Flash Fiction Challenge #2

I was going to wait to post my entry until a later date because I have ambition to submit it into another competition. However, I can’t contain myself after the feedback I received. Each person was awarded a score of 1-15, with 15 being the highest (aka first place) in this challenge. I am proud to say I was awarded a score of 14 (second place) which earned me enough points to continue on to the next leg of the competition.

The following is my short story. My group’s assignment was: genre, political satire; location, drive-thru; and item, a wine glass.


FAST FOOD NATION

Ginger Stickler’s red station wagon came to a stop at the end of the long drive-thru line. Her blue eyes followed the string of cars up to a man, wearing a white shirt, pants, and a paper hat, standing next to a large sandwich board. A tablet computer hung around his neck by an American flag lanyard.

“Do you know what you want?”

She turned and looked at her unkempt, twenty-four-year-old son, Josh, sitting in the passenger seat. His brow formed a single line above his eyes to match the one formed by his lips, as his thumb ran up and down the screen of his iPhone.

“Why do we have to go to In-N-Out?” he said.

“Because it’s a Christian restaurant.”

“That seems silly; a business can’t have a religion. Doesn’t that alienate a sizable portion of customers? Can’t we just go to McDonald’s?”

“You don’t have to come here,” she snapped, “You could just go somewhere else if you don’t like it.”

“I can’t, mother. You’re driving the car.”

Ginger sniffed and sat in silence as they followed the line into the drive-thru proper, right where the man in white stood. She rolled down her window.

“Hello, welcome to In-N-Out,” he said, “Today we have started a new promotion. Our eight-year menu is no longer available, and now you must vote to pick which burger will rule for the next four years.”

Ginger’s eyes widened as she clutched her invisible pearls.

Josh leaned forward to look around his mother.

“What are our options?”

The man straightened up and pointed eagerly to the sandwich board depicting three very sloppy dishes.

“Here we have the blue, rise above, freedom for all burger. It’s a tofu patty on a gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, flavor-free, from scratch bun, with a sprinkle of flour on top. Extra dry. There are no condiments on it, but we give you a bag full of them if you ask. It comes with a side of birth control and citizenship if you are not currently one.”

“I think we’ve made our choice,” Josh said.

“We certainly have not. What else is there?”

“There is the red, super awesome, kick-ass, glory to god burger. It is a three-pound all-beef patty, smothered in garlic butter, topped with ten onion rings, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles and all on a white bun. However, I would like to note that the beef patty may have fallen on the floor, and the buns may or may not have brushed against the cook’s genitals. But, it’s super delicious. It comes with all the fries you want, as long as you pay for each, individual sliver.”

“Is there anything else?” Ginger asked.

“Yes, ma’am. The third option is a single slice of Kraft cheese, still in the plastic.”

“Oh,” Ginger’s shoulders slumped.

“Obviously it’s the blue burger,” Josh said, as he sat back and returned to his phone.

“I don’t know. We can’t tell where all those ‘free’s’ went. How can you make a bun without it? It’s suspicious.”

“You want a ball basted bun?”

“Do you have any nutritional information?”

The waiter stuck a hand into the front pouch of his apron, pulled out a brochure and gave it to Ginger. She opened it up and read. The blue burger listed out every ingredient individually with each calorie accounted. On the other side, someone had taken a red pen, redacted every item, and had written at the top, “100% all good.” Beneath that in tiny print said, “Don’t be a pussy.”

“I’m going to go with the red burger,” Ginger said.

“Mother—”

“That is one red,” the clerk tapped in Ginger’s order to his tablet.

“Blue for me.”

“And one blue. You’ll get your total at the window.”

The two pulled further into the drive-thru in silence.

“I can’t believe you would choose that unhealthy, killer monstrosity.”

“I’m sorry, that other burger sounded so tasteless. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

The car pulled up to the front window.

The stern-faced employee already held a bag in his hand.

“Here are your two red burgers,” he said, with a Russian accent.

Ginger took their meal.

“No, that was one red and one blue,” Josh said.

The man stared back at Josh dead-eyed.

“Yes. We all get together and decide it’s only red burger for you.”

“But—”

“That will be one hundred and forty-eight dollars and thirteen cents,” the cashier said.

He held out his hand.

Ginger’s bottom jaw dropped, as she blinked in quick succession.

“Oh my goodness, that’s pricey. How much are the burgers?”

“They are twenty dollars. You pay more in tax because them,” the clerk jabbed a thumb over his shoulder.

Ginger peered through the drive-thru window into the dining room. Twelve people in suits sat at tables draped in silk cloths eating steaks off gold plates. A blonde haired man toasted to the room with a wine glass filled to the brim with a red.

“How do I get in there?”

“You don’t. This is for large donor only.” The man still had his arm stretched out. “You pay.”

Another man, wearing a white linen facemask and sporting a rifle, stepped out from behind a bush, just to the front of the station wagon.

Ginger hurriedly dug through her purse for her credit card and handed it over to the cashier. The man took it, slammed the windows shut and glowered at her from behind the glass.

“Can I have it back?”

The man glared as he pointed for her to move along.

As they drove through the end of the drive-thru, a missile shot up from the roof of a Korean barbeque restaurant across the street, arched over a sushi kiosk, and exploded into the In-N-Out, taking out a corner of the restaurant. The people inside screamed and then broke into cheers, peppered with applause.

“We should have just gone to McDonald’s.”


JUDGES FEEDBACK:

”Fast Food Nation” by Joshua Hensley-Cline –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1689}  I love how you politicize everything–literally everything–in your story. The idea that establishments can have religions and values and political alliances is reduced to absurd rubbish–wonderfully–in your hands. The missile attack ending is spot on.  {1666}  You did a nice job with the genre here. Your parallels were clever and humorous, and I appreciated the way that you incorporated a consistently increasing sense of absurdity to keep building the pace and upping the critique of today’s political environment. I think the reaction of the people in the restaurant to the Korean bombing was my favorite moment and a bigly unexpected surprise..  {1746}  Haaaa! This is great. Oh, the heavy symbolism. I think the whole premise works really well, and the dialogue made the whole thing A+. I laughed out loud a couple times. Good work!  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1689}  Good news: You have enough imagery and imagination to turn this story into a film. Bad news: I think you have may a bit too much going on for this little story to handle. I love when you focus on the family. Stay on them. Give them one problem to solve. Have them shadowed by one crazed political figure. Let that drama play out. Then you can launch your rocket.  {1666}  First, I have a couple quick grammar notes: “wearing a white shirt, pants, and paper hat” should read “wearing a white shirt, pants, and a paper hat.” A series should be written with parallel construction, so the article “a” must apply to all items or be repeated for each one it does apply to. “‘Why do we have to go to In-N-Out,'” he said,” should have a question mark, as your character has asked a complete question. Similarly, “‘Hello, welcome to In-N-Out,’ he said, ‘today…'” should read “‘Hello, welcome to In-N-Out,’ he said. ‘Today…'” Overall, it would be helpful to review these grammar standards with regard to quotations. In terms of your narrative, I think you did a better job developing the meaning of your red burger than your blue one. The celebration of excess, white trappings, ambiguous ingredients, possible contamination/corruption — it all worked nicely for the former. Your critique of the left wing (as well as of third party contention) felt a little less developed. It was hard to nail down the meaning of the “bag of condiments” that came with the burger, and the nature of the “candidate” lost some clarity for me as the narrative moved on. At first it felt like you were settled into the burger being too plain, pure and boring to beat the monstrosity on the other side, but when Ginger became suspicious of these qualities rather than simply uncompelled, it made me question how your critique was directed.
Overall, I thought this piece was really nice. Even the overarching assertion that American politics can be treated like a cheap, greasy thrill by under-invested “customers” who pay too dearly for it was a solid, subtle theme.  {1746}  The Russian part is hilarious, and tied the whole thing together (that’s when it clicked for me, but I’m a bit slow with all of that). That said, the Russian’s lines could be cleaned up/more realistic/less offensive. I think “This for large donor only” and “You pay” stuck out to me most.

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Cancer Kills Humor

My aunt is dying. There is no other way to put it and for herself or her children to keep trying is… I cannot think of the appropriate word.  I don’t mean to appear callous or cruel, because I don’t want her to die just as much as they, but I have accepted that in her case the possibility of recovery is next to none.

She has thyroid cancer.  Apparently it is the kind that is the fastest growing and most deadly, and unfortunately occurs primarily in men. It would appear that time is telling her that it is time to go. The two doctors she has seen have flat-out denied her treatment, because of where its at and how large it is they don’t want to take on the risk of operating on her and have her die. (Granted she’s going to die anyway…) The lie she told my mother was that she just needed to have radiation to shrink it and they would operate.  Whether she intended to deceive my mother has yet to be seen.

Before I knew all of this, and was aware that the doctor had suspected it to be cancer, my mother asked me to send my aunt, my mother’s best friend, a get well card because she could use something to perk her up. What I did instead was piss her and her daughter off.

I thought my card was humorous, it joked that “a bible verse would be good right about now, too bad you have a heathen for a nephew” and I thought my personal message was spontaneous and off-the-cuff funny. However, it was not received in the manner I intended it to be taken. For me saying “I may not pray, but…” I might as well have said “Fuck you, I hope you die” because that was the response I got.

Since then her daughter has unfriended me on Facebook, which means any hope for an apology from me has absolutely dissipated.

I know when I’m at fault.  Hell, I blame myself for everything eventually. That is why I have an addictive personality.  I always feel that I am a mistake, not that I just make them.  So I will eventually come to the conclusion I need to apologize. BUT if you unfriend me on Facebook that is guaranteeing I will say nothing of the sort. My pride on the matter is petty and ridiculous, I know that. It is the conscious effort that goes into the action where I find umbrage.

So, I sent another card to my aunt to apologize.  This time however it was a religious card that said NOTHING about prayer (amazing, I know), because in fact I do not pray and felt any mention of it would add insult to injury. I apologized and told her that there have been only 3 women in my life that helped shape me to be the person I am today: my mother, grandmother, and her. Fingers crossed she won’t see it as me mocking her faith or telling her she deserves to have cancer. Who knows in this wacky world.

The reality of the situation is everyone handles crisis and grief differently and we need to be patient with the ones when something in the vein of my situation occurs. The thing I find humorous is that it was the cousin that unfriended me who said exactly that many years ago.

Impeach Ebola

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I saw this little gem on my way into work this morning.  I wonder if it belonged to the guy in Starbucks that had this insane comb-over that at one point went outside to check the windows of the store for no apparent reason. I don’t mean to or really want to be this persons PR person but… This has to be the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever seen. Truly. And I don’t care where anyone stands when it comes to the president, this is just crazy.

First off… The thing that irritates me the most about this is that I truly believe this person thinks they’re being “witty” and “intelligent.” Ebola…. Obama… Oh my god! That’s the most hilarious comparison! I nearly died laughing. You sir, you need to be a comedian, because you’re observations are A-1 riots.

Impeach Ebola… Is the author trying to say that we should impeach the president for the two cases reported in Texas, which has so far resulted in a single death? That it is the fault of the president that Ebola has reached the Unite States? Because… if that’s the case we need to blame Reagan for AIDS back in the 80’s. I mean, really. At least this president has recognized that it’s a potential threat after a SINGLE PERSON HAS DIED, as opposed to the HUNDREDS that perished before Reagan wanted to admit AIDS was even real.

It’s strange to me how people seem to think the president is an omnipotent being that has control over every situation in the country at the same time. He’s not a god, folks. He’s a man.

Finally… Impeach him? Really? That’s like having someone run a 5K and right as the finish line is only 200 yards away, yanking him out of the race and tell him he’s done. Why don’t we just go ahead and let him finish this one out, okay? I think the House of Representatives has more important things to worry about than impeaching the president. Although, I bet they’d love to do it because then it’d look like they have actually accomplished SOMETHING. “Good work guys, we got rid of someone who attempted to do something. We’re awesome.”

I understand that we all have our differences of opinion. We are all our own individual snowflake, but when it comes to certain things a modicum of rationale has to come into one’s head before he does something that is idiotic and offensive.