Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Skeletons in the Closet

Chatty undead took work at mortuaries. It was comfortable; people there expected skeletons in the closet.

I apologize for nothing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Viewers Like You

The broadcast representative led him down the hall. Sammy was in awe of the stainless steel walls, dotted with their thousands of viewing windows. Each led to a tiny room that was bathed in a yellow glow, like the light of an incubator.

“We’ve always been sustained by donations. Sometimes they came from corporations, but even in our most shameless years, PBS has always been supported by viewers like you.”

Sammy had yet to see a television in his life, but the mere mention of PBS made him ache to sit down and watch something. He settled for listening to the rep.

“Not viewers precisely like you. They had two eyes, two legs and all that, but they were unreliable. Do you know how few viewers donated even once, let alone a second time? Many an unpaid intern was left in tears during the telethons, when some callous viewer barked to stop calling. Scandalous. All the interns were doing was trying to fund the best educational and cultural programming in the country. Plus the call list was opt-in.”

They neared the door at the end of the walls. There was another yellow light beyond it, this one not so much like an incubator. This light was like the sun, which Sammy was pre-programmed to recognize. He looked forward to seeing the sun.

“We almost went out of business. Telethons were futile. The internet only brought us more viewers who wanted everything for free. We had to take advertising from truly evil corporations. Our news anchors had to admit, in full disclosure, that the monsters we’d just done a story about paid for the show. All of it and we were still on the verge of insolvency. That was, until we got one saintly donor.”

The rep paused by the viewing window closest to the door. A naked man slept inside. Sammy looked in with the rep. He saw himself for the first time in his brief life, reflected in the window. He had the same face as the sleeping man.

“Samuel P. Lancaster was a viewer exactly like you, minus some epigenetics. He realized to keep our station afloat, we didn’t need a social network or a celebrity endorsements. We just needed several thousand more viewers just like you.”

The broadcast representative clapped Sammy on the shoulder. He beamed in the photogenic way all media people were designed to in this age.

“You’re free to live a life, Sammy. Get whatever job you like. Get married, get a car, get a penthouse – all we ask is you and everyone like you donate a certain minimum amount every year. Exceed it and we’ll send you a handsome tote bag.”

“Thank you,” were the first words of Sammy’s life.

“You’re welcome.”

He stepped aside and let Sammy walk into the light.

“Do us proud, Sammy! We’d hate to have to curtail programming.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Task of Waverly Mothers

"Waverly mothers have a task. Others may live meaningless or ambling parenthoods, but Waverly have tact and strong breeding. We survive into the teens of our grandchildren, and that's where the mission comes from. That child will be full of hormones, new hair and the soil of existentialism. A mother's task is to get that child firm early. Teach it what is right and when to stand still. The loss of a grandmother will be the first real death it comes in contact with, and if the Waverly mother has done her job, the child will weather it fine. It will know that death is a part of life we're all guaranteed, and not something to fall apart over. If it falls apart, the mother is failing at her job and needs to catch up. I expect you've been doing right by your young, Darleen. I have faith in you because you didn't crack when your Nana passed, and you should have learned all you needed from that, and me. The doctors say I'll tip over in the next two weeks and we'll know. I hope you're prepared for the consequences."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Bombs Away

The educator tapped his prompter and shifted holograms. The room when blue for two seconds before loading the image of a 1950’s classroom. Windows appeared with nearly authentic views of a green vista. Hardlight images popped up around the room: an archaic flag hung over the door, colorful representations of the alphabet lined the walls, and the floor was filled up with rows of uncomfortable devices consisted of four metal rods supporting a flat wooden square. A few of the educator’s pupils went directly into their Pads to look up what such furniture was called.

“Americans of the 1950’s were an emotionally coherent bunch. Take the typical classroom scene,” the educator said, sweeping an arm around the place. “Students spent hours a day in such environments, sitting at desks and completing tasks to learn and test their learning. In case of an atomic bomb attack, they were instructed to climb under the desk.”

The educator got down on all fours and climbed under the nearest one. His students stared at his age-addled backside, wobbling as he tried to position himself under furniture designed for a child. His head poked out the other end with a question.

“Question: Why would they do this?”

Liu, one of the class leaders, proffered, “Answer: Safety.”

“Nonsense. An atomic bomb would destroy the entire building. This flimsy structure wouldn’t preserve you a moment.”

Yun smirked at Liu, then proffered, “Answer: If they were on the periphery of the explosion, caught only in a debris cloud, it might shield them from flying bricks.”

“Nice rationalization, Yun, but try again.”

No one tried again. The educator climbed out from his desk and assumed a spot in their ranks. He gestured out to the see of seats.

“Imagine the bomb siren goes off. Everyone is told they will be fine if they duck under their desks. Instead of overturning the classroom and fighting amongst each other for a futile escape, each student assumes a passive position. They believe they will be safe. What American educators did was assure the last moments of children’s lives would be peaceful. They were ensuring mental well-being even in the worst possible case.”

The students nodded somberly and starred that particular bit of audio. With that much emphasis, it would probably be an exam answer.

“Now let’s skip ahead a little and see the classroom when schools tried to do away with teachers. Five points to the first one of you who answers why that failed.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Flaccid Floods

Every spring they offer aphrodisiacs to the River Queen. They reap the deepest wheat and darkest grain, set it all in burning boats and let them drift down her sacred channels. They do it not for her, but for her husband. The River King is amorous only at the beginning of the season. If his lusts go unmet, he loses his erection and pisses into the river until it overflows. Entire harvests are ruined when the couple does not lie together. Not believing in conventional prayer, they can’t beseech their gods directly and explain how their love life controls humanity’s supper. All they can do is try to help a brother out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Interview at the Other Side

This weekend I was interviewed by Deanna Schrayer. We covered the dozen ways I started writing, how writers block is a luxury, where my ideas come from and other topics. Feel free to tell me I'm nuts and that's not how writing works.

You can read the full interview by clicking here. Comments or additional questions can go either on the Other Side or right on this post. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

True Stories of John, 2 - Response to Bracknell

To hear John read today's story simply click the triangle on the left to begin streaming or click this text to download the MP3.

“I’ve always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should either know everything or nothing. Which do you know?” –Lady Bracknell from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest

I came upon Lady Bracknell interrogating her daughter’s suitor. Being written by Oscar Wilde, she was a bit of a cock. I took the abuse with him until she asked his age. He said he was twenty-nine. I’d turn twenty-nine tomorrow. She said that was a good age at which for a man to marry.

Then she asked, “I’ve always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should either know everything or nothing. Which do you know?”

I did the only sensible thing. I got up, carried the play into the bathroom, and responded to the page. It made an unhandsome woman, but it’s seldom you like your in-laws.

“A little of both, madame. The first inclination is to play Socrates and say that I know nothing, but that plea still got him killed. The second inclination is to impress you by claiming omniscience, but any question you should pull from your pocketbook will puncture it. Thus I’m reduced to being earnest. Everything or nothing? I know a little of both. Raise any subject and I can tell you everything I know about it. Just as true, raise any subject and I will tell you far less than the whole of it. In my reply I’ll say a little bit of everything, leaving around it a gaping periphery of what I’ve missed. It’s quite a nothing to be pursued by. It haunts me. The only solace will be when I’m wed to your daughter. There is nothing like a wife to educate a man on how he knows nothing, while she can know everything for him.”

I don’t think she liked me. The suitor answered, too, and the Lady Bracknell replied to him instead. So I turned 29 a bachelor.
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