Wednesday, November 15, 2006



You knew I wouldn't be writing a 'normal' exercise. Meet Mrs. Ebersol and her son, Adam. Jon will be happy that I included the use of food, he has a thing about food in fiction. I think I once heard him say: "'Grapes of Wrath'? Great book, needed more food." If this story makes people uncomfortable, then I can only say: "Welcome to my world". Adam, wherever you are, save me a piece of cake. Mazel Tov.

Mrs. Ebersol poured a cup of coffee for her son and leaned over him to set it on the table. Kissing him on the top of his balding head, she moved to the refrigerator and pulled out a carton of cream.

“What are you doing tonight?” she asked in a voice ravaged from years of smoking.
“What I do every night.”

“It’s Friday.”

Adam Ebersol nodded to himself and took the cream. He trickled some into the coffee, stirring slowly with a spoon.

“You’ve been sulking so much lately. What happened to that girl you were dating? What was her name? Jen?”

“It didn’t work out,” said Adam. His response was too loud.

“You’re too picky.”

“I’m not too picky,” he said. He wanted to put his face in his hands and scream himself raw. He wished the pause would become a long stretch of silence, but his mother wouldn’t, couldn’t let it go. She was killing him here.
“You don’t take care of yourself. You should do something positive with your life. Join something.”

“What should I join?”


“I’m not a joiner.”

His mother sat across the table. “Can I be frank with you?” she asked.

Adam sucked in air. No, please don’t be frank. Stab me in the eye with a fork, but whatever you do, don’t be frank. It was too late though; his mother smiled with good intention. His feet turned inward. Abruptly though, she stood and moved to the sink to start scraping off the remains of their dinners. When she didn’t say anything he wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but remarkably the phrase kept poking him. Soft at first, then harder. Can I be frank with you? Can I be frank with you? Can I be FRANK with you?
“What were you going to say?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

His mother lit a cigarette, sucking hard at it and then releasing a slow puff of smoke.
“Nothing. I just...”

“Just what.”

“I keep telling you, but you keep telling me I’m either interfering or nagging you. I don’t want to upset you. I just think you should change. Lose weight. Take pride in your appearance. Get a haircut. Buy some new clothes. Your brother knew how to dress.”

“I never had a brother,” said Adam. He turned in his chair and studied her. She shrugged and stuck her hands into a pile of soap suds. Bubbles climbed up her arms.

“What did I say? A brother. I meant your father, God Rest His Soul.”

"Adam turned back around and thought about his father, now dead four years. He didn’t miss the old man. When his mother went it would be more an inconvenience than anything else. He tried to imagine life without her and was startled when he found he couldn’t.

“You’re right,” he said. The words grabbed him about the throat and he slipped into himself, landing hard.

“You’re father never took care of himself, either. Look what happened to him. Dead so young. I used to tell him, too. Stop eating so much. Try a salad once in a while. No, he was always with the junk food and the fat. You should have seen him in his best days. Slender. Rugged. Then he let himself go and lost interest. I lost interest.”

She dried her hands on a towel and went to the refrigerator to pull out a large chocolate cake. Cutting a large wedge, she slipped it onto a plate and brought the plate to her son.

“Here, Sweetie,” she said.

Adam looked at the cake. The icing was thick, the way he liked it. His mouth watered a little. “I think I’m going to pass on cake tonight.”


“You know.”

She smiled and ran a fingertip along his jawline. Leaning close enough so that he could smell the residue perfume from the nape of her neck, she said: “Sweetie, have the cake. You can go without tomorrow.”

“I don’t know.”

“I know.”

She pinched his earlobe and leaned closer until her lips were moist on his forehead. “Eat for me.”

Adam looked at the cake. He could smell the chocolate and he could imagine the taste on the tip of his tongue. Shifting uneasily in his seat, he shook his head again. As though reading his mind, his mother dabbed at the chocolate with her finger and stuck it into her mouth. She smiled as though remembering something.

“Go ahead, Darling.”

Adam eyed her lips and lifted the fork. The chocolate kissed his tongue. He kissed back. Mrs. Ebersol slipped behind him, her bosom hard against the back of his head. “Isn’t that good?” she asked.

He stuck another bite of cake into his mouth and leaned back against her.

Tousling his thinning hair, she shifted weight from one foot to the other. He heard her exhale and smelled the smoke. Stepping away, she started for the living room. In her absence, the room felt suddenly cold behind him. Adam looked after her.

“Aren’t you going to have any?” he called.

“I’m going out tonight, Sweetie.”


“I’m going out. I’m going to a movie.”

He heard her go through the living room and into the bedroom. The door closed. Adam looked down at his plate and rapidly began shoveling cake into his mouth. A clod of chocolate dropped into his lap. Without pause he scooped it onto his fork and into his mouth. When he was through, he licked the fork, then each finger. Without thinking, he rose and walked to the refrigerator to see what else he could find for desert.


Lori Witzel said...

Ahhhh. Resonant and disturbing, in so many ways. I like it...and am still shuddering.

Odd word verification that I found apt for the topic, before I realized I misread the lower-case "L":

Crunchy Carpets said...

EEEWWW that's my mother in law!!

No really..have you seen the movie 'Spanking the Monkey'....REEEEEELLY disturbing...for guys anyway!

Hee hee.

Susan Miller said...

Your initial description on the link had made me weary. I thought, "Surely not, Stu." Yes, a bit disturbing, but your writing is always so comfortable. It's inviting, doesn't intimidate or jump hastily from one point to another. Thus, I enjoyed it and do know I can learn so much from you as well as the others participating. Thanks for the opportunity, my friend.

miller580 said...

OK, that was creepy..."you can go without tomorrow" I can't even think of the right words to say how creeped out this one made me. I think the only way you could have creeped it up another notch, would have been her sticking the finger full of chocolate into his mouth. But not only would that have been too much (for me anyway) it'd be cliche'. You have the makings here for one sick book, or at least a novella.

Yes, Spanking the monkey was a freaky movie, but you have taken it to a whole new level.

BTW their is a a typo (I think)..."Adam looked at the cake. The icing was thick, the way he licked it." I think you meant 'the way he liked it.' It tripped me up a little when she was dipping her finger into the thick chocolate.(Not that I am one to talk about spelling and grammar).

Asara Dragoness said...

I know that feeling.. that cake desiring feeling.. it looks at you, and says "hey, don't I look delicious?" Trust me, in my house, that cake wouldn't need anyone helping it to get to me. I especially appreciate the irony in the fact that in the beginning, she's telling him to lose weight, and then ends up pressuring him to eat the cake anyway... I know that feeling too. Really excellent! Maybe next time around I'll put my brain to work for ya :)

SQT said...

Mommy's got issues.

Jessica said...

A little creepy, but it didn't go as far as I expected.

Chocolate cake and licking the icing is very seductive. Yum!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks for the comments. My goal was to have people squirm. These are two pathetic people.

I love these assignments. I sit down...bang bang bang...and fifteen minutes later, I have a bit of flash fiction. I don't even bother rewrites. It's just a warm up exercise to keep me on my toes.

Jon said...

Yeah, creepy, but without the total "eeewww" factor of something more explicit. Thank God. More than enough with the cake frosting. Way more than enough as she disappears behind the bedroom door. I don't want to read what happens when the door next opens.

kellynbreesmom said...

I didn't think it was 'creepy' at all.I enjoyed reading it. It'd be the good beginning for a novella.The characters are real,just kind of sad and pathetic.I love reading.