“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 3

Image by Mario Savioni
Chapter 3

Frank closed his eyes. He pictured Nicole. He wanted to get closer, to smell her mouth, to draw his tongue across her teeth and run his fingers through her hair. He could only imagine how she might smell, but however she smelled, he didn’t care. He only knew that she would be fresh to him. It was long ago that he felt comfortable with his mouth. No matter how often he brushed his teeth, he could taste the thousands of meals he had eaten. Age gave him a sense of his own uncleanliness. Nicole smiled at him, but he knew it wasn’t for him, it was just a picture. She was smiling for someone, a girlfriend, a lover, her parents, but not the fifty four-year-old. 

Frank was bald, physically in shape because he rode his bike up Mt. Diablo. Not as often as he liked, but probably more often than he would if he were younger. There were days in his youth when he surfed in the sun for over six hours. Perhaps he was buffer then. Besides the biking, he would do about five pull-ups with his separated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, and tennis elbow, and usually around twenty five push-ups and fifty crunches. These greatly tired him and each morning of the following day he could barely get out of bed. His right hip ached. It wasn’t appendicitis, his doctor told him. It was probably muscular, but then the doctor ran a CT scan and found it was diverticulitis.

Frank closed his laptop and wondered where Nicole was and what she was thinking. Did she have the same needs? Of course she did. She got them met by her boyfriend and maybe she was even partially interested in other boys, but to her Frank was a distraction, perhaps a mistake.


  1. I am really enjoying story. To experience desire from Frank’s (male) POV is quite interesting, it make me think females are not so different. I liked the way you drew me in using words such as ‘mouth, tongue’, it’s sweet and naughty. 🙂

    • I completely subscribe to this comment. I like that Frank’s sexual desire is so openly expressed in this chapter. Chapters 1 and 2 were written in a sort of colder or say more detached way, contained writing, linguistically very well written.

      I agree that sexual desire expressed by females is not so different from what males feel and think (putting aside cultural prejudices and some biological differences that we should not disregard). And women do also objectify men. Look at Margaret Atwood writing from Offred’s perspective in The Handmaid’s Tale:

      “… I want to see what can be seen, of him [Nick], take him in, memorize him, save him up so I can live on the image, later: the lines of his body, the texture of his flesh, the glisten of sweat on his pelt, his long sardonic unrevealing face…” (chapter 41, page 413). And she goes on: “I ought to have done that with Luke, paid more attention, to the details, the moles and scars, the singular creases; I didn’t and he’s fading. Day by day, night by night he recedes, and I become more faithless.”

      I think this chapter offers more emotional intensity to the reader, which is good because the initial intrigue is maintained. Also, we learn to know a bit more about the characters.

      There is just one thing I do not get (remember English is my third language), and I sometimes do not see certain nuances. You describe Frank as someone who did a lot of surfing when he was younger, but what is the meaning of this: “Perhaps he was buffer then”? What is a buffer in this context?

      • I am glad you are getting my point about dual gender objectification. As a writer, I think we need to deal with the truth about relationships and especially as the #MeToo! movement has exposed and Oliver Wendell Holmes proved, you can take either side and win, less of course, sexual abuse, molestation, and rape, for example, but there was a “teaching moment” in The New Yorker story “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupernian, who wrote that the main character was eventually grossed out by her flirtation and submission to what she had started. The story ends (spoiler alert) with the “older man’s” anger at her, which I don’t quite think she knows why he might be angry with her. Sure, what he calls her is not apt given the evidence, but from his perspective, she starts something and complains about having to finish it. Clearly, she is not into him and the signs are overwhelming her, but she “doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.” And it is not that there is anything wrong, and there clearly is not, in saying “No” at anytime, but, being in bed with a man, she calls her friend, whose penis is erect, and asking herself if she should get up and go home, begs the question, are they really friends? Do friends sleep naked, skinny dip together? Yes, apparently they do. I do, but, the arousal of the man, clearly indicates that the female character is oblivious to biological fact, what is happening to her friend. This is the voracity of the chemical and visual stimuli. That’s where I am going with this piece. It is about truth in relationships and how age plays a role. It’s about capitalism and how we pay with our bodies and how bodies are no longer viable even though the spirit of the soul is still alive (noting that the thirty-something male character is really not that old, but where it has been said that we decline as a species after 30). It is about the simultaneous mate selectiveness and disenfranchisement of what should be viable younger men, but who have no money to compete. Noting $130,000 payments to porn stars by Presidents of the richest nation of the world with blatant and rewarded support by alleged “Christian” people. If we are ever going to get to the bottom of what’s wrong, we have to be fair and interview all the participants. Even the schizophrenics, in Foucault’s History of Madness or in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s commentary about societal schizophrenia, there is truth in that the crazy are only responding to the crazy of what is going on. If we don’t get to the truth, the truth is going to expose us.

        And yes, Frank was buffer when he surfed. This coincides with the idea of the body diminishing over time, but the spirit remaining viable.

        Thank you so much for getting at the truths in the story. It’s fascinating to me that I may be able to create a world, where the things we are dealing with as a society are evident in my text. I admire Roupernian, Foucault, and Deleuze in their ability to describe and provoke. We are moving to a fuller understanding of ourselves and perhaps evolving. I know I have been taught by the #MeToo! movement and women everywhere. What I think we haven’t talked about is that while it seems like we shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff, and that racism, for example, is simply remedied by traveling to the place of the people one may hate and that every person comes from amazing roots, there are solutions that come from awareness of others. It’s so simple to put ourselves in another’s shoes. I am so glad my story is evocative and engaging. I deeply felt these things and in that depth, I knew they were real and thus valuable.

      • Thank you for such an extensive and well-reasoned comment. Another aspect that draws my attention in this chapter is the description of Frank’s health, which I directly associate with two things.

        The first one clearly seems to be an immediate consequence of the Capitalist system’s evils that force people to work for too many hours; too often there is just one person doing the job of two or more people, thus saving the employer’s costs of having more workers where they should be absolutely necessary. Whose person’s health cannot be affected by such stressful life and perverted system?

        In Frank’s case, it seems to me that excessive physical efforts at his worksite led to his separated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, and tennis elbow.

        And the second thing, which is also connected to the first one, would be the way Frank and we, in general, process our experiences in life. All health problems have multifactorial causes; among those, the emotional causes are vital to get to the root of the problem.

        According to what I have experienced in life, read and found out till now, Frank’s affections seem to be partly stress-induced as aforementioned, but they also look like unconsciously self-induced affections, which happens to absolutely all of us in a lifetime. A too sedentary life, a diet with too much meat, too much processed food and less fiber in the meals lead to things like diverticulitis (I know this from a friend too). Clinging onto something or someone, facts that often do us no good, are the main emotional causes of diverticulitis, where the person affected basically feels resentment (see causes of diverticulitis and natural remedies: https://www.belmarrahealth.com/diverticulitis-stress-linked-diverticulitis-stress/).

        I am angered at the pharmaceutical industry making immense uncontrolled benefits going hand in hand with the Capitalist system. They provide meds and pills for absolutely everything, where the majority of the people ignore the harmful side effects in the short and long run. I do not want to completely get rid of any medical progress in humanity’s history, that would be a fatal mistake, but truths are constantly hidden, people who have rescued/ are rescuing natural remedies from the past generations or finding out alternative therapies with plants, etc. are being demonised. This is just unacceptable.

        In sum, I think your novel is offering us readers many secondary topics such as what I have exposed above. Let us see what my English students say. 😉

      • I agree this chapter offers more emotional intensity to the reader and in the same way it’s more than show don’t tell, it humanises Frank. To show his inner thinking in such a way, questioning himself, using feel, smell and taste in one action takes the whole moment to another level. Also to intensify the moment, “he didn’t care. He only knew she would be fresh to him.” and the story goes on. I see Frank taking himself back to an innocent time of his life, rewriting his heart and viewing this moment as if it’s his first time, but this time to a person that matters.

    • You’ve got it Susan. It is sweet and naughty. But, as we have seen with men behaving badly, it can also be wrong. Still, I hope my story hints at balance and explores the innocence of attraction too. I am so interested in two people in a relationship, not just one side or view of it.

      • I find it interesting the POV, in all it’s innocence what is said, what is thought and what is done, when it comes to love scene are very different. Although the attraction between male and female (Physical) might be not so different, the thought process is. I believe women are more emotional and men are more visual.

    • I like that we aren’t so different, but it also lessens the romantic notions, the mystery, and if so the song is less sweet. A woman receives the pining and experiences the what-must-seem silly reverence, where both sexes generally are embroiled in servitude to their bodies and garner moods therefrom. I think this is the most interesting part: A woman cannot be so indiscriminate as a man, who simply must impart his seed, lacking consequential regard until he has done it, whereas a woman must concern herself with a responsible adult, who can see her through the long ordeal of childbirth and raising. I watched two birds on a roof and certainly it was the female that constantly skittered away from the male, who was acting like he had an appointment.

      • I also agree with you here to, at times a woman is more restrained than a man in the physical sense but in the thought process, in my opinion there are no boundaries, and the writer can have a little fun with this, like you did being a little ‘innocent naughty’ with Frank’s thoughts. Well there’s an oxymoron for you! 🙂

      • I lost a long response to this and the other comment when my alarm went off. (I am using my phone to write this.) Damn. Basically, you “humanized” Frank, which plays at frankness and what’s true about men and the decisions men must make given their inherent baseness. Women, as the short story in The New Yorker “Cat Person” argues must be kind to men so as not to hurt their feelings. So, they sacrifice themselves. Note the porn star’s concession to Trump, who invited her to his room. She said to herself: I guess I should have expected this. Imagine Trump in a pair of boxers. Yes, there are no boundaries. I am learning this as I write fiction.

      • Yes, women’s possibility of childbirth and raising (which is also the great danger of losing our personal freedom), is the crucial difference.

  2. We like your story. You are right about it’s meaning.
    Time and labor explotation harm our health. There is always an unrequited love in our lives, but in the end a person comes. We are optimistic about Frank. 🙂

  3. Hi Mario,
    in this chapter, we meet Frank, his obsession with Nicole. He show us in first person his most intimate thoughts, his sexual desire, at the same time that he details us a little more about him, how he is physically, his health…
    Little by little, Frank opens himself to the reader, getting us to have an increasingly precise idea of how he is and how he acts.
    Mario, with your masterly prose I get more and more interested in you story…


  4. Hello Mario. People’s relationships are always complicated. And more if they are from another generation. Maybe Frank has to search for the solution on the top of Mount Diablo. But I heard the news saying that in some states from the USA it is very cold at the moment. Cold like the relationships of the people that you’re telling us about. On the other hand, I don’t understand what the word “buffer” means in this context after surfing. Can you explain that, please? I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

    • Thank you Wladi. I wonder about the “coldness” of the relationship, but perhaps you are correct. “3. If a man is buff, he has a body that is a good shape, and looks as if he has done a lot of exercise: .
      Search domain dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/buffhttps://dictionary.cambr”

  5. I greay admire how clearly Frank’s thoughts were written here. Though it is mentioned how Frank and Nicole look like, but I am keen to know who are their representatives. I mean, generally authors place themselves in the act and write about people they know. Or are the characters fictional?

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