Friday, April 8, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 12.

To listen to today's story either click the triangle on the left to begin streaming audio or click this text to download the MP3.


He started when there were still a few gaslights on the streets. Probably took inspiration from Prohibition, and he's fought snuff, glue, cocaine, venom, all the way to whatever kids do to themselves today. Nobody asks how he's survived at least seventy years of stab wounds, gun shots, druggings and falls from skyscrapers. You figure, he pals around with aliens and amazons. He's probably picked up STDs stronger than the average human, so of course he's timeless. Many think he's immortal. Many are cowardly and superstitious.

They all ask how I made it this long. Wondering why some do-gooder hasn't snapped my neck. Wondering how, with all the times I've gotten it wrong, or lost control of a dirigible, or just didn't care about malfunctioning detonator - how I lasted these decades.

This one I can answer: I'm not the first of me.

There's been at least three. Me, The Boss, and Grandpa. No telling who preceded Grandpa J. He was good, though. A bit of an anarchist firebug.

“Where's the judge? Is he in this room?”

No, it's a bomb. Kaboom.

“Where's my wife? I hear something in the closet. Janine, is it you?”

No, it's a bomb. Kaboom.

“Where's the bomb? I hear this locker ticking. Let me open and snip the wires.”

No, that's a clock. The actual bomb is under the floorboards. Kaboom.

That sort of humor. One day it blew up in his face. As best we can tell, the only thing that made Grandpa J frown was his inability to blow up The Bat. Tried and failed, tried and failed. Somehow that caped freak kept coming back unsinged. So on this last time he hid the bombs in his own coat and held on. By the range of the blast, he also wired himself up to the surrounding nine buildings. No way to escape that intimate a detonation, you see?

Grandpa J was the one who walked away. Depending on when The Boss was telling it, he lost somewhere in the range of a foot, an arm or two, half or two thirds of his face, either half or all of the flesh on his person, and his entire wardrobe save a pair of boxers with hearts on them. Whatever his state, it was gruesome. And Grandpa J made it seven city blocks out of the smoke, avoiding or murdering police until he came to The Boss's little den.

I wasn't even working for him back then. He was operating in a boarded up row house, giving out free meth and beds, and lacing every fifth dose with his newest concoctions. If everybody's high, nobody cares when one guy freaks out and starts eating the insulation.

Somehow, Grandpa J broke in. He shambled straight into the lab. Made eye contact with The Boss. Shuddered from the strain. Gave one gasp that sounded like a laugh, and took his last pratfall. Thud. Dead.

Mmm. The professionalism.

The Boss saw an opportunity. No more Mr. Third-rate Drug Dealer. No mere mad scientist. All those mind-altering gases he'd worked on? Now fashion them so the kids laugh theirselves to death, or see nightmare clowns, or whatever. A little facepaint, a book of one-liners, and suddenly The Boss had a topflight gimmick. Live-action fan-fiction that the crowd thinks is genuine.

If you go back through the headlines, you'll find that period when The Joker began wearing more black and carrying more conventional guns. Mainstream bullshit. See, he got carried away on the power trip. All that buzz Grandpa J had built up around the brand. The thrill of a single phone call convulsing entire police departments. Superheroes who once upon a time wouldn't even visit the scene of his crimes now racing to head him off.

Simply put, he sucked. He couldn't fight. He couldn't plan more than one twist at a time. He had to hire every goon in the city to cover his ass, to get into fisticuffs for him. Twice I tied up the damned Bat over vats of acid I knew he'd never actually fall into. Some weeks I was in clown costumes. Other weeks, bad imitations of movie stars. I spent half a summer as a chauffeur Buster Keaton, powdering myself into monochrome before speeding the boss away from his latest bank heist.

Bank heists. Grandpa J never would have lowered himself to knocking over banks.

The night with the shark tank was it for me. I guess it looks like they’re smiling if you tilt your head like so and huff paint. The Boss stole that one from Grandpa J – and did it worse. The Bat got loose, like always, and got onto our boat. The Boss fell into the motor. Lost an arm. I was gathering the bits in a net when I saw the Bat throttling him. Hit the freak from behind and dumped him overboard.

He lived. I’m sure he had something in his belt for sharks.

The Boss lived – because of me. I had to beat the Bat just to keep him alive. I was so angry that I slapped him with his own dismembered hand. He didn’t laugh. How dare he not laugh at that? That’s hilarious, right?

He lacked class. I explained this as I jammed his wrist down his throat. I didn’t want his hand, or his coat, or his machine gun. Only took the book of one-liners.

If you go back, there’s this period when the Joker goes neon. Bigger smiles. More musical. More explosions, like Grandpa J would have wanted.

Knew where he was buried. I dug up his skull. Put a honking red nose in the socket and left him on my mantle. Talk to him when I’m lonely. He doesn’t talk back – I’m not crazy. I’m just respectful of my elders.

37 comments:

  1. Another good one. I love this series.

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  2. "Live-action fan-fiction" #jokergrin

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  3. If I only knew how many times I lost control of a dirigible. :) You had me laughing throughout on this one, John.

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  4. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, there's always a successor. It makes sense. Lots of sense. Me likee!!

    And maybe The Bat hasn't always survived those scrapes either…

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  5. I love these. The part about the book of one liners is golden.

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  6. Tim and Laurita, I'm glad you like the series. How does this instance stack up against the others for you?

    Danni, really liked that one? I had to wink at the term eventually.

    Chuck, the dirigible line is one of the few I'm proud about. Glad you laughed Chuck, thanks for reading - or listening?

    Mr. FAR, that certainly is a theory. Wonder where buries his bodies?

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  7. I love the backstory you're weaving, John. Simply outstanding.

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  8. What I love most about these John is the voice, just...perfect.
    Outstanding work!

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  9. Your opening line made me think of Gotham by Gaslight (LOVE that) but then you just took it and ran with it. I've said this before and I'll say it again but WHY are you not writing for DC?!

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  10. I always love the tone of these. Grim yet playful.

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  11. Tony, weaving and erasing. Blithely ignoring parts of his history is part of the fun he has with it, I think.

    Deanna and TS, coming up with the voices gets more difficult than premises as this series goes along. I wasn't terribly satisfied with last night's - but you like this one?

    Icy, that reference is deliberate, as is the Adam West one later. Glad you caught it, and beaming at your praise. I'd be happy to write for them!

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  12. The voice sets the tone perfectly. Sucession is the key to creating unquestioned authority.

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  13. Hahaha! I thought,"He's probably picked up STDs stronger than the average human" was a pretty good joke, and then it just picked up and got funnier from there. I'm glad to see the next generation is a traditionalist when it comes to joking around. As always great stuff John!

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  14. Lara, do you mean the voice of the audio edition, or a voice you're picking up from the prose?

    Harry, no school like the old school. Happy to hear he had you laughing, Harry. The response to this has been relieving.

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  15. Great installment, I giggled throughout this part :)
    Love listening to your flash fiction, John! Brightened up my whole day (and that's saying something as my day is about four hours short of being over) :)

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  16. I hope it wasn't a bad day, Estrella, though if I could make up for an entire streak of twenty consecutive bad hours with only seven minutes of reading aloud, then it's a victory. Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. "and his entire wardrobe save a pair of boxers with hearts on them."

    and it is for this reason that one should always wear one's good underwear when out and about-there's no telling when you might be exposed.

    Great read John. I agree about the voice-it fits well.

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  18. Best one yet, and I love your reading. You make a great evil genius! :)

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  19. I thought this was pretty cool, had a sense of sleazy noir, which combined with your playful wit, was a winning combo. have clearly missed out not having seen the others in this series.

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  20. Scribbler, those might have qualified for his Sunday best for all we know. Grandpa J is quieter these days.

    Gany/Catherine, thank you find for the reassurance on the reading. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Adam, all the previous installments are on the site. If you'd like to see them, click he 'Origins for Him' tab beneath this story. They're all meant to be stand-alone, but interested in reading the 'back issues' sure is flattering!

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  21. "Me, The Boss, and Grandpa."

    What a progression of holy technique and trinity you're legend-of-lexicon tale-ing here John. These pieces do stand alone and can be read in cross sequence and the intrigue builds, flies, conjures. From the dirigible to the neon, to the inner urge to beat the bat just to keep him alive to my fave weapon, well protected -- the book of one liners you out comic book vast Einsteinian power plots ... therein flows a feeling of being carried on your/his cross currents of thought.

    My query ~ Do you have the full picture from the Possible Origins theories in mind ... or do they bespeak more of their genesis to you each go around? Spectacular, too many tucked in brilliant "aha's" to storylines and characterizations to mention as allusions to memories or those not yet formed jokered their morph.

    Last line was heavy on the respect all the way around. Applause, wise Wiswell

    ~ Absolutely*Kate

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  22. Always a good read, John. I'll be hearing this character in my head for a while.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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  23. Wow, awesome read John, brilliant wit at work here.

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  24. As usual, John, your voice and the atmosphere you create are second to none.

    "Nobody asks how he's survived at least seventy years of stab wounds, gun shots, druggings and falls from skyscrapers."

    All I can say is "What a long, strange trip it's been."

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  25. You know I'm not really a comic fan so I missed most of the references here. But it doesn't matter this is stand alone atmospheric. Great stuff

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  26. You know I'm not really a comic fan so I missed most of the references here. But it doesn't matter this is stand alone atmospheric. Great stuff

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  27. You overdid yourself as well, John. I loved the original twist of this one!

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  28. Great addition to the series. This one gets better and better as it goes - this guy, this voice, chews up the literary scenery and spews it back out. The last 4 paragraphs were awesome.

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  29. My favorite part:

    “Where's the bomb? I hear this locker ticking. Let me open and snip the wires.”
    No, that's a clock. The actual bomb is under the floorboards. Kaboom.

    This was really good.

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  30. Kate, I do not have all the Possible Origins mapped out. They come from the central premise that this character routinely invents, either in earnest or deceitfully, new stories for how he came to be this way. Since there isn't a plot progression I don't have to map it out the way I did "Previously On," Rufus Osbourne's blog series or my novels. I did the first as a one-off, then had another idea the next day. Presently I have two more story kernels in my popper. The bigger challenge is coming up with even relatively distinct voices for the audio versions.

    Adam, what will he be saying to you?

    Steve, Mari and Alan, thank you for the kind words. I'm glad folks are enjoying this series, especially after the long hiatus.

    Virginia, this is one of the most reference-heavy, so I apologize for having you walk in on it. I'm relieved the tone succeeded on you, though.

    Mark, the last four paragraphs are where he gets to gloat about his own being. A little more of himself might spill out there. Thanks for reading!

    GP, did you listen to that one or just read it? I worried about the inflection there, though I couldn't cut it, even when the flash bordered the 1,000-word mark.

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  31. "He doesn’t talk back – I’m not crazy."

    Now THAT was the funniest line of them all, John.

    A great write-up to a fine series. I love how one criminal is replaced by another, but the syndicated villain lives on. It's like this corporation that continues, only to have CEOs come and go. A cool idea.

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  32. I have to agree. This series is a lot of fun. I like the idea of this Joker fighting back to right the wrongs that have been done to his franchise.

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  33. Steve, it is sort of the syndication of identity. I got the idea from Batman Inc., a recent attempt to franchise the hero's identity internationally.

    Aidan, where would you like to see his franchise go?

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  34. You have a great voice for this, great listen, really enjoyed it.
    Will have to go check out the previous ones since it's a series...
    Alannah

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  35. as others commented, the balance of darkness and humour is well done.it would be altogether too easy to slide into campy or tacky territory, yet you stay admirably between the lines.

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  36. I'm not the only one who thought "Dread Pirate Roberts!" I always love the new angles you find for this, and you have such a great wit.

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  37. Alannah, hope you enjoy the series! Thanks so much for stopping by.

    Trevor, he sort of desires a return to camp, but his outrage keeps it from going there. The actual balancing act was a little difficult in the first draft, but came together after I waited on it. Thanks so much for the compliment.

    Jax, I couldn't really escape Dread Pirates Roberts comparisons. In this case, I guess it's Westley who keeps telling his boss he'll kill him tomorrow.

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