“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.