Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Katie's Pick

I can't lie...I thought Cheryl and Nichole were being all over-dramatic about how hard this would be.

But people?  They were SOOO not kidding!

It's one thing to gush and love on a bunch of posts throughout the week while I read them, but narrowing them down to ONE for my PICK?!?

Damn near impossible.

I have to be honest, I didn't get to nearly as many as I would like because I was reading them all so closely trying to decide...which one would be MY pick?

This week I have chosen "Pink Doughnut Perfection" by the lovely Erin Margolin.  

She claims to not write much fiction.  Pffft.  I will let you all be the judge of that!

I chose this piece because even as much as other pieces touched me?  I kept thinking about this piece long after I read it.

Even though it was fiction, this character that Erin created was so real.  And she was so sad.

Erin's attention to small, yet vital details is what won me over.

Amy waited in line at Quik Trip tapping her right foot on the dirty linoleum floor. The perfect pink doughnuts in quaint rows inside the Krispy Kreme box whispered her name. Then the Oreos, Twix and Reese’s peanut butter cups joined in, humming softly. Cool Ranch Doritos, hot dogs, and Funyuns spilled out of the top of her basket, eager to come to the party. Treetop apple juice, her favorite, to wash everything down.

It was always the same. Mostly the same things in the cart, but rarely the same gas station or corner store. Too risky, Amy thought.

 At first I thought that this was a fun post...all the yummy snacks (which I LOVE she mentioned by name) made me feel like I was in my local 7-11 picking up snacks for a party or for the beach with friends.

But then the word "risky" made me realize this post?  Was going nowhere happy.

After tossing some crumpled bills and change at the cashier who couldn’t even look her in the eye, she hurried with her goodies back to her car, which was parked on the side, away from the others. Slowly she unwrapped everything, saving the pink doughnuts for last, as was her ritual. She needed a marker, something to show her when she was done. Bright pink Krispy Kreme sprinkles were easy to spot.

Here I was a bit confused.  Was it the cashier who couldn't look Amy in the eye?  After reading the entire post, I think it was AMY who couldn't look the cashier in the eye, but it's ambiguous.

This is also where I started to get the feet sweats as I read "She needed a marker, something to show her when she was done."  I would have changed the comma to a dash, but that is me being picky.  Erin got her point across: the pink sprinkles were not meant for happiness.
Amy opened the familiar green and white box and stared. So neat, so pretty. Dainty, even. Until she reached her giant paws in and started stuffing her fat face. One down, eleven to go. Then ten, nine, eight…until only one remained. A single tear slipped down her cheek. Quit being such a goddamned baby, she reprimanded herself.

This is where it gets hard to read.  Not because it's horrible, but because the subject is horrible.  I do admit that I picture Amy as large.  This will be cleared up later, but it's a bit confusing to know that she sees herself as large, but is actually not.

I was also confused about her eating the pink donuts here if they were supposed to be last.  That also gets cleared up later; however, I wonder if a slight change in wording would have helped the reader to know what a "marker" meant.

The food was delicious at first. But a few minutes in, she stopped tasting and mechanical movements took over. The sweating began, the race to the finish line. Shoveling food in, more and more, gulping faster and faster, she couldn’t stop swallowing. She hated herself in those moments. Oreo crumbs in the corners of her mouth and stuck in her teeth. Stinky Doritos breath, sticky fingers covered in melted chocolate, empty food wrappers littering the floor of her otherwise clean and pristine car.

I am telling you, the details in these paragraphs kill me.  They are so vivid...and so horribly sad.
When the last peanut butter cup disappeared and only crumbs remained in the Funyuns bag, Amy checked her mirrors to make sure no one was around before grabbing the remaining Oreo and getting out of the car. Walking slowly towards the back of the Quick Trip, she savored the last bites of cookie, which now tasted sickeningly sweet.

This is where I began to beg Amy not to do it.  I knew what was coming and because Erin has uses such specific, perfect details to this point, I was afraid to keep reading.

After a final glance around to determine she was alone, she found a spot next to the dumpster. She didn’t even have to put her fingers down her throat anymore, the habit was so ingrained. Her body knew what she wanted it to do. She bent over and retched violently as her hand reached into her jeans pocket for a tissue.

I told you.  Horrible.
But such wonderful writing.

What really gets me is that she "retched violently as her hand reached into her jeans pocket for a tissue."   Erin pairs such a brutal act with one that is so every ordinary.  And the word "tissue" is so delicate.  Especially paired next to the extreme act of vomiting.

My little piece of picky here is that after "throat anymore" should be a semicolon.  Punctuation lesson of the day:  semicolons hook up two related independent clauses (or complete sentences in every day speak).

Relief swam over Amy as she vomited again and again.

Your thighs are fat and your stomach is flabby, said a voice.

You’re ugly and no one really likes you, a second one chimed in.

You will never be good at anything, added the third.

Just then, she caught a glimpse of something pink. She hurried to finish the job.

This is where the pink donuts being eaten first make sense.  But it's so quick it takes more than one reading to catch it.  This is also where the reader realizes she is a skinny girl...someone who has been doing this enough to not have a shred of fat on her body.  A girl who is very, very sick and needs help.

You’re a coward, too, the voice came back. Taking the easy way out. Why don’t you just go to the gym?

Amy snapped up, swiping a pink trickle off of her chin with her sleeve.

Such a disgustingly small detail...that is PERFECT for this scene.

Shut the fuck up!” she screamed so loudly she realized the whole store must’ve heard. She jammed the wet Kleenex back into her pocket and ran to her car. Racing out of the parking lot, she chucked the empty Krispy Kreme box out the window as her tires squealed.

 The fact that she "jammed the wet Kleenex back into her pocket" totally grossed me out. And I felt like the last sentence was a little bit cliche...the last image of a car peeling out with a box flying out the window is a little cheesy.  I would have liked better if it just ended at her running to her car.

I LOVE this post.  Time and time again I would find myself thinking about it and realizing that even though many of us (I hope) don't go this far, how many of us have these voices in our heads telling us that we suck?

The idea behind this post was so damn close.  So universal...but so close.

What do you think of Erin's post?  Let's chat about it in the comments.

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