Saturday, January 19, 2013

7 Lines from Last House in the Sky

So last week while I was running between medical tests, Tony Noland and Icy Sedgwick both tagged me in the "Lucky 7" game. The game requests you go to either page 7 or 77 of your manuscript, count down 7 lines, then copy the next 7 lines to a post. I wasn't sure about this, both since I was exhausted and it only seemed possible to do well if the passage was unintentionally funny.

But the passage on page 7, 7 lines down, 7 lines long, is actually a pretty good snapshot of one of my characters. So here's a taste of The Last House in the Sky:

     “Randy, put on some trousers. I can hear you being naked. You’re always too naked."

     He reached down and adjusted himself. “I didn’t bring trousers. I brought a distraction.”

     “Then put on your bed sheet.”

     He sat up and checked the cell’s lone cot. It was an oak plank; no sheets, mattress or treat. “No. Give me yours. I didn’t want to come this south anyway; the climate disagrees with me.”

With good luck, you'll be seeing more of Randy soon. They've got to get out of that jail.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Sea in Which the Most Men Have Died

Foreman manned the left oar and Aftman manned the right. They propped their boots up on the parcel at the bottom of the boat. The fog swirled thick, but they knew this lake. They’d served on the estate for years.

Foreman said, “The last riddle Master gave to me was this: what is the sea in which the most men have died?”

Aftman puzzled this over. Stalling to come up with a clever answer, he asked, “What did you say?”

“Well I figured the Dead Sea, on account of the name.”

Aftman winced. “I think that’s rather a metaphor, friend.”

“As much he said. When he finished flogging me I went to the study. I came back to him with the Red Sea. Moses drowned a whole army in there.”

“That’s a good one.”

“But he had me flogged again. He said near Greece and Africa they’ve got all sorts of seas that have seen all sorts of wars, and so have soaked up many an army’s lives.”

“Master was a well-studied man,” Aftman nodded mournfully. He kicked the bundle. “I would have guessed that one near Jordan, what’s mostly salt. A body can’t swim in it, you see. They sink and die.”

“You’d have lost some skin on that, friend.” Foreman smiled. “That’s actually the Dead Sea. And I’m afraid that you can swim in it. Most everybody floats because of the salt. Picked that up in the study.”

“Well dash it all,” Aftman kicked the bundle again. “Then we both guessed the Dead Sea and were both wrong.”

“Yet only I lost the skin.”

“Like you’re the only one to be whipped. I’m still raw from last night. You would have killed me had he lashed one more time, you know?”

“I didn’t mean it that way, friend.” Foreman straightened a little, as though proud. “Funny thing. Before you came to me with this chore, I was working on a new guess. I think I’ve got it right this time.”

“Did you?” Aftman asked, letting go of his oar. He stooped and fastened the lead weights onto the parcel. “What is your new guess, friend?”

Foreman stooped with him and they boosted it together. The Master’s left leg stuck out of the bundle as they lifted. Both hesitated as though to stuff it back in, then they chortled and dumped it over the side. As the Master’s body disappeared in the drink, they took up their oars and Foreman hypothesized for his housemate.

“Now I think the sea in which the most men have died is idiocy.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Zine Works Redux

Dale's cell vibrated on the desk, scampering over the surface like the plastic was coming to life in little bursts. He set his teeth and vengefully finished the paragraph, taking not just enough time to get back on track, but more than enough to get the wording to his standard. Finally he hit the period button with a little too much force, and picked up the phone.

"Hello?" he said, sounding unnecessarily annoyed.

"Dale!" The voice on the phone screeched. "Dale! I'm trapped in a magazine!"


"In a magazine! No idea how!"

"It's okay, Fred. Calm down." He rubbed the bridge of his nose. This should not have been logically acceptable to him, but they both did a lot of drugs. "Look around yourself. What magazine are you in?"

"There are a lot of words, and a huge picture."

"What's the picture of?"

"I think it's a woman. Or an armoire. It's abstract."

"That could be any magazine. What about the words? What are they writing about?"

"Mostly ads. I think part of it's a story. Really short."

"Fiction is dying in print."

"I'm trapped in a magazine! Help!"

"Is there anything else in there?"

"Uh. A cartoon?"

"A cartoon?"

"Black and white. It's a lion on a cell phone."

"Is the caption ironic?"

"No duh it is!"

"Is it ironic but not funny at all?"

"How'd you know?"

"I just resubscribed to The New Yorker. I think you're on my coffee table. I'll get you in a minute."

Dale switched his cell off and looked at the monitor. He read the paragraph to himself a couple of times. Fred could wait – he knew better than to read Dale’s stuff without asking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Retweet This

RETWEETs are perfect. There has never been a better form of communication, and never phrased better, or I would have written it. Instead I clicked RETWEET and my work is done. The world is mended.

I believe every single word and the implicit meaning behind every single image attached to whatever I RETWEET. Its politics are mine. Its opinions are law. The only thing I would change is making it my work.

I have never RETWEETed something by accident.

My Twitter clients have never malfunctioned and RETWEETed something without my consent.

I have never RETWEETed something so my peers would like me better. I have never done anything so my peers would like me better. I think ties have unmatched utility.

I have never RETWEETed something I disagreed with to show what the opposition thinks. In all those cases, I have never tweeted shortly before or after that, granting the RETWEET context. Every RETWEET is its own island of unquestioning support.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Virtues Bug, OR, It’s What’s Inside That Counts

As dusk whisked over their cave, Mummy Nine-Legs ascended to the ceiling and unfastened a few spools of humans for supper. Little Bug had never had his own human yet, being so young, and danced on all nine of his legs in anticipation. Yet when Mummy Nine-Legs handed him his bundle, and as he split it open, he dropped the fermented cadaver to the floor.

“Mummy, I want a good human,” he whined. “This one is covered in warts and moles, and she’s got an overbite like she’s all teeth.”

“No one is all teeth,” said Mummy Nine-Legs, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

She took Little Bug’s prey and slit it down the belly for the babe to see. And indeed, inside the cadaver was as lined with lipids as any thin girl, and her liver was ripe and swollen. Her lungs popped in his mouth. By the end of their meal, he even found he relished the way her teeth settled in his gullet, and he realized how foolish he’d been. It really was what lay inside people that counted, and particularly when they lay digesting inside him.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: I Deserve a Say

"I deserve a say. I have a right in this because I’ve spent the last forty years saying I don’t. When you wanted to enlist, I said it was your choice. When you didn’t want to get married, I said it was your choice, and so I slept in hospital parking lots every time you broke your stupid arm, because I couldn’t go in, because you decided. When they said the water was going to rise and you said the media exaggerated, I listened to you and said it was your decision, because secretly I figured if you were going to drown then I might as well too. So it was your decision.

"Not this one. Not this one, because of all the other ones. Because I love and you suck at making these decisions. So no, you don’t get to go to the doctor alone tomorrow, and if he says there are options, you don’t get to ignore what they are, and if they hurt, you’re going to grit your teeth, because for forty years I’ve grit mine. Your decisions aren’t going to be my mistakes anymore. I have the right. I deserve a say, and I say we’re setting the alarm for seven because your crippled ass has an appointment and I like coffee before I drive."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Atheist’s Prayer Equivalent

During my most recent medical emergency, several of my Christian friends publicly announced they’d pray for me. When this happens, there’s always at least one atheist friend who, usually when we’re alone, asks what he or she is supposed to do. In today’s case, it was a ‘she’ who feared she fell short as a buddy because she wasn’t paging a higher power to fix me.

I always have the same answer, and was honestly looking forward to delivering it this time.

“Do a fundraiser? After all, money is a higher power you believe in.”

Like these friends typically do, she got really mad at me. She ranted about delusions and fooling yourself and how she’d have to do actual work. She, like most of my friends in this circumstance, switched from feeling bad for me to feeling angry with me. Her apparent inadequacy disappeared in a puff of self-righteousness.

It always fixes them. It’s good to give.
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