Thursday, 11 August 2011

'CONFUSED', Romantic Friday Writing Challenge No 14, Friday, 12th August 2011



Welcome to the Romantic Friday Writing Challenge, where participants share their own 300-400-word text on a given theme. For this week's theme for Friday the 12th of August, Challenge No.14, the theme is 'Confused'.
Here is my text:
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Confused
Elin ordered a mixed-salad at the new pizzeria. She looked at the rows of ingredients in plastic bins behind the glass counter. Behind that, you could see the whole kitchen where four dark-haired men were frying meat and baking pizzas.

He's attractive, thought Elin observing the young man who scooped up lettuce in a plastic container. Nice face.

"What more would you like?", he asked.

Elin listed quickly, "Chicken, feta-cheese, pineapple, artichoke hearts and those pickles over there." She pointed and looked at his dark curly hair and finely sculptured nose. Yeah, looks nice.

Looking up, he smiled, "Dressing?"

"Yes, the mango would be fine." He has blue eyes! She did not understand what he said to the other men in the kitchen. They were speaking a language she didn't recognise. She was handed her salad, thanked him and left.

When Elin came home she laid the table for her meal spooning some of the salad in a bowl, thinking about what she liked best about a man. The owner was not as cute as the young man who made the salad, but he spoke better Swedish. Once he asked about her cat. He had remembered that she had said that she could not find her cat. How many men would remember something like that? But I could never fall in love with someone who didn't speak my language. She tried to guess their nationality.

One evening, Elin decided late to buy salad. It was already half past nine, and they close at ten.
"Is it too late?" she gasped when she saw that the salad-counter was empty. The plastic boxes with ingredients were stacked on a wagon on their way to cold-storage.
The owner said, "We have to be careful about salad in the summer. We usually start putting it away by twenty past nine. But if you know what you want, we can make it for you."
"Yes please," she said softly. They had to lift the different boxes to get to make the salad.
"You see we are open until ten, but we have to finish up so that these fellows can go home. Otherwise their wives will complain."

Wives, thought Elin, and pictured a dark-haired woman holding a baby and a toddler when her pizza-baker-husband comes home at eleven.
"Thanks for the salad," she murmured embarrassed and left.

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Word count according to WordCalc: 392 : NCCO (Now that I have written my 'P.S.' anyone can write what they like.)

Best wishes,
Anna


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P.S.
Making fiction out of facts

Elin is a character of my own invention, who borrows content from my own life, but gives these real events a different meaning than what they had for me. To meet the challenge of writing a story for Romantic Friday Writers, I took one of my everyday observations and twisted it slightly.

For the young and lonely Elin, she is embarrassed for her thoughts, as if other people could read her mind. What really happened, was that I became embarrassed for coming so late to the restaurant, when the makings for salad were on their way to cold storage for the night.

I worked one summer selling bread behind the counter of a bakery and remembered how tired I was at the end of the day at closing-time, when it was time to clean up and put things away. But at this bakery, we did not start until after we locked the door that kept customers out. It surprised me that the pizzeria closed the salad-counter 40 minutes before closing time. But they probably had good reason to do so.

As to the attractiveness of the cute young pizza-baker, here is where my story really starts to get fictitious. I looked at all of the men working at the real life pizzeria and found one man that may have been cute fifteen years ago. I am in no way personally attracted to any of these fellows in a romantic way. I can, however admire anyone who is doing good work. They do make very good salads and pizzas. But I would probably have little to say to them outside of this connection. My fictitious character Elin, on the other hand, is very lonely and lets her mind wander.

The first inspiration for this piece was an old saying that goes something like: 'Men fall in love with their eyes, women through their ears'. This is the notion that physical beauty in a woman means more to a man than the handsomeness of a man for a woman who loves him. A woman prefers a man who has something substantial to say. A man wants to rest his eyes on a beautiful woman.

In this little story, about confusion, I am toying with what qualities that make someone attractive to the opposite sex. Elin is attracted to a handsome man who speaks less than perfect Swedish, while at the same time she appreciates the thoughtful remarks of the other less handsome older man who asks her about her cat. The confusion for Elin here is what is better: good looks or someone who understands what you are saying.

Nothing happens. No one knows what Elin is thinking, even if she thinks they can see it in her face. The owner's explanation about why they close the salad-bar so early is taken almost verbatim, but translated by me into English, as the real life exchange was in Swedish.

Why did I make the young pizza-baker have blue eyes? In reality all of the men working at the pizza-restaurant have dark hair and dark brown eyes. I gave my fictional baker blue eyes to make him more enigmatic and alluring. This is from an experience I had when I was still living in Stockholm. Late one evening I was alone and waiting for the train at some tub-station in the heart of town, when a magazine cover in the closed kiosk caught my eye. It was National Geographic's issue that had a photograph of an Afghan woman with very intense, light, sea-blue eyes! I stood dumb-founded staring at her face, until a dark man from India or Pakistan commented on my reaction. He saw what I was thinking: 'She's looks just like me!'


I removed some scenes that could be restored to make this a longer story. Elin looks at the pizza-baker's hands as he kneads the dough. In Daphne du Maurier's novel,
Jamaica Inn, the heroine, admires the hands of her lover-to-be. She also looks at her uncle's hands and finds them loathsome, despite the fact that the man she hates and the man she loves are brothers. According to du Marirer's protagonist, there is a fine line between that which is attractive and that which is repulsive. I removed the scene about hands because I thought it was too openly sensuous and took too many words for the 400-word-limit. (While I am on the subject of men's hands, I would like to mention that the most beautiful pair of men's hands that I have ever seen, were the hands of the child-specialist heart-surgeon who preformed open-heart-surgery on my daughter, Elisabet when she was just one week old.)

Li of Flash Fiction suggested that I expand this snippet and make it a short story. I would like to know what her thoughts are on the different ways to go about doing this. My idea is that Elin's character needs more development: Why is she lonely? Does she live alone? Does she have friends such as schoolmates? What are her goals and ideals? Why is she living in this city? Did she grow up here or move here from some other place? Why is she eating out so often? Can she cook? It would seem to be more economical for her to buy food items and make her own meals.

In my case, I've just moved to a new apartment after a very difficult divorce. I hadn't finished unpacking all the kitchen utensils, and decided to see what eating establishments there are in the neighbourhood.

I guess I could give Elin a slight weight-problem as a reason for her to only order salad. I could show Elin out with her other friends and even boyfriends as a contrast to this dream-world of dark foreigners.
Is Elin herself, attractive? And for whom is she attractive? I haven't indicated anything about her own looks in this story. But I could write something about this in a longer version.

Next time I hope to have time to include my background information together with the text itself so that other participants don't have to return to visit me several times.

Thanks for reading this background!
Anna



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First Commenter:

Ann Thompson



of
Ann's Snap, Edit & Scrap




To read more Romantic Friday texts for Challenge No 14, Friday 12th of August, please go to this site or click on the image below:


Link

17 Comments:

Ann said...

a nice story. now you have me thinking of pizza though :)

Andy said...

Hello Anna.
Nice story. I feel kind of bad for Elin, though.

L'Aussie said...

Hi Anna. This was a nice take on the theme. That food made me want to go eat lunch! I do feel sorry for her...

Denise

Francine Howarth said...

Hi,

Ooh, nice one Anna.

Poor Elin. All those heart flutters! Then overwhelming desire for more salad served by dashing dark foreigner, only to be faced with the reality he's probably married. But, perhaps not, if the author has chosen that cue to cause angst and frustration. ;)

best
F

Heaven said...

I was hungry for that salad... cute story but sad for Elin. At least she knew before hand before anything happened.

Happy weekend ~

Raquel Byrnes said...

What a nice slice of life scene. I like the details. Great job!

li said...

Awww! The good ones are always taken. I would have held out for the salad anyway. Actually, you could expand this if you wanted to into a nice little romantic short story - lots of ways to go here.

babyrocka said...

Such a satisfying piece :D! Complete in itself, yet keeps you thinking long after the last line. Enjoyable, in many ways!

Ruth Madison said...

Nice atmosphere, there' a good sense of place here. And the longing that has no where to go.

Laura said...

Ha! I know that feeling - lovely story
Lx

Laura said...

very sweet slice of life... haven't we all been there!
Lx

Ms. Queenly said...

A very down-to-earth/slice of life short portrayed well. It was interesting to see Elin ogling these guys, imagining their home lives after finding out some of them were married, and trying to figure out their nationality. Seems like the kind of thing someone might be thinking to themselves.

~MsQ

Heaven said...

Thanks for the additional notes.

I enjoyed the look behind the writer's words. And yes, an attractive pair of hands is relative to the eyes.

Happy day ~

Andy said...

Hello Anna.

This is just an idea, but you know you could keep this as a recurring story with Elin for each week of RFW for as long as you wanted, as long as it fit with the theme. For example, the challenge this week is "New Horizons", some of Elin's background could be incorporated here.

Just because you write a piece for one week's challenge, doesn't mean you can't use the same character(s) again for the following week.

Thanks for adding the additional background information.

I'll be away for the next few weeks, but I'll be sure to catch up with your RFW entries when I return.

Best wishes.
Andy

Marsha A. Moore said...

I like the details of Elin's emotions, making her seem very believable, in this everyday scene-- an experience we can all relate to.

Sorry I'm so late in commenting. I had house guests until the end of the weekend and then exhaustion/illness set in...still not feeling well.

babyrocka said...

Hello, Anna!
I found the "background" just as eye-catching as the original story! It's amazing how snippets of our wide-ranging lives can put so many facets on a written story. Thank you for making the piece all the more real for telling us how it all emerged. And I love the calming, lovely feel of your blog! Marya :)

li said...

A wonderful postscript on the "process" that went into creating this piece.
I suppose the central question I had, which you touched on in your P.S., was the reason(s) for her loneliness. Has she always been single? Divorced? Widowed? And also, will she keep going back, maybe try and establish a friendship with one or the other, or will she simply stop going there out of disappointment.
You've laid out a lot of ideas, so I think you really could turn this into a great story. The character is part of you, and yet not. I think she is speaking to you, and will eventually tell you all about herself. When she does - write it. :-)

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