Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Devil Gone Missing

Pat shot out of his chair when Conner finally came home. The boy’s clothes were crusted in brown grime and he was breathing with heavy excitement.

“Where you been, boy? Gone for four days without a word!” Pat said, pulling him inside. Conner followed his old man’s lead to the kitchen with such a smile that Pat could barely bear it.

“You look devastated. Like you found Jesus.”

“Is he missing, too?” The boy sucked in air in little bursts, like reverse laughter. “I just spent days finding the devil. You’d have been so proud, Pat.”

He reversed-laughed some more and bent towards the sink. When the water ran over his hands the brown turned a little red and circled the drain. Pat’s eyes widened at the change of color.

“You did what, boy?”

Conner beamed at him from over his shoulder, scrubbing his hands with lava soap. “Finally cornered him at the dump. His tail stuck in an old box spring, and he’d dropped his pitchfork.”

“Boy?” Pat moved nearer to the door. “Boy, what did you do?”

Smoke began to rise from the sink.

#trickortweet

Sick of their brethren's mutilation, the pumpkins took up knives. This year, it would be the children that were carved.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Succubyebye

Listen to the new audio version or download the MP3 here.

The original recording didn't work out so well, so I did a new one at midnight before the crack of Halloween. Hope you all enjoy it!

Aisling panted and collapsed onto his chest. She was about to disappear when she realized that chest was still warm. She slid a palm up his bare sternum. His ribs rose and pressed into her fingers.

He was breathing.

She looked up in surprise and found him looking back at her.

“It’s a nice chest, isn’t it? I don’t even work out.”

She bolted up, but not away. The sheer impossibility of him still being alive kept her in place. The bedsprings creaked under her movement and the covers slid down her back.

“It’s a miracle,” she murmured.

The man folded his arms behind his head and smirked.

“I think it’s diet, really.”

She shook her head, stardust falling from her curls.

“How are you not dead?”

“Were you hoping I’d be?”

"You don’t understand. It's..." She’d never had to explain this before. For the first time in her life, she felt something like guilt. "I'm... I’m a succubus.”

He paused, then laughed at the ceiling.

“Well that explains some things!”

She leaned closer, trying to see what was special in this man. He was handsome, but that didn't rescue any of her other victims. And aside from his healthy looks, there didn't seem to be much to him.

“You’re not upset?”

“It’s not like you could have killed me." He gestured to himself as though the answer to all her questions was as obvious as his skin tone. "I’m immortal.”

“Immortal?”

“Yes. I have inside me blood of kings. Great coincidence, eh?”

“I thought the immortals were just legends.”

“I would have said the same thing about succubae until you fluttered through my window. By the way, I loved that trick.”

Now she leaned away, covering her chest with an arm.

“You didn’t think anything strange about a woman drifting through your window and having sex with you?”

“I figured most women want to do that and you were just the first to fulfill the fantasy.”

She left the bed, dragging the sheet off to wrap herself. She scowled at him from under a makeshift robe of his own linens. Another emotion occurred to her for the first time in her life now.

“Pig.”

“Pardon me if I offend the slut who wanted to drink my life away. Loosen up! You've finally found a steady guy.”

Though now naked, the immortal didn’t budge from the bed. Well, a bit of him budged, but Aisling wasn’t dealing with that bit anymore.

"Like you didn’t enjoy it!”

“I did. You’ve got decent stamina. Dynamite hips, too.” He gestured like she might hop back on the bed at any moment. “I assume you prefer to work nights?”

She gaped at him, then turned to the window and vanished. His sheet vanished with her.

He waited for her to return. When she didn't, he yelled out the window in case she could still hear.

“If I move, I’ll leave a forwarding address! The name’s Hatiel!”

He moved to lie back down, then thought of something.

“Hatiel with a ‘t!’”

"Familiarity Does" at Listen to the Voices and Imagination at Editors Unleashed

I have two pieces at two blogs today.

Erin Cole is featuring a story of mine, "Familiarity Does," on her blog. It's about a man who does unspeakably dirty work, and how you can do it too. It's about as far from Succubyebye as you can get. You can read "Familiarity Does" here: http://erincolelive.blogspot.com/

Also today, Maria Schneider has an essay of mine on imagination at Editors Unleashed. It's about how I get enough ideas to write 365 shorts a year (plus what I've been submitting to magazines), and how you... can do it too. You know, that irony was totally unintentional. That's a little creepy. Regardless, you can read about imagination here: http://editorunleashed.com/2009/10/30/how-to-let-your-imagination-take-flight/

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Culturally, it's Three Wishes to a Genie or Three Sneezes to a Wish

Grandpa taught him an Irish superstition. Two sneezes? Sure, somebody could be talking about you behind your back. But if you sneezed three times, then that was an opportunity. Whatever you were thinking when you sneezed three times would come true. Why, Grandpa had been thinking of a pretty girl when he sneezed three times in the middle of World War 2, and he met Grandma on his next shore leave. So the child tried to summon good thoughts whenever he felt a sneeze coming on. He had a mental narrative that took up about the length of three sneezes. It was a struggle to keep his mind on anything but the fact that he was sneezing, but he was devoted to this. If it were one or two? No loss. But if his wish ever took, man that would be cool. He’d know instantly, too. No waiting to meet a girl. Girls were gross. No, one of these sneezes he’d get lucky and know it immediately when he turned green and grew so big his clothes ripped.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Cadet Report – Alex [LAST NAME WITHHELD]

Alex would be the perfect field commander if he could stop eating people. He is charismatic, quick on his feet, and knows the strategy manual backwards and forwards. People naturally trust him thanks to his competency and the pheromones he exudes. I feel my judgment swayed by his ethereal charisma even now, and he’s been off-base for two hours.

But, if may be a racist for just a minute, the hard fact is that Alex cannot stop eating people thanks to his ghoulish lineage. He did not choose his grandparents and cannot fight the urge, but we have to factor into our judgments. The same things happen every time we place him on a team. The most lithe female cadet chats him up even if they have nothing in common. She cannot help herself and they fall into something they think is love and that looks like a bad porno. Post-coitis, he devours her, we lose another high-pedigree cadet, and he goes into therapy again. His ability to rebound from the trauma is admirable, but perhaps he is simply best suited to a civilian-side desk job where love interests are more expendable.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Price War

Sarah knew something was up when seven people walked into the store at once. You rarely got a party of adults that large, and never at 4:30 AM. Six of them wore slacks and button down shirts, like they’d just gotten off shift somewhere else. The seventh was a tall lady in an unassuming blue dress. All seven took carts and rolled them past the Pharmacy and into the Entertainment aisles.

Since the only customer was using Self-Checkout, Sarah ducked from her counter for a minute. She slid up the aisle and peered around the corner of nasal spray shelves.

At the edge of Entertainment, three of the seven were dismantling the new book display that gone up just two hours ago. It was huge, with more copies of a single book than they’d ever put on the floor before, meant to attract attention for a big new fiction release. It was some crazy Horror book or something. Apparently the display worked, as the group stacked every copy in their carts. They spent a minute going through the aisles, presumably hunting down any other copies. There was no sign of the rest of their friends.

Maybe they were huge fans. People had gotten eccentric about their books since Harry Potter.

She heard yelling from way in the rear. Rather than check on that, she followed an all-night Wal-Mart employee’s instinct and dashed back to her counter. She felt guilty, even though no one else was at the registers. Hers was the only one open tonight.

After a minute, Sarah dialed the manager’s office. It rang on and on. That was odd, because Fred didn’t do much more than watch the office TV when he was in charge at nights. He wasn’t the regular manager, just an assistant who enjoyed a little power.

Finally he picked up, immediately ordering, “Hold on.”

“Fred?” she asked.

She heard muffled argument on the line. Fred sounded distressed.

“Fred? What’s going on?”

Before there was a reply, a fleet of shopping carts rounded the corner. It was the book group, two of the plain slacks brigade with the woman in the blue dress in the lead. She led a convoy down her aisle.

“Hey there,” the lady said, smiling wanly down at her. Her hair was mussed, like she’d been up all night. She extended the first book to Sarah. “Can you scan this one and just enter the number of copies? We have four-eighty.”

“You’re buying four-hundred and eighty copies?” Sarah asked in disbelief. She took the book, though hesitated to scan it. She had a feeling Fred was going to yell some weird orders over the phone in a minute, and that they would pertain to not scanning certain merchandise.

“That we are. Can you scan just the one and type in the number?”

“I’m not sure.” Sarah looked down. It was hard to make eye contact when she was so confused. She looked at the cover. There was a big bubble on it. It looked boring. “Why do you want so many?”

The lady gave her a look, as though Sarah were the one being weird. Sarah felt herself shrink, which didn’t help as the woman was already three inches taller than her.

“I’m from The Reading Room over on Robin Street. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there.”

Sarah bit her tongue.

“I’ve passed it…”

“My mom started it forty years ago. It was the town’s first independent bookstore. Do you know how much we have to pay the publisher per copy of this book?”

The two guys with carts of books behind the lady both seemed to bristle in unified indignation, like this was Sarah’s fault.

“No.” She couldn’t say anything else.

“Over twenty dollars. More than double this.” The lady reached out to the copy Sarah held and tapped the 9.98 sticker on its upper right hand corner. “There is no way we can make a profit if we even went near ten bucks. We’d lose thousands of dollars just to make the sales. If you do this on more books, we’ll go out of business whether or not we match prices.”

Sarah tried to change the topic. “So you all came over from The Reading Room?”

“No. Ron’s from Borders.”

The lady gestured to the man behind her in line. He was an older man, wearing a sharp green tie.

“Borders?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah,” said Ron. “I’m running a little joint venture with The Reading Room. We’re doing an inter-store release party at noon. Half my staff is here helping us stock up here. The other half’s across town at 24-hour Target doing the same thing.”

Sarah blinked. “You’re going to sell these? You can do that?”

“It’s better than wholesale price,” said Ron. “By a lot. We cancelled our orders with the publisher and just came here. We’re taking all of you’ve got. Readers can get it from the bookstore.”

“You know there are more in the back…” Sarah began, then stopped as pallets rolled around the corner of the checkout counters. Pallet mover after pallet mover appeared, wheeled by the remaining members of this book club. Each pallet mover was stacked with cardboard boxes. Some were opened, all sporting more copies of the ever-popular Horror book.

“Hey Jess! Ron!” the one on the front pallet called, waving. “These were all they had.”

“Sarah! Sarah!”

Sarah stiffened. That was Fred’s voice coming from hip level. She looked at her counter and realized she hadn’t hung up the station’s phone. The night manager was yelling for her attention.

She dropped the book and picked up the receiver. When the crew from Borders began forming a crowded line in her aisle, she held up a finger as though to say she’d help them with those three thousand copies in just a minute. Then she turned and spoke into the phone.

“Fred?”

“Do not sell them those books. This is bullshit.”

“Isn’t this illegal? Can’t security do something?”

“We’ve got one guy on staff and he says this isn’t in his contract. I don’t know. They don’t talk about this in manager training. But the branch officer is going to be pissed if we do this. I just know it. I’m not getting blamed for this. Do not sell those books, Sarah.”

“They really want them. What am I supposed to say?”

“Hey Ron!” somebody behind a pallet called. “Are they going to scan these soon? I want to take a shower before the release party.”

Fred ordered, “Tell them you’re closing your counter.”

Sarah’s eyes bugged out and she turned away. “I can’t do that. I’ll look like an idiot. Come on down here and tell them to go away yourself.”

“I told them to fuck off when they came in the back. I can’t touch a customer, though. They’ll sue. You know they want to.”

“Can’t you, like… call the cops or something?”

“I was just on the line to them. They made fun of me and asked I should arrest their sergeant for buying too many garden hoses. I don’t think they’re coming.”

“Hey Ron!”

There was movement behind her. Sarah turned instinctively and saw all the shopping carts withdraw, like someone had put the night on rewind. At first, in a daydream-like state, she imagined they were going to return the books. Then she saw the guys with pallets wheeling around the bank of counters. They weren’t heading back to Entertainment. They were heading towards…

“Guys!” one of them pointed. “Self-Checkout’s open!”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Being the Same

“I hit my head this morning and started thinking: aren’t you both really saying the same things? Don’t you really believe pretty much the same stuff, but say it so differently that you can’t stand each other? One critic says art reflects life, and other says art creates itself, and couldn’t they really be having the same thoughts but articulating in idiotic fashion? And they articulate is so differently that they actually wind up doing different things even though they had the same intentions. And might some people realize this but are so embarrassed and insecure about the acts of their lives that they stick to the divisions? Maybe live by the divisions? Because if they admit for a minute in public that the conservative and the liberal want the same state of harmony, of not needing violence or relying on other countries, but are so messed up in a history of semantics that they can’t even hear each other being the same? It hurts, and not just where I hit my head. This isn’t what you want to be thinking when you’re on the frontline and handed a rifle to kill people who disagree.”
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