Edmond

Cram by Jordan Castillo Price and Edmond Manning

I met an awesome new friend at this year’s GayRomLit conference, Jordan Castillo Price. She and I vibed right away (and I mean that in the truest sense of the hippie word–it was freaky and groovy).

She subsequently introduced me to the lovely genre of flash fiction. One writer starts the story and the other writer finishes, creating a micr0-story. I’ve never seen myself as co-authoring with another writer mostly because I’m way too picky and weird, but JCP made this experience delightful and we’re coauthoring a few more. It’s like playing tennis, but with words.

Funz!

Also, another reason to like her:  the word count was real close to 800 and she said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if it could be an even 800 words. Exactly that number?” As someone who appreciates patterns, symbolism, and number games in writing, yes, yes it would be nice to come out so evenly. See? She’s pretty awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the 800-word story we wrote together, Cram.

***

The clock is ticking. I’m aware of each second slipping by. One by one. Relentless. Irrevocable. It’s a distant sort of awareness, like a near-death experience—at least the way they always talk about them on TV reenactments where someone’s standing by calmly watching their body hurtling down the hospital corridor on a squeaking metal gurney while people in scrubs are yelling things like, “Stat!” and “Clear!” and “We’re losing him.”

It’s the distant part of me that hears time running out. The cheers and jeers of the crowd, too, and the retching sounds off to my right. That noise signals the forfeit of one of my competitors, but there’s no time to revel in it. Not now.

I thrust my hand into the vat and come up with a great handful. Gelatin, corn syrup, a hint of fake vanilla, such innocuous little confections for such a cutthroat test of endurance and will.

Behind me, my sister Daria leans in and murmurs, “You don’t have to do this, Junior.”

Says her. She thinks she knows what’s at stake, a new coffee maker and a whole month of free groceries at the Piggly Wiggly. But Daria doesn’t know the half of it. I ignore her, ball up another marshmallow and cram it into my cheek.

I’ve lost count. I have no idea how many more I can cram inside me, these fat, milky soft cubes, well, sorta cubes, doesn’t matter, I crush them deeper, force them to stack against each other, more, then another, then another.

I can’t lose.

Time? When are they gonna call time? It’s only a ten-minute span and it seems like an hour ago we started.

I hear coughing, big coughing, and another one is out. The crowd groans collectively in empathy but quickly forget the sidelined competitor. They’re chanting down the clock. “20…19…18…”

“Junior,” Daria says, “it’s you and Breck.”

Breck. I hate that guy.

My high school tormentor, stupid dumb jock, jock leader, and when I am honest with myself, my jack off fantasy. Asshole.

“11…10…9…”

My hand is empty and I’ve still got room for a few more. Tears swim before my eyes but I grab more gelatin, corn syrup cubes.

“For god’s sakes, Junior,” Daria says, worry in her voice.

Choking.

Daria and I discussed the risk beforehand. The fair board hired two EMTs who stand nearby, ready to perform the Heimlich if necessary. Perfectly safe. I’ve witnessed this stupid Founders Day contest other years, but only this year was it really worth it to win.

One more. One more. One more!

“…6…5…4…”

At last, the sound I’d been craving, the sweet melody swam into my ears, the sound of Breck barfing. It almost sounds like a laugh, though it sputters to a wet finale punctuated by a patter of gooey cornstarch-thickened drool on pavement. I’m not taking any chances and continue to stuff one more, just one more into my exploded cheeks and Daria grabs my arm, halting the latest marshmallow as I crush it into submission in preparation for its new home.

“…2…1….”

The crowd chants.

“Stop, Junior,” Daria begs, “just stop.”

Howling. Screaming.

The panel of judges insist I empty my mouth into the metal counting bowl, poring over the semi-digested globs, poking them with bamboo grilling skewers rather than touching them directly. I already know what they will find in that bowl. Victory.

When they announce me as the winner, I throw my arms over my head, and the crowd brays in ecstasy.

“A new town record,” one of the announcers cries out with glee.

Breck sits on his bench, scowling at the whole affair as if he’s suddenly ashamed to be associated with all of us. He’s still got his almost mono-brow, his fat pouty lips with the cherriest sliver of red visible on the bottom one.

I jog over to him, good sport that I am, and hold my hand up for a high five. The audience in bleachers watches for his good sportsmanship so he is forced to stand and slap my hand.

I lean in and say, “What time should I pick you up Saturday night? Six?”

Breck glares at me, helpless and furious, and doesn’t deign to answer.

The top judge announces my name and the crowd screams again. I pump my fists in the air and Daria, the danger now over, just shakes her head. She’s been eyeballing a new insulated carafe model for quite some time.

When the screams are at their loudest, I turn to Breck, the loser of our bet, and yell at him, “It’s good to know how much you can fit in your mouth.”

His eyebrows shoot up in alarm.

“And wear something sexy,” I say, leaving his side to join the mayor, who awaits with my trophy.

10 Responses to “Cram by Jordan Castillo Price and Edmond Manning”

  1. Joyce Says:

    Very cute and funny.. The humor at the end was a fun surprise..

  2. Josephine Myles Says:

    LOL! That was perfect. I love short fiction so much done well, and of course you’re both fabulous writers :D

  3. Jim Adcock Says:

    Loved it. To be honest, I rarely read short fiction. I usually leave feeling like I missed something. In this case I leave hoping you continue the story but satisfied with what you gave me. Well done, both of you.

  4. Jayden Brooks Says:

    That was so much fun!! More please…

  5. Clare London Says:

    Fabulous! I’m a huge fan of flash fiction, I love the leap-straight-in, every-word-counts, slice-of-life theme :). Lovely pacing and wit. I’m sitting at the end of it, still reading and grinning :)

  6. Katherine Halle Says:

    This was so much fun to read!!!

  7. Aniko Says:

    I really enjoyed that! Watch out, Breck, heh heh heh.

  8. Diana Says:

    What a fun little story. It’s amazing what two fabulous authors can do when they collaborate. It’s perfect!

  9. Anna Cuva Says:

    That was fucking awesome! I am envisioning their date now…. I love that Junior is entranced bu that sliver of red on Brecks lip ;) and that Breck really is looking forward to this date also, because there’s no way he would have agreed to the bet if he hadnt

  10. Allison Says:

    Fantastic! I can’t stop grinning, it’s such a perfect mix of both your writing.

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