Live Lit Assignment @StoryStudio: Diatribe

  • Sumo

Live Lit assignment was to pick a public figure, not political or religious, and write, well, a diatribe. The other stories in class were excellent. One on Walt Disney, one on PowerPoint and one on a guy who runs an org I can’t remember that forces open mics to shut down if they don’t pay licensing fees. I had difficulty with this assignment as I had a hard time manufacturing hatred. The best I could do was annoyance. This is what I ended up writing.

Red shoes. For godsakes. Dark pants. Some kind of white or off white shirt. Dark jacket. Never a tie but always some handkerchief in the breast pocket. Five o’clock shadow that extends to what would otherwise be a shiny, bald head. Instead it is dark around the ears, leading up to a somewhat shiny spot though maybe it’s the lighting. You still think you look smart up there, delivering sarcasm to kill dreams.

That stance. Arms crossed, legs apart, head tiled down just so, letting you glare. Or the half cross, one arm tucked while the other rests, a hand near your lips, pursed, with the pointer finger resting in the space. Fitting with the Italian stereotype, you talk with your hands, maintaining that fuck-you-it’s-still-my-kitchen glare. Then there’s that scowl, the curves of your face drooping, the mouth dragging it all down further as the lips curl into a sneer as you shake your head in disapproval or disappointment at a wannabe chef, tossing the fork and knife with a satisfying clange just in case none one watching, the other judges, the sound crew, film crew, no one, understood your disgust over a particular dish.

Words tumble out into phrases with that matter-of-fact-you-are-an-asshole-compared-to-me tone, mixed now and then with dashes of compassion to salvage hope that vanishes with the next breath. Words and phrases that mess with minds, purposely cagey, groping for that small shred of confidence in order to pinch it between your teeth before dumping it on the counter, smeared in distasteful spit. The chef is left standing there, staring at her dream being devoured by the acidity of your saliva.

Strut back to your spot, cross those arms and deliver the fuck-you-not-in-my-kitchen glare.

You won’t see, but you’ll feel it. All too familiar, that cold blade against your powdered but still perspiring throat. Right above the collar of the off white shirt with no tie, that kerchief too thin and small to staunch the flow of blood as the blade sinks with ease into your flesh, slicing cleanly across from ear to ear, just as you expect a Master Chef to slice meat. Then the long, quick cut down your chest, parting the skin to flay, exposing the ribs. Best part. Favorite part. The ribs. Marinate them, sear them and serve them up with couscous, asparagus and a strawberry compote for dessert.

Will the rest scowl at my dish, so artfully and lovingly prepared? Or will they marvel at its tasteful presentation, rich flavour and call it exquisite?

We read the pieces aloud, in class, and they are timed. This was a three minute piece. The feedback was excellent. Though I don’t use a name, they could still picture the type of person. Those who have seen the show know, and thought I nailed it. The instructor particularly liked the description of the scowl. They all commented on how the piece was methodical, the delivery dispassionate it gave them chills. The part about the ribs, though, they all liked the best.

I thought my delivery was more sarcastic than dispassionate, and I didn’t pickup on methodical until it was mentioned. The class has been rather useful in getting viewpoints on writing. Aspects that seem normal, typical to me, what I do, like being methodical, don’t register. I’ve come to understand being methodical is how my mind works, and now that I’ve heard that repeated in feedback on my writing, I’m curious to see if I can break that a little bit, or be more meticulous. Another thing I’m learning is that I’m very good at description. I used to think I was only good at dialogue. I’m also learning that I enjoy the performance aspect, reading aloud.

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