Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Life, the Universe, and the End of Everything

There is an equation that will end the universe. The architects of everything did their best to make it incomprehensible, hiding knowledge from minds that might string too much of it together. If it all came together, if someone knew the whole equation, the universe would be solved and end. We weren't endangered by it until recent centuries, with discoveries in physics and chemistry. Gradually we knew more about the materials that go into everything and how they behave - the parameters of the equation. A few decades ago one man found the answer to the equation. He posed it as a joke, not knowing how serious a threat knowing "42" was to us all. Now we know what the equation is supposed to equal, and eventually enough people will know enough figures of the universe that they'll line it all up. Then it will all equal 42 and everything will collapse. That joker said the universe would go away and be replaced by something more incomprehensible. I think that's wishful thinking.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sologamous at Untied Shoelaces

Today's story is "Sologamous," which is up over at Untied Shoelaces of the Mind. You can read it by clicking on this link. Untied Shoelaces also has story ranking, so I'd appreciate if you could give me a positive vote.

"Sologamous" is about a man with an unusual marriage request: he wants to marry himself.

Untied Shoelaces of the Mind is a new market for prose. They look for Fantasy, Sci Fi and humor as well as mainstream fiction and non-fiction. They're a semi-pro paying venue, so I recommend my fellow writers check them out.

You can read John Wiswell's "Sologamous" by clicking on this highlighted text.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Inside the Creative Process (and a cave)

Watching M*A*S*H during my mid-day exercise routine, I watched Alan Alda’s Hawkeye dealing with a classic case of TV claustrophobia. He’s got to go inside a cave for shelter from bombing. It works out semi-heroically and is a smashing episode, as well as a smashing way to get my mind off the excruciation of exercise on my syndrome-ridden body.

On the elliptical, I imagine what kind of cave story I could tell. How exactly does claustrophobia work? What are the symptoms of an aggrieved sufferer?

As I lie in the tub afterwards, soaking my muscles, I imagine why a claustrophobe might go down there. His friend, Alan, becomes the reason. Alan is a dick. Some synapse in my head connects “dick” to “Alan” – the best I can figure is because Alan Moore has written his fair share of dicks. This Alan wants to go into the cave and our protagonist is forced to follow.

It’s night before I can concentrate again. The pain subsides enough, the brain fog lifts enough, to work.

It’s dark out. I draw the curtains anyway. Off goes the overhead light. A lamp in the back of the room gives a little glow, and reduces just how horrible staring at a computer screen will be for me, while still giving my room a necessary darkness.

Alan is fine. He’s changed since he went to college and made new friends. The friends are dicks. The narrator hates these new friends, who have replaced him. He’s come down here because it means keeping part of his relationship with Alan.

But Alan’s gone deeper into the cave than he could go. He had a breakdown and stayed. He complains for several paragraphs (which will probably get truncated in editing) about the influence of these friends and how stupid spelunking is in a world of airplanes and fast food. We’ve evolved.

He worries. He’s got good reason. He calls for Alan. I call for Alan, out loud. Every time he says something, I say it. He gets no replies; neither do I.

His thoughts accelerate. I read a few. I read a few more. Soon I’m reading out loud before my fingers have typed the words. When I don’t have the words for a line or a connection, I type what needs to happen in capital bold letters rather than stop to think it over. I can fill the gaps later. Right now he’s going back and forth, no sun light, no responses, and is the cave changing? Did he turn left or right after the slope? He’s bleeding from two places and then there’s…

It’s 2,500 words. At a certain point, the narrator gushed. 2,500 words is short on the “short story” scale, but I know this gushed because my heart is racing. I know a lot of the prose needs polishing. It’s redundant, whiny, and not enough of it pushes the story forward. But I bothered myself.

That’s how I did it, if you’re interested. Excuse me while I go turn the lights back on.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Original Story of Hansel and Gretel

"The story of Hansel and Gretel originally began with a famine. Their mother, knowing there was not enough food to feed her children, instructed her husband to lead the children into the woods and abandon them. Their father, who was supporting the family on his income, told her that she never cooked, was lousy in bed, and that the kids were the only ones who pretended to be happy when he got home, so if anyone was getting lost in the woods, it was her. The mother was seen a few years later, working the cash register at a cannibal bakery in the woods or something. The end."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Apples for Science

“If Satan can do this, so can I,” Jesus muttered, struggling into the snakeskin. It was a lovely skin; if anyone looked closely they would see its diamondback pattern was actually a series of slanted crosses. No one did look closely, though, because he was unknowable to look at it. It was part of the job.

When he finished putting it on, the Jesus-snake slithered over to a lonely apple tree. Careful not to disturb the daydreaming mathematician below it, the Jesus-snake climbed up the trunk. He ascended to an overhanging limb, flicking his tongue at the apples not so much to smell which one was right (he was omniscient; he knew exactly which apple to drop), as he did out of a sense of theatre.

There was a ripe red one just above the mathematician’s head. The Jesus-snake reached down and bit its stem. It broke quietly, and the fruit fell freely.

An instant later, Isaac Newton cried in pain. He whirled on the offending apple, dumbly furious for a moment. Then he picked it up. Then he looked up. He didn’t see the serpent because he was looking for something else that was invisible. His eyes went frantic and he gestured with his hands, moving a fist in relation to the apple and the ground.

The Jesus-snake slithered out of the tree and into the air, flying upwards. Satan appeared moments later. He was in the guise of a certain species of eagle that eats snakes.

“You know, Newton was never hit by an apple,” he said. “That story isn’t real.”

The Jesus-snake disregarded both his form and his criticism.

“Neither is this one.”

He disappeared in a cloud of realism. The Satan-eagle circled for a while, perplexed. He sniffed and used the angelic sense, utterly unable to tell where his nemesis had gone.

Meanwhile, in another timeline that never happened, a suspicious looking handyman entered Archimedes’s house and tinkered with the bathtub.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Counting With George" at On The Wing

Today's story is "Counting with George," which is up over at On The Wing. On The Wing is the non-fiction arm of Full Of Crow. They primarily publish opinion pieces, though they are open to all non-fiction.

"Counting With George" follows my attempt to get a price estimate for an MRI. It's dedicated to George, quite possibly the most helpful person I've ever met at any hospital in my life.

You can read John Wiswell's "Counting with George" at On The Wing. You can reach On The Wing by clicking on this text.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Michael Solender wants a Bathroom Monologue about my pinkies

I type with four fingers. The forefingers to most of the work, with the middle fingers intruding at the IKM and EDC borders – they are the guards of East and West Europe, you might say, and what better to serve along the Berlin Wall than middle fingers? The thumbs do their best to patrol the south, reliably punching the spacebar and some of the ZXCVBNM,./ keys, not really knowing what they’re doing. To follow an even less comfortable strain of the mid-20th century Europe analogy, the thumbs just follow orders. Command comes from the forefingers, which sometimes become preoccupied up north and don’t wish to make the long journey. The pinky fingers do the lightest work, with the pinkies sometimes hitting Caps Lock or holding shift – the doormen, or perhaps the lighthouse keepers on the shores of this typographical continent. I’m inclined to attack the pinky for its laziness, but no finger so exudes largess as the ring finger. I don’t wear rings and have only once seen a ring finger strike a key – a few months ago, when I was sorely tired, it reached over and struck Enter for me. It was not out of instinct; the ring finger is the entourage, the trophy wife of my typography, existing to make the pinky feel productive and to keep one side of the middle finger warm. If you surgically removed these things, replacing the ring finger to the middle finger’s spot, it would do more work, but not because of optimal placement – no, I suspect it would do more work to save face in front of the forefinger. The middle finger is a buffer between them, and thus, really, an enabler caught in central Germany.
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