Friday, 10 August 2012


For this one, Mr. Tenorio challenged us to write a shorty in three paragraphs. Here's the prompt: an aging professor is recently denied his tenure in a small university in a small town, and the professor is now sitting in a bar, thinking about it. The first paragraph must have at least five sentences and must cover a maximum of ten minutes of his life, the second paragraph must not have more than five sentences and must cover a minimum of five years of his life, and the last paragraph must show him hailing a taxi to go home.

The idea is to stretch time like in Raymond Carver's short "The Cathedral".


Tom Willis fingered the rim of his glass. It was his third milkshake. His first one was chocolate. “I need the happiness,” he said to the bartender, “And nothing else gives me bliss like a healthy serving of chocolate.” The second one was strawberry. “Because pink is such a lovely color. Like my bedroom,” he said to a man who sat beside him. The man moved two bar stools away after an awkward silence. And now it was vanilla. “Like most aspects of my life.” Tom ran his right middle finger around the mouth of the tall glass, tracing it. With his right thumb and index finger, he held the white bendy straw that jutted out of the snowy top of the milkshake. Tom slowly pulled it out, concentrating on the lush squishing sounds that the straw made as it slid out of the calorie fountain. He had asked for whole milk. He needed to binge, at least tonight. Some of the vanilla goodness stuck to the straw. Tom put the straw near his lips and licked it clean, the sweetness transferred to his tongue. He grasped the cold, hard, clear acrylic glass and put its mouth to his and began to swallow the icy content. He needed to binge. At least tonight.

After twenty years of teaching, nay, dedicating his life to that dismal Liberal Arts College, in that dismal, provincial town, Tom’s tenure was denied. As soon as he got to his apartment he had been renting on a monthly basis, he packed his bags and took the first plane to Reno where his parents were. As the plane made a descent to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, he felt himself waking up from a nightmare. No more close-minded students, no more pesky colleagues, and no more board of ungrateful school directors smelling of cheap colognes. He smiled as he remembered his exact words to the members of that board when he announced his resignation.

Tom looked at his third glass of milkshake. It was half empty. He was smiling now but it was a different kind of smile from the one on the plane. That one had been a smile of small victory. This one was a smile of great defeat. Tom lifted his head and he caught the eyes of the bartender. The bartender couldn’t be more than thirty. He had red hair that matched his neatly trimmed beard and eyes that had that proverbial sparkle. But he was only a bartender, Tom thought. A bartender wouldn’t know Moby Dick if he sat on one. But he was so full of life, unlike Tom, who, by now, was wasted and drowning in unforgivably high amount of calories. But Tom couldn’t care less. Let those years of working out be damned. He would stop dying his hair to hide the silvering lines. The bartender was still smiling at Tom, but Tom couldn’t read his smile. Was it an ironic smile? Tom couldn’t tell. In a week, after daily visits to the bar, after sitting on the same place every time, the bartender would strike a conversation with Tom and Tom would learn that his name was Jerry and they would laugh, and that would be Tom’s first real laugh in six years. In a month, Jerry and Tom would kiss, and Jerry would tell Tom how he had fallen in love with a sad-looking man who looked like Ernest Hemingway and had three milkshakes in a row and Tom would cry on Jerry’s chest and they would talk about The Old Man and the Sea. But for now, Tom only smiled back at the bartender, finished his milkshake, paid the tab, and walked out of the bar to hail a cab that would take him back to his parents’ home.


1 comment:

  1. You study with Lysley Tenorio?? I love him!! I interviewed him for Zyzzyva once. He's rad.