Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Homemade Diaster"

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This is the third writing assignment for my 200 Proof Storytelling class with Craig Clevenger.  I was inspired by a cooking incident at Penn State, main campus, during my Junior year.  My goal for this assignment was to write with humor, but I don't think it came across.  I think it was much funnier in my head.  All feedback is welcome.    Enjoy.  



Homemade Disaster
By Laura M. Campbell
The lampposts at the dead end of Beaver Avenue popped on as Ashley walked into the elevator.  The pungent odor, lingering from the weekend, slapped her in the face.  She grabbed the collar of her sweatshirt, using it as a makeshift gas mask.  Drunken assholes mistook the elevator for a Porto-John, pissing all over it, a typical weekend at Penn State.  She tapped her foot as it climbed to the third floor of Gateway III in anticipation of dinner.  Her mother sent a recipe with the last care package, and the homemade meal would be a much-needed break from the Ramen noodles Janelle cooked every night.  The doors slid open.  Stepping out, her foot caught the space between the elevator and floor.  She put her hands up before she slammed her face into the wall.  Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself and brushed the blonde curly hair out of her face.   
     The smell and warmth of the dryers welcomed her home as she made her way down the hallway.  She pulled her keys from her pocket as she approached her door.  As she stepped into the tiny, one bedroom apartment, she saw Janelle in her favorite spot on the couch watching TV. 
“Hey, Nell.”  Ashley threw her book bag on the dining room table, which fell right to the floor, taking a placemat with it.  She bent over and picked them both up.   
            “Hey.”  Janelle kept her eyes glued to the riveting episode of Judge Judy. 
            She unbuttoned her navy blue pea coat.  “Are you excited for the home cooked dinner I’m going to make tonight?”
            “What?  Oh, yeah.”  A new defendant and plaintiff just entered the court room.  “What are you making again?”
            She made her way into the galley kitchen.  “The breaded chicken recipe my mom sent me.”  She looked around for the recipe she put on the counter before leaving for class that morning.  “I’m going to make angel hair pasta and sauce, too.”  The counter was bare.  “Did you see the recipe in here earlier?”  Judge Judy’s harsh voice was the only thing she could hear.  She poked her head out of the kitchen.  “Janelle.  Did you see the recipe when you were in the kitchen?  I left it on the counter next to the refrigerator.”
            She peeled her eyes from the TV.  “I threw out a bunch of newspapers when I got home.”  She turned back to the show.  “I’d check the trash.”
            Ashley spun around and rolled her eyes as she opened the lid to the trashcan.  Flipping through the pile of papers she dug out of the trashcan, she found it sandwiched between a coupon circular and The Daily Collegian.  “ I found it.”  She sighed as she threw everything back in.   
            Ashley opened the cabinet next to the stove and pulled out two pots and a frying pan, banging them against each other. 
            “Do you need any help in there?”
            She smiled.  “No, I’ve got this under control.  Thanks.”  She covered up her giggle by opening the refrigerator and gathering everything else she needed.  As she placed everything on the counter, a tomato wiggled loose. 
Janelle took her eyes off the TV long enough to see the rogue vegetable roll into the dining room.  “What are you doing?” 
Ashley bent down, reaching for the tomato.  “He didn’t want to be cooked.”  She returned to the kitchen, turning the back burner of the gas stove on for the pasta water.  Then, she pulled a cutting board from a drawer and a chef’s knife from the knife block and began chopping the rinsed tomatoes.   
            Janelle walked into the kitchen.  “You should curl your fingers under so you don’t chop one off.”  She opened the fridge and pulled out a can of Pepsi.   
“I’m fine.”  She waved her hand towards Janelle.  “I chop like this all the time.”  “How long do you think this is going to take?”
            “I’m not sure.  This is the first time I’ve made this.”
            “Oh.  I can always make a bowl of Easy Mac while I’m waiting.”
            “No.  You’ll ruin your appetite.”
“Well, don’t take too long.  I’m hungry.” 
“You’ll have a delicious homemade meal in…” She scanned the recipe.  “…40 minutes.”
“Ok.”  Janelle walked back to her warm dent in the couch. 
“Shit.”  She sucked in air as she squeezed her eyes shut.
The TV volume lowered.  “Are you ok?”
“Yup.” 
“What happened?”
“Nothing.” She cupped her right hand underneath to catch the dripping blood as she put her hand under running water. 
“Did you cut yourself?”
“I’m fine.” 
“I told you to curl your fingers under.”
“Whatever,” she whispered.  Once the bleeding slowed down, she wrapped her finger with a paper towel and continued chopping the tomatoes.
Janelle came back into the kitchen, sipping her soda through a straw.  Ashley used the knife to slice open the package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Janelle moved closer, picking up the recipe.  She eyed the chicken.  “It calls for cutlets.  You just opened breasts.”
“Oh.”  Her cheeks flushed pink.  She stared at the chicken for a moment.  “Well, I don’t having anything else defrosted.”
“You can always pound the chicken flat.”
“We don’t have a meat pounder?” She flung her hands away from her, knocking the knife off the counter, just missing her foot.  “Oops.” 
“You’re going to kill yourself.” 
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
Her roommate rummaged through the utensil drawer.  “Here, use the rolling pin.”
“Thanks.” Ashley grabbed it from her.   
“Is there anything else I can do to help you?”
Ashley forced a smile.  “Nope.  Like I said, I have it under control.” 
“Are you sure?”  She continued to hover. 
“Ok, well, will you turn the burner on under the frying pan.”  Ashley breaded the chicken.   
Janelle poured vegetable oil into the hot pan, then, leaned over the sauce pot breathing in.  “It smells delicious.”
“Garlic makes everything better, doesn’t it?”  She removed the first batch of golden chicken, placing them on a plate
“You should put them on a paper towel to suck up the oil.”  She ripped a few  from the roll above the sink. 
Ashley rolled her eyes.  “I know.  Just forgot.”
“Do you think you need to wipe out the pan between batches?”
“No, I think it will be fine.”
“The crumbs are turning black.”
“It adds flavor.  Besides, I’m almost done.  Could you add the pasta to the water, please?”
Smoke billowed off the pan; both girls coughed. 
“Hand me that towel.”  Ashley reached her hand above the stove and turned on the fan. 
Janelle handed her the towel.  “Oh, my God.  That’s a lot of smoke.  It’s burning my eyes.”
“It’s ok.”  The smoke filled up the narrow kitchen.  “I’ve got this under control.  My dad does this all the time.”  Ashley grabbed the edge of the towel, and waved the smoke towards the hood of the stove. 
“I don’t think that’s working.”
“Go open the back door.”
“The entire living room is filled with the smoke.  Maybe you should turn off the pan.”
“Jesus Christ!” 
Janelle ran back into the kitchen.  Flames from the towel warmed Ashley’s face.  “It got too close to the burner.”  She dropped the towel. 
“Not on the floor!  It’ll set the rug on fire.”
Ashley picked it up while the fire ate the fabric.  “Where should I put it?” She stomped on the carpet.   
Janelle pointed at the sink.  “Here.”
“Turn the water on.”
A blaring noise bounced off the walls in the apartment.  “Oh, my God.  You set the fire alarm off.”  Janelle ran out of the kitchen.  “Is that the apartment alarm or the building?” 
Ashley followed her into the living room.  “I don’t know.”    
They coughed, barely able to see through the smoke.   
“I think the alarm is for the whole building.”  Janelle bit her nails.
“Shut the balcony door.  No one can find out it was us who set the alarm off.”  Ashley looked around the room. 
“The smoke is really bad, Ash.”
“Grab bath towels.”
“What for?”
“To shove under the front door.  It’ll keep the smoke from sneaking out into the hallway.”  The girls bounced off each other running to the door.  Ashley slammed her shin into a wooden chair.  “Damnit.”  She looked around the apartment.  “Shut the lights off.  They won’t know we’re home, if the lights are out.”
The alarm wailed.  “Do you think we should leave the apartment?”
Ashley cupped her ear.  “What?”
Janelle leaned closer.  “Should we leave the apartment?”
“NO.  Drunks pull the fire alarm all the time.  We put the fire out.”
Janelle peered through the glass doors.  “Hey, look.  Someone on the second floor is reading in his room.  And I think I see someone moving around across from us.  I think we might be ok.  No one thinks it’s serious.”  Her shoulders fell as she breathed out. 
“Do you think someone on our floor knows...”  Ashley leaned back, looking into the kitchen.  “The pasta!”  She hurried into the kitchen, the light from the hood guiding her to the stove and turned the burner off as water boiled over the pot.  “Would ya grab the colander?”
Janelle stepped back from the sink as Ashley poured the pasta out.  “You’re aren’t still going to cook, are you?”
“Yes, the chicken’s cooked, the fire’s out and I’m hungry.”  She started to laugh.  “I’ve got this under control.”  
 
 So, what did you like?  What didn't you like?  Was the piece funny?  How can I improve it?
   

4 comments:

Michael Offutt said...

The piece was really funny in my opinion. The things you could do to improve it would be to format it better because the indents were off. Also a good spell check would be nice. For example "dinning" only has one "n" in it.

Laura Campbell said...

Thanks, Michael.

MA said...

The piece was funny! Towards the end, when Ashley cuts her finger, I got a little confused as to who was in pain. I originally thought Janell was bleeding on her dent on the couch. However, I'm kind of slow today. I do like to wording and phrases such as "rogue vegetable." The details and imagry are great! Overall, great job!

Laura Campbell said...

I'll check back over the story to make sure I was clear that Ashley cut her finger. Thanks for the positive feedback.

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