Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Unwanted Lovers

"I'd like to start a not-for-profit to prevent romance. Not all romance, but all romance-proper. I'm sologamous; I've been faithful to my right hand for years and have never been swayed to cheat on her. But most of my friends enjoy the company of others, and at first they're very cute about it. They make eyes after each other, give rides, buy little gifts, cover dinner when somebody's short, help out after a long day. All good stuff. Most of the adorable human behavior I've observed as people fell in love. It's once they got into the dirty work that it fell apart. Some time after the first date, the complications of moving your stuff here, and meeting your mom on Wednesday, and helping out after so many long days adds up. What does it add up to? To at least two of my friends sniping at each other and whining to me. Love stinks. What I want is to systematically keep all lovers apart - to keep them precisely just outside the grasp of completion, where absence makes the heart grow fonder and chemicals from the loins make the brain downright stupid. It would save me dozens of hours per month of unwanted-complaint-hours."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 18.

I’m not myself. People say that and mean they’re in a mood. I’m a person and I mean it when I say it. All hosed down and medicated like this? I’m suffocating in simulated normalcy. The haircut and restraints amount to a costume. Feels a little liberating to not be me. I sold them, you know.

Not me’s, silly. I sold costumes. There’s something about costumes, isn’t there? Store-bought or homespun. Face paint or a plastic expression with an elastic band that slips over the ears. A bikini made from leaves. Green long-johns punctuated with question marks. Straw bursting out of seams and sleeves to form a scarecrow in dire need of a Dorothy. Little Draculas and King Arthurs wearing the same brand of tumble-dry-only cape.

I sold him his first cape, you know.

I thought he was there for someone else. He was too big, too broad-shouldered, too bitter in the eyes as he stalked along the racks. Surely he was a bodyguard, there to pick out a costume for some trust fund brat. Or – he was a little old. Maybe he’d ducked out between hostile takeovers to shop for his kids. Despite our military contracts, we did sell to a lot of private sector jackasses. Rich people buy weird things for their kids, especially in October.

He wanted a weird thing in a non-child size. And had to be fireproof.

“Well sir,” I told him. “This is bulletproof.”

A joke. No laughter. No one laughed at my jokes; my cousins said I lacked execution. I looked into his face and he refused to reflect the smirk. He pulled the cape over his tailored elbow. He pulled the material so taut, like he wanted it to fight him. I never even thought of dressing up in my own stuff before he did that. Only went down into the basement, sometimes with a call-girl, for a weekend or two, and...

I took him to the rear chamber and showed off our laser. Such resilient material requires very specialized tools to cut, mend and process. His eyes reflected the beam. His checkbook was out before I powered down the device.

“No sir,” I told him. “The device isn’t for sale. It’s unique.”

But the check wasn’t for the machine. He wanted everything.

“No sir,” I told him. “The store certainly isn’t for sale. And a check couldn’t cover it if it was.”

A joke. No laughter. His check wasn’t for the store. It was for my tip. He had other people, broad-shouldered and bitter in the eyes, to buy companies for him.

I went out to lunch and fantasized over this check. Was this a gag? How badly it would go if something this large bounced in my account? I laid it out on the formica table while eight-year-old wizards emptied fast food pales in preparation for trick-or-treating. How funny it’d be if I signed the check over and slipped it in a goody bag.

Do you know how much can be accomplished in a lunch hour? Apparently a company can be seized, and an entire floor of a building can be emptied. I didn’t even see the moving trucks, though those do blend into cityscapes.

There were no racks left. No cables. No bolts of bendable titanium mesh fabric. I still fantasize over how they got a two-and-a-half-ton laser through a six-by-three-foot door. None of the people who helped me move it in there are still alive. Most of them are in my basement.

I squatted for a while in a rectangle of immaculate linoleum where a shelf had once laid. They took my shelves, too. I admired just how filthy the floor outside my shelf-sheltered rectangle had gotten. It all looks so clean until they take your storefront away.

They left the filth. A box of pens. The purple garbage can. A few jars of flame-retardant face paint, ones I had open for demonstrations. Picking up a jar, I remembered him pulling that fabric across his elbow. A grown man imagining a costume into military-grade materials, and doing so outside of his home. I felt him pulling it taut while I drew two fingers over my cheeks.

Halloween and a check of that size. You can really do whatever you want. You can disregard the warning label and slather yourself in chemical whiteness. You can go home, go to the basement, and put on that tacky bulletproof tuxedo you’ve been working on, and the squirting flower that melts metal, and all that stuff – and you can keep it on when you come back upstairs. Dressed like you want to be, you can go door to door, a magnum in one hand and a pumpkin pail in the other. You might feel too nervous to take your subterranean act abroad, but it’ll pass. It’ll pass when you recognize his cape on the evening news. Then it all bleeds into a long Halloween.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: In Defense of MacGuffins

He couldn't afford to hit the snooze bar a second time. He'd already run out of time for a shower. Lingering any longer, he'd be late for MacGuffin.

He hit the remote and the television buzzed to life. He hoped news would MacGuffin. CNN was covering Occupy Wall Street again, the youth of America complaining the 1% had tanked their moms' retirement MacGuffins. Their rage helped him, laterally.

He crept to the kitchen for a cold glass of MacGuffin. He paused by the hall mirror to check out his bare abs. He sucked them in. Not too bad. A couple more weeks at the gym and he'd have a shot asking out MacGuffin.

There was something about waking up too tired. It altered his perception of things. He couldn't help looking at his suits differently. His toothbrush, too. The half-full glass of water was part of a set he'd spent two weeks MacGuffining around for. Or. Shopping around for. Yes, he'd shopped for a nice set of MacGuffins.

"Glasses. A nice set of glasses," he corrected, zipping up his MacGuffin. How many work hours had it taken to MacGuffin this thing?

His breath caught. He finished drinking the MacGuffin, hoping it would MacGuffin his MacGuffins. His confusion was only interrupted by the alarm clock going off again. He'd forgotten to switch it off. The shock reminded that he couldn't be late for work. How long had he hunted for that job?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Writing Breather

Does anyone else take a breather after a writing endeavor? It’s not like shelving the manuscript or e-mailing it to your friends. It’s not a vacation. In fact, it’s something you can’t do if you leave the book entirely.

When I finished my manuscript last week, my lists were entirely crossed off. I couldn’t think of anything else to change. So I saved it, then tabbed out. I didn’t close. I left the file open for another two days.

About three hours into the breather I was cooking lunch when I got a sudden twinge about my soothsayer. I wondered if her scene wasn’t raw exposition. I also wondered if I’d spelled her name consistently after changes in the last draft. So I covered the pot and pulled it up. It turned out her name was misspelled half the time, despite my having gone over the entire book paragraph-by-paragraph. Her pages were also painfully dry. I copied, pasted, rearranged, re-worded, and even played some parts out loud in fastening some more naturalistic dialogue until it had punch.

That’s the function of a breather. It’s the equivalent of a smoke break during political negotiations or a four-hour class. I don’t smoke, but I would go outside to mull things in a different environment. The dryness and spelling issues of the soothsayer didn’t occur to me in straight editing. I was preoccupied with too many other things. Only later, cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, would I think to check. It’s a healthy balance against the blindnesses that arise in deep editing.

Over the next two days, miscellaneous weaknesses and inconsistencies kept popping into my head. Sometimes I was nervous over nothing; no, I’d already shortened this passage, or that one had never been as silly as I worried in the first place. But more often, there were actual problems only my relaxed and reflecting mind would recognize. As I made the eighth alteration (unifying the gender of a certain giant spider across multiple chapters), I wondered: do other people do this?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Crying Werewolf

You know almost everything about them. You know the cycle of the moon. You know what causes it to wax and wane, and how as it grows fuller, they grow hairier and hungrier. You know how bestial ebbs the nature of humanity under the influence of the wolf.

You know that it will survive any number of blows to the head or shots to the heart. You know it will take silver to repel them. You know that so long as they smell you, they will seek another way into your house, behind your back, to your neck when your eyes close.

You know you are safe, because you know they are just stories.

You’re only ignorant of one thing: they are real. The there is one outside right now. That he is clawing his arms as dusk creeps over the land. That your flesh is the only thing that will still his belly.

You’re only ignorant of one thing: he knows you think he isn’t real. And when the moon shows tonight, he’ll rejoice about that. He’ll lament it in the morning as he washes your remains from his fingernails.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: That's Super

To hear this monologue either click on the triangle or this text.

"No, I get it. You had a radioactive piece of my home planet. It was very clever of you, much as it was clever of the umpteen prior opponents I’ve had who pulled it on me. Decreasingly clever each time somebody thought I wouldn’t be ready for it. I’d imagine all the defense shields and laser fields in the cave seem ingenious against mundane intruders, too. But thinking somebody who moves faster than the speed of sound would be impeded by them while you reached at very human speeds to your utility belt? Bruce. I get it. You’re more popular than me. That doesn’t mean you’d win in a fight. Proof? You’re only just hearing this while I’ve already dumped you in the Antarctic and gone home. I think I’ll go have sex with a reporter. I hope that radioactive piece of my home planet keeps you warm. That'd be super."
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