This time I got my least favorite genre prompt: Romantic Comedy. Ever since I did my first NYC Midnight event I've been thrilled to get prompts around Comedy and Horror, both of which have turned into big loves of mine.
So, I grit my teeth and forced my way through it. Satirizing the genre and finding a way to make the plot revolve around mushrooms made it a much more pleasant experience for me, but I have definitely learned that romance is not one of my strengths. Here's hoping that I do well, but I wouldn't bet on it. Anything in the top 15 would be awesome.
So, without further ado, my first (and maybe last) romantic comedy:
Every year in Telluride there is a mushroom festival.
It’s a magical place where people from all walks of life come together to celebrate the miracle of fungi. No heir and heiresses, no trust fund kids or captains of industry. Just people and mushrooms.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the status of Aspen. It’s ‘unbecoming of someone in our income bracket’ to quote my father.
So regrettably, I am in Aspen.
And Aspen is fucking cold.
But if I’m here, I may as well ski.
“Hold.” A gruff, orange safety vest called out, and the mechanical din of the chairlift died down to a quiet hum. “Syd!”
The lift clattered to a stop. I tottered over, lurching forward to grasp the metal armrest.
Another orange safety vest wandered out of a service door. This one smelled like gas, sweat, and motor oil. They held a red toolbox in one hand, and a mottled-green jerry can in the other.
I shifted over to the far side of the bench, looking away from the two safety vests, praying they would leave me alone.
My heart sank, as with a cacophony of crashing metal and shifting weight, the smelly safety vest sat next to me. I winced at the sound of scraping metal as they put the jerry can between us.
I hung over the armrest like there was something particularly interesting in the snow.
Then we pulled up into the sky.
The silence above the snowy banks of Aspen was torture.
I looked over at the smelly safety vest. She was in her early twenties, just a couple years older than me, and wore a ratty ski jacket. Her hair was a tangled mess of auburn, and grime sat in thick black lines under every one of her fingernails.
Every creak and tap underscored the discomfort. After thirty seconds of it, I was actually relieved to hear the smelly woman speak up.
“There’s a mechanical issue.”
“Hm?” I asked, carefully treading the line between pleasantries and genuine interest.
“At the top of the lift. I’m supposed to go take a look.”
“Hm.” I nodded.
“I just want to make sure you’re not getting the wrong idea.” Her fingers tapped the jerry can, and my nose wrinkled at the smell of gas drifting out. “I wouldn’t normally ride with you, but it’s urgent.”
“What?” she snapped.
“Oh, nothing.” I waved her away.
“No, no. Explain it to me. What’s so funny about me not wanting to ride with you?” Her eyes were sharp.
“Well… it’s just that…”
She let the silence hang.
“It’s just… with someone high-class like me… usually you’d be… angling for a tip or something.”
“I’m a mechanic”, she forced through a tight jaw.
Then, right on cue, with a metallic bang, the lift stopped.
“Fuck!” She cursed, looking up at the steel cables. “...who was apparently not called early enough.”
A breeze kicked up, and the wind cut through my flannel.
“I hate Aspen,” I muttered.
“It’d be better without you fucking blue bloods trying to gild the mountains”.
I pulled away from the cold metal.
“You don’t really think I’m one of those do you?”
She raised an eyebrow, “You are vacationing at a private ski resort, and you clearly can’t ski.” She gestured at my boots, which I then realized were unbuckled. “How are you not?”
“I would never gild a mountain. Gold is so t-tacky.” I shivered. “What is this, Versailles?”
Her mouth hung open. Her full, red lips flexed, but the sound never came. Finally, she slumped back into her seat, resting her arm on the jerry can between us.
“I wish I was in Telluride,” she muttered.
I snorted. “What, you’re some m-mushroom aficionado now?” I rubbed my hands together and breathed warm air between them.
“What, are mushrooms too high-class for me?” Her breath came out in white clouds. “There’s nothing high-class about turning shit into food. That’s the whole point!” Her auburn hair fell in wisps over her verdant green eyes.
“You are s-s-so wrong. Mushrooms are the bankers of the forest.” I held my hands, waxy and numb, under my armpits, trying to ignore the cold. “They t-turn dirt and roots into a c-commodities market.”
She giggled, and I did a double-take. The soft, feminine laugh was completely incongruous with her gruff exterior. Or, maybe it wasn’t gruff so much as… confident.
“What’s the difference between Fly Agaric and Goldman Sachs?” she asked with a half-smile.
The wind kicked up, the cold seeping into my bones. I shrugged, keeping my mouth closed and my hands nestled under my arms.
“One’s a toxic, shit-eating parasite, deadly in high concentrations. The other’s a mushroom.” She giggled again.
I laughed, and the icy air burned my lungs.
She frowned. “Let me see your hands.”
I nodded and stretched out my left hand. The tips were tinged blue and numb down to my knuckles.
“That… doesn’t look good,” she whispered.
I nodded, and exhaled between my hands again, rubbing them together to salvage scraps of warmth from my lukewarm breath.
The bench rocked as she hefted the jerry can of gasoline over to the far side of the bench.
“Come here. My boss will kill me if I let your fingers freeze off.”
She shifted toward me and unzipped her ski jacket. The salty smell of a summer beach rolled over me. She stuck my hands between her thighs and pulled me close as she wrapped us both in her jacket.
Her breath was warm and sweet. There was a smudge of oil in her pillowy cleavage, and I could feel her pulse through my sweaty palms. She fixed me in her emerald eyes and my heart throbbed.
Her tongue traced a path across her lips.
I leaned forward.
And tasted plastic.
She held a gloved hand up to my lips and looked at me incredulously.
“I am… super gay.”
Then, right on cue, with a mechanical whimper, the lift started again.