Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Puzzlemaker's Wife at Tweet the Meat

Today's Bathroom Monologue is a very short one - so short the zine couldn't run its title. It's "The Puzzlemaker's Wife." You can read it over at Tweet the Meat. Tweet the Meat is a super-short zine that only runs stories that fit into a single tweet.

You can send comments to me on Twitter at @Wiswell, or leave Comments in this post.

Read John Wiswell's "The Puzzlemaker's Wife" here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Checkered Treasure

They came to the last trap. The guide carried a torch, while Lo carried a giant rolled up carpet. It was very brave of him to face the trials without weapons, and the guide praised him for it with the enthusiasm of a man who knows a hefty tip is in sight.

“Stupendous avoidance of the snakes, maestre! I don’t know how the rug helped you, yet you clearly knew what you were doing. We’re already at the end. The treasure is virtually in your hands. I’ve never seen a man make it so far.”

“Thanks for the crib notes.” Lo grinned. Having someone, like the guide who’d watched so many adventurers die down here, tell him how half the trials worked made life easier.

“Anything for a generous employer! Yet I must apologize, I’ve never seen this one passed.”

The guide stopped before what looked like a giant checkerboard. It stretched twenty yards in both directions, made of man-sized white and black tiles. Beyond was an archway, mounds of gold glittering in the torchlight. Lo admired the view as the guide stooped to read the inscription at the foot of the trap.

“What have we got?” Lo asked, setting the carpet down.

“Many men have come. Many men have died.” He chortled, “This was etched back when the trials were installed. Very cocky of them to guess many would die.”

“The whole trapped-temple design kind of belies cockiness. Tomorrow, hopefully we’ll be rich enough to be that cocky. But is there anything practical on there?”

“Well. For every white tile you touch, you must walk three tiles left. For every black tile you touch, you must walk one tile forward. If you deviate you will fall into the Pit of Dragons.” The guide reached out and knocked on the nearest tile. It echoed hollow and deep below. “I don’t know if there any dragons under here, or if they are still alive, but metaphorical or literal, the fall will probably be bad.”

“It’s a diabolical temple,” Lo nodded matter-of-factly. “I’m pretty sure I’d die somehow. But does it say if going the one forward necessitates going three left again? And if the two black ones I touch going left count necessitate going two forward?”

“No, maestre.”

“It doesn’t say what I have to do when I reach the left wall either?”

“No, maestre.”

“And it’s not so old a dialect that it’s a vague translation problem?”

“Positively not, maestre. My mother still speaks this dialect when she wants to swear. It’s quite familiar to me.”

Lo laughed, hanging his head. “The book I read said it was a dialect problem. Should have known.”

“You know of this?”

“Oh yeah, there’s a poem. Three great conquerors try to cross.” Lo pointed. “They start from the right side. One conqueror goes three left, one diagonal, and falls in. One conqueror goes three left, two diagonals, and falls in. The third writes a book about leaving to take over their lands with them dead. It’s great.”

“So you had help for every trap in advance?” The guide clapped his hands in the way of a man who still sees hope for that tip. “Such a wise man. What is your plan?”

Lo nudged him aside and kicked the carpet. It unfurled across the board, a frumpy red weave flapping over marble and obsidian. It finished rolling with only four tiles to go.

“Four.” Lo grumbled. “I knew I should have bought the long one.”

The guide stared at it. It was quite likely the ugliest thing that had ever been in this temple.

“You think that will work?”

Lo stretched his legs.

“Well, if I jump at the end.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Purple Happy Birthday

As you can plainly see, each of my hands holds a gun. Inside one of them is some festive confetti and a little purple flag that says ‘BANG.’ In the other is a .357 inch bullet that would take the horns off a bull. I can’t figure out which is which. I spray-painted them the same color – purple was all I had. They have about the same heft. Neither has a safety, since like the Flying Graysons, I don’t believe in playing with nets. Which magnum is which? The suspense is killing me. What about you? Since it’s your birthday, I’ll let you pick which I’m going to stick in your mug and fire. You’ve got sixty seconds. After that, I’m going to fire both. Now come on! Left or right? Left or right? Stop asking yourself if I’m right-handed. I tied my tie with my toes this morning, and you’ve got forty seconds. Left or right? Left or right? Come on! Quit looking at my hands and pick one! Be impulsive! Live a little before you get your head blown off. Don’t make me flip a coin. That’s another guy’s gimmick! Twenty seconds! Help a guy out here. I’m no good at picking birthday presents. I was going to go in with Riddler and some ex-cons on a cake, but that’s so impersonal and fattening. I want to lighten up your life. Ten seconds, by the way. I wanted to do something that would touch you on the inside. Real, deep down. Five. Four. Three. Two. Happy birthday, Mr. Wayne!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Flower Pit

The year after the church burned down, the town still hadn’t done anything about it. They’d cried, mourned those who had been trapped inside and talked considerably about rebuilding or erecting a memorial. Yet a year later and it was still an ashy hole.

When the anniversary rolled by many people visited the hole. They thought hard, prayed, wept, or stood silently and tried to think of something profound to say. Someone threw daisies into the ashes.

A half hour later new visitors saw those daisies and threw in some lilies. On the way home they spread news of the flowers, pollinating an idea. An hour later people of various gardens came with proper bouquets.

Some left floral arrangements where the steps had been. Others tossed handfuls of posies and roses.

By the next morning the site was a pit of wilting flowers. The city folk didn’t stop coming. They left their own flowers picked up from road stands and promised to return with some grander on Sunday. Some did, that Sunday and every Sunday, such every week the ash of the church was littered with colorful petals and an underbed of decay. These visitors were few, but a steady trickle.

Lots turned out for the second anniversary. More than half brought expensive flowers to pursue the ritual. They were surprised to find new flowers blossoming through the old offerings.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Cloud Garden

He gets up every day with the sun. Sometimes she wakes up first and makes the coffee, but when he wakes up he lets her sleep in. The sun lives by her schedule and he figures she needs rest.

He knows more about her than others because he lives above the clouds. He’ll walk out of his house barefoot, feeling the condensation between his toes. It reminds him of Spring grass after a rain. He’ll mull it over with a cup of coffee from the moon before he gets to work.

He rakes the clouds for a few hours, until she shines overhead. When the sweat beads up on his neck, he starts seeding. He throws handfuls into the clouds, not sticking them in like the rice he planted in his youth. He’s not that sort of farmer anymore. Up here he can be carefree, with space overhead, practicing the art of cloud plowing.

They spring up quickly. That’s a flower. That’s an old lady. That’s a jacket. That’s a fish. If you watch a cloud long enough, you’ll see them blossom, his seeds and their moisture working analogies out in the sky.

You never see him, though. He waits until everyone is on their way back home, including the sun. Only then does he dangle his legs from several miles up, watching people. That one’s a plumber. That one’s pregnant. That one’s going to be a president someday. Is he right? He doesn’t know, nor does the sun. Neither of them knows who seeds the people down there. They don’t think about it much. They just like to see what they see in people.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Nation Building

Hi. I’m the first president of Matsustan, a brand new federated archipelago in need of a population. I’ve been told to advertise my country to you, but I’m not going to. In an increasingly liberal world, our politics won’t be appealing to most of you weak-souled folk. We don’t hold back here. We will cane you for being an asshole. You do not have the right to speak freely or write whatever you want. If you deny the Holocaust, we will send a police officer to your house and he will kick your left knee in. All other genocide denials will be met with knee-related justice. In Matsustan you will have the right to a comprehensive healthcare system and the right to pay the taxes that cover it. You will not have the right to dodge taxes as we will garnish directly from your wages and audit you annually. Everyone will be audited every year by two separate tiers of audit specialists to ensure even audit specialists pay their fair share. You will not have the right to decide what your fair share is. Since we can’t afford another thirty seconds for this Superbowl commercial, let me close with our national motto: go ahead and try it, that’s why I carry a bat.
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