Grandpa’s Pasta Sauce

I need a break from Tag and will offer two flash pieces as respite.

The first is Grandpa’s Pasta Sauce, written spur-of-the-moment for a class I took on creative non-fiction writing. We were given five minutes to come up with something based on a real event and humanize it. I read this piece when called upon and the teacher wanted to know if I really just made it up on the spot or had worked on it long and hard and offered it for comment.

Her specific question was, “Are you really that good or is that something you’ve been working on for a while?”

I offered it was just a good day for me.

This demurecation upset Susan greatly. “Why can’t you own you’re a good writer?”

That honest, simple question set off a storm of self-analysis, all to the good.

But you tell me what you think.


Grandpa’s Pasta Sauce

Grandpa cooked pasta sauce so hot your eyes watered when you walked into his kitchen. His fingers reddened as he crushed dried red peppers into the sizzling olive oil, the garlic, onions, and green pepper already skittling across the cast iron pan.

Next came tomato paste. A whole can that he practically cracked open like an egg because he’d been a dirt farmer all of his life and his forearms were veined like rivers running to the sea and his hands calloused like the earth itself after a dry summer’s harvest.


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Sunset at the Red Arrow Grille

Let me know what you think about this one. I share a first reader’s comments at the end of the piece.


Sunset at the Red Arrow Grille

Angie watched the old couple take booth 7. They sat on either side of the table, reached across and held hands.

She smiled. Limited income. Probably just got their checks. This is their big time out this month. Make ‘em smile. “Hi. I’m Angie. I’ll be helping you today. What can I start you with?”

The old couple smiled. They kept one hand out to each other.

The old man looked up, nodded. “Coffee. Extra cream, please.”

The old woman’s eyes smiled as she looked up. “Do you have ice tea?”

“Sweetened or unsweetened?”

“Unsweetened. I’ve got my own sugar right here.” The old woman patted the old man’s hand.

“Aw,” he said.

“Aw,” she said.

Angie returned with their drinks. The menus remained unopened on the table.

The old woman tipped a sugar packet into her tea and swirled it with her straw. “We know what we want.”

“Go ahead.”

“I’d like some homemade macaroni-and-cheese. Do you have that?”

Angie nodded, wrote the woman’s order, and looked at the old man.

“A meatloaf plate. Got one?”

“Sure do.”

The old man dumped two creamers in his coffee. “Met in a diner. Years ago. Saw your sign, stopped in.”

The old woman squeezed his hand. “Yes. Diners always have good, simple, stick to the ribs food. We have a long way ahead of us and don’t want to stop until we get there. That’s why we pulled in here.”

“Where you folks going?”

He sipped his coffee. “Reservoir. One town over.”

Angie drove a mental map. “That’s not far, is it?”

The old woman pointed out the window. “We want to be there at sunset, when the sun’s going over those mountains. All the colors of the mountains and setting sun reflect off the water.”


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Recovery Triptych: Welcome to My Sandbox

Recap from Recovery Triptych: The EchoRecovery Triptych took shape 9 Feb 1990. Originally I conceived only the first section, The Echo. I shared it with a critique group and was told I shouldn’t submit anything to the group containing such vulgarity and violence (see Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death, third bullet). I remember thinking at the time, “You think this has vulgarity and violence? You’ve had a protected life, huh?”

The triptych’s three parts are:

  1. The Echo
  2. Welcome to My Sandbox
  3. The Stone in God’s Sling

Here for the first time in slightly over thirty years, starting last Monday and continuing next Monday, Recovery Triptych.

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences. The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, which impede or completely prevent later emotional growth.
– Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child

Welcome to My Sandbox

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Recovery Triptych: The Echo

Recovery Triptych took shape 9 Feb 1990. Originally I conceived only this section, The Echo. I shared it with a critique group and was told I shouldn’t submit anything to the group containing such vulgarity and violence (see Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death, third bullet). I remember thinking at the time, “You think this has vulgarity and violence? You’ve had a protected life, huh?”

The triptych’s three parts are:

  1. The Echo
  2. Welcome to My Sandbox
  3. The Stone in God’s Sling

Here for the first time in slightly over thirty years and continuing over the next three Mondays, Recovery Triptych.

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences. The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, which impede or completely prevent later emotional growth.
– Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child

The Echo

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Search Chapter 14 – Wednesday, 23 January 1974

Search is loosely based on a real incident. The incident remains, the story is greatly different.

Enjoy. And remember, it’s still a work in progress. These chapters are rough drafts. I completed a rough draft of the entire novel on 1 June 2021, ~ 8:30pmET. It’s ~103k words, 42 chapters. I mention in earlier posts “…it seems I’ll complete the novel this time. We’ll see.”

It’s seen and done.

Read Search Chapter 13


 

Search Chapter 14 – Wednesday, 23 January 1974

Stephanie sat in Gio’s dorm lounge and looked up as he came down the stairs. “Did Jeri talk to you yet?”

“About what?”

Stephanie rolled her eyes. “You want me to say it?”

“Yes, in fact. That way we’ll both know what we’re talking about.”

She whispered, “About me being pregnant.”

“Are you sure you’re pregnant?”

“Didn’t you tell me I was pregnant?”

“I’m not you. Do you know you’re pregnant?”

“Is two months late pregnant enough for you?”

“Are you regular?”

She looked at the worn carpet and shook her head. “Talk about conversations I never thought I’d have with my best friend’s boyfriend. Yes. I’m regular.”

“And what do you want to do about it?”

“I want to get rid of it. What do you think I want to do about it? Aren’t you the voodoo man? Aren’t you suppose to know these things?”

Something Gio’s grandfather said echoed back at him. Do not do what you’re not asked to do? Was that it? Something about asking people three times? To make sure they understood what they were asking for? “Let’s go outside.”

“Don’t you want a jacket?”

“No need.”

They stood in the damp, ocean-filled, mid-January cold.

“What do you want me to do? Specifically. Don’t mince words, don’t speak in metaphors, use clear, plain, direct English. Tell me exactly what you want me to do for you, okay?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Okay.”

She closed her eyes and shivered. “Well, go ahead.”

Wet, heavy snow fell. A flake, then two, then more. They brushed her shoulders like epaulets and gave her a white, crystalline crown.

“Go ahead and what?”

“I said I’m pregnant. Do something about it.”

“What, specifically, do you want me to do?”

“Can you make me…you know…un-pregnant?”

“Un-pregnant? Never heard it called that before.”

“Nobody knows. I haven’t told anybody except you and Jeri. Can you take care of it for me?”

He stood still and stared but his eyes woudln’t focus. He felt…he sensed…movement. Felt himself moving. Something. Something not sensed since childhood. Since Grandpa.

No, not moving. He stood still, his eyes on Stephanie. She moved.

He widened his gaze. Everything moved. Everything but him. He was the center? Everything happened around him?

He shook his head, no.

Too solipsistic, that.

No, he also moved. Differently.

But he stood still.

And moved faster than light.

Parts of him separated and flowed around Stephanie, whirled around her, ghosts made of wind.

He shimmered. He held it within.

I remember.

I remember.

Stephanie stared back at him. “What do you mean, no? You’re not going to help me?”

The shimmer focused. The ghosts made of wind. It collected on them. They flew off, showed him things. He watched through their eyes.

“Donnie suspects.”

“What?”

He looked at Stephanie through someone else’s eyes. Saw not-his hand reach out, cup a breast, tweak a nipple.

“He’s noticed your bras are filling out more.”

“What?”

“Especially that black one with the nipples cut out.”

Stephanie put her arms over her chest and mashed herself down. “How do you – ”

Another ghost, another body. “Yeah, he even told some people at his club – he goes to Myopia, right? – about it. Said your cups runneth over. They wanted to know if he was going to help you get rid of it. He laughed.”

Her face reddened. She wrapped her arms around herself and shook as the cold penetrated her bones.

His head wagged from side to side.

“You did that before, when you found the speedtrap on the way home. What’s going on?”

His eyes closed. He swiveled his head, one ear forward then the other, a blind man seeking out the source of a sound.

“He said you might be interested in doing a party. Entertaining all six of them. He’d get a cut, of course. Soemthing…a finder’s fee?”

She shrieked.

“They have a standing suite at the Suisse Chalet in Danvers. Party there at least once a month. He said he thought you were ready.”

She sat in the slush at her feet. “Ready?”

He felt himself slowing, returning to the earth, returning to the cold, returning to the wet, heavy snow falling, melting on him as soon as it touched, his ghost-bodies came back to him. One entered him. He doubled over with the impact.

He heard his grandfather whisper to him. “Lento.” Slow.

He opened the shimmer, gave the bodies a point of entry.

His grandfather whispered. “Esatto, Gio. Come quello.” That’s right, Gio. Like that.

The ghost-bodies entered him. Shared their information. Showed their travels. He focused on the red-faced woman-child before him.

“Something about being double-vagged? Not sure what that is, really. Seems to involve acrobatics or flexibility, something like that.”

Stephanie screamed and ran.

Gio’s legs folded under him. He sat in the snow. A raven landed in front of him, cocked its head right, left, right again, seemed to nod and flew off.

Two dorm mates found him curled into a ball quaking in the snow.


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