Michael John Lachiusa
4 males and 4 females
"I never really knew what I was like until I quit smoking, by which time there was hell to pay." So observes Charlotte, a young writer of short stories as she confronts her past, present and future in post 9/11 Manhattan. With the help of her well-intentioned friends, Marco and Kathy, Charlotte embarks on a modern-day odyssey as she desperately attempts to fill her nicotine-starved days with swimming at the Y and jogging, but to no avail. She's a stranger in her own body, and it's not a pretty thing. Flashbacks to earlier years when she first arrived in New York bump up uncomfortably with her present. She's confronted by eccentric demons of her past: her ex-lover Robert (who pops up to criticize her at the most inopportune moments); the quintessential New York roommate-from-hell, Cinder; and a former employer, Mr. Bunder, a proponent of the five-martini lunch. Charlotte is also haunted in her dreams by her adolescent heroine, Anne Frank, who warns her of the danger of flotsam—the accumulation of psychic and emotional debris that interrupts the flow of one's life. Unable to act on impulse and unable to connect with her friends, Charlotte begins to atrophy, until finally, the dam breaks. She discovers to her horror, and ultimate relief, that she has always been running away from herself; not only does she have to kick her smoking habit, she has to overcome her addiction to fleeing. Once she begins clearing away the flotsam, Charlotte is able to be a better friend, a better writer and (yes, there is such a thing) a better New Yorker. As opposed to swimming against the tide, alone and without direction, Charlotte realizes that sometimes, like little fish, it's smarter and safer to swim with the school.