Sexism and Hot Stovetops

The wafting aroma of cooking vegetables summoned her from the door to the back kitchen, where she stopped, abruptly.

The dark outline of his form-fitting wetsuit – he seemed to live in the thing – gave the impression of him in silhouette, except for the visible shift of muscle as he traded his balance from one bare foot to the other. It created all sort of fascinating dips and rises, stealing her attention from shoulders to bum to legs…then back to bum again.

“Yummy,” she said, mostly under her breath, but he turned, that familiar roguish smile curling up.

“Want to try some?” he asked, proffering her the steaming contents of the wooden spoon in his hand.

With a delighted cringe of her shoulders, she bounced over, already holding up her hands to catch any spill. “What is it?”

“Fresh vegetable barley soup,” he said with a touch of pride.

She hummed, equally pleased. Crunchy courgette; plump mushrooms; tender, springy barley. And was that bit of saltiness…Worcestershire? “That’s good! Who made it?”

His grin dissolved. “What you mean?” he said, as his deep-set eyes went dark. “I made it!”

“No,” she said, chuckling. “Really.”

“Yes, really. It’s my mum’s recipe.” He straightened up, to look down his nose at her. “What? You think I can’t cook, just because I’m a bloke?”

“No. I don’t think you can cook because you’re a brah,” she said, exaggerating the surfer term of camaraderie with a sneer.

“That’s sexist.”

She scoffed. “You’re the one wearing the apron that says, ‘Will Cook for Sex.’ And you’re accusing me?”

He turned round to the stove again, grumbling, “I’ve spent the last hour and a half slaving over a hot range for you, and this is the thanks I get.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she cooed, winding her arms about his waist.

“No, no. I’ll go replace the transmission in the car, then grab a few pints with my mates before I kill something for supper on my way home. ‘Cause, apparently, that’s all men are good for, in your world.”

Nestling her nose into the space between his shoulders, she rolled her eyes. “There’s no need to be melodramatic. I said, I was sorry.” She gave him a little squeeze, pressing herself close to him. “Your soup’s quite good. I’d like some.”

He half-turned, looking over his shoulder at her; that smile was back again. “Yeah?”

She nodded, loosing her hold only just to let him shift fully around, so they were chest-to-chest. Then, needling one finger between the Os on the apron, she snickered and said, “So, you’re good at one. What about the other?”

-photo by bonusparts-

-photo by bonusparts-

A bit of free writing, to help myself get back into the writing/blogging sphere. And, while this isn’t exactly the right weather for it, a version of the indeed-quite-yummy vegetable barley soup mentioned in the scene above, for those of you looking for something other than my tired old relationship stories:

Maggie Finch’s Vegetable and Barley Soup

Ingredients (use fresh whenever possible!):

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini/courgette, sliced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I like A L’Olivier’s brand)
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (divided into 7 cups and 1 cup)
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro/coriander
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (also available vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

In large saucepan, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic; sautee until translucent (3-5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sautee until soft (~4 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Mix in 7 cups vegetable broth, mushrooms, zucchini, lentils, barley, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ~1 hour or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy.

Blend in remaining broth, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper (if you like). Simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove bay leaf and serve, with parsley or cilantro garnish. (Goes great with warm rustic bread!)

* * *

What’s nice about a meal like this is you can be rather free with the ingredient quantities. For example, I like zucchini, so I’ll chop 2 instead of just 1. Same with the barley, which my family loves: I always put in at least an extra 1/4 cup. To stretch this out a bit, there’s also no harm in adding some extra water or broth…or even a bit of leftover brisket!

As for the story scene, I suppose there are some rather serious gender issues proposed therein. But the characters didn’t seem to want to dwell on them, so I didn’t, either.

Writing, writing, writing… What are you writing?

Just a Mouth

I know, I know: I had reserved Saturdays for original fiction posts. Shame on me for breaking my own rule.

I hadn’t planned on doing any of the writing prompts this week, because none of them immediately grabbed me. But, while I was writing a “real” chapter, the scene below came to me. It’s back story, I suppose, of an alternate-universe sort. Or, maybe it really did happen; I can’t decide. At any rate, both Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday word bank and Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt (DESOLATE) conspired with my evil little brain to create this. I didn’t keep things to five sentences, so I can’t submit to Lillie’s link list, but I wanted to give her some credit for getting the juices flowing.

Warning: Sensitive situations included below. Nothing graphic, but I’d suggest not clicking if you’re uncomfortable with descriptions of sexuality.

Just-a-MouthI’m slowly returning to normal with this blog. Hopefully, you haven’t already left me behind! Though, I guess if you have done, you won’t be reading this, anyway, so the hopes are moot. I’ve got a conference and an awards thing to do over the next two weeks, but, after that, I’m looking to get back in the thick of things.

Did you write from any prompts, this week? Which ones? Feel free to link to them in the comments, because I’d love to check them out!

A Little Sliver of Nirvana

“A Little Sliver of Nirvana”

Another 20-minute effort, funkified with Photoshop

Another 20-minute effort, funkified with Photoshop

Wading through the sea of boozehounds and whores pressing flesh and passing money, an unending rolling tide of vice and greed, he settled in to the corner booth, the one with the well-worn center cushion seat and the uneven grooves in the grain where metal stiletto heels had tread for too many nights. He clicked the control pad beside his seat, prompting the silencing swish of the heavy velvet shroud, and sat back, closing his eyes in the dim dank, to wait.

A flutter of music – high winds with low brass, though more than that he couldn’t tell – made him breathe deep, the scent of soap and lilies filling his nose, erasing the thick stench of sweat and despair. And, looking up, now, he saw her: legs shifting, hips rolling, belly and breasts shining with some invisible light; arms swaying, hair swinging, lips and eyes focused on him, holding him in the trance of her magic-making for as long as they both could stand it, this little sliver of Nirvana.

Slowing at the whisper of the final chords, she frowned, reaching out to him – forbidden, but she’d never cared – to touch his face, when he grabbed her wrist with one hand and slapped the other on the space of table between them, around a treasured bundle of cash, and murmured, “Marry me, now?”

NewFSFBadge-1Today’s original fiction piece inspired by this week’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, “CHARMED,” from Lillie McFerrin.

I wrote this entry on my morning commute on Friday, so it’s about 20 minutes’ worth of concentration and typing. I didn’t bother with any editing or refining. I’m not making any apologies for it, either. I’ve decided that, if a prompt doesn’t inspire an idea within 5 minutes, I let it pass. If I do get an idea but I can’t make it materialize properly in 30 minutes, I set it aside in my ever-growing “Random” folder. No offense intended to the folks posting these lovely prompts – or those participating more fully than I’m doing – but I want to concentrate on my larger writing goals. For me, this plan is a nice balance.

Do be sure to visit Lillie’s site for more Five Sentence Fiction submissions, though, and for other flash fiction goodness!

How do you balance between all the stories in your head?

"Even in the Dark" [FSF]

NewFSFBadge-1I want to get back into free writing and challenges, and Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction this week seemed to be a good way to do it. Lillie’s prompt this time was “SHADOWS” – you can follow the link to read some of the other takes on this inspiring word.

While walking home from work, the following scene just sort of popped into my head. Some of the characters and details come from an earlier idea I had a long time ago, so they may seem a bit familiar to some of my older readers. Still, it’s always nice when these prompts cause me to revisit a thought-to-be-discarded plot line.

“Even in the Dark”

Castle corridor - geograph.org.uk - 535482

Thomas Nugent [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

He hadn’t come to be known as Sirrus the Grim for nothing: red-bearded mountain clans, dark-skinned islanders, blue-eyed snow walkers – all of them had felt his wrath for their disrespect, howling in the night over their precious poisoned firstborns.

By now, the princess’s royal guard would have found her, still and pale in her bed, for there could be no marriage between sea and cloud, not when his brothers in The Shroud were so close to keeping the king’s blood pure forever.

Prince Alraune might mourn, but he would come to understand: the sea princess was no better than a whore, a troublesome upstart who knew nothing of nobility, who’d already let her guard – her dull, plebeian guard! – take her maidenhead.

Sweeping around a corner, his cloak caught on a jagged edge of stone, and Sirrus tore it loose with a curse beneath his breath; these hidden corridors were unknown to all but Shroud, but he couldn’t waste a moment to return to the prince’s side, to keep his secrets intact-

A hand shot out from the umbra, grasping his neck, and the face of the wave rider princess’s guard filled his vision, snarling, “Even in the dark, Lord Sirrus, you cast a long shadow.”

There’s a lot of telling in this attempt, I know. Nonetheless, I rather enjoyed digging into Sirrus’s head, here.

I don’t know if I write villains well; my conflicts tend to be ones out of the characters’ control. I certainly don’t tend to look at stories from the villain’s perspective, though perhaps I should reconsider that, since his voice spoke to me with this one.

Did you poke your head into any SHADOWS, this week? Do you write villains? Have you ever written from the villain’s perspective? Why, or why not?

The lost art of conversation. [FSF]

This week, Lillie McFerrin’s prompt for her Five Sentence Fiction challenge is “WORDS.”

I went a few different ways with this prompt, at first…though, my initial flash fiction idea – while based on a true story – pushed the vulgarity a bit too much than I like to do for a public challenge. So, this little vignette, taken from the early days of Fearless:

Orion startrails window

By AstroHurricane001 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The loss of artful conversation”

Stretched upon the sand, beneath a canopy of stars, with the rhythm of the rolling current nearby, the lads often turned reflective.

“I think,” Neville mused softly, “with all this technology, and the culture of instant messaging, mankind’s lost the skill of artful conversation, like the poetry that used to exist in the days of Shakespeare, or Milton: what happened to that, where’s all that gone?”

With his head laid in the pillow of Amber’s lap and soothed by both the sound of waves and the gentle drift of her fingers through his hair, Ross hummed, and murmured, “There might be something to that. But,” he added, his gaze finding Amber’s as he opened his eyes again, “for some things, I don’t think you need conversation.”

That settled the lads for a long minute, until Niall sniffed, and declared:

“I’m gonna bring back ‘rad.’”

I’ve spoken on this blog about making art with words before, so I don’t think it needs repeating. I do often wonder, as Neville does, if the immediacy of communication hasn’t taken away some power of words, though. When was the  last time we made efforts to write real letters, rather than emails, or instant messages on a phone?

Or, perhaps, I’m just waxing nostalgic, and that old power of lyricism in dialogue has been replaced by something else. What do you think? How do WORDS speak to you?

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