Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Twenty Four
Today's suggestion is from Tiffany Morningstar: "Macaque attack"
People who say a cannon is a dumb thing to drag through the dense Mexican jungle are either the same people who say the natives should not be subjugated and converted to Christianity, or they’re the people dragging the cannon. And in our case, the cannon is being dragged by some already-subjugated-on-their-way-to-conversion natives, and I cannot understand a word they say.
To those who doubt the cannon I say this: the natives must upon first contact be made to understand the breadth of Spanish might. If you give them an inch, they will take whatever is their godless heathen equivalent of a mile. That is what the cannon is for. But then immediately upon being brought to heel by the impressive armament, they must come to understand the superiority of the European way of life. This is why, behind the cannon, we are dragging a full-size cottage populated by an actual happy Spanish family.
When I say happy, I don’t mean they are naturally satisfied being dragged through the wilds of deepest Central America in the stifling heat with very little food. I mean I am forcing them to be happy, so that when the natives see them for the first time, it does not seem like a front. If there’s one things I have learned about the natives, besides that they will silently attack your party with poison darts and disappear into the woods as swiftly as they came having never been seen once and driving the survivors slowly mad, it’s that they can sense insincerity.
Once the natives see our sincerely happy family, they must be made to understand that this happiness was achieved under a system of belief very different from their own, whose deity I believe is a macaque in the perpetual state of raping a virgin or something. That is why, behind the full-size cottage, we are dragging twelve Biblical tableaus staffed by real actors.
The actors are forced, much to their chagrin, to hold their positions as we march from sun-up to sun-down. They protest that they could just strike their poses once we encounter the natives face to face, but I counter that the natives are soaking in the Biblical narratives little by little as they peer through the brush as they take aim with their blow-darts and spears. Why, it may take three or four attacks for them to comprehend the tableau of Job alone (The actor playing Job was initially a pre-flood Noah, and the actor Job’s family was initially Noah’s family, but there was a blow-dart attack, so we worked with what we had: now he plays Job and his real dead family plays Job’s dead family.) The actor playing Jonah complains that the whale he must climb into each day is beginning to smell (we caught it on the sea-journey here six months ago), and the jostling of the carts must play havoc on our crucified Jesus’ hand and foot wounds, but I am constantly reassuring them that when it comes to subjugation-and-conversion-of-natives, an ounce of prevention is worth whatever godless heathen equivalent of a pound of cure.
They do not always seem reassured, but I am the one with the cannon.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Twenty Three
Today's suggestion is from Pat Baer: "another magazine about running"
DO NOT make one of those handkerchief-tied-to-a-stick things you always see runaways with in movies. If it reminds YOU of runaways, it will remind people who see you with it of runaways and they'll call the cops and report you as a runaway and you'll get returned to your parents. The end result of DOing anything I've marked as a DON'T is you getting returned to your parents and if you really want to run away, this is the worst thing you can think of, probably.
DO NOT run away to your friends' house. This does not count as running away. As cool as your friends' parents seem when you're over there after school, they will get a lot less cool once you start trying to live there, and fifty times less cool once your parents call over and demand your return.
DO prepare a mental map of drainpipes, covered slides on playgrounds, and other good shelters near your house. These will be like gold to you in the first few days after your run.
DO NOT buy a bus ticket to some other city really far away you've never been too before. This is a classic mistake. "Getting as far away as possible" sounds romantic when you're living with your parents, but the more unfamiliar the place, the more homesick and scared you will be in the first few days of your run, which are critical. If you can run away for two weeks you can run away forever. Go somewhere far enough so you won't be spotted by your parents while they're on the way to the store or something, but close enough that you still have a vague idea of where things are. Then go further and further.
DO get over your fear of germs and ideas of what "clean" means. Start weaning yourself off of laundry and hot food while you are still living with your parents so it won't be such a shock when you go. Start preparing a mental list of which fast food places and coffee shops offer free or cheap refills. Soon you will be finding their cups on the street and bringing them in. Get over it. Do you want to have dignity or do you want to never have to hear your dad hit your mom again?
DO NOT trust bums. No one trusts them to hold a job or sign a lease, why should you trust them when you're sharing an underpass?
DO NOT call your parents. They will guilt you into coming back, or you will give away your location because you subconciously want to go back anyway. Don't give your weakness a chance to get the best of you. Also:
DO NOT send them postcards either. The postmark will give away your geographical location. On my third and only successful run, I gave my friend Todd a stack of one-hundred post cards reading "Mom and Dad, I'm alright," already stamped and addressed to my house. I told him to mail one a week. This gave me a good two-year lead time during which they were assured I was still alive, so my case stayed runaway-kid and didn't turn into a murder case. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Cops will always look harder for dead kids than alive kids who've run away.)
DO NOT trust fellow runaways. They will sound like they're full of helpful stories, advice, and friendship, but they'll sell you out for a taco and a cigarette if you're not careful. Keep in mind that most of them did not run away by choice but were probably kicked out of their houses for being terrible people.
DO learn the guitar. But keep in mind which municipalities around your town have anti-panhandling ordinances on the books and come up with two or three responses to the question, "if you're so hungry, why don't you just sell the guitar?"
DO NOT trust anyone. Anyone being friendly to you, no matter how friendly they seem, will either try to turn you into a prostitute or sell you to someone who will.
DO NOT run away right when you decide you want to run away. Wait two weeks. I don't mean like you'll calm down and decide you don't really want to go, I just mean you can write up a better plan in two weeks than you can in one night when you're crying too hard to hold a pencil.
DO pass this pamphlet on before you go, to a younger sibling or somebody else you know who seems like a good candidate. Please sign your name at the bottom or attach another sheet if it's already full.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Twenty-Two
Today's suggestion is from Brian Fountain: "Mr Sizzle"
In a nice white suit and a big black car, Mister Sizzle comes to cut the tail off our dog.
He shows Mama his papers that show he’s not a doctor but he’s certified to do this one thing. He says the type of dog Rugby is, the tail gets too long and gets infected real easy. Mama asks how he knew we had this breed of dog. Just luck, he guesses.
He makes the kitchen table his operating table. Mama shoos me and Jessi into the living room and closes the kitchen door. I watch through a crack; he’s my dog after all, Pa gave him to me when his boss’s dog at work had too many puppies. I don’t let Jessi watch, though.
The radio’s on real loud.
Mister Sizzle’s back blocks me from seeing exactly how he does it but once he does he takes the tail and wraps it up in a handkerchief. He puts the handkerchief in his pocket while Mama’s turned around to start the kettle. I feel about like throwing up and accidentally squeeze Jessi’s arm so hard she says ouch.
Mama tells us to go wash up for supper. At the bathroom window I can see Mister Sizzle rooting around in the garden. I figure he’s burying the tail. There’s two goldfish buried out there already.
Mama has invited Mister Sizzle to stay for dinner. He talks using big words and tells Bible stories, well not Bible stories exactly. The stories have characters from the Bible but they’re in different situations.
He tells me I’m a very lucky boy because our backyard is good snail-hunting territory.
He and Mama stay up drinking coffee. I try to stay awake ‘till I hear him leave but I can’t.
When I wake up my head hurts and I’m in the back seat of the big black car. It’s moving. Mister Sizzle turns around and asks me if I ever heard the poem “snakes, and snails, and puppy dog’s tails, that’s what little boys are made of” and I tell him yes, I had to recite it in school. He tells me he already had the snake.
I wonder if the boy he left with Mama is half as good about taking care of Jessi. Or half as good in arithmetic.
He tells me not to worry, somebody came for him like this too when he was my age and it’s just something that’s always been happening. He says we’ll stop in the next town and get me fitted for a nice white suit.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Twenty One
Today's suggestion is from Zach Tabacco: "My X-Files Fan Fiction Obsession
Bird Flu Makes Me Depressed
Cheese and Guns"
Huh. Story on the CNN.com front page about bird flu. If there has to be a pandemic I hope it's like Stephen King's "The Stand" and if it's like Stephen King's "The Stand" I hope I'm the Chosen One, like, the person that has to lead the good people that are left against the evil ones. But failing that I hope the cataclysm leaves the Internet intact. If it does the forces of good are probably going to need some solid web design. I'm thinking a clean, simple page with maps and survival instructions. No ugly frames or Flash animations. The apocalypse is no time to have to download a plug-in.
Hoping it's like "The Stand" and hoping if so, that I'm the Chosen One, is kind of asking a lot I realize. It reminds me of this clique on this X-Files messageboard I'm a member of. Well, more of a lurker, really, there isn't much to talk about since the show hasn't been on the air for like six years. Anyway, when it was on, there were all these people who were rooting for Mulder and Scully to get involved romantically, right? And then they finally got their way, and the show got cancelled. So they all have these blogs now where they write like, volumes and volumes of fan-fiction acting out this relationship they wanted for all these years, really getting into it. Mulder and Scully Pick Out Furniture. Mulder and Scully Get Tired Of Sex. They're really enjoying themselves. But in the meantime these same people all have icons on all their blogs that link to petitions to get the show back on the air. But if they got what they wanted, if they got the show back on the air, the actual show would eradicate all this fiction they've written, continuity-wise. And they'd be miserable.
I don't remember exactly how that was related. It was one of those things where I knew what I where I was going with it but then I had to go help some girl un-jam the printer. She was printing out poems for a Creative Writing class I think. As a computer lab attendant you pull more bad poems out of the insides of printers, I swear.
I have a tab open on Wikipedia because I'm supposed to be researching the economic precept of guns versus butter for an Econ paper but as soon as I do anything remotely approaching work I have this reflex that pulls open CollegeHumor or Fark.com, and I lose an hour or two. I also have a season of Buffy on DVD in my backpack. Even if I never start this paper I can kill the rest of my shift easy. My headphones usually end up hurting my ears from being on so long but by then it's eight AM on Sunday and I get to go home.
Walking home across the quad it's easy to imagine what it will be like after the cataclysm: flat and freezing and desolate, except after the apocalypse there will be no shivering girls in Wesleyan hoodies doing the walk of shame with vomit on their Uggs. You can keep your parties.
When I finally fall asleep after eating a Wildberry toaster pastry, I have a dream about checking my e-mail. I have an incredible amount of dreams about checking my e-mail, maybe too many, and I would complain, but some of the e-mail I get in these dreams is pretty crazy.
I forgot to mention it but in the interest of getting to everybody's suggestions I'm skipping over folks that submitted doubles (which unfortunately means losing awesome suggestions from Dyna, Eric Appel, and Ilan) (I had one all planned out for Ilan's too: it was about Japanese cartoons.) Bummer.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Writing Challenge, Day Twenty
Today's suggestion is from LeMar: "No Sadness Where We're Going"
“What do you think they’ll be like?”
“The other twins.”
“Maybe not everybody’s twins like us. Maybe every so often somebody’s born who’s just their own person.”
“Gosh, can you imagine?”
“Yea, what a freakshow.”
From outside we hear the vague noise we will come to understand is Mozart. Our mother will later credit this earliest of exposures to classical music as the reason for our high SAT scores. There’s no science to back that up and the truth is we will be telepathically sharing answers.
“I know…is this what is sounds like out there?”
“Well it’s only sporadically like that. It passes over in big puffy clouds, occasionally falling down and making everybody go inside.”
“I disagree. I think it’s something people listen to it for pleasure. And there’s lots of different kinds and people identify themselves by what kind of it they like.”
“Weird. Where do you think it comes from?”
Neither of us knows what trees are exactly yet so this is sort of a stalemate. We sort of know about them somehow, like in-born, ancestral knowledge. Maybe it’s cause we’re descended from tree-borne animals. Maybe it’s because later, we’ll build a tree-house and paper the inside with comic books and later, pornography. Maybe it’s because later we’ll hide in that treehouse when government agents come to take us.
“Do you think it’s generally going to be fun or generally not fun?”
“I think it will be fun sometimes and when it is it will seem like it’s always fun and always will be. And when it’s not fun, it will seem like it will never be fun again.”
“Oh. I think it will either be fun all the time or the other twins will constantly be trying to turn us against each other.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I dunno. ‘Hating most in others what we fear in ourselves.’”
We picked that one up from what we will come to understand are the child psychology books-on-tape our mother has taken to playing right up against her stomach in between Mozart sessions. She is cutting out the middleman of listening to the tapes herself and applying it in raising us, she thinks, by just playing them for us. It will freak her out that we never seem to speak to each other. Later, they will hold her at gunpoint so we’ll agree to go with them.
“I was just thinking about what you said about a person with no twin.”
“I know. I think I’m going to have nightmares about it.”
We’ll never have nightmares because we’ll never have to sleep, so at least there isn’t that to worry about.
“Do you wanna go?”
“Not really but I don’t think we have a lot of choice.”
“Go now or go later. That’s the choice. There’s no not-going option.”
“Yea. At least this way we have ‘agency.’”
Something else we picked up from the tapes.
We hold hands and plunge lifeward.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Nineteen
Today's suggestion is from Justin Purnell: "The Greatest American Short Stories 2006"
by Rex Fitzcartwright
Winner, First Prize, Greatest American Short Stories 2006
He went out to the shed after sharpening the axe.
"Feel how sharp this is," he said to the child he had tied up in the shed.
"Wow," said the boy, "that's sharp."
"If your father ever wants to see you alive again," he said, "if he doesn't want you to get better aquainted with this axe, he had better award my story first prize in the Greatest American Short Stories Competition."
"What is the name of your story?" said the boy.
"'The Hangman's Gambit,'" said the man.
"Why do you want him to do that?" said the boy.
"So the award will create buzz for my novel, 'Dreams Of Spiders,' a manuscript of which I have included with my submission packet," said the man.
"What else are you going to include in the packet?" said the boy.
"THIS!" said the man, and chopped off the boy's left pinky.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge is on hiatus tommorrow and Friday 'cause the NYU computer labs are closed.
Eat yourself stupid.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Eighteen
Today's suggestion is from Adam Pally: "Harvard Sailing Team"
Sometimes, for fun, I pretend I’m the sort of guy Holden Caulfield would have hated.
I wear a sweater that says “’39” in the crew team picture. We’re all wearing them because we’re the class of ’39. I get to hold the big megaphone.
I drink in the dorms but escape censure because my father is an alum and a huge donor to the school. He owns the biggest chain of animal-fat-rendering plants in the US of A. People call me “Fats” behind my back which is easy because my back is gigantic. Not that I’m fat, I’m just a house. A house with a shit-eating grin and a really nice car.
I call everybody by their last names; everybody does. My three best friends are Vanderbilt, Coney, and Williger. Williger sets me up with his cousin for the Harvard-Yale game.
His cousin is a mix of blonde curls and expensive fur coat. Our relationship is like a lot of modern-day relationships except it involves a hundred percent more train platforms, letter writing, and use of the word “swell.” Also we can’t tell our friends in great detail about what we do because most of the words have not been invented yet. It is mostly just our friends going “did you? Did you? Did you?”, grinning knowingly and insisting those friends return their attentions to the golf game at hand in my case, getting flustered and insisting those friends return their attentions to planning the Wesleyan Winter Formal in hers.
I get her pregnant though the term “pregnant” isn’t said by anybody in the course of the whole scandal. Like a gentlemen I drive her to and from the house of a discrete doctor friend of my father’s and I pay for the abortion but I don’t talk to her on the way there or on the way back and her family sends her to Florida and I never hear from her again.
For the sake of realism, I die in World War II, shot down over the Pacific. My father makes a large donation to my alma mater in my name and they name a dorm after me. If you go to Harvard you won’t see it because I am making all this up.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Seventeen
Today's suggestion is from Nick Gibbons: "i’ll punch your nuts in half"
this is a sequel to November 9th’s story
Then one time there was this fella, I punched him in the nuts.
Now I know you’ve heard me advocate the hittin’ of women so you assume I got no standards or morals or what-have-you, but I do and a blow to the testicles is outside of that code. But they say you don’t back someone into a corner leaving them no avenue of escape, and if you do back a fella into a corner (or an alleyway between a whorehouse and a stables, in this case) leaving him no avenue of escape, well, that fella ain’t liable for what he does to make himself an avenue, and that’s up to and including a liberal helping of fist stew poured into the soup-bowl of his nutsack. To coin a phrase.
He stumbled off down the alley, point taken. I didn’t feel super about it but like I said, fella left me no choice.
Here’s the thing: the children he woulda had if I hadn’t placed a knuckle-shaped eviction notice on the boardinghouse of his sperm, they started visiting me in dreams. Now I don’t dream much on account of the whiskey, so it was doubly disturbing to have involuntary sounds and images come to me while I was asleep, and have these involuntary sounds and images to which I was already thoroughly fuckin’ unaccustomed be full of glowing blue child-specters whose lives I apparently abbreviated at the ball-ammo stage.
Nine boys and a girl. Apparently motherfucker was a Catholic.
And they’d come in different combinations and at different stages of their lives. Pigtails and short pants one night, aprons and lab coats the next. I say lab coats ‘cause one of the sons woulda gone on to cure cancer. I know this ‘cause he sure as hell talks about it enough. If it were me, I wouldn’t be so quick to brag about achievements I never got to acheive ‘cause my would-be father just could not keep his fuckin’ mouth shut about who did or did not cheat at poker.
I know they’re dreams and not real ‘cause when they happen, I’m afraid. And awake and afraid are two things I ain’t never been simultaneously.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Sixteen
Today's Suggestion is from Megan: "Just Add Sweat: A Short Story In Four Parts"
CONGRATULATIONS! You are now a participant in Tony LaGoffman’s JUST ADD SWEAT, a program that will literally REVOLUTIONIZE the way you think about fitness and mail-order programs about fitness!
Are you ready for Part One of your four-part Journey Towards Fitness? Lift the flap below and follow the instructions within!
- ____ CHECK HERE TO CONFIRM THIS IS YOUR HOME ADDRESS
- DO TEN SIT UPS
That’s it! Just check the box and do ten sit-ups, then return this envelope with 40 dollars in CASH to the address listed below! WHO KNEW IT COULD BE THIS EASY?
STEP TWO will be in the mail as soon as Tony has received your 40 dollars!!!
STEP TWO – JUST ADD SWEAT
CONGRATULATIONS on making it to Step Two of your fitness journey. You’re doing great!
But listen to me going on about how great you are: let’s get started! Lift the flap below and follow the instructions within!
- WHAT NIGHTS OF THE WEEK ARE YOU USUALLY HOME (circle below)
Sun M T W TH F Sat
- YOUR HOUSE HAS A (circle below)
garage garden shed other (fill in blank) _______
- DO YOU OR ANY OF YOUR NEIGHBORS HAVE GUNS OR LOUD DOGS
- DO TWENTY SIT UPS
That’s it! You’re done with Step Two. You’re probably saying to yourself, “I knew it would be easy, but this is almost TOO MUCH!” But what most people don’t realize is that the key to fitness is working SMARTER, not HARDER. Also important in fitness is the principal of PROGRESSION (first step=ten sit ups, second step=twenty sit ups, etc.) Tony LaGoffman’s JUST ADD SWEAT is all about working progressively smarter, not progressively smarter.
Place 80 dollars in the attached envelope and send it to the PO Box listed below (note: different from last time, address is now a PO Box, also different city, state) and get ready to move on to STEP THREE!!!
STEP THREE: JUST ADD SWEAT
Congratulations on making it to step three! You’re a shining star in the sky of fitness!
But listen to me getting all poetic: let’s do this!
- ON THE EVENING OF DECEMBER 19th, LEAVE THE DOOR TO YOUR GARDEN SHED UNLOCKED
- CLEAR THE PATH FROM THE BACK GATE TO THE SHED UNOBSTRUCTED BY ANY LOUD OBSTACLES
- PLACE THE FOLLOWING ITEMS IN THE GARDEN SHED: SLEEPING BAG, PILLOW, 1 PLATE WARM FOOD, THREE TINS CANNED VEGETABLES, THREE CANNED PROTEIN SHAKES, FLASHLIGHT W/ BATTERIES, ASSORTED TRAVEL-SIZE TOILETRIES
- DO THIRTY SIT UPS
Whoa! Look at you! Already on thirty sit-ups!
Don’t bother mailing the money for your next step: just leave it in the shed!
STEP 4 JUST AD SWEAT
hey you probably didnt expect to find your next step in the shed instead of your mailbox and probably didnt expect it to be handrwitten either but hey, fitness is just full of surprises
if several items appear to be missing from your house don’t sweat it, when we become more fit we start to re-evaluate what things we need and what we don’t so it probably only seems like some things are gone
thanks for the cookies
here’s step four
DO FOURTY SIT UPS
DON’T CALL THE COPS
Last night I came to the conclusion that I am now a SHOW BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL.
So to mark this very important rite of passage, I bumped up my Netflix cue from three...
Can big douchey sunglasses be far behind?
Important, Picky Niggling Clarification: The suggestions I write the stories off of are not, in fact, suggestions of TITLES for the story. They're just suggestions to get me started, like an improv suggestion. But also like an improv suggestion, I operate under the notion that the audience likes to see the suggestion used. Anyway. This is a disclaimer only I could possibly care about, but I'm incessantly picky and know-it-all-y. I fact-check pillowtalk.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Fifteen
Today's suggestion is from Berrebi: "I would immediately read any story with the following title:
Dance Party 2085
The Robot and the Pengiun
Lest Berrebbi Unsheath his Sword of Rage "
I will take three out of four. Make a game of seeing if you can figure out which ones I used.
This is supposedly THE dance party of 2085, but whatever.
Lauren and I camp out at the edge of the bar and play a game called Who’s The Most Famous Person Who Will Buy Us A Drink All Night. Last time we played the winner was the Pope. She is such a bitch. Lauren ended up throwing the martini on her. She told me she wished she’d bought us something colored. Lauren is so funny.
Lauren’s friends with the club owner, who comes over and talks to us. He says the club is called Ploon because for a long time in the 20th century scientists couldn’t decided whether Pluto was a moon or a planet, so he thought since it’s the first club on Pluto he’d split the difference or something. I can’t really hear him, the music is really loud. Anyway I don’t get the point of having a club on Pluto if you’re just going to make it like every giant tacky transparent dance-bubble orbiting the other eight planets. Plus this place is like filled with Earth girls and their meathead boyfriends. Earth girls are gross. Their hair is so huge and their nails are so tacky.
The club-owner buys us drinks but it doesn’t even begin to count in the game; he gets the drinks free because he owns the place and plus only he would describe himself as even remotely famous.
A little later Aqua-Fag comes by to say hi.
“Hey Aqua-Fag,” we say.
“Hey girls” he says a couple seconds later: the words have to travel through the free-standing water globule he lives in.
“How’s your husband?” Lauren asks.
“Good” Aqua-Fag says after a while. We don’t ask why he’s not here because Aqua-Fag’s husband is never allowed in any clubs. He’s Fire-Fag, a big gay human flame. Totally an insurance risk. His social life is a disaster but they are so in love.
“Did you guys see The Penguin is here?” Aqua-Fag asks.
“Oh, really?” I say. We see The Penguin at the other side of the club.
“Ugh,” says Lauren. “I’d be famous too if I was the last living animal in a whole species.”
A couple seconds pass.
“You are, honey,” says Aqua-Fag.
A couple more seconds go by.
“You’re the last of the People Who Think Denim Is Cool.”
Aqua-Fag’s quips aren’t as funny because they take him so long to say.
Later, Indira Gandhi is next to us at the bar with her friend Rachel. Indira’s crying. She just found out a couple months ago she’s a clone of somebody (a folk singer or something I think, anyway, she has a great body) but that’s not what this is about.
“I can’t believe it,” she says, “how come all the nice guys turn out to be robots?”
“DUH he’s a robot,” I say.
“Indira, c’mon,” Lauren says. “He’s an ACTOR. All actors are robots. Robots give the most convincing facsimiles of human emotions on command.” Lauren is so smart.
“That’s not true, what about Darryl Fitzburgess?” Rachel says.
“Honey he is SO a robot.”
“I have my sources.”
It’s quiet for a little while. Then Rachel sighs.
“Can you imagine?” she says, looking up at a hologram of the first man walking on Mars, which is part of a montage that’s playing along with the music. “We take going to Mars for granted, but at one time, it seemed utterly impossible.”
We look at Rachel like she’s grown another head. Bringing her head total up to three.
A swishy robot walks by wearing an “Earth Girls Are Easy” t-shirt. My brainternet tells me it’s a reference to a movie from the 1980’s. I know you can use your brainternet to instantly access like all of human knowledge or something but mostly I just play games on it.
“Do you think he’s being ironic?” Lauren asks. None of us even want to answer because it’s even harder to tell if somebody’s being ironic since they came out with SuperIrony. A guy offers us some in the bathroom, later. We don’t accept. Lauren’s ex was a SuperIrony addict. It destroys people.
We are so bored. I ask Lauren why she dragged me all the way out to the edge of the solar system for this. The most famous person we’ve seen all night is The Penguin and there’s no way he’s buying us a drink, he quit drinking after he got all into Christianity. Lauren says it’s a cult, I don’t know enough to say either way. Lauren says Darryl Fitzburgess joined because they told him they could make him stop being a robot. I saw a special on guys who supposedly just “stopped” being robots. Robot or not, they can never get rid of that clank.
We go outside and wait for Lauren’s new guy to pick us up. It’s a long way away but Mercury is supposed to be really hot tonight. I don’t even know if I want to go. I may just have them drop me off and take a sleeping pill and fall asleep for like ever.
We wait on the edge of the solar system which is, like, deserted. Lauren says we could still hear the bass from the club if we weren’t in a vacuum.
We yawn as golden rockets blaze by on their way to other dumb galaxies.
Cold As Balls Comedy Tour, Winter 2005
Friday, December 2nd - DERRICK does improv at St. Andrew's School, Middletown, Delaware
Saturday, December 3rd - Hammerkatz does sketch at St. Andrew's School, Middletown, Delaware
Saturday, December 10th - Hammerkatz NYU in an all-new sketch show, Kimmel Center 8th floor, FREE to all NYU students, non-NYU free with gov't ID
A lot of these shows you get to vote for your the winner, so come out and support me, and democracy.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Fourteen
Today's suggestion is from Charlie Todd: "Remembering you
Standing quiet in the rain">
They said how can you call yourselves a Cure cover band if you don’t play any Cure songs?
And we said, How did The Cure decide to be The Cure? They just woke up one day and put on makeup and black, puffy clothing and strapped on guitars and said let’s do this. And similarly, we woke up this morning and said “Let’s be a Cure cover band.” So what if yesterday we were a three-piece thrash-metal outfit called Tea and Skullfucks? So what if our bass guitar and about half of our drummer’s drumset were stolen out of our van last night while we were in the basement of Craig’s house? So what if the only black clothing we have is not puffy but very tight-fitting and ripped and crusty and reeks of dried Milwaukee’s Best? So what if the only makeup we have we stole from Craig’s mom and none of us know how to put it on so we had Kill’s girlfriend help us out until Kill and her got in a fight and broke up after she had only made up one of his eyes? So what if none of us have ever owned a Cure record or even heard one all the way through or can even hum a Cure song? So what if this idea only seemed good while we were high on the speed we are still sort of high on? None of these concerns will matter once you hear…this.
And we would rip into something awesome that would blow the minds of all the doubters but at this point the PA has been turned off and we are, in fact, outside of the club, having been thrown out with whatever’s left of our equipment.
Fuck this town, anyway.
My buddy/Fran's boyfriend/one of your funniest improvisors evs, Chris Gethard, just came out with a book called Weird New York. If you are anywhere near the tri-state area, or just enjoy urban legends, you ought to buy it. Your coffee table is looking bereft of fun books about ghosts and crazy murderers.
We recently acheived 50,000 hits around here. Bully for you, Faithful Reader, for not having anything better to do at work.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Fourteen
Today's suggestion, from Shannon P O'Neill: "Carlos you fucking Monkey!"
On Wednesday and Thursday the wild chimpanzee, Klaus, that I inherited from my recently deceased eccentric uncle, is acting like a wild chimpanzee I inherited from an eccentric uncle: tearing up furniture, throwing glass, getting drunk on cleaning products. I'm expecting my life will turn into a madcap adventure as the monkey ruins facets of my life (family, romantic, professional) one by one with his antics. But by Friday he's chilled out a lot and we've actually settled into kind of a nice routine.
He sleeps on the couch and pees, the first three or four times not withstanding, in the toilet. He enjoys TV and doesn't move much when it's on. Especially VH-1 and E! programming, there's a lot of quick edits and flashy things. I watch those shows anyway but now I feel productive when they're on. He wears human underpants (mine). We drink beers. He doesn't smoke as a rule, but he will if I offer him one and I do, 'cause it's pretty hilarious. You have to get him an ashtray: he'll ash in it but he won't seek it out on his own. He freaks out a little when the neighbors fuck loudly but so would I if I hadn't heard it every night for the past three years. He eats the things I eat, and not too much, either.
And get this: I came back from the bathroom on Saturday night (we were watching "Sleepers" on TNT) and there were two sandwiches on the coffee table, on paper towels. He had made sandwiches. Not exactly the sandwiches you and I would make: no lettuce or tomato or condiments, just bread and meat and cheese thrown together indiscriminately but still, sandwiches.
And they say there are no miracles.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Thirteen
Today's suggestion, from Jen MacNeil: "baby with a monocle"
ALTERNATE TITLE #1: SASSY BABY TYCOON!
ALTERNATE TITLE #2: CITIZEN DIAPERS
A treatment for a major motion picture screenplay by Handsome "Gary" Tornado
As his wife is wheeled into the OR, Osgood gets a call on the other line. A crony tells him Trocadero Fitzburgess is dead. He tries to conceal his joy but we don’t buy it.
SMASH CUT to inside the OR after Terri has given birth. The doctor holds up the baby: it’s a boy!
Back in hallway outside the waiting room, three stuffy businessmen BURST through the double doors. These are FITZBURGESS BOARDMEMBERS. Osgood says what a sad day it is but he will do his best as the heir to the Fitzburgess empire to…What? The men RUSH past Dwight, leaving him in a cloud of cigar smoke.
The men enter the OR. The doctor tells them there is no smoking in the OR. The head boardmember says that’s up to the Head of the Fitzburgess Corporation to decide. What do you mean, asks the doctor? Yea, boss, says another boardmember, what do you say? Zoom out to reveal THEY ARE TALKING TO THE BABY!
Congratulations, Mrs. Osgood-Fitzburgess, says the third boardmember and the one with the largest moustache, your son is the new CEO of the Fitzburgess Corporation. Well I’m surprised, says Terri, but my son can’t speak yet so I’ll speak for him and I say put out those cigars!
Everyone gasps when the baby STANDS from his cradle, spins to his mother and says with a sly grin, “DON’T SWEAT IT, MAMA!” (his catchphrase.)
Terri FAINTS from shock!
POV Terri: her eyes peel open to see her newborn son’s face looking into hers. “WAKE UP, TOOTS!” he says. (The baby should be voiced by an actor doing a fair-to-poor James Cagney impression.) We see that the BABY is now SMOKING A CIGAR! Terri SLAPS the cigar from her son’s mouth. “HEY!” says the baby “WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?” The first boardmember explains to Terri that her grandfather was secretly having her fed a range of SECRET HORMONES so that her baby would be born with the ability to speak, smoke, and lead a giant multinational corporation.
Terri FAINTS from shock!
SMASH CUT to a montage of the baby being prepped for tycoon-hood set to “Baby Love” by Diana Ross and the Supremes. The baby is fitted for a TINY TUXEDO by a TINY TAILOR. The baby is handed some glasses by a TINY OPTOMETRIST. He snaps the glasses in half to fashion himself a MONOCLE. He looks in the mirror and says “LOOKIN’ GOOD, BABY!” It is time for the baby to have his name painted on the door to his new office at the top floor of Fitzburgess Enterprises. But wait: everyone realizes the baby doesn’t have a name!
Osgood (the baby’s father) tells the baby and the board that he and his wife were always hoping he would be named after him (Dwight Osgood). The baby tells him to “CAN IT, POPS!” Dwight cringes outside the door and mumbles that he will get that blasted baby if it’s the last thing he does! (It should have be established in a scene between this one and the beginning that Osgood hates his baby because he felt he should’ve been made head of Fitzburgess Enterprises.) Terri says if the baby can talk then he can name himself. The baby tells her “DON’T SWEAT IT, MAMA!” and that he will name himself after her, except he will be TERRY instead of TERRI because he’s “NOT ONE OF THOSE LIMP-WRISTED POWDER-PUFFS” (the baby has all the prejudices of a normal-sized tycoon.)
SMASH CUT to a montage of Terry TYCOONING, set to Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” He picks up and puts down a series of phones while yelling “BUY! SELL! SELL! BUY!” A big electronic board reveals that he has ordered the purchase of 5,000 shares each of MILK, WARMTH, and SAFETY (things that babies like) and has ordered the sale of EVERYTHING ELSE. He reads ticker tape from a stock ticker, then puts the ticker tape in his mouth and gums it. He is scolded by one of the boardmembers, whom he tells to “MIND HIS OWN BEESWAX!” Outside a Fitzburgess enterprise factory, the baby looks on in a hardhat as construction workers attach a sign to the factory. It is a big sign that says DIAPER. Zoom out to reveal that on the side of the factory now says DIAPER FACTORY! Terry nods his approval and goes to light a big cigar. His mother SLAPS the cigar from his mouth. Terry rolls his eyes which makes his monocle fall out and SMASH on the ground. He SOBS. (This montage is meant to establish that Terri is still a baby and is conducting his tycooning in a fashion that a baby would. If this is not clear this montage can be followed by a title card that says as much.)
SMASH CUT to a scene of Osgood addressing the company board. He is outraged that Terry’s antics have changed the company’s focus to baby stuff instead of (It should be established in a scene between this one and the beginning what it is Fitzburgess Enterprises does.) A COMPANY UNDERLING bursts in with a lot of PAPERS FLYING EVERYWHERE. He reveals that instead of all the baby things putting the company in the toilet, sales are UP, UP, UP!!! Osgood yells BLAST IT and smashes his fist against the table. The board members look at him. He tells them he has a nervous tic where he smashes his fist against tables.
SMASH CUT to a montage of Terry enjoying the fruits of his success set to No Doubt’s “Hey Baby.” He has a Rolls Royce specially fitted with a BABY’S DRIVER SEAT and goes driving around town, fast, while throwing out pacifiers to adoring fans! He BATHES IN MILK. He dances all night at a FANCY CLUB with CHORUS GIRLS DRESSED AS BABIES. He ENJOYS CHAMPAGNE.
Outside the club, (which we see on the neon sign has been changed from the COPACABANA to the DIAPER COPACABANA) Terri, the baby’s mother, tries desperately to get in. The bouncer says that she is not on the list. He tells her her name is Terri Osgood-Fitzburgess. The only Terry Osgood-Fitzburgess I know, the bouncer says, is six months old and is inside the club DANCING and ENJOYING CHAMPAGNE. No, no, she says, TERRI with an I. I? says the bouncer. If I were you, I’d hit the road, toots! He laughs. She sobs and walks away, she does not even know her son anymore already.
Then Dwight Osgood, who we see is drunk and evil because he still has black slick-backed hair but it is sort of messed up, comes up to the bouncer. He bribes his way past and we see he has a SNUB-NOSED PISTOL. Oh, he says to the bouncer, I’ll have a very good night indeed! (The bouncer told him to have a good night.)
Inside the club, Terry is WHOOPING IT UP on the dancefloor. Suspense builds until Dwight TAKES A SHOT at his son. Everybody in the club screams. Terry reveals that the bullet was caught by a piece of jewelry he had tucked beneath his tiny tuxedo: a PLATINUM PACIFIER. A fight ensues; Terry beats his father by climbing onto his head, pulling on his moustache, and drowning him in the run-off water from an ice sculpture of PLANET EARTH WITH A BIG DIAPER ON IT (Terry’s symbol.) Everybody cheers!
SMASH CUT to Terri (Terry’s mother) on a bridge overlooking an icy river. Snow falls as she sobs. She utters what are meant to be her last words: “I am going to kill myself!” as she slips off the bridge. She plunges towards the freezing water but WAIT! Terry swoops down and grabs her in his baby arms, saying triumphantly, “DON’T SWEAT IT, MAMA!” (There should be a scene in which it is established that Terry can fly.)
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Twelve
Today's suggestion, from Eliza Skinner: "Eliza Skinner, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World"
Eliza Skinner is the most beautiful girl at Humboldt High.
We can't decide: when Eliza gets up for school, does she wake up to ambient ocean noise or does a bird alight on her shoulder and sing her awake?
We come to the conclusion that she wakes to ambient ocean noise, but instead of coming from one of those ambient-noise alarm clocks like the one my stepdad ordered out of the AirMall catalog, it comes from Eliza's mirror, which doubles as a portal to a beach where it's always sunset.
When she rises and looks into the mirror, that's when the bird flies in the window and perches on her shoulder. It sings her favorite song, which we have no idea what it is, but we assume it's something by Cole Porter. None of us can hum a Cole Porter song, we just know it's classy and something that girls like. Does she sing along with the bird? She does, we decide, since we all heard her sing "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins at the Fall Pops Concert last year. It was a duet with Tim DiRisio, who we were all jealous of, even though he is gay. If it were one of us singing the duet with Eliza, we're pretty sure she would have fallen in love with us. But none of us can sing. In fact, two of us are smoking.
Does she take a shower in the morning or at night? We decide in the morning because at night means we wouldn't have the opportunity to think about it in our imaginary reconstruction of Eliza's day. So she goes to take a shower in the morning. It is quiet for a minute while we all think about this.
We are all imagining some variation of a shower like they have in commercials where the water falls from above and sunlight streams in through steam and pebbled glass, though none of us know that pebbled glass is called pebbled glass until Aaron says what it is. Eric asks Aaron if he learned that from his boyfriend Tim DiRisio. Aaron punches Eric and almost falls.
We bid on how much we would pay to have the towel Eliza dries off with after her shower. The bidding starts at a hundred bucks and goes all the way up to Aaron's car. Aaron tells Kevin to bid his own damn car. But we all agree that Kevin's car is worth less than the first bid of a hundred dollars.
Though our hearts tell us Eliza goes to her bedroom and picks clothes from an bottomless closet, never the same thing twice, Eric's meticulously maintained Eliza's Wardrobe data tells us otherwise. Instead we imagine the twenty or so outfits she's worn this year, she has fifty of, each, like Batman.
She dresses in front of the mirror. It gets very quiet again.
Then she puts on makeup. We would not know what this looks like even with a girl we are not in love with, so we move on.
We decide that to get to her car (a midnight-blue 2003 Jetta) she goes through a tunnel, also like Batman.
Kevin asks if it's weird that we keep comparing this girl that we are all in love with to Batman and maybe that just means we're all in love with Batman.
Aaron tells Kevin to shut up, when KARANG, a bee-bee hits him in the shoulder. We turn and see it was fired by Eliza's father, Dr. Skinner, who is leaning out of his bedroom window. Aaron falls from the tree to the street below, smashing his binoculars.
There are sirens. We mix love oaths with swear words as we take off into the night.
Aaron, we're sorry. Eliza, we're not.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Eleven: Back in NY
Today's suggestion is from Ilan: "I dub thee unforgiven"
As a parting gift, I dubbed Michelle a copy of "Unforgiven" that I taped off of HBO.
She just thinks it's because she likes Clint Eastwood. She does not get the joke. The joke about her tongue-kissing Gary from work and how that's not okay.
But I am a temp and temps aren't cowboys. It may not end up being a parting gift. It may end up being just a gift. We'll see how tonight goes.
There's this thing with girls: you can have a whole conversation with them in your head, and if you're like me, these conversations are epic, you know exactly what they're going to say and you head them off at the pass with well-argued points and rhetorical finesse. You have mental charts and mental notecards, even a mental laser-pointer to highlight bullet points on your mental PowerPoint presentation, which you present flawlessly without any technical glitches.
Then you see them, and you go to your pocket for the cards and they aren't there. You don't remember a single point from your elaborate fourteen-point plan.
We made out in the kitchen. She told me "thank you" for Unforgiven and we're going to the Whitney this weekend, and we're probably going to have a picnic in Central Park afterwards.
It is amazing how, when you've spent the whole week wishing it was the past, when somebody shows up at your door acting like it's the past, you're willing to just go with it.
In preparation for the Whitney, and the picnic, I'm thinking about dubbing her "High Plains Drifter." Not the Clint Eastwood movie, the song. There's a lyric in it that goes:
Maybe even just that part of the song so there's no chance of confusion this time, no chance of her thinking I'm attempting some bold new mix-tape single format.
Yea, I think I'll do that. It's weird but if I rely on the cards again I'll never be able to tell her I'm mad. It's getting to be two weeks since she frenched Gary at the Christmas party and the statute of limitations on my fury is almost up.
On a blanket on the East Meadow, she took me tearfully point by point all over a map of excuses. Later, on the stoop outside her place after I dropped her off, I couldn't remember a single one of them or how exactly I'd so easily connected them with warm fuzziness 'till not only could I forgive her, I couldn't rightly blame her and felt pretty guilty myself for having kissed Gary at the Christmas party.
When I got home there was a message on my machine: "This mixtape you made me is broken."
I called her back to tell her I'd make her a new one.
With the whole mixtape I now have to make, I'm thinking of giving her a tape of just the end of "Million Dollar Baby." Is that too much? All the Gary stuff aside, I really like this girl.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Wrting Challenge returns, from poolside in LA, Day Ten
Today's suggestion, from Dyna Moe: "pizza month"
Terry’s acne is getting really bad so I took away his Gameboy.
He thinks he’s very sneaky but the red volcanoes on his face were like a big signal saying “I’ve been eating all the things not only you, Mom, but also Lisa, the family nutritionist, have told me not to.”
It’s important that children understand that their actions have consequences, but that sometimes those consequences might be less direct than “I knock the glass, it spills.” A butterfly flaps its wings in Asia. You know. That whole thing.
But I didn’t just take it away. I gave it to Michelle, who’s a sixteen year old girl and couldn’t possibly know what to do with it, or care. All she knows is it upsets her little brother that she has it, so she refuses to give it back. Terry needs to understand that in the real world, sometimes you want something so bad and the person who lives across the hall from you will get it, and not even appreciate it, maybe even hate having it. But once they see you want it, they’ll feel the inexplicable urge to hang on to it.
I know that certain mothers would stay on-message and only punish the poor dietary choices and not try to sneak an extra lesson in here, but I’m not certain mothers. I’m all about efficiency. Two birds, stones, you know, that whole thing.
Of course on Wednesday Michelle rented Terry his own Gameboy, ten dollars for two hours. I came home from capoeira to find him playing it on the couch. Michelle knew that she was under no circumstances to return her brother’s Gameboy until his face cleared up thanks to a combination of the topical skin creams he’s been prescribed and healthy nutritional choices, so I scolded her and took the Gameboy away from him again. As punishment, while Michelle was at school the next day I went in to her room and downloaded several very active porno pop-up viruses onto her computer.
She won’t know I did it and her mind won’t connect it as punishment for the Gameboy rental, but what WILL happen is her friend Teresa will be over and they’ll be reading their classmate’s LiveJournals on her computer and suddenly very graphic images of girls in all sorts of compromising sexual positions will pop up. This will cause Teresa to suspect and perhaps even accuse my daughter Michelle of being a lesbian. Children need to understand that sometimes, in the real world, people will get an impression of you, and no matter how completely unfounded it may be, the more you try to deny it, the more solidified it will become in their minds, and then, eventually, in yours. No matter how we FEEL on the inside, we ARE how we appear to other people, as I am constantly telling my sometimes pizza-faced son.
My ex-husband called me “cruelly manipulative” but the world is full of feelings and situations that children aren’t prepared for by chore-charts and Self EsTEAM (my son’s private school’s replacement for dodgeball, a sport they paid a child psychologist and an Olympic triathlete six million dollars to co-develop.) My son will learn to eat right and my daughter will learn respect for authority, and in the meantime they’ll get a preview of the buffet of ambiguity we call being a grown-up. A stitch in time. Spare the rod. You know, that whole thing.
National Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge is on hiatus while Hammerkatz is in LA.
See you Monday.
Nat'l Novel Month Short Story Writing Challenge, Day Nine
Today's suggestion is from Sean Hart: "jane you ignorant slut"
Her mom left her a note:
You can’t wear a turtleneck to cover a pregnancy.
“You can’t abort a hickey, either,” she thought, and the thought made her laugh to herself.
She laughed all the way to third period, where she kicked Brad Baxter in his stupid chances-of-ever-getting-out-of-this-town-ruining nutsack.
They found her in the bathroom, after some girls had complained they smelled clove smoke and heard somebody loudly cursing the Pope.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Eight
Today's suggestion, from Eric Appel: "I'll punch you right in the cock-sucker!"
Used to be a punch to the face was a good way to keep a fella in line. Then there was this guy one time, I punched him and he kept crossin’ the line. Sassback, loose talk, and general jackassery. Then one of my fellow drunken brawlers pointed out that perhaps the fella drew some sort of sick sexual pleasure outta bein’ punched. I asked the fella if this were this case and he replied that it were. I was disgusted and threw him in a ravine.
Paranoia accompanied my every punch thereafter. Was this or that mouthy young buck getting his rocks off to my knuckles applied with velocity to his mid-face? Took all the fun out of it. And punching being my favorite leisure activity (helps me blow off steam from the high-pressure world of boozin’ and cheating at poker) I had to do something. And you can’t keep throwin’ people in ravines. They got these laws.
Some people got no respect for themselves. You punch ‘em and it just confirms what they already think about themselves. Punitive value lost. Or they’re like the fella what ended up in the ravine: Enjoyin’ it with a capital E, for Erection. So now if a fella talks shit, I punch him in his girl’s face.
It’s a similar tactic to the one I heard the Comanches use. A prisoner tries to make a break, they just axe the two guys next to him. I apply my axe (fist) to whatever floozy is draped on the fella’s shoulder. Even if behind closed doors the fella hits her himself, there’s a certain territoriality encroached upon by me doin’ the hittin’. Whether he loves her or hates her, it pains him.
If the fella is companionless, you ask him kindly to write his address on a steno pad you have at the ready with a pen you also provide. He doesn’t comply, you remind him you were the one threw that pervert in the ravine. He should get to scribblin’. Address attained, you bid him farewell, go to the address, and punch the face that greets you at the door. Grandmother, landlord, drug addict girlfriend, all create a world of problems for the fella what crossed you.
Although relatin’ this now, a thought crosses my mind that didn’t previously because said mind was soaked in Primeval Days whiskey: there are very likely fellas what Enjoy the sight of their drug addict girlfriend, or their grandmother, or heck, even their landlord with a black eye (especially if the landlord is anything like mine.) They might even Enjoy watchin’ me deliver it.
Shit. It’s gettin’ so you can’t have fun anymore.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Seven
Today's suggestion: "Buy a ticket and take the ride"
from Josh Sturgis
Oh, so I made out with a carny, Celia, get over it.
Oh so like you’ve never made out with anybody you regret. What about Todd Geisler?
NO, Todd Geisler wasn’t forty.
NO, Todd Geisler didn’t have tattoos and facial hair, but I don’t see what the point of—
YES, the carny had tattoos and facial hair.
YES, the carny was forty. How did you know?
So? So? Lots of hot guys have tattoos and facial hair, and we’re always talking about how older guys are cooler and so much more experienced—
Of course I brought that up. He said that the age of consent in Wyoming, where the fair’s from, is 16 and the laws of Wyoming apply on the fairgrounds, it’s like an embassy—
That doesn’t necessarily mean he was LYING, Celia, maybe he’s just ignorant about laws and stuff, I mean he’s a carny for chrissake. Look, either way, it doesn’t matter, all we did was kiss.
YES I swear. Just kissing. Jesus, I’m not YOU.
Wait, wait, Celia don’t hang up don’t hang up don’t hang up! I really need to talk to you. Look: I think I might be in love.
Yes, with the carny, who else?
STOP LAUGHING! Celia, I’m serious. He was really sweet and sensitive! He even likes opera!
Well, we could hear the music from the carousel and it was playing a song from “The Barber of Seveille” and I said that it was and he said “what’s that” and I was like “it’s this opera, I’m really into opera” and he was like “me too.”
He could still be into opera even if he’s never heard of “The Barber Of Seville!” I’m into rock music and I’ve never heard of any of the bands my brother likes.
No, I didn’t ask him to name another opera that he liked, I just believed him! Unlike you, I don’t turn everything into a federal investigation. You know, you accusing Kyle of cheating on you is probably why he broke up with you.
Yes I KNOW he was actually cheating on you! But you can’t deny that if you hadn’t brought it up, you guys would probably still be together.
No I don’t think ignorance is bliss. I guess I’m just old-fashioned because I believe that love can be found anywhere!
It WASN’T underneath the Tilt-O-Whirl! It was in the alley between the House of Horrors and the fried Snickers stand while he was on a cigarette break.
Oh you smoke in the parking lot at lunch, you hypocrite.
Wait, wait, Celia, don’t hang up don’t hang up don’t hang up! Do you think it’s a bad idea to move with him to Wyoming?
STOP SCREAMING! If your mother hears you she’ll call my mother and it’ll be this whole big thing.
He didn’t just come out and ask me to move with him, but he said I should come back on Friday and he also said the fair leaves on Friday, so what else could that mean besides—
No, they’re not going back to Wyoming. He said they’re going to Jersey next.
No of COURSE I don’t want to end up raped and murdered on the side of the Jersey Turnpike, what kind of question is that?
I know you’re just worried about my safety. But he worries about people’s safety too. It’s his job. He makes sure their safety bars are properly locked before he pulls the switch on the Balsa Roller. He says all kinds of things fall out of people’s pockets and he keeps them: he showed me this knife he found—
No not in a creepy way!
Well there’s at least ONE other way to show somebody a knife besides in a creepy way, ‘cause that’s the way he did it!
No, he didn’t threaten me. I told you, he was really sweet. He was a good listener, he was really quiet—
Quiet DOESN’T mean retarded! Just because your retarded brother’s quiet doesn’t mean—
Wait, Celia! Celia don’t hang up don’t hang up, okay? I’m sorry! Look: I need to borrow two hundred dollars. I’d get it myself but mom took away my ATM card after I used her car without asking last week and—
The carnival doesn’t have health insurance. He said he needs medication to get rid of his dreams of spiders.
Oh, okay, so I suppose you and your mom are the only people that get to have any pills in this world?
The only way he’s going to kill me is if he doesn’t get the proper medication and who’s fault is that going to be, CELIA?
Of course he’s not really going to kill me, I was just kidding, jeez. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.
YES I read “Of Mice & Men,” I had sophomore English. What are you trying to say? Are you trying to make some unfair stereotype about people from Wyoming?
Well I’m not a rabbit so you don’t have anything to worry about.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Six
Today's suggestion, from Kate: "and we bid you goodnight"
Gunfire at sign-off.
Gene Tendril, former host of the game show Genius Battle, current host of the Channel Four News At Ten and full-time alcoholic, bursts into Studio B with a big fucking pistol and an almost-killed bottle of Primeval Days whiskey. Suspira, Hell’s Chambermaid, is two bumpers and four scenes of “The Hungry And The Dead” away from bidding goodnight to her “dark mindslaves” (one hundred and twenty two viewers) and sending Channel Four into a long good night of infomercials and JAG reruns when Gene announces himself by shouting “a penny for your thoughts!” and shooting out a klieg light.
Suspira’s reading mail from her “dead letter bag” when the viewers hear a muffled off-screen shout and a shot, then they see sparks rain down in the foreground and see Suspira turn to see what happened, and they see her eyes narrow like she’s going to murder someone. They hear Dave, the cue card guy, go “fuck!” when some sparks burn his right forearm. They don’t know he’s been praying for something like this to happen so he can go on disability.
Then we go to our Technical Difficulties title card, which is a track-suited family walking lakeside while a golden retriever runs ahead of them. It’s over-scored with adult contempo, which is now playing through the monitors in the studio when Gene demands to see Lucy Ortega, his co-anchor.
“Where the fuck is she? Where the fuck’s Lucy, BARB?”
Gene burps Suspira’s real name.
“She’s not here, Gene, now get the fuck off my set!”
“Your set? Your set?” Most of the crew has fled, it’s just Suspira’s producer, who has his hands up like he’s gonna try to tell everybody we can “work this out” but can’t bring himself to speak, and Suspira, who’s got a skull necklace resting in her cleavage, seven feet of black leather rising from a sea of viewer mail and cue cards abandoned by Dave.
“Your set: there’s a laugh. We all know you share this pitiful excuse for a studio with the Spanish-language news hour and the Laughabunch.”
The Laughabunch is a children’s program about four grown men who live in a teapot. It tapes at 8:30 AM. Two of the grown men end their day with the taping, as they’ve been up all night zooming on crystal meth.
We recently came under fire for taping the Spanish news hour in a different, smaller studio than the one News At Ten tapes in. What we didn’t tell the press is that they’re segregated by Gene’s request.
“Gene. I’m going to ask you nicely. Once. Get off. My set.”
“Marv?” Gene offers Suspira’s producer a swig of Primeval Days. Marv declines. “You’re probably wondering,” Gene says to the room, “why I shouted ‘a penny for your thoughts’ when I came in here.”
“No, Gene. I’m not.”
“Arthur Bremer. Do you know who that is?”
“No, Gene, but I know you do, because you used to host a trivia show so you have a wealth of fucking useless facts--”
“ARTHUR Bremer shot Alabama governor George Wallace five times at close range. Paralyzed him. It wasn’t political, he just wanted to be notorious. Idolized serial killers. Thought he needed a catchphrase like ‘sic semper tyrannis.’ He decided on ‘a penny for your thoughts.’”
While Gene is monologizing I hope someone’s calling the police. But I’m not sure; Suspira’s kind of a bitch to work for and ever since the crew found out they would never have a chance to bone her they stopped putting up with it.
“Only here’s the thing: he never said it. Too chickenshit. So I’m saying it. I’m saying it for all the little guys who’ve been fucked by fame.”
“You’re not famous, Gene.”
“I got a gun, BARB.”
“He was too scared to say the words but he fired the gun. You said the words but you’re too scared to shoot.”
I never made the stereotypical assumption that people who wear a lot of black want to be dead, but I guess I was wrong. Suspira has a death-wish.
“Who’s scared? Tell me where the fuck Lucy is.”
“Wait: do you want to know where Lucy is or do you wanna be a martyr for washed-up game show hosts?”
“Hey now, Barb, c’mon…” Marv says finally.
“HE has a gun so he can call me ‘Barb’ and that’s the only concession I’m making. You don’t have a gun so you will call me Suspira.” Her three-inch nails fan out at her sides.
“Suspira,” Marv says, “let’s be reasonable, okay? Let’s all be reasonable. Huh? Gene?”
“Yup. Guns make the weak strong, and Gene here is definitely weak” Suspira says. “Weak like quit his job at a game show to keep a makeup girl from saying he groped her. Weak like got drunk and almost crashed a newscopter in Philly after he went up with a pilot and a camera man to report on a thunderstorm.”
“She doesn’t mean it, Gene!” Marv says, “You know how she gets!”
Gene pistol-whips Suspira.
“GENE!” somebody yells from across Studio B. It’s Lucy.
“Aw, fuck,” Marv says.
“Lucy! I love you!” Gene says.
“Gene, don’t hurt her!” Lucy clicks on high heels across the floor of Studio B. She’s wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt but she forgot her street shoes at home when she came in today. “Gene, put down the gun, okay?” Her voice is shaky.
“Dammit, you were supposed to stay in the dressing room!” Suspira says.
“YOU DON’T TELL HER WHAT TO--” Gene roars.
“Gene!” Lucy says, “just put down the gun, okay?”
“I love you, Lucy,” Gene says. “Do you know where Trotsky was detained on his way from New York to Russia?”
“What?” Suspira says.
“No, Gene, I don’t.”
Nobody sees how this is relevant. Now that Lucy’s in shooting range Suspira’s quiet.
“Gene,” Lucy says, “I guess I don’t see how that relates too…”
“It DOESN’T!” Gene says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with anything, my head is filled with shit like that, just, things that don’t tell me anything about how to live life or how to love or--” he’s sobbing, “and I thought, I thought journalism, there’s something, that’s a real profession, that’s important, that’s valuable, right?”
“But it ISN’T. It’s just SHIT. It’s just like everything else: reading and smiling, smiling and fucking reading! But not-- not when you do it! Lucy! Not when you do it, there’s a dignity, and a grace, and a--”
“Thank you, Gene.”
“It’s not like introducing fucking slasher films, that kids are probably up watching, warping their minds!”
“Thirteen year old boys jacking off to Suspira’s big fucking vampire boobs, little knowing that the object of their affection is a fucking dyke!”
“Oh fuck you, Tendril,” Suspira says, “if you have a problem with my art, if you have a problem with my lifestyle, then go ahead and fucking shoot me, but leave her out of this!”
“Suspira,” Lucy says, “Don’t make him angry.”
“BARB!” screams Gene. “Her fucking name is BARB. And she brainwashed you. News at eleven: lesbians are fucking vampires.”
“It’s News At Ten, Gene,” Suspira says, “you just show up at eleven because you’re a drunk.”
“Well at least my name’s not a misspelling of the name of a fucking Argento movie. It’s SUSPIRIA. Sus-pir-I-a.”
He’s right, like he always is about things that don’t matter. She was going to be Suspiria, Hell’s chambermaid, but there were legal concerns. Right or not it’s the wrong thing to say.
Suspira howls and flies at Gene. Her wireless mic falls out of the back of her corset and clatters on the floor. She rakes his face with one set of nails, which makes him lose his grip on the Primeval Days. She takes him and smashes him over the head with it. The gun goes off into her stomach.
Gene’s knocked out. Suspira’s on her knees clutching the wound. Lucy’s sobbing and trying to help Suspira. Marv is saying “aw, Jesus” on his way to call an ambulance, I would hope.
Suspiria looks up at me and says “Tim, get my mic back in.”
What the viewer sees is the “Technical Difficulties” card cutting at 1:03 AM to Suspira, in her Chamber Of Monstrosities (foam-core, black paint, rubber bats), her eyes starting to swim, back arched to draw attention to the skull in her cleavage and away from the blood pouring from her stomach wound. They see a lesbian kiss then Suspira tells them guns are evil and not the fun kind of evil and death isn’t glamorous, and without further ado, here’s the climatic final shoot-out, the last scene of “The Hungry And The Dead,” the quintessential zombie-cowboy epic, Suspira’s signing off.
I’m her sound guy so I guess that makes me a hero too.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day 5
Today's suggestion, from Jason: "A. H. R. T. F."
"A Hooker, Retching: Things Forgotten."
manuscript by R. Timothy Ferris
coverage by Amy Ferris (intern) for Albanian Oak Publishing
(Mr. Martinson: When this manuscript crossed my desk I immediately brought it to the attention to Dan, the dept. head's, attention, and he thought I should go ahead and do coverage as usual but preface it with this disclaimer. R. Timothy Ferris is my father. Actually, he's Ronnie Ferris, nobody has ever called him R. Timothy, but anyway, I had nothing to do with the submission of this manuscript, I haven't seen my father since he left my mother six years ago. I would propose that it might be an attempt on my father’s part to use my job here as an “in,” but I haven’t told him about this job as I haven’t spoken to him except for a few occasions in the interceding six years and I don’t imagine he could’ve found out on his own as my father is an incompetent, so I’m going to go ahead and chalk it up to simple coincidence.
Like I said, Dan thought I should go ahead and do the coverage, so I’m going to do my best to apply the objective, analytical tone I’ve been given such a great opportunity to cultivate here at Albanian Oak this summer.)
“A Hooker, Retching: Things Forgotten” is a memoir of the author’s sixteen-year marriage to the a woman psuedo-noymously named “Slutricia.” “Slutricia” is a professor at what the author calls “a Boston university,” and from then on refers to as “that school of hers.” The book’s introduction purports the memoir to be the tale of “Slutricia” being corrupted by dark forces at “that school of hers,” with her husband, the author, powerless to stop the transformation despite his best efforts. The introduction at one point refers to this tale of corruption as being “like Star Wars, if Darth Vader had tits and an unquenchable thirst for martinis.”
The memoir’s first section, “Satan Was A Girl Once, Too,” details Slutricia’s youth, with research the author says is culled from Slutricia’s Uncle Evan, “the only member of the family with an honest bone in his body,” although the reader gets the sense that Uncle Evan is less honest than he is just telling the author what he wants to hear and is probably an embarrassment at parties.
Slutricia’s childhood is an idyllic one, which the author is constantly shading with cheap foreshadowing. “In the twighlight of her youth, the shadows of feminism were encroaching,” ends Chapter 3, and the author calls Slutricia’s late adolescence “a gathering thunderstorm of Joni Mitchell and back-talk from which she would never fully recover.”
The author’s unironic anti-Semitism also begins showing its stripes, when on six separate occasions he refers to Slutricia’s family (Uncle Evan excluded) as a “cabal.”
The first section ends with the author’s first visit to his future wife’s family’s home, meeting her mother for the first time, and then breaking away from the gathering to search the house for “the facilities where, as a child, my fiancee’s mother trained her in smothering, castrating, and ball-busting.” The reader begins to wonder why, if even in the engagement stage the author thought Slutricia was a castrating ball-buster, he married her, and indeed, why he had two children with her. Though it’s always good to raise a question in the reader’s mind, an answer is never offered or even adequately searched for, beyond, “she tricked me, that bitch” (Pg. 241).
The second section is entitled “You’re No Saint, Either.” In it, the book’s central image, Slutricia vomiting into a gutter after she has made the author pull the car over on their way home from a party, is introduced. When she gets back into the car, the author chastises her and Slutricia replies “Oh, you’re no saint, either.” The forward motion of the narrative then pauses for this entire ninety-two page section of the book, as the author favorably compares his own biography point by point with a number of saints.
At the conclusion of this exhaustively researched and relentlessly self-aggrandizing section, the author admits that “Sure, I’m not going to stack up against your apostles or any other A-List saints, but on any given day I’m a damn sight better than say, Saint Matheos of the Poor or Saint Adrian of Nicodemia.” We then flash back to the car where the author tells Slutricia that even if some of the saints were whores they “had a certain touch of class which you, my darling, do not have.” He then tells us he tasted bile at referring to his wife as “my darling.” The reader gets the sense that if they had happened to be in the backseat at the time, they would know that the author said nothing of the sort, was quiet for the rest of the ride, and upon returning home and pulling into the garage, punched the radiator and swore.
The third section of the book, “An Experiment In Rage,” is apparently an exercise in Dada-ist poetry the author did while taking a writing course at a community college from a “very reputable writer, not like these fey, elitist snoots my wife was always kowtowing to at that school of hers.” It is the word “fuck” printed over and over again in several fonts and sizes. The last three pages are in Wingdings, but it’s the same four symbols over and over again, so the reader can assume that it’s still “fuck.” The reader gets the feeling that the author’s daughter, who taught her father how to use the computer, probably regrets that decision now. In fairness, the reader senses that the daughter was only doing it in hopes that her father would get addicted to internet porn or internet gambling and give her mother “Slutricia” some peace.
The fourth section of the book is the court transcripts from the author and Slutricia’s divorce proceedings, which the author prefaces by saying “unlike government documents, where the truth is censored, in this section, I’ve taken the liberty of censoring the lies.” Unlike in government documents, where redacting is done with a black pen, in this case, the author has used a word-processor to find-and-replace anything his wife or her lawyer said with the word LIES! (in bold), and has renamed his wife’s lawyer MARTY LIARSTEIN, and the presiding judge PROFESSOR KNOW IT ALL, which is confusing since several of the witnesses called by Slutricia’s lawyer to testify as to her character are actual professors from the university where she works. All their dialogue is redacted as well.
The fifth and final section of the book takes place after Slutricia has divorced the author, which the author calls “the only good decision she ever made, aside from getting her tubes tied,” which contradicts how hard the author seems to be fighting for her NOT to divorce him in Section Four, and again, this contradiction would be interesting and perhaps even grounds for literature if the author weren’t such a mean-spirited misogynistic prig (the reader senses).
The author then reprints the full lyrics to the Eagle’s “Take It Easy” (which, if in some bizarre universe we decided to publish this book, would cost us a fortune in royalties) and declares he will spend the rest of his days teaching writing to children at his local community center and whistling in the sunshine. The reader senses that what he will actually be doing with the children at the community center is alternately calling them up drunk and asking for money, forwarding them dirty jokes via e-mail, and complaining about their mother in longwinded letters attached to birthday cards that arrive two-three months after the children’s actual birthdays, if the author’s conduct with his own children is any guide.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day 4
Today's suggestion: "Somnambulant fury," from Mike.
On my block we have sleepwalker fights.
Both Timmy DiRisio and Jackie Santini sleepwalk. Al has the key to Timmy's house 'cause he fed their dog while the DiRisios were on vacation last summer, and the Santinis never lock their back door, so Al sneaks into Timmy's house at midnight after we're sure Timmy's asleep, finds him wherever he's slept-walk to, and leads him out to the alley behind Old Man Crumbaker's house. Pretty much whoever goes and gets Jackie and leads him out; we draw straws, short straw has to do it, his dog is a pain in the ass.
When we got 'em all the neighborhood kids gather 'round, fifteen kids in their pajamas behind Old Man Crumbaker's house. Mike Junior takes bets. Al holds Timmy back, he's kinda like his trainer only Timmy can't hear anything he says so he's pretty much limited to holding him back or not holding him back. Whoever had to go get Jackie has to hold him back: even asleep, he's a pain in the ass.
When all the bets are placed, Suzie, Mike Junior's little sister, who we've decided is impartial on account of she's a girl, gives the count and tells the fighters to come out swingin'. Their trainers let them go, and Jackie and Timmy lurch towards each other. Sometimes it takes kids on the sides of the circle pushing them a little to get them properly aiming at each other, but once they get there and get tangled up the fight is really on. Timmy's a big kid, but he doesn't really put much effort into it. We've tried giving him different things to eat before he's asleep so he'll get indigestion and maybe have worse dreams, but it hasn't really worked. Jackie's a tiny guy but like I said, a pain in the ass. His dad's a drunk and wallops him and his mom something awful so he's got a lot of anger. If a guy's got a lot of money on Jackie and he feels Jackie could be trying harder he puts on a real deep voice and yells "Jackie, get me a beer or I'll give you the belt!" or, "Why is my dinner cold, Mrs. Santini?" (We realize Jackie's pop probably doesn't call his ma "Mrs. Santini" but we don't know her first name and it's the only thing any of us have ever called her.)
This particular night, we get three good rounds in before Old Man Crumbaker's porch light goes on. When it does, everybody scatters, leaving just Jackie and Timmy still going at it like a couple of cut-rate Frankensteins. I get under a big black Olds in the street but I stay facing the alley: I got three Batman comics and a Submariner that says Jackie falls from exhaustion in the third, and that bet goes through porchlight or no porchlight.
In the house, we can hear Crumbaker calling Santini's house and DiRisio's house, just like he does every time this happens, and pretty soon, bets or no bets, everybody's ninja'd back to their houses and into their beds before Jackie's drunk father comes to the alley to get Jackie, and probably wallop Timmy one, too, even though they say you should never wake a sleepwalker.
Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day 3
Today's suggestion is:
"The image of a honeypot ant comes to mind. 'Myrmecocystus are soil-nesting ants endemic to the arid regions of western North America. Some members of each colony become living storage containers and hang from the ceilings of nest chambers deep underground, their abdomens greatly swollen with food.'
At dinner Mom tells me I ought to lay off the potatoes.
Why, Dad wants to know, he got the recipe from the Naked Chef and he wants to see if people like them—
Clearly she likes them, Mom says, that’s the problem, and now they’re talking about me like I’m not here. Like I’m fat and like I’m not here. I eat two more helpings while they’re bickering.
Mom asks why Josie never comes up from the basement anymore, not even for dinner. I look up from my plate to see if she’s addressing me or just throwing the question into the air. Mom’s looking down at her plate. I let the question hang.
I tell the tightness in my chest from Mom implying I’m not pretty to just hang on, and I go upstairs after dinner and do my homework. Spanish, Calc, a poem for Lit class. I write about a mother bird eating its baby. The tightness doesn’t go away, it amplifies.
I go downstairs: Mom and Dad have gone to bed. I pour a big glass of mango juice and take it down to the basement. Josie’s watching Late Night and knitting.
“How was your day?” Josie asks.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Why else would you be here?”
“I brought you some juice.”
“Thanks,” she says, “now talk.”
I set the juice down on the coffee table and sit next to Josie on the couch. She mutes Conan.
I lean over and whisper in her ear: I tell her about Mom calling me fat at dinner. I tell her how Nicole and Janine I think are trying to keep me from finding out about this party at Janine’s on Friday. I tell her how I slammed my finger in the door of my Jetta this morning; I show her the bruise. I stop for a second, trying to think of anything else, then I remember, and I give her Mom telling me to lay off the croissants at breakfast.
The tightness is gone.
“Fuck,” Josie says, dropping the knitting needle from her right hand.
“And can I…?”
“Hurry up,” Josie says through the pain, “they’re almost back from commercial.”
I put my hand on Josie’s stomach, which reminds me of a pregnant woman’s recently. My hand gets warm. It takes a minute, Conan is back from commercial when it feels done.
“So how was your day?” I ask.
“This was my day,” she says, picking up her knitting (red-and-green striped scarf), “but I guess that’s over for a while,” she says, indicating the bruise on her finger she has now.
“Do you want some company?” I ask. She shakes her head. I get up to go: I just remembered reading I have to do for History.
Josie says, “Mom must wonder how I got so fat if I never eat anything. I think she thinks if I got this way without eating, imagine what’ll happen to you if you do.”
“She’s afraid I’ll turn into you.”
“If you ever turn into me,” Josie says, “kill yourself.”
“Josie, I told you, if you don’t want me to keep--”
“Shhhhhhhhh,” she says. “Spider Man.” She gestures to the TV. Conan’s guest is Tobey Maguire. “He can’t not be Spider Man.”
“If you say so,” I say. “Goodnight, Josie. Thanks.”
She responds by unmuting the TV.
I have given Josie all the mean things Mom says and how Dad can’t hug and a thousand things I shouldn’t be eating. I gave her my best friend from third grade, Karen, who died from bulimia last year, and I gave her the time Josh Highsmith tried to rape me in his father’s E Class. I still remember these things but it’s like I read them in a magazine.
I’ll read the poem tomorrow in class about the mother bird and the baby bird and I won’t know the girl who wrote it.
I am the happiest girl in the ninth grade, except for one thing. And I’d give Josie my guilt about Josie, but I think she might explode.
November National Novel Writing Month short story challenge, Day Two
Today's suggestion: Folderol, from Jim Treacher.
The Annual Tycoon Retreat was this weekend. Hard to believe a year had past since last we gathered off the coast of Maine for a week of surf, sun, and discussing how delightful it would be if we could own the surf and the sun! But then again, time flies when you’re crushing the proletariat beneath your gilded boot-heel. Here are some highlights:
A ferry received all of our cars on the mainland Friday afternoon, and our arrival at the house was the usual cavalcade of automotive decadance. Garnering most of the applause from white-gloved hands and hearty “here-heres” was Livingston Greencard’s Rolls, which most of us thought to be rather over-sized when it first pulled up, only to have our incredulousness turn to glee when its hood opened and out drove a regulation-size Rolls Royce, only to have our glee turn to euphoria when the regulation Rolls came to a stop and an even smaller Rolls drove out of its grille, only to have our euphoria turn to orgasmic I-don’t-know-what-all when a Rolls the size of a terrier emerged from its already comically tiny forbearer, this one so small we were sure there was no way Greencard could emerge from it. And indeed he couldn’t: he was already upstairs, having arrived Thursday on a golden schooner.
Friday night was a dinner in honor of J. Phillip Grotwig, whose oil concern has, as you well know if you’ve been reading the papers, been the subject of some trust-busting folderol as of late. Cigars, brandy, and longwinded paeans on the joys of a good solid monopoly were in abundance, but the dark cloud just wouldn’t seem to lift from the old boy. His houses and automobiles have been seized, and without the favored implements of tycoonery, Grotwig seems to have turned inward, to the tycoon accessory no Donny Do-gooder can repossess: the moustache. He proudly showed it to me when I cornered him to offer my sympathies: he has been curling it with such intensity it has taken on the qualities of a fractal, curling inward upon itself in smaller and smaller loops on into infinity, never diminishing entirely. I joked that it might be a good place to hide secret documents. He winked and said he was one step ahead of me. As I walked away he gave me the expression which is only worn by a tycoon who is thinking it might be more conveninient to have a man killed than risk him spilling what he knows.
After coffee and a lecture from one Prof. Retton called “What Your Choice Of Top-Hat Says About Your Propensity To Negotiate With Labor Agitators,” we all spilled out on to the lawn for a rousing game of Midnight Croquet. It was, as always, the Steam Engines versus the Interchangable Parts; I am lucky enough to be a member of the Parts, and we were to be battling for our fifth win in as many years. Each tycoon has his manservant follow him around with a torch, though in recent years the torches have begun to be replaced by electric lamps. This is the subtle status play at work in the otherwise lighthearted game of Midnight Croquet: which tycoon’s manservants, or more importantly, which tycoons, are too superstitious and scared to use an electric lamp and insist on the old out-dated torch. This, the more forward-thinking tycoons and tycoon-watchers agree, is the gauge of which barons shall succeed and which shall fail in this increasingly horseless world of ours. I mused that the ocean crashing below us might have been confused for the ceaseless grinding of Lady Progress’ gears, and while I did so Grotwig took a bum swing and sent a croquet ball sailing towards my head. My manservant Parsley, ever quick on the draw, intercepted the ball with our electric lamp, which shattered, naturally, forcing us to withdraw from the game. Even without my deft wicket-negotiation, the Interchangable Parts took the crown of Midnight Croquet champs for a fifth glorious year.
Railroad baron Thomas P. Stillwell III was, as always, the host of the weekend. Each guest room in his house is named after a Chinese worker who died while constructing his transcontinental line; there are 220 guest rooms in all. And, even in the face of this somber memorial, agitators say we have no sympathy for our noble employees! I was staying in “Unidentified Chinamen #27,” which has a lovely view of the bay.
Saturday morning brought the cherished pheasant hunt. Full of coffee and croissants prepared specially by their originator, Louis Croissant (resident chef at Stillwell’s house this year), we set out upon the green. The technological advancements that have affected Midnight Croquet have also taken root in the pheasant hunt, with perhaps less pleasant results: R. Terrence Laurentine’s decision to use a gilded Gatling gun may have yielded him the highest bird count of the morning by a score or two, but it was roundly considered most ungentile, as well as grotesquely alliterative by the more literary-minded among us. “But then again,” I joked after he loosed one of many loud volleys, “we’ve never been a crowd for complaining about success by any means necessary; save that for the trust-busting pantywaists!” At this time Grotwig was seen to raise his rifle at me, tremble, then down it while mubling “too easy.” I attributed it to a foodborne malady in the croissants; their inventor is still perfecting them.
Saturday afternoon’s lecture was “Things To Cover In Gold And Put On The Tops Of Canes” (In: hawk’s heads, skulls, Out: diamonds, although a diamond concealed forever beneath a veneer of gold does hold a certain pornographic quality in the average mind of the tycoon).
Saturday night’s entertainment was the Drunken Moonlight Regatta. While intoxicated boating in the middle of the night seems like a recipe for drowning, in fact, our ample tycoon bellies, so often lampooned by political cartoonists, make excellent flotation devices. In fact, much sport is had at the expense of tycoons who have fallen from their boats and have to be fished out at the end of the race, spending the intervening time bobbing in the chilly water, a bracing tumbler of spirits often resting on their glacier-esque stomachs to keep them company.
Despite my indulgence in all the finest thing the tycoon lifestlye has to offer, I am perpetually slim, so when Grotwig’s boat rammed mine, I was less prepared to float than your typical robber-baron. Luckily, I am a strong swimmer, and cleaved to the ample bosom of R. Thom Pendleton, who had thrown himself in the water of his own accord rather than face the dishonor of placing last in the regatta. He did not sink an inch when I hopped on his back, and we passed back and forth a flask of good strong scotch while waiting to be picked up. I told him I thought Grotwig might be trying to kill me. He dismissed this idea as “balderdash.” I scolded him for his use of youth slang.
Sunday morning came as no surprise, the Scale Model Railroad Competition, in which all tycoons present scale models of their railroad holdings, was dominated by the railroad titans. Though no tycoon’s portfolio would be complete without at least a few thousand miles of track, a tycoon who has chosen to focus on newspapers or armaments can’t help but feel a bit at a disadvantage. Well, it’s a railroad baron’s house, so I guess we must expect some natural favoritism towards railroad barons. The competition was held in Seventy-Two Incinerated Orphans Hall. (Stillwell also owns some textile factories.)
I asked Grotwig outright if he was trying to kill me when he offered me an exploding cigar after the Farewell Dinner on Sunday night. He responded by saying, “Look, it’s the Minimum Wage,” and pointing to the other side of the hall. I was not distracted and did not turn my head, as the Minimum Wage is a figment of the communist imagination and is not and will never be a real thing. Expecting I would, however, Grotwig pulled a vial from his pocket and attempted to empty it into my drink. I then engaged the embarrased Grotwig on a discussion as to why he wouldn’t just have his manservant or perhaps a former Pinkerton detective to do me in, he responded that apparently his manservant is squealing on him to the feds. I could not help but feel a pang of sympathy for this man who had been trying to murder me all of Tycoon’s Weekend, for if a man cannot trust his manservant utterly, truly, he is at sea. Then thinking the phrase “at sea” reminded me that Grotwig’s machinations has forced me to spend much of the previous evening in the freezing water with Pendleton and his pottymouth, and rage overtook pity. I grabbed one side of Grotwig’s fractal moustache and pulled as hard as I could: fully stretched, it proved to be as long as Greencard’s second-tiniest Rolls Royce. When I let go, it snapped back like a spring to its original position, but not without giving Grotwig quite the sting.
Satisfied, I excused myself and retired to my chambers, where I am writing to you now. Dinner featured an exploding cigar, someone saying “Look, it’s a _____” with intent to distract, and a springy moustache. When I return to the mainland, I think I shall invent the animated cartoon.
Here's the first short story for National Novel Writing Month. I'm using the suggestions in the order they were given, first the ones from here and then the ones I got on the UCB message board.
Today's suggestions is: chifforobe, from Chrissie in Atlanta.
My dad's new house has no magical furniture.
It came fully furnished. There's a chifforobe but no real closet in his bedroom. He hasn't put any food in any of the cupboards yet. The fridge has three beers and a styrofoam takeout container with some fries and coleslaw in it and that's it. Dad wants to spend our first "Dad Weekend" going to a baseball game but I fake sick and spend Saturday in my socks, climbing into all these places to see if any of them are portals. Except for the fridge. I climbed into the fridge while he was supposed to be watching me one day a couple of months ago and got stuck and almost suffocated and that's kind of the reason my parents got divorced.
Or not the reason. The straw that broke the camel's back, my mom says that day. I draw a picture of my dad as a camel and show it to her so she'll stop crying.
The closet at our house--now my mom's house I guess--is a portal to a land where I have a dragon buddy named Kevin. The psychiatrist mom's started sending me to says I have an overactive imagination I retreat into to get away from real-life trauma, and maybe that's true, but this magical land isn't in my imagination. I have fantasies about my parents getting back together and being different and happy and they aren't like this.
Kevin and I fight monsters and demons. Any household object I bring into the portal turns into something in the magical land. The first time I brought in a colored pencil. It turned into a sword. The next time I brought in a broom. It turned into a big sword. I brought in a basketball. It turned into a sword. You'd think different objects would become different things, but really everything turns into swords.
We have battled flaming skeletons and flaming gargoyles. We were in the middle of freeing a fairy village from an evil suit of armor when Dad came by to pick me up. I was hoping he would have a portal so I could check in to see how it was going. He doesn't, so I heat up the french fries and watch Doctor Who reruns on TV.
That night after Dad is back from the game, his friend Sheila comes over. I've fallen asleep on the couch, they wake me up by changing the TV from the Sci Fi Channel to whatever channel it is that always has boat races on. Then they make margaritas. Aside from the microwave that came with the house, a blender is the only appliance Dad has so far. At the game, Barry Bonds hit a foul ball and Dad caught it. He tells Sheila he's going to sell it on eBay.
Sheila and dad watch boat racing while I try to read. They drink margaritas, I drink three Dr. Peppers. I really have to pee, so I go to the bathroom. There's no bathmat in the bathroom, but there is a big stack of Golf Digests and a scented candle Mom threw at Dad when he was moving out.
When I get back to the leaving room, Dad and Sheila are making out. I go into the bedroom and climb into the chifforobe with a flashlight and a Calvin and Hobbes collection.
The next morning I wake up and sneak out of the chifforobe. There's no chance of anybody opening it because there's nothing in here yet: my dad is dressing himself out of his suitcases. Anyway, Dad and Sheila won't wake up for a while. Dad's snoring, Sheila looks gross and isn't a real blonde.
I pour a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and watch Tales From The Crypt. I can't go home until tonight. I wonder how the battle against the evil suit of armor's going. I think about calling Mom and having her put the phone in my closet so I can talk to Kevin. Then I decide that's a bad idea, because I don't want Mom to think I'm crazy: she told the psychiatrist I don't need medication and I don't want to give her a reason to change her mind. Anyway, the phone would just turn into a sword.
Dad drives me home that night. There's a Genesis tape stuck in his car's tapedeck. Mom got the new Cherokee in the divorce. He got the car that's supposed to be mine when I can drive in four years.
When I get home, I don't bolt right for the closet because that would look weird. I sit with mom and tell her the weekend was fine, that we went to a baseball game and today we went to the museum. We didn't do either thing but she gets creepy-happy when I badmouth Dad and I don't like it. Forget the magical world in my closet, Dr. Pendleton, Child Psychologist: this is where the real imagination comes in.
After dinner (Easy Mac) I finally get in the closet, and Kevin meets me by the purple waterfall and tells me the evil suit of armor's weakness turned out to be the slits where its eyes should've been and when he threw a sharp pebble in there, the suit of armor howled and disintegrated in a cloud of black smoke. I explain to him the premise of Dr. Who and recap all the episodes I watched. We walk to the fairy village; the fairies have returned to their happy peaceful lives making shoes for friendly giants.
When I tell Kevin goodnight and go back beneath under the waterfall and through the portal, my mom is asleep on the couch even though it's only seven thirty. I take her bottle of sleeping pills and empty it into my shirt pocket. I go back into the closet and through the portal: each pill becomes a tiny sword, which tears my shirt open. I put them all in a sack I buy from a friendly blacksmith who lives near the waterfall. I go to the fairy village and give each fairy a sword.
The next weekend, we're at the boat races. A tricked-out speedboat is shooting flames the color of a skeleton Kevin and I once vanquished. Sheila tells Dad he should've had me put sunscreen on. He says something under his breath I can't hear because the boat-motors are too loud.
I take a drink of my soda and wonder if the fairies will use the swords to fend off any future intruders or if they'll use them to kill the giants because maybe they're tired of making shoes. Or maybe they'll just get bored and suspicious and end up killing each other.
I was Sexy Mark David Chapman for Halloween last night @ the UCB party. Behold:
A lot of people guessed Holden Caulfield, though when pressed, none of them could remember Holden having a gun.
Sean Hart said "Next year you should have a more confusing costume requiring a longer explanation."
Which is why 364 days from now I'm gonna dress up as Sexy String Theory.