“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 13

Chapter 13

There was a sense of compliance by the women in the book And Everyday It Was Overcast. Sexual favors were probably not even on their minds because they wanted drugs, distraction and excessiveness due to some greater or different need that seemed to have very little to do with sex. Frank could not imagine himself drugging a woman to get what he wanted. Such an action would destroy the relationship itself. Frank’s sexual experiences in the past weren’t romantic or intimate. They were sloppy and stressful. By morning, he was wracked with the possibility of having impregnated the woman or contracting some disease. In his sexual liaisons, he was irresponsible.

Frank also recalled that there was a Human Talk that was posted to Visage, called “What teens really want to know about sex,” where it said, “pleasure can’t be done in a vacuum.” What that reinforced for Frank was that relationships were contextualized by circumstances and the environment. Nicole’s interest in him, if there ever was any, had to come from something she was either compensating for or perhaps out of some dark interest she was following. The talk also asked why sex was so good? For Frank, he looked upon Nicole as sublime, her figure and face from what he could tell, aroused him. Beauty is powerful, he thought.

“Otherwise, writing a good short story considers the events and ideas in peoples’ minds,” Frank wrote to Nicole. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. “Readers aren’t going to believe something that isn’t steeped in contemporary culture. I am also interested in the age difference between us and how we might bridge that. I feel the coincidence of you taking the literature class constructed a bridge. Maybe you want to be a writer, too. I don’t know if you know about the television program Californication, but in it David Duchovny sleeps with an underage woman and he writes a novel about it and she ends up taking it and publishing it. He concedes it to her because she blackmails him. She gets famous for it and travels around doing book appearances. I would like to do a story that explores social media, Spark, etc. I need you to express yourself. How does all of this make you feel? What do you think? What do you want to say? It also explores the idea that a fifty four-year old man has your attention. Do I? Am I deluding myself? Do you want to work on the story as a submission to your writing class? As I was saying, perhaps we could write it together. Write your reactions down. I am thinking that we could write a novelette. See Bolaño’s new book at the bookstore or look for it on the Internet.”

“Writing is about telling the truth,” Frank said. “People want to know about us and what really goes on. What do you think of this?” he added.

“As for what I need from you, just the truth,” Frank said. “I looked back and saw that you like to write. You’ve also said that you had a boyfriend and that was all spontaneous. Tell me about that. What did you think when you saw me and when you pushed the green button? I think I mentioned what I would write about myself. I feel I am being completely open. I’ve told you that I liked you. What would you want to tell your boyfriend, your mother, your father, your friends?

“Now that I can look back at the whole conversation, it runs like a dialog between two people. What is missing are feelings we have that we aren’t putting down. That is what makes a short story. The dialog between characters and the context and what they are feeling. What are they feeling usually becomes the outcome, as it does in real life. People start to share themselves and take risks and the other person starts to care. There is a humanity that develops, as if they were treating themselves how they want to be treated, but is this intention always looming in the background that colors their conversation and actions? It is amazing what people do to achieve intimacy, to connect. That connection means something in the end. It is what we remember about life and what was most important.”

“To eat pickles and tarts, of course,” Nicole said.

This response startled Frank. The sexual innuendo was apparent. “Pickles” for men and “Tarts” for the young woman she was and to eat them implied a mutual phantasmagoric union, which of course was what he wanted and then for her to cooperate in the intention both tantalized him and made him nervous. Perhaps, she was just playing with him and so long as they were just doing this in cyberspace, it wasn’t real anyway. Apparently, the game was continuing.


  1. You are still keeping great intrigue in this story, Mario. I like its constant unpredictability. Nicole’s reaction to Frank’s opening is puzzling to the reader. Also, I like how the symbolic meaning of pickles and tarts is made explicit in this chapter. I remember when I was about to start reading the first chapter and saw your picture with the pickle and the tart. I immediately thought they were a mismatch for a meal. Let’s see how the game continues.

  2. I agree, the way your story is unfolding is intriguing: is it all a ritualistic game, perhaps only on Franks part, or maybe something more honest…or bizarre. I like in this chapter how you hint at a cultural move towards literature as becoming social media in that people want instant gratification rather than becoming embroiled in longer fiction.
    As ever, I shall look forward to the next chapter.

    • I am glad the story is intriguing. Yes, “rituals.” Relationships are like job interviews for a shifting job. I think Frank has no idea how to qualify. He just keeps throwing himself at the problem. He thinks truth is the answer, but as my friend said, “I was told to be a bitch to build my confidence.” Frank is really just a simple man. It’s fairly easy to know what you like, but it’s not easy to choose who might like you. Getting out of ourselves it perhaps the greatest lesson. Almost everyone else can see you for who you are. They can’t go deep, but they can see that you are no different. Frank is working hard on the pipe dream that is Nicole. That’s the bizarre part. So many of us cling to delusion. Delusion of self, of our capacities to acquire and keep jobs that are really nothing like our inner cores. We take ourselves too seriously. I play a toy piano, as my friend said, “You’ve got to smile more.” He implies without saying it that I am not the San Francisco Symphony doing Mahler’s Fifth. But, I want to tell him that I am: It sounds like it to me. It is my childhood memory in the fluctuation from high notes to low. The world of beauty to me is simple notes appropriate to the emotional mood. We are writers, we listen to the silences. There is an undercurrent of sound. We sit behind windows looking at life. The metrical base is ourselves, our beating hearts, our impressions of women, in my case, who are like fine ornaments and mouths with condemnatory speeches. They seem to know the truth of the world. And I am not a player. If I am lucky, I am an observer on repeat. I come back to the same place: “Hello, my name is…” But, I never get that far. I am an introvert looking out as the flies buzz in circles. The day turns to night. I go home, to sleep, and wake up to do it again the next day.

  3. A nice chapter, to see Frank wanting more and settling for less. Frank, I believe has the moment in his grasp but waits so long that it’s gone even before he attempts to make a move. He reminds me of the train that can? Regardless of the reality, Nicole shows interest, he is either going to make a move or he will be thinking about it all his life wondering whether he could. I believe one needs to take a chance. If Frank really feels the way he does towards Nicole, he should show it, prove to her that he is worth reckoning with. Love is there for the taking, if you want it so bad, be bold and take it. Frank needs to take the chance and be the man he knows he is and stop doubting himself. Show Nicole he is better for her than her current boyfriend. (I mean she is still a free agent, it’s not like she is married!) If he doesn’t he will be chasing his tail all his life. If it was me I would spice things up, food for thought.

  4. So Susan, the chapter is nice because Frank wants more but settles for less? You are critical of his not taking what was surely his? I like this perspective. But, I am also not sure a man can just take what he wants anymore. In fact, men have to refrain from any kind of contact. He must develop a kind of intuition about his encroachment and false surety that he is even welcome to come forward. I think with the “MeToo! Movement,” women are saying that they just want to be left alone. I would say by this implication that women must now make the first move. I am very glad that you think he can. You believe he has a chance. But, you also say that he spends too much time thinking about it. And if Frank really did feel like he liked Nicole, he should be explicit about his feelings. I am hoping the sense that Frank is an introvert comes through. I do see his self-doubt. Interesting, that you see that Frank is better or at least Frank should make a case for himself over Nicole’s boyfriend. And then you conclude that unless he acts, he will be chasing “his” tail the rest of his life. I agree. I think he futility regards opportunity as an intellectual exercise rather than a simple, clear opportunity, but perhaps he senses failure. And perhaps there was failure all along. His actions are indicative of that. We will see if he develops the balls to carry this communication forward. Thank you for following the story. I hope to do it justice.

  5. I like the different topics your novel deals with like sexual abuse, drugs and bullying. All this makes me think a lot about our present world. As far as this chapter, I think Frank is giving too much importance to what Nicole thinks. I guess for her this match has been and is something spontaneous as she says, and she just likes to continue this game. I don’t think she has any dark interests so far.

  6. So well spoken, my friend. You have a way of carving out the raw and real of what it means to live…and love.

    Keep writing and professing what you see as the truth. Your readers will see, and hear, and believe.

    Very well done.

  7. Knowing you can see what I am after and apparently am succeeding at doing, this is really all I care about. I wrote this after a long time of thinking about the conversation of the characters and building context. If I have succeeded it means as you said earlier that telling the truth as I believe it to be is all it takes. And now I am wondering if I am succeeding in terms of the female perspective. Thank you so very much again.

  8. Until now I see your story told mainly from a male perspective by means of Frank’s inner thoughts and feelings. I think Frank is a construct that represents many problems men have faced in their early years and keep facing later on as adults getting older (early bullying in school out of racism, failed love relationships in adulthood, etc). Added to this, your story is embedded within a great technological revolution that has changed and is changing human relationships. I mean the impact of the virtual world on the real world and how people react to this, especially introverts like Frank. At the same time your novel hints at the changes of classical roles men-women that are being questioned by reinvented feminist movements like Me Too. Although the reader mainly finds out about a man’s thoughts and feelings, there is also a female perspective when Nicole opens up and tells Frank her story of sexual abuse in high school. Still, Nicole remains a mystery to the reader and I like this. I find it intriguing. I also like that your story deals with many topics such as illusion-delusion, dream-reality, non-conformism with the Capitalist system, reflections on love, sex, drugs, abuse, loneliness and human relationships in today’s world. It is profound and highly intriguing. That is my female perspective.

    • Thank you. This mystery women seem to have for men is an important insight you have made. It seems silly that men objectify some women, whom they fall madly in love with. But, this “blindness” is a key element in relationships between them. I think it grants women power over some men and those men react negatively. Women also, in some cases, while being objects are commodified and thus appear as perhaps the most sought-after goods in a consumer society. Not having one, for example, makes the man appear financially incompetent, where elements in capitalistic societies demand competence. Women too have their own concerns about not fitting in an objectifying society. Yes, “construct” that seems to speak of some truth about society. I am also glad that there are many topics that the story deals with. Thank you for reading and spending so much time with it.

      • Agreed. I like how you elaborate on the word men’s “blindness” and also on the fact that women are unfortunately seen as “sought-after goods” in our Capitalist world. I really love spending time with your novelette. As said before, it is well written and thought provoking on many issues that affect our current lives.

  9. Hello Mario, I just read a feaw chapters from this story, and I am spellbound how you make «magic» out of your words. I chose to read several chapters to get a more holistic history.. when I read, you make a movie in my mind, I visualize well and it is important to me as a reader, but thought that it is important for you as an author that the reader perceives it that way.

    • Yes, it is important as a writer to create in your mind a movie. It means that I can create catharsis in you, which is what I look for in writing. My favorite writers take me into myself and I forget that I am reading someone’s work. It’s always about the reader, not about the writer. Art is something that provokes thought, I am very glad I can do that for you. Thank you for reading.

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