Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grape Nuts Suck

It's true. At the risk of suffering the Post company's wrath, I freely admit I hate everything about the cereal that has neither 'Grapes' nor 'Nuts.' What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Hell if I know, but my wife ate her Grape Nuts this morning, as she has every morning for the last thirty years and I have reached the end of my sanity tether.
The following is a short story on the subject. Don't hit that Back Button yet, damn it. I know, reading other's writing is boring , but what else do you have to do online? How many times can you log on to Facebook anyway? It's your own fault you friended both Democrats and Republicans and now you must pay for your poor decision and suffer their jingoistic crap for three more months.
So read the story. If you have one of your own , send it to me and if it's any good, and if it's interesting, I'll place it on the blog. Send to
Now read and join the fight to eliminate Grape Nuts.
“You gotta eat something Mr. Fontaine. I got better things to do than stand here and fight with you, you know.”
But Andrew Fontaine III knew it wouldn’t be much of a fight against the lovely, obese Jenny, his Certified Nursing Assistant. That’s what they called them now, wasn’t it, CNAs? But to him they were still just nurses’ aides, there to lift him, feed him, bathe him, wipe his ass and anything and everything else, because he couldn’t do a damn thing on his own from the neck down. It had been that way for ten years and if he wasn’t lucky enough to die soon, it’d be that way for another ten.
Jenny airplaned the spoon toward his mouth accompanied by her poor imitation of a reciprocating engine.
“That spoon touches my mouth, I’ll kill you,” he said with a sufficient amount of hate in his voice and eyes. He would kill her too if someone would invent a gun you could fire by blinking your eyes, one of the only functions left that he could control.
“Oh, Mister Fontaine. The only killing you’re doing today is killing off this fine food.”
She thought that was clever. So now, it’s supposed to be like the movies, where he smiles, shows his love, and then opens his mouth like a good boy. No. his mouth wouldn’t open and if he could control his bowels he’d crap his adult diaper and give Jenny something useful to do. He would never open his mouth voluntarily for that food again. The smell always reminded him of that day.
* * *
It was nine thirty in the morning and he was drunk. Not your lose your balance, stumble into the furniture drunk, but drunk just the same.
Lately, it was the only way he could stand to be in the same room with his lovely wife of thirty years as she and her decrepit eighty-year-old father crunched those damn smelly Grape-nuts. Each morning Andrew woke to the odd odor of the cereal, a combination smell of stale beer and horse stall. He was sick of it and he was sick of Dottie and he was sick of the old man. It drove him to drink.
“You think you could shut your mouth when you eat, Dottie? Would that be too much to ask?”
Dottie turned her head from Good Morning America and opened said mouth as wide as her fat little cheeks let her. A clump of Grape-nut mush slid down the back of her throat. She swallowed and burped.
“You think you could lay off the booze a little, Andrew Fontaine the turd?” She grinned and sucked a few faux nuts through her teeth.
“What’d I say about you making fun of my name? What’d I say?”
“You’re drunk.”
Andrew held the glass of whiskey out in salute to the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. “I am drunk. Yes I am. And you’re ugly, but I’ll be sober tomorrow. How do you like them apples?”
“What’d he say?” the old man yelled.
“He said he’s a pig and he’s drunk.” Dottie shoved in another spoonful and crunched, crunched, crunched. The sound was worse than the smell. Thirty years—crunch, crunch, crunch.
“Dottie,” he said after a quick swig. “What kind of stupid name is that, huh?” Andrew staggered over to the counter and grasped the box of Grape-nuts. “Dottie, Dottie, Dottie. What’s the matter, Dorothy isn’t good enough for you?” He shook the box in front of her face. Dottie tried to look around it to see the TV but Andrew moved the box as she moved.
“Put it back, you ass.”
“What’s he doing?” the old man asked, pointing with his spoon.
“What am I doing, Pop?” Andrew said. “Why, I’m keeping Dottie, Dottie, Dottie from watching her show, show, show, by blocking her vision, vision, vision with her box of crappy, crappy, crappy Grape-nuts.”
Andrew swung the box in a looping circle spraying Grape-nuts like a sprinkler.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Dottie said. “You stupid drunk. Get out of here you pig. Go!”
Andrew threw the empty box at her.
“What do you I think I’m doing, Dottie, Dottie, Dottie? I’m doing what I should have done thirty years ago. I am so sick of you and your old man and your stinking Grape-nuts. Thirty years, every morning—crunch, crunch, crunch. I can’t take it anymore. I swear to God if you eat one more bite of that crap in front of me I’ll kill you. You hear me, Dottie, Dottie, Dottie?”
She apparently did hear him and stared at him defiantly from her recliner as he loomed menacingly above her, empty glass above his head. Dottie slowly scooped a large spoonful of Grape-nuts from her cereal bowl and brought it to her open mouth.
“I mean it,” Andrew said.
She grinned somehow with her mouth wide open, gracefully slid the spoonful against her tongue and closed her mouth. Andrew felt his rage boil but checked his temper. He wouldn’t have done anything to her at all except—except Dottie smirked when she crunched, crunched, crunched.
Andrew grabbed her neck and squeezed so hard his hands hurt.
“I told you Dottie, Dottie, Dottie. I told you.”
Grape-nut mush spewed out onto his shirt upsetting him more, as the pallor of Dottie’s face began to match her bathrobe. Andrew dug his thumbs in just about the time he saw the old man holding the poker over his head. It actually clanged when it hit Andrew’s head but it did its job. Andrew released his death grip on Dottie just as the poker whacked him again, not as hard as the first time, but it staggered him.
He collapsed to the floor blinking every few seconds to keep from passing out. It was like a time-lapse film. Blink—Dottie being helped up by her old man. Blink—Dottie and the old man headed for the door. Blink—the door shutting behind them. Andrew finally closed his eyes and slept—until the sirens woke him.
He stumbled to the living room and looked out the slats. Four cop cars and a SWAT truck. All for him? Well, he could give himself up but then he’d go to jail. Not so bad until they let him out. What if somehow he got back with Dottie? What if there was a chance, just a minute one, but a chance he’d hear that crunch, crunch, crunch again.
Andrew retrieved his .38 from the bedroom just as the pounding began on the front door. He shot twice through the window and then backed away as hundred of shots came back, smashing the glass into small shards that wedged in the vertical blinds.
He opened the front door and ran outside firing. Suicide by cop. He hoped he wouldn’t feel a thing as the bullets peppered him.
* * *
“C’mon Mr. Fontaine, now eat your Grape-nuts,” the lovely Jenny said, tapping the spoon against Andrew’s closed mouth.  He clenched his jaw tight. Then she wedged the spoon against his teeth and spread his lips with her sausage fingers. He snapped at her but she was too quick. In went the spoonful of the hated cereal.
Jenny smiled, pulled the spoon free, and clamped one of her hammy hands on top of his head and the other under his chin keeping his mouth closed until he swallowed.
Disgusting. Every morning she fed him the one food he hated most. He spit at her but she was expecting it.
“I swear I’ll kill you,” he whispered.
“No sir, I don’t think you will. A man who can’t do nothing ought not to make threats. You see my point, Mr. Fontaine?”
“Why?” he asked.
“Why what?”
“Why those?” he jutted his chin at the box of Grape-nuts. “Why feed me those when I don’t want them?”
“Oh,” she said, glancing at the box. “Well I don’t know. How long you’ve been here now, ten years or so I think? All that time I’ve been feeding you the Grape-nuts, right?”
Andrew nodded. “Yes. Why?”
“Well,” Jenny took a deep breath. “I guess I can tell you now since I’m leaving. Marrying Bobby next week and then to Georgia, so I guess I can say now. You remember your wife, Miss Dottie?”
“Whatever. You remember her?”
“Well, the reason I had to feed you those Grape-nuts you don’t like is because if I stopped, Miss Dottie wouldn’t pay me that hundred dollars she give me every week, you see?”
Andrew closed his eyes.
“Thing is,” Jenny said, “I think Miss Dottie may have already talked to my replacement, so ain’t you lucky, Mr. Fontaine? Aint you lucky?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Don'ts of Writers Conferences

I’ve been to thirteen conferences in the last five years so regardless of my irreverent tone and the smart-ass comments I’m about to proffer, I do know a little of what I speak of. (Except for ending sentences with a preposition, which I can’t seem to stop doing.) But first a little news and a self-flagellating pat on my back.  Despite the title of my blog, Give It Up You’ll Never Be Published, I received news last week that my flash fiction, Tour Bus, won the Grey Sparrow Flash Fiction Competition and will be published in the fall edition of the Grey Sparrow Journal. Also my piece, Beneath The Wintry Sky won second place in the Writers-Editors Short Story Competition. Finally, my story, The Left Rear Tire, was chosen by Julie Compton as a top ten pick for the anthology, My Wheels. (Update: 09/09/2012 - My mystery story, The Adventures of The Nine Hole Gang, has been purchased by The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine for publication in their 14th volume)
I've been asked what makes a good piece of short fiction and I believe it’s a combination of a good story and good writing. You must have both to be successful. So far, all of my works that have been published are poetry or short fiction but it’s better than nothing. It tells me I can write and if I could get an agent or a publisher to read my damn novels, they’d see that. But few agents want to take a chance on an unknown author and yet the bestselling book last year was, GO THE F**K TO SLEEP!  by Adam Mansbach, which goes to show the brave will prosper while the cautious will only survive. I wonder if anyone keeps statistics on these literary agents to see how many actually signed a client from these pitches at these writers conferences. I would guess zero to none.
Oh well, buy the Journal and the anthology when they come out. Amazingly, they will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, just like every other book in existence. This makes nine publications I’ve been in but I’d better not quit my day job. I’ll have to make sure in the future that I don’t listen to any naysayers like myself and press on with an eye on the prize.

Back to the original subject. Writers conferences.
Cha Ching!!! They are expensive so pretend you’re on vacation and not sitting on your ass listening to the knowledgeable impart said knowledge to your ignorant self. Now let’s list the Don’ts of writers conferences. Since this is a negative sarcastic blog on writing, we will skip all the Do’s. You can get that info from the other million positive blogs on writing but beware you don’t get diabetes from the saccharin.
I’ve done many of these Don’ts so—try not to do the don’ts. That’s all I have to say about that.
1.      Don’t eat a large breakfast or none at all. Your stomach will grumble at the most inopportune time, like when the presenter asks everyone to write a paragraph and the only sounds are the shuffling of paper, the click-click of keyboards, and your loud-ass stomach imitating Niagara Falls.
2.      Don’t try to pick-up girls/men while you’re at the conference. You’re there to learn to write. You already know how to have sex. Funny story—one of the faculty at Dennis LeHane’s Writers In Paradise workshop told us they nicknamed the Breadloaf Writers Conference, Bedloaf, for all the sexual escapades that go on there. Anyway, I’ve always been faithful to my wife although when you turn 50, the 40 year-old-women start to look attractive.
3.      Don’t go to the same workshops you went to in previous conferences. Point-of-view can only be explained so many ways. Mix it up with other subjects like, The Best Ways To Kill Your Antagonist, for example.
4.      Don’t pick the wrong agent to pitch. I pitched a novel about a genius serial killer who targeted prostitutes and the agent said she didn’t take on clients who believe in violence toward women. When I asked for my forty dollars back, she laughed at me.
5.      Don’t hog the microphone on Open Mic night. I watched a guy and an organizer struggle for control of the microphone one night. The reader kept saying, “But I haven’t got to the good part yet.” Read your short piece and sit down so the other fifty readers can take their turn.
6.      Don’t bug the shit out of the famous authors they bring in for the keynote speeches. Some don’t mind talking to you, but most hate it when you start pushing your manuscript and ideas on them. Many of the famous authors I’ve met at these conferences were friendly and patient but several were what you would call, jerks. Although I would call them something a bit more severe. They varied from the best to the worst, from Steve Berry all the way to Stuart Woods, and he’s not last for alphabetical reasons. Have you read the caveat Woods puts in the back of his books? Here’s what he writes: If you wish to have your own novel published, get a book called Writer’s Market, which will tell you how. You may buy or order it from any bookstore. I cannot read your novel or help you to get it published, and if you are publishing a novel and want jacket blurbs from other writers, you should not ask them directly, but allow your publisher to do so. This is proper publishing etiquette. Please do not send me ideas for books. If you have a great idea for a novel, write it yourself. I prefer to write novels based on my own ideas and do not accept ideas from other people, except my agents or publishers.
A lot of these famous writers only like to associate with the other famous writers attending these conferences. I find it interesting that they don’t want to mingle with the masses, the same people who make up the gist of their characters in their books. It’s the old adage that you are interested in reading about the average Joe, but you wouldn’t want to invite them to your house for dinner.
Well, if I get published and become a famous writer, I won’t forget the little people who helped me to forge my success. I’ll have my bodyguards and assistants pass out my signed photos to them, because I care.