Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: God Class is Sweet

God Class was largely empty tonight. It almost always was – in this age when ideas sped over the internet, few deities felt the need to fly. Demeter’s newest daughter peered out the oval window of their plane, blinking at all the blinking lights below.

"No wonder most sky gods have fled,” she said. “The men have put more stars on the ground than there are in the sky. How much they must hate us, to work so diligently to improve on our work. Do you think they want to be us?"

Demeter reached across her field of vision, blocking it, grasping the shutter, and sliding it down to close off the window.

"Now stop that,” she said. “Don't deify people. It's bad enough when they anthropomorphize us."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Vampire Plan, OR, What John Thought When He Heard About Vampires Taking Over the World

Quincy slept the entire way. He let Biggs take him wherever he was going. After the biters ripped apart his entire office staff, he was done. His lunch buddies, the fantasy football pool, Gina... There were many ways he'd dreamed of seeing Gina Hernandez from Accounting's sweater come off, and they'd found the one that would give him nightmares. So he was done. Not dead, not suicidal, but ready to close his eyes and let someone else drive a while.

Biggs poked him in-between the ribs, making Quincy contort in the passenger’s seat.

“Quit it.”

“Eh? Eh?" Biggs said. "Am I genius?”

Quincy exhaled slowly and opened his eyes. The light was harsh beyond his window. It took his vision a moment to create contours. A sea of still waves, minus the water. Dunes.

“It sure looks like sand.”


“I think you’re expecting me to like sand more than I do. I’d rather, like, an aircraft carrier.”

“Vampires aren’t going to be afraid of stealth bombers, dumbass. They can turn into fog. You can't bomb fog.”

Quincy rubbed his eyes. “And fog is afraid of sand, why?”

“Look.” Biggs pointed to the back of the SUV. Just like when Quincy had gone to sleep, it was stuffed with cardboard boxes. “Three hundred litres of water. We each get one a day. Doctors say you need more, but doctors say you need riboflavin and we’ve both done fine never paying attention to how much of it we got.”

“Peerless reasoning.”

“Plus a couple hundred army MRE’s, plus enough butane to cook all the baked beans you ever wanted, plus these.”

He leaned his jowls into the steering wheel and fished around under his seat. He produced two foil packs, each stamped with three lines: one pink, one brown, one white.

“Astronaut ice cream. Fucking ten cases.”

“You know they don’t really eat that.”

“Probably why I got them so cheap.” He tore the top of the package and bit into the chalky vanilla part. He winced, as it didn’t taste as much like space or candy as he’d wanted. Still, he maintained a chipper expression. “This will rule.”

“Eating baked beans in a car with you will definitely not rule after a few hours.”

Biggs slapped the rest of his astronaut ice cream into Quincy’s chest. It crumbled colorfully across his grey t-shirt. Biggs pointed out the passenger’s side window.

“We are two hundred miles into the dessert, dude. Off road.”

“Dude. Why is that good? It’s the end of the world and your idea is just fucking sand.”

“Because even if they knew exactly where we were, they’d have to flap their little bat wings two hundred miles without two leaves to hide under come morning. There’s no shade. It’s fucking vampire-proof.”

Quincy took this in. He rested his elbows on the dashboard, staring at the yellowed sand dunes.

“Holy shit.”

Biggs percolated in his seat. “Yeah?”

“When this is over, the Arabs are totally taking over the world.”

“And that’s why I brought you. Interesting conversation. Have an ice cream.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Refugee Camp Regrets

I don't regret why I'm in here. They can starve me, beat me. Call me a traitor. I'm not one. What I did was for the good. I was a General in name only, put in charge of the children and the lame. A sea of starving, helpless people, with less than a dozen armed guards, all of whom were routinely called away for more glorious service. I couldn't lead my charges to safety. The raiders would find us in any cave or stronghold I managed to reach. We were ransacked weekly. We lost our supplies and the youngest starved. When the raiders returned to find no more food, they took the near-pubescent girls as slaves. No number of missing or dead on a report changed the minds of those in command.

I remember the fifth attack most clearly. The smoke from tents they burned out of malice. The lamentations of young and feeble. A crippled mother crawling after them escaping raiders, barking for them to return her daughter. I watched her legs drag in the sand behind her, like a split fishtail. It didn’t even flop around. Other men would have found it heartbreaking. I found it inspiring, and I am not sorry for the idea it gave me.

I took arms. Only one per child. I took a couple of hands, but that wouldn’t be enough. I took no legs – every one of those children would grow up to walk. I even mailed them one of the limbs along with the reports and testimonials from children who could no longer write themselves. I packed it in salt. Six mutilated children and one arm were somehow harder to ignore than thirty dead parents.

The next week we had a brigade defending our camp. The raiders were rebuffed by bronze shields and long lances. Able-bodied men did their duty by the meekest.

Which of them gave me away? I don’t know. From the looks, I think it was some of the same children who had sworn by my testimonials. You can’t trust children, even parentless ones, to keep up your stories. I can understand the juvenile mind begrudging me my work. I don’t blame them. But I’m not sorry. Those one-armed children will live behind shielded camps because of me. If my story is spoiled and Command withdraws the brigade, then I’m still here, in a prison twenty days away from whatever carnage happens, with nothing but the story that they are safe. I have no regrets.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Three Year Anniversary Post

The Bathroom Monologues began three years ago this week. Go back to November 17, 2007 and you found me wrapping up my first week, having posted about a dozen microfictions, not knowing what microfiction was, and wondering if anybody would ever read it. Over 32,000 hits later, I want to thank you all for joining me in this wacky journey. I've told some weird stories, some of them true, like my struggle to write at all and then with writing too much, packing the 20th century into ten words, and a rant that could only be called Bea Arthur: A Novel.

But fiction is my love. A boy with an invisible dance partner, nine origin stories for somebody who sounds familiar, Poker Night of the Gods, a conversation without words, King Kong smacktalking Godzilla, shark-flavored beverages, the advertising feud between New York and California, the gardener of clouds, the explanation of why bulldozers make the best pets, Homer complaining about having to invent literature... it's been fun, sharing something every single day for years.

In celebration we're doing a little contest. Name your recent or all-time favorite Bathroom Monologue in the Comments section of this post to enter. The winner will be chosen at random, and two things will come of it. I'll record any one of your flash fiction or a blog post of similar length, no matter the material or how embarrassing it is. Maybe better if it is embarrassing. I'll also republish your favorite Bathroom Monologue with its own audio treatment on Thanksgiving Day. Well, U.S. Thanksgiving. I'll publish it on Canadian Thanksgiving only if you have a time machine you're willing to lend out.

I hope you've enjoyed it and will stick around. It's not ending any time soon. This ride has taken me to my first semi-pro and pro-rate publications, and nominations for Dzanc Books' Best of the Web and most recently the Pushcart Prize. I've met so many friendly and talented writers through communities like #fridayflash. Thanks again, everyone, for all the support.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: For Night Drivers

From internationally acclaimed and miserably failed engineer John Wiswell comes the Night Driver's Friend Version 3. The latest version is entirely automated, requiring no effort from the driver of your vehicle. Using four light-sensors distributed across the front of your vehicle, the system registers dark driving situation and specifically senses the peculiarly intense light unique to an opposing car's brights. Upon registering brights-intensity light within twenty-five feet (seven point seven meters), it activates the pneumatic arm. Coated in any of seven realistic flesh-tones, the arm juts from your hood, rear passenger window or moon roof to deliver the offending driver with a sturdy, foam rubber middle finger.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Should Tweet and Should Not Tweet

You should not tweet that Idol just started. Everyone knows when it started. It has millions of viewers.

You should tweet that you’ve been smoking in my house and often forget to extinguish your cigarettes.

You should not tweet that you’re uncertain if this peanut butter is expired. The expiration is on the side.

You should tweet that this carpeting cost me over ten thousand dollars and is very flammable.

You should not tweet that your cousin Tiffany is a slut. She isn’t, she will read that, and she will cry.

You should tweet that you can’t tell the difference between the smell of popcorn in a microwave and a house fire upstairs.

You should not tweet bragging that you’ve been in my room. I will read that when I’ll already be in a very bad mood.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Better Than Stenography

Three questions led to my current employment.

“How sharp is your memory for words?”

“Does it extend to print?”

“How much would you fancy having your hair trimmed daily?”

Mine is unorthodox employment, but it pays well and relies upon a rich organization, which suggests it will continue to pay well. Some four years ago I was a mere stenographer and clerk at the local courthouse, and there came this curious case. A man was accused of assaulting a barber. He passionately defended himself for eight minutes, then took notice of me. He stared all the way through the guilty verdict and his slap on the wrist.

Afterwards he waited outside the courthouse and accosted me. He had no gripe and stayed a polite distance. This was only about a few questions and a proposition. How sharp was my memory for words? Did it extend to print? And how much did I fancy having my hair trimmed daily?

It appeared some sixteen hundred pages of Benjamin Franklin's papers were in the possession of a London barber. They were family treasures, discarded carelessly during that great American’s tours of Europe and stowed away by a sharp maid. The barber was gregarious and allowed his patrons to read them. He forbade them to be copied or taken; he was very possessive, as they were quite valuable and fetched him some deal of publicity. There was no way to remove them short of burglary, and in addition to being a burly man, he was one door down from the police.

My accoster hailed from a historical society that very much wanted record of Mr. Franklin's words. While most tried to bribe or threaten the barber, one simply sat in the chair, reading them. He took a shave every day for five weeks, verifying these papers and perusing history. But he was very slow and no account he could memorize was exact. That led to his little scuffle and attempt to steal some, which he insisted the barber had exaggerated.

Through me he needn’t actually have the originals. I have a fine memory for words – I can recall several hundred in exact order, maintaining colloquial flair, hours after the fact. It is the nature of my work. Or, it was the nature of my work. Now the nature of my work is a leisurely morning shave, at ten times my previous salary. Whatever I read in the barber's chair, I would reproduce in transcription at lunch time. The historical society also covers my lunches, which I tend to take at historic restaurants.

It has been a jolly four years. I have learned much about Mr. Franklin's hedonism, the founding of the United States, and the simple joy of reading slowly when it pays.
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