Mental Mudpies, Vol. 1

mental mudpiesI thought I would share a writing exercise that is good for plotting and improvising on the fly.  Like “flash fiction,” the goal is to be succinct, but it’s a little different since pre-selected words conspire to shape and direct the story.

Use the following words, in order, to create something original:

alarm, safe, poem, entrée, solar, aide, curl, treat, fume, act, damned, ice

The words were excised from a crossword puzzle’s across clues, in order. Paste your own story in a comment to this post.  If you decide to play along, try not to read the other posts until after you’ve written yours…it will keep you from being influenced as you write.  Word nerds unite!

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8 Responses to “Mental Mudpies, Vol. 1”

  1. The first thing I felt was ALARM—how could I have locked myself in the walk-in freezer? Of course the next thing I felt was cold, a frigid, ball-shrinking cold, that is deep and unrelenting. Within minutes I was shivering uncontrollably and all I could do to keep from freezing was to pound against the locked 300-lb. door. No one could hear me. My coworkers were out there in the restaurant, SAFE and warm, making their rent one dirty dollar at a time.

    My girlfriend will write a POEM about this when I tell her, I thought. Some highbrow, unreadable burst of words comparing me to hanging hunks of Hereford and yammering on about corporate eateries freezing the potential of their wait staff. All I wanted was out. Out of this freezer, out of this restaurant, out of this phase of my life. I wanted to smack every regular at the bar—push every kid out of his highchair—dump a steaming pasta ENTREE in my manager’s face—bodyslam the whole 8-top at table 32. My anger lit me up inside, warmed me somehow, like giant SOLAR flares shooting from my chest.

    My savior, my unlikely AIDE, turned out to be Jackie, a broil cook whose face was so wretchedly ugly that to see it appear in the kitchen window could CURL your hair. He had run out of sirloins and needed to get some out of the freezer and into a thawing bath.

    “Damn, dude. What are you doing in here?”

    “I’ve been locked in, asshole. Move out of the way.”

    I staggered by him and into the aromatic warmth of the kitchen. I made my way to the grill and parked myself next to it. Big Don was checking the temperature of an Italian chicken breast.

    “You alright, Captain? You look bad.”

    “I’ve been locked in the walk-in freezer.”

    “Well, doesn’t that suck? Here, let me make you something to eat. My TREAT. Well, their treat.” He motioned upwards and outwards like everything beyond his personal being would be buying whatever he found to throw on the grill.

    “I’m good, Don. I need to check on my tables. I’m sure they’re wondering where I am.”

    I poked my head out of the kitchen so I could see the tables in my section. It seemed like every diner was looking around, looking for me. I didn’t even know where to start. I smoothed down my apron and grabbed an empty tray, afraid I may need to shield myself from the flying silverware that would soon be hurled by my pissed off customers.

    I walked up to one of my tables. It was a middle-aged couple. The woman was staring into her giant salad. It looked very dry. I could tell that she needed extra dressing without them even saying anything.

    “Well lookie-here, it’s our waiter. You been lost, son?”

    “No sir, I was just busy in the kitchen for a moment. Can I get you anything?”

    “For a moment? We’ve been looking for you for 15 minutes. My wife needs some more Ranch dressing. And if you could get it before we die of hunger, that would be super.”

    “I’ll be right back, sir.”

    I began to FUME. As cold as I’d been earlier, now I was burning up. I felt like I was beginning to glow. All of my tables were looking at me. I should have tended to their needs—their dressings, their checks, their to-go boxes—should have been the dutiful waiter but I couldn’t summon up the ACT.

    I walked back into the kitchen. One of the other servers told me, “Hey man, table 40 is ready for their check. They keep flagging me down for everything. You OK?”

    “No, I’m not OK. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I’m not waiting on another got-DAMNED table!” I yelled at him. But he didn’t care. He was just another frazzled waiter, trying to make a buck, scurrying around to please customers. I was just one more nuisance to contend with, another thing to slow him down.

    “Whatever man, tell the manager. I just need to get to the ICE bin.”

  2. This one’s for you honey – Remember I didn’t major in English so please forgive the grammatical errors.

    All of a sudden, an ALARM sounded. I had no idea what was going on or what caused it, all I knew, is that it was no longer SAFE. I started to run. I ran hard and fast trying to get out of there. I quickly remembered something from a POEM my grandmother wrote to my grandfather during the cold war. It’s amazing the ideas that come to you when you are scared out of your mind and running sixty five miles an hour. She was describing how much she loved my grandfather and what they would do together when he finally got to come home. She mentioned everything she would cook for him, one ENTREE after the other….ENTREE!? Oh no! Suddenly I awoke and discovered that my dinner was burning to a crisp. Oh my gosh, it was awful. The chicken pot pie had endured enough heat to SOLAR power the entire house. Seriously. Oh well, I decided to call it a loss and went back to nap. Foster never allows me to nap anymore and I love a good nap, especially when my dreams are so interesting. I’m so glad someone turned that loud alarm off. Where am I? What is this place? I was so hot. Absolutely scortching. I haven’t thought about this since I was in second grade but at that moment…all I wanted was a gallon of strawberry lime koolAIDE. That would have really quinched my thirst. Ahh, to be in second grade again. Right now, I am sure I’m in hell. There is no place on earth as hot as this. My natually CURLy hair soon became the tightest of jerry curls and I am wondering who I TREATed so badly to deserve being here. Where are the windows? Is there any fresh air? I am in hell and it smells horrible. The FUMEs are like burned chicken pot pie. Really? I started to think about my life and how I used to ACT. My grandmother always told me that He kept a list. Like Santa??, I would ask. Really, a list? So everytime I did something bad, it would get written in the great list above. The shorter the list, the better for you. I guess my list was pretty long. Because apparently I’m in hell and DAMNED here forever. At that moment I remembered how much I hated being cold on earth. I could never have lived in Vermont or Minnesota. I could not have been the one who shoveled snow everyday or have frozen nose hairs just walking from the house to the car. I never was a fan of chewing ICE. I didn’t even like crushed ice because I hated how I couldn’t take a sip of my drink without getting ice with it! However, it’s funny how much we take for granted when we find ourselves in a situation that is so extremely opposite. I would give anything for something cold. Frozen, wet, icicles ….anything would be so good. I wonder who could possibly be calling me in hell. Ring…ring….ring….ring….I wish someone would answer the phone. THE PHONE?!!!

  3. The first thing I needed to do was disable the ALARM system to the grounds of the residence, to gain access to my target as he slumbered in blissful ignorance unaware of the contract on his life. For all the security measures, staff, cameras, light sensors, locks and the aforementioned alarm, he still was not SAFE from a ronin like me. I had spent years as a retainer for Toyama – San and I had never failed him in the dispatching of his enemies. It was not easy for an American, a gaijin like me, to become the trusted retainer for a Yakuza Daimyo like Toyama, but my technique and efficiency in releasing people from their bodily prisons was without compare. Besides, Toyama enjoyed the extra little details I would leave at the scene for conveying the message to any other prospective usurpers that Toyama was not to be challenged. The POEM that I would leave with each set of remains was beginning to draw public attention to multiple deaths of notorious crime figures on the Pacific coast. The California press was referring to me as the “Haiku Killer,” but no one seemed bothered by the deaths of these men and their legions of underbosses. Anyway, I digress, back to the main course as tonight’s ENTRÉE was Gravano’s soul and I needed to find a way in to take it from him. That’s when I noticed the SOLAR panels on the roof of the mansion, like a field of mirrors reflecting the starlight back into space. With solar power, there is an automatic system bypass to the grid and to the various items including the alarm systems that are dependent on the panels for power. A short circuit loop and reroute and I could temporarily bypass the alarm and enter the residence from the solar panel service access on the roof. I timed the security camera sweeps and leaped into the large oak beside the residence and began my slow ascent to the top. Once I reached the upper level of the house, I launched my silent clad grappling hook into the recesses of the roof structures, seeking purchase for my brief flight through the night air. Seconds later I was on the roof, the solar grid looped to disable the alarm, the roof hatch opened, and I was inside. Having memorized the builder’s plans on file with the city permitting office, I needed to orient myself within the residence and locate the master bedroom. Just then I heard voices, it was Gravano and his principal AIDE Salvatore’. They had been alerted to the malfunction in the security system. This place was going to be crawling with security, or at least what passes for security in Gravano’s underworld kingdom. I decided to make my way to the open atrium in the center of the mansion to CURL up and wait for the security sweeps to die down. Unfortunately, the place was crawling with staff at this point and I was going to have to quickly dispatch a few extra souls on the way. Although not part of the job, the extra kills were my TREAT, a few extra on me for old times sake and to honor my Shidoshi Toyama. One of my victims was discovered as the blood from his disemboweled corpse was running onto the tile from the closet in which I had stashed his remains. Now the place was on full alert, every light on, crawling with security and dogs. I will not harm an animal, but everyone else would need to prepare to die as I was getting restless and starting to FUME over my mis-step with the alarm. So, I went for the heavy artillery, the blow-gun, nothing is more effective than a poison dart to silently dispatch many. Having whittled down the opposition, it was time to ACT and finish the few remaining members of Gravano’s crew before dispatching the man himself. I rose from the atrium and went to the center of the great room and gave my favorite war cry:

    “You are DAMNED, for I am the punishment of God, if you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you!”

    It was all over in a flash, or more appropriately, flashes. Flashes of gunfire, flashes of Katana, flashes of blood on the walls, the floor, the windows and the ceiling. Then it was over, only I remained, Gravano’s head lay before me on the floor, his face still stuck in a silent scream of despair. I meditated until morning and realized it was time to leave, one last stop in the kitchen as I would need ICE to transport Gravano’s head back to Toyama.

    • Brilliant, Ronin. I love it. Thanks for posting this gem of a story. I would gleefully continue reading this book if your post was the first chapter. You must have a background as a Ninja–who knew?

  4. […] (Check out Vol. 1 under the “Games” category to get the gist.) […]

  5. steve martin Says:

    There was alarm at first,
    but then safe ,
    then came cozy,
    before me you were the grace
    of a poem,
    you were the entire entrée,
    the picnic,
    a checkered cloth,
    summer rain,
    solar winds,
    the curl of feet,
    a kiss,
    a little wine,
    the aide of cotton, and blankets,
    you were the whole kickshaw,
    the treat,
    the delicacy,
    and then the fume,
    the accusations,
    the act of indifference,
    and the words,
    like damned ice.

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