Thursday, December 2, 2010

Short, Sick & Inspired?

In an effort to remain pointless.......

Ever write from a prompt? I've done it a few times for fun. In one case, I was given a miniscule time limit (hour or 2?) & 4 words to incorporate into a very short story. The words provided were: Ingredients, mole, windowpane, & ..... sorry, the 4th excapes me. I'm gonna post it below.

So what to do for the topic. Hmmm.... I'm from suburban Philadelphia, truly an inspiring kind of place, for characters especially. It's the home of cheese steaks, throwing snowballs at Santa, cops shooting cats to get them down from trees, & South Philly mobsters with Italian names. Okay, I made that part up about the cops & cats, but, once upon a time 30 years or so ago, the Mayor ordered the police to bomb a house from a helicopter & the fire wiped out most of a neighborhood. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, I jumped back to my roots & the 'good old days' for this very short (BUT NOT YA) story.

And cut me some slack - I needed a break from the kid stuff......

                              A HANDFUL OF INGREDIENTS

The bespectacled little man with the bow tie and bad comb over crossed Callowhill Street and walked toward the converted row home with the battered sign announcing, Ciarlante’s Meats – Best Steak Sandwiches In South Philly. This was his first visit to the City of Brotherly Love and he was anxious to sample the famous specialty that the locals had so enthusiastically recommended. His saliva glands kicked into high gear with anticipation.

A bell jingled overhead as he entered the shop. Behind the meat case stood a fiftyish looking man with a prominent mole staring out from the bridge of his nose, resembling a misplaced third eye. He was thick through the middle and wore a soiled white apron, the name Carmine stitched across the pocket of his grimy shirt. Another man, sitting at a small table along the wall below a no-smoking sign, puffed away on a Lucky Strike. The ashtray overflowed with stale butts and two crumpled packets kept company with one that was newly opened. The little man timidly approached the greasy counter. ‘Three eyes’ stood silent, waiting to take his order.

“Hello. I’ve heard how t-tasty Philadelphia steak sandwiches are and decided t-to t-try one,” he stammered.

“Yeah. So?”

“Uh. Could I get one?”

“One what?”

“A steak sandwich.”

"Fried onions?”

“Uh… if that’s an ingredient that you recommend, certainly.”


“Uh, yes, you know, like a condiment, used to enhance flavor.”

“I know what ingredient means. Do I look like some ignorant dipshit?”

Shocked by the surly reply, the man inched backwards. “No no, not at all. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to sound …..”

“Ah, don’t worry ‘boudit. I’m just in a shitty friggin’ mood. So you want dat steak witt?”


“Yeah. Witt.”

“Uh, witt? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that term.”

Carmine shook his head and looked over to the man at the table. “Lou, tell ‘im what’s witt.”

Lou never looked up from his racing form. “Cheese. D’ya want friggin’ cheese witt da steak?”

The man felt sweat beading up across his upper lip. “S.. sure. Cheese. I’d like Swiss cheese please. Yes, Swiss, that would be fine.”

“I knew you was an asshole the minute you walked in da place. We don’t do no Swiss. You get a steak witt American or wittout.” Carmine nodded to the chain smoker, and pointed toward the horrified customer with his thumb. “We need to do somethin’ about dis shithead.”

Shaking, the stranger moved toward the door but found his path blocked by the hulking Lou who shoved him roughly toward the register. Eyes squinting against cigarette smoke; Lou pulled the shade over the cracked window pane and twisted the door lock before flipping the closed sign to face the street.

“Bring the son of a bitch back here so’s I can show ‘im what ingredients go in a cheese steak,” barked Carmine as he moved toward a stainless steel meat slicer.

“You can’t be serious. I…. I didn’t do anything,” pleaded the terrified out-of-towner.

Lou grabbed him around the shoulders with one arm, locked onto his neck with the other, and shoved him behind the counter. Carmine clamped his hand over the man’s puny wrist, and yanked him toward the machine, holding the hand inches from the slicer while he reached for the toggle switch.

“You can’t do this! I’m begging you guys. I’ll give you whatever you want. I won’t call the cops. I swear. I’ll leave and never come back,” he wailed, struggling against the crushing grip of the two thugs.

“I toldja. I’m in a shitty mood today. I gotta do somethin’ to get myself in a better frame of mind. Ain’t nothin’ personal. What’s your name again?” asked Carmine.

“I never said.”

“Well, tell me now shit-for-brains.”

“Chuck. My name’s Chuck. I swear. I’ll leave town right now and keep my mouth shut.”

“Okay Chuck. Hey Louie, maybe we oughtta let ‘im go. I’m feelin’ much better now.”

“Aw c’mon, Carmine, I wanna watch dis guy bleed,” said Lou.

Carmine sighed. “Sorry Chuck. Lou’s been bored lately. I don’t like when he’s bored. Now pay attention ‘cause dis is how we get the first of our four ingreeeeedients.”

Chuck’s screams were stifled by Lou’s forearm as the toggle was flipped. Carmine grinned as he shoved the hand against the spinning blade, working the mechanism in a rhythmic back and forth motion. Paper-thin pieces of the hand filtered through the machine, dropping neatly onto a sheet of bloody wrapping paper. For Chuck, the pain and sight of four-fingered lunchmeat proved unbearable and, as his bladder emptied, he lost consciousness.

“Let’s fry it up n’ make ‘im eat it,” said Lou. “And don’t forget da cheese.”

“Nah. See if he’s carryin’ any cash, then dump his wimpy ass behind the Island Avenue scrap yard. Tell ‘im he keeps his mouth shut, or he’s dead,” Carmine ordered.

Lou knelt beside the maimed customer, extracted a billfold and stared at the man’s ID. “Dis ain’t good Carmine. Da son of a bitch works for the IRS.”

The butcher ripped the blood-soaked apron from around his neck and threw it across the counter. “Holy shit!” He leaned against the refrigerated meat case, staring at the floor, thinking of a solution.

The minutes passed and Carmine scratched absently at the repulsive mole. After collecting his thoughts, he looked up and smiled. “Drag him into da back room, Lou. We're gonna run a special tomorrow … on ground Chuck.”