She served it all up on a plate, the words still warm, clinging to the edges in a clumsy disarray.
I blinked, then blinked again. “You’re sure you’ve gone through this twice?”
“Yep! It turned out a lot better than the last one.”
I was skeptical. Already, I could see a sentence–runny, run-on, dangling along the rim like an unappealing line of snot.
I thrust my fork into the pile, and I swear, it yawned back at me. But before I could bring it to my mouth, she stayed my hand with a delicate touch. “Wait! Let me just add a dash of style.” Rummaging through her apron, she took out a small vial filled with semi-colons and shook it with a sly grin.
I winced. “Be careful with that,” I said. “You’re only supposed to use those sparingly and they’re really only for—”
She had already dumped the damn thing; all of it; bunched along the sides of the plate, like day-old chocolate sprinkles; unnecessary; overpowering.
I took a bite. It wasn’t to my taste. It tasted as unoriginal as it looked.
“How is it? I used more commas this time.”
“Um,” I said. I bit and chewed, tried to make sense of the notes and tones. There was a tough piece of sentence fragment that kept springing back and forth between my back teeth. My jaws flared, but it was a tough sentence to swallow. And what? Was? That? Sudden? Influx? Of?
“Do you think I used too many questions? I can cut some out, if you’d like!”
Poor girl. I tried my best to smile, I really did. But my mouth was so full of empty phrases and cliches that, mixed with the litany of commas, zeugmas, and semi-colons, was starting to form a paste of something altogether redundant, unnecessarily long, and too complicated for me to even comprehend in the slightest bit of space and time that was here and now.
“It’s good,” I said.
“Really?” Her brow furrowed, lips trembled.
“Mhmm. Yep. Um, really good.”
What else could I say? I’m not normally one to mince words, but this was hers, something she presented in burgeoning confidence. The critics will have their say, but must I be the one to dish it out?
“Good work. You must have worked really hard.”
There. The classic ‘worked hard’ deflection. That should do it.
But it didn’t. Her eyes glistening, she plopped another bit of the mess –literal, literary mess—on the plate before even bothering to ask if I wanted helping.
Nothing could register, and before I knew it, I threw it up all over the table.
It was the worst word vomit I had ever seen.
Andrew J. Park is a full-time medical student and part-time writer. A cleverly-disguised introvert, he enjoys collecting watches and rejections, the latter which he stores in a mason jar. His work has appeared in FlashFiction Magazine and 101 Words. On days when his shoulder does not ache, he enjoys surfing and writing fiction. He currently lives in San Diego, CA.