Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jello by Tom Pawlowski

Grampa rages about Jello in Tom Pawlowski's quick flash fiction.

"I hate Jello. Nasty, jiggly shit. Shit in every color of the rainbow."

Grampa gazed into an empty corner with unfocused eyes. "My mother made it a couple of times a week when I was growing up. Claimed it was dessert. But I knew better. Dessert is cookies and cake, maybe pudding. Sure as hell isn't Jello. Even as a kid I knew that. And god knows I didn't know much then."

He gave me a sly smile. "You know what's worse than Jello for dessert?"

I shrugged helplessly.

"Jello leftover from yesterday's dessert." He gave a bark of laughter.

His eyes strayed back to the corner. "She tried to dress it up with chopped up fruit sometimes. Usually mushy strawberries from the garden. Didn't fool me. Fruit isn't dessert either, except maybe to the French." He said that last dismissively.

He turned back to me. "What the hell is Jello anyway? What's it made of?"

I shrugged again.

"Ma used to make the kind that used real sugar. Nowadays I think they use those artificial sweeteners. Makes sense I guess. Matches the artificial flavors and coloring. Food dye number whatever the hell."

His eyebrows lifted and his eyes went wide. "What really worries me is where the gelatin comes from. I bet that's artificial now too. Hope so. Didn't gelatin used to come from boiled cow and horse hoofs? That's what my older brothers said. To this day I'm not sure if they believed it, or were just trying to talk me out of my helping."

He prodded the jiggling mass with a spoon in disgust. "Now I get it twice a day. Good thing there's no such thing as breakfast dessert or it'd be three times."

He severed a wriggling chunk from the block and slid his spoon under it. As he lifted, it rolled over the edge like a slinky, top flexing over the side while the bottom was still planted in the spoon. It fell to the tray with a splat.

"Shit."

He used one finger to push it back on to the spoon, and with shaking hand started it toward his mouth again. This time it splatted on the napkin covering his chest. "God damn it."

He picked it up with his fingers, being careful not to squeeze too hard, shoveled the squirming mass into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "I hate Jello. I hate the slimy way it slides into your mouth. I hate that when you chew it, it just breaks up into smaller and smaller chunks until it nothing but a thin coating of artificial fruitiness on your tongue."

He stared thoughtfully at nothing in particular. "I hate that they serve it in hospitals."

His voice became softer. "I hate that I'll eat it twice a day until I die."

His voice was almost a whisper. "What I really hate is that I can measure my remaining days in Jello servings."

7 comments:

  1. perfect example of good flash fiction. nice change of mood, condensing
    a major theme into bite size fiction!

    Well done

    Michael McCarthy

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    1. Thank you. I like the 'change of mood' comment. I don't know that I set out to do that, it was just part of the story I was telling. But it is a good point, and it is something that I will use more deliberately in the future.

      Tom Pawlowski

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  2. There's almost as much said between the lies as in them here. Just the right edge of humor to tell what is really a very sad tale. Very nicely done.

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    1. Thank you. It is interesting how much you can get out of 500 words.

      Tom Pawlowski

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  3. Good story. It reminds me of having 'Angel Delight' as a kid.

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  4. Love it or hate it, there's something universal about jello, just like mortality. It's a good central image to this flash. Great work.

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  5. Browsing through "back issues" of Fiction on the Web and I found this one this morning. It's good - really captures a voice and a stage in life - both personal and universal.

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