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Creative Nonfiction Drama Funny

The flight has been delayed another 30 minutes. Outside, the clouds are more like thick winter comforters than summer throw blankets. Renee Luke looks at the clock. She thinks there might be just enough time to get a meal in before she has to give the next update to the passengers. Behind the desk she squeezes a fresh lemon over her chicken piccata. The capers swim in small wading pools of butter atop the perfectly browned chicken. Renee’s nose is tingling. She looks around anxiously. Eating in public makes her nervous. Like a ripple effect, a few heads and noses move instinctively in her direction; a redhead next to her wrinkles up her nose, rubbing it aggressively with her sleeve, as if that will rid of the smell. 

Fabuloso?

Marguerite Carroll smells the Embassy Suites. She recalls the fresh linen and the constant bickering with her amicable but irritating co-worker Mandy Flores. She thinks of the long elevator rides home; living in the hotel made work-home separation impossible, and she felt like she was drowning.

Mandy stumbles over the nearly full bottle of Fabuloso on the thinly carpeted floor. Her spotless white sketchers are hit with a wave of cleaner, and it quickly coats the trail of wires coming from the side of the TV.

“Shitshitshitshitshit,” Marguerite catapults herself across the room, towel in hand, mostly stopping the liquid before it travels to the lamp cords. She rubs the carpet ferociously, back and forth and back and forth, until she sees the pattern blurring ever-so-slightly—that’s her cue to stop. She wipes beads of sweat off of her forehead and temples, looking up at the ceiling as if to ask for divine intervention. That’s when Mandy’s hand slips off of her mouth and she lets out a shrill giggle.

It reeks strongly of sweet, chemically enhanced lemon in the room as the two women with their bulky cart. Marguerite is taking her lunch break when she hears the squeaky footsteps of Boris Waters behind her. 

“A woman in room 504 is complaining of migraine due to strong chemical smells,” Boris starts, raising his eyebrow at Marguerite. “Do you know anything about this?”

She swallows the tortilla chip a little too quickly, and it cuts her throat when it goes down. She coughs loudly. “Some cleaner was spilled, but it was nothing dangerous.”

“We can’t have people leaving this place with migraines,” Boris went on, “and you and Flores have a record of being careless like this. I’m going to let you and Flores have some time off…” There goes her chance at promotion. And weeks of counting pennies and eating rice and beans, placing IOU notes in her landlord’s mailbox. Please, please, just one more week…

She feels her fists clench and thigh muscles tighten in response to the memory. She scrunches up her nose, shaking herself from this flashback. She looks over to see the front desk worker munching away on her lunch. She is grounded with reality again. She’s not working for the Embassy Suites anymore. And today she’s flying on a plane for the first time in her life, at age 52. She smiles. 

Limoncello?

Matteo Olivera smells his first alcoholic beverage. He tries not to smile like a fool in the airport, where strangers can see him and assume he might be thinking about something perverted. 

Uncle Marocchini grins and slides a tiny silver cup across the table to him. Matteo’s mom frowns in disproval. Matteo is only 16, but the relatives don’t mind. In fact, they're all watching with amusement as he inspects the beverage he’s been given.

The liquid is bitter, sickeningly sweet, and revolting, all at the same time. Matteo forces himself to swallow the whole amount in one swig. His mom gasps at this, her hand flying to her chest, while his uncle cheers loudly, clapping. 

His smile fades when the deep hum of the rain outside becomes more of a shrill pouring. He’s on the way to Michigan, and summers in Venice are a thing of the past.

Luna Bars?

Jay Marquez smells Melinda Ivy.

He can almost feel the creamy, icing-like texture of the bottom layer of the bar on his tongue as the smell fills up his nostrils. He can taste the sugary, crispy oats and zesty, crunchy bites if he zones out the crying children and rolling wheels of suitcases around him. 

Melinda slips another Lemon Luna Bar under the door of Jay’s apartment. He doesn't notice it until 2am, when he’s sock-footed in his rusty old kitchen, pouring himself another cup of black coffee and rubbing his temples with his sore wrists. There it is, the familiar bright rectangle. In the midst of all the 30 page papers and case assignments, frantically trying to keep up so that he can participate in class, it’s the one thing he looks forward to. But today, there is a small note on the snack.

It reads: I’m pregnant.

Jay panics. He picks up the snack bar and stares at it for a solid minute, reading 2 words as many times as 2 words can possibly be read in 1 minute. Then he tears the note off, flushes it down the toilet, and throws the bar out the window into the road. The next morning, he manages to convince himself it was never there. As he does the next day, and the next day, and the next…

Jay shakes his head and wonders if he should just leave the airport now. Melinda hates him. Why would his 6 year old daughter, who has never seen him before in her life, feel any differently? He has a fiancé now and shouldn't dig up his past. He gathers his things and runs into the pouring ran before he can change his mind.

Lemon water?

Fia Oaks smells meal replacements and her high school’s hallways. Fia buries her chin in her backpack to try to absorb its comforting smell so that she can shake the memory. But it’s too strong.

She’s 16 years old and an Army Brat. She sits in the back of a rowdy classroom holding a worn, plastic water bottle with a yellow smiley face on it. In her backpack, she has a metal container full of lemons and a bottle of apple cider vinegar. She feels silly when she pours her ingredients into the water bottle and shakes it up in the bathroom stall before 1st period. She also feels a little bit cool, like she’s working on some kind of self improvement project that’s going to make her hotter than everyone else. The first sip of the odd concoction is always the worst; the bitterness everything but consumes Fia’s insides as she puckers her lips and grabs the fat on her leg to remind herself of what she’s working towards.

“Can I get a bathroom pass?” Fia blurts out during the math lesson.

Mrs. Hillhouse is tired of Fia’s requests. “No. Wait until break.”

Fia feels a wave of nausea hit her, as if she has just gone upside down on a rollercoaster. She doubles over in pain and vomits into her purse. 

Her fingers fly to her teeth. The enamel still isn’t right. She runs to the bathroom and hopes she won’t miss the flight.

Sweet tea?

Keely smells summers in Pass Christian, Mississippi with her grandmother, who was really like more of a mom to her. She feels her face get warm with emotion and contemplates which is more full with liquid, the thick clouds outside or her heavy, nostalgic eyes.

The pitcher is filled to the brim. Nanna is so petite that she can barely manage to tote the homemade sweet tea to where Keely sits on the cushioned porch swing. Her hand is shaking just a bit as she pours a generous amount of tea into Keely’s glass. She slides a lemon wedge onto the rim with ease. The first sip is like jumping into the pool on a scalding hot day; the citrusy, tangy liquid hits Keely’s tongue and lingers a while. She never wants to let it fizz out. But Nanna sets a warm plate with a thick slice of homemade apple pie down in front of Keely. The apples are freshly picked and oozing with cinnamon sugar, and the crust is as soft and flaky as a fresh pastry. A scoop of creamy vanilla bean ice cream rests on top, trickling down the sides and pooling in the crevices of the plate that Keely made for Nanna in 2008. It cuts the sharp taste of the lemon just right.

Keely is 28 now. She’s still working as a travel nurse and heading down to Biloxi for 3 months. She’s renting out her Nanna’s old house to live in. She’s backed out 3 times already, worrying that she won’t be able to handle sitting on the front porch alone.

Lemon tree?

Ibrahim Shakir smells the lemon tree in his backyard in San Jose. He looks down at his printed-out ticket, and the corners of his lips turn up slightly. That tree never led to anything but trouble. 

Henry Dang has the idea of building a catapult and shooting jawbreaker candies out of Ibrahim’s bedroom window. Henry’s dad owns a candy store in San Francisco, and he has access to a ready supply of oversized jawbreakers. They’re in 7th grade and out of school for the summer. They manage to construct a contraption that shoots any object smaller than a baseball. They knock 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 lemons out of the tree and one makes it into their bucket they placed on the ground. One, though, travels a little too far and they hear a loud crash. Henry and Ibrahim share a horrified glance. They hide in Henry's room all day, but nothing seems to come of the mistake. At dinner that night, they anxiously pick at their noodles.

"So Mayor McEnery's Audi apparently got hit by a baseball today," Henry's dad marveled.

"I knew Bobby Moore was up to no good," Henry's mom commented, referencing the 6th grader who played travel team baseball and had gotten in trouble for graffiti in the school cafeteria once.

Henry and Ibrahim suppressed a giggle.

At least the memory was something to distract him from the stress of being “randomly chosen” by the TSA earlier. He sighs and thinks of his father, who always told him not to "make a scene" or fight back when these accusations were made. He wonders how much easier it would have been if he looked like Bobby Moore.

It seems as if the plane is now nearly ready to take off. Renee Luke scarfs down the rest of her food and tugs on the microphone by her collar. She jams the top back on the tupperware and hastily wipes the remainder of the chicken piccata from her mouth and chin. She tosses the lemon in the trash can haphazardly. She has no idea that the smell has monopolized the thoughts of the passengers of the flight.

“Ladies and gents, we should be on our way to Detroit in just 30 short minutes…”

September 29, 2020 19:07

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17 comments

Matthew Gregory
05:07 Oct 11, 2020

I loved the story. You're use of simile was very descriptive. 'clouds are more like thick winter comforters than summer throw' not only described the thickness of the clouds, it also describes their appearance, their heaviness, even the season. Its great scene setting. If I did have a criticism it's that you have far too many characters and time jumps in this story to provide the reader with a consistent narrative. It is almost impossible to jump more than two or three times, and cover more than two characters in a short story, and still ...

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Iris Silverman
01:43 Oct 16, 2020

Thank you so much for your compliments and your honest critique of the story. I really appreciate your insight. It makes sense to me what you said about the story having too many characters and it kind of jumping around a lot. I didn't realize this until you pointed it out, though, so it definitely made me think. Definitely appreciate these kinds of comments because I feel like it helps me grow as a writer and confront my weaknesses. Thank you!

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. .
23:05 Oct 05, 2020

This was just soooooooooooooooooooooo good! I feel like I can't even explain how good it is. The characters are loveable, unique and explainable. The storyline was super creative and the word choice was- JUST INSANE!!!! I literally can't wait to see more from you and happy writing -Sel

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Iris Silverman
17:10 Oct 06, 2020

Wow thank you so much! That means the world to me :,) I can't wait to check out more of your stories too

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Charles Stucker
21:43 Sep 30, 2020

In one way, you went over and above, presenting flashback vignettes from a multitude of different people. However that strength also makes this a tale of nothing in particular. If you had focused on one character, it might have gone further, giving the traditional rising tension climax denouement cycle after the inciting moment of smelling the lemon. You have a vivid way of bringing scenes to life, and your voice carries the reader along. As it is, you could make the title, "When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Ratatouille"...

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Iris Silverman
05:16 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you so much for that helpful feedback. I can see what you mean by the story not being about anything in particular. I will definitely focus on one character next time. Thank you for the compliments, and I love that title idea!!

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Lani Lane
00:03 Sep 30, 2020

Hi, Iris! I like the rhythm here of jumping back and forth between present and past, and you made it easy to understand with the normal vs. italicized text. I also enjoyed the multiple flashbacks, instead of just one. Creative and well done! Also, as a clumsy person that swears quite a bit, this is extremely relatable lol: “Shitshitshitshitshit,” Marguerite catapults herself across the room, towel in hand, mostly stopping the liquid before it travels to the lamp cords. Perhaps a thought to make my comment more productive: Try to avoi...

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Iris Silverman
04:32 Sep 30, 2020

I'm so glad to hear that the italics made sense and moved the story along!! I am also an extremely clumsy person. My worst moment was breaking a lamp on my first day of freshman year in high school... yikes! Lol. Thank you for that critique. I will work on using active voice instead of passive! Looking forward to reading more of your submissions as well:)

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Lani Lane
13:22 Sep 30, 2020

I totally feel that..... my first day of an internship last year, I broke some audio equipment. Ugh. Luckily, my boss was super cool about it lol! I always find myself using passive instead of active! Try to work on it, too. :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:58 Sep 29, 2020

WOW, this is one of the coolest stories I've read here. I actually did something similar a while back that featured an ensemble cast like this, but you did a way better job. I can't believe you made every memory and every character feel distinct; the amount of variety was astounding, but for me it was the dad changing his mind about meeting his daughter that hit the hardest. I'm seriously feeling nostalgia for things I've never experienced. Incredible writing, keep it up! :D

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Iris Silverman
22:59 Sep 29, 2020

Ahhh thank you so much! That means a lot to me :,) I would love to check out your story, too. I love reading/writing stories with multiple characters/views.

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Rayhan Hidayat
23:51 Sep 29, 2020

No problem! My story is called “Diemond,” feel free to leave your thoughts 😙

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A.G. Scott
20:26 Sep 29, 2020

Seems like you've got a thing for citrus. This jumps all over the place, but you're very economical with your words and create images that feel full despite their brevity. Only typo I found was 'pouring ran' in place of 'pouring rain.'

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Iris Silverman
22:56 Sep 29, 2020

Now that I think of it, I guess I do mention citrus a lot! Haha. I'm glad the jumping between stories didn't come across as choppy/haphazard for you. Thank you so much for your comment and also for catching that typo!

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Iris Silverman
04:14 Sep 30, 2020

Question: Would any of you guys be interested in a separate story about one of these characters?

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A.G. Scott
04:29 Sep 30, 2020

We're interested if you're interested!

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Shea West
02:30 Oct 04, 2020

Yes! Why hasn't the first character introduced flown until now? How'd she go from housekeeper to flight attendant? (I believe I interpreted that part of the story correctly!😬)

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