The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Working From Home October 16, 2015

This time the prompt was “nonsensical sentences.” Writing participants generate a series of bizarre sentences and read them out loud. The writing we do afterwards is often strange and funny. For a description of this prompt, click here.  

What I wrote is below.



“No, as a matter of fact, I do not want to go on a free Caribbean Cruise. So take me off your calling list: now!” I screamed the last few words, emphasizing “off” as if I was scolding a naughty chihuahua. Goddamn telephone solicitors. I thought that shit ended in the 1980s. A Disney Cruise? Please. You and the Little Mermaid can go fuck yourselves.

I promptly got back to the project at hand: cleaning out the fridge. Something had gone rotten in there, and I was going crazy trying to figure out what it was.

My place was a disaster. That’s what you get for taking two weeks off to visit Machu Picchu and turning your apartment into an Airbnb. The Scandinavian hippy family of six I had rented it to was making kombucha in the bathtub while I was high on coca leaves, thousands of feet above sea level. I came home to find a dark ring around my hot pink claw foot tub and aphids in the Fig Newtons.

God only knows what they sprouted in my fridge. Whatever it was—the cellulose mother for red wine vinegar, goat yogurt fungal creme, or rose and earthworm kimchi—that crap stunk.

“I’m calling in sick today,” I told my boss. “I’ve got an emergency here at home.”

“Donny,” he said, in that exasperated tone of his that always exasperates me, “we have an event today for 2,000 people and you are to be one of the roast beast carvers. We’ve already pre-charged your favorite electric carving knife.”

“I can’t leave the apartment,” I said, pulling open the crisper drawer for the fourteenth time: nothing.

“You’ve been gone two weeks already,” he whined. “We need you here!”

“Call someone else,” I said. “Call Paris Hilton or Perez Hilton. Call Janet Leigh. I’ve got to get back to work.” And I hung up.

I had already had quite a morning. The mirror in my bathroom seemed offended by my Peruvian farmer’s tan, the comb and the hairbrush were picking on my faux pompadour, and the blowdrier gave a creaky call and then petered out in what amounted to an electrical vocal fry. I skipped the concealer after my face lotion complained of saggy neck syndrome, saying, “I am not responsible for anti-aging in any way. I am not a miracle worker.”

“Then why are you called Hope in a Jar? I asked, as I slapped the lid back on. “And fuck you, too,” I added. Asshole.

Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling good about my sun-damaged skin, so I went to pour my first cup of coffee, hoping it would elevate my mood, and when I opened the fridge: BAM! Holy Mother of Baby Jesus, that smell!

I nearly retched, the way I did when the train climbed away from Cuzco and my tiny guide handed me my first coca leaf, winking at me with his one good eye. The nausea was worth it there, of course, on top of the world at the ancient temple. But here, in my own kitchen? Had it been worth the lousy $650 I earned to have to deal with this mess? This rotten radicchio, this curdling cabbage stew, this moldy milk? I think not.





A Brief History of Cake October 2, 2015

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 9:49 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The prompts this time were:   IMG_1558

Don’t skip dessert

Sweetness personified

I just need a time out

What I wrote is below.


I’m happiest when I’m baking a cake. In fact, when I was four years old, my brother said I once walked through the living room, where all three of my brothers were sitting, on my tiptoes, my empty hand flexed back, pretending to be carrying something. “I just baked a cake!” I proclaimed. “I just baked a cake!” They burst into good-natured laughter. “That’s our little butterfly,” I imagine one of them saying.

Maybe this story is an example of how, as a child, I played with what I thought it meant to be a homemaker: a wife who provided sweets for her loved ones. It might also show that I felt safe enough to be authentic with my older brothers. I still do. And it definitely shows how early my obsession with cake began.

I remember the sound of the stainless steel measuring cups, how they nested together in a neat little stack. I remember how Mom taught me to make sure the flour was never pressed down into the measuring cup, and to slide a butter knife evenly over the top to level it off. I liked the scratchy sound of the sifter, the loose wooden knob of the hand crank, the baking soda and salt mixing in.

I have memories of baking with my mother as early as age six: greasing the cake rounds with a half-opened stick of butter, tapping a bit of flour along the bottom of the pan and along the sides. When I was old enough—eight or nine—I mastered the hand-mixer, could fill my own tray of paper cupcake holders—pale yellow, baby pink, sky blue—and I loved to stand on a chair, flick on the oven light, and watch the cake rise from a puddle of batter to a golden dome.

I still have to force myself to wait as the cake pans cool on wire racks on the kitchen table; I have ruined the smooth bottom of more than one cake with my impatience. I still love running the knife around the edge of each cake, inverting it onto a plate, then flipping it back onto the rack. Nothing is more satisfying than pulling the oily parchment paper from the bottom of a slightly warm cake and seeing that perfectly flat smoothness. For me, baking a cake is a ritual, and I prefer to do it when no one else is around. I even like spreading the frosting and adding the second layer when no one else is there to witness, so the first time anyone sees the cake, it looks like it just magically appeared that way: stacked up and perfectly shaped, like a gift, all ready to be unwrapped.