Her glass was filled with Sangria; hips were filled with disco. She tells me her name is Sheila, but wishes it were Flannery. I assume she’s a writer. “No, I sell shit on eBay for people,” she says.

A few drinks later, she tells me that back at her place, she has a Cheeto that looks like Marlon Brando.

“Streetcar Brando or Godfather Brando?” I ask.

“More like Superman: The Movie Brando,” she says.

“Let’s go.”

We leave together hoping that two people together are half as lonely as one.

***

Sheila takes me home in a Hummer she’s selling for some tweaker who’s facing serious jail time. The night is dark and the streets are empty. We pull into her garage, and I hear this awful metallic scraping sound.

“This thing’s a bitch to park,” she says.

I want to ask if she’s ever been in love, but I ask if her insurance is paid up instead.

***

In her living room, Cheeto Brando glows orange under a small glass dome. She’s asking eight hundred dollars for it.

“People really collect Cheetos?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, it’s a whole thing,” she says. “A better investment than NFTs.”

Her entire house is an eclectic menagerie of stuff she sells for people on eBay. Basquiat paintings with sketchy provenance, a copy (original?) of Kurt Cobain’s death certificate. A first edition of The Bell Jar. She hands it to me. There’s an inscription inside: For Hilda + Vicky with lots of love from Sylvia January 1, 1961. I trace my finger lightly over the handwriting and lose sense of where I’m at.

***

Sheila kisses me. Starts to unbutton her sweater.
“Do you mind if I take this off? I’m shipping it to a woman in Schenectady tomorrow.”

***
She leads me to her bedroom. There’s a set of drums she’s selling for a neighbor and a mattress on the floor. That’s it. There’s no room for anything else, except for the moonlight and for two thin lengths of loneliness.

8 Comments

  1. Jonathan Cardew

    Todd,

    My first reaction was:

    This is perfect.

    My second reaction was:

    This is perfect.

    My third reaction was:

    Well, I better earn my keep and say something more.

    Seriously, though, it’s great to read your work again in these workshops! This piece really drove something home for me in terms of flash/micro writing: the power of the period. There are so many examples. This bit for instance:

    “Streetcar Brando or Godfather Brando?” I ask.

    “More like Superman: The Movie Brando,” she says.

    “Let’s go.”

    That “Let’s go” does so much! Business-like. Ties in with the brilliant title of “Lonelihood.” And this presumably one-night stand is just that: a business exchange for lonely people.

    And then there’s the whole cheeto thing! I think I read about these cheetos somewhere. What a fantastic central image. A pretty futile thing, a cheeto.

    HOW ABOUTS:

    1. Based on the principle that this is perfect, there is only one thing that I would change (and it may just be me): I’m not sure why but “her hips were filled with disco” feels like too much. I really like “her glass was filled with Sangria” as an opening, so you could consider a different follow up? I’d be interested to hear what others think.

    2. Gosh, I’m still hung up on this perfect thing, but another suggestion: instead of the breaks, have subheadings. This might add some dynamism to the piece? You could even use the first sentence of each section as the subheader, i.e.

    i. Her glass was filled with sangria

    ii. She takes me home in her Hummer

    etc.

    VENUES:

    Since I have become the number one supporter of this story, I think you could send this out really anywhere. Aim big? Perhaps a competition? I would definitely suggest taking your time with submitting this piece. Get it somewhere good. It’s good.

    Thanks for sharing, Todd. I now have the word “Schenectady” in my head–thanks.

    –Jonathan

  2. Jennifer Todhunter

    Well hey, Todd – it’s good to read some of your writing again.

    One of the things I really appreciate when i read something short is its ability to jerk me around unexpectedly and you do that here, at least until ““A better investment than NFTs.””. but after this line, the narrative feels less unintentional and more hyper focused on what its intent is and you lose me a little as a reader.

    I think, perhaps, your focus gets too wide, and you need to bring it back in to the moment, make it less about the summation/outcome and more about the journey in getting there.

    Finally, I would consider rejigging the first lines, “Her glass was filled with Sangria; hips were filled with disco” – maybe there is something more enticing / less cliche then her hips to focus this initial image on.

    This is a great mix of weird and wack otherwise and I can’t wait to see where you take it.

  3. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Todd, what a feast of sad/happy lines and choices. Feels familiar in that sense, the oddities and warped POV. I love how you capture the essence of loneliness, and I prefer it when it’s revealed through the characters, versus being told in lines like ‘We leave together hoping that two people together are half as lonely as one.’ Even though it is a lovely line. I think this is close to submission- subtle tweaks? I laughed aloud at this:

    ‘Sheila kisses me. Starts to unbutton her sweater.
    “Do you mind if I take this off? I’m shipping it to a woman in Schenectady tomorrow.”

    Brilliant! Thanks for this, Todd. So great to read your new work again.

  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Wow! This one is so good. Love the pop culture references and eBay angle. The NFT threw me into the modern day, while eBay kept me kind of in the 90s? Even though I know it’s still a thing. I’d like to see it maybe be a bit more abstract with its time instead of obviously in 2021/2022. Brando and driving the Hummer and wearing the sweater she has to send, it’s all really great. I want to spend about 100 more pages in this house and in this seller’s eBay hustling head.

  5. Al Kratz

    This is awesome fun. It is pretty damn perfect. I agree a bit with some of the ideas above on pacing at the end. I really liked the line “We leave together hoping that two people together are half as lonely as one.” If that is telly, it certainly gets it done fast. I read it more as a voice taking us through the extremity of this situation. I think it plays well off the energy and the movement. The second one ends with similar drum beat on “I want to ask if she’s ever been in love, but I ask if her insurance is paid up instead.” I think you could play with a similar rhythm line ending the other sections too. ” I trace my finger lightly over the handwriting and lose sense of where I’m at.” kind of does that but not quite as strong of an insight maybe? Proportion wise I think the last 2 could have a few extra beats and moments if you wanted to play with that but I get why it doesn’t too.

  6. Len Kuntz

    Hi Todd,

    I love so many things about this. Mostly, the dialogue is really fresh, crisp and appropriately quirky. It’ a real gift to be able to make character come alive in the way you’ve done through their voices, and of course their actions. And a little thing like her asking if she can take her sweater off, but then saying she needs to mail it to a customer instead of it being about sex, is just a marvelous bit. Gotta love Cheeto and it being “a thing.” Loved it all. And this part summed it up for me…”We leave together hoping that two people together are half as lonely as one.”

  7. David O'Connor

    Todd, this is f-ing A+. The details are diamond. I wouldn’t change a thing. So good.

  8. Wilson Koewing

    Todd,

    You had me at Cheeto Brando. I love that. This is a pretty well realized piece. I guess my one piece of advice would be to center the focus on something specific aside from the loneliness. I wondered what the designing principle was, what the piece was trying to be up to. Loneliness is such a large thing. Maybe play around a little more with the selling things on ebay angle and what that says about that character.

    Wilson

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