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Friday, July 21, 2017

Flash Fiction: Alex and the Intern

Last weekend, I participated in the 24 Hour Short Story Contest. In this contest, we had 24 hours to write an 850 word story following the prompt below.

It was supposed to be the summer job of a lifetime, working as a chef at an upscale "summer camp" for adults. But, the air conditioner was broken again. After closing, the stale outdoor air brought little relief. The path to the cabins housing seasonal employees was dark but short. She stopped in her tracks when she came across one of the windows. With her pupils dilating, she couldn't look away...

 I was traveling with my parents and my three children when the contest started, so between sleeping in the car and unpacking, I wasted about six hours dancing around the first thing that popped into my head: octopus. For a less-than-two-minute education on octopuses (yes octopuses,not octopi), click here for a clip from Animal Planet's show Tanked (one of the few shows my family watches together with no grumbling).

Since the key to winning the heart of the judges (according to the recommendations in the materials they sent to participants) was a surprise ending, I took the advice seriously. (If you've read my erotic shorts, you've read some Patient Lee Titty Twister Endings. This one's just a Twister.) I didn't want to use a plot twist I've seen on TV, so I stayed away from the horribly venomous Blue Ringed Octopus.

After struggling and sketching and trying to pull the story together, I was beginning to lose hope of bringing it together. But then the clouds opened up, the sun shone down on me, and Tool came on. Schism is my writing song. "I know the pieces fit." (See the video below.)

My parents took the kids to the beach, and by the time they returned, the story was half-written. I finished twelve hours early. Amazing what a little quiet time can do for the creative brain.

Here it is, for your enjoyment.

Alex and the Intern

© 2017 Patient Lee

On the third day of Tanisha’s internship at Camp Wine and Sea, the octopus escapeyd, as though he thought by dinnertime, Chef Roscoe would be arranging his tentacles on a bed of rice pilaf.

It wasn’t true, of course. Alex, the Great Pacific Octopus, had been a dining-room fixture at the camp since it opened. Octopus was Chef Roscoe’s specialty, and it was on the menu every Saturday night, but Alex wasn’t dinner. He was the camp mascot, and he provided conversation fodder for the uncomfortable adults sharing tables with strangers on the first night of camp. Until the wine started flowing, Alex kept the party going.

Peter, the sommelier, discovered Alex’s absence minutes before the first dinner seating. He raced to kitchen. “Chef, where’s Alex?”

“The octopus?”

“Yes, the octopus. He’s not in his tank.”

"Again?” The chef groaned. “One of these days, I’m going to serve that monster in a tomato confit, I swear. Get the intern to look for him.”
Peter raised his eyebrow. “You want to leave that to her? She’s made a dozen mistakes since she got here. Besides, don’t you need her in the kitchen?”
“Would you rather she pour wine tonight?” The chef dismissed him without another word. Instead, Peter performed a cursory search of the kitchen and dining room himself, and when the first guests entered the dining room, peering into Alex’s tank, he distracted them with Sauvignon Blanc.

A misogynist, Chef Roscoe resented the management’s choice of intern for the summer. Tanisha Jones didn’t care what Chef thought. She’d earned her place in his kitchen with her 4.0 at the university and three wins in prestigious cooking contests. Even though he’d blamed every error in the kitchen on her since she arrived at camp, she was ready to stand tall against his pompous attitude.

While Chef was in the dining room announcing the evening’s menu—octopus braised in red-wine with Kalamata olives—Tanisha tended to the pots and pans on the stove. When he returned to the kitchen, he barked three orders in a row to her, and before she could do any of them, he said, “And put that octopus over there in the big pot for the third seating.”

Tanisha followed his instructions to the letter, knowing it didn’t matter. Chef set her up for failure every time she turned around, but she did her best for the sake of the diners who were paying a small fortune for a week at the adult summer camp.

The air conditioner quit halfway through the second seating, and by the end of the third, heat exhaustion threatened to knock out the staff. Tanisha and Chef Roscoe cleaned the kitchen as quickly as they could, and just when she thought she’d get some relief from the heat, her nose detected the odor of spoiling food. She scanned the kitchen, looking for the forgotten piece of fish or scrap of meat.

Sniffing the air, she followed her nose to the corner of the kitchen where she found a metal bowl containing an octopus, ready for the cooking pot if it hadn’t begun to rot from the intense heat in the cooking area. Swallowing the urge to vomit, she called, “Chef. You have to see this.”

“What the hell?” His eyes narrowed in anger. “You were supposed to cook the octopus. What did you cook?” His voice rose in pitch as his anger increased.

“The octopus in the jar over there!” She pointed to the counter next to the stove. “It was right next to the pot. I assumed that was the one you meant!”

Chef shook his head and chuckled without humor. “You idiot. You know Alex got out today, right?”

“Alex from the dining room?” Her face fell as it dawned on her. An octopus could open a jar to hide in it. “Did I cook Alex?” Her voice was a whisper, punctuated by projectile vomit as she accepted the truth. She’d cooked the camp mascot.

After cleaning her mess and the putrefying octopus, she stepped into the dark, wishing for relief from the heat. Instead, the stale air knocked her back a step, nauseating her again.

Regaining her balance, she started down the dark path to the employees’ cabins. Worry ran circles in her head. Would the camp administration fire her? Would animal rights activists call for her head on a pike? Could she live with herself after making such a horrific mistake?

She heard Chef Roscoe’s voice, stopping her short. She turned and found herself at his cabin, his open sitting-area window providing her a view of his kitchen. He sounded as if he was speaking to a puppy. “I got that uppity bitch. Yes, I did, Alex.”

Her eyes flew open, pupils dilating, when he stepped into view. Any thought that he’d stolen Alex to keep as a pet vanished as he placed the platter on the table, the octopus moving listlessly as it languished out of water.

Tanisha’s scream couldn’t save the octopus as Chef brought the cleaver down on Alex’s bulbous head.

Friday, July 14, 2017

WIP: Pittsburgh- Coming in August

The Facebook challenge was to post a one-word story title and a brief synopsis. I looked up from my spot in the passenger seat and saw the sign for Pittsburgh. Three minutes later, this little story was sketched out in my head. 

Here's a flirtatious excerpt about two men who meet in a Philadelphia sports bar watching a 76ers (basketball) game. 

This sexy, MM short story makes its debut on August 19 at Patient Lee's Saturday Takeover on Queeromance Ink's Facebook Page

(And check out Queeromance Ink's website to search for your particular favorite type of queer romance and erotica. Sign up for their weekly newsletter and receive FIVE FREE BOOKS!)


The warm blast of heat as I opened the door of Tommy’s, the sports bar down the street from my office, hit me like a hug from my mother. It was frickin’ freezing in Philadelphia this week, and it didn’t look like it was gonna warm up any time soon. I was late getting out of work, again, and I’d already missed the first quarter of the Sixers game. It didn’t help that the bar was packed. I looked around for people I knew, but I could hardly walk, never mind see. I pushed my way to the bar, just as an older guy pulled his overcoat off the back of his chair and yelled a thank you to the bartender.

“You leaving, man?” I asked as I put my hand on the stool before somebody else grabbed it.

“Yeah,” he said. “Just stopped for a beer. Basketball ain’t my thing.” He pushed his way through the crowd, and I bellied up to the bar. I arranged my coat on my chair and loosened my tie, checking the back on my Flyers tie tack to make sure it was secure.

“Stella Bella,” I called, flagging the bartender over. Her name was Stella, but that didn’t stop me from adding on the Bella. I’d been coming to this bar for four years, ever since I moved out of my parents’ house in King of Prussia to my townhouse in Rittenhouse Square. Stella was gorgeous. Long, brown, wavy hair, and an ass that filled her jeans to a level that most men would find delicious.

Most men. Not me. I came out in high school and took all the shit that came along with it, but I graduated and went to Penn State Main Campus. I got my degree in business, and right after graduation, I got a job at PNC bank in Philly. It was a good job, not my dream job or anything, but I had a nice place to live and I was pretty happy with my life. All that was missing was a guy who filled his jeans like Stella did. A nice package in the front wouldn’t hurt either.

Stella put the pitcher of Yuengling and a frosted glass in front of me. “How ya doing, Clarke?”

“Better now that I’m in here,” I said. “It’s fucking cold out there.”

She filled my glass, clucking her tongue and smiling. “It’s January in Philadelphia. What the hell did you expect?” The State Farm commercial on the giant TV in front of me ended, and the second quarter of the game started.

I didn’t notice the guy next to me until I finished my burger. I was so fucking hungry, and so focused on the game, I wouldn’t have noticed if a bomb went off. The Sixers were down by four for most of the second quarter, and I didn’t want to have to depend on the replay when they turned the tables on the Bulls.

He actually hit me when the Sixers caught up. His arms flew up in the air when Robinson tied the game up. His hand clipped my head, and his head snapped toward me. The shocked look on his face was hilarious.

“I am so sorry,” he said. His eyes were wide, and I could see that he hadn’t even realized I was there.

“Quite a game, huh?”

“Yeah. Great game, now that we’re tied up.”

Stella leaned in between the two of us, looked at me, and said just loudly enough to hear over the noise in the bar, “I know for a fact he enjoys that.”

He blushed an adorable shade of red, but I did, too. “How does she know that for a fact, huh? Did Stella Bella tie you up?” I tried not to grin too widely. I didn’t want him to think I was coming on to him. I was coming on to him, but I’d been shot down in an embarrassing blaze of dismay enough times to stay cool.

“NO!” He said it loud enough for our whole side of the bar to hear. “I drank too much one night, and she—”

“She tied you up?” I laughed, mostly from discomfort. Bondage wasn’t in my bag of tricks. Neither was hetero sex.

“No.” He snorted out loud. “She coaxed the story out of me. This bachelorette party was discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. I made a comment, and she didn’t let it go until I told the story.” He took a long drink, draining his beer. “I am so freaking embarrassed right now.”

The game resumed, and I let it go for a few minutes. Stella brought another round, and this time, she spoke to him. “Did you tell him all about it? I bet he’d love to know. I think he’s your type.” She looked at me and gestured to him with her head. “He’s gorgeous, isn’t he, Clarke?”

I cocked an eyebrow. Was she trying to fix us up?

“Clarke, this is Joe. Joe, this is Clarke. I can’t believe you guys haven’t met here before.”

He had the same confused look as I did. “I usually work second shift, so I’m not usually here until midnight,” he said. “They got me on first shift this week.”

“What do you do?”

“Paramedic. I live around the corner, so I stop in a lot on the way home. Tonight I just came to watch the game with someone other than my cat.”

“Ha! Same. I work during the day, but neither of my cats appreciate my obnoxious cheering. I’m in banking. Less exciting, but then again, so am I.”

The Sixers got a three-pointer, pushing them into the lead. Joe and I jumped up and cheered, along with the rest of the bar. He turned to me and gave me a deliberate high-five. Our eyes met for a moment, and a shiver ran through me. I tried to shake it off, but he was hot. And it had been a long time since I met someone. But was he gay? I wasn’t sure enough to risk it. Yet.

We returned our attention to the game, and I was grateful for the distraction. This guy was making me hard, and until I knew whether he was gay or straight, I didn’t want him to. The momentum had shifted to the Sixers, and they were up by eight points.

Stella came around with refills. She put them down on the bar and stood there, looking from Joe to me and back to Joe. “What’s the matter with you?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “We’re watching the game.”

“I’ve done all the work for you two. If you blow this, it’s your own fault.” She snorted. “I mean, blowing would indicate success, but . . .”

My heart was pounding. He had to be gay. She had to be setting us up. He turned to me with raised eyebrows.

I grinned as the lump in my pants returned. “So then you . . .”

“Oh, thank goodness,” he said, grinning back.

The buzzer ending the game echoed through the bar, and everyone jumped up, cheering. Without thinking, I leapt from my chair and hugged him. I was almost embarrassed, but before I had a chance to blush, his erection poked my thigh. Thank goodness is right.

We pulled back and locked eyes. “Did you say you live around the corner?” I asked. I couldn't resist. He was adorable, and I hadn't had sex in ages.

Stella raised her glass of ginger ale to us as we grabbed our coats and left in a rush. The blast of cold air did nothing to cool my ardor, but the snow had picked up.

“I think the meteorological term is snowing like a son-of-a-bitch!” He pulled his black-and-gold watch cap over his ears. “It’s just down there.” He gestured with his gloved fingers to the gift shop down the block. “I live upstairs.”

Three steps later, and my toes were frozen through my wingtips. Joe was much better prepared for the cold than I. Better prepared for the snow, too. I’d lived my entire life in Philadelphia, and I still didn’t think to put my damn boots on in the winter. My heel slid right through the snow, and I fell to the sidewalk, my skull smashing into the snow-cushioned pavement.

My rational mind knew it was Joe’s paramedic training which pushed him to cradle my head with such care, but my rational mind was on break. I gazed into his eyes, and serenity engulfed me. He shifted his head, and the snow and the streetlight formed a perfect halo around his heavenly face. I heard horns—the angels, I guessed, but Joe’s head snapped up, his eyes went wide, and everything went dark.

* * * *

The blackout affected a big chunk of the city, but the accident which caused the horns I heard happened right in front of Tommy’s, the sports bar we’d just left. We couldn't tell if anyone was injured, and it was freaking dark. No streetlights, no neon, no LED signs flashing open, and now that the accident blocked the one-way street, no headlights. 

While I was still lying on the sidewalk, I encouraged Joe to go to the accident. I could tell he was itching to help.

“I already have a patient. I can’t abandon one patient for another without transferring care,” he said, his voice all business. He helped me to my feet once he’d finished his assessment and determined I was okay. “Besides, I can’t show up on scene with a boner like this.” He held my arm after that, which was just dandy with me. We were close in height, and the traces of his aftershave drew me in.

He fumbled with the key in the dark entrance to his apartment. “Jesus. It’s so dark I won’t even need to blindfold you.”

“Blindfold?” I choked on spit as I said it. 

To be continued . . .

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