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.

Advertisements

Damming the Depression

Like many Americans I suffer from depression. I was diagnosed when I turned 18 however I think it had been an issue for some time prior to that. As an adult I realized my true personality, which is that of an overachiever looking for recognition of my intelligence. I was also this way prior to puberty but during my teenage years I couldn’t have cared less about anything and everything. It could have also been because I was grapling with my sexual identity from the perspective of a devout Christian but who knows.

Either way I was prescribed anti-depressants from that day on.

My relationship with these pills has waxed and waned frequently over the years. I go from thinking “I can never not be on my meds” to “maybe this is what is keeping me from writing?” It is this cycle that I live my life through. It would appear that I am coming to the moment of “I can never not be on these pills” again. But have I taken them? No, because “they keep me from writing.” Which is funny because so does depression.

I made an appointment with a therapist for Monday. And I am genuinely looking forward to it. I’m curious if I’ll like her and if she’ll call me by my actual name. (I had a therapist that went in for the “come to Jesus” message of the session and botched it by telling me I should ask myself “what does Jason want.”)

I want to like her and I hope it helps. The thing about therapists is you have to find the right one that works well with your personality and shares somewhat basic ideals. I have seen a few in my day and it took some time before I came to one that could keep up and seemed to like me. He is also the one who has since ignored my subsequent calls. Yet, as I outlined in my earlier post, it could be because I kept bouncing my checks.

Prior to this, and on a different insurance, I started seeing this addiction therapist and she had a very dry almost cold personality but there was something about her that intrigued me. Maybe it was because I could tell from the lines on her face that she herself had battled addiction and knew what she was talking about. Unfortunately I had to let her go because we switched insurance and I happen to get the day of my appointment mixed up in my head. (Happens often).

As the days go on I become frequently sadder. My Facebook feed being the biggest instigator of these emotions. It should be noted that I have since deleted it from my phone.

My husband this morning remarked that his Facebook feed was nothing but recipes now and I retorted, rather jaded, that mine was nothing but trump. The man is destroying everything in my eyes and I can’t help but feel soooooo insignificant. There is nothing I can do without buckets of money or power. Of which I have none. My husband, in an attempt to make me feel better, said we are all insignificant. He’s sweet for trying.

The thing that has really been upsetting is this dick had decided to side with the religious Reich and build his new platform under family values. I laugh sometimes because the hypocrisy of him taking a stand for them is hilarious and them accepting it is a downright riot. Yet here we are. Two cruel and callous forces combining their lights to take on the evils of the homosexual agenda.

These thoughts inevitably lead me to the realization that some of my friends and family voted for this monster and because of him they could potentially (and most fucking likely) take away my rights as a gay man. They may have not done it intentionally but they have when they elect someone that has an agenda that wants to destroy my community. I know that they find me repulsive, they say so in all of the literature and words, and it is from that knowledge sprouts two paths of thought, I either return their hatred or do what Christ says and turn the other cheek. I may be agnostic but I was raised in the faith and my mother (who exemplifies what it means to be a Christian) taught me well.

So another day I drift closer to a dark depression. I try not to be so maudlin, for instance I am currently out in the sunshine, taking a break from bike riding. It is that exercise and the return of Will and Grace that has brought me the most joy. It’s pathetic and it’s true.

Nothing to add, merely to relay

As much as I don’t want this to turn into a political blog it will inevitably trail that way sometimes. Especially because people insist on making laws or having ideas for change that will or won’t hurt a community I am a part of.

It’s funny because before the whole election I had little to no interest in politics. What was happening beyond my bubble was far beyond me. Which is what I feel so many Americans felt. We were disengaged because we had always trusted the system to work for itself and it was in that complacency that things began to go haywire.

The only law that mattered to me and my life was gay marriage. I wanted the knowledge that I could one day wed the person I wanted to be with. When that finally happened, for me, everything else became moot. And, again, I was complacent.

As it turns out this was the week to attack the rights of anyone under the rainbow banner of LGBTQ.

Let us begin with tRump’s pick for the head scientist of the department of agriculture. He is a gentleman that believes that homosexuality is a choice and that we are on the same level as pedophiles. It’s lucky that he is headed for the department of ag because he appears to be useless anywhere else. What terrifies me is that he is not the only one that thinks this way, and I imagine that most of those that inevitably will fill the remaining administration will probably have similar ideas on the topic.

For a brief moment I understand where they’re coming from with the logic “it’s a choice.” Yes. To some degree it is in fact a choice as everything we do in our life is a chosen by us. However, by choosing to conform to the straight life because it’s the “right way” would cause harm to the person doing the choosing and those around him. In addition, who the HELL would want to knowingly choose a life of pain and heart ache if they had ANY want/desire/attraction to the opposite sex. It would stand to reason that one would just choose the “normal” way and be done with the whole issue. But they think it’s for sexual pleasure, and yes it is, but what if I told a hetero man that he could never have sex with a woman again, but only men because it was right? They would say absolutely not because they’re not hardwired that way.

When I get to the pedophile shit I just cringe because his statement is accusing me of doing just that, and there is nothing I despise and loath more than a person that sexually abuses a child. As having been abused myself (not by an adult but by an older neighbor boy) I find it insulting. I am too an extreme that if I knew someone had harmed one of my loved ones as a child I would seek vengeance however it may be. I’m like a rabid dog when it comes to protecting the innocent, so to lump me in with someone that abuses a human, that is still struggling to understand what it is to be human, is infuriating.

It just shows me that most of those that fly the Christian moniker tend to be the least empathetic people, especially when an R is attached to their political affiliation.

Now… This last issue is not one that I am super strong about because I am not transgendered. I don’t know anyone personally, so that fight is not one that I feel I am in. However, I know what it’s like to be ostracized by society because of who I am, so I know when the bully on the playground picks the next victim I have to stand up to defeat him. Trump going after trans in the military is pointless and just dumb. They want to pretend that it’s about keeping a cohesive unit or that the other soldiers are in danger, but again it is because they lack any semblance of a heart. If they tried to look at it from the other person’s side they would see that their fears don’t even exist. Most trans people are more terrified of being outed because it could result in an even harder life.

Every morning when I wake I am terrified what the day will hold. It’s stressful. It is honestly wearing me down to the point that I have finally just accepted that the world is doomed. The life we lived is no more and now the powers that be have an agenda that benefits only them and no one else. That is why I have become very nihilistic. I genuinely hope that they fuck our shit up. I want them to ruin the country so that it will be on their watch, under their command, and all their fault. Unfortunately they will not see it that way and will spin it to be someone else’s doing because no one in politics can just own their bull shit.

I dislike writing about politics because I am not as well versed on the topic as I should be, nor do I have anything new to add to the constant chatter that buzzes around these issues. I wish I did have more to add/say/reveal but ultimately I have nothing. I am absolutely helpless. Knowing that my communities way of life is always in the hands of those who are not a part of, nor care for is soul crushing. It is in this powerlessness that I come to two very different metaphorical roads in my mind. Both are scary. One leads to me accepting myself as a victim under those that seek to oppress me; or I seek to be the one with the power, fueled by my rage. The second is more enticing because it gives me the illusion that some sort of war is being won, but I know that road leads to radicalization and inevitably ends up hurting the overall cause. Yet, on the other path, I have to take what is given to me with a smile and keep moving on, all the while have my spirit torn apart.