Monday, April 26, 2010

Ketchup

Mets won six of seven this last week.  Leaped from last place to second.  Lotsa luck involved in the streak, but a win is a win.

La petite huque, the little clowncars and I planted tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno and Anaheim peppers, strawberries, carrots.  Some drought resistant grasses (stil haven't pulled the trigger on the buffalo grass).   Framed two small gardens for the girls to call their own.  They found worms while digging, and after screaming (less out of fear than the delight of screaming) put them in jars of dirt and declared them to be pets.  One is named "Wormo."  One is named "the Mets."



A new flash fiction is below. Well, mostly fiction.

Ketchup

He is in a McDonald’s with the twins and their brother. Sadie wants a Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets, Madison wants two cheeseburgers and fries, and he is unable to learn what Jaden wants as Jaden is happily engaged at the condiments counter, filling an endless series of small plastic cups with ketchup from the dispenser. He is sure Jaden has ketchup on his hands, his clothes, the counter, the floor. He is too tired to look, too fearful at the unholy red mess he is certain to find.

Long minutes later, when the food is finally delivered, the kids all trudge to the white plastic table with little hands full of napkins and ketchup cups and little paper salt packets and greasy bags of food. He tags along irritably behind them, as if herding sheep, keeping them in line, on task.

He does not often let them eat at McDonald’s but they have eaten there seven or eight times this last month, too busy to cook after the visits to the hospital, the homes of various relatives, the funeral parlor.

He would like to compose some snarky irony comparing the sterility of the McDonald’s to the antiseptic nature of hospitals but cannot, it does not ring true, the McDonald’s is not sterile in the least, there are splotches of ketchup on the floor, grains of salt scattered on the tables, crushed French fries at their feet.

It is messy.

Life is messy. An unholy red mess.

To be honest, the hospital wasn’t all that antiseptic either.

The house is a pigsty. Clothes, dishes, newspapers, mail. There is so much cleaning up to do. More than anything else he wants to mourn the way people on television mourn, staring into a serene sunset, walking on a beach as waves crash and gulls coo, but Jaden is putting French fries up his nose, desperate for approving laughter, Madison needs to go to the bathroom, right now, and poor Sadie looks on the verge of tears. He needs time, needs silence and solitude, but the situation immediately at hand does not allow it, things will not fall into place, this untidy business of life just goes on and on and on.

10 comments:

Shayna Prentice said...

I love this story and your manner of writing ... and the soon-to-be colorful garden that you and your dear ones planted!

ArtSparker said...

Wow, I'm glad real life is running counter to this moving story.

Clowncar said...

Thanks Shayna. The garden is a poem. I like flowers, but I love veggie gardens: the look, the smells, the taste.

Yeah, for the most part, Sparky. I was actually going for a note of ironic optimism there at the end. Life does go on and on and on. And in the face of death he is involved in the everyday business of life. But I think my calibration is a bit off, the rest of that story sorta overwhelms the last line.

Fresca said...

Ha! The other day at McDonald's (I like McDonald's), I actually saw a little kid doing this--filling up cup after cup with ketchup. Just for fun, so far as I could tell.
These newish pump dispensers are just asking for it, I tell ya.

The condiment cups here are paper, not plastic.
Come to think of it, they are like the pill-dispenser cups in hospitals... (at least in movies).
The efficient management of bodily needs relies on similar designs, I guess.

slommler said...

Yes life does push us forward. No one wants to wait..to give pause.
Well written and I enjoyed it very much!
Hugs
SueAnn

Maggie said...

I do love this story. His weariness I can understand. When I read the last line I missed the note of optimism and I think it's mainly because he sounds trapped - he needs time but things will not fall into place. Perhaps separating that sentiment from the ironic hope punch at the end, and presenting the hope statement just a little stronger would do the job. But truly, this is a beautiful story. The imagery of the ketchup being all over the kid is such a great dichotomy of kid-hearted messiness and the heaviness of hospitals and blood. And I like the comparison of hospitals to McDonalds where the hospital may appear cleaner but the McDonalds evokes a much warmer atmosphere, and we associate McDs to life and youth opposing the grief of death and hospitals.

Clowncar said...

Fresca, those pump dispensers cannot be resisted. My kids are like hummingbirds at a feeder when they get near one.

SueAnn, it's not often a choice. You don't have the time to give pause, no matter how badly you want it.

Thanks, Maggie. You certainly nabbed the central image there - the ketchup being suddenly reminiscent of blood. He is tired and overwhelmed. The business of life - of raising kids - is neverending, and messy, and often pure drudgery. Thankfully, not always.

Hilary said...

Nicely done. He sounds so overwhelmed with sorrow and responsibility. I'm hoping the part which is not fiction is just the messy dispenser part.. or something equally innocent and cope-worthy.

Margaret said...

I do like this.

"An unholy red mess", indeed.

Clowncar said...

Not to worry, Hil. The non-fiction bit is the detail - being in McD's after a visit to my mom in the hospital (she's fine, and gets out today). His mood is the fictional overlay. I enjoy this messy business of life. French fries too.

Thanks, Margaret. I think you've emboldened us to try an erosion bundle with the girls this summer. Such a cool idea.