The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


With a B.S. degree in Chemistry and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry it’s a pretty good guess that I’m predominantly left brained.  My wife Elaine is excellent at all kinds of crafts and is an accomplished weaver.  It’s a pretty good guess that she’s predominantly right brained.   We can see the ‘he’s from Mars and she’s from Venus’ stuff when she edits my manuscripts.  I tend to plot and write linearly while she craves visual scenes and better realized minor characters.  We had several excellent examples of this dichotomy in the current WIP, “The Deadly Dog Show”.  For example I originally wrote a scene in Chapter 2 with Roger introducing Suzanne to hot pastrami sandwiches in a stereotypical New York City Delicatessen as follows.

Suzanne and I were on our own for dinner tonight, which was a great excuse to try something exotic and only available in New York, a Kosher-style delicatessen for hot pastrami and corned beef sandwiches with half-sour pickles and other local ethnic odds and ends, which were served in Los Angeles but didn't taste the same as the authentic versions back in New York City.  I had done this a few times in my earlier life, but it would be a first time experience for Suzanne. 

We entered the crowded restaurant to a sensory assault of sights, smells, and sounds.  The air was hot and steamy, the steam originating from huge chunks of meat being sliced behind a glass counter by busy chefs with large knives and electric slicing machines.  The smells were a symphony of spiced meat, sharp pickles, and spicy mustard.  The sounds originated from smiling customers stuffing their mouths with overstuffed sandwiches, shouting meat slicers calling waiters to pick up each of the sandwich plates as it was prepared, and surly waiters snarling at impatient customers who ate too slowly for a new group to be seated promptly.

            We scrunched into our seats at one of the closely packed tables.  "You get two choices here, Suzanne, and only two choices.  You can have authentic deli Kosher pastrami or authentic deli Kosher corned beef.  I'm having the hot pastrami sandwich on Kosher rye bread, and recommend it highly.  If you opt for the corned beef, you can just have it on rye or as a Reuben sandwich with cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. 

            As I saw the waiter heading towards our table it seemed a good idea to give Suzanne a preview of coming attractions.  I spoke quietly, directly to her.  "And, let me give you a fair warning.  The authentic New York City delicatessen experience consists of the food, which is unique and just doesn't taste as good anywhere else even if they pretend it's exactly the same food prepared in exactly the same way in the other places.  But, it comes at a price.  The waiters are incredibly rude.  They don't give you time enough to think about what you're going to order, and they almost throw the plates at you.  And we have to order the pastrami 'extra lean'.  You get exactly the same stuff whether you order 'extra lean' or just plain pastrami, or even 'fat pastrami', but if you want to sound like an authentic New Yorker you have to insist on the 'extra lean'." 
Elaine wanted to see the scene, not have it just described to her, so it morphed into the same description above, but with a new character introduced to dramatize the rudeness of New York Deli waiters, so the new scene now contains the following.

            “Take dat table,” snarled a gnome dressed like a waiter.  The gnome was in his 70s, had sparse patches of gray hair scattered at random over his pink scalp, was barely 5 feet tall, and was skinny enough to look like he hated food.  The old gnome’s face had a perpetually sour expression, so also looked like he hated people.

            “Fasta lady, I ain’t got all day,” he exhorted Suzanne as he scooted through nooks and crannies between the tightly clustered tables and chairs.  Normal sized people like us had to bump and push our way through the aisles that the old waiter navigated quickly and efficiently.

            “Siddown,” he said rudely when we got to our little micro-table, slamming a couple of menus down to emphasize that we had reached our destination.  The tiny table held a napkin dispenser, salt and pepper shakers, and the menus.  We were against a wall on one side, had chairs across from each other back-to-back with other diners sitting at similar micro-tables, and a third, empty chair on the fourth side creating an aisle so narrow that we had to enter and leave our chairs sideways.

            “Wadda ya want?  I don’t have all day.” The waiter reminded us that his time was precious and we’d been given all the time we’d get to decide what we wanted.  We both ordered the hot pastrami sandwiches on rye bread and beer. 

            “Ya coitanly took yer time deciding,” he chided us as he exited stage left to get our orders.

            The gnome returned staggering under the weight of a tray balanced in his left hand containing our two sandwich plates, a jar of mustard, two bottles of beer, two glasses for the beer, and a dish of green tomatoes.  He slammed the plates, bottles, and glasses on the table with his other hand as he ran by the table en route to who knows where.  I told Suzanne that she had to “paw her own”.

This isn’t exactly what’s there in the book.  The material from Elaine’s right brain is interspersed with the stuff from my left brain but I leave it to the reader to read this scene in its entirety and in the context of the real book decide if the whole is greater than the sum of our two hemispheres.

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