Tag Archives: flash fiction

It Ain’t Pretty, and It Certainly Ain’t Good

Pretty. Good.

Two perfectly fine words, yes? Sure they are, if they’re hanging out at the same party or stuck beside each other in traffic. But should those two words hook up, or say, carpool, then those two words ain’t fine at all, no sir. Put those two words together and you have a harbinger of doom. Let me explain.

The phrase ‘pretty good’ has two meanings. Adjectival. One indicates that the thing being described is acceptable, admirable, close to good. The other indicates that the thing being described is unacceptable, subpar, and no good.

“Pretty good.” The cavernous dichotomy of meaning tied to this two-word phrase is highly problematic. The meaning of the received message depends greatly on the body language and intonation of the communicator.

For example: you are out with a friend and you want to tell her that you think Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Pretzel Crust is to your liking. You’d smile, turn your face a few degrees to one side and nod. “It’s pretty good.” However, if you think the pizza tastes like rusty nails covered in ketchup but observe that your friend is loving every bite, your response to the question “What do you think?” would be to cock your head slightly to the one side while shrugging your shoulders and offering a politically correct half smile. “It’s pretty good.” See the difference? Same words. The entire message depends on body language. This is why talking to people face to face is ideal.

Another tool in relaying the intended meaning of ‘pretty good’ is tone. Intonation. The way words are pronounced is a powerful indicator of their meaning. “Pretty good”, with a short ‘pretty’ and a drawn out, warm ‘good’, tells your listener that the thing at hand is satisfactory, pleasing. “Pretty good”, said with ‘pretty’ and ‘good’ being of the same length but with a drop in tone that ends in flat-lined silence means that the thing could be, in a pinch, somewhat satisfactory. Try it. Go ahead. Say “pretty good,” and then say “pretty good.” Hear the difference? And that’s just the tone of your voice. This is why talking to people on the phone is only quasi-ideal.

But what if there is no opportunity for body language nor tone? Let’s say your communication is limited to the written word. Now what? You can write paragraphs of exposition, you can state your case clearly and cite examples, but at some point, you’re doomed to use the words “pretty good.” And then, how the reader interprets your meaning is entirely out of your control. Two perfectly innocuous words, put together, could imply only one of two things. It could be “it’s not too shabby” or it could be “it sucks.” This isn’t a big deal if you’re telling a friend about pizza, but it is utterly disastrous if you’re reporting third quarter performance to the board of directors. This is why email totally blows.  jenny phone

1 Comment

Filed under autobigraphy, communication, conflict, fiction, friendship, humor, irony, relationships, sarcasm, Uncategorized, writing

Crest Fallen

Okay, Proctor and Gamble, I’ve used your “Crest 3D White Luxe” toothpaste in Glamorous White (with Whitelock Technology) three times a day for the last five days and I don’t see any indication that it has “removed up to 90% of surface stains” as advertised.

I went on a couple of vacations last year, one to visit my friend Bridget in The ‘Lu (which, she tells me, is what everyone who is anyone is calling St Louis these days), and then one with my friend Susan to Princess Island (which is what we call anywhere we go on vacation together). These trips both produced copious photographs, all of which were posted to Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, and Flikr. Many people saw these photos, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of ‘likes’ received (an 85/15 split between friends of theirs and friends of mine).

The photos are nice. They’re black and whites, which are always lovely. In every single shot the sun is bright, I’m having good hair days, and Bridget/Susan and I are smiling widely. However. Bridget/Susan’s face is aglow with the shimmer of their clean white teeth, but not mine. My face, sparing the part of my eyeball that isn’t iris or pupil, is all the same color – except for the darker gray slash between my lips. That’s my teeth. To their credit, my teeth are admirably straight. I wore braces and headgear for five years to earn that honor.

Curious, I waited until I was home alone one evening, looked in my bathroom mirror and grinned at myself. There they were, side by side like little soldiers, perfectly aligned and decidedly yellow teeth. More yellow on the sides than on the front. You know, yellow isn’t quite right. Staring at my teeth, the first thing that came to mind was the weathered, fading slats of plywood that Ben used to build the fence around my tomato garden last summer. Functional, yes. Appealing? No.

Hence, my need for the Crest. I read your label, I felt hope, I brushed three times a day for five days. Nothing. Of course I can go see my dentist for laser whitening, but that’s not the point. You let me down. In addition to being out $6.49, I’m really disappointed. I was counting on y’all.toothpaste

1 Comment

Filed under aging, autobigraphy, body image, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

good googily miss moogily

Just a quick “hi” to those of you who have been kind enough to pop over from that other blog I’ve been posting to when I meant to be posting here.  As mentioned, I thought I was clever having more than one blog but then I figured out I was spreading myself too thin, confusing myself, and possibly befuddling others.  Thank you for coming.

For those of you who have been here from the start, please ignore the preceding paragraph. Thank you for coming.

639

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under accident, art, autobigraphy, fiction, flash fiction, food, humor, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

Seam Ripper

It’s cloudy outside, so I don’t mind spending my Sunday ripping seams out of my favorite red t-shirt. Besides, it gives me something to do while I sit here in front of my sunlamp, which I have to do from August ’til March lest I tumble down into that depression place where I want to tear my eyes out with a seam ripper.

My boyfriend popped in a few minutes ago and asked why I didn’t just buy a new red t-shirt. I told him that this is my favorite red t-shirt. He said he saw one just like it at Target last week and that he’d buy me one. I told him I don’t want another one, that I like the way the ragged edge around the neck hole curls up and looks interesting. He said that there is nothing interesting about a woman wearing a torn-up t-shirt. I told him that there is nothing more interesting in this entire world than such a woman, and that he had better leave. He left, but I suspect he’ll be back in time for dinner.

So, I’m ripping seams out of my favorite red t-shirt. It has always been my favorite for the exact same reason that has me ripping out the seams. This t-shirt is flattering in the way only a flat-chested woman can understand. It’s tight. And form-fitting. In fact, it is so tight and form-fitting that I have to tear out the seams around the neck because half of them tore out the last time I put it on. The reality is that my head will always be bigger than my bosoms, and the fate of the neck hole was imminent. But I can fix it. I am fixing right now. I am sitting here ripping the seams out of my favorite red t-shirt.

304

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, autobigraphy, body image, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, relationships, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

Fro Youth

(509 words)

29 degrees outside, pelting sleet, but what I needed was frozen yogurt.

So, I left the motor running when I jumped out of the car and crossed the parking lot, whispering profanities as I found myself torn between moving slowly while being sliced by silvers of ice, or dashing across the tundra with the risk of falling and splitting my chin on the pavement.

“Welcome to Zinga!” the little girl shouted from behind the counter. I recently discovered that, in my estimation, any female under 25 was a “little girl.” This one had curly black hair and a smile that was possibly reflective of her true personality, or the result of having had one too many cups of coffee, or both.

“I love frozen yogurt,” she said. “And it’s not just because I work here. Can I help you?”

“No thanks, I’ve been here before,” I said. I picked up a “medium” tub and walked over to the vanilla machine, hoping that she’d recognize my familiarity with the process and leave me alone.

“Seriously, it’s not because I work here. I really love frozen yogurt. I always have the same thing, every single time. I have Triple Chocolate and I put on some raspberries and then I drown it all in whipped cream. That’s what I always do. Except last week when I had Mocha Mist and did the Oreo Dirt with hot fudge and rainbow sprinkles but I didn’t get whipped cream, which was too bad because that’s when I found out how much really I like whipped cream. Whipped cream is the bomb, isn’t it?”

I looked down and found myself in the act of squirting whipped cream on my sundae, so I couldn’t keep ignoring her. “Yes,” I said. “Whipped cream is very good.” I put down the can and waited for her to start talking again. She took a deep breath, clearly revving up for another raucous soliloquy, and during the pause I heard Rick Springfield on the Musak. “Rick Springfield,” I said. “Wow.” I picked up a pair of tongs, plucked a red cherry from its basin of goo, and plopped it on top of my sundae. “I haven’t heard this one in a while.” That was a lie. I’d heard the song the day before yesterday; it was in one of my playlists, the one I listened to every morning on my way to work.

“Yeah, right?” the girl said. “What’s this song called? Oh, yeah, “Jessie’s Girl.” I guess he was like a one-hit-wonder?”

“Actually, he had a couple of songs, and he was a soap star…,” I said.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” she said. “I remember now. You know what other song I like? I like ‘Dancing Queen’. That’s one of my favorite old songs.”

I set my cup on the scale. “Now, that one is really old,” I said. “My Mom used to listen to that one.”

“They’re all old to me,” she said.

I handed the little girl a five, told her to keep the change, and raced out to my car.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, autobigraphy, chocolate, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, food, humor, irony, sarcasm, the 80's, women, writing

In the Pits of Pain

Ladies:
Do you ever wake up on a Sunday and decide that you’re not going to take a shower but the prickles in your armpits are uncomfortable so you scrape them with a dry, twin-blade, Venus knock-off and all seems fine until about 15 minutes later when your pits burn with the intensity of a white-hot sun?  And then later in the day you decide to go ahead and take a shower and while doing so absent-mindedly drag that same razor across your pits again and scream with the sensation of having smeared wasabi on an open wound?

96

Leave a comment

Filed under autobigraphy, bodily harm, body image, fiction, flash fiction, humor, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women

Hall and R-Oates-ies

I hate sitting outside when it’s hot, but it’s better than sitting inside where it’s freezing. Freezing in summer, blistering in winter, that’s the thermostat setting in my office. So, I always eat here, outside at a table near Quizno’s. At least the temperature matches the season out here. No way am I eating at my desk. Lunch is supposed to be a break, not an opportunity to type formulas in a spreadsheet with one hand while holding a sandwich in the other.

I wish I had a sandwich today. Today I’ve got last night’s creole salmon, which tastes good in my mouth but smells horrible sitting there in the Tupperware. Note to self: no fish in the lunchbox.

I hear chanting, so I look up. It’s a little girl, probably four years old, skipping across the parking lot and reciting, “Baby come back, baby come back, baby come back.” Skip, “baby come back.” Skip skip, “baby come back.” As she ducks between the parked cars, I catch flashes of a frilly pink tutu and shiny black and white saddle shoes. She makes it to the sidewalk and ducks into Quizno’s. Her mother comes jogging behind her, and as she opens the door to the sandwich shop I hear her daughter and she sing in harmony, “Baby come back.”

I think of Nancy. When we were teenagers living in St. Louis, Nancy and I rocked out to Hall and Oates. We had all their records. We saw them when they came to St. Louis, and when they played Chicago, too. We even drove out to Lexington to catch the last stop on their Midwest tour. We were roadies. “The Hall and R-Oates-ies,” we called ourselves. So of course I had to text Nancy right away.

I pick up my phone and hit the “Kakao” icon. Nancy lives in Vietnam, teaching English to Vietnamese law students; Kakao is the international texting app we use to keep in touch. I notice that the last conversation we had was on May 16, the day Ian died. Today was August 16. It was six months to the day. Today was the three-month anniversary of Nancy’s boyfriend’s death.

“Sweetie,” I type. “I know this is a damn hard day for you, so I’m sharing something fun: I just saw a little girl in a pink tutu and shiny saddle shoes skipping across the parking lot and singing “Baby come back.”

I read over the text and draw in a sharp breath, then I hit the “Delete” button seventeen times. “!kcab emoc ybaB”. I type in “Maneater!” instead.  It’s a lie, but the truth would be cruel.

The little girl and her mother come out of Quizno’s, holding sodas and bags of sandwiches. The girl isn’t wearing a tutu with saddle shoes at all, it’s just a short pink dress with black and white sneakers that light up as she walks. I look down at my text. The whole thing is a lie, but I hit “Send” anyway.

499

Leave a comment

Filed under autobigraphy, conflict, depression, flash fiction, the 80's, Uncategorized, women, writing