Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: How do you pronounce “Tatopolus?”

“Hello, Mr. Tatopolus?”

“It’s pronounced ‘Ta-ta-pa-loose,’ but this is him. What can I do for you?”

“This is Sherry from Carp Publishers. I’m Mizzy’s secretary. This is concerning the photograph you sent up for the dust jacket.”

“I thought they got my good side.”

“To be sure: you sent a photo of you with a cat on your lap?”

“Yeah, that’s my mother’s. I take care of it on the weekends. Beautiful tabby, isn’t she?”

“Are you aware that this has been photoshopped?”

“How so?”

“There’s a large cartoon word bubble over your head that makes you say, “I hate cats.””

“That sounds like me. I hate cats.”

“And you’re stroking one in the photo.”

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“You don’t see something odd there?”

“Not really. I hate cats.”

“You realize your book is about pet owners, Mr. Tatapolous?”

“Uh-huh. I did a bang-up job, too.”

“We can’t cut the word bubble out because it’s in the middle of your photo. Mizzy was wondering if you could send another.”

“What would you like the caption to be?”

“If it could just be you, that would be great.”

“Okay. I’ll surprise you. Thanks for the call, Sherry!”

“Hold on—”

But he’d already hung up.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Soda Castle

Listen to the audio edition or download the MP3 of John Wiswell's Soda Castle here.

It began as two cans. Well, it had to begin with one, but who remembers when they put down that first soda can? Derek reached over after finishing his third Green Tea Ginger Ale that week, intending to put it down next to the keyboard. There were already two there, side by side. So you see? He didn’t, and wanting to get back to his term paper, he put it on top of the left can.

That’s how it began.

He was out of bags, and so didn’t bother collecting for recycling that week. He was on a deadline and had never written a twenty-page paper before, and so paid attention to little else. The uncaffeinated soda was a comfort as he plowed through Kant and Hegel. Plus it was on sale. So there was a fourth can Tuesday afternoon.

A fifth followed him home from lunch the next day.

A sixth and seventh as he worked after evening classes, tooling the bibliography. God, did he hate MLA format.

All these cans wound up on his desk, like his unconscious was hiding them just left of his keyboard, just out of sight. He didn’t even check how many there were until there were clearly too many. Hadn’t there only been two when he’d looked over there a few days ago? Now there was a castle of soda cans. They ran the length of his computer tower, blocking out the left speaker. One can, then two stacked up, then one, then two, like battlements. They were nice cans, too, brass-colored tops with light green sides, giving the battlements the color of a fantasy palace. The wall of cans grew taller near the front of the computer, reaching to four cans in height, blocking out the power button. He hadn’t had any cause to turn it off lately, what with the paper. It was still weird that he'd unconsciously built up the wall that way.

Derek examined his castle for far too long. His alarm clock went off eventually, letting him know it had been another all-nighter. Mostly work, with a diversion for soda castles.

Shortly after sitting back down the sun rose through his window, right behind the monitor. Behind the wall of cans. The glare hurt his eyes, so he finished the next soda and placed it atop a battlement. It was just the right height to block out the sun. It was his very own recyclable tower of Babel.

“In your face, day star,” he muttered. Then he returned to Hume’s theories on causation, written thickly enough that Derek didn’t quite get it, yet he felt it strongly disapproved of the sort of man who would insult the sun from behind soda cans.

He showered. He did laundry. He went to class. He researched the stupid final paper. He did everything a good student should, except tear that wall down. Soda residue left sticky circles on his desk, cementing the bottom cans in place. Higher cans also adhered to each other, such that when somebody slammed a door in the hall, they lurched but did not topple.

The castle kept growing, making a one-can-tall row underneath his monitor before expanding to the virgin territory of the right side of his desk. Aluminum civilization exploded to three-can heights in this region within days of the settlers' arrival. Soon there was no room and he had to keep his library books on the floor. A little unnecessarily rational voice in his head thanked God his girlfriend was a Social Psychology major and was too busy with off-campus research to stop by and see this.

On date night he took her out for Chinese. He had green tea with his low mein. It was not the same, and he wound up drinking water instead.

When he reached a difficult part in the paper, he chewed the bumps under his lower lip and looked at the cans. He didn’t even read them, and would be surprised if someone pointed out how many fonts were used between the back and front labels. They’d ceased to be cans a long time ago.

He got silly with them. When Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason became completely impenetrable to him, he tried resting his new spare cans at angles. The towers were so tall that he could begin to build an arch over the top of his flatscreen monitor. He rested the first two at slight slants, one on the right tower, one on the left. It took a minute to balance them, but they stayed in place.

That success tempted him too much. He drank four more cans in that sitting, even though he wasn’t thirsty and was getting a little sick of the sweet stuff. He'd drink some water before sun-up, he promised.

Derek pushed the four new cans into an arch shape that would fill the gap and form a bridge over the monitor. He couldn’t just lay one at a time, but if the gap was filled all at once, architecture and physics should have allowed the whole thing to support itself. The medieval people did this all the time.

Perhaps they did, but not with soda cans, and not at 1:00 AM. His arch of cans collapsed, taking with them two dozen of their intricately placed brethren. One not entirely empty can sloshed over his keyboard and splashed the monitor. Stale, sticky soda trickled down a screen he could not afford to replace, dripping onto old assigned reading packets that had until now been hidden under his great wall.

Derek couldn’t reach out to stop it, nor sit down and gawk. He could only stand and witness it, for a minute.

He looked out the window, half-expecting the sun to rise and taunt him. It had been a couple of weeks since he'd really seen the sun.

A minute later he went to the bathroom for paper towels. He turned his keyboard upside down to dry out while he mopped up the desk and wiped the monitor. He stacked the cans on the floor, but paid no attention to the order they were stacked in.

Then he drank some water and tried to tie up his paper as quickly as possible.

He turned it in the next day. It was bad, but it was done, and he cited a lot, which would ensure a passing grade. After dropping off the paper, he took four bags full of cans to the local grocery store. He recycled all of them, pocketing the state deposit. It was almost ten dollars. Ten dollars he would not spend until he was home on Christmas break, when he would begin building anew.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Steak the Vampires

“Here’s the deal,” Coach said as he heaped even more steak on Tim’s plate. It was pink, barely rare. The blood congealed with the juice of the spinach and lentils on the other side of the plate.

Tim looked at Josh. Josh just shrugged, took his plate and reached for the pepper grinder.

“You know how you’ve been saying the new janitor acts weird? How Susan and some other girls seem all drained and you thought it was vampires, and I told you to quit that shit?”

“Yeah,” Tim replied. He really didn’t want to get yelled at about that again, and couldn’t figure out what this had to do with a steak dinner.

“You know all that stuff about vampires? Bite you on the neck? Turn into bats? Crazy made-up shit?


“Well they’re real. They’re real and they’ll be coming tonight.” Coach rubbed his greasy hands together, then slopped the remainder of the steak onto his own plate. He cut it up as he spoke. “They’re coming in mass and they’re coming for you. Every kid on the team is going to be screwed. You’re the healthiest blood bags walking the streets.”

He gestured at Tim’s plate with the carving knife.

“Eat. You got to. It’s the plan I’ve got.”

Tim had a dozen objections, and none cared to voice themselves when his gym teacher was pointing a carving knife at him. He took a bite of his steak and grimaced.

“We’re going to steak them.”

“Stake them?” Josh asked from around a mouthful of meat. He didn’t seem to care. His parents never let him eat like this.

“Steak. E-A-K,” Coach enunciated slowly. “Vampires are magic, right? Well magic is weak as shit against iron. You read any old book and you see: iron stops witches’ spells and cages demons. So when they come, if they get you, they’re going to get a mouthful of iron-rich blood. Beef’s full of iron. So are those veggies. Shame I couldn’t get you some liver, but regardless, you’ll knock them right on their asses.”

Coach shrugged and contorted his face apologetically, then shoveled steak into his mouth.

Tim licked his lips, looking at Coach. He wondered if, in case vampires were actually coming, a History or Chemistry teacher would have come up with the same plan.

Josh handed him the pepper grinder.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: New Twitter Committee Law

Due to Twitter going over capacity so frequently, the Twitter Committee is implementing an "adult swim"-style posting policy for the following hours. For the listed hours only specified topics may be tweeted about. Thank you for your 140-character compliance.

11:00-Lunchbreak - Post funny things you found on the internet this morning
1:00-1:59 PM - Conservatives complaining about people who disagree with them
2:00-2:59 PM - Liberals complaining about people who disagree with them
3:00-3:15 PM – People of other political parties complaining about those who disagree with them
3:30-3:40 PM - Chatter about whatever thing Google invented/patented/bought/ruined today
4:00-4:59 (Friday Only) - Buzz about the movie you can't wait to see tonight, AKA "The New Moon Hour"
5:30-6:30 PM - Complain about your day (misc. topics)
6:31-6:59 PM - Apologize for and/or delete tweets once you realize your boss/lover/grandmom could have read them
8:01-9:05 PM - Chatter about whatever is on television where you are
8:01-9:05 AM - Chatter about whatever is on television on the other side of the world; always confusing to you, but we have to be fair

All other topics are free to be discussed at any non-claimed times. This excludes any and all conversations that could be described by the hashtag #whentwitterwasdown. Any discussions that could have such a label are permanently forbidden under the penalty of having your spacebar taken away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Moving Dangerously Close to Web Comic Territory

Geoff poured cleanser into the toilet, then stepped back. His job was done. It wasn’t his bathroom.

“All I’m saying is that it can’t be that hard to move to where the food is,” Rick said as he moved in with the scrubber. He looked grimmer about the stain around the rim than thousands starving somewhere else.

Geoff leaned against the sink. “They aren’t growing enough food to begin with, a quarter of the continent is a spreading desert, and several of their countries are ravaged by strongmen and corrupt governments. It’s not a matter of moving to a nicer house.”

Rick scrubbed a little harder, grimacing as the foam sloshed around.

“Well then they should reform their government.”

“Their governments don’t care. They aren’t listening to homeless minorities. Is that really so surprising to you?”

“That’s avoidance. It’s cowardly avoiding--yugh!” Some toilet foam splashed against Rick’s jeans and he jumped back, almost toppling into the bathtub. He quickly rubbed at the wet spot with paper towels, then groaned like he was going to throw up, and ran from the room to change.

“Yeah.” Geoff looked into the toilet. It looked foamy enough for him. He dropped the lid and flushed the suds. “It’s all a matter of perspective.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: To Disappear

The detective slowed down on his third lap around the crime scene. He milled around the one pane of broken glass. The window was double-paned, yet only the interior one was broken. No one had gone through here, so why break it? How was this connected to Gina Gosling’s disappearance?

"Disappear is such a strange word," he murmured to himself. The officers hung back from him, not wanting to disturb him if this was one of his fugues. Those fugues were known to solve cases, whatever fugues were.

"When you examine it, disappear is bizarre. I like to think about the way we put words together, to see what they really mean. To disappear isn't to vanish. Vanishing is to vanish. To disappear isn't even to no longer appear. That would be unappearing, something that doesn't happen, which is why we don't use that word. Un- and dis- are different prefixes. To be uninterested and disinterested are different things. To be uninterested is to simply not be interested. To be disinterested is to actively remove your interests – you willfully take no side. To disappear is not to vanish or unappear. Vanishing is the middleground between an appearance and a disappearance. To disappear is to forcefully no longer appear.”

“This can’t really solve cases,” said one junior officer, walking to the door. “Let’s go interview a witness or something.”

The detective didn’t seem to notice, but the junior’s senior did. His mustache twitched as he reproached him.

“Don’t disrespect, punk. He’s solved more homicides than you ever will.”

“Yeah. But I’ve probably looked up more things in the dictionary.”

“Good way to stay sane,” the detective said, eyes still a little misty, but clearly speaking at them. “Good way to stay sane and useless.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: This came dangerously close to being a true story

Bags of them. Some white, some pink, and every one was the size of a baby's fist. She tossed several in the air so that they could rain over her. She'd had many things in her life, but never such treasure. She hugged them to her chest, and they squished. Other customers gawked, but they could be damned. This was her moment of epiphany. There were giant marshmallows, and all was finally right in Heaven!
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