Behind the Short Story: “La Tomatina”

There are rules to the Tomatina.

In their great wisdom, the Spanish have come to publish guidelines for their annual by-the-thousands tomato fight. No whipping soaked tee-shirts as weapons, for one. No throwing shoes or anything of beanball substance. Just squished tomatoes. Those you can throw at anyone in sight. For one hour.

It takes place in Buñol, a small town in Valencia. At 11 a.m. one day each August, 30,000 people–stop and think about that number–crowd into the old town’s cramped plaza and let fly with 145,000kg of squished tomatoes. 145 metric tons. Squished tomatoes, remember, because a whole tomato flung at close quarters is a concussion inbound, if not pushing the non-deadly edge of force. Tomato trucks rumble by, dumping ammo while the palpable hits mount and gutters fill.

At one hour, the horn blows. 30,000 people stop, heart-pumping, sticky, that last unthrown tomato squished in hand. One hour. At 11:59, slopping tomato pulp at someone’s kisser is good fun. At 12:01, it’s assault. At 12:01, you and your fellow combatants Continue reading “Behind the Short Story: “La Tomatina””

Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

You wouldn’t normally associate the Queen of Hearts with thoughtfulness, but Her Mad Majesty is on to something here, at least as it speaks to writers. Our first and most basic task is conceiving, birthing, nurturing–wait for it–a sentence. The noun plus verb kind.

And as Alice found Wonderland, sentence construction isn’t easy. The artiste in you wants Continue reading “Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards”

Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn”

First, a numbness. A chill that says you shouldn’t have gone and bit in, that something wicked this way comes. The heat does not flood in, yet. It builds. The nose starts to run, and your voice catches. Your body knows only to sweat. Because it’s too late to run. With Nashville hot chicken, the flames pause just that moment before they consume.

Prince’s hot chicken, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Lately, hot chicken has gone from cult food to kind of a thing. Even KFC is in on it–not authentically, mind you. Lest you think I’m the latest bandwagoneer, my 2015 “Let It Burn” submission to Alfred Hitchcock  beat KFC to the punch by some months. The publishing world is itself a sweet, slow burn.

 

I digress. Lester, the sorta-hero of “Burn,” describes hot chicken thusly: Continue reading “Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn””

One Half of an Awkward Conversation: Table for Mr. Sinatra

Good evening, sir. A big ring-a-ding-ding to you, too. And mademoiselle! Welcome to Toots Shor’s. Yes, quite a swinging clam-bake tonight. I hear it always is.

Table for two? I see. We’ve nothing just now. Perhaps for quite some time.

Yes, I’m sure you are ready to wet your whistles. Unfortunately, as you say, the clams are really baking, aren’t they? What name shall I put your party under?

Could you spell that for me? S-I-N-A-P-R-A. Mr. Sinapra, if I could just get you to step aside–

Oh, Sina-TRA, is it? I beg your pardon. As you can see, Mr. Sinatra, we’re rather busy at the moment. Friday night, all of Midtown swinging. So have a seat, and I’ll call you when—

Seated now? I’m terribly sorry, sir. It’s quite impossible. These good people ahead of you have been waiting– Continue reading “One Half of an Awkward Conversation: Table for Mr. Sinatra”