“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 2

Image by Mario Savioni

Chapter 2

Frank held up his hand and made a circle with his index finger and thumb, an “OK” sign, and enclosed Nicole’s left eye. Her long, strawberry blonde hair, wispy, fell at angles onto her faux leather jacket that covered her denim button-down blouse. Her brown eyes were fully open with the joy of childhood innocence, piercingly certain. She was aware of every movement.

There is a picture of Nicole, where she is sticking her finger in her mouth and feigning vomiting. She is slightly behind a young Asian woman, who is calm. The woman’s hair is straight and long. She has a round face. Her upper arm is slightly chubby. She’s wearing a black cocktail dress. It is sleeveless. The neckline covers her cleavage and it is made of open space in the weave about an inch across. She has a thin necklace with a diamond pendant that dips just below the top of her hem. Nicole’s left hand is on the Asian woman’s shoulder. Her hand is bright white against the Asian’s tanned skin. Nicole’s hand covers a lock of hair that goes under it and down the Asian woman’s right arm. The Asian woman is wearing a white wrist watch and is carrying a white iPhone in her left hand. She slumps slightly toward Nicole and may not be able to see Nicole’s finger in Nicole’s mouth and Nicole blinking her eye.

In another picture, she is too far away to get a good look at her. She is standing in a black and silver cocktail dress, which has a sheer neck line with small straps that rise from a small “v” at the hem of her cleavage. The hem draws across her chest to just under her armpits. The dress design is of lines and circles, but they are muted given the closeness of the colors. There is a sheen in the material. Her dress rests about five inches from her knees and she is wearing a pair of open-toed black high-heel shoes, sharply pointed, with a single thin strap wrapping high around her ankle.

Frank studied the picture even more. He liked that Nicole’s calves were long, narrow, and slightly muscular. He liked fit, petite women.

Nicole’s curvature is minimal. You could drop your hands down her figure and barely move left or right as you went down. She is jutting her hips forward a bit in the photo. Her hair is pulled back. It is straight and wispy. A woman, maybe her mother, is on her right. They all seem to possess a slightly squinting left eye when they smile. Her mother looks like she is in her late 30’s, maybe early 40’s. She is also wearing a cocktail dress, except hers is all black. The hem moves across her chest as a long arch from shoulder to shoulder. The straps on her shoulders are about an inch wide. There are two males in the photograph, Frank imagines them in their early 20’s. They have a young “future Wall Street Trader” look to them. Frat boys. Both have big smiles, while the one holding Nicole and her mother has his chest popping out of his tuxedo jacket. Nicole appears recessive between the boys and her mother, willing to allow them their feigned dominance against the person holding the camera. Perhaps the photographer is her father. She almost seems angelic, younger, and less confident than when she had her arm around her female friend in the previous picture. They are standing on a brick walkway that intersects a small, gray rock path. Green grass moves out from the walkway to a wooden fence about fifty yards. It is covered with manicured bushes that are reaching out from the fence. The backyard is lush. All the plants are deep green.

There is an arm and a fraction of the seat of a gray garden chair and table in the image. There is a piece of a barbecue. Over the fence and into the distance, there are only tall trees that fill the sky. Frank guessed that the photo was taken in Danville.


  1. What stands out in this chapter is a photographer’s eye. While you keep narrating the story that began in chapter 1, where we readers already got an idea of who Frank and Nicole are, you press the button of the camera, so to speak, and sort of “freeze” the images from the second paragraph onwards. By doing so, you still have the omniscient narrator that tells the story basically from Frank’s perspective, but now you allow space for wonderfully detailed descriptions lingering in contemplation. That is why I say you use a photographer’s eye while describing the scene with Nicole and the Asian lady as well as Nicole’s pictures with her family.

    As soon as you tell about the males in the family photo, you hint at the thought provoking question of gender equality: “Nicole appears recessive between the boys and her mother, willing to allow them their feigned dominance against the person holding the camera.” OK. Here the provocation in the reader’s mind: Should boys always appear as tough guys in front of their father while a girl, instead, should recede?

    Another question that comes to my mind is Frank as a character symbolising experience in life (he is older), and Nicole and the younger women, innocence. What Henry James did in his novels (American innocence against European experience), you do it here in a similar way with your American characters. I think the following sentence is key to support my argument: “Her [Nicole’s] brown eyes were fully open with the joy of childhood innocence, piercingly certain.”

  2. Dear Mario: what’s happening with Nicole now? At first glance I thought she had problems with heroin, because she was vomiting. And I thought too that the Asian woman was the drug pusher! Fortunately now I supose that she was only joking, in that picture. Well, in any case, Frank is paying close attention to those pictures. It will be something important for him, really? I would like to know why. Tic-tac tic-tac…

  3. Nicole is mysterious for me. In the first picture she looks like she is happy and confident. But in the second picture she seems another person.

    • Yes, Nicole should become a more fuller person as the story goes on. I believe people are capable of all manifestations and in this story I am hoping to deal with decisions people make as well as who they are instinctively. The truth too is a passionate reality.

  4. Hello Mario! I’m Yolanda, a new student in Marta’s English course.
    Chapter two of you story causes me to ask a lot of questions. For example, what kind of relationship do Frank and Nicole have? or, why is Nicole less confident in the second picture? Only you are the key to these secrets…..:-)
    I’m looking forward to reading and discovering what happens with these characters.
    By the way, Mario, with your fantastic descriptions I can easily imagine both the scenes of the pictures and the characters. Really good work!


    • Thank you Yolanda! Rather than give the story away, I want to refrain from answering those questions now unless the answers are not apparent by the end of the story. I am curious about what you think the relationship is and so forth. I am hoping my writing is clear and informative about my points. This is a journey I am excited you and Marta, et. al. are taking. I love that you and Marta think I write “fantastic descriptions.” I believe context defines behavior and what we should or will feel about it. Again, I am very excited to be sharing my story with you.

  5. Oh how you excel in describing the attire of the characters employed! I can see the efforts you’ve applied to make the readers grasp the picture Frank was looking at. I wonder if there is a continuation to this tale or it stops here?

    And again Mario, I simply love your work. Your work make me sit and wonder about stuff as it did in this one about life. I’m truly fascinated.

    I look forward to more of your works and I seriously crave reading poems written by you. I hope you’ll upload poetry in the near future to fascinate me even more.

    Hope you have a great day.

    • Thank you so much Preksha for spending so much time with my story. You and Marta and others have been so wonderful. Donald too wrote brilliant things about another work. I love how well you all talk about my work and ask these questions that are penetrating. What I am learning as a writer, is that even though I am not trained, per se, if I pay attention to what I think the story is missing and how I want to tell the story, it is almost as interesting to you, as readers, as it is to me. I am very interested in catharsis and communication between writer and reader and what needs to be said for the reader to be embroiled. As we both have read really great stories, I am often amazed by writers in that they can say things that will be like doors into their worlds that I enter and never even think about them, just about the places and things they have created. Language is actually very powerful and words, often simple words, can have such emotive and visual power. I am glad I can connect with you. That is my hope. When I read, I am so elevated. Writers amaze me. They are like super human beings. I have been reading editions of Granta magazine and it is frightfully profound how well they describe life. I doubt I would want to live if there weren’t these works of art and literature.

      As for my poetry, I have many books, about five so far, and works I never published. I am glad you like my poetry. It is my favorite, but I have not found luck publishing it, so I try my hand at short stories and novels. But, I will write more for you. I am working a lot these days and also working on my place. But, I have done almost everything, less the counters and floors, which I have to let others work on because of HOA stipulations, otherwise, I would. At some point soon, it will be done. Then, I will focus solely on my art. I am also recording music that I improvise. I am hoping something comes of that. I have been sending it to various people, who inspire me. Hopefully, I will expand in that direction as well, learning more instruments and playing with others. Two days ago, I met a director of the San Jose Jazz Festival and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and sent him a sample. There are others too in high places. I am about to ask another restaurant if they wouldn’t mind my playing during dinner. In a few months, I should know if that part of my creative world is going to take off. I would like to do my art full-time. Wish me luck. Thank you again for writing. I love it!

      • You are welcome, Mario.

        And yes I’ve read your poetic work on your blog and liked it the best. I’ve been eager to comment on those posts too, but I’m currently very much indulged in my studies from which I’ll be free only after two month duration.

        But my best wishes will always be with you, Mario, and I hope that you post some of your poems here, on wordpress because I cannot connect with any of your work anywhere else because we live in different countries let alone different continents.

        I wish you luck. 😃

  6. Thank you Preksha. Again, I am flattered with your response to my poetry. It’s my first love. I am glad you are studying. As with me, I simply just have to resist the temptation to indulge in responding to all the information passed to me. I wish I did more however. I feel those who spend time with my work deserve my time with their’s. As soon as I finish my remodel I should have more time and space for really settling down and concentrating on things others have done. As I said, I am writing music. That too should pan out and tell me my next step. I want to narrow my focus and start to enjoy my life. I want to be good at something and get paid for it. Yes, I am sorry you live so far away. Most of my good friends live far away. Now, back to your studies and stay focused on those.

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