Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Three Bindle Stiffs

Danielle La Paglia recently linked me to a list of 100 Whimsical Words. I was surprised how many of them I knew and actually used in life but not in fiction. For her birthday I endeavored to write one story using all 100. I'm a week late. Hope it was worth the delay.

There were three bindle stiffs at the docks - let us call them Jackanapes, Factotum and Callipygian, for that is what they were. A homeless threesome, gathered by the loquacious Jackanapes, a louche scofflaw, supercilious about himself and curmudgeon to all other matters.  Factotum was his manservant, as a factotum must be to someone, an aimless ragamuffin with nothing beyond size to his credit. More interesting than this oaf (and more interesting to the oaf) was the bodacious Callipygian, one lady concupiscent and rivaling Factotum as a flibbertigibbet.

Now Jackanapes proposed some minor skullduggery as pertained to the Captain’s Quarters, a local tavern. Within was an ill-gotten goblet, periwinkle festooned with opals and inscriptions of ancient Australian gobbledygook. It simply begged liberation. Liberation into Jackanapes’s possession, of course.

The Beerkeep, once a bold and raffish scalawag, was now pusillanimous and lackadaisical, scarcely lifting his head from the countertop. His wife, let us call her Harridan, was less easily hoodwinked. A cantankerous termagant, heart tainted by broken promises, face tainted by carbuncles of particular effluvium, and given her abstemious nature, not too pleased about living in a bar. The Beerkeep was broken, for if he complained she was no longer a nubile sylph? Well he didn’t have the washboard belly of the swashbuckler she’d married, either.

So our mendacious tatterdemalions infiltrated on Discount Ale Night. Callipygian strutted across the bar and whispered obsequious debauchery into Beerkeep’s good ear. Into the left, she osculated. Broken men are so easily finagled.

Meanwhile Factotum elbowed through the crowd like a willy-nilly whirligig, knocking the pint and the hat from a haberdasher. The haberdasher caterwauled, and Factotum responded with brazen fisticuffs. Our ignoramus spun him widdershins, spilling the gallimaufry from his cup. Gawkers flocked with hullabaloo. The ribaldry instigated such a kerfuffle that even Harridan peered its way. So was the plan: to obfuscate by infidelity or ruckus.

Harridan shrieked for her poltroon husband and barged in to squelch the catawampus, only to be struck by a flailing hat-seller. She was knocked to the floor while the Beerkeep was drooping to the bar top.

Amidst the folderol, Jackanapes slithered behind the bar. He paused an instant to bask in the resplendent chalice – then skedaddled. For you see, his hornswaggle was on four people, not two.

The conspirators didn’t remark Jackanapes’s absquatulating immediately. The Beerkeep was looking for tongue before Callipygian came wise. Poor Callipygian and Factotum looked at each other flabbergasted; neither had prognosticated his exit, nor their own exit strategies. Beerkeep roused and squawked that his spiffy cup was gone, and the crowd doubled in size with accusations of subterfuge. Imbroglio flummoxed our lummox, while Callipygian babbled defensive rigmarole.

Perspicacious Harridan recognized that while they might be in cahoots, it was cockamamie balderdash that they’d carried off the cup. They looked as lugubrious as Harridan on her wedding night, and neither had any goblets bulging underneath his or her corset. Pushing through the ballyhoo she took each by an ear, twisting and demanding explanation. She’d forgive their peccadillo in return for their mastermind. They responded with mumbling and borborygmus.

Malarkey, she accused. Hadn’t they served hortatory to these shenanigans? To play Jackanapes’s factotum for so long and left clueless?

Factotum let out a paroxysm of obloquy. Their original hideout. The docks! With boats to abscond, or as Callipygian hypothesized, merchants to entice. Sooner than Harridan could summon a steed, rambunctious Factotum tossed both ladies over his shoulders and bolted for the seaboard.

Now Jackanapes possessed a foible of confidence. At safe distance, he gallivanted and lollygagged, whistling orotund tunes and regarding the foofraw of his ill-gotten doohickey. What fortunes flagitious life afforded.

So taken was he by his own hijinks that he was tackled higgledy-piggledy from behind. Two ladies and one ex-factotum began beating him about the head and shoulders. They were at loggerheads immediately, and at the fusty hoosegow ten minutes later, one man incarcerated on two counts of “jiggery-pokery and maleficence,” and a farrago of lesser charges. He was left with no cups or opals, only a two-bit pettifogger to hear his hokum. So was his comeuppance.

Harridan’s comeuppance came up at auction for the stupid cup. Proceeds went to her own copacetic hodgepodge of a juice bar and a dance parlor. Her star dancer took in a wealth of tips, and they were both generous to the hulking (if dull) bouncer. She hired her own husband two months later as Juicekeep, after her competition put him out of business. There may be a word for that sort of thing, but I don’t know it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: UseTech

Observe the latest in UseTech User Technology. Each user is genetically modified to have hands precisely broad enough to make use of every key and button on your interface, whether you have an old-model keyboard or a micro-touchscreen. Their eyes are similarly genetically attuned for your lightsource, and they are given a minimum of 10,000 hours of posture training to sit an appropriate distance from the screen. The latest model User possesses independent self-updating “biological drivers,” capable of diagnosing any issue in your system, and recognizing that most of them are actually user errors. An additional 10,000 hours of training are undergone to prevent them from punching you when something goes wrong. UseTech promises a user experience so smooth, you’ll almost think the user is operating you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bathroom Art Challenge 2: The Girl With No Shoes

In February I posted about a little girl I saw at the Pharmacy. I invited anyone to draw what they saw reading my description. Like every Bathroom Art Challenge, all mediums were open: crayons, markers, pencils, paints, inks, renders, even posed photography. Four people stepped up. Here is their work:

Danielle La Paglia, drawing with highlighters

Jemma Mayer, drawing with her Tablet

Monica Marier, drawing with pencils and very expensive markers

Tony Noland, drawing with pencils

Three of them saw her from behind, while Monica caught the look on her face. It's interesting to see how different people played with it. Please give our artists a round of applause!

And if you'd like to try your art, anyone who submits a new picture of The Girl by tonight will be added to this post. Just hit me up at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Kind of Writer Are You?

1. Departing your train, you hear some people mention a “Doctorow.” You think of:
a) E.L. Doctorow, author of City of God.
b) Cory Doctorow, author of For The Win.
c) the medical profession.

2. You hear one of the same people claim that abbreviations don’t need vowels to be valid forms of communication. You:
a) wonder idly if this is about the Queen’s English Society.
b) barge in to argue that prescriptivism must die.
c) leave these people and hope you never accidentally overhear them talking again.

3. On your way off the platform you overhear another couple. One says he feels cheated when writers don’t use chapter titles. You:
a) can’t remember the last book you read that had chapter titles.
b) can’t remember the last book you read that didn’t have chapter titles, and realize you may read too much children’s fiction.
c) are amazed to find four literate people this far away from a library.

4) The man who feels cheated by lack of chapter titles pulls out his iPad to show how books should be formatted. The ladyfriend demurs; she misses feel of pages turning in her hands. You:
a) bought an e-reader ages ago. Deforestation for paper books only supports an archaic reading method, and they’re unfashionable single-use devices. Who wants a thing that only ever has Shakespeare in it?
b) haven’t bought an e-reader because of the eye strain and the power generation for its batteries doesn’t seem more environmentally friendly than paper books.
c) haven’t bought one because you can’t afford it. Okay, you can afford it, but would rather spend several hundred dollars or something else. Perhaps rent.

5) The man accuses his ladyfriend of “always being like this.” They fall into a hushed fight that’s clearly not about literature. You leave them at the stairs, still thinking about readers and writers. Are other people’s opinions like yours? Maybe you could formulate a quiz. To demarcate the choices, you’d use:

a) numbers.
b) letters.
c) you recognize that nearly all polling software only has tick boxes and requires no manual demarcation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Five-Man Killer

There is an audio edition of today's monologue. To listen either click the triangle on the left to begin streaming or click this text to download the MP3.

A five-man killer. All these people look at my like some legend, some badass that will save them. But I’m not. I didn’t sign up for the army; I was drafted, and shoved into the front line. There was nowhere to run with the legion on either side and behind me. I’m not brave. I keep waking up hearing men that aren't there crying to go home. I can’t do this. Don’t expect things from me, alright?

The first two. They came in waves. In rows of shoddy plate. The first guy in their first row ran forward and stumbled. He slipped in the mud. The guy to his right must have been his friend, because he stopped like to help him. Sword still in his left hand, he tried to lift him with his right. It wasn't enough, and they struggled. I got my man in the neck and jabbed his friend through the eye and into the brain. Felt brain-deep, anyway.

The third guy was so excited that he fell over their bodies charging me. He got tangled up in their limbs. Looked like they were holding him, begging him not to do this. They weren't. They were dead. I got him where the helmet ends, right above the collar. Some of his blood got into my mouth. I felt the warmth, the wetness, but not the taste.

Was going to throw up as the next in line approached. Yeah, my fourth? Took an arrow to the ear. Sailed in and took it away. You never think that an ear can leave a person that easily; they're so present on everybody your whole life. Then an arrow comes by. While he was clutching for it, I got him in the other ear. Some legionnaire around me was laughing about it.

Those arrows coming down? They were coming from behind us. They were ours. Archers were shooting too short. I backed up. Forced the line behind me to retreat a little, because if our arrows were coming in that tight, I didn't want to take one in the back. The enemy didn’t know what I was doing. Tried to close in, but I had lines of soldiers on my left and right. My guys closed in on their protrusion. I’m told I killed the fifth man, the frontrunner that charged. I don’t remember it. I remember some other guy jumping on him with a battle axe when I was still five paces away. That was my fifth man. "Five-man killer."

A five-man killer. I don’t know. I just want to not wake up for a while.
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