Acerbic (Flash Fiction/Short Story)


Polar Fox

“Acerbic” draws on personal experience and is published in FWA, Let’s Talk by Peppertree Press.

The inspiration for this story came after a doctor’s appointment. His nurse is habitually terse and abrasive, so much so that, I asked, “Have I offended you in some way?” She looked at me strangely having no idea she treatment others poorly.

The challenge for the Anthology was to use a dialogue format to present your short story.

The conversation below is between two women in a doctor’s waiting room.



“This is unacceptable!  My time is of value, too.  Why aren’t you complaining?”

“I was told the doctor was running late when I signed in.”

“This is ridiculous.  I’ve been waiting more than twenty minutes.  My appointment was for nine fifteen.  What time was your appointment?”

“Well, I’m not sure; I think nine thirty, why?”

“It’s better if everyone is out of sorts.  I can complain for you, make something up, like your dog is in the car, sick and needs to be taken to the Vet.”

“Reading here is as enjoyable as anywhere.”

“Boy, you people are annoying, must you be so perky and pleasant?”

“You’re upset.  Why don’t you thumb through a magazine?  There’s a travel article about Hawaii in this one.  Have you been there?”

“You think looking at pretty pictures of places I can’t afford to travel to will help me… what?  Be happy I have to wait for a man, I pay to tell me I’m sick.  And looking at colorful advertisements won’t help either.  I’m Acerbic.  My parents and grandparents, on both sides, were Acerbic and proud of it.”

“Acerbic?  Is that … American or … a religion?”

“Acerbic is a way of life.  You got a problem with that?  Our dispositions are generally crabby.  We find fault in others quickly and enjoy being sarcastic.”

“Golly gee, everyone feels crabby from time to time.”

Golly gee?  Golly gee, we’ve been sitting here over a half hour.  Can’t you pretend you’re a little annoyed?  That wing back chair looks awful uncomfortable.  These doctors are all the same; think they’re better than the rest.”

“His nurse said the doctor had an emergency, it sounded serious.  Are you really Acerbic?”

“Our whole neighborhood is Acerbic.  We don’t like friendly.  People yell, ‘Don’t park in front of my house, jerk’ and threaten, ‘If your dog pees on my grass, I will call the police!’  Although things are changing.  Someone, I can’t find out who, moved my garbage pail out of the street on a windy day.”

“You don’t mind if I read my book?’

“Of course I mind.  I get it.  Why not say shut-up?  Add please if you have to.  It’s easy; watch my lips, ‘Will you please shut-up!’ ”

“No, tell me about your life.”

“Actually I had a great childhood.  We owned a small cabin not far from Route. 95 below the Georgia border.  Dad named it Acerbia.  It was a retreat where we could be sour and discontent on weekends and during vacations.  You know, say nasty things about neighbors and relatives.”

“Was that fun?”

“Are you kidding, of course, the best.  By the way, they call me Unfortunately.  I’m Unfortunately Fortunato.  What’s your name?  Not that I care.”

“Unfortunately is a first name?  And Fortunato your family…?”

“Mom wanted an Acerbic name, nothing cheerful or common like Hope, Joy or Grace.”

“That had to be a difficult name for a child.  Did she think it was a mistake?”

“No, Difficult and Mistake are my brothers.  Mother named them good, too, because Difficult is in prison and Mistake, chronically unemployed.”

“Was that a surprise?”

“They still haven’t called anyone.  All they do is talk on the phone.  Someone else has to complain.  You can do it.  I like your pink eyebrows.”

“My eyebrows are pink?”

“Yea, they match your lipstick, compliment that bluish tint in your hair, and look cool on a woman your age.”

“My hair isn’t blue! I’m not that old.”

“Isn’t that book you’re reading in large print?”

“It’s easier I don’t have to remember my glasses.”

“Most seniors get a little forgetful.  It’s normal, not a problem unless you can’t remember what glasses are.  You know glasses magnify things, right?”

“I know what glasses are for and I didn’t forget them.  I do not need them to read a large print book.”

“Did you hear that?  The receptionist called Ms. Fortunato.  That’s me, Unfortunately.  Doc’s ready for me.  Have a rotten, day”

“You too, and my eyebrows aren’t pink!”

P.S. I welcome your comments.



Vertigo/The Not Getting Younger Series

   th  I am in Albuquerque visiting my son and have Vertigo. Today it’s not so bad. I just cannot bend over, or rather tilt forward or position my body even on the slightest incline. It is best if I am in a posture perfect position, which is not so bad. At least I am not in bed.
      It started on last Thursday. I woke feeling fine but by 9AM had a severe case of the chills. I was already completely dressed and wearing a sweatshirt but got in bed, and piled on four assorted blankets and comforters. Still ice-cold, I turned on a room space heater to high and fell asleep for four hours. When I got out of bed, I was still fatigued and could not walk straight unless guided by a wall. My head felt too heavy for my body and I was dizzy, very dizzy.

     My son thought it best I visit the emergency room and I could not argue. He took me to the hospital where my daughter-in-law works to be certain I would get the best treatment, and he was right. When he parked by the emergency room entrance I experience a  sense of helplessness like never before, and was thankful my son was at my side. 

     An EKG test ruled out a heart attack. My son spoke to the doctor asking questions, and supplying answers I was too dizzy to ask. It was a complete role reversal and since I am not getting younger graciously accepted his loving care.

     When I flunked the “follow my finger, touch my finger and then your nose test,” and three people rushed to support me after being told to stand and walk, a head scan and MRI were ordered.

     The doctor laughed when I asked if my brain was normal. Then commented that there was nothing acutely wrong. The prognosis was vertigo. I was given a prescription for Meclizine and sent home dizzy and nauseous. 

     The next morning I did an online search and learned vertigo usually is a disorder of the inner ear BPPVBenign positional vertigo exercises | Vertigo …that affects body balance and that specific exercises can help.

     Another cause discussed in the u-tube video by Ninni Girl, was acute vitamin B12 deficiency.  Click skip the advertisement to view the video directly.

     Just when I was getting back on my horse and thought I would be posting consistently this happened, but I am thankful to have an ever so sweet memory of  my son and me.

. . . . just saying

Hobnobbing and Sailing


Some would say I am MIA, not having published a blog post since January. I apologize. We did move and I could use unpacking and decorating the new hut as an excuse. But the truth is, I am struggling creatively. In the past an obscure word or thought would dance in my head until I put pencil to paper. Recently I have only pondered what to eat for lunch and how to get a better night’s sleep.

This morning however, the word hobnob and music from Gilligan’s Island interrupt my thoughts. While Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning asks questions about Google and mobile websites, I hum  “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?” When Gayle King comments about a lost wedding band returned to a Boston marathoner I blank out, and say hobnob aloud.

You see, I have been hobnobbing. To be more specific, I just returned from a Road Scholar trip called, “Day Sailing for Beginners.” And yes, I feel like I am swaying on land and extremely dizzy when bending over.

Road Scholar educational adventures are conducted by Elderhostel, a not for profit world leader in lifelong learning. The trip description read, “Have you always wanted to experience the freedom and pleasure of sailing? Then this small-group program is for you.” The adventure included five days of sailing in Boca Ciega Bay (St. Petersbury, Florida), three meals a day and lodging for $935. A bargain! I stopped reading and mailed my check. Realizing “learning” to sail, not sailing, was the trip focus, while reviewing the trip itinerary and recommended reading list. I was still game. What the heck, I earned a knot-tying badge as a Brownie and know how to swim.

The small group of nineteen consisted of twelve women and seven men. The refrain “Ear-ly in the morning,” from the song, intrudes my thoughts as I now write, and recall the trip orientation and dinner on Sunday evening.

There were three couples, of which one were in their eighties and married sixty-five years. Seven of the participants were from Florida, four from New York and the rest scattered between Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont.

Not everyone was retired. Their backgrounds were eclectic, varying from kindergarten teacher, geophysicist, law professor, computer programmer, and commercial farmer. Many had traveled extensively and lived in other countries. Several enjoy ballroom dancing. Two disclosed they had built sailboats in their youth then reluctantly admitted the boats sank.

We all lacked sailing experience when we entered the lecture room at Eckerd College,  to met, the lead instructor. He earned his facial wrinkles not by smiling but from numerous sailing certifications and dedication to the sea. Attractive, although, his nose was clearly designed to hold glasses on his face, his full head of white hair streaked with yellow suggested he was older than he looked. He had skinny knees and I speculated his mustache had been penciled on after shaving. He shut the lecture room door quickly, and a no-nonsense approach sprinkled with infinite patience was quietly revealed. He stood alongside a podium, a smart-board marker in his hand and said, “I am Richard, your Captain.”

Learning to sail was a wonderful experience. The learning curve was high however, and on Wednesday, I vowed to either do more new learning or abandon all learning that is new completely when my brain twisted Jibe and Gybing. That night a fellow crewmember stayed up late replacing the words in “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor,” with nautical terminology.

A Brit, she shared her, “Sea Shanty in Honor of the Inestimable Captain Richard,” in the morning, and instructed the group to repeat each line three times then follow with the refrain “Ear-ly in the morning.”

Reef him to the boon vang, til he’s bowlined
Moor him to the jib sheet til he’s cleated
Winch him in the pulpit til he’s port tacked

There are numerous other stanzas calling for wrapping, lashing, tying, and dragging Captain Richard about. The group loved her rendition and ignored the implication of  bondage.

I am still dizzy when bending over and debating if it is a side effect of new learning or a brain tumor. I have doctor’s apppointment next week.

. . . . just saying

Fluffy the Lint-Man


 Aging & Attitude

Meshugana! Yes, I must be meshugana, crazy, a lunatic, or at least a little nutty, for thinking about dryer lint.

Dryer lint is on my mind this morning, and was yesterday as well as intermittently throughout the month. Let me be honest; dryer lint is glued to my brain and with every wash the question raised, “Where does this stuff come from?”

The mystery-grabbed my attention seven years ago after moving to Florida and leaving my clothing line behind in New Jersey.

Close your eyes, inhale, and remember the scent of fresh air mingled in laundry. I enjoyed twenty-five years of this simple life pleasure.

My clothesline was suspended outside a kitchen window across the driveway and secured to a beautiful one hundred year old maple tree. With the window open, I stretched and attach clothing to the line with wooden clothes pins held in my mouth. The clothing stayed out to dry, rain, or shine. Rainwater softened the fabric and decreed a final rinse.

There was no lint in my life.

In Florida, the sunshine state, most communities routinely prohibit clothing lines. Clean clothing flapping in the wind is considered unsightly. There is speculation that some snowbirds hang lines in the lanai.

Factor in the humidity, and the dryer is used a lot.

I remove a wad from the dryer lint catch and finger the lump. It is soft, light, and airy. White in color feels good in my hands. I roll small pieces between my hands. They become pipe cleaner in appearance, and I am constructing a figure; a man, like Frosty the Snowman, that I name Fluffy the Lint-man.

“Where do you come from?” I hear myself said aloud.

Fluffy the Lint-man stretches. His yawn fades, and returns a smile, “You talking to me?”

His tone suggests a Tony Soprano affiliation and I want to respond, “Yea, I’m talking to you, you got a problem with it?” However, I do not.

Instead, I try flattery and say, “You’re a cute clean cut looking guy made from lint, but where does lint come from?”

Lint-man says, “You gotta be kidding me, where does lint come from? What are you stupid; it comes from your clothes.”

Then like Rip Van Wrinkle waking up from sleep. and not having spoken in years, Fluffy gives a dissertation on weaved fabric deterioration when spin cycles work them over, and that hot air exhaust blows out the results we call lint.

He has given me a headache and thinking who cares where lint comes from, I know where it belongs; remove his smile, disassemble his arms, then legs, and toss his sorry self  in the trash.

Lint Man’s final words to me, “You really need to get a life.”

. . . just saying

Think Thought Thunk/The Silly Poem Series

2c90f948-33df-4ac3-8cbd-4b4be7ba626e                                                                                                                Aging & Attitude


Thinking is more than a thought.
So get out of bed
Stand on your head
That 10% Mind Myth is false
The Brain Initiative is more than talk
Mind Mapping identifies . . . gets you to walk
Is dementia a squawk
Like a lazy muscle, atrophy the cause
Can humans run out of thoughts
Ask Scarlett Johansson, character Lucy;
How to be a kick ass beauty
Stop ruminating about loss
Thinking is more than a thought.





Global Positioning System & Your Hippocampus

Shopping for Bread in a Hardware Store/Silly Poem Series


3934175392_a22a526274_z                                                                              Aging & Attitude

                                                                Shopping for Bread in a Hardware Store

Hardware Stores fit all our needs
Wheel barrels are near the door

First aisle; nuts and bolts tucked in draws
Second aisle; power tools, gadgetry and more
Midnight Blue and Sunset Yellow paint swatches, linger by brushes.
Floor Fans overcome noise

But no bread!

Hand tools and power saws hang over drop cloths
Welcome mats decorated the floor

Perhaps the bread was in the back
Squeezed between charcoal and bug spray
After fertilizer and birdseed
Before the rest room door

But no, no bread!

I asked a man for help.
The man scratched his beard and said
“Lady you are in the wrong store.”

. . . . just saying


Selfie Obsession/The Silly Poem Series

The Silly Poem Series


    Maya Angelou ,well known author and poet, has inspired me to stretch and write poetry. Many writers cherish poetry as a window to creativity and urge all writers to branch into the genre.

   Robert Frost said, “Poetry begins with a lump in your throat.” I can identify with that, but rather than be somber, thought; let me expand upon the silly and borderline ridiculous.

   My first poem, “City Slickers” was written for a High School English assignment.  It still makes me chuckle, plus it is short and easy to remember.

City Slickers

   by Claudia

People, people everywhere
Short fat even square
Shoving pushing without care
Makes a city anywhere

   Emily Dickinson’s poem,  ” I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” is a favorite of mine and inspired me to write the first poem in The Silly Poem Series, “Selfie Obsession”

I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

by Emily Dickinson.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d advertise – you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!


Selfie Obsession

by Claudia

I am a somebody!
Are you a somebody, too?
Then there is a pair of us, bored, lonely, with nothing to do

Do you want to take a selfie, a snapshot, a view?
A look in the mirror, like folks used to do.
Yuck! It is ugly, delete

Oh yeah – replace with a new
Be shallow like Pope Francis,
Ellen DeGeneres to mention a few.

Sing the song, watch you-tube
Listen to the dove’s message
Selfies broaden beauty to include even you

               More than manipulation and narcissistic
                In 2013, the word was ballistic.
                A word, fifty-five percent of all millennials, used

But first let me take a selfie
I am bored, I am obsessed, it is unhealthy
With the power to change me, myself and you

. . . . just saying

Vampire Drain

            thAging & Attitude

  It is 6AM, birds fill the air with singsong conversation while I sip coffee, and think about vampire drain. I could be sleeping; however, my continuous glucose monitor woke me.

   What is a continuous glucose monitor?

   It is a device I wear to inform me of my blood glucose level. I have been diabetic for thirty plus years. When my BG level slips dangerously low, a beep alerts me and continues to beep until I get up and do something about it.

   What is vampire drain?

   Vampire drain is my latest pet peeve. Merging, plastic bags, doubling plastic bags, the use of filler words by media, and weathermen who shout about precipitation are other pet peeves.

   Periodically, I rant that traffic jams could be lessened if people knew how to merge. Frown at check-out clerks, who ignore my request for no plastic, (I bring cloth) and the clerk proceeds to put fish, already wrapped in plastic and white paper; in double plastic, with the speed of lightning. I can be sarcastic about professional television media, who use filler words (duh, um, ah, etc.), and weathermen who tell us it is going to rain with such alarm I consider building an ark.

   There are two types of vampire drain; electrical is the one I find infuriating. The other is an emotional drain from high maintenance friends, and I have gotten rid them.

   Vampire drain is when a cell phone or laptop charger is left plugged into a wall outlet but not connected to a phone or laptop, very likely using energy and draining your pocketbook unnecessarily. Standby power is also considered a form of vampire drain because it requires energy unknowingly. The practice might be defended by saying, “It’s pennies, only one cell charger, what difference can that make?” Well multiply that around the world and it makes a difference.

   Now that I am thinking about it,  storage of emails is another waste of energy. Emails are stored on a hard drive and electricity cools and keeps the hard drive running twenty-four seven. Someone once shared they had never deleted a single email, and had four thousand messages stored. I refrained from screaming since they were clueless.

   There are many ways to reduce vampire drain, but it does not need to be complicated. Simply unplug  a device once it is fully charged, and all chargers not in use, and while you are at it delete all old emails. It will save you some money and help the world go green.

. . . . just saying


Whatever Happened to Mikey?

Swingline is the name brand of an old stapler sitting on my desk, that I have stared at for the past ten minutes. The mental pause feels like writers block, but is probably indigestion, or a senior moment. The handy device has been dropped many times and has only a few scratches. It is dirty from forty plus years of handling.

Forgetting about environmental effects, I grab a bottle of Bang and spray it clean. An inscription, made in the USA Long Island City, New York, is readable when the finger grime is removed. The steel grey metal color now shines, and the words, Swingline Speed Stapler, brag about its lasting quality. There are seven patent numbers listed. The patents are probably why it continues to work and I have kept it all these years. It is sturdy and strong, and can also be opened to staple paper flat on a bulletin board.

Remember schoolroom bulletin boards filled with colored construction paper, and displays made from paper plates cut in pie-pieces, to demonstrate fraction equivalents; I taught first grade at St. Brendan’s School in the Bronx and when I left, took the stapler.

The song, Little Rabbit Foo-Foo, and Mikey come to mind, everyone knows Mikey from the Cheerios commercial.

Michael Gilchrist was my student.

There were three Gilchrist brothers: Tom, Michael, and John. John, the youngest, was the three-year old called Mikey in the commercial. The real Michael, my student, says, “I’m not going to try it,” in the commercial, and pushes the bowl of Cheerio’s towards him.

There was a lot of excitement when the commercial ran, and shortly after the family moved to Yonkers.

But whatever happened to Mikey, John Gilchrist?

MSG director of media sales John Gilchrist poses

Mikey is alive and says, “The folklore that I ate Pop Rocks, the exploding candies, and I drank a soda and my stomach blew up,” is not true.

Gilchrist, 44, has been in ad sales, first in radio, including a stint at ESPN, and now for MSG Networks, where he is director of media sales, primarily negotiating with advertisers on TV ads.

Although “Mikey” had no lines at all in his third and most well-known commercial, he built a successful career and appeared in about 250 other commercials.


Do You Tweet?


“Do you Tweet?” Christine asks me, as the waitress approaches the table.

We are having lunch at The Olive Garden. It is a celebration of sorts; Christine has a new website  and food blog, Pudbudder. Tricia’s, children’s book, “Detective You’re” is in the hands of an illustrator, and my short story, “Wheels of Circumstance” is an FWA selection.

The waitress interrupts to tell us the specials and ends by saying, “I’ll be back to take your order.”

“I have a Twitter account but never Twit?” I responded

“It’s Tweet, you tweet, not twit on Twitter.” Twitter links to LinkedIn and can increase your followers. I have 452 followers. I’m doing resumes for people in Australia”

Tricia and I, thankful to know someone tech savvy are impressed, and leap on the opportunity to ask questions we feel too stupid to otherwise ask.

“If it is called twitter, why do you tweet and not twit?”

Soft spoken Tricia  inquires politely, “What’s Twitter?”

“Twitter is an online social networking service where people can send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets’.”   Wikipedia’s definition; “a short burst of inconsequential information, and ‘chirps from birds’.” Christine says smiling.

“I think I was a bird in a former life,” I comment.” But why characters? Why not spaces?”

Tricia asks, “Couldn’t they send a short email?”

“I don’t know.” Christine rolls her eyes and continues, “This is like trying to convince cavemen they’d be better off using matches.”

The waitress is back and takes our orders.

When she is gone, Christine leans across the table to Tricia and questions, “Do you know what a hash tag is?”

“Don’t be a twerp, how would I know about hash?” Is Tricia’s not so polite, reply.

“It’s a number sign, # you can use it to share a twitter story.” Christine taunts and proceeds to inform us; Twitter is undergoing changes and now has Tweetups, Tweetie, New Twitter, and Retweets.

I have a headache.

We leave the restaurant two hours later laughing about Twitter, tweets and twits.

Later that evening I login in to my Twitter account, take the Twitter -Tour and learn, one has to follow to get followers.

So, who will I follow?

Mr. Wonderful is watching the ALDS series, the Yankees are playing Baltimore.  I type Yankee in the search bar.  Mike Blooomberg, aka Mayor of NYC, tweets, “Go Yankees”

Ruth Westheimer, aka Dr. Ruth, Psychosexual Therapist,(I am surprised is still alive) tweets, “So-A-Rod benched”

Nothing exciting is happening here.

I  plan to watch Blue Bloods on CBS and figure the TV program is a safe search.

Jim Wahlberg, Dorchester, MA, no known relation to Danny, Donnie Wahlberg, real life brother to Mark Wahlberg well know for the movies, Ted and The Fighter is tweeting, really flirting with Paula NKOTB.

Not of interest to me.

However, Donnie was recently interviewed by Gayle King, of whom I am a big fan. She asks an interesting question, waits and respects the answer.  Sunday morning Gayle tweeted she’d been to Streisand concert and to the Barclay for burger bash with her favorite mayor.  I am jealous.

Gayle has 589, 454 followers and one more, me.

As of today I have one follower, dear Christine, but who is counting.

…just saying