Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: A Familiar Trial

Case: Plaintiff claims the property, "one half of a dead baby," belongs to her, not to the Defendant. Defendant is refusing to yield property. Plaintiff refuses to explain nature of the infant bifurcation, though matter should become transparent at trial.

Witnesses for the Plaintiff: 1) The Plaintiff

Witnesses for the Defendant: 1) The Defendant, 2) King Solomon

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Up High

“Hey, I said no more people! You saw what happened to the last guy.”

“Actually, I didn’t.”

“I’ll jump if you come any closer.”

“I’m not coming closer.”

“You can’t talk me down, man. I just need to be alone. I can’t think today.”

“I’m not here to talk you down.”

“Neither was the last guy, and he grabbed my shirt after a minute. You want to fall like him?”

“Not really. Did he die?”

“No, they’ve got a balloon tarp down there. You come closer, and I’ll make sure we miss it.”

“They’ve got a what?”

“Lame act. Back off.”

“Are you thinking of jumping?”

“I came up here to think, damn it. Let me finish a thought and I’ll tell you what it was. I’d probably have gone home by now if you idiots didn’t keep interrupting.”

“Surprising a guy like you has trouble getting people to leave him alone.”

“You suck at this.”

“I’m really not up here to help you.”

“Uh-huh. Back off.”

“If you wanted to die you could swallow a bunch of pills or blow your brains out. You think about those before you came up here?”

“I came up here to think!”

“I’d worry. If the pills just fried an unnecessary part of my brain, or the bullet paralyzed me. Off the top of a building, though? That’s as close to a sure thing as you get. Liquefy you on impact. Probably doesn’t even hurt.”

“Is this part of some method they teach you in police camp?”

“You know what’s funny?”

“What?”

“I’m really not a cop. I was thinking of jumping off here today.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

“No lie. I work in human resources on the 7th floor. Been firing people all year. Hard not to think of killing myself, hearing a hundred people hang up those phones for the last time.”

“Bullshit.”

“Want my card?”

“You come near me and I’ll jump.”

“You won’t. You know, I’m kind of mad at you.”

“What the Hell, man?”

“I punched out, said goodnight, and went to the bathroom instead of my car. Counted the tiles until the floor cleared out. Figured I’d come up here, no one would interrupt, and I’d step off into Heaven. Except when I left the bathroom there were cops everywhere. I came up to avoid them, and here you are, dragging half the city to break my fall.”

“You’re nuts.”

“I’m going to sit here. If you don’t like it, move over. We’ve got the whole roof.”

“Whatever.”

“That is weird. Looks like a parachute. They want to catch you on that?”

“Maybe. I don’t care. I’m not going to use it anyway.”

“What’s going on?”

“Sitting on a ledge, man.”

“Trouble at home? Wife cheating on you? Can’t find a wife? Blue balls?”

“It’s got nothing to do with women.”

“Fired? Can’t find a job? I can relate, after a fashion.”

“No.”

“So you were fired?”

“I’ve been unemployed since college.”

“Is that why you’re on my roof?”

“No. I told you, I can’t think.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“No, asshole. I can’t think. I can’t finish a thought in this city. I hear the clock in the hall ticking. The hands moving. The heating system groans. Somebody’s always got a TV on somewhere if you listen carefully enough, and I can’t stop listening. Cars in the road outside. Somebody’s stereo. Shrill horns. The wind and weather. Planes overhead. Sometimes rats in the crawlspace. Conversations! I hate conversations. Somebody is always talking thanks to fucking cell-phones. What’s worse than being distracted by a couple yakking outside your window? One of them giving you half the story. They pour noise on you down there.”

“That seems reasonable.”

“Please, shut up.”

“You came up here for a little quiet?”

“Not just a little. No rustling clothes. No denim scraping on the brick. No breathing. I don’t want to hear you breathe. Can you do that?”

“I’ve got an idea.”

“You’re not going to jump, are you? Because I don’t want them saying I pushed you. I’ll get enough crap for the other guy.”

“No. It’s a better idea.”

“Which is?”

“I’ll show you.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Athenaists


Athena slapped the newspaper against her gilded breastplate. Her grey eyes brightened with joy.

“Did you see that headline? Fastest growing group in America.”

Aleus looked up at his mistress. “The unemployed?”

“Atheists!”

She was on the verge of dancing on the edge of Olympus. Her bare feet skittered and wove along the edges of clouds.

Aleus set the tea aside. He approached cautiously, uncertain if this was one of her jokes.

“And you’re… excited about that, Madame?”

“It’s been ages since I had so many adoring fans. Really pissed me off when the feminist movement didn’t worship me.”

“Pardon, Madame?”

“I barely got three prayers out of the whole cult.” She clutched the paper to her chest and doubled over the heavens to peer down onto the mortal coil. “You know I was at the first bra burning. Heroic endeavors and all that.”

“You think the atheists worship you?”

She straightened. Aleus thought this was when the punchline would come, but instead her face contorted with disdain. She pointed to herself. “Hello. ‘Athena?’ All those Atheists must love me. It’s the clearest endorsement since Athens.”

“Madame, I don’t think…”

“Look at all the scientists in there. I’m the goddess of wisdom. Of course they love me. I’m going down to earth immediately. What do you think? Classic robes or modern power suit? I don’t want to come off too… you know. Hillary Clinton.”

“I really think that’s just going to upset them.”

“You think it’d intimidate some to meet me in the flesh?”

“Something like that, Madame.”

She resumed her perch over the mortal coil, grey eyes singling out her special little folk. “Maybe I’ll go as a talking owl. Ease them into the grace of their mistress.”

“Perhaps that’s for the best, Madame.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Conscience Transplant

"Neuroscientists have tried many ways to alter human behavior. They've strapped hoodlums into chairs with classical music and horror videos playing. They've wired men's nerves into living terminals. But we believe the human being is a human body. If you want saliva, you need a tongue. If you want pancreatic juice, you need a pancreas. A good person requires some good organs.

"Submitted for your approval, an organ extracted from electric eels. Sewn amongst the appropriate part of the human being, it will shock the patient upon inappropriate behavior. The shock is both more severe and more targeted than mere electrodes in the brain. Thirty-three percent of test subjects even reported a pleasant buzz upon appropriate behavior. Electro-shock therapy is a sham if it doesn't come from a human being's own conscience. The brain can lack empathy and fail to trigger the appropriate response to evil. But this organ? It's the world's first ever conscience transplant.

"The first three subjects were investment bankers and loan officers. Before you get ideas of vengeance for recent depressions, know these were the panel of experts that denied our lead engineer funding for his aquarium. It was going to be beautiful. It still will be, once the conscience transplant takes off.

"We just need a little starter cash."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nobody’s House – Rough Draft is Done


Today I finished the rough draft of Nobody’s House. Approximately 110,000 words, split across thirty-five more manageably-sized documents. I split them up in March when the single document got too big to navigate during construction. Tonight I get to paste them all together into their Voltron-like literary glory.


I’m celebrating. Tomorrow I’m going to sleep in, possibly beyond 9. If I told my childhood self that’s how we’d celebrate, he’d probably throw Transformers at me. I’ll throw in some pizza and funny movies to appease his memory.

The last chapter came about by accident. Following the climax, I had a good idea for the first paragraph of the following scene. I popped open a new document and set it up. That paragraph became three, fleshing out the introduction. Then I set up the major actions, and cleaned the plot skeleton for the chapter. A few things were easily described. I kept adding “just one more thing” until I realized I was writing the last sentence of the book. Just like that. If only the whole draft could have been so easy.

I hesitate to say “the book is done.” It’d be swell to pronounce it, but it isn’t. It’s not even a first draft.

The opening chapter needs to be split in half, and the conflict therein needs a complete rewrite. Hees is not the extortionist anymore. The motivations and dialogue in the climax also need rerouting. And there are hundreds of smaller things I knew needing fixing as I was writing the flawed copy. One of the better senses I’ve developed since college is what problems can be fixed immediately, and what can be marked and edited later. When fact-checking is necessary, or dialogue is spotty, or an invention requires tweaking in an earlier chapter, I leave myself commands in the text rather than interrupting the flow of the current work. Likewise, when I simply can’t get the feel for a scene, I’ll make a bullet list of the events that need to happen, then jump the gap and keep on working. This is how I completed the draft at all.

I have a physical today. Got to see how the syndrome is coming along. Friends are visiting later in the week. There are ample excuses to not work on this for a little while. It’s a necessary breather, especially since I’m feeling the middle stages of writer's exhaustion again.

After my visitors leave, I’ll follow the notes and fill the gaps. Streamlining naming conventions, seeding plot points, weeding out crutch words. I’ll smooth it into a proper first draft, then shelve it for a little longer, because I firmly believe in distancing oneself between drafts, and the second draft will be ruthless. I'll read it with fresh eyes, not the enamored dad-vision I have for my baby right now, and tinker accordingly.

I’ll fill that next inter-draft break with short stories. I’ve had to suppress five ideas in the last two weeks; now some of them will get their chance. “Great White Hunter” will be a little zombie comedy, while “Architect of Epics” might spring into a novella.

That’s the plan. Maybe family will have crises or the earth will explode. For now, I only know I’m sleeping in tomorrow. Thank you all for your interest and support. I will do everything I can to make this worth reading.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Why We Need a Pool

“And a pool. A pool is the only place you’re safe from sharks. The ocean? Sharks live there. The sea? Sharks live there. The lake? Don’t delude yourself. In nineteen-sixteen a great white shark swam up a lake in New Jersey and bit off a child’s legs. You can’t just go swimming anywhere. Only a closed, heated, chlorinated pool is safe from sharks. I guess a bath tub is, but you can’t swim in that. You might say we’re safe from sharks on land, but what if they develop mechanical legs? Then the highways would be unsafe. Even your bathtub, in your bathroom, would be accessible to a killer techno-shark. Only the pool would protect us, because the mechanical legs would malfunction in the water, so the sharks wouldn’t go in there. You’ve got to get us a pool, Dad, or you’re essentially killing us all.”
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