Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alligators by Twitter on Flash Fiction Online

"Alligators by Twitter" is over on Flash Fiction Online as part of their April issue.

Alligators by Twitter is the story of a man whose house is attacked by burrowing alligators, tweeted from his Blackberry during the siege.

Flash Fiction Online is an extremely popular venue for flash fiction. They've been at it so long that... well, they managed to get that name before anyone else. That's a while. This is my first pro-rate sale and I'm enormously grateful to them.

You can leave Comments here or at FFO. Thank you for reading.

You can read John Wiswell's "Alligators by Twitter" by clicking this link.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Of Turnips, Giants and Men

The giant raised his tree, preparing to club the most recent knight-errant, when a voice caught his attention.

“Pick on someone your own size!”

The giant turned. The knight wasn’t going anywhere with his horse on top of him, and he was kind of curious to see someone his own size for once. He was so big that he couldn’t even wear tarps as loincloths anymore, leaving him eager for competition.

Unfortunately this challenger was human-sized. He was an old man in a cloak with more stains than clean spots, his body supported on a staff.

The giant grumbled, which shook the ground for a good quarter-mile. He liked doing that. It made him feel important.

"I'm bigger than a house. There isn't anyone my size."

The old man spat tobacco at the giant’s feet. "Well maybe that should teach you something.”

"It has." The giant rested on his tree, like a leaning post. "It's taught me I can pick fights with anyone and win. It’s great."

"That's not even a challenge! Of course you can kill some five-foot foot soldier."

"Damn straight I can. But that guy came with a horse."

The giant looked back. The knight-errant was still under his trusty stead, wiggling with admirable vigor.

"You shouldn't be proud of that. There's no effort. You want to be proud, hoe my field."

The giant turned back to him and scrutinized the old man.

"Hoe your field?"

"I've got twenty miles of turnips in frozen soil. You want to be impressive? Save my crops."

“I can kill anyone in the world. I also go around naked. No armor. You’re not impressed?”

The giant spread his legs a little further apart. The old man didn’t bother to look up.

“It’s enormous, but my wife says proportionately it’s unimpressive.”

“It’s cold outside,” said the giant, moving so that his gianthood was now hidden behind the tree. “It’s winter.”

“Then put some pants on and pick my crops!”

"I really like picking on people."

"And everyone thinks you're an ass for it."

The giant stiffened.

"They think I'm terrifying!"

"To your face. The second you leave it's, 'What an ass.'"

"Who calls me an ass?"

"Pick my crops and I’ll tell you!"

"You really think this is going to work on me? Just because I'm gigantic doesn't mean I'm pea-brained. You’re stereotyping."

"You can eat me if you want. Still going to be an ass who wasted his gifts essentially picking fights with the handicapped."

The giant scratched his chin. It was more scar tissue than beard these days. He kind of missed the beard.

"Pulling vegetables from frozen soil sounds hard."

"It is,” said the old man. “That's why it'll be satisfying. It's an actual challenge for your pantsless grandeur."

"But it also seems boring. Not like a battle to the death."

“You mean if you can’t do it you’ll say it’s boring as a ruse to quit?”

“Hey. I can do it.”

“I dare you to prove it.”

They stared each other down. By that I mean the giant actually got on all fours to stare into the old man’s face. The old man didn’t flinch. Three feet away, the giant realized his challenger was blind.

The giant snorted out a cloud of winter mist. It engulfed the old man, then drifted into the sky to join the normal clouds.

“Fine. But if it’s boring, I’ll eat you.”

The old man tapped his staff around on the hard ground, getting his bearings to head home.

“Just give me a moment to tell my daughter what your ‘boring’ really means, sissy.”

The giant grimaced, then gave up the grimace since his challenger couldn’t see it. A rejoinder didn’t come to mind, so he hustled to the field, the frozen soil breaking up even as he ran towards it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Miracle of Bed

He goes to bed at 8:30 every evening. It’s early, but he tells himself he isn’t a spring chicken anymore and there’s a long commute waiting on the other side of dawn.

By 8:45 he’s curled up on his side, knees tucked into his gut. He’s got two quilts, which form a peculiar pocket of warmth at once familiar and desirably alien to anyone who’s ever enjoyed them. By 9:00, he’s pulled the covers over his head, regardless of whether he’s awake or asleep.

Sometimes it takes an hour. Sometimes it’s quick. There’s no manipulating its speed. But every night by 10:00, if he’s gotten to bed on time, the umbilical cord emerges. It’s hidden amongst the box spring. It worms up along his side and reattaches. The point isn’t to feed him, though his co-workers would gasp and nod if they saw it, finally understanding why he never eats lunch.

The purpose is to control his state. It makes him dream a certain thing and puts him in a certain state. These beds are rare and expensive, technically not out of alpha testing yet. He was lucky to know a guy on the inside.

By midnight the pocket of warmth under his covers reaches a certain humidity. No, his sheets don’t excrete amniotic fluid. That would be sick and the FDA would never allow it. They manufacturers set it to get as tropical under there as possible, though, and the brain’s smell sensors are temporarily reset with some suggestions in the dreams. The result? You smell the first things you ever smelled, those things you forgot after they spanked you and stuck you in the hospital nursery. It’s an inexact science, aided by the dreams the bed makes you have.

The dreams are the mostly wildly successful feature. They’re the reason for the bed, really. Everything else are luxury features. With the umbilical cord port and sealed environment that smells of womb, the bed gives you one very vivid dream every night. It’s the same premise each time, and your choice as to how you’ll live it out, at least insofar as anyone chooses their dreams.

The dream is that you have your whole life ahead of you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Socrates Vs. The Pigs

[SAMID sits on one side of the booth, wearing a lemon yellow tuxedo. THE PLANETOID PLUTO levitates on the opposite side of the booth, one of its poles poking out from the neck of a blue YALE hoody. MEGATRAN, a Chinese knockoff of Megatron made from blue plastic instead of white, sits at the center of the booth, its back blocking the window. MEGATRAN’s arm cannon sits in the center of the table with fondue bubbling inside. The friends casually dip things into the cannon and eat them during conversation. The fondue glows orange with off-brand energon.]

Pluto: So the Mills thing about pigs fighting Socrates? Can you explain it to me again?

Samid: [Puts head in his hands] God help me.

Megatran: Is this about Mills’s claim contradicting utilitarianism? Because it doesn’t.

Samid: I know he said it didn’t. But that’s not the problem.

Pluto: The pigs are.

[UZ MAROON, the waitress, appears to overhear the thing about swine and stops beside the table. She is wearing a blue and pink stewardess costume including a flight cap.]

Uz: What is this about pigs?

Samid: There is a claim in philosophy that being an unhappy Socrates is better than being a happy pig. The pig is a derogatory stand-in for fools.

Pluto: Which is good, because the pig doesn’t have a choice about becoming Socrates. He’s a pig. He doesn’t even get to choose if he becomes bacon or sausage.

[UZ MAROON does the sane thing and leaves in search of paying customers.]

Megatran: The pig or fool just goes for physical pleasure. What they mean is that it’s better to go for intellectual pleasure.

Samid: Which is actually a front.

Megatran: For what?

Samid: Even before neuroscience we knew the mind and body were inseparable. There is no such thing as a totally physical or mental pleasure. Your mind always registers and processes physical pleasures, and your body chemistry enhances any deep thought by releasing hormones and endorphins. You couldn’t recognize physical pleasures without your mind, and your mind wouldn’t be here if not for your body.

Pluto: A brain alone doesn’t last long on the sidewalk.

[UZ MAROON passes by the table and makes a comment, not breaking her stride.]

Uz: The brain looks a little like a pig. It’s the wrinkles.

Megatran: But intellectual pleasure is superior. It’s the higher pleasure.

Pluto: Isn’t that a front for you saying you like this better and so it’s better?

Samid: Because there is no totally physical or mental pleasure, the division is false. It hinges upon an erroneous dualism.

Pluto: Philosophy loves dualism.

[UZ MAROON passes by the table again and makes another comment, not breaking her stride. She grins at Pluto as she does it this time.]

Uz: You need two sides to start a disagreement.

[PLUTO orbits flirtatiously.]

Pluto: And there’s not much philosophy without disagreements.

Megatran: There are things that are more mental than physical. Fucking and contemplating physics are distinctly different.

Pluto: But why is one inherently better? Why isn’t it just you liking it better?

Samid: Because Mills thought for a living.

Pluto: Sick burn!

Megatran: That’s not true. The higher pleasure leads not only to its own ends, but helps complete or fully completes other pleasures as well. That’s why intellectual pursuits comply with utilitarianism – they’re more useful.

[PLUTO revolves a bit, looking for UZ MAROON. She is nowhere in sight.]

Pluto: So fucking while contemplating physics is a high pleasure?

Samid: Except most intellectual pleasures have never been objectively measured. You’re going on your biased memories of what’s been pleasant or successful.

Megatran: There’s history. The clock, the car and the theory of gravity didn’t come from grabbing ass at a bar or playing videogames until noon.

Pluto: But I have had a lot of sex in cars, so they contributed to the greater good!

Samid: Firstly, that presupposes you aren’t exercising your mental faculties interacting with those women and playing those videogames. Newton came up with gravity while doing drugs with a cult.

Megatran: The discovery was still intellectual!

Samid: That’s because the intellectual is inseparable from the physical. Even the dumbest bastard in this pub is going to think today. You’re stuck on an erroneous dualism.

[UZ MAROON walks by the table and pauses beside PLUTO. The two look at MEGATRAN with apparent pity.]

Pluto: Don’t blame him. He’s an evil robot. He was programmed that way.

Megatran: Don’t pity me! I could crush you, and I cooked lunch in the thing attached to my arm.

Uz: Aw. You’re an unhappy pig!

Megatran: I’m a thinker!

Samid: You think, but like all thinking people, you are bound to reflect on the same things over and over with similar ends. I do it too.

Megatran: Of course you do. That’s why you think everyone else does. But some of us think more than others and we’re better for it.

Samid: Having any consistent value or belief means resting on the same conclusions. Just by positing that an unhappy Socrates was superior to a happy fool, Mills was precluding thought and coming to a permanent conclusion. So is you declaring that thinking is always better. That’s how dogma is born.

Pluto: Dogma, and books by philosophy professors.

Samid: Its mental masturbation, which ironically leads to anger and depressed dispositions. And because they’re thinking redundantly, they’re indulging in nothing more than a physical pleasure that they only think is intellectual. And that makes them unhappy pigs.

Uz: Philosophy makes unhappy pigs?

Samid: If you don’t do something. But that would require the physical.

Pluto: [Orbiting at MEGATRAN] What if he dunks your head in the fondue pot?

Samid: If he thinks about it as well as does it? He probably wins the debate.

[MEGATRAN looks at the fondue pot. SAMID excuses himself and goes to the bathroom. UZ MAROON sits down and asks for PLUTO's number.]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Yes, I know it means other things

Dear Lee,

I know we're no good for each other. Your fiancé hates me, understandably. Is her rash gone yet?

But damn her. No matter how hard I try, I can't stay away. Your cheeks, your chin, that dimple in your upper lip. By 5:00 I'm powerless, climbing all over your face.

We look good together, Lee. We're meant to be. Can't we make this work?

Your beard

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Do you have kids?

Despite what I write, people often ask, “Do you have kids?”

And I reply, “Let me check the refrigerator.”

And they say, “That’s not funny.”

And I say, “Well I don’t stock up until Thursdays. If I’d known you wanted them so bad I would have gone shopping over the weekend.”

They get indignant. “Horrible things are done to children every day.”

I get indignant. “Not enough horrible things, or else the brats would know to stay off my lawn.”

They say, “John, you don’t own a lawn.”

And I’ll say, “How’d you get in here? Did the children send you?”

They ask what I’m talking about.

“Don’t lie to me. I can smell the lollipops on you.”

They back away, but never quickly enough. And it’s my house. I know the terrain.

That’s why I don’t have to stock up on children until Thursdays. Child-sympathizers taste just as good given another half hour in the pressure cooker.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: “The president is telling lawmakers, ‘If you want to fight about this, be my guest.’” –Some news anchor, CNN, March 25, 2010

“Be my guest? What does that mean?”

“He wants us to fight him in the west wing?”

“You can’t fight someone who’s having you over. That’s rude.”

“What if your host is inviting you to battle? Can’t we fight him then?”

“I guess.”

“Maybe he’s inviting us stay at a specific part of the White House. Like, a place with a boxing ring.”

“He wants us to stay in his boxing ring room?”

"How long does he want us for?"

"Maybe just for the fight? Give or take a training montage?"

“I’ll box him. He’s a basketball player. I was Golden Gloves in the navy.”

“Then it’s settled. Call the president and tell him we’re taking up his offer: we’ll be his guests, and we’ll knock his block off.”
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