Excerpt from “Eggs Over Dead” by Wendall Thomas
|Photo by Wendall Thomas
I cover the weekday breakfast shift at Summer/Winter/Fall. The “of the moment” restaurant is not where I thought I would wind up when I drove cross country ten years ago, but waitressing pays better than a development job, and I’m in a bills situation. I should be working the more lucrative weekend brunch—the mecca for all fedora-wearers—but I’m afraid I’ll eventually lose it, stab the fifth lead in a streaming sitcom, and wind up on TMZ.
The restaurant reeks of kale chips and the phone is already ringing.
It’s a customer frantic to know if we have his gold teeth. After searching the lost and found box and register, I finally locate the crescent of gold Chiclets swept under the bar, entwined in a tuft of “emotional support dog” hair. I shake them off and put them in a take-out bag for pick-up.
I’m filling the artisanal salts when I hear a mad click click click on the glass door. Outside, a lanky forty year old, still dressed in his mid-life clubbing clothes, waves and points to his mouth. I let him in and hand him the bag.
“Thought I was gonna have to call my jeweler in Jersey. I owe you one.”
Literally one, I guess. He hands me a dollar bill. He takes the glittering brace out of the bag and pops it straight in. If he’d given me a twenty, I might have told him he should rinse it first.
I check the clock. It’s seven minutes to eight and a few regulars are already hovering outside. I take my last chance to sneak out into the alley for a smoke. I look down the street of one bedroom pseudo Spanish, Deco, and Tudor bungalows, all listing for well over a million, and strike a match.
The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Wendall Thomas:
Photo of Wendall Thomas
by Stella Mulroney
What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
The weirdest (and maybe the best) thing that ever happened to me here was seeing Stevie Wonder in the Radio Shack at Highland and Wilshire. I think that kind of thing only happens in LA.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
To live in a quiet 20’s duplex.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
Some ideas aren’t big enough to be novels, but they are still interesting enough to be told. I also like the challenge, because there’s nowhere to hide in a short story.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
I think there’s always the chance that you’ll be heavy-handed or force the characters to do something they wouldn’t actually do.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
The “Thursday Guy” is an amalgam of a few producers I’ve encountered over the years and the restaurant patrons have elements that I’ve observed over twenty-five years of writing in restaurants.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
It’s actually my neighborhood, which has become increasingly “hipsterized” and entitled in the last five years. This makes long term residents like myself feel old, irrelevant, and irritated. That seemed the right setting for the tone of the story.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
As noted above. A producer actually did point a remote at me and say “Okay, go” in a meeting once.
What came first, the character or the plot?
In this case, the plot. I like the idea that someone didn’t show up for a breakfast meeting because they’d been murdered.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…?
Usually music. The music depends on what I’m writing. For this story, Warren Zevon/Tom Waits.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
From Flannery O’Connor: “Don’t be subtle until the fourth page.”
Your writing ritual begins with…
About Wendall Thomas:
Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her short fiction has appeared in the crime anthologies Ladies Night (2015) and Last Resort(2017) and her first novel, Lost Luggage, will be published in October by Poisoned Pen Press.