Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Under the Tide

They looked at him funny when he came into work in his snorkel, his flippers slapping the polished tile floor. But you know what? They looked funny to him, all soggy, and airless, drowning without awareness that the whole city was underwater. After the manager took Dieter aside, he agreed to take the snorkel off when he was at his desk or in meetings with more than five people. He held his breath, occasionally sipping air from a bottle he hid in his jacket. His roommate thought buying a second fridge for all his empty water bottles (or to Dieter, full air-bottles) was ridiculous, but his roommate jerked it to cartoon porn, so he couldn’t argue about ridiculous. This whole city had crashed under tidal waves. It couldn’t judge him. He only tried not to judge it too harshly, the dead in denial, needing to snicker at his swim-floats straining over a winter coat. They needed it to cope.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: They Call it ‘The Widow’

There are some footfalls up until 13:10 on the tape, at which point the guards seem to conclude their rounds. We identify two speakers, listed in documents as Guard 01 and Guard 02, numbered in order of their speech on the tape. All audible communication is transcribed below.

“Why do they call it ‘The Widow?’”

“You know guns shoot people, right?”


“Because you’ve got one there, and if you don’t know what it does, I want another partner.”

“You don’t call my gun ‘The Widow.’”

“Well this is top of the line, [NAME REDACTED]. It’s going to kill a lot more people than your little security side-arm. This is going to win the war, so this is the one you call ‘The Widow.’”

“But it’s still not a widow.”

“It makes widows.”

“Now if it was a ‘Widowmaker’…”

“Dude, ‘Widowmaker’ is played. There’s like, a thousand guns called ‘Widowmaker.’”

“But ‘Widow’ is inaccurate! That’s like saying, I don’t know, that women who lose their spouses are super-good at headshots. My mom raised me alone, and she’s really nice.”


“You like my mom. You came over for Christmas.”

“There are killer spiders called ‘widows,’ okay? It’s named for a [PROFANITY REDACTED] spider.”

“They didn’t call it ‘The Black Widow,’ and the gun doesn’t look like a spider. Plus, don’t those kill their mates? So does the gun kill anybody that works with you? Why would you make that?”

“You want me to [PROFANITY REDACTED] open the [BLASPHEMY REDACTED] case and show you that it looks like a spider? Because if that will shut you up—”

“Maybe the gun had a husband. Is the cartridge its husband? And like, does every new cartridge mean she got widowed?”

“Oh my [BLASPHEMY REDACTED], I’m opening it. If you say anything else about The Widow, I will take it out and shoot you with it.”

“Why are you so—”

At this point on the tape there is a loud bang followed by two consecutive thumps. It is presumed that The Widow was stolen at this time. Why the two guards were knocked unconscious instead of killed is subject to investigation, but Guard 01 believes the thief didn’t want to create any widows. Guard 02 refuses to talk to him anymore.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Photo Is Lying

On Sunday we celebrated my grandfather and Danielle La Paglia's birthdays with a little game. There was a photo of how I write. Everyone was invited to guess what was untrue about it. The ladies and gentlemen of the jury nailed five deceits, including one I hadn't really thought of before.

I'd really rather write on the deck.

The Five Errors

1. I don't keep an OED that close to me. It's on my shelves a short walk away, and I consult it a little less often than Etymonline or simply googling a word.
-Guessed by Anonymous N, Helen Howell, Cathy Oliffe-Webster and Larry Kollar.

2. I do not type on a Mac Book. I don't even own one; I borrowed it for this photo since that seemed easier than lugging my PC into the bathroom. I really wanted that computer in the tub with me, though.
-Guessed by Michael Tate.

3. I do not write fully clothed. In fact that thing I wrote that time, that you found the most touching and thoughtful of my works, was probably done in a t-shirt and underwear. For decency, I'm wearing socks while writing this post.
-Guessed by Catherine Russell and Larry Kollar.

4. The most obvious, but I have to count it: I don't write in the bathroom. The Bathroom Monologues are an oral tradition; I type them up later. Approximately ten Bathroom Monologues have been scribbled on toilet paper or in the margins of an available New Yorker.
-Michael Tate, Richard Bon and Peter Newman.

5. Richard Bon split a perfect hair: "At least part of the time you probably have your eyes closed while you write." I can't fight that. I do blink, and static imagery betrays this. This supplants the stealth-error that I'm not actually writing. The Mac is only booting up.
-Guessed only by Richard Bon.

The One I Wish Was True

From Anonymous N: "John Wiswell does keep the dictionaries on hand; it's where, after battles unnumbered, he has managed to imprison all the words he will ever need. While he knows them all by name and never needs to open the pages, he does need to keep an eye on them so they don't cause trouble."

Three You Might Think Were Errors
1. Several people doubted the absence of coffee or liquor. I've actually never drunk alcohol and abhor coffee. All my absurdism comes from a lucid mind. If I have to, I'd rather have a hot cocoa with whipped cream.

2. I do actually smile when writing. In fact if I can trick myself into laughing, I usually take it as feeling I've done a good job. Typically I'm pretty self-critical.

3. That is my soap. It knows me better than it wishes it did.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tips for Surviving a Dystopia

1. Oppress someone. Needless antagonism gives you a significantly greater chance of both surviving and thriving in polemic fiction. If there is a difference between the antagonists in Battle Royale and Hunger Games, it’s that the latter tweaked them to be even more capricious in their inhumanity – and it’s really popular. A good gig if you can get it. For maximum survival, step down to an assistant role right around when heroic rebellions emerge so that if they win, your replacement will be slain instead

2. Be a robot. These things only needed people to invent them; afterward they’re quite sufficient to thrive in dystopias where they carry out dreadful tasks on some humans either for other humans, or for kicks. The robot is the sparking, malfunctioning poster child of the amoral future. The “hulking killer” and “sad little” varieties have particularly good chances of hanging around after the fall of man. If you absolutely can't become a robot, then go befriend one as soon as possible. You're the first person to ever do that, aren't you? How novel.

3. Be a cockroach. Likely to thrive in most dystopias that aren’t one giant microwave. As vermin, infest the abode of the most wretched people you know. A survey of nearly every dystopia in existence shows that cloying bugs and vermin live long and fulfilling lives.

4. Be particularly wretched. Every day otherwise healthy men and women are dying for fill-in-the-blank tragic reasons, but you can do better. Where others abhor being tortured or abused, you should walk right into the meat grinder that is your contrived life.Get treated like a slave by your employer. Get sick without hope of medical assistance. Live in the poorest corner of the dirtiest slum in the most forgotten part of what should be a just nation. God willing, be an orphan. The more pathetic you can make your life, the greater chance you’ll have of being a literary example, and they always last longer.

5. Avoid miracles like they're the Plague. Have you found the only woman alive who can still get pregnant? Great. Now get the Hell away from her before being an accessory to her journey gets you killed. Her destiny is only good for her, and for the future of your planet after your book/movie/videogame ends. For the time being, all she can do for you is attract the attention of oppressors from Item #1.

6. Mutate. Evolution may take generations, but with one author’s poor knowledge of radiation, you can emerge from the apocalypse stronger and with new employment opportunities. Consider others who have similar mutations. Could you start a cult? How about a pack? If gathering seems hard, trying starting as an oppressed minority.

7. Reconsider the afterlife as a means of survival. Even the most fundamentalist hereafter can’t be any preachier than getting stuck in 1984.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: One-Armed Immortal

I am the bastard you’ve been looking for. I’m the one-armed man, and I have six fingers on this one remaining hand. I’ve left many wives without husbands, sons without fathers, and daughters with surprises they won’t want to explain in polite settings. If you’ve come into this carnival for vengeance, I can assure you I’m the villain you want to slay. Even if I didn’t do what so outraged you, I’m guilty enough.

I’ve a crippled soul. Fossilized. Means the flesh won’t get any older, and if you ask Kitty, the spirit won’t get any more mature. I can’t die, save by five means. Until death, it means I’ve got what I’ve got and nothing more. No surgery can fix my busted arm. I’ll have to make do with righty, but I’m damn good with it. I can fence any two-handed man, or wield a scimitar, or throw a javelin. And the recreational things I can do with this one hand! Haha, just ask Kitty.

She’s glaring at me, but she’s charmed. Don’t worry yourself. You grow to enjoy her claws eventually.

The witch said only five things can kill me. I’ve figured out three of them, not that I’m sharing the list with you. Some things you want to keep to yourself. But the other two? They’re a surprise. Or, I guess, one will be a surprise and the other will be an eternal mystery. I know for certain that I can’t bleed out and I’ll never starve to death at sea. Some bedroom adventures leave me supposing I’m immune to asphyxia. I can’t die by the sword, but that’s no magic – that’s talent.

How do you get a fossilized soul? It’s gorgonic. A little more than a gorgon looking at you; she has to give you a specific look. I excel at getting women to give me certain looks. Again, just ask Kitty.

I liked her look so much that I kept that old hag’s head. It’s in this bag as a last resort. Lot of scum try to stick up a one-armed men, thinking he’s helpless on his own, or helpless because he’s got his trousers down in a brothel. You know, life. I let ‘em rifle through my things, open the bag, look inside, and the brothel gets a statue for the yard. I feel keeping her head is fair, given that she kept my arm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: My Kind of Priest

“Useless son of a mother-licking—”

“What bothers you, my son?”

“I’m not Catholic, padre.”

“Sorry. What bothers you, my nephew?”

“The bastard’s been riding me all day. I only missed one lug nut on his jeep and the sergeant’s making like I forgot to screw on his… listen, is it against your code to hear dirty words?”

“We have a policy about this which you might have heard. Turn the other cheek?”

“Both are already blistered, padre.”

“God gave you four, my nephew.”

“Ha! What kind of priest are you?”

“A new one, for starters. Only giving my first sermon this weekend.”

“What’s it about? I might come if the internet goes out again.”

“Not taking yourself too seriously.”

“Well I’m not, it’s just this sergeant--”

“Neither am I. It’s my topic. Thanks for helping me.”

“Where are you going? We were just getting started.”

“So am I. Now I’ve got to go write that sermon. If you get curious, tickets are free.”

“Come back! Buy me a beer and I’ll confess!”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Writing in a Bath Tub, OR, Birthday Games

For about as long as I've known her, Danni has insisted that I write all my posts in the bath tub. On her special day, in the heart of her special month, I want to give her the best gift of all: being right.

Click for high definition embarrassment.

There you go. Photographic evidence that I edit in the tub. It's good that I have a window right there for natural light, but damn is it hard to hit backspace with a pruny pinky.

I'm actually away today, celebrating my grandfather's birthday. He does not wish to see me in any sort of tub. But because of the duality of celebrations, I'd like to extend a party game to all readers, no matter when you were born (or now pretend you were born).

The above picture misrepresents at least five things about how I write. There are doubtless more than five, but five in particular strike me. If the readers can guess all five, or some of the actual five and some other things more amusing than the actual five, then I'll post something even more embarrassing about myself than a photo with a Mac Book in the tub. Something about blood, nudity and a fresh hotel room.

You have until Thursday to guess. It's open to anyone, and everyone is allowed up to five guesses total. No one person has to get all five; you only need five points amongst everyone who plays.

Happy guessing, and happy birthday!
Counter est. March 2, 2008