“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 1

pickle-tart

Chapter 1

Frank finished the story. It was sunny in the courtyard between boutique restaurants, a bakery, and Peet’s Coffee. The weather was cooling in the shade. He was relaxed and comfortable. He could see through a screen door a woman working with flour in the back of the bakery. The woman reminded him of Nicole, who would be starting her life, working in a field that would never make her money. What made Frank think of this was working in the restaurant business and how an ex, a pastry chef, worked long hours filling measuring cups to add to pastry recipes and how beautiful she was in her white outfit. She made about $13 an hour and lived in a house in the back of another house. Her house looked like an oversized chicken coop with a shower as small as the standing area in an airplane restroom. The three women, his ex, this woman in the back of the bakery, and Nicole, were svelte and thin-faced. Their hair was straight and strawberry blonde to light brown in color. He could see the three of them with their hair pulled back in a pony tail. Nicole was young and probably starting out at work. He knew if she started a job like the pastry baker’s, she couldn’t afford it and eventually the idealism would be eroded. He knew this too coming to the end of his life, that life cost more than it seemed and that you really had to sacrifice if you wanted to make it. Sacrificing also spoke of having to pick a line of work that you didn’t particularly like. Still, it would give you an income to buy a house and then to buy another. You couldn’t stop until you had enough money for the rest of your life.

Frank contemplated his life, work, cafes, short trips to San Francisco via BART to merely walk around and perhaps buy a meal that sometimes cost over $100. He imagined how much more it would cost if he weren’t working. Plus, he never traveled anywhere beyond the three cities: Oakland, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek. He wanted to travel abroad after everything was done.

Frank had eaten, read, he had slept earlier, and now he was staring into space as various people were walking by, catching the yellow leaves that littered the ground and moving them ever so slightly. Just off the edge of the curb was moisture from the rain over the past few days. It was still gray overhead as scattered clouds blocked a sunny blue sky.

Nicole was 19 and had a smile that indicated terror and derision. Why Frank thought this was because his architecture professor said that you could read the faces of people by isolating quadrants: Each eye and each half of the mouth. When you did this you could surmise their personalities based on words that came to you. The professor said that we could have predicted Hitler and serial killers using this method. When Frank did this to Nicole’s picture, he saw terror and derision.


25 comments

    • You are welcome. I like the illustrative photo of the story that introduces the work field of your characters (food business). Somehow this picture is anticipative of the feelings and thoughts you describe from Frank’s perspective. Some are beautiful and pleasant like the tart (“He was relaxed and comfortable”, “how beautiful she was in her white outfit”), but others taste as sour as the pickle (“the idealism would be eroded”, “sacrificing also spoke of having to pick a line of work that you didn’t particularly like”).

      In your story you are critical of the Capitalist system that makes you work long hours, where many people are not even able to afford decent housing but places “like an oversized chicken coop with a shower as small as the standing area in an airplane restroom”. I like the visual effect these lines have on the reader’s mind.

      I see the fourth-paragraph division of the story as follows:

      1st paragraph: introduction to characters Frank, Nicole and the other women through their work environment and how Frank perceives everything around him with his past memories connected to the present time and his reflections.

      2nd paragraph: Frank’s extended reflection upon his and the other characters’ life and his dream of wanting to travel far.

      3d paragraph: Frank contemplating and experiencing nature around him. The yellow tree leaves he catches could be associated with Frank’s age as he is no longer a teenager.

      4th paragraph: Nicole’s description as a young woman with “a smile that indicated terror and derision”. This is an impacting and intriguing closure because it makes the reader want to know more about the causes of such smile and how this might have affected/ might affect past, present and future of the characters in your story.

      Looking forward for the next chapter!

  1. Mario, we are surprised and intrigued. What happened with the young girl? Is she going to continue working in the bakery or perhaps is she going to die? All of us know that life is hard and more over to survive earning our meal. Dreams are necesary but sometimes they crush on to a wall. It happens.It is a hard experience if you are young. It is sad if you are an old one. Curiously the theory of Franks’ architecture teacher wasn’t used before that. It would have made us wiser. We are expecting chapter 2 nervously, impatiently, fearly,etc…
    Regards from Wladi and Montse.

  2. I like how everything was three in this story,

    “Boutique restaurants, a bakery and Peet’s coffee”

    “The three women, his ex, this woman in the back of bakery and Nicole”

    And how Frank “never traveled anywhere beyond the three cities: Oakland, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek.”

    I wonder was this intended or is it everything only I am imagining.

    The words that you’ve used to describe the appearance of each lady are quite overwhelming.
    I like how you set up the beginning of the story at place where the “weather was cooling”, and how you decribed Frank’s point of view as if it were your own, and how the comparison between Frank’s ex who is working in a bakery earning probably more than Nicole who is starting her work at a field that Frank is sure would never earn her anything, and how the association between “this woman in the back of bakery” and Nicole was made.

    The usage of words like, “life cost more than it seemed and that you really had to sacrifice if you wanted to make it. Sacrificing also spoke of having to pick a line of work that you didn’t particularly like. Still, it would give you an income to buy a house and then to buy another. You couldn’t stop until you had enough money for the rest of your life” is pretty heart-warming. It makes me think of how tough everyone’s life is. We all grow up and how we stop whining around,
    taking responsiblities over our shoulders. We really have to sacrifice, our comforts in order to achieve the best. And for a person like Nicole who couldn’t afford “if she started a job like the pastry baker’s”, is a tough task to pick up a line that did not interest her. I wonder if this job would provide Nicole enough to buy a house? And to buy another one?

    I am impressed how you move the story from Frank’s thought about the ladies and then to his own concerns.

    At this point of time, the story suggests that life never stops. It goes on. I like the beautiful connection of every word with what life meant. It sure means something else to you than it does to me or it does to Nicole or Frank. We all have different outlooks to life.

    The usage of words like “terror and derision” for describing Frank’s smile when he is at the age of 19 offers a powerful character to explain how Frank was and how this smile of his own reminded him of Nicole’s when he applied the words of his architecture professor to her picture.

    Thank you for your time, Mario. You are a great writer.

  3. I was hoping that “overwhelming” descriptions were not a bad thing, but you have assured me that they are not.

    I tend to believe that we think in terms of threes. An English teacher once said that things after a colon need to be at least three. I am lazy. That’s usually enough to make a point. Another professor of another class said that essays must have three points, and paragraphs of three points. Florists/interior designers say that each arrangement must be in threes. In group dynamics, odd numbers imply that people gang up against minorities; there is asymmetry.

    I like that each lady is sufficiently described. I feel description, as I believe I said already, provides ample information for others to make their own conclusions. I once described a room in my cousin’s house by describing everything in it. By that I thought a person would be able to understand him. He was a fisherman and a duck hunter. There were hundreds of ducks and things related to fishing and hunting. Is there a room quite like that in a person’s home?

    I am not sure the process of having to make a lot of money to survive is heart-warming. There was a book at the Amazon store today that talked about millennials having to stop whining and learn to save their money, but gave them tips. Most people do not really know how much life is going to cost them, but there is a way to get going. We buy so much shit that has nothing to do with what we love. If we only bought what we truly loved, we would be happier, have more. I am contemplating this as I pare down my things while remodeling my condo. Marie Kondo has it. She’s the one.

    No, our Nicole would probably not be able to afford to buy a place, unless she bought a place she could truly afford at the outset and then bought up from there as time went by. As soon as you buy, you are no longer throwing money in the garbage. You are putting it toward your own place. Rents go up, mortgages tend to do down if you are paying into the principle.

    Yes, the story is really about Frank. It’s about choices. It’s about facts and ideas. And I really don’t think Frank has any choices. My friend Gerald once talked about that. He said: “Do we really have a choice?”

    Thank you for your time! You are a great writer too!

  4. I like the idea of asymmetrical thinking.
    Indeed you are very good at decribing.

    But not the process of making lot of money is heart-warming, ‘of having to pick a line of work that you didn’t particularly like” has hit me, of not ‘having a choice’ makes my heart warm as your friend Gerald truly said about having a choice.

  5. I think being unable to make a choice or making one because you have to, not knowing yet who you are, or having to make a choice from options that don’t reflect your person, and which ultimately because of that cause incongruous thinking, a kind of schizophrenia (Deleuze) that kills the spirit. Not only are people enslaved to someone else’s surplus capital, their souls are taken by a devil that neglects their hopes, dreams, and inherent purposes. Some people look at ads for work and see no fit. Put their round bodies into square holes.

  6. Wow, I love the novell, and lucky me I will read the next chapter too right now. You hit me in the heart with your words, thank you⭐️
    I am from Norway and my english is not so good, I hope you understand me🦋
    Love from Norway🦋

    • You are quite clear. Do not doubt your capacity. I love that I was able to touch your heart. I live for this. I read a lot of great work and catharsis is perhaps the only thing that matters to me. Wow! I can communicate to your heart! I have arrived! This story took a very long time to write. And the subject matter scares me. But, I also feel it is timely against the backdraft of the #MeToo! movement and the status of men.


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