Thursday, January 31, 2008

For Love or Garlic

Garlic sensation by Gio JL on FlickrI can't believe it's 2 a.m. and we're stuck within nose-shot of the garlic capital of the world, thought John as leaned back against the front bumper of his Mercedes. He zippered up his new lightweight jacket, one that was never meant to weather any actual weather, and crossed his arms in front of him.

“It’s not my fault, you know,” Melinda yelled through the passenger side's open window. They had been together for 10 years and she knew what John was thinking by the way he sighed as he looked toward the sign pointing the way to Gilroy. “And there’s no need to wrinkle up your nose. You can’t actually smell garlic from here.”

She pulled her head back inside the car and wrapped her scarf a little tighter.

John Russo and Melinda Wayne had a peculiar history with the town least likely to be a setting for an Anne Rice novel. A few summers before, Melinda had finally convinced John to drive out from Los Angeles to the famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, assuring him that it’d be a perfect spot for an upcoming shoot.

The studio head didn’t agree, though, and John had to endure finding cloves of garlic on his desk for many months after he suggested the idea. Of course those silly pranks were better than his eventual reward of a brand new although garlic-free desk at a different studio with a boss 15 years his junior.

With the young buck to compare himself to, John increasingly felt as if his own 45 years were speeding toward the half-century mark like a getaway car.

Getting away from what was the question he struggled to answer.

The mere sight of the Gilroy sign complete with festive garlic cloves started that old film reeling in John’s head--and it didn’t do much to unwrinkle his nose either.

Besides, there was definitely something pungent in the air.

He turned his head away from Gilroy so sharply and quickly that he felt blood rush to his head. Anger or hunger? thought John realizing that he had skipped dinner figuring they would be home in time for late night takeout, his usual fare.

He picked up some gravel in front of the car and started throwing the tiny stones one by one as hard as he could away from the highway. On his third sweep of the ground, he felt something jab into his pinky finger, just above his father’s diamond pinky ring.

“Son of a bitch!” he yelled as he pulled a small chunk of what used to be part of a green beer bottle from his finger. He fired the offender in the direction of the previously displaced rocks and shouted a few more expletives. He held his hand straight out in front of him, careful not to drip blood on himself or his new jacket.

“Character is who you are when no one is watching dear John,” sang his wife from inside the car as she adjusted her wedding band. It had been feeling snug lately and Melinda knew it was because of her poor eating habits. With John working more and more hours to impress his new boss, she was often left on her own for meals. Cooking for herself just wasn’t worth the effort so fast food it was, and her clothes, and now her ring, were not so subtly telling her that something had to give.

“I just love having a life coach for a wife,” he said with a smirk, glaring into Melinda’s brown eyes as he walked toward the passenger side window. “All the fortune without the cookie. Or is it all the cookie without the fortune?”

He laughed to himself and squeezed his finger near the ring. A few drops of blood fell to the ground. For as big as the piece of glass had been, it didn’t end up doing too much damage.

Melinda tilted her head and smiled sweetly at John. She pulled her purse up onto her lap and ruffled through it for a few seconds, finally finding what she had been looking for. Lip gloss.

Although her theater career had ended in Chicago a decade before, she never underestimated the value of good stage presence. Soon the AAA man would be arriving with some gas to rescue them, and she always did play a great damsel in distress.

“Hey Marilyn,” (she hated when he called her that), “you don’t happen to have any tissues in that abyss of makeup do you? A band-aid perhaps?” Tape for your mouth, he thought but was far too polite (or hungry or tired) to say it aloud.

She flung a pack of tissues out of the window in the direction of John’s face. His natural reflexes made his hands shoot up to protect himself. He caught the tissues just before they reached his nose, and a drop of blood streaked across the front of his jacket. He stared at Melinda for a few seconds before opening the tissues, and a few more droplets of blood fell to the ground. Then he removed one of the tissues and applied pressure to his wounded finger, balancing the rest of the pack in the palm of his good hand.

“I want a divorce,” Melinda said as she ripped the pack of tissues from John’s fragile grip and threw them in her purse. She untied and retied her scarf.

John wrapped the tissue tighter around his finger as he walked around to the front of the car. He leaned up against the bumper again, and a few minutes later when the tissue fell away from the cut, he didn’t notice.

He had been trying his hardest to look away from the highway before him and away from Gilroy and its garlic so instead he gazed up at Orion, who, without a doubt in John’s mind, was pointing his arrow directly at him.

And despite his Italian heritage, John vowed never to eat garlic again.


Thanks so much to NYC/Caribbean Ragazza for the following fabulous springboard of information:


A married couple driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Route 5 run out of gas. It's 2:00 a.m. and they are stuck near Gilroy "the garlic capital" of America.

The Characters:
Melinda Wayne, 37 and holding. Former actress turned life coach. Originally from a small town called Brooklyn, Iowa. Moved to L.A. 10 years after a successful theater career in Chicago.

John Russo, 45, Brooklyn born and raised. Move to L.A. to attend USC b-school. Was a hot-shot studio exec now reporting to his new boss who is 30.

Can they keep their marriage together during the 30 minutes it will take AAA to rescue them with some gas?

Come visit me at Bleeding Espresso!


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I'm leaving a message on your blog.

Thalia's Child said...

Aw, they didn't make it.

Nicely done!

Karina said...

Great job! I really enjoyed this!

Jenn in Holland said...

Damn garlic anyway!
What a great story. That was just a delight to read.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Ok, well, not lovely. A little sad but wonderfully written. :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Simply wonderful writing, Espresso! I just loved the characterizations and how the story unfolded. I also thought the ending had real punch. I'm in awe of your writing. Brava!

anno said...

Oh, this was fun to read, in that "if you don't have anything nice to say, come, sit next to me," kind of way. Neither character was particularly likable, but interesting... oh boy, were they interesting.

Luisa Perkins said...

Ouch! That's gotta hurt. Very fun!

I used to live right near Gilroy....

Wholly Burble said...

Of all the towns for your character to come from--my granddaughters live in Brooklyn, Iowa LOL

Well, quite a story and a fitting "ending"--you just kept the piece moving from one tidbit of dialogue, thought, and action to the next. Each piece brought the characters to life--I could see and hear them distinctly.

Great job!

bleeding espresso said...

*NYC, thanks!

*Thalia's child, well, she wants a divorce, but does she *really* want a divorce?

*Karina, thanks :)

*Jenn, who knew garlic was so divisive? Well we know it can keep people away....

*Cablegirl, thanks :)

*Jen, when it doubt, break up a marriage for a good ending, right? Ouch!

*Anno, I like to think that if this were a longer piece, they'd have more decent qualities; but when you have a bickering couple, well, they bring out the worst in each other don't they?

*Luisa, I've gotten quite a few comments/emails from people very familiar with Gilroy. It really *is* famous!

*Wholly, thanks for your comments. You have to give NYC/Caribbean ragazza the credit for Brooklyn Iowa--I never did get to mention it in the story. Rewrite!

The Daily Rant said...

GREAT story. I really enjoy your writing! Excellent banter and quips.

But, being a truck driver and happening through that area quite often, I'm just curious how they wound up in Gilroy if they were traveling on I-5 to L.A?

It's about 50 miles out of route...I might have divorced him too! :)

bleeding espresso said...

*Salena, you'll just have to take that one up with NYC/Caribbean girl; I've never been on the West Coast--and I've never written about it before this week!

capitolady said...

Good work!! Loved it. IF ever a place to break up at least you would be entertained with the smell of Gilroy.

bleeding espresso said...

Thanks Capitolady--that's a great spin :)