Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: God of Rebellion

There is no God of Rebellion. Okay, there is, but there isn’t. You see, he climbed out of his father’s head (like many gods do at birth) and immediately swore off his godhood. He has all the powers and immortality of a god, but refuses the office. That’s true to rebel fashion, I think you’ll see: happy to keep what advantages you have even when damning their source. At first he simply refused to go to Olympus or Parnassus, but when he heard that glorious Jupiter might have owned the earth, he took to a houseboat in the Mediterranean. That is the domain of his uncle, Neptune, but since he never talks to that deity he feels comfortable there. Should there ever be a God of Houseboats, though, he will likely abandon it. Officially, he refuses to cause or endorse any rebellions. Protests and revolutionary wars may continue to happen, but no matter what you hear, he has nothing to do with them. Never mind that a thing can’t happen without its God signing off on it. He is not being paid under the table by his father to keep rebellions going. He has nothing to do with them.

Please don’t hit me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Helping the Nice Guy

Today's story, "Helping the Nice Guy," is over at Short.Story.Me. It's a crime story about a pickpocket who messes with the wrong guy: the nice guy. The Family is unhappy and now somebody's car is on fire.

Comments and criticism are welcome. You can leave anything you'd like to say in the Comments below this post.

You can read John Wiswell's "Helping the Nice Guy" here:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: If there’s one piece of advice

Sometimes I feel too preachy about my craft. Today I'd just like to talk about one piece of simple writing advice that I got from the oddest of sources. If there’s one piece of advice I take from Tom Clancy, it’s this:

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

What? No. That’s George C. Scott from Patton.


The one thing Tom Clancy taught me is:

“Use the force, Luke.”

That is not Tom Clancy. That’s Obi Wan Kenobe from Star Wars.

“There’s a legend ‘round here: a killer buried, but not dead.”


“A curse on Crystal Lake. A death curse. Jason Voorhees’s curse. They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back.”

Is that the opening from Friday the 13th Part 7?

“Few have seen him… and lived.”

That’s not helpful literary advice. I think that’s plagiarism.

“Some have even tried to stop him. No one can.”

Are you in my house?

“I’d like to play a game.”

Is that the killer from Saw? Where are you?

“I'm sick from the disease eating away at me inside. I’m sick of people who don’t appreciate their blessings.”

I guess that’s illuminating on appreciating the ability to write… Are we done?

“Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: No Sam For You

Today's Bathroom Monologue can be seen on the Clarity of Night blog. No Sam For You can be read here.

I've submitted it as an entry into the "Silhouette" contest. The object was to write a 250-word story based on the above image by Jason Evans.

You can leave comments here or on the post over there. Reader's Choice voting begins in a few days if you're so inclined.

Again you can read John Wiswell's No Sam For You here:

On a related note, are readers okay with stories I publish elsewhere serving as the story for the day on this site? It seems economical to me, and if you like my writing here then it stands to reason you'd like it elsewhere. I just want the opinion of the readership. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Pen is Mightier than the Ultimate

“Penultimate” is a funny word. It means “second-to-last,” which is a neat little utility word. You see, “ultimate” means “last.” That we use it to indicate “best” is a testament to our faith in happy endings, or the power of car commercials. One or the other. Yet if “ultimate” means “last,” and “penultimate” means “second-to-last,” then what does “pen” mean? We know it can mean a pointy or felt-tipped think from which we dispense ink to write checks and essays about Apartheid before the end of class. But this can’t be the only meaning if it turns “last” into “second-to-last.” It’s got to mean something like “right before.” We don’t see it in other places. Taking a girl out to dinner and a movie isn’t “pensex.” In fact seconds after coming into usage, “pensex” would probably mean something far different. “Pen” seems to play this prefix utility almost exclusively for “ultimate,” as though the pen exists to keep us a little further away from the end. Maybe that’s why it’s so intimidating to write first lines, and why so few books finish – the pen is cursed. Maybe the pen is trying to keep us from the real ultimate – from obliterating each other, through forcing us to think things through, cross out and temper our words. Maybe that’s why polemics are increasing in number and popularity since the keyboard has trumped the pen. “Penultimate” is a prettier word than “keyboardultimate,” not the least because one’s looking out for us, and where we’re going.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Why the trick didn’t work on Devin

That trick hadn't worked on Devin since seventh grade.

Back then, to get out early you needed a blue slip from the Principal's desk, and most kids carried them out all day, like personal emancipation proclamations. They proclaimed to all the suckers who would have to stay through ninth period Math. They'd march to the curb with them, and hold them in one hand until Mom or Dad drove up, which was when the slip lost its power.

But there was one boy, Trey Galloway, who stuck the slip in his breast pocket and made no fuss about it. If you asked Devin, Trey was an absent-minded idiot, but a fashion trend was born. Ignoring the leave-early pass was a whole magnitude of cool above making sure everybody saw it. Soon all the boys wore their slips in breast pockets.

From there, the trend escalated to a boy named Gary (Devin forgot his last name) who stuck his pass in his pants pocket and was stopped in the hall by a teacher. No one had even known he'd had this magic pass until that moment. Gary was forced to show the pass in front of dozens of his peers, a minor social infraction, yet it put a limit on the coolness: not caring about your pass was cool only so long as everyone else saw it.

The limit was a good thing for the trend. It defined the optimal coolness: for everyone to know you had something they wanted and you didn’t care about it. For many seventh graders it reinforced the need for breast pockets on days they were leaving early, but it inoculated Devin against this strain of ostentatious apathy for the rest of his life. How trivial a game, how lame to feign emotionless over something you should want, and how juvenile to tease others with your goods. It was probably why he detested so many popular musicians.

He was on his way to interview another rock star today, waiting for the train. That seventh-grade inoculation was why Devin didn't give the blonde with the plunging neckline a second look. And that was why he was the only one on the platform that didn’t see her jump down onto the rails.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: So Much Moral Ox Feces

The Lenati knew everything. They had measured, weighed and calculated every ounce of the galaxy (and keeping ounces instead of metric was a heck of a struggle). They knew the factors increasing likelihood of abiogenesis down to a single atom of silicon on a planet, how fast light traveled when it was in a hurry, and what time it was on the sun.

Then some punk in freshman philosophy asked the least academically popular question (and most web-search popular question) of the hecallenium: “If all perception is subjective and all science is based on perception validated through further perception, how do we call anything objective?”

This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if, just at that moment, the sun hadn’t gone out.

Philosophy began about two minutes later.
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