Good Narrative Principles

February 16, 2015
by Lee Eiferman

On A Cold Night

IMG_2109Sherri fought hard to land a job as a Bartender at the red sauce joint in town. It had a well-deserved reputation among the acting community for attracting big tippers. The service was impeccable, a study in how to take orders, upsell appetizers and desserts and then how to properly bus the table. The empty plates should be arrayed on the upper arm with forks and knives facing away from the guest. Management even insisted that the table be scraped free of crumbs before the dessert menu was offered. It was, in short, an old world restaurant. The food was mediocre, but no one seemed to notice or care.

The bar was just the kind of sweet set up that Sherri had hoped for. Guests lingered while waiting for their table. The tips were more than generous and no one ever tried to grope her across the mahogany bar as they had on others jobs. Best yet, she could squeeze in an audition or callback during the day.

On a Tuesday, Sherri woke up with large welts on her wrists. The culprit was candied pecans, a favorite of management and customers alike. The pecans had a spicy kick that encouraged customers to gulp their drinks and order seconds.

Not quite buying this notion of a sudden nut allergy, Sherri ordered a Bailey’s Irish Cream on her night off and immediately felt the flush that was the prelude to itchy hives. Who knew there might be pecans in her favorite liqueur?

Sherri went to the bathroom to have a good cry. But commandeering one of two stalls at her favorite drinking hole wasn’t ethical, so Sherri lingered near the cigarette machine until she regained her composure. Her eyes were puffy. Her make-up smeared. The injustice of it all, the fact that she had to curtail anything, had to moderate her appetites because her body betrayed her at age twenty-four no less, struck Sherri as tragic.

Back at work, Sherri tried various strategies to minimize her exposure to pecans. She wrapped her wrists in gauze, as if she were nursing sprained wrists. Management sent her home. She tried getting her buddies in the kitchen to refill the bowls, which worked great in the off hours, but when the place was jumping the kitchen guys cursed her in Spanish and ordered her out.

So she quit the first job she had ever loved and sold extended warranties to Sear’s customers on the phone. Sherri honed her craft by watching soap operas during lunch in the cafeteria’s nut free zone and practicing odd accents on her calls until she was told to cut it out. But by then it was time to quit this lousy humiliating job and search for the next one.

On a happier note, Sherri just got word that she’d been cast as Girl #4 in an indy film shooting this summer.

September 5, 2014
by Lee Eiferman

Half Measures

IMG_4646Charmaine is a big fan of “good enough”. Some, like his Boss at the movie theater where he works the three to eleven shift, would call his effort “half-assed”. For instance, everyone knows that Charmaine is the wrong guy to clean up the popcorn machine, unless that is, you don’t mind pouring fresh kernels onto the unpopped ones sitting at the bottom of the still greasy well. His co-workers, tired of having to pick up after him, have crafted a jingle set to the tune “Call Me Maybe” with Charmaine’s various assignments featured in the “Call Me” part of the song as in “Clean Me Maybe” or “Restock Me Maybe”. It’s a joke that never grows old.

Charmaine’s not evil or lazy. Okay, maybe he’s a bit lazy. But in his defense, he’s also indifferent to any notions of perfection. At work, he and his co-workers (it would be a stretch to call them “his buddies”) take turns slipping into this movie or that during the course of their shift. The game they like to play is pointing out continuity errors. As Charmaine sees it, instead of watching the film, they focus on the stupid shit like melting ice, the size of the ash on a lit cigarette or better yet, the contours of a bloody wound. Charmaine could care less. Instead, he prefers to get lost in a film and have it wash over him like a warm bath.

Even when his daughter Mariel was born, he never thought to count her fingers or toes. He gazed into her clear blue eyes and wondered how he could possibly be the father as everyone on both sides of the family are dark-eyed. He gripped this newborn stranger so tightly that she howled and continued howling until her pupils eventually darkened and she calmed down. Then and only then, did he call her Mariel and agree to change her diaper. Shortly after, Mariel suffered through her first case of diaper rash.

August 26, 2014
by Lee Eiferman

Dent In the Wall

IMG_0590Eduardo and his boss Larry, had, what might diplomatically be described as a tempestuous relationship. Tempers flared. Ashtrays, coffee mugs or whatever was at hand were hurled across the room as arguments sparked white hot. Mostly, it was the rosewood paneling that took a beating.

Despite the fact that Eduardo attended first Trinity, then Harvard on a scholarship, and furthermore, majored in Medieval literature, he insisted he had a feel for what the “common man” would stop to watch in terms of ads. Larry had time and wisdom on his side. They argued about taglines, consumer insights and what was funny, cheesy or passé. Just when it seemed that one or the other would end up strapped to a gurney headed to the ER, Eduardo emerged with a clear vision of what needed to be done. Though the drama took its toll on the staff, the combustible duo boasted a winning streak that was unparalleled.

On the night of the industry awards ceremony, Eduardo had a strange twinkle in his eye, which made Larry uncomfortable. He’d seen that look before and it generally heralded a stinko idea — one that was so far “beyond the Pale” as Larry liked to say, that it gobbled up hours of heated discussion. Sure enough, when Eduardo and Larry’s names were announced as winners of this year’s coveted prize, Eduardo was no where to be found. Instead, a sexy Latina stripper clutched Larry’s arm and directed him to the stage. She stepped towards the mic, introduced herself as Sofia, formally Eduardo, and asked Larry sweetly if he would unzip her dress so that the audience could see what a magnificent body she now had.

Eduardo thought this was hysterical. Larry was humiliated and fired Eduardo on the spot. Eduardo got a job flipping burgers that he kept for two months before heading back home to find his inner muse.

(Photo and Sculpture by Tim Duch)

April 2, 2014
by Lee Eiferman

Sky Captain

AlbertIMG_4729, a seasoned Sky Captain, likes order. He’s come to think of the boarding process as his show and won’t tolerate another colleague’s input. Once the door to the cabin is closed, Albert happily yields control. His colleagues’ bend to his wishes, because he’s that good. They always leave the gate on time. His record of inspiring ordinary passengers to become cardholders because they now understand the advantage of priority seating, is unparalleled. It seems each day he adds a bit more order to the proceedings. Yesterday, for instance, he added a new flourish — namely, sharing percentages and numbers with the passengers waiting to board. He announced the percentage of passengers who have boarded thus far, the number of passengers in the “lesser zones”, the number who have boarded and have yet to board. While he likes to come across as a crisp accountant who puts great stock in numbers, figures and facts, he is fine with bending the truth provided it minimizes chaos. For instance, regardless of reality, he always warns passengers that the flight is over-booked and that overhead storage is in short supply. Then he reminds the passengers that hoisting their bags into these crowded compartments might result in injury. And finally, he offers free check in for carry-ons. He jokes, threatens and cajoles his passengers until a few finally yield to temptation allowing him to stow their luggage below. In this way he avoids the scramble for space for that always unfolds in “steerage.” Somewhere, some day, he is sure that he will conduct the perfect boarding process.