All the Tropes We Cannot Eat

by | Aimee Oct Day 2

The blinking neon sign should have been a warning. Then the room number—pure bad luck. And the night clerk’s goatee, Jesus. You needed gas, don’t we all. A back wheel jammed while crossing the parking lot. Wheel of Fortune. The Price was Right. Jeopardy. I’ll take Cheap Motel Thrill for 300, Alex. What is femme fatal?

The drapes wouldn’t close. Both double beds held memory foam outlines, foetal position. The brown sink water tasted fine. God is Man yelling was underlined with blood in the desktop Gideon Bible. No Dakota black mining hills, no women running off with another guy, no Racoon Saloon. You had come for isolation and that’s what they served with a side of canned beans. Towels as thin as tissue paper. The local livestock auction on TV, you could bid over the phone if a hankering, then the inevitable scream timpani-ed across the lot with only your car and you under the vacant sky. You’d left your lover’s pistol in the glovebox.

You’re good at running in forests at night. But this thing flew. Doubling back when you believed the coast clear, of course, you’d left the keys bedside. Fog rolled in as if invited. You slide under the chassis to bide time, focused on silent exhales. Oil like water tortured the forehead. Could an exhaust pipe spear a thorax? Did the rental insurance policy cover delusion? At dawn, you regretted not studying more psychology? A wasted life on film. Should-haves turned Tsunami.

When you entered the diner for eggs over-easy, the natives snickered—they knew what you didn’t. Alex, I’ll take All Work and No Play for 200. What is Red Herring? What is don’t touch your own face it could kill you? Caught you looking so you asked for it, the waitress said while squirting ketchup in your eye. That banana peel slip was the missed clue. Enjoy your meal, you glutton.

5 Comments

  1. Lucy Logsdon

    Your riff on contemporary midwestern desolate Americana delights me–your language is so visual that I’m almost feel like I’m reading a film–I can see everything. I like it; its something many cannot pull off or that sacrifice narrative meaning when doing. Your narrative theme remains strong–and the visual imagery enhances it. I like the play with the red herring, I like the pull of pop culture references. Enjoyed this immensely.

  2. AJ Miller

    David, this is superb. The title is perfect and sets up what the piece is going to be about. I love that opening paragraph and all the tropes. Love the memory foam beds with the outlines of past occupants, all dead, I’m sure! There’s fog and creepy hotels and forgotten keys. This whole piece is so clever and entertaining. Really great job. Your writing has been a pleasure to read.

  3. Trent

    David,
    this is a cool combo type work! The opening line is right out of noir. So, that’s the right way to start!

    Also dig “good at running through forests at night” – that’s premium.

  4. Aimee Parkison

    David,

    I love this voice and its confrontational tone, the pure energy of questioning that seems to be daring the listener to answer something beyond the questions at hand. The play on “tropes” and “all you can/t eat” is so clever. You make an endless meal of horror tropes for the reader, and in doing so create a breakneck pace, a fierce flash fiction that takes the reader from one tense scenario to another.

    You really capture the rural, back woods, farming community feel, the economics of it as seen in the hotel and diner, and the distrust of outsiders in the setting.

    The voice is a direct address to a listener the narrator seems to be attempting to chastise and warn of the dangers that should have been avoided.

    I love the line that reads “You’d left your lover’s pistol in the glovebox.”

    Then, the following paragraph is so wild, witty, and ironic in its play on the tropes of the horror genre: “You’re good at running in forests at night. But this thing flew. Doubling back when you believed the coast clear, of course, you’d left the keys bedside. Fog rolled in as if invited. You slide under the chassis to bide time, focused on silent exhales. Oil like water tortured the forehead. Could an exhaust pipe spear a thorax? Did the rental insurance policy cover delusion?”

    I was thoroughly entertained by this! And the pacing is wonderful.

    I think you might send it out as a flash fiction or a prose poem, because of its use of rhythm and repetition, so poetic in structure. I would suggest trying Hotel Amerika, Rattle, Bennington Review, Pank and/or The Laurel Review.

    Thanks so much for sharing your dazzling writing with me!

    Xoxo, Aimee

    • David O'Connor

      Aimee, thanks for the weekend, sorry for being a laggard but I really enjoyed the craft talk and clips, gave me a new respect/understanding/reverence for horror–thank you!

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest