Friday, May 4, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Great Master Gry


It took the boys three seasons to find Great Master Gry. He’d gone reclusive in the modern wilderness: slums. It would have been easier to track of the man on a mountain top or distant island. In a sea of scrawny, old foreigners, with names in another alphabet, he was almost invisible.

That was on purpose. Gry refused to train them, even when they offered him their entire trust funds. They sent him ten newly-sewn suits, and ten handmaids, and ten immaculate meals from the master chefs of the metropolis. He left their gifts unworn, unsullied, and uneaten. The boys found their food rotting in the alley, supped upon by stray imps and tentacle monsters.

They did not give up easily. They accosted him every time he stepped outside – for the bathroom, for the mail, for his morning walk or sunset meal. He only ate once a day, and refused anything but the smallest container of unprocessed rice, and he refused conversation when they took supper alongside him, spurning their money.

On the third sunset, while he was out at his meal, they bribed the landlord and broke into his apartment. Gry returned home to find no cracks in his ceiling, no vermin in his walls, and for the first time in twenty-one seasons, that his single light fixture actually turned on. They’d left it on. He sat up with the light on all night long, though he did not invite the boys in.

The next morning, though, he invited them outside. The Great Master would begin their training just as soon as they donned more practical clothing.

The first lesson was of Stamina. The boys would pick up every piece of trash in the adjacent street, which stretched for four kilometers. No newsprint, turd or broken bowl could be left behind, and they had only two hours to collect all of it. Being boys of unfairly fair youth, they managed it, even if they collapsed at the end.

They thought it unfair until the next day, when they were assigned the next street over, and only an hour and a half. Every consecutive day drew another street of waste.

After four days of the exhausting work, Great Master Gry added a second lesson: Perception. The police of the city were needlessly abusive to many parties, running them out or collecting extortion from shops. The boys were not allowed lunch until each could find at least one police-servant who had broken the code of conduct and reported them all back to Gry. In a week, he increased their assignment to three a-piece. In three weeks, they found it much harder to find such police-servants, much as the police-servants found it quite difficult to retaliate against the children of the rich.

Every day they had their lesson in Stamina and Perception. They chaffed to learn exotic fighting styles, of the Charred Fist and the Unknown Walking. Yet as quickly as they could clear a street of refuse, Gry said they were not ready. He introduced the third lesson: Agility. It seemed that serpents and rats infected with tentacalia had beset the slum in recent seasons, and were often snatching babies or otherwise tearing up tenement ceilings. The only way to combat them was to scale the very structures they tormented.

Building upon their existing stamina and cleverness, the boys had to dispatch a dozen tentacled fiends per afternoon, and doing so meant either flying along scaffolds or swinging from ropes. Often Gry took his sunset meal on the sidewalk while watching the boys in their spectacular fights with the tentacle monsters. He was seldom alone; they drew great crowds of the poor, who could always use a little more entertainment.

Gry was the only one not enjoying the spectacle. He had to make up a fourth exercise for them before they got too good. Eventually the boys would realize what you already have, and they would be quite angry about it. Perhaps some mysticism about Patience? He hoped that would take, or if it didn’t, that they finished cleaning up the slums before killing him.

43 comments:

  1. Too bad he didn't have a fence to paint or a car to wash and wax. Those might have been good lessons....

    Nice one, except I would hope the boys realize that making the world cleaner and safer are truly noble applications of their gifts.

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    1. Now do you think the boys will come to that conclusion, Tim?

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    2. Unlikely, except perhaps when they are old and trick the next generation of young guns in the same way. But I am a cynic.

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  2. Well they say if something is worth learning its not usually easy! I hope he thinks up something soon before they cotton on. ^_^

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  3. Loved it. Thank you. Just what I needed at the end of a harrowing week. Thanks again.

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    1. I don't know what's gone wrong this week, but I'm sorry for it and very happy to provide a little relief. Be well!

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  4. Oh I love this! It's amazing how much they learn when they don't realise they're learning. Perhaps I should take this approach with my students.

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    1. I strongly recommend implementing tentacle monsters on any and all students.

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  5. Tentacalia, cool!

    I liked how Great Master Gry seemed to get his ideas from what the boys did to get his attention.

    I also wonder how far the slum cleanup will go, and how long it will stay cleaned-up.

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    1. Haha, glad you enjoyed tentacalia. It's the largest disease in their world, more virulent than vampirism or influenza.

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  6. It figures that Master Gry is training them to fight the one enemy who cannot be defeated.

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    1. It is hard to fix something that's no one person's act.

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  7. This is better than the Karate Kid's tutoring, because they're doing more good for more people. I also liked Tim's comment about helping out the destitute being a noble thing in itself.

    Rats with tentacles? YUCK! I'm glad those aren't real. I hope not. Brrrr…

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    1. He may be a little less motivated than Miyagi, but he'd at least like to get rid of the rats with tentacles. They're such pests.

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  8. I love the old master characters (Iroh from Avatar being my most recent fave).


    Good story. I liked the disturbing tentacles smuggled in among the comforting archetypes.

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    1. Iroh is one of my favorite characters in television from the last decade. If my creation is even comparable to him, I'd be pretty happy. Also quite happy you enjoyed the less comfortable bits - they're some of the hallmarks of the world this story is helping flesh out.

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  9. I think Peter said exactly what I was thinking about while this whole story was basically a "comforting archetype" it had a uniqueness to it that for some reason drew me in. I can't put my finger on it, but overall it worked!

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    1. Did any things click as particularly unique within the familiar format? I presume the tentacles would be one, but am curious.

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  10. This story made me smile. It was a nice reincarnation fo a well known story and it was comforting in some way to read. I don't know why, but the love that he sat up with his light bulb all night. Nicely done, Sir.

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    1. That's my favorite moment in the story. It's the one that made me decide to start writing it down, actually!

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  11. Oh I doubt the boys will kill him. Dump all the refuse on his doorstep maybe, but not kill him.

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    1. That's a lot of refuse! Do you think the boys will be that creative?

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  12. How to you do this so well?

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    1. Thanks Kate! Glad you enjoyed it. Did anything click particularly well for you?

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  13. I'm hoping that the boys aren't as smart as he thinks they may be, or come to realize the good they are doing, and they clean up the whole city.

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    1. It is is good work if you can get it, or trick your pupils to do it.

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  14. He's fenced himself into a corner. I like his canny ways. Sometimes, the best lessons are those one doesn't want to go through to learn.

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  15. Ah... big smile from me. Thank you. And love the tentacles. And how did your conference go? Peace...

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    1. It was small and as welcoming a first writing conference as I could have asked for. Had some face time writers, some fun conversations, and hit nearly every panel I wanted. It'll be interesting to compare it to the bigger ChiCon later this year.

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  16. Interesting moral wrapped up in tentacles here. Love your work, John. xx

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    1. Thanks for the props, Carrie. Anything you loved about this work, or was it below average for you?

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  17. I'm hoping that Gry always manages to stay one step ahead of these boys and eventually sends them out to 'train' away from their home slum, recruiting new followers and training them in turn perhaps? As they progress, the boys become men and see their new role as worthy in its own right and don't return home? Not that there would be slums to return to by this point. Really enjoyed this idea of teaching someone without them realising straight away what it is that they're actually learning.

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    1. Then the next lesson would be coercing others to follow in their paths? That'd be a genius turn if it worked. We ought to write Gry some advice.

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  18. Oh my comment has disappeared it was the first on the page :( anyway I liked the story.

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    1. Thanks for returning to clear that up, Helen. I'm glad you liked it.

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  19. Patience might be the most difficult one yet for those boys and will hopefully give the master more time..I'm curious how the boys got hold of the 'unsullied handmaids'. You did indeed build intrigue around the master reminiscent of Iroh. What do you think of the Legend of Korra?

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    1. It's a different sort of series. I'm struck by how much lower the stakes are out of the gate, and that sports could make up so much of the early episodes. Feels very different than Aang being pursued by the Fire Nation and trying to learn the other elements to stop the evil emperor. But the animation and voice acting is all top notch, even if there isn't anyone as lovable as Iroh just yet.

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  20. I hope they find a little wisdom and don't kill their teacher. He sounds like a good one. ;)

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  21. Hi there John -- ha, ha, ha. I love the fact that Master Gry is kinda making it up as he goes along. Great piece this -- well written, and boisterous, with some great texture (tentacle beasts, unusual martial arts, or ten handmaids). Could have read it all day. st.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it so much, Stephen! Those details all come from the world I've been building for my novel, so I'm particularly happy to see they clicked.

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  22. I was reminded of David Carradine in Kung Fu..but this ventures into a very different dimension altogether . It's like some kind of surreal community service..
    Unusual and engaging as always John..

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