Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Child Eaters" at Thaumatrope.

My tweet-short, “Child Eaters,” was published by Thaumatrope. You can read all two lines of it by clicking here.

The story was actually spotlighted over on Fiction Daily. Hilarious though it may be, they reproduced only the first sentence. It becomes more John Cheever like this, don't you think?

Thanks to both Thaumatrope and Fiction Daily for the publication and spotlight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Get Rid of #1

There is an audio edition of this monologue. Click on this text to download the MP3, or click the triangle on the left to listen.

I knew you’d ask me some day. Eventually he’d know too much. He was coddled, overpaid, overpraised, and inevitably became a liability. Now he needs to go. But how do we kill the world’s greatest hitman? The #1 hands-on murderer?

Here's how.

Set up a puppet company years in advance, slowly building its own identity so that it looks unconnected to us. This puppet company can do lots of things. Like backing Latin American coups. Like bribing domestic senators. Like running guns into Africa. Lots of things that build good reputation among bad people. If you're so pressed for time that you can't build up a puppet company right now, you can borrow mine. Just this once.

The puppet company hires #1 to go out and kill #2. The second greatest hitman. Mildly deranged and incredibly connected. There are few targets so difficult to find and so dangerous to pursue. #1 is lucky that #2 doesn’t know he’s coming.

We tell #2 the son of a bitch is on his way. We give him plenty of warning, and because we look completely unrelated to the evil puppet company that hired #1, we don’t look suspicious. #2 arms up, grateful to us and pissed at a guy he’s resented for years anyway.

Now if #1 does kill #2? Bonus. Because #2 was going to ascend to the top spot when we killed #1, and who wants that? He’s deranged. He overcharges. He’s got a cancerous ego. He would have become just as much a liability, and he fucked my daughter.

Now you say to me, "Broker, #2 might not kill #1 even with preparation. He’s not as good a killer – that’s why he’s #2."

That is why we reach out to save #2 from the evil puppet company. He’s done wetwork for us before and we declare, duplicitously, that we want him to live. While #1 is in the field, cut off from information unrelated to his target, we hire the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh top hitmen to chase down and kill #1 before he succeeds. Thusly #1 will have #2 lying in wait for him in Barbados, and five more killers chasing behind. With that many men on his tail, if he isn’t killed in the crossfire, he'll be strangled in an elevator or poisoned by complimentary hotel wine. He will not live to cash the puppet company's check.

#7 is given the proviso that if #2 survives, to kill him when no one’s looking. If he gets caught, we’ll blame it on tampering from the puppet company.

That last part is just a professional recommendation. Regardless, we’ll get rid of #1.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Bad Penny, Life Two

David waved the whole story off like a bad smell in the air.

“I can’t explain it.”

“Really?” the waitress asked, tilting her head at him. “Because you’ve spent the last hour doing something that sounded an awful lot like it, hon.”

“It’s ridiculous.” He laid his fists on the counter and hunched a little on his stool. “But when I close my eyes at night, I feel like that penny followed me.”

The waitress shook her head with a sad smile. “Something that beat up was probably destroyed by now.”

“There’s no proving it, though.”

“So you think it’s in your pocket change?”

“No.” He wanted to look up but his admission was too embarrassingly heavy to raise his head. “I check.”

She lowered until her face was level with the countertop, so that she could look David in the eyes. She was cute. Too plump to be traditionally pretty, but there was something spritely in her. Christ, she was saintly to put up with him complaining for so long. Slow day or not.

“Should I check the register?”

“That’s okay.”

“So you think this evil penny killed your dad and flunked you out of college? You think it has that much power?”

“I don’t think it. I just can’t unthink it.”

She got up and waltzed over to the cash register. It rang open and David heard her sift through the change. He inhaled and rolled his eyes at himself.

She returned with a penny. It had the brightness of new minting on it, not the evil thing he worried about.

“I don’t mean to drag you into my insanity.” He shook his head, because that was what you did when your face wanted to apologize along with your words. “Let’s…”

“Let’s make a new penny,” she said.

She kissed the penny and put it tails-down in front of David. Her pink lipstick stained Lincoln’s beard.

“This can be Casper. The good ghost penny.”

David snorted. He touched the penny with the edges of his index fingers, admiring the contrast of bright pink on bright zinc.

“How’s it going to stay on?” he asked. “Lipstick’s not permanent.”

“How?” She grinned. When she grinned, she showed her upper teeth. David liked that. “That’s up to you.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Bad Penny, Life One

He knew it was a bad penny when he was twelve years old. It was the one penny he got in the sum of fourteen dollars and ninety-six cents. The old man pulled out a ten and a five. He deliberated, then shoved the five back in his pocket and produced four ones. Then three quarters, then two dimes, and finally that penny.

The penny had been minted in 1983, and yet looked older than God. It was dirt brown and oxidized with disgusting green in bits. One green bit ran across Lincoln's eyes like a gash, as though a second assassin had blinded the president.

Fourteen dollars and ninety-six cents, David pocketed, for a week's work with newspapers and milk deliveries. He brought it all home, and that was the night of the last fight. His father pealed out of the driveway at dusk and never came back.

The penny, and most of the other coins, fell under his bed. He dug them out a month later to spend on lunch. His mother said his father was supposed to pay for school lunches and wouldn't give him the money. His father said his mother was supposed to give him that money out of child support and so wouldn't cough it up.

He had a test and needed food in his system, so he spent some of his money, including that penny, on a bagel. He went heavy on the complimentary cream cheese. It didn't settle in his stomach. He ran out of History halfway through the period to vomit. He leaned over the toilet, holding his head, and could have sworn his fingers smelled of pennies.

Having only completed a third of the test, he failed.

Because his parents excelled at telling him the other should pay for anything he wanted, he asked a favor to secretly work in the back of the cafeteria during his free period. It got him free lunch, and a little money under the counter. His first "payment" was a fistful from the coin drawer. He didn't even realize the penny was back in his possession until he got out of gym, wiped sweat from his mouth, and smelled damnable pennies. An irrational urge made him check his jeans, and there was the blind Lincoln, now with a second oxidized green gash, this one across his mouth.

He got busted by the principal the next Monday for working in the cafeteria. That was not allowed. He was reprimanded. His father was called in to "discuss" things with the principal, the first time David's dad would have been in town when it wasn't his weekend.

David waited for him by the fountain. He threw the blind Lincoln in and wished his dad would not be a dick about this, maybe be moved by the story and cough up some lunch money.

A half an hour later his father still wasn't there. David went inside and waited another two hours to learn his father had been killed in a car crash.

Many bad things happened to David in his life. Many bad things happen to everyone. He had a rich grandfather who would have paid his entire way in the world, but he died the month before David was born, and died without a will. The government took everything, David got no fairy grandfather, and no blind Lincoln penny was involved. Not in any way you could prove.

That grandfather did have holdings in a zinc mine that provided much of the US Mint's metals for penny minting. David found that out when he tried too hard to connect things.

The penny left that fountain and was spent on sno-cone, at a stand that was robbed two weeks later, by a thief who died from snorting tainted cocaine. Eventually it reached the right bank and went into the system, where it was destroyed. The bank it had gone through went out of business a year later, unable to compete with the big franchise with better annual percentages on the same street. That was after the blind Lincoln left circulation, though.

David sketched a theory. He always threw it away when he was done, but always rewrote it later. He wondered on a big thing, because money isn't coinage or paper. It isn't before or after the decimal on a receipt. Money isn't corporeal. That's why so much banking jumped online. The government could destroy damaged bills, but not one cent left the economy. In fact with big banks and stock markets, more and more money kept coming to be. Not one cent was destroyed. It all just shifted into the ether and the ethernet.

So when he bombed at community college, he wondered about the blind Lincoln. When his girlfriend admitted the baby wasn’t his, he wondered and cursed himself. When the economy crashed, he knew it wasn’t the penny. And yet, for days afterwards he could smell it on his fingers.

Please come back tomorrow for the conclusion of Bad Penny.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Exposure by Community" in a Contest

Exposure by Community was nominated for the #fridayflash essay contest. The contest is for essays on how writers are affected by hashtag groups like #fridayflash. Public voting is under way. You can read all seven nominated entries and vote for your favorite by clicking here.

If you have a few minutes, I'd deeply appreciate your support with a look and a vote. Thank you.

Visit the #fridayflash essay contest page here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: L’aughterlife (It’s French)

Contrary to conventional belief, there is comedy in Heaven. If you know anything about comedy, you know it happens on every cloud and metaphor. If, like most people, you know nothing about comedy and require comedians to build in pauses and punchlines for you to laugh at something, then the comedy scene in Heaven is zoned mostly to one building. It is notorious as the only building in the place that gets absolutely no respect. The angels didn’t understand why until Rodney Dangerfield died and became management.

Mr. Dangerfield does not often perform, preferring to book talent and hit on the winged waitresses. Last week Will Rogers did six nights. This week Richard Pryor is doing six, with Sam Kinison opening for five of them. On the sixth night George Carlin will open with an updated, more ironic version of his ‘there is no up there’ routine. Rogers, Pryor, Kinison and Carlin can only perform for six nights as on the seventh professional comedians rest.

Alternative acts show up on the seventh night. Jonathan Swift, Kurt Vonnegut, Erma Bombeck and numerous other authors who all secretly just wanted to tell jokes from a stage finally get the chance. Mark Twain does a killer set using a Samuel Clemens dummy. Sometimes luminaries from other disciplines come in to try out humor, like Homer and Beethoven's “see no evil, hear no evil” routine. And every seventh day, Dangerfield announces that God will be on later “if we have time.” He’s yet to perform.

You may have to be there to get that last one.

There is a lot of laughter at the club that gets no respect. There has to be, because there wasn’t enough on earth. Not the kind that’s worthwhile. When there is enough good humor on earth, the club will finally close down and the patrons will go watch. They’d like it to be soon, but some will admit they hope to get Bill Cosby before then.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Hold Down the Fort" at Muskoka River

Today I have a story and interview over as Muskoka River.

This is one of the first times I've been interviewed. We covered the origin of the Bathroom Monologues, my writing habits, and some of my favorite American authors (guess how many are dead). I also asked my audience an important question that I'd sincerely like answers to. Cathy Oliffe did something very amusing with my answers that followers of the Bathroom Monologues should enjoy.

The story is "Hold Down the Fort." It plumbs that peculiar phrase and whips up an absurdist history to explain its existence. It features Davey Crockett, Paul Bunyan and anti-gravity pirates in zeppelins.

You can read both the interview and the story by clicking on this text here.
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