Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Bald Propaganda

He does not die. The world only dims one shade of greatness.

He does not bleed. The world dampens.

He does not suffer. The world forgets joy.

He cannot cease to be. Everything else ceases to matter.

When he comes back, it will be as though he never left, because time may as well have given up until he rings again.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Fuzzy Kind of View

The bandages on my wrist itch, and I'm scratching them for a while, for so long that my chin gets comfortable on my chest. For a while I forget whether my eyelids are open or closed, until the bed creaks and I slide left, into Sherri's side. She sits down beside me, you see, which I don't see because these new drugs retard my system. That's what Carlos said they'd do, and he'd know, and he was right.

Sherri puts an arm around me like Carlos was never allowed to in the hospital, tucking my shoulder into her flabby armpit. She feels like dough taken out of the oven too early, and she smells like sea salt and basil, and I dread what she's been cooking while I've been in the hospital.

"Getting drowsy?" she asks, or prods. I can't tell which. I used to be able to. The differences used to annoy. Before these new drugs.

"Nah," I say, shaking my head briskly, trying to wake myself up. I get more tired with every swipe of my head. Dr. Preisblatt's drugs have reversed the way my body wants to act. "I'm good. I'm great. I'm the best." I repeat things more often now.

"Because you look drowsy. It's about time you slept."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Zombie Parakeets for Adriana

Mrs. Merrick knew she was going to die. She was a Lapsed Catholic, but even as lapsed as she was, she recognized an apocalypse when it ate everyone in sight. Pet owners pounded on the glass of her shop for sanctuary, but she dared not open up and risk the zombies getting in with them. She had work to do.

Zombieism was an exotic strain of bird flu. Scientists knew it because they had isolated the virus. Mrs. Merrick knew it because all of her parakeets had it, and set about devouring her canaries. She only managed to save ten pigeons and her most obnoxious parrot, forcing the flock of zombie-keets into a glass cage. They only ate their own for now, and that meant working fast.

The parrot went first after it repeated her weight. She found the zombie-keets preferred their parrot raw, and so she put out feathers and bits of wing to start, only letting a zombie-keet bite if it first picked up its string and rod.

By Day 3, they only ate if they carried the rod and string appropriately, and if they visually saw her eat.

By Day 6, the zombie parakeets brought her a bagel in return for some pigeon. No matter what she did, she could not condition them to butter it.

By Day 8, she tied the dozens of strings to her arms and had her first successful takeoff. The zombie-keets didn't even attack their prey until she'd had her bagel.

On Day 11, the inevitable happened. A couple of star-crossed lovers smashed in her front window looking for supplies, and pedestrian zombies followed them in. Mrs. Merrick was bitten before she even got out of bed, and she died with a surprising poise. She'd known this was coming. As the infection overtook her, she slipped on her strings and loosed the flock of parakeets.

You can still see Mrs. Merrick. She planned well, and now she's the terror of downtown. She's the only zombie in the known world that can fly, and her minions never rest until she catches her man.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bathroom List: 16 Things That Are Not True About Salvador Dali

1. The real Salvador Dali had a secret lair in the base of a dormant volcano somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

2. The volcano was not actually dormant.

3. The real Salvador Dali had three pet ocelots that he trained to alert him when the volcano was waking.

4. There were actually four ocelots, but the fourth ocelot oscillated between our plane and a more fruited one, and so could not be counted in my father's census.

5. A Salvador Dali was a founder of the Census of Dark Artists and recruited my father for a living wage.

6. A Salvador Dali's "Persistence of Memory" was a self-portrait, done of a self from a parallel plane of existence where he had more ambition.

7. A Salvador Dali drowned this parallel self in a vat of unused cooking oil.

8. The real Salvador Dali collected vats of unused cooking oil to preserve their unuse.

9 & 10. The real Salvador Dali did not spend his final years in Spain; a body double did, and spent its final years there securing vats of unused cooking oil.

11 &12. The real Salvador Dali did not flee the Spanish Civil War; his body double did. The real Salvador Dali painted the Spanish Civil War into existence and could not flee until 1939, when he finished it.

13. A second body double still operates for a living wage.

14. A body double of Andre Breton continues to persecute this hypothetical second body double of Salvador Dali to this day.

15. A body double of Andre Breton cannot sufficiently slay the hypothetical second body double of Salvador Dali because it fears volcanoes.

16. A body double of Andre Breton is not allergic to ocelots.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Produceds

"My partner and I began our careers with a plan destined for failure. We would hire the worst playwright, to write about the most offensive material, performed by the least competent singers and dancers on Broadway. It was a bombastic production for which everyone in town presumed we had to have a good reason, and so everyone in town bought shares. I believe we sold over two thousand and five hundred percent of the holding interest in our production. When it flopped, we'd keep all the money they gave us, that we'd spent almost none of on the awful show, and walk away rich. Maybe go see Turn Out the Night.

"The calamity was that we hit it big. A musical comedy about Hitler was exactly what the scene wanted – the avant-garde, the nouveau richesse, and the pre-hipsters all ate it up. Our box-office overflowed such that we wound up owing ungodly amounts of money to ungodly amounts of investors.

"My partner tried to blow up the theatre. I wasn't part of that, no matter what he says. I was upset, but upset to misdemeanors, not felonies. My spirits lifted after I got a call from New York.

"Actually, I got nineteen calls before nine in the A-M. See, when you get the single biggest hit in the musical world, everyone wants to work with you. By Thursday I was co-producer on three projects for which I'd never have to visit a building. I was signing my name in exchange for checks, and my new friends wouldn't let me go to jail because they needed me. They squeezed out fat checks, and bags of money as door prizes, and some sums coming pre-laundered.

"You see, I thought bankruptcy was the only option. But there's another option. There's not returning investors' calls, and when people corner you on the street, saying another investor they hate took too deep a slice and needs to be consulted, and forwarding people to lawyers who only tenuously exist, until you've got another play out. And another. And another, until something you didn't really help build is a smashing success that will forever have your name in the playbill.

"According to the blogs, I'm a genius. They're begging me to direct next year. I had a producer burn me a smoke signal using hundred dollar bills. It's a play about Native Americans. It's about as tasteful as broken glass.

"So I'm thinking about directing. I'm also thinking about how many shares I'll sell."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Happy Urban Legends

The Hook Hand
It's said he lurks on romantic cliffs and in abandoned parking lots. Wherever teens go to neck, he may be spotted in the rear-view mirror. At first you'll only hear a faint scratching. If you're attentive, the radio will warn you that a madman has escaped from a nearby asylum. But you won't hear it, because he wouldn't come for you if you listened to important information.

So as hands slip under sweaters and toes curl, little scratches will climb up the door of the car. You may mistake the whine of his hook hand on the roof for the moans of your partner. Most folks are scared witless when his specter finally looms, pulling on their clothes as they peel off for civilization.

It's miles of burned rubber and ruined hard-ons later that the survivors discover a wrapped condom hanging from the driver-side mirror. The hook-handed maniac takes reproductive health very seriously.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lit Corner: Three Things Every Scene Needs

So The Bathroom Monologues is going to have a Sunday feature on the crafts of writing and storytelling. 'Lit Corner' is as temporary a title as it gets. Have an idea for a better permanent title? Please drop it into the comments below!

Recently on Reddit's /r/Writing forum, someone asked what things every scene needs. Not "chapter," not "act," but "scene." It was a wonderful thing to reflect upon because I'm a very scene-specific writer. Some of my scenes are as long as professional short stories.

Yet I try not to ask too many specific things from every scene because something so varied can have so many different appeals. The old Vonengut chestnut that every character ought to want something is fine, but honestly, Mieville's Perdido Street Station has some scenes that are almost all setting and they're splendid.

So here are my petty few. My Magnificent Three. I'd say to shoot for two of these three in any given scene:

1) Something that makes me glad I've read what came before it. Obviously this doesn't work for your opening scene, but pretty much any one after it ought to build, extend, reference, counterpoint, disagree with, or in some other way respond to something earlier, I ought to feel I'm benefiting from having read this far.

Think plot continuity or twists, think revelations, think character development. It can be Alice returning to a cherry tree she planted thirty years ago and seeing how it's changed, or it can George R.R. Martin killing off another parental figure.

2) Something that makes me want to read on. Usually not a cliffhanger, but something in this scene that is a good reason to want to read another scene later.

Will the Romans come back for Jesus?

Will Gatsby reach out to that girl?

What's in JJ Abrams's Mystery Box?

It can be much subtler than all of those, even just something the ominous in the background that I'll hope I'll learn more about or see more of later. This is the reflection of #1; it's making me feel I will be rewarded for reading on.

3) Something that's intrinsically entertaining, important or just worth reading in this damned scene.

Because you can't just rely on what came before and setting up what comes next. It can be some funny Douglas Adams one-liners, or you can have plot payoffs in every single scene. Inconsequential or hugely consequential. Are you one of those conflict-on-every-page guys? That's great if you can make your conflict worthwhile. Just make sure that there's something in this scene that is worth reading for other than it having to be here.

All three of these are exceedingly fuzzy items because storytelling is extremely fuzzy. J.K. Rowling and Jennifer Egan have insanely different strengths; you can't tell them both to write to the same scene-appeals. But if every scene does at least two of the above three things, I'm guaranteed to finish reading the book.
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