Velma’s Diced Life: A Memoir

“No one is going to read that.”

The smile faded from Velma’s face. She was so proud of her work that the thought of anyone being negative about it hadn’t even occurred to her. This wasn’t fiction—this was her life! This was a tell-all memoir about her fame.

Gloria realized she struck a nerve. “I’m sorry for being so blunt, Velma. But I really don’t know who would even be interested in something like that.”

“I was famous!” Velma defended. “People enjoy learning about celebrities!”

“You weren’t famous!” Gloria realized she suddenly backpedaled from her apology, but her friend was deluded. “You were in an infomercial for two seconds! And probably not even a full two seconds!”

Velma jumped to her feet. “My testimonial was instrumental in the viral success of the Dice-Woah! Do you honestly believe that sales would be as astronomical without my riveting and talented first-hand review? I mean, honestly, Gloria! Tell me right now you think I’m a sham!”

“I never said you were a sham.”

“Tell me what you really think!”

Gloria started to speak, but decided against it. She did not mean to betray the trust of her closest friend, but using words like “astronomical” and “talented” were a little conceited and overblown. She wanted to be supportive, but she also wanted her friend to be realistic. But Velma wasn’t satisfied with her friend’s sudden withdrawal.

“Tell me your opinion, Gloria! Why are you jealous of me if my testimonial was indeed not pivotal?”

“Oh, I am far from jealous of you.” Now it was Velma who struck a nerve. “You think your testimonial was the driving factor for the success of the Dice-Woah? Far from it, sister. I could have said the same thing you did, and the result would have been the same.”

Velma gasped. “I knew you were jealous!”

Gloria rolled her eyes. “I’m not jealous. I’ll take it a step further. They could have removed the testimonials from the entire commercial and there would be no difference in sales today.”

Velma was stunned. Her friend was fast becoming an enemy. She knew a life of fame and fortune would change her relationships with those around her, but Gloria? This was the ultimate betrayal. “I never thought I’d lose my closest friend over my fame, but I guess you never really see this sort of thing coming anyway.”

“I’m not rejecting you or your friendship, Velma. I’m rejecting this lunacy you call a tell-all memoir. The Dice-Woah hasn’t even been relevant in twenty years! And do you really want to associate yourself with a product that was heavily recalled after that lead paint fiasco?”

Velma wasn’t listening. She began digging through her entertainment center to find the VHS marked “My Portfolio.” This was meant to be a portfolio of her work she would send to talent agencies, though she never sent it to anyone. She did play it several times over the past twenty years to friends and family, however, who quickly grew tired of her pomposity, especially because the portfolio contained only one entry: the entirety of the original Dice-Woah infomercial.

Velma located the VHS and hastily jammed it into her player. She whirled around to her former friend who was staring in stunned silence. “Watch this performance and tell me with a straight face that I am not crucial to the advertisement.”

Gloria didn’t know what to say. She had seen the infomercial dozens of times. Seeing it again was unnecessary.

The television blinked blue before giving way to thick lines of static. The words “DICE-WOAH BY TELESELL. COPYRIGHT 2007” flashed quickly into view. Then the ad began.

A frenetic messy-haired man in his early thirties walked into a makeshift kitchen. His every movement was jittery, as if he hadn’t had coffee for a week after drinking it exclusively for the past thirty years. His voice was a stark contrast—confident and clear. “Hey, guys! It’s Jerry Jelbow here for the Dice-Woah. You use this thing and you don’t say ‘Woah!’ then you’re probably just an idiot.” This was a very controversial line to use, but Telesell demanded the ad air with Jerry’s unique pitching flair. This was probably the real reason the ad achieved brief viral success, though the same couldn’t be said for the product itself.

Jerry continued. “Look, dicing food is tough. You ask the pros? They still struggle with it. Forget about trying to impress your friends by shaking a knife at breakneck speed through a ripe tomato. You’re going to lose a finger and you’re going to lose respect.” He threw the knife behind him and it embedded in the wall. In a later interview, this was revealed to be an impromptu move by Jerry. Telesell’s legal team were very unhappy with it, but they aired the knife throw anyway.

“Bust out your Dice-Woah, fellas. Look—the tomato goes into the chamber. Pop the lid on. Pull this lever, you got your slice. Pull this lever, you got your dice. A one-two punch, and the tomato never saw it coming. Look, here’s the best part. Pull right here to get the false bottom, and you’ve got fresh-diced tomato in a container, never looked better. No mess, no stress, go about your day.”

Gloria started mouthing the words as they came out of the TV. She’d seen this ad way too many times.

“I know what you’re thinking. Jerry, those are some big ol’ chonkers! I want a real fine dice. Don’t be naïve, guys. Surely you’re not that dumb. Look what I’ve got in store for you. Squeeze right here to get those blades close together. Now, let me get an onion. Pop it in, and look how easy. Here’s the slice. There’s the dice. Pull out the bottom, and WOAH! You can’t get finer than that by conventional methods, my friends. I dare you to even try!”

Velma shot a look at her friend. Her testimonial was coming up and she wanted to make sure Gloria gave it her full undivided attention.

“Ever see something like this in stores? You’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it, and it doesn’t even work as well. But we’re so flipping crazy, we’re throwing the Dice-Woah your way for only twenty-nine ninety-five. You’re not going to find it cheaper, better, or dicier out there, my friends, I’m telling you right now.”

Without warning, the ad cut to the testimonial section. Members of the general population who were patient or crazy enough to stand through a live presentation at some fair or convention were given time with the product and a chance to get their face in the commercial. Other products might have tried to get the craziest performances from these people as a sort of marketing ploy, but this is where the Dice-Woah differed. Dice-Woah’s testimonials were infamously dry.

An elderly mustachioed man appeared on the screen. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’ll definitely be the next thing I talk about at my book club.” His voice dealt a very monotone, unexcited delivery.

After a screen wipe, a young mother with three children appeared on the screen. “As a single mother,” she explained, “I’ve desperately needed something that can make my time in the kitchen just a couple seconds shorter. And this will definitely do that.” This testimonial was fun to re-watch, only because the youngest child could be seen picking her nose, but the clip still made it to air through several editorial reviews.

After a final screen wipe, Velma’s face filled the screen. Both Velmas—the one on the television and the one in the living room—beamed with pride. “All I can say is… Dice-WOAH!”

And that was it. The screen went back to Jerry Jelbow, who carried the sales pitch home with his general frenetic aplomb. Velma shot her friend a look, talking over Jerry. “I mentioned the product by name! Those other two jokers couldn’t even be bothered to do that!”

Gloria stared at Velma. This sounded like some sort of joke, but she could tell her friend was dead serious. “Velma—”

“Don’t ‘Velma’ me. That sounded very much like you were about to talk down to me.”

“I was about to talk down to you! You barely have a part in the commercial! You can’t possibly think that because you said the words ‘Dice-Woah,’ you had any more impact on sales numbers! Furthermore, that line was it! You can’t write a tell-all memoir about nothing! No one is interested, you self-absorbed, entitled, pompous ass!”

Velma stared at her friend. This was a betrayal of the highest order, and she never would have guessed Gloria would be the one to deliver it.

The weight of her own words hit Gloria hard. Sure, Velma may have had delusions of grandeur. She may have wished so hard for a better life that she already believed she had one. But whatever was going on in her head, she didn’t deserve that outburst. “Velma, I’m—”

Velma quickly held up her hand. “I get it. You don’t need to say anything else.”

“But I—”

“No. That’s okay.” She left a moment of guilt-increasing silence hang in the air before continuing. “Elmer isn’t coming back this weekend like I thought. Something was spelled out in his contract that basically means another six months over there.”

Gloria felt the loneliness of her friend. “Oh, Velma, I’m so sorry.”

Velma shook her head. “These things happen. But either way, it’s getting to be that time for me to go to work.”

Gloria nodded slowly. Whatever damage she had done would not be resolved today. “Okay. Well, maybe I’ll come by tomorrow with some steaks. Tony did so well on that client that he got a huge bonus. Figured we’d splurge on something.” She realized immediately after saying this the insensitivity of her timing, but the words were already out there.

“Yeah. Maybe.”

***

Velma drove to the Littner Plastics Consolidated factory at the north end of town, where she’d worked ever since Elmer was deployed. She always told people she’d forgotten how long it had been since she’d seen her husband, but she knew. And she also knew the army was lying to her with these constant redeployments. No one stays in the military into their sixties.

Velma stood at her post next to the etcher, reflecting on the conversation with her friend. Was she really so self-interested? She’d spent over a year writing her tell-all memoir. Was that entire time wasted?

A horrifying screech interrupted her thoughts. She whirled around. The machine responsible for this noise was also responsible for taking plastic and chopping it into smaller pieces to begin recycling it into newer products. Her years of experience told her the problem immediately; it was jammed. No one was standing by the control panel for the machine, which meant she was the closest person who could stop it. She ran across the concrete aisleway to the controls and slapped the oversized red button. The machine stopped its screeching and ground to a halt. Anyone on that side of the aisle would have to stop their work until the jam could be cleared.

Curious, Velma peered through the chain-link fence where the jam-inducing plastics were contained. It looked like a massive number of the same thing. This happened sometimes when companies discontinued a product line. They’d ship them off to Littner to recycle their old unwanted or unsold merchandise and get a nice discount on newly-made plastics.

“Get away from the fence, please!” the safety officer shouted to her, as he ran down the nearby stairs to inspect the issue.

She began to comply, but looked back at the fence one more time. There was something so familiar about the plastics. As she continued to stare, she was finally able to make out the words she had personally etched on that same product about twenty years ago.

“Dice-Woah.”

A Criminal Since Eden

I recently entered a 100-word microfiction contest through NYC Midnight. I’d never written any sort of microfiction before, but I enjoyed the challenge. All participants were grouped into specific conditions that had to be met. My group had to write a sci-fi story about robbing a bank using the word “develop.”

The results came last night. I did not make the top 20 in my round to move on, unfortunately, though I did get an honorable mention. And out of roughly 100 entries in my group, I’ll take it. So, here was my submission:

A Criminal Since Eden

As I pointed my laser-blaster at the teller, noting the fear in her eyes, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors. Likely, they would be ashamed their legacy was tarnished by such scum, but what little shame I could muster didn’t lower my aim.

“Why do this?” she pleaded. Centuries of technological developments and modern marvels made most think in this day, on this planet “safe-haven” no one would buck the status-quo.

I heard the sirens. Speed was key. “There’s been a criminal since Eden,” I told her, squeezing the trigger.

And there always will be.

It’s Been a While…

Howdy, friends. It’s been a while…

What have you been up to? What have I been up to?

Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Pray for me, friends. I have no discipline, but I desperately need it.

I’m wanting to write more. The gimmick of the moment I’ve purchased to help aid in that this time is a beautiful leather five year journal. I’ve never been much for journaling, but I very much enjoy the idea of a single book with a few lines devoted to the same day over five years. It will be interesting to see what twists, turns, pitfalls, and pinnacles I’ll have over the next half-decade. Such a format does not afford verbosity, but it’s not as if I’ve been doing much writing in the first place. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s also apparently the soul of habit-forming.

***

I’m dreaming up ideas. More will come soon. Here’s something very short I wrote tonight:

 

Will Armand was drowning.
All his friends agreed. The stresses of his job, coupled with marital issues, financial issues, and self-esteem issues made for a man that was truly drowning in the pressures of modern life. It had been this way for a while, and those who cared for him were truly worried. But for all their knowledge, they did not have the insight afforded to Corey Ashland, a complete stranger who was walking along Crybaby Bridge late one night in Milton-Cumberland, Indiana. As he gazed across the water, he learned something about Will Armand that none of his friends knew, but that still made him think Will was drowning.
Will had about five liters of water in the space in his lungs that most people would host oxygen.

***

Good night, everyone.

Hiding

Gerald ran up the concrete walkway to his childhood home. He hadn’t been there in years. In any other circumstance, he was sure his family would have been thrilled to see him. But he couldn’t let himself care about that tonight.

Tonight, he was in hiding.

He fumbled around nervously for his keys. His shaking hands couldn’t quell the monstrous rattle of metal as he attempted unlocking the door. He looked back behind him. No one seemed to be following, but his uneasiness grew. They seemed to have given up the chase very quickly.

After several tries, Gerald finally opened the front door and stumbled inside. It was pitch black. Everyone was likely in bed. He’d have to be extra quiet so as not to wake them.

Once his eyes adjusted to the room, he made his way to the kitchen, hoping a beer would calm his nerves. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a Budweiser. He closed the door and jumped; his sister was standing behind it.

“You scared me half to death, Rachel!” he exclaimed. “How did you move so quietly?”

She ignored the question. “Gerald! I haven’t seen you in so long!” She leapt forward and grabbed him in a big hug.

Gerald returned the hug as best he could while still being nervous. “It’s good to see you too, Rach. But please keep your voice down.”

Rachel looked up at him. “Why? You know Mom and Dad will want to see you, no matter what time of night it is.”

Gerald frantically grabbed her shoulders. “Please keep it down. Don’t wake them up. I’m just here to catch my breath, grab a couple things from my bedroom, and leave again. This isn’t a random visit.”

Rachel grew worried. She snuck a glance at the clock. 2:07 AM. “Yeah, it’s a little late for a random visit anyway. Why are you here?”

“I told you. I just need to grab a couple things from my room.”

“What kind of things?”

Gerald stammered. “D-does it really m-matter?” He wished she hadn’t discovered him in the first place. The last thing he wanted to do was get his family roped into something they would never understand.

Rachel looked at him quizzically. “Kind of. I mean, we haven’t seen you for years, or heard from you in a few months. Then out of nowhere you decide to show up at two in the morning and you don’t even want to see us? What are you grabbing from your room?”

Gerald looked at his sister. He had always felt a stronger connection to her than to anyone else in his family. If anyone could understand, it was her. “I… uh…”

“Well?” She put her hands on her hips.

He took a sip of his beer and tried to collect his thoughts. “Well, Rachel… There are some things you don’t know about me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I bet. You’ve been a mystery man for so long. You didn’t even have that beard when I saw you last.”

“Well, I’ve done a lot in these past few years that I’m not so proud of. And, well…”

Rachel waited for the end of that sentence. “Well?”

Gerald gulped. “I, uh… I’m in hiding.”

“Hiding?”

“Yes.”

“Hiding from what?”

Gerald lowered his voice even further. “A group of terrible men. They want to kill me.”

Rachel gasped. “Why? Why would they want to kill you?”

Gerald paused. This was the moment of truth. He was not entirely sure why he was confessing, but once he did, there was no going back. “Because, I killed their leader.”

The weight of those words hung heavy in the air. Gerald knew his little sister’s opinion of him would be forever changed. She was now related to a murderer. He looked to her for a reaction. Her eyes suddenly darted behind him, captured by a small movement.

The sound of someone cocking a gun echoed in the kitchen and Gerald knew he was in trouble. They were still following him after all.

“Hands in the air!” the gun-wielder shouted. Gerald obeyed. “Turn around slowly!”

Gerald took several baby steps until he was face-to-face with his assailant. Nothing in his shady past could have prepared him for what he saw. “Dad?”

His father stared back at him, his gun aimed directly at his son’s nose. “No son of mine drinks Budweiser!”

Gerald was confused. He looked at his hand in the air, still clutching the can. “What do you mean? I got it from your refrigerator!”

Without warning, his dad thrust a well-aimed foot into the center of Gerald’s chest, knocking him back into the opposing cabinet. He landed with a hard thud, knocking the wind out of him as the cabinet splintered across the linoleum.

“Gerald, we are a Miller Lite family!” He fired a warning shot at his son’s ear. “At only 96 calories a can, you can drink full-bodied flavor with no guilt.”

Rachel reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a can of Miller Lite, and chucked it at her gasping brother. “Throw that bathwater aside and drink a man’s beer!”

Between heaves of pain, Gerald managed to open the can. He tossed back a swig of his family’s favorite beverage and tried his best to smile. The spikes of wood from the cabinet he lay in continued cutting up his torso, but even he couldn’t deny he had tasted the best thing to ever touch his tongue. “I can’t believe I’ve ever tried anything else!” he said with strained breath.

***

Sponsored by the Coalition to End Tooth Decay

Your Memories Grow With You

I walked into that coffee shop as the same man I’d always thought I was. I left as someone I did not recognize. Surely that’s the way life was meant to be lived, but I could not decide if I wanted to accept that. Really, it just left me with a sense of emptiness…

 
Here’s the thing: Julia and I met about seven years ago in an after school Foreign Film Club. I knew nothing about foreign films and was just looking to get an extracurricular credit. She knew a lot about them and was hoping to learn more. I was the obvious interloper of our bunch, and I seriously considered leaving for some other easy credit… But then I met her.

 
She was beautiful… Inside and out. We started learning about each other… She said she wanted to be a lawyer to most people, to appease her parents, but she really wanted to get into graphic design. I wanted to write for a living. She had a deep passion for caring for the planet and for appreciating diverse cultures. I… had a fleeting interest in those things as well. She battled depression and crushing high expectations. I never truly explored the emotion of “sad.”

 
It was clear she was way out of my league.

 
So we grew close to each other in Foreign Film Club. For reasons not fully known to even her, she opened herself up to me, when her life had been closed to everyone else. I bumbled along in regurgitation of opinions and worldviews I’d only heard and never taken the time to consider for myself. Somehow, that didn’t seem to faze her. We grew close.

 
It was the first time I thought that maybe… Just maybe… This is what love feels like.

 
We grew apart after graduation. I went to a no-name community college, and she went to dazzling NYU. And we lost contact with each other…

 
Until two hours ago. I ran into her at the coffee shop.

 
We were amazed at seeing each other again and sat down to recount the last seven years of events with each other. Laughter punctuated our thoughts as we connected in an impossibly strange and familiar way. And yet…

 
And yet…

 
And yet…

 
I could not shake this feeling that something was off. Something was different…
Is this what love feels like?

 
For the past seven years, every so often, her stunning face would float into my consciousness and I’d wonder how she was doing and what goals she’d been achieving. I never forgot her. But I never thought I’d be sitting across from her again. And now that I had, she was exactly as I remembered.

 
After thinking back to our conversations years prior, I made the startling discovery that… It was I that changed.

 
I was no longer the awkward teenager searching for meaning and purpose… I was a carefree man whose come-what-may attitude and fence-sitter lifestyle grew shamed of his former self. And until now, I would have thought that was a good thing. Change is inevitable, so if one has to do so, it should be towards a better outcome. And I felt that I’d reached a better outcome, with more growth on the way.

 
But did this matter to Julia? The truth is, I don’t know if she felt the same way about me.

We left that coffee shop with a “we-should-do-this-again” sort of vague plan that usually fizzles out to nothing and I could not help but feel a pang of sadness as we parted.

Change is inevitable, but you don’t usually know that you’re doing it. The question remains to be answered: Can you reclaim the magic your memories hold? Or is it destined to be lost as your memories grow with you?