Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's a Retreat, Not a Surrender

I belong to several writers organizations (the "Published Authors" clique still eludes me, but to be honest I haven't tried very hard; still working on weaseling my way into that one) and this weekend is an event I have been looking forward to since I joined them. The Heart of the West chapter of the Romance Writers of America is sponsoring a retreat. It's being held here, and my friend Doree and I are simply giddy about it. Three days of nothing but hanging out, relaxing, drinking wine, writing, reading, goofing off…

Oh, wait…that's what I do on a daily basis.

BUT,this weekend I will be doing it with other writers. So, when I finish a masterful piece of literary treasure I can assault request that someone read what I wrote and get feedback. All this without having to follow someone around begging for a critique. In other words, instant gratification. Hidden Springs Ranch looks beautiful, and I'm excited to be in the company of so many talented wordsmiths.

For my part, I'm bringing Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup, some Sausage Jambalaya and my camera; the weather should clear up, and best of all…

They have horses.

In the mean time, here for your reading pleasure is a piece of "Flash Fiction" I wrote for a contest. I was limited to 600 words, so for me it was a Herculean task, being that I tend to run on and on and on…


Don, the Chicken Man

Out of my element when we moved from the suburbs of Chicago to rural Missouri, I was fortunate to make a new friend just down the road. Don was our neighbor; tall and wiry in his late 60s, he told me that he'd been born in Minnesota, raised in "Missoura", and was one of sixteen or seventeen kids— he couldn't recall the exact amount. Despite Don's lack of mathematical prowess we became buddies.

My husband traveled a lot, one week in Kansas City, the next in Denver. I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler in unfamiliar territory and without family near to occupy the endless hours alone on our hobby farm. Don stopped by occasionally in the evenings to check on me, the ignorant city slicker, all alone on the wild prairie. Plus he discovered our fridge is always full of beer. Dropping by to visit for a spell is a neighborly thing to do.

One June evening Don asked if "the little one", his name for my daughter, and I would like to join him at the local bar for supper.

"Wednesdays are forty-nine cent taco night," he explained. Don's a savvy bargain hunter.

Tired of only having a short person with limited vocabulary for company, I jumped at his invitation. Down our gravel road to the bar we drove, and once we were settled at a table, ninety-eight cents worth of tacos in front of me, Don talked about his week.

"I cook out on the grill when the weather's fine," he said in his slow drawl. "I usually make chicken and sausages on Sundays. I wrap the sausages in foil with onions and peppers. They're pretty good, if I do say so myself."

I nodded, unable to speak because my mouth was full. "The little one" was finger painting the table with her taco.

"I cooked out this weekend. I made chicken and sausages and had a couple a beers."

Knowing Don is mathematically challenged, I figured "a couple a" meant "a twelve pack". I was unable to comment, busily deflecting a steady barrage of shredded cheese flung in my direction.

Don continued, "I came home for lunch on Monday, and I looked in the fridge for the leftover chicken. I knew I didn't finish it all, and I was hungry."

I kept nodding. Apparently he really wanted to discuss his culinary skills.

"I looked all over my fridge, and it wasn't in there. So— you know what I did?"

I shook my head no, trying to listen to Don while scraping demolished taco into my napkin. The "little one's" restlessness was making our table look like a Jihad at the Taco Bell.

"I went out into the yard, and you know what— I left that chicken on the grill all night long."

"Was the grill still on?" I asked, a sudden suspicion clenching at my gut.

"Nope. So— you know what I did?"

I calculated the equation put before me: Chicken left on a grill from a sunny 80 degree Sunday, overnight, into a sunny 80 degree Monday at noon, and shuddered.

"I took a bite out of one of them pieces— and you know what? It tasted funny."

Words exploded out of me, words like salmonella, listeria, diarrhea.

Don calmly ate his taco while I railed. Finally he said, "You know what I did then?"

"Threw it out?" I replied, wondering what other options there could possibly be, trying to hide my urge to gag.

"Nope. I took a bite out of another piece, just to make sure."


Belle's personal assistant said...

As someone suffering from severe stomach flu/lingering food poisoning since Sunday, I found this story particularly hilarious.

Write On!!!

restom -- vacation for a swayback percheron

Lisa Deon said...

Your absence left me wondering where you'd run off to. Feel better soon. How's the baby?

Belle's personal assistant said...

Good, the only time I leave the house is to take care of horses and water the plants in the greenhouse. Bleehh. Belle did get to try out the new saddle today with the kids. And Foxy begged (literally) to be worked. I stuck her on a lunge line and let her work herself. One good thing about being sick, the kids get to clean stalls, he he he. This just means that I will have to strip them down when I feel better:(

Anonymous said...

Love the flash fiction. Since Don was able to tell the tale, I'm guessing he had some formidable intestinal flora with which to fight off iffy chicken.

Have fun with the writers and horses in the woods. Wait. Horses don't really do woods, do they? Meadows. Horses do meadows. Have fun in Writer meadows.

Are you going to share that soup?

Belle's personal assistant said...

Horses are fun in the woods. You just hope that you are on a short horse, or that you can hang off the saddle REALLY well.

outoort -- outside of the path of a comet

Lisa Deon said...

I don't know if I'll be in the woods with the horses but I love photographing horses so I'm bringing my new Olympus and I have The Husbands Nikon SLR.

Have a great weekend, everyone.