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Miracle at the Sunrise Diner: Part One

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  #1  
Old 10-26-2015, 02:31 PM
Binx B
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Default Miracle at the Sunrise Diner: Part One


Part One of what will probably be Three Parts. 1600 Words.


Miracle at the Sunrise Diner


A young woman in a waitress uniform dismounted her motor scooter at the curb in front of the diner. She removed her helmet and raked her hand through shoulder length dark-blond hair before sitting at a rusted wrought iron table at the edge of the sidewalk. She lit a cigarette and surveyed the square—the center of a typical small southern towna white columned court house and clock tower, a cadre of looming oaks, a statue of some forgotten confederate hero.

Unlike the thriving small towns closer to the big city, there were no trendy shops, galleries or sushi bars. It was farther south and far beyond the circumference of convenience and suburban sensibilities. The place was in its death-throes, the victim of some Walmart or nearby mall, and an air of decay—warm, thick and humid—hovered over the town like a shroud, even at this early hour.

The young woman looked at her watch and said “Damn,” then threw the butt down on the sidewalk and ground it out with a sensible shoe like she was killing something. She pulled at the door handle, but it didn’t budge. She cupped her hands around her face and peered through the glass into the Sunrise Diner.

A man in an apron and white paper cap came bursting out from the swinging double-doors beside the counter. He fumbled with a large key ring, jamming a few keys into the lock before he managed to open the front entrance, almost knocking off the sign that said, No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.

“Awful sorry I’m late, June Anne,” he said.

“Don’t be sorry on my account.”

“Did we miss any customers?”

“Hah. Doubt it. Besides, I was kind of late myself. Thought you’d just forgot to turn on the front lights.”

He motioned her inside with an extravagant gesture. “Aw, you know, I was stuck in all that traffic out by the new mall and industrial park down Twenty-Nine.”

“That’s hardly traffic, Mr. Vernon. Folks around here think more than two cars at a light is traffic. It’s a joke.

“Seems like since you got back, everything's a joke. But it’s all about what you’re used to, Miss Big City College Student.”

June Anne laughed and poured coffee from a McDonald's cup into a heavy, white ceramic mug. Mr. Vernon opened a worn leather satchel and emptied papers and envelopes out onto the table in a corner booth. He took out a calculator and punched the keys, then let out a long high whistle like the first notes from a boiling tea kettle.

“How come you ain’t—I mean—how come you're not in the office?” June Anne asked.

“Too dang hot.”

“Cause you’re too cheap to get a new window unit.”

“We ain’t exactly fightin’ off crowds these days, in case you haven’t noticed.” He punctuated his statement by circling a number on a sheet of green ledger paper.

“It’s always slow this time,” she said.

While Mr. Vernon looked out the window toward the row of mostly boarded up store fronts, June Anne imagined the bustling street she knew as a small child. In those days, folks stood patiently on the sidewalk, sometimes for an hour or more, waiting to eat Mr. Vernon’s biscuits, fried chicken and fresh lemon meringue pie, all made from ancient family recipes given to him by his mamma, who’d opened the restaurant nearly a half century before.

“Never been this slow,” Mr. Vernon said. “And do you mind fillin’ up them ketchups? Go ahead and turn on the fryers. Make that one. No sense wasting shortnin’ or electricity, for that matter.

Holding a ketchup bottle to the light, June Anne clicked her tongue and then aimed the bottle at Mr. Vernon. “Your mamma wouldn’t have liked it—you filling those Heinz bottles with that watery stuff.”

“Desperate times require desperate measures, little lady, so never you bother. And I got three trays of biscuits in the walk-in, if you don’t mind puttin’ one in the oven.”

June Anne did as requested, and when she emerged from the kitchen, she saw Francine Alewine coming through the door, just like she did every morning at seven o’clock exactly. The old women sat in her usual place at the counter and leaned torn and taped paper shopping bags against the stool next to hers, like she was claiming it for someone who would never arrive.

Francine seldom had more than coffee and toast or the occasional buttermilk biscuit—but if June Anne slipped her a sausage patty or a slice or two of bacon, Francine would say, “God bless you, child” and gladly consume it with a wink and a snaggletooth grin. The refills were on the house, but on some days she would nurse the same cup of coffee into the lunch hour. Then she would order sweet tea and half of a chicken salad sandwich, sometimes stretching the meager sustenance into the mid-afternoon before disappearing out onto main street. No one seemed to know just where she was going.

"The usual?" June Anne asked.

Francine nodded and said "Yes dear." Then she took a paper napkin from a chrome dispenser and unfolded it neatly on her lap. June Anne could just make out that she was humming Amazing Graceor some other well-known hymn. She wasn't really sure which one.

At seven-thirty, Asa Givens arrived, clattering through the front door, leaning on his walker, shuffling and grunting up to his place at the end of the counter.

“Good morning, Mr. Givens,” June Anne said.

“For heaven’s sake, June Anne. How many times do I have to tell you? You’re no longer one of my students. It’s perfectly fine to call me Asa.

“I don’t think I can, Mr. Givens.”

Mr. Givens adjusted his bow-tie and pulled at the cuffs of his worn tweed jacketthe uniform he wore year-round, even in the hottest days of summer. “Have you read The Waste Land yet?

“Nope. Afraid not—with work and all.”

“Bah. Some things never change. I gave you the book, but I can’t read it for you. If you want me to read your poetry, then the least you can do is indulge me, and give me the pleasure of discussing Elliot with a bright young mind.”

“I’ll read it. I promise. Now—will you have the usual?”

Uncharacteristically, Mr. Givens studied the laminated menu, saying “Hmm,” while stabbing the names of the various items with his index finger. “I’m going to celebrate with a bit of extravagance.”

“Celebrate what?” June Anne asked.

“I’m reluctant to admit I’ve played the lottery. I won three-hundred dollars in the scratch-off. And so young lady, I would like to order a Number Three, and I would like both the sausage and the bacon. Oh—and a side of pancakes.”

“Hot cakes!” Francine blurted, while spitting out fragments of buttered toast. “Down here it’s hot cakes.”

“Excuse me, Francine. I am not from down here.”

“Well, you been here since I can remember, and that’s quite a long time.”

“I’m sure you were here when Sherman marched through, Francine. I can just see you chasing after him, trying to put out fires with pitchers of sweet tea.”

Francine hissed, “June Anne, you need to tell that boss of yours to put a sign on the door that says, No Yankees Allowed.

“I’ll get right on it,” Miss Francine.

June Anne tore the order off her pad and just as she was about to clip it in on the line across the window behind the counter, Mr. Vernon appeared and snatched it from her hand. Then he stuck his head out like a cautious turtle and looked up and down the diner, likely hoping that there were more customers sitting at the chrome-edged Formica tables. But aside from his two most loyal and slightly crazy customers, the place was empty.

June Anne refilled her coffee cup and opened a Vogue magazine under the counter where her former high school English teacher couldn’t see it. She thumbed through the pages without reading it or even really looking at the pictures. It was only seven forty-five in the morning. And only the first of July. It seemed like the start of her sophomore year at university was a hundred years away.

She looked up when Mr. Vernon slammed Mr. Givens’ Number Three Special on the shelf at the kitchen window. She picked up the plate and delivered it to Mr. Givens, who by this time was immersed in a heavy looking and no doubt very serious examination of literature. He looked up with a surprised expression and after assessing his meal, he said in the sonorous tones of a Shakespearean actor, “And my side order of pancakes?”

“Right here,” Mr. Vernon said. He slid the plate the short distance across the shelf and it came to rest precariously on the edge before June Anne could snatch it. Turning swiftly, she delivered the plate to Mr. Givens with the grace of a prima ballerina.

“Thank you, my dear,” he said.

Francine took a long and loud slurp of coffee and then craned her neck to inspect Mr. Givens’ breakfast feast. “Oh my word, do those hot cakes look delicious.”

“You may have one. If you call it a pancake,” Mr Givens said, with a wink at June Anne.

“I’d rather die,” she said, looking up and slowly away with her nose in the air, like she was following the flight path of an invisible bird.

“They smell absolutely wonderful,” said Mr. Givens. “A culinary delight!”

Francine ran her tongue between lips that looked like dried out earthworms. Then she mumbled something under her breath.

“What was that?” Mr. Givens asked.

June Anne frowned and interrupted Mr. Givens’ performance. Would you like some hot cakes, Francine?

“No, thank you,” she said, still staring off into the distance.

“Oh, Francine, Mr. Givens said, “Of course you may have a pancake. Have them all, if you’d like. I have more than enough to eat.”

He pushed the plate over to Francine, and she reluctantly looked at them from the corners of her eyes. “If you insist.”

After momentarily feigning restraint, Francine reached for the syrup. June Anne took two pats of butter from a basket and put them on the plate. Francine lifted the syrup high over the hot cakes like an offering of wine at the altar. But then she froze.

With her eyes widening in disbelief, she cried out, “Jesus Christ!”

June Anne had never heard Francine use such languagenothing more profane than goodness me or pish posh. “What’s the matter, Francine?”

Looking alarmed over the unexpected outburst, Mr. Givens leaned toward the old woman and said, “Are you all right?”

Francine didn’t answer. She stood up and began to sway, and June Anne grabbed her hand. Her bony fingers felt like crayons in clear plastic wrap. And then she said it again.

“Jesus Christ!” With her free hand, she pointed at the hot cake on the top of the stack. “See? It’s a perfect likeness of our dear Lord!”

June Anne bent at the waist to inspect the hot cake. And sure enough, rendered in various shades of deep yellow and golden brown, she saw a clear image of a man with a beard and shoulder length hair. Jesus Christ. Or at least someone who looked something like him. But she supposed it could also be Charles Manson or almost any singer-songwriter from the 1970's.

“It’s a miracle!” shouted Francine.

Mr. Vernon came to the window, sighed and rolled his eyes at June Anne. “Well, if there’s one thing we need around here, it’s a doggone miracle.”

End of Part One.


Last edited by Binx B; 11-07-2015 at 12:23 PM..
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  #2  
Old 10-26-2015, 02:46 PM
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Unless death is tossin' stuff the spelling you want is throes rather than throws.
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Old 10-26-2015, 02:49 PM
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Fixed. Didn't know that. Thanks, man!

Maybe let me know what you think of the story sometime if you're so inclined.
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Old 10-26-2015, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post

let me know what you think of the story

You got fighten' and fightin' in the text. The latter is correct.

I think the dried earthworms for lips bit is brilliant.

A lot of descriptive info. Useful but close to overload due to the small amount of action going on.

I say keep going with the story.
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Old 10-26-2015, 03:38 PM
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Wow, I thought this was amazing! So well written. You had my attention from the beginning.

I'm afraid I've nothing constructive to contribute in the way of criticism, however just one typo I spotted was:

In those days, folks stood patiently on the sidewalk, sometimes for an hour or more, waiting to eat Mr. Vernon’s biscuits, fried chicken and fresh lemon meringue pie, all made from ancient family recipes given to him by his mamma, who’d opened the restaurant nearly a have century before.

And I'm guessing Miss Francine purposefully called June Anne, 'Jean Anne"?

Francine hissed, “Jean Anne, you need to tell that boss of yours to put a sign on the door that says, No Yankees Allowed.”


Loved it and would love to read more!
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Old 10-26-2015, 03:58 PM
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Yeah, I just saw an incomplete sentence.

Suggest an intense proof reading session on the work, Binx.
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Old 10-26-2015, 04:00 PM
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I really enjoyed it and the text was very well written.
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Old 10-27-2015, 06:00 AM
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Great writing - I like the sentence that ends in "beyond the circumference of convenience and suburban sensibilities."

You're really good at characters and description - can't wait for more!
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Old 10-30-2015, 02:45 AM
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Is it odd to say that I liked it so much that I was disappointed that it ended with the old christ-on-the-piece-of-toast chestnut? I was hoping for more from the characters and storyline. Hopefully we can read the rest and it'll all fall into place.

The place was in its death-throes, the victim of some Walmart or nearby mall,
- could you be specific about this? the town seems specific enough in your narrative to warrant a finite cause-of-death - seems a bit odd, especially when the new mall is referenced later on.

“How come you ain’t—I mean—how come you're not in the office?” June Anne asked.
- i'm a bit confused - why would he be in the office if he's the cook?

June Anne could just make out that she was humming Amazing Grace—or some other well-known hymn. She wasn't really sure which one.
-June Anne could just make out Francine's low humming - some well-known hymn. She wanted to say it was Amazing Grace, but she knew that wasn't right.
Something like that. It just seems off that she was humming Amazing Grace, and then isn't.

Great piece - I want to hear the rest of it. Reads just as smoothly as novels I pay for.
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Old 10-30-2015, 05:30 AM
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NIck: Thanks for the double dose.

Yeah, I just saw an incomplete sentence.
I wonder where? I've used several fragments, but those were intentional.

Useful but close to overload due to the small amount of action going on.
Is there any particular description that you think is too much?

Suggest an intense proof reading session on the work, Binx.
I did and I caught a few missing words etc., so thanks. There might be more, but I don't know if I'll ever catch all of them. A quote someone posted here on the forum:

An author should not edit his own work, as he sees what he meant and not what he wrote.

It's the latter part of it that applies here, I think. Although some are better at proofreading that others.

Cheers.

Massthinker: thanks for reading!

BluebellCharm: Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you liked it. Good catch, that's supposed to be June Anne. The character's name was Jean Anne, but I changed it. I did a find and replace, but it still got missed somehow.

kjjoyner
: Thanks for the read and comments. Glad you like it so far.

eatoomey
: Appreciate the read.
Is it odd to say that I liked it so much that I was disappointed that it ended with the old christ-on-the-piece-of-toast chestnut? I was hoping for more from the characters and storyline. Hopefully we can read the rest and it'll all fall into place.
It's not odd at all. It's going to be more about the effect the pancake has on the characters, especially Mr. Vernon and June Anne. Hopefully the story will transcend the cliche.
The place was in its death-throes, the victim of some Walmart or nearby mall,
- could you be specific about this? the town seems specific enough in your narrative to warrant a finite cause-of-death - seems a bit odd, especially when the new mall is referenced later on.
That might be a bit unclear. I've seen a lot of small towns dry up as people give up on family farming or mills close etc. The people who are left abandon the mom and pop stores in favor of the Walmart or mall. It was before my time, but even in the university town where I went to school, that has a pretty big population, the downtown was pretty much dead at one point as the shoe store, hardware store, men and women's clothing stores etc. closed and were boarded up; although now it's been revitalized with bars and restaurants and trendy little shops etc.

Anyway, a mill closing hits hard and fast, so maybe I could mention that if it seems ambiguous.

“How come you ain’t—I mean—how come you're not in the office?” June Anne asked.
- i'm a bit confused - why would he be in the office if he's the cook?
Well, Mr. Vernon is carrying around the satchel with the paperwork and invoices and calculator etc. and comes across as far more stressed out about closing than someone who's just a cook. So I was thinking it was clear he's the owner. The implication is, the staff is down to just him and June Anne, and there might have been a cook at some point. It would be easy enough to make that clearer. Or, I was thinking the title was missing something, so maybe Miracle at Vernon's Sunrise Diner. That would do it.

June Anne could just make out that she was humming Amazing Grace—or some other well-known hymn. She wasn't really sure which one.
-June Anne could just make out Francine's low humming - some well-known hymn. She wanted to say it was Amazing Grace, but she knew that wasn't right.
Something like that. It just seems off that she was humming Amazing Grace, and then isn't.
I'm OK with this one. June Anne says she's not sure, so it's not like Francine was singing it and then isn't.

Great piece - I want to hear the rest of it. Reads just as smoothly as novels I pay for.
Thanks. I just sat in on a little class examining Christian Realism in the work of Flannery O'Conner. I've read her stories many times, but it's been a while. Rereading her stuff inspired me, although I'm certainly not claiming I can write like her. Just the setting, type of character and description etc. are inspired by her writing.

I might just finish it up and repost the whole thing in Members Only. I'll bump the thread up if I do.

Thanks. Good ideas for edits. Glad it mostly worked for you.

Last edited by Binx B; 10-30-2015 at 05:48 AM..
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Old 10-30-2015, 11:08 AM
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Your missing words proofing took care of the fragment I saw.

Maybe you will build during the next part on all of the description info that exists in this one so I ain't narcin' any in particular.


Now I want to put butter on the pancakes to make ol' JC into a blond.


Yeah, yeah - I'm goin' to Hell. The crap a guy has to do to spend eternity with friends, eh?
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Old 10-30-2015, 02:24 PM
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T. S. Eliot. The Waste Land—three words. Good story so far. I definitely have some input I'll get to later. Just picky stuff.
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Old 11-01-2015, 05:03 PM
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Hey Binx.

Your storytelling abilities are fantastic. I feel like I was a fly on the wall of this Diner and came to know all these people.

I have nothing negative to share, the same as your last short story.

I smiled at the cliffhanger at the end of this portion. That could happen anywhere on Earth, but really appropriate in the South.

I get the feeling that this scene happened pre computer era... (?)

Excellent work. If we could do a vulcan mind swap I'd like to get your writing skills.

Have a nice writing day.
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Old 11-06-2015, 05:46 AM
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Very effective introduction of character and setting. These two things you accomplish in the story. Great job, keep writing.

Your story takes the shape of the Bear-at-the-Door in which a protagonist has to decide what action is required to prevent further development of conflict. In this case, business is slow at the diner, but June has to continue to put her best forward to keep the community patronizing even when other options are available. Good job with the Walmart image.

But to continue the story, keep building on the Jesus/Charles Manson image. It wants to work. Can Jesus ever cast a dark light? Let him play the dark side. Try to add another.
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Old 11-07-2015, 04:57 AM
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brianpatrick: thanks. I'd appreciate whatever input you have. Your "picky stuff" edits in my last piece were pretty solid.

Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
T. S. Eliot. The Waste Land—three words.
Noted and fixed.

wrc: thanks for the read and positive feedback.

I get the feeling that this scene happened pre computer era... (?)
Interesting comment.

In this era, you'd expect the owner of the diner to use a laptop for his accounting etc. And in the bit where June Anne is reading the magazine, it would be more likely that she'd be looking at her phone.

I thought about that, but somehow the technology seemed wrong for the atmosphere and setting of the story. It certainly could be happening in the pre-computer era, so I guess it's not a problem.

Escriber:

Never heard the "bear at the door" thing. But you're not far off.

The pancake disrupts things, and the little bit of notoriety brings out the worst in some of the characters. June Anne remains the moral center of the story.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Cheers all.
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Old 11-07-2015, 06:10 AM
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I liked it, too. I understood right away Mr. Vernon was the owner since he was carrying around the bills. Maybe have him come out wearing a stained apron - because i wondered where the cook was. That way we know he is one and the same.

Also, if he was running late and just getting there, who made the coffee she starts to drink?

I like the idea of the miracle.

I would read more. Good job.
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Old 11-07-2015, 12:16 PM
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Title: good Plot: good Style: good (a slight bit overwritten at some points) Tone: great Mood: great Characterization: great Pacing: fair Theme: great Imagery: great

If you are planning 2 scene breaks in a 6000 word story, fine, but I do not see professional work of that length generally broken up into 'parts'.

Thanks for sharing this
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Old 11-10-2015, 05:52 AM
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Jolly, thanks for reading.

Originally Posted by Jolly View Post
Also, if he was running late and just getting there, who made the coffee she starts to drink?
Hah. Nice catch. And I think I was able to make that bit of action work harder. I changed it to this:

June Anne laughed and poured coffee from a McDonald's cup into a heavy, white ceramic mug.
Solves the problem and I think that's another way to say why the diner is losing business.

Good call!

jimr, thanks for the read and breakdown. Glad you think I'm on the right track.

If you are planning 2 scene breaks in a 6000 word story, fine, but I do not see professional work of that length generally broken up into 'parts'.
I decided to post this in sections, but the break is more or less arbitrary; just more like a good stopping point. It's not a scene transition.

Cheers all.
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Old 11-10-2015, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
[LEFT][SIZE=3]Part One of what will probably be Three Parts.
"probably"

Hmm, does that mean there will probably be two more parts?

Does it mean that there will probably be a continuation of that which is presently posted?



Is it time to turn off the rice, slap some broccoli into a bowl, wash it with hot rice water, dump the rice into another bowl and shift the broccoli onto it?

Yes!

Dinnertime.
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Old 11-10-2015, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
Does it mean that there will probably be a continuation of that which is presently posted?
Probably.
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Old 11-10-2015, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
Probably.

Some olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper on the broccoli/rice.

Taste fit for a writer?

Definitely.
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Old 11-10-2015, 05:09 PM
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Sounds pretty good.

I prefer to roll the the broccoli in the sea salt and olive oil, put it on a cookie sheet and roast it in the oven.

Same brussels sprouts, onion wedges, green or red peppers, green beans etc.
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