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Ketchup Confessions

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Old 06-15-2010, 02:27 PM
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Here we go again with a fun little piece of about 1800 words. Just started writing one day with no clear direction and this came out...


"Hey, pal, you gonna hog that ketchup all day?"

The question belonged to a round roly-poly of a man in a sweat stained but very expensive business suit and it broke Albert out of a fitful daze.

"No, take it already," he replied, handing over the bottle of Heinz like it had suddenly turned into an electric eel and was about to eat his hand.

Of course Albert did not want the stupid ketchup and could not for the life of him imagine why he had picked it up and held it so long in the first place. For that matter, could not fathom why he had stopped to eat at such a greasy roadside diner at 3:33 AM on a Saturday.
He needed some sleep and fast. He was desperate for it, needed it more than food and certainly more than he needed processed tomato paste.

Why was I holding the ketchup? He wondered to himself as he shoved his head in the crook of his folded arms. I hate ketchup!

"Hey, buddy, you want the ketchup back?" It was the well-dressed roly-poly again. "You feeling okay? You look like your cat just died or something…"

"Fine," Albert managed in a low growl, never looking up. "I’m just peachy."

"Okay, no need to get snippy fella, I was just asking. You just got the same expression on your face my Uncle Sal used to get when he passed a kidney stone…maybe you should order something to eat it might make you feel better."

"Somehow I doubt it," Albert replied sarcastically.
"Methinks the roaches in this city would not eat the food that they serve here…"

The man must have thought it was a joke and laughed. Tiny specks of the grits and scrambled eggs he had been eating flew from his mouth and soiled Albert’s own conservative suit and tie.

Albert wanted to gag. Who puts ketchup on grits and eggs?

"I’ve been eating breakfast here for nearly ten years and it hasn’t done me any harm."

"Obviously."

"Stella is a great cook even if she is a hundred-years-old and half blind. You should try her bacon-cheese omelet it’s her specialty!"

"No thanks, I’ll pass."

Mr. Roly chuckled, "pass out is more like it. You sick or something? There is a bug going around, I hear, and this humidity is just so ripe for something like that hit you."

"No I am not sick!" Albert was getting angry now. Aside from the infamous octogenarian cook, Stella, he and the fat man were the diner’s only occupants.

He looked him right in his plump face and cried, "And what is it with people and this never-ending myth about a ‘bug’ going around? God forbid that someone should get sick or even look sick and some ignorant yokel is fated to sit next to him and declare it to be the product of some mysterious ‘bug’ that is making rounds and taking prisoners."

"Well, excuse me for living…I…"

"What is your problem, anyway? Do I look like your long-lost best chum? Or am I just some random victim you picked to steal ketchup from and then drive insane with your bottomless prattle?"

"I did not steal your ketchup!" Specks of grits and eggs flying again as the man got up to leave. "It is not your ketchup to begin with! Son, you need therapy!"

It was Albert’s turn to laugh, "That may be the most intelligent observation your mouth has so far managed to utter."

Without another word, the man paid his check and exited the diner in a huff. Stella shot Albert a disapproving glare and then went about her business de-greasing a deep fryer that looked to be twice as worn and ancient than its owner.

Sleep. He wanted to go home and sleep the sleep of a thousand hours and forget that the last day had ever come to life. The sweet slumber of the sandman called to him like a siren in a dangerous fog, but he knew he could not, would not, find its welcome embrace before he dealt with the demons that possessed his mind.

Why was I holding that stupid bottle of ketchup?

Albert had spent the whole of the previous Friday in the futile search for a job, any job, as long as it paid enough to help keep the bill collectors at bay and his wife satisfied that he was trying to do something "decent" with his life. Of course, since losing the latest candidate in his quest to "find the worst employment possible in the world," Albert was all out of ideas and energy.

Let that nag support us for awhile, he thought quietly. She makes more baking cookies than I could earn killing myself for minimum wage at some deadbeat job. Why did I marry her anyway? Sure wasn’t for love

"You ordering or not?" Stella’s shrill, thin voice called to Albert from behind a flimsy white chef’s uniform. The phrase "Miss S" was written with a red marker on the top right corner of a rainbow-stained apron.

Startled by her sudden appearance Albert squealed, jumped to his feet, and immediately attempted to collect himself. He knew it would have seemed comical to any onlooker having allowed an old biddy like that scare him so severely.

She added, "What you come in here for if you ain’t going to eat?"

"I…I…" he found himself oddly at a loss for words, and such a thing never happened to him. "I need to go to the bathroom…"

"Well, hell, I ain’t stopping you, boy!" She pointed a bony finger towards a short row of table-booths and said, "The can is back around the corner there and its clean, I just cleaned it good no more than an hour ago."

"Th-thanks," Albert mumbled, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his palm as he headed to the restroom. Once inside, he shut the door, flipped on the light and locked himself in.

Amazingly, while it only had a single sink, mirror and one tiny toilet it was immaculately clean and very tidy. Albert had to take a moment and wish his own bathroom at home was kept so pristine.

He turned on a cold spray of water and attempted to wash the nervous weariness from his face. As he looked in the shiny square mirror over the sink he saw the beaten features of a middle-aged man past his prime staring back at him. Now, for the first time in his adult life since he could remember, he wanted to cry. Not simply let tears flow down his cheeks in a cleansing shower, but just open the floodgates and bawl his freaking head off.

"I am a man now," he chided his reflection gently. "My Father’s only son and his stout pride and joy…I can’t cry…I am man now…"

Nevertheless, the tears did fall from his dark brown eyes and he let them. Lost in the throes of the sheer and sudden sorrow, Albert was at a loss to discern the source of the never ending torrent.

The ketchup…I’m forgetting something important about the ketchup…

A man should never allow himself to cry! His Father’s booming voice echoed in his mind, sending thoughts of the popular red condiment far from his consciousness. It was an old motto and way of thinking that the retired Army Colonel had engrained into his being throughout his first eighteen years of life. A real man does not cry because it represents a lack of character and dignity unbecoming to any son of mine!

Albert sobbed meekly, "I can’t help it, Sir, I don’t know why…I…"

Button it up, boy! You are not a man if you cannot control your emotions!

"I’m completely worthless…I can’t keep a job…I’m miserable all the time…and I just want to crawl in a black hole and quit breathing…"

Son, there is nothing wrong with you a good, stiff drink and a kick in the rear wouldn’t cure! You have always been found lacking in focus and initiative!

"But the ketchup, Daddy…"

The voice answered, forget the insignificant crap! It means absolutely nothing!

His grief slowly beginning to subside, Albert fell to his knees beside the sink and gripped the edge of the toilet to keep his balance. He said, "You don’t know what I have been through…you never did…never listened to a word I had to say if it did not involve good grades, football or discipline…"

I did my best by you even after your Mother died! She spoiled you those first ten years that was the problem, catered to your every whimper and trivial wish!

"You are not allowed to talk about my Mother," Albert replied angrily to the porcelain titled floor, a floor so clean he could literally eat off it. "If anyone deserved to die violently in a car accident it was you, old man! She was the one supposed to live to a ripe old age and die a peaceful death of natural causes…"

Control those emotions right this minute, boy!

"No! Leave me alone! You are not real…you’re just a voice in my head and I control you!"

I am always going to be here! You cannot rid yourself of me so easily!

"Go away!"

And just like that, the voice of his past disappeared and Albert managed to gather himself enough to leave the bathroom. Inside the diner a few scattered customers now held Stella’s attention and Albert slipped out the front without pause.

Sleep, he silently considered inwardly, all I need is a few good hours of sleep.

He thought about sleep and nothing else but sleep the entire thirty-minute drive home. Once home, he collapsed on the couch and hoped quietly he had not caused enough noise to wake his dear wife from her early morning slumber. She would just have too many questions that he did not have the answer to and then the nagging would really commence.

Ketchup…ketchup…ketchup, was the last notion that entered his mind before he closed his eyes to surrender to the sandman’s call. Then, as if poked with a cattle prod juiced-up with a room full of batteries, he jerked fully awake and got up to head back into town.

"She told me to get a bottle of ketchup this morning before I left," he sighed putting on his coat and walked towards the garage. "She’s going to kill me…"

Sliding the keys into the ignition of his brown 1994 Camry he thought, I hate ketchup! A real man would never forget to buy ketchup!

Once again, his Father’s voice spoke up.

A real man wouldn't let his wife boss him around either! Tell her to buy her own stinking ketchup!

"I seem to recall you doing anything Mom told you to do without question."

That…that was different…your Mother was a saint, one in a trillion

"Sure, old man, that’s what they all say."

Then the voice that had so long permeated his thoughts, so infected his decision making abilities, and had scarred him for life grew silent. With a renewed sense of energy and vigor Albert managed a half-hearted smile as he drove.

"I definitely hate ketchup, but I love it when I win an argument with myself!

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Last edited by ScribblerKing; 06-16-2010 at 08:20 AM..
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  #2  
Old 06-15-2010, 04:57 PM
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Cute. I like that. The internal battle, seemingly insignificant, yet very significant.

I caught a typo. A real man wouldn't let his wife boss him around either!

Very good. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:53 PM
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I liked it for the same reasons as B. Milliken.

I also caught a typo, should read "Albert fell to his knees beside the sink"
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Old 06-16-2010, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by ScribblerKing View Post
Here we go again with a fun little piece of about 1800 words. Just started writing one day with no clear direction and this came out...


"Hey, pal, you gonna hog that ketchup all day?"

The question belonged to a round roly-poly of a man in a sweat stained but very expensive business suit and it broke Albert out of a fitful daze.

"No, take it already," he replied, handing over the bottle of Heinz like it had suddenly turned into an electric eel and was about to eat his hand.

Of course Albert did not want the stupid ketchup and could not for the life of him imagine why he had picked it up and held it so long in the first place. For that matter, could not fathom why he had stopped to eat at such a greasy roadside diner at 3:33 AM on a Saturday.
He needed some sleep and fast. He was desperate for it, needed it more than food and certainly more than he needed processed tomato paste.

Why was I holding the ketchup? He wondered to himself as he shoved his head in the crook of his folded arms. I hate ketchup!

"Hey, buddy, you want the ketchup back?" It was the well-dressed roly-poly again. "You feeling okay? You look like your cat just died or something…"

"Fine," Albert managed in a low growl, never looking up. "I’m just peachy."

"Okay, no need to get snippy fella, I was just asking. You just got the same expression on your face my Uncle Sal used to get when he passed a kidney stone…maybe you should order something to eat it might make you feel better."

"Somehow I doubt it," Albert replied sarcastically.
"Methinks the roaches in this city would not eat the food that they serve here…"

The man must have thought it was a joke and laughed. Tiny specks of the grits and scrambled eggs he had been eating flew from his mouth and soiled Albert’s own conservative suit and tie.

Albert wanted to gag. Who puts ketchup on grits and eggs?

"I’ve been eating breakfast here for nearly ten years and it hasn’t done me any harm."

"Obviously."

"Stella is a great cook even if she is a hundred-years-old and half blind. You should try her bacon-cheese omelet it’s her specialty!"

"No thanks, I’ll pass."

Mr. Roly chuckled, "pass out is more like it. You sick or something? There is a bug going around, I hear, and this humidity is just so ripe for something like that hit you."

"No I am not sick!" Albert was getting angry now. Aside from the infamous octogenarian cook, Stella, he and the fat man were the diner’s only occupants.

He looked him right in his plump face and cried, "And what is it with people and this never-ending myth about a ‘bug’ going around? God forbid that someone should get sick or even look sick and some ignorant yokel is fated to sit next to him and declare it to be the product of some mysterious ‘bug’ that is making rounds and taking prisoners."

"Well, excuse me for living…I…"

"What is your problem, anyway? Do I look like your long-lost best chum? Or am I just some random victim you picked to steal ketchup from and then drive insane with your bottomless prattle?"

"I did not steal your ketchup!" Specks of grits and eggs flying again as the man got up to leave. "It is not your ketchup to begin with! Son, you need therapy!"

It was Albert’s turn to laugh, "That may be the most intelligent observation your mouth has so far managed to utter."

Without another word, the man paid his check and exited the diner in a huff. Stella shot Albert a disapproving glare and then went about her business de-greasing a deep fryer that looked to be twice as worn and ancient than its owner.

Sleep. He wanted to go home and sleep the sleep of a thousand hours and forget that the last day had ever come to life. The sweet slumber of the sandman called to him like a siren in a dangerous fog, but he knew he could not, would not, find its welcome embrace before he dealt with the demons that possessed his mind.

Why was I holding that stupid bottle of ketchup?

Albert had spent the whole of the previous Friday in the futile search for a job, any job, as long as it paid enough to help keep the bill collectors at bay and his wife satisfied that he was trying to do something "decent" with his life. Of course, since losing the latest candidate in his quest to "find the worst employment possible in the world," Albert was all out of ideas and energy.

Let that nag support us for awhile, he thought quietly. She makes more baking cookies than I could earn killing myself for minimum wage at some deadbeat job. Why did I marry her anyway? Sure wasn’t for love

"You ordering or not?" Stella’s shrill, thin voice called to Albert from behind a flimsy white chef’s uniform. The phrase "Miss S" was written with a red marker on the top right corner of a rainbow-stained apron.

Startled by her sudden appearance Albert squealed, jumped to his feet, and immediately attempted to collect himself. He knew it would have seemed comical to any onlooker having allowed an old biddy like that scare him so severely.

She added, "What you come in here for if you ain’t going to eat?"

"I…I…" he found himself oddly at a loss for words, and such a thing never happened to him. "I need to go to the bathroom…"

"Well, hell, I ain’t stopping you, boy!" She pointed a bony finger towards a short row of table-booths and said, "The can is back around the corner there and its clean, I just cleaned it good no more than an hour ago."

"Th-thanks," Albert mumbled, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his palm as he headed to the restroom. Once inside, he shut the door, flipped on the light and locked himself in.

Amazingly, while it only had a single sink, mirror and one tiny toilet it was immaculately clean and very tidy. Albert had to take a moment and wish his own bathroom at home was kept so pristine.

He turned on a cold spray of water and attempted to wash the nervous weariness from his face. As he looked in the shiny square mirror over the sink he saw the beaten features of a middle-aged man past his prime staring back at him. Now, for the first time in his adult life since he could remember, he wanted to cry. Not simply let tears flow down his cheeks in a cleansing shower, but just open the floodgates and bawl his freaking head off.

"I am a man now," he chided his reflection gently. "My Father’s only son and his stout pride and joy…I can’t cry…I am man now…"

Nevertheless, the tears did fall from his dark brown eyes and he let them. Lost in the throes of the sheer and sudden sorrow, Albert was at a loss to discern the source of the never ending torrent.

The ketchup…I’m forgetting something important about the ketchup…

A man should never allow himself to cry! His Father’s booming voice echoed in his mind, sending thoughts of the popular red condiment far from his consciousness. It was an old motto and way of thinking that the retired Army Colonel had engrained into his being throughout his first eighteen years of life. A real man does not cry because it represents a lack of character and dignity unbecoming to any son of mine!

Albert sobbed meekly, "I can’t help it, Sir, I don’t know why…I…"

Button it up, boy! You are not a man if you cannot control your emotions!

"I’m completely worthless…I can’t keep a job…I’m miserable all the time…and I just want to crawl in a black hole and quit breathing…"

Son, there is nothing wrong with you a good, stiff drink and a kick in the rear wouldn’t cure! You have always been found lacking in focus and initiative!

"But the ketchup, Daddy…"

The voice answered, forget the insignificant crap! It means absolutely nothing!

His grief slowly beginning to subside, Albert fell to his needs beside the sink and gripped the edge of the toilet to keep his balance. He said, "You don’t know what I have been through…you never did…never listened to a word I had to say if it did not involve good grades, football or discipline…"

I did my best by you even after your Mother died! She spoiled you those first ten years that was the problem, catered to your every whimper and trivial wish!

"You are not allowed to talk about my Mother," Albert replied angrily to the porcelain titled floor, a floor so clean he could literally eat off it. "If anyone deserved to die violently in a car accident it was you, old man! She was the one supposed to live to a ripe old age and die a peaceful death of natural causes…"

Control those emotions right this minute, boy!

"No! Leave me alone! You are not real…you’re just a voice in my head and I control you!"

I am always going to be here! You cannot rid yourself of me so easily!

"Go away!"

And just like that, the voice of his past disappeared and Albert managed to gather himself enough to leave the bathroom. Inside the diner a few scattered customers now held Stella’s attention and Albert slipped out the front without pause.

Sleep, he silently considered inwardly, all I need is a few good hours of sleep.

He thought about sleep and nothing else but sleep the entire thirty-minute drive home. Once home, he collapsed on the couch and hoped quietly he had not caused enough noise to wake his dear wife from her early morning slumber. She would just have too many questions that he did not have the answer to and then the nagging would really commence.

Ketchup…ketchup…ketchup, was the last notion that entered his mind before he closed his eyes to surrender to the sandman’s call. Then, as if poked with a cattle prod juiced-up with a room full of batteries, he jerked fully awake and got up to head back into town.

"She told me to get a bottle of ketchup this morning before I left," he sighed putting on his coat and walked towards the garage. "She’s going to kill me…"

Sliding the keys into the ignition of his brown 1994 Camry he thought, I hate ketchup! A real man would never forget to buy ketchup!

Once again, his Father’s voice spoke up.

A real man would let his wife boss him around either! Tell her to buy her own stinking ketchup!

"I seem to recall you doing anything Mom told you to do without question."

That…that was different…your Mother was a saint, one in a trillion

"Sure, old man, that’s what they all say."

Then the voice that had so long permeated his thoughts, so infected his decision making abilities, and had scarred him for life grew silent. With a renewed sense of energy and vigor Albert managed a half-hearted smile as he drove.

"I definitely hate ketchup, but I love it when I win an argument with myself!
The humor is great because it is a fast paced story that teases the characters involved in the story, making them look like other people we see and try to get cheeky with. The actual style is also, as another critic said, cute.

The only draw back is that it was too long for the pace. If you split it down into three sections people could put it down for a refill of coffee or something like that. I found the energy did not go, but it was too long.

It is realistic and reminds me of a simply drawn Disney style cartoon. It is economical and doesn't let anything go to waste, so if you want to turn this into a book you will do well.

Now, it is spotless, but seeing as how it should be split into sections so it doesn't exhaust the reader who rips through the story at a pace, well, let's leave it at prosperous. Trust me, ask someone to read the first ten paragraphs and give an opinion, then read the rest all at once. Their rating will drop too, but hey I shouldn't be telling people their stories are too long... the hippo calling the elephant fat, no?
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  #5  
Old 06-16-2010, 08:27 AM
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Thank you B.Milliken and Chazz for the heads up on the errors...we all make 'em and that's why editing it never truly finished...

Charlatan: I agree it is a bit long but I do so like the humor and pace here and discourse between regular folk is my favorite device to indulge in. I think short fiction is much like an essay in such as it should have a beginning, middle and end but pacing and the attention span of your reader is difficult to predict. I prefer this simple straight-forward style where real people deal with situations in a real way...

I do thank you for the insight and will have to runinate on that for awhile...I don't see this turning into a book length idea but who knows...
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