNoWriMo

The turkey was undercooked. Ma planned to roast it overnight, have the whole house smelling like a Thanksgiving feast by morning. But we woke up freezing, a surprise dusting of snow on the lawn, enough to slick the roads, but not enough to delay the holiday traffic.

Tony and Kerry arrived at noon, arguing again, though I’d stopped caring what for. Something about Kerry wanting to move back to Raleigh after Tony just got a promotion. Let her go. She wasn’t the one for him, but Tony married her anyway. He doesn’t listen—he never listens.

Dinner was scheduled for 1:00, but at 2:30, I sat alone by the window, watching for Gregory’s car to pull to the curb. I hadn’t seen him since his birthday a week before Halloween, and it was terrifying to see him then. He looked as if he had grown six inches. His face was fuller, half covered in a thick, coarse beard, but the rest of him was so thin and frail, he almost looked like Tony, a physical characteristic the two brothers never shared. While Tony was the spitting image of his father, both in name and appearance, Gregory favored me—the short, stubby fingers, the flat nose, the extra weight around the stomach and arms. But his arms were toned, muscular, the outline of them seen through the thin, sweat resistant shirt he wore, too cool even for mid-fall.

It was Tammi who texted me they’d be over for dinner. Gregory’s phone was off—he hadn’t paid the bill. Gregory had been missing a lot of bills lately—puzzling because his father and I taught him how to be a good steward over his finances. It was as if all of his upbringing left him the moment he met her. Over and over he asked me for money, a car note here, rent there. Tammi’s parking tickets, which I flat out refused. But I didn’t want to completely abandon him, so I slipped him change when I could. The more I gave, the less I saw of him, and when I realized he only came home for money, I stopped giving all together, and his visits became more infrequent.

Before his birthday, June was the last time I’d seen him. He’d even missed our Fourth of July family cookout in Ma’s backyard. After it got dark, we would climb up Ma’s roof and watch the fireworks shot off from the high school football field while enjoying burnt hotdogs and Carolina burgers with chili and slaw. It had been a family tradition since Antonio, Sr. was alive. No one ever skipped it, rain or shine.

I could hear Ma scrambling in the kitchen. Not much to cook with a twenty pound bird taking up most of the oven, but we had to eat something—it was Thanksgiving after all. With a shrunken menu, the sweet potato casserole, became plain stovetop yams, the mac and cheese from a box, the dressing stuffed inside the turkey to cook them both at the same time, while on the back burners, the greens boiled.

Ma kicked me out of the kitchen shortly after she realized she never turned the oven on last night. “You know you’ve never been a cook,” she said. “You’ll only slow me down.” I was given the assignment to make Tony and Kerry chicken salad sandwiches—the salad already prepared, all I had to do was spread it over the bread—to hold them over to dinner and hopefully to quell their arguing.

And it worked. We had silence for a while . . . until Tammi and her mother showed up.

Without Gregory.

I had never met Jacquelyn. She’d tried to introduce herself several times before—calling to explain why she had allowed my son to live with her and her daughter in their overcrowded trailer, knocking on my door in the middle of the night to tell me she’d kicked them out. The vibrations in her voice told me she was nothing but drama then, and now she was standing right before me expecting a free meal, and she didn’t even bother to bring Gregory with her. And the striking resemblance between her and Tammi—how old was she when she had her? Any stranger would think they were sisters.

“Where’s my son?” I had no interest in shaking hands, fake smiles, or “how do you do’s.” These people overstayed their welcome the second they stepped foot on Ma’s front porch.

“He at work.” Tammi smacked her lips. Her nonchalant attitude quickly got under my skin.

“I was expecting to spend Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I don’t know you.”

Tammi’s mother reached out her hand. “Hi I’m Jacqui—”

“And I don’t care to!” I snapped.

Ma entered, putting the oven mitts she was wearing under her arm. “We may need another hour. That turkey just won’t cook.” When she noticed the tense atmosphere at her front door, she said, “Who’s this?”

“Tammi, and Jacqui,” I cut my eyes at the mother, “decided to invite themselves without Gregory.”

“Where’s Gregory?” Ma asked.

“He had to work,” Jacqui answered.

“On Thanksgiving?”

Jacqui started to say something, but quickly closed her mouth. By the way they shrugged their shoulders, avoided eye contact, it was obvious they were lying. But if he wasn’t at work, where was he?

I heard Tony barge down the hall, and I knew things would quickly escalate with him in the room.

“You know they’re getting married, right?”

“Who?”

Tony pointed to Tammi.

“Yea, we engaged.” Tammi shrugged her shoulders, flashed the small diamond on her left hand.

A ring? He bought her a ring? With what money?

I remembered those times he called, whining that his lights were about to get turned off, that he would be evicted if he didn’t pay rent by the end of the week, that he couldn’t afford to have his car repossessed because then he’d have no way to get to work. Were they all lies? The money I’d been giving him—a little here, a little there—had he been collecting it until he had enough to buy a ring and propose? No, no. Heaven forbid I inherit another lethargic, unappreciative daughter-in-law like Kerry, who had secluded herself away in the dining room to pretend she was crying.

Instinctively, I clawed at Tammi’s hand, snatching off the ring I paid for and a thin layer of skin along with it. She yanked my arm back with one hand— with much more force than her petite frame would lead anyone to believe— and with the other hand, slapped me clear across the face. There was shouting and screaming, and at some point Kerry finally appeared in the kitchen doorway behind Ma.

I felt Tony’s arms around my waist. He and Jacqui pulled Tammi and I apart, and backing up, I tripped over Tony’s size thirteen shoe and hit the side of my back on the back of the couch, re-agitating a muscle I’d pulled a few weeks ago when moving around the furniture in Gregory’s room.

“I ain’t gon stay where I’m not wanted!” Tammi was screaming.

“Then why the fuck are you still here?” Tony yelled.

Suddenly the smoke detector in the kitchen went off, setting off all the others in the house, including the one in the living room right above our heads. The piercing peal silenced us for several seconds.

Ma rushed back into the kitchen, brushing past Kerry. “Jesus, Kerry, you don’t smell my greens burning?” I could hear her in the kitchen stirring the pot, adding water and flicking off the heat to the burner. She grabbed a hand towel and begin flapping it under the detector to clear the smoke.

When the noise finally ceased, I looked directly at Tammi. “You need to leave.”

“Gladly.” She turned around and kicked open the screen door, making a sound like ripped metal and leaving behind a dent in the bottom left corner. Jacqui stayed behind for a brief moment, as if considering an apology, but quickly spun around and followed her daughter to the car. I shut the door behind them and noticed the engagement ring on the floor—it must have fallen out of my hand during the scuffle. I quickly kicked it away. The sight of it disgusted me.

“She’ll be back when she realizes it’s gone,” Kerry mumbled.

“Oh, now you got something to say? Where were you when that bitch was hittin’ my mama?” Tony shouted.

Kerry rolled her eyes and turned away. “I’m not arguing with you, Tony.”

“But you gon listen!” He stormed past me—my throbbing face obviously not too much of a concern—to finish his tirade with Kerry from earlier.

Ma returned from the kitchen, her shoulders hunched. She looked just as defeated as I felt. “Why not Chinese? They’re always open on Thanksgiving. I don’t think I can save this dinner.”

“There’s still the turkey and stuffing.”

“That won’t be for another hour. You know my old stomach has to eat early. I’m feeling lightheaded already.”

I tried to force a smile, but my face was so tight, I probably looked constipated. “Why don’t you sit, and I’ll make us some chicken salad sandwiches.”

“Can we eat them outside? I’m sick of those two yelling, and I need to cool off.”

I nodded and looked back to the window. Eating outside would only make me more anxious about Gregory, wondering if every car that drove by was him. I shook my head. No, there was no sense in waiting for him anymore. He wasn’t coming. And Tammi would surely tell him what happened here. Then, after that, I don’t think he will ever come home.

—Nortina


Happy Throwback Turkey Day! Since we are approaching the homestretch of NaNoWriMo, I thought today’s Thanksgiving Throwback should be a scene from my A to Z planning session earlier this year, featuring characters from my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy.
Originally published April 25, 2017.

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X is for Xenophobia

Originally published April 28, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. For this post, I used the word, “xenophobia,”  in reference to Whitmore’s ghost coming back to haunt Jessica in her guilt. The poem pretty much describes the fear and insanity she’s descended into since Whitmore’s suicide. This poem won’t appear in the novella (maybe). Like V is for Visitor, it veers into a different [paranormal] direction that doesn’t really fit into how “Love Poetry” has developed. 

This is also a re-working of a poem, “Necro-Lovers” originally published in FishFood Magazine.


He was dead before I met him
A walking corpse
His discolored skin clung
To his bones like bed sheets hanging
On a clothesline

His vacant, gray eyes revealed no soul
Only memories of deceased relationships
A mother’s abandonment
A lover’s betrayal

He sought a woman whose essence he could feed on
Drain her of life
replace it with misery


He arises from the sinister world beneath
Hovers over my sleeping body
Ejaculates rivers of possession into me
You belong to me
He whispers
Nibbles on my ear
Gnaws on my breasts
Bites my bottom lip

Let’s drown together in this memory foam

I scream and he cups my mouth
I beat his concave chest and he spread my legs
He feels his foreskin peeling
I am inside of you

He stays there to morning
Until he feels the last, faint throb in my neck
Then he rises, taking my skin with him

—Nortina

W is for Wall

Originally published April 27, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. 

Jessica woke up to the smell of pancakes and bacon. She opened her eyes, and was blinded by the sun bearing through the white blinds of the window to the right of the bed. She raised herself above the covers and looked around the room, trying to piece together where she was. The room was slightly messy. The door was standing ajar and behind it, the hamper was overflowing with clothes, mostly shirts—t-shirts, button downs, Polos. Jessica looked down and realized she was also wearing a t-shirt. It hung on her loosely—part of her should exposed. She sniffed the collar. It smelled of mint cologne.

On the mahogany dresser to her left, lined up against the mirror, were bottles of Axe body spray, all different scents—Apollo, Gold Temptation, Anarchy, Phoenix, Essence. Of the nine drawers on the dresser, five of them had been pulled open. They hung over the floor—a few so low, she thought they would fall. Each drawer was stuffed with clothes. Shirtsleeves and pants legs dangled over the handles. Jessica got out of bed, the hem of the t-shirt kissing her thighs just above the knees, and folded the clothes neatly into the drawers pushing them closed. When she came to the top left drawer, the underwear drawer, she perused through it, looking at batteries, dirty socks, and socks with holes at the toes and heels, several pairs of plaid boxers, and a few briefs.

Behind her, there was a knock on the door. She turned around to see Bruce holding a tray of food. She immediately slammed the drawer shut and fell back onto the bed, pulling the covers over her.

“Curious?” He sat on the edge of the bed and placed the tray on her lap.

Jessica shrugged her shoulders. She looked down at the plate of food—three blueberry pancakes, two strips of crispy bacon, and fluffy, bright yellow scrambled eggs. There was a drizzle of maple syrup over each food item.

“I didn’t know what you liked, but you can never go wrong with bacon and maple syrup, right?”

“It’s fine,” Jessica said flatly. She picked up the fork and knife and cut into the stack of pancakes.

“Did you sleep alright? You were twitching a lot.”

“How do you know that? You slept with me?” Jessica asked in between chews.

“Well, yea.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little inappropriate? I mean my boyfriend just died.” Jessica pushed the plate back to Bruce and scooted to the center of the king sized bed. He reached to touch her leg, but she pulled away, drawing her knees to her chin.

“After what happened at your apartment last night, I was worried,” Bruce said. “You looked as if you’d seen a ghost. I didn’t want to leave you alone.” Bruce tried to hand the plate back to Jessica. “Here, you need to eat something.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Bruce sighed. Standing, he said, “Look, Jessica. I know you feel guilty about what happened. Especially given what we were doing when it happened, but please don’t put up a wall between us. I only want to help.”

Jessica stared straight ahead, fixated on the sweat stains on the armpit area of a shirt hanging out of the hamper.

“OK, well, I have to get to the station. I’ll leave this in the oven in case you change your mind,” Bruce said, standing by the door. “Alex is on her way. I left a key for her outside. She’ll take you home if you want.”

Then he closed the door behind him.

—Nortina

V is for Visitor

I love a good ghost story, but this haunting excerpt doesn’t quite fit in the “Love Poetry” novella. While Jessica will still face something close to a haunting as she tries to come to terms with Whitmore’s suicide, she won’t almost be killed by a vengeful poltergeist. 🙂


They drove in silence. Jessica folded her hands in her lap and glued her eyes to the glove compartment in front of her. Occasionally, at a red light or stop sign, Bruce turned to her, opened his mouth to speak. Jessica’s body immediately tensed upon hearing his intake of breath. She pinched her eyes closed, braced herself for his pathetic apologies and condolences. She wouldn’t accept them. What they had done was unforgivable. A man was dead because of them. A man who loved her. A man who would’ve done anything for her. Either Bruce recognized his culpability, for he didn’t say a word the entire drive back to her apartment, or each time he attempted to speak, his tongue caught at the back of his throat, and he choked on his words.

The flashing cameras, the uniformed men wearing white latex gloves, the caution tape, and the red and blue flashing lights were all gone when they arrived.

“Well, we were at the police station for a while,” Bruce said. His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming.

Jessica nodded.

“I guess they would finish up quickly. There’s not much to investigate when it’s a su—”

Jessica flinched. “Don’t say it.”

“I’m sorry. That was stupid of me.” He reached over to cup her cheek in his palm, but she jerked her head back. “Are you hungry?” he asked, squeezing the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. “We can find a place that’s still open. Get something to eat.”

“I don’t want fast food. I have food inside.”

“Look at me.” He leaned over the dashboard, lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You don’t have to go in right away. You don’t have to go in at all. You can stay at my place tonight.”

“No, I have to do this.”

“Ok, I’ll walk you—”

“No. I’m fine by myself.” Before he could speak, Jessica scurried out of the car, slamming the door behind her. She hiked the stairs two at a time, however, once at the top, she couldn’t move any further.

Her vision blurred, but from eight feet away, she could still see the blood. The authorities hadn’t cleaned it up. They’d left it for her as a haunting punishment. She shuffled her feet forward, but as she slowly approached her apartment, a sudden spell of vertigo swept over her. She was halfway to her door when her view of it began to skew. Her once white door was painted the color of a blood orange. Thick blood pooled from the crack at the bottom. She felt a bar of weights drop onto her shoulders and pin her to the ground. Down on her hands and knees, she coughed and retched at the reeking smell of Whitmore’s decomposing body on the other side.

Jessica crawled to the door and pounded against the wood. “Whitmore!” she screamed. “Whitmore, please! I’m sorry!” She called his name repeatedly. The pool of blood gathered around her legs, and she started to sink. She frantically wiped and scratched at her arms, coated from elbows to finger tips in an even red. Suddenly, she could no longer feel the ground beneath her, and she went under. Her cheeks swelled as blood filled her mouth. Hot iron singed her taste buds.

Something grabbed her hair at the crown of her head and pulled her up just as she was beginning to lose consciousness.

“Help!” she said as blood drained from her mouth. She blinked her eyes open, drops of blood clinging onto the ends of her eyelashes. Through the red curtain, she looked up and saw a cocked smile and thin, uneven eyebrows. “Whit—” she began, but before she could finish, he pressed his palm flat on her head and dunked her under again. She flailed her arms and legs. She tried to scream, but the blood poured into her mouth, filled her lungs. She couldn’t breathe. She coughed and gurgled. All around her, she saw red. A black veil crept down over her eyes and from the sides until all she could see were tiny circles of red as if she were looking through binoculars. Then then those vanished, and her body fell limp.

“Jessica!”

Jessica opened her eyes. She was back on her hands and knees, the dry concrete cold underneath her fists. She tilted her head toward the door of her apartment. Only the single slash from where Whitmore’s head slid down covered the white-painted wood.

“Jessica!”

She turned around. Bruce was running toward her. He fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into a tight hug.

“I heard you screaming. Is everything alright?”

“He tried to kill me! He tried to take me with him!” she cried. Her shoulders trembled from her sobs.

“Come on. You’ll stay with me tonight.” He stood to his feet, picked her up, wrapping her arms around his neck, and carried her down the stairs back to his car.

Jessica buried her face into the crook of Bruce’s neck, afraid that if she looked up, she would still see Whitmore’s murderous ghost standing outside of her apartment, waiting for her to return.

—Nortina

D is for Drunk

These girls sure know how to throw ’em back don’t they? Only a non-drinker of wine would write a scene this obnoxious. Obviously it’s coming out. But have a laugh with me as you read another “Love Poetry” flashback scene, originally posted April 4, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.


“I have a bottle of Chardonnay in front of me, and I’m trying to figure out why it’s not empty,” Alex, Jessica’s roommate from college, said into the phone.

“Girl, it’s not even eleven,” Jessica said laughing.

“I don’t care. It’s five o’clock somewhere. Get over here!”

***

Ten minutes later, Jessica was at the front door of Alex’s pool house apartment she rented from her grandfather, holding up two wine glasses.

“I’ve already started,” Alex said with a smirk.

“You’re such an alcoholic.”

Alex flicked her brownish blond corkscrew-curly bangs from her face and motioned for Jessica to come inside. Jessica was often jealous of Alex’s hair. She’d tried everything to achieve those perfect curls that came naturally to Alex. She succeeded once. Beginner’s luck, more than likely, because with each attempt after that, she ended up with a frizzy mop on top of her head. Alex, on the other hand, hated her hair, blaming it and her biracial background for those awkward conversations she had with complete strangers that often started with the question, “So what are you?”

The living room was surprisingly clean. Usually Alex had clothes tossed over the couch, the coffee table, the television set. Sometimes, Jessica couldn’t even see the carpet for all the panties, club dresses, and stiletto heels, thrown about. Today, the place was spotless. The dust on the teal window curtains had been vacuumed, the wood coffee table polished, even the the Merlot stain on the couch had been blotted away, although, Alex might have just flipped the cushion over.

Alex stood behind the kitchen counter and poured Chardonnay into the two glasses.

Jessica noticed that the wine left in the bottle came to just above the label. “You already drank half.”

“Yep,” Alex said, making a popping sound with her lips.

Jessica sat on the stool at the counter, and Alex slid the wine glass down to her. “I feel like I’m at a bar.”

“For sure.” Alex took a sip from her own glass.

“So what’s the occasion?” Jessica asked.

“Pop’s kicking me out.” Alex took giant gulp.

“Really? I thought he liked you living here. He could use you as a taxi whenever he wanted to go somewhere.”

“Well, he got pissed when I dumped the last guy I was dating.”

“Rick?”

“Yeah. I think he only liked him because he was white. Pop can be kinda racist sometimes.” Alex refilled her glass, and Jessica pushed hers forward for Alex to top it off.

“He’s old,” Jessica said over her tipped glass. “So why’d you break up with Rick? He seemed nice.”

“You have terrible taste in men,” Alex snapped.

Jessica choked while drinking and coughed to clear her throat, returning the glass to the counter and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “OK, you’re drunk,” she said in a raspy voice.

“No, I’m being serious. You have terrible taste in men if you think Rick was a nice guy. He’s just like that Whitmore of yours.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Needy, controlling, possessive. Did you have to ask him permission to come here?”

Jessica opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by the muffled sound of Magic’s “Rude” coming from her purse on the stool next to her. She retrieved her phone from the front pocket to see Whitmore’s lips twitching to the lyrics, “Marry that girl. Marry her anyway. Marry that girl. No matter what you say. Marry that girl. And we’ll be a family,” playing repeatedly. When had he changed my ringtone? Jessica thought.

“Speak of the damn devil!” Alex leaned over the counter and snatched the phone from Jessica. “Whitmore . . . This is Alex . . . Alexandria, idiot. Who else? . . . What do you want?. . . She’s with me . . . No you may not . . . We’re having a girls’ day . . . Is she not allowed to spend the day with her girl? . . . Don’t you have friends? . . . Bye, Whitmore . . . Goodbye, Whitmore!” She hung up the phone and slammed it onto the counter.

“That was rude,” Jessica said.

“No, what’s rude is him accusing you of cheating whenever you’re not with him.”

“Did he say that?”

“Yeah, talking ’bout, ‘Who the fuck is Alex?’ with that fake-ass, deep voice like he’s trying to intimidate someone. I hate you’re boyfriend, Jess. I hardly ever see you anymore.” She wiped tears from her face as she poured more Chardonnay into her wine glass.

“Maybe that’s enough—” Jessica started.

“Don’t you ever get tired?” Alex asked, swallowing hard.

Jessica snatched up her glass and slurped what was left. Alex held up the the bottle, the liquid now below the label, and Jessica let her fill the glass all the way to the rim. They toasted to the ceiling and proceeded to empty their glasses.

“I need to be drunk to talk about Whitmore and his . . . everything,” Jessica said.

“Hell, I got some Tequila.” Alex pointed to the cabinets behind her.

“This is so irresponsible,” Jessica said.

“College was only five years ago. I think we’re allowed.” Alex untwisted the lid to the 1800 Coconut Tequila and poured it. “I don’t know what I did with my shot glasses.”

“A wine glass works just fine.” Jessica brought the glass to her lips and threw her head back. “What?” she asked when she noticed Alex staring.

“I want to set you up with someone. Bruce. He works with me at the radio station. He’s dope.”

Jessica drummed her fingers on the counter. She didn’t think Alex had ever liked Whitmore. She was always throwing better options Jessica’s way—oftentimes, while Whitmore was present. However, this time, Jessica put some thought into Alex’s proposition.

It might have been the alcohol. It might have been the impromptu marriage proposal playing on her phone’s speakers. Jessica didn’t waste any time searching for a reasonable explanation. She only said yes.

—Nortina

Your Eyes

It’s your eyes that I remember.
Thick lashes that curl toward heaven,
that kiss the delicate skin
of your cheeks—like a breeze—
when you blink. Your eyes that hold
sadness and light. Loneliness and
hope unconfined. Gaze into mine
and see the lifetimes forgotten, see
our souls swaying together on stage
to the low rumbling threads on the
string bass. Your eyes are a defiant
love poem; they wince at visions
of settling. One man cannot possess
them—they shift with the tides
of the sea, patterned to the moon
phase. Break these chains of idolized
attachment. Open your eyes. Illuminate
my deathlike night. I can never claim
ownership, only the desire to see
your eyes smile one last time.

—Nortina


Today is the last Wednesday in June, which means this Saturday I will begin my journey to completing my novella, Love Poetry, for Camp NaNoWriMo!

Every Wednesday, I’ve been posting a poem that will serve as an introduction to a new chapter. Seeing that we’ve come to the end of my planning sessions, this poem will open the final chapter of Love Poetry, in which Jessica and . . . well, I won’t ruin it for you, just know that it is quite different from how my A to Z Challenge ended in 2015.

If you haven’t noticed, every poem is written by a character in the story— Jessica, Whitmore, and Bruce, the three parts to our love triangle. Can you guess who the poet is for this one?

If you missed the previous poems, check them out below:

Chivalry is Dead

Your Love is Like Jazz

Procession

Stay tuned for a post explaining what will happen with the blog next month while I’m away camping. I promise you’ll be in for a treat!

Procession

Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust—flutter in the
wind blown by my lust.

—Nortina


Every Wednesday in June, I’ve been writing love poetry for my Camp NaNoWriMo novella, Love Poetry. Each poem will serve as an epigraph to the chapter it introduces.

If you read my 2015 A to Z Challenge, you already know what happens to Whitmore. However, looking back at those posts, I don’t think Jessica really had enough time to process the events before she was back with Bruce. Yoga may help relieve some tension, but let’s be serious, one session is not going to help you get over that kind of guilt that fast.

So I’ve added a new chapter in which Jessica goes to Whitmore’s funeral to try to deal with her grief over his death and her guilt for wanting to be with Bruce.

This poem was initially longer, much longer, but then I found myself trying to rhyme and stick to a meter, and it just got really cheesy reeeally fast. Then I realized the only part I felt strongly about was the repetition of ashes, dust, and lust. And wouldn’t you know, those stanzas were seventeen syllables! The perfect haiku!

So I cut everything else out, which was basically meaningless babble, and kept the lines that conveyed the most emotion with the strongest imagery.

Sometimes shorter is better.

So what do you think? Should I keep it like this, or do you want to see the longer, cornier (and still unfinished) version? Personally, I think it says all it needs to say in just three lines.

 

Your Love is Like Jazz

Your love is like jazz music,
like the sultry Eartha Kitt
fitted in leather cat suit,
stretched across the piano,
purring into the mic.

Peel back my dress like the
delicate skin of a grape,
off my shoulders, slipping
down my waist and over my
hips; reveal succulent flesh
underneath, supple, ready to
burst under your prodding.

My hips wind against you
like a ticking clock to the
rhythm of your tongue rolling
off the roof of your mouth,
so close behind my ear naked.
Oooh . . . don’t kiss me—
Yes . . . please kiss me—
My neck elongated,
graceful, like a gazelle;
your lips right there.

No—Yes. Make up my mind.
You over him. Whisper me
sweet wine to flood my
trepidation in red. Spontaneity
over consistency. A fluttered
heartbeat bounces to the
spinning trumpet, and
I wanna be evil with you,
I’m sick of being his angel,
I wanna be your devil—
Oooh . . . Bruce—let’s do it.

—Nortina 


So, I think Wednesdays in June will be dedicated to love poetry from Love Poetry, my Camp NaNoWriMo novella I’ll be writing next month! This poem introduces the chapter where Jessica and Bruce reeeally get to know each other… 😉

If you want to learn more about Love Poetry, check out my 2015 A to Z Challenge. Eventually I’ll have all these posts together in one location.

Chivalry is Dead

Chivalry is dead.
Chivalry is an excuse
for men to treat women
as objects. And objects
are breakable— Like
this dish; like this
crystal Princess House
mug, and that one and
that one; like this
picture frame; like
this mahogany armchair,
an heirloom passed down
the generations, an
antique no more when
split in two. Objects
are replaceable. Swipe
a card and buy five
more. Women are fickle.
Men are here to stay.
Leave he won’t; give
up for another’s claim—
never. Inadequacy will
drive a nice guy bad.
And he’s sick of
running, wants to
finish this race on top.

—Nortina


I’m bringing back my 2015 A-Z Challenge novella this July! In my June Agenda post, I announced that I will be rewriting Love Poetry for Camp NaNoWriMo. Now it’s time to plan! I’ve sketched out a plot; some things are the same, but a lot has changed. I still plan on incorporating poetry in the novella, most likely in the form of an epigraph before each chapter.

This poem is a revision of my poem, “Last in the Race,” posted for N is for Nice Guys. In this particular chapter, Whitmore throws a hissy fit in Jessica’s apartment when he suspects her of cheating. A bit different from what I wrote in the A to Z Challenge, but a scene I have explored in the past. So are you ready for Camp NaNoWriMo? I know I am! Looking forward to finally finishing this story. 🙂

First Date Jitters

Jessica could always tell when seafood wasn’t fresh. It had a distinctly sour smell to it, like it’d spent the last three days thawing on ice in a warm cooler with a broken seal. Jessica wrinkled her nose as soon as they entered the restaurant and plastered a phony smile when Whitmore turned to her for validation. He’d said it was his favorite restaurant to eat, had the best fried catfish in town, and she didn’t want to disappoint him on their first date, despite hating catfish, but the place was rank—like Bradford pear tree blossoms, rank; like wet mutt, rank; like a trash heap that missed garbage collection, rank; like dirty panties tossed in the hamper, rank; like an unclean crotch, rank; like a common area bathroom in an all girls dorm after the residents’ menstrual cycles synced, rank.

Whoever had decorated the interior was obviously an ex-employee of Red Lobster and didn’t give a damn about his job. The walls were covered in a tacky nautical wall paper—complete with images of anchors, sailor hats, compasses, telescopes, and steering helms—and was peeling at corners. There was an eight-foot long fish tank sitting in the middle of lobby, right next to the hostess stand, and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. The water was a murky dark green, and Jessica could barely see the brown shells of the crabs moving around inside, if they were moving at all—they looked dead. She made a note not to order the crab legs—probably best to avoid all shellfish, and she damn sure won’t eat the catfish. She wondered what non-seafood options were on the menu. Every eatery had to have at least two, for those stubborn patrons like her who refused to order seafood at a seafood restaurant. She flipped to land entrees. Fried pork chop with garlic mash, and chicken Alfredo. The only setback about ordering “turf” at a restaurant that served mostly “surf,” the food still tasted like “surf,” because the chicken was cooked in the same pan with the seared fish fillets, the pork chop battered and fried in the same grease as the trout, flounder, and whiting. She settled on the popcorn shrimp, accepting her inevitable fate of mercury poisoning, while Whitmore ordered the catfish.

Unfortunately, it took over an hour for their food to arrive. The kitchen couldn’t have possibly been backed up, but the reality was the restaurant was crowded, overcrowded even; there were people packed in the lobby like sardines waiting on a table. Whitmore had actually called ahead to make reservations. Reservations, for a place like this, which couldn’t have had more that a B+ sanitation rating. But he’d gotten them a good table, despite sitting directly underneath a vent that was blasting cold air, giving her goosebumps across her shoulders. However, they were away from most of the chatter of the larger parties, and thank God out of sight of that horrendous fish tank, where she would certainly lose her appetite.

They used the extended wait time to get to know each other more, though Jessica did most of the talking, babbling on and on about herself while Whitmore listened intently, nodding and laughing at all the right pause points. He was a good listener, which made him even more attractive—that he was intrigued to know every detail about her—but then she started to think he couldn’t hear her, because the couple at the table behind them had three young boys who were kicking, squealing, and rough housing in the booth while the parents ate absently as if they didn’t notice or care. In the few moments when Whitmore spoke, it was as if he were whispering. She asked him more than once to speak up, they weren’t in a library, but he still spoke in a low voice, and she leaned in closer to get a least a fragment of his words.

When the food finally came out, Whitmore dove into his plate, and Jessica hesitated. Her French fries where soggy and a burnt gold color, as if they’d been fried in old grease, or possibly fish grease. No coating of ketchup could save them, but even the ketchup was acidic and watered down. The hushpuppies were fried hard, and the shrimp was more breading than meat and extremely salty. She’d had better meals at Libby Hill.

“How’s your food?” she asked Whitmore when his plate was nearly empty.

She thought he might have said good, but truly she couldn’t hear a thing, and before he could mumble anything else, his mouth full of the last bites of what looked to be dry, overcooked catfish, there was a loud crash and shattering of dishes by the kitchen. A waitress had just dropped her entire ticket on the floor, right at the feet of the six-top she was about to serve, and was on the brink of tears.

Jessica sighed. There was too much chaos in this restaurant, and for the subpar food, it wasn’t worth the trouble. She’d had better dates with worse men, but she wanted to give Whitmore the benefit of the doubt. At least he was trying.

“How about I chose the where for our next date,” she suggested.

Whitmore smiled and nodded, but Jessica suspected he had no idea what she’d just said.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and  today’s prompt, “Sumptuous Settings,” asks us to get descriptive, very descriptive, using all five senses…