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Mopping Up The Tears

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Old 03-18-2009, 01:09 PM
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Mopping up the tears
Melvin sat on the garden wall, smoking a cigarette. Shit happened in life, and it always seemed to happen to him. Chip pan fires happened to the elderly and the mentally challenged. They were the stuff of 1970s public information films and soap operas. He didn't know a single person who had suffered a chip pan fire, and then out of the blue it had happened to him. He hadn't seen it coming.

He took a lug on the cigarette and watched the end glowing and growing as the tobacco burned. Fire was our friend; we had tamed it and used it to our advantage. However, today it had bitten back. It had cruelly attacked, and shown that it was not to be taken for granted. He didn't even like chips that much. Why did he decide to make some?


Usually, he would have walked to the chip shop to satisfy any craving for fried potato chunks. It was only two minutes away. The fridge was filled with cold meats, pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, lettuce ... he always loved salads in summer, so why did he decide to make chips? Why today of all days?

It was a fate thing; he had been picked out for bad things, and so it was unavoidable. Maybe if he had made a ham sandwich, then the bad thing would have just passed him by and happened to someone else. However, the minute he put the chip pan on the gas, he was inviting in the negative elements. He was laying out the red carpet for the harbingers of doom!

Somewhere someone had done something really stupid, like deciding to fit a new electrical socket without turning the power off. They were due to be electrocuted, but when he put that chip pan on the gas, the bad things visited him, and the man working on the electrics finished the job without so much as a mild jolt. If he ever told his friends about how he fitted the socket, they would tell him he was lucky. He was indeed lucky, because the bad thing destined for him had stopped off at Melvin's house along the way.

As he stubbed out the cigarette on the wall, one of the firemen came out of the front door. He smiled at Melvin and said: "You were lucky."


Melvin frowned and asked: "How so?" with genuine bewilderment.

"Well", the fireman explained, "if you hadn't caught it so quickly, it could have been much worse. It's a very small kitchen, and if other objects had caught fire, the smoke could well have been dense and toxic. Chip pans make a great seat for a fire, and too many people do the wrong thing and end up burned or maimed. You were lucky."

Melvin nodded, still unimpressed by his so-called luck.

Another fireman came out, smiled at Melvin and said: "We're just about finished here. It's a bit of a mess I'm afraid. The lads are cleaning up as best they can. You'll want to ventilate the area as well to get rid of the smell, and to let it dry out a bit."

Melvin nodded, as another fireman came out. This one smiled, but said nothing. It struck Melvin that they were smiling a lot. They seemed happy that there had been a fire. Perhaps they knew that they could go home and do something dangerous with impunity because the bad things that might have been heading their way had stopped off at Melvin's house!

They had all got into the fire engine, and the last fireman came out. He held a mop in his hand, and gave it to Melvin, saying: "They you are sir, I've just finished mopping up your tears."

What the hell did he mean?

What was that all about?

What was he trying to say?

Melvin walked back into the house and went to kitchen. One wall was almost totally black. The room was thick with the odours of burning and damp. There were two smells you often didn't associate with each other, burning and damp, but that was how the kitchen smelled. Melvin quickly assessed the damage. The gas cooker looked like it would need replacing, and the firemen had shut off the supply and cut the gas hose so it was next to useless anyway. The kettle had melted, as had parts of the work surface. He had gone for imitation marble rather than the real thing.

The microwave looked okay, which was good as he would seemingly have no cooker for a while. It had some soot on it, but that seemed all. Melvin opened one of the cupboards and took out a dish cloth, rinsed it under the tap, and wiped the microwave clean. As he worked on the glass something made him jump. It had moved. There was something in the microwave and it had moved. He backed away and stood across the kitchen from the device, trembling. What was going on?

Melvin fished in his trouser pocket and brought out his cigarettes and lighter. As he lit one up, his hands trembling like some child on a Ghost Train, he tried to calm his mind. He was in shock; that was all. It couldn't be anything else. He edged closer to the microwave and peered at the glass. There, peering back, were two dark eyes. Either he had lost his mind, or something was in the microwave. It seemed crammed in. As it moved, fur squashed against the glass. It had fur. Black fur. And white fur. Melvin shook his head in disbelief. It couldn't be true. There was a panda in his microwave!

The firemen! Those bastards! Was that why they were smiling? Mopping up his tears? What was going on? He ran into the street and looked up and down the road. The fire engine had gone. There was no sign of it at all. He stood on the pavement and finished the cigarette. This couldn't be happening to him. He didn't deserve it. He only wanted some chips.

Melvin gathered together all his shattered mental reserves, and went back into the house. He walked into the kitchen. The microwave door was open, and it was empty! Melvin wanted to weep. He wanted to fall into his mother's arms and cry like a baby. He wanted comfort, solace, peace. Bad things had visited and he was losing his mind.

He peered into the microwave and thought about it. A panda couldn't have fitted in there. It was impossible. He was overtired. He was in shock. He was delirious. He opened the fridge, took out a bottle of Chablis, and headed into the living room. With a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he tried to relax.

Mopping up his tears? Just what did that mean? It wasn't a joke, or wasn't one as far as Melvin could work out. It had no real meaning; plenty of sentiment but no real meaning at all. Mopping up his tears. It was a strange thing to say. Very strange. Outside the world was getting darker, and Melvin headed to the kitchen for a second bottle of wine. He gazed at the open microwave and once more shook his head. A panda couldn't fit in there. It couldn't. End of subject.

The second bottle of chilled Chablis slipped down very easily, and Melvin felt better. He felt warm, safe, even slightly confident. At one point he even considered ringing the fire brigade and asking someone in authority what mopping up his tears meant, but he decided he had undergone enough trauma today. He picked up the empty wine bottle, switched off the light, and went to put the bottle in the recycling box before he went to bed. He was wrapped in a nice fuzzy warmness, slightly befuddled, but in a carefree way.

He put the bottle in the box and went to switch off the kitchen light, but the microwave caught his eye. Again he looked inside, and muttered to himself: "I wonder?"

It took two or three attempts, but he finally worked out how to place his feet so he could get both legs into the device. It was bigger than he originally thought, and he'd had to pull the kitchen table up against the work surface so he could balance. It wasn't painful, but it wasn't comfortable, and once he managed to move his hips in a certain way, he realised he only had his shoulders, arms and head to go. It definitely seemed bigger than he had originally thought. He tucked in his left arm, and carefully pulled his head back before working his right arm in.

It was certainly bigger than he could have imagined. It was difficult, but he had managed to get totally inside the microwave. Could a panda have got in here? Melvin considered the size difference between a man and a panda and decided it probably couldn't have got inside. It was strange, being confined in such a small space. He stayed there, enjoying the moment, although that phrase kept rolling though his mind. Mopping up his tears. What did that mean?

Melvin decided it was time for bed, and so slowly started working his right arm out. As he did, a movement in the kitchen caught his eye. The broom cupboard door opened and the panda stepped out. With one swipe of its paw it slammed the microwave door closed. Then it turned the timer to the longest setting, one hour, and pressed the button that was marked "Cook".


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  #2  
Old 03-18-2009, 01:34 PM
Paco (Offline)
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Intrigued, I am. Truly creative. First story I've read in a long time that I had no idea what would happen next. And--I'm still working on "Mopping up his tears. What did that mean?" I identified with your character (being an old fart myself) but not with his choice of wine.
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  #3  
Old 03-18-2009, 04:48 PM
stonefly (Offline)
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Originally Posted by Vincent View Post
Mopping up the tears
Melvin sat on the garden wall, smoking a cigarette. Shit happened in life, and it always seemed to happen to him. Chip pan fires happened to the elderly and the mentally challenged. They were the stuff of 1970s public information films and soap operas. He didn't know a single person who had suffered a chip pan fire, and then out of the blue it had happened to him. He hadn't seen it coming.

He took a lug on the cigarette and watched the end glowing and growing as the tobacco burned. Fire was our friend; we had tamed it and used it to our advantage. However, today it had bitten back. It had cruelly attacked, and shown that it was not to be taken for granted. He didn't even like chips that much. Why did he decide to make some?


Usually, he would have walked to the chip shop to satisfy any craving for fried potato chunks. It was only two minutes away. The fridge was filled with cold meats, pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, lettuce ... he always loved salads in summer, so why did he decide to make chips? Why today of all days?

It was a fate thing; he had been picked out for bad things, and so it was unavoidable. Maybe if he had made a ham sandwich, then the bad thing would have just passed him by and happened to someone else. However, the minute he put the chip pan on the gas, he was inviting in the negative elements. He was laying out the red carpet for the harbingers of doom! Excellent.

Somewhere someone had done something really stupid, like deciding to fit a new electrical socket without turning the power off. They were due to be electrocuted, but when he put that chip pan on the gas, the bad things visited him, and the man working on the electrics finished the job without so much as a mild jolt. If he ever told his friends about how he fitted the socket, they would tell him he was lucky. He was indeed lucky, because the bad thing destined for him had stopped off at Melvin's house along the way.

As he stubbed out the cigarette on the wall, one of the firemen came out of the front door. He smiled at Melvin and said: "You were lucky."


Melvin frowned and asked: "How so?" with genuine bewilderment.

"Well", the fireman explained, "if you hadn't caught it so quickly, it could have been much worse. It's a very small kitchen, and if other objects had caught fire, the smoke could well have been dense and toxic. Chip pans make a great seat for a fire, and too many people do the wrong thing
and end up burned or maimed. You were lucky." Sentence is a little bit run-on, but I wouldn't change it. Melvin nodded, still unimpressed by his so-called luck.

Another fireman came out, smiled at Melvin and said: "We're just about finished here. It's a bit of a mess I'm afraid. The lads are cleaning up as best they can. You'll want to ventilate the area as well to get rid of the smell, and to let it dry out a bit."

Melvin nodded, I think you could leave the comma out. as another fireman came out. This one smiled, but said nothing. It struck Melvin that they were smiling a lot. They seemed happy that there had been a fire. Perhaps they knew that they could go home and do something dangerous with impunity because the bad things that might have been heading their way had stopped off at Melvin's house! That's funny!

They had all got into the fire engine, and the last fireman came out. He held a mop in his hand, and gave it to Melvin, saying: "They you are sir, I've just finished mopping up your tears."

What the hell did he mean?

What was that all about?

What was he trying to say? Good.


Melvin walked back into the house and went to kitchen. One wall was almost totally black. The room was thick with the odours of burning and damp. There were two smells you often didn't associate with each other, burning and damp, but that was how the kitchen smelled. Melvin quickly assessed the damage. The gas cooker looked like it would need replacing, and the firemen had shut off the supply and cut the gas hose so it was next to useless anyway. The kettle had melted, as had parts of the work surface. He had gone for imitation marble rather than the real thing. Interesting characterization.

The microwave looked okay, which was good as he would seemingly have no cooker for a while. It had some soot on it, but that seemed all. Melvin opened one of the cupboards and took out a dish cloth, rinsed it under the tap, and wiped the microwave clean. As he worked on the glass something made him jump. It had moved. There was something in the microwave and it had moved. He backed away and stood across the kitchen from the device, trembling. What was going on?

Melvin fished in his trouser pocket and brought out his cigarettes and lighter. As he lit one up, his hands trembling like some child on a Ghost Train, he tried to calm his mind. He was in shock; that was all. It couldn't be anything else. He edged closer to the microwave and peered at the glass. There, peering back, were two dark eyes. Either he had lost his mind, or something was in the microwave. It seemed crammed in. As it moved, fur squashed against the glass. It had fur. Black fur. And white fur. Melvin shook his head in disbelief. It couldn't be true. There was a panda in his microwave! That is bizarre. You got some imagination.

The firemen! Those bastards! Was that why they were smiling? Mopping up his tears? What was going on? He ran into the street and looked up and down the road. The fire engine had gone. There was no sign of it at all. He stood on the pavement and finished the cigarette. This couldn't be happening to him. He didn't deserve it. He only wanted some chips.

Melvin gathered together all his shattered mental reserves, and went back into the house. He walked into the kitchen. The microwave door was open, and it was empty! Melvin wanted to weep. He wanted to fall into his mother's arms and cry like a baby. Excellent. He wanted comfort, solace, peace. Bad things had visited and he was losing his mind.

He peered into the microwave and thought about it. A panda couldn't have
fitted I don't think "fitted" is right, but don't change it. in there. It was impossible. He was overtired. He was in shock. He was delirious. He opened the fridge, took out a bottle of Chablis, and headed into the living room. With a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he tried to relax. Excellent imagery.

Mopping up his tears? Just what did that mean? It wasn't a joke, or wasn't one as far as Melvin could work out. It had no real meaning; plenty of sentiment but no real meaning at all. Mopping up his tears. It was a strange thing to say. Very strange. Outside the world was getting darker, and Melvin headed to the kitchen for a second bottle of wine. He gazed at the open microwave and once more shook his head. A panda couldn't fit in there. It couldn't. End of subject.

The second bottle of chilled Chablis slipped down very easily, and Melvin felt better. He felt warm, safe, even slightly confident. At one point he even considered ringing the fire brigade and asking someone in authority what mopping up his tears meant, but he decided he had undergone enough trauma today. He picked up the empty wine bottle, switched off the light, and went to put the bottle in the recycling box before he went to bed. He was wrapped in a nice fuzzy warmness, slightly befuddled, but in a carefree way.

He put the bottle in the box and went to switch off the kitchen light, but the microwave caught his eye. Again he looked inside, and muttered to himself: "I wonder?"

It took two or three attempts, but he finally worked out how to place his feet so he could get both legs into the device. It was bigger than he originally thought, and he'd had to pull the kitchen table up against the work surface so he could balance. It wasn't painful, but it wasn't comfortable, and once he managed to move his hips in a certain way, he realised he only had his shoulders, arms and head to go. It definitely seemed bigger than he had originally thought. He tucked in his left arm, and carefully pulled his head back before working his right arm in.

It was certainly bigger than he could have imagined. It was difficult, but he had managed to get totally inside the microwave. Could a panda have got in here? Melvin considered the size difference between a man and a panda and decided it probably couldn't have got inside. It was strange, being confined in such a small space. He stayed there, enjoying the moment, This is bizarre. Excellent.
although that phrase kept rolling though his mind. Mopping up his tears. What did that mean?

Melvin decided it was time for bed, and so slowly started working his right arm out. As he did, a movement in the kitchen caught his eye. The broom cupboard door opened and the panda stepped out. Perfect. With one swipe of its paw it slammed the microwave door closed. Then it turned the timer to the longest setting, one hour, and pressed the button that was marked "Cook".
This is one of the best short stories I've ever read. You don't even need to explain "mopping up tears." It doesn't matter to me anyway. I enjoyed this read tremendously. Thank you for posting it.



stonefly

Last edited by stonefly; 03-19-2009 at 12:25 AM..
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  #4  
Old 03-19-2009, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Paco View Post
Intrigued, I am. Truly creative. First story I've read in a long time that I had no idea what would happen next. And--I'm still working on "Mopping up his tears. What did that mean?" I identified with your character (being an old fart myself) but not with his choice of wine.
I have to agree on the wine front; mind you, if he'd drunk Malbec or Barolo, he wouldn't have got turned over by a panda!
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Old 03-19-2009, 03:19 PM
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Too true. I sop up Sauv. Cab. and seldom get turned over by a panda.
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Old 03-19-2009, 07:02 PM
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Awesome short story. Definitely in a creatively creepy vein, and I liked mopping up your tears. It made sense to me. I don't know how to explain it, just made me feel like a different sense of "cleaning up your mess." or "dealing with the aftermath." Maybe I'm just crazy. But this is a truly creative piece and makes you think very abstractly. A good exercise for writers--write something that makes sense in an unusual way! Thank you for sharing!
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Old 03-30-2009, 03:42 AM
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Originally Posted by SnowFlake View Post
Definitely in a creatively creepy vein, and I liked mopping up your tears. It made sense to me. I don't know how to explain it, just made me feel like a different sense of "cleaning up your mess." or "dealing with the aftermath." Maybe I'm just crazy.
The reference to mopping up your tears just grew with the piece. It was meant as an off-the-cuff comment, but as the main character grew obsessed with seeking some meaning, I figured it made a nice and sensible red herring to offset the obscurity of the ending.

Thanks for your comments.
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