Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Writer’s Self-Doubt

"Is it too many pages long for this many words?


"Then tomorrow I’ll fear it’s too few. Too many long paragraphs condensing my fiction. Every reader will hate them.

"Except when I scan, I’ll find most are five lines long.

"Will those bloat out on a Kindle screen? Will everyone think I’m wordy? If not, then I’ll fear I have too limited a vocabulary. My expressions are too mundane, not worth interest. And if my prose is unoriginal, then so may be my ideas. Perhaps the premise was neat, but after a few pages it’ll dull.

"That’s the next terror: that I’m using common words to describe what’s been written before. Six sweet friends will assure me that no, I’m an idea machine and this part is funny and this part is quirky and this part has never before been seen in any library

"So roots the anxiety that I’m too unorthodox, introducing too many unusual items for the average reader to follow. Can I only service a niche audience? Which niche audience? How will they find me? How will I find them, and by the time I do, will someone else have come up with all my ideas? What if there is no John Wiswell niche?

"Or what if my novels lack the intangibles, the inarticulatables, the very arbitrary essences that will allow the chosen few who would otherwise enjoy my books to instead drop them as trite? The things I can’t prepare for, plot out, edit in or advertise? What if being good enough reduces to something as simple as, “You can’t be”?"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Couple of Horrors

It’s not my fault we live in the middle of the woods. It’s not hers, either, but I can use this. We finish Nightmare on Elm Street around 2:30 AM and hustle to get it in the mailbox before the morning mail. That is a quarter mile trek under an overcast of clouds and boughs, so I bring the flashlight. An actual fog rolls between the trees, making Lita shiver despite her coat and long skirt.

“I don’t know why they remake classics,” I say, depositing the Netflix envelope. I close the lid and flip up the flag. “You know, why not just remake crappy movies? Ones that will benefit from new effects or re-writing?”

She inhales through her nose, loud and elegant, and we both know that no matter how many flaws I can find in this remake, she’ll be afraid to go to sleep tonight. It’s not my fault. Not hers, either, but I can use this. I eye the distance to the edge of the road. About three steps. When we get far enough from the mailbox, I shut off my beam.

She hollers, “Turn it back on!”

“Let me find the switch. I’ve lost it.”

“That’s not funny!”

She knows because I’ve done this before. I shamble the three steps to the edge of the road, out of her reach. I can hear her fumbling around for me. Probably for my neck.

I ask into the middle of the road, “What are you afraid of?”

Her reply is stillness. She’s not walking forward anymore. Though it’s dark, I think I see her outline folding its arms. The queen is displeased.

I offer, “This flashlight is old. The batteries might be dead.”

“That is not funny,” she says in a tone that would express ‘That is not funny’ even if it were saying, ‘Please pass the lime jell-o.’

“Come on. You think Freddy is out here?”


“Because he can only get you in your dreams.”

“He’s not real.” She unpacks her sentences one word at a time. Very intimidating when she can look me dead in the eye, but not so scary out here. “He’s in a crappy movie. Now turn the light back on.”

I feel air rush across my forehead as she swipes to catch me. I shamble a few paces up the road.

“Maybe Wolfman?” We watched two of the Universal classics last week. They still make great jokes. “Are you afraid Wolfman is out here?”
“It’s not Wolfman,” she says too hastily for me to be sure she’s honest. “Your bad knee. You could twist it and go right back into a wheelchair.”

“You’ve got three inches on me and you know Judo. If Wolfman is out here, you’d kick his ass.”

“There is no Wolfman. Turn the light on now!”

Another swipe of fingers, this time against the corduroy of my coat. I try to edge further away, but she’s in range. Fists curl in my lapel and haul me into the center of the road. My cheek mashes into her chest, one of the nicest things I could possibly find out in the middle of the wilderness. Then she elbows me in the ribs and gropes around for the flashlight. I stretch my arm as far from my body as I can.

“Quit it!”

“Quit what?”

It’s hard not to do this. She is the one who doesn’t flinch when we open the bills, but she’s also the one whose grip left welts on my arm at Paranormal Activity 2. 2! God, I love her.

My arm trembles, then fails and bends under hers. I try to worm away, but that arm winds up pinned behind my back.

There’s a click. We can see each other again. There is no burned serial killer or lycanthropic monster. Only a frowning woman with a green scrunchy in her hair.

I actually lean up to kiss her, but she keeps my arm in the hammerlock. That’s fair. It only takes her one arm to pin mine. Her free hand raises to tap the side of my head with the flashlight.

She commands, again unpacking that sentence word-by-word: “You don’t do that.”

“No. You’re right. I should have been much further away before I turned it off.”

Two broader beams illuminate us from around the bend. They advance until she releases my arm, and we stand aside as the Saab passes us up the main road. Its headlights shine on our right sides. Her right side looks so cordial, though her hand still threatens to break my wrist. So I ask.

“You think Wolfman learned to drive?”

I think most girls and women would have said something dismissive. All the ones who got me best, all two of them, would have said, “You’re horrible.”

Lita doesn’t. She gives up my arm and leans down to press a faint smile into the stubble of my neck. The potential for a one-liner is thick in the atmosphere and goes unbreathed. We return to the house chatting about the logistics of a Wolfman Vs. Freddy movie.

I will do this again. I will deserve what comes to me and it won’t be that bad even if I deserve worse. This is because I’ve done it before, when we watched The Descent, and 1408, and Wait Until Dark. And every time when we leave the house for the mailbox and the pitchblack of the woods, she lets me hold the flashlight.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Bob Ross of Writers

Every writer should watch at least one episode of Bob Ross.
We’re seldom exhibitionists,
so we forget perspective
on what a scattered mess our art is allowed to look like
on its way to completion.

Every writer should also watch a bunch more Bob Ross,
so they remember to finish the fucking thing.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Littlest Psychic Lost

She was the first psychic I ever met. The littlest, too.

At her third birthday party she made the prediction, “I’m going to be a year older.”

As though by prophecy, she turned four a mere year later. Then she predicted, “I’m going to be a year older.”

No one had the gift like my little girl. She always knew I wanted strawberry ice cream for dinner, whether or not I agreed. She always knew what movie we were going to watch. And every year she predicted, “I’m going to be a year older.”

She was only wrong once. I miss her guidance so.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: On the Obese, OR, Big, Fat Rage

Social responsibility is just a ruse. You were making fun of the fat kid in kindergarten. He was different in a way that wasn’t special, so you mocked him. It wasn’t even him – it was an excuse to hate someone who wasn’t you, and because other children joined in, it was socially reinforced. You were cruel then and you haven’t grown. This whole business of obese people putting extra strain on the healthcare system is rationalization for you being an emotional kindergartener. I’m sure you were well-briefed on the healthcare industry in elementary school and that’s why you were such a dick to Willy, or Robert, or Mandrake. And if he was a fat kid with a name like ‘Willy,’ I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hanged himself by now. Thanks to humanitarians like you.

Justified by their abuse of doctor’s time and getting sick more often, you berate them, to “change” them. But even if a chubby bastard were to fall on his knees tomorrow and beg you to fix him, would you? No! You’re too busy checking movie times on your iPhone. The extent of your donation to the cause is being heartless.

You think mocking him is going to make him finally buy that gym membership? A chunk of these chunky people are the result of depression eating. A reasonable person doesn’t browbeat alcoholics under the idea that it’ll make them kick the bottle. Smokers get more sympathy than that for willingly sucking on sticks of carcinogenic poison. All the fat guy does is eat more than you. He may do it because he’s got a psychological problem. He may keep weight because of a glandular or digestive problem.

Or he may be rich. There are fat millionaires. Any random fat ass at a buffet may well have donated six figures to a state-of-the-art hospital. He may serve on its board, arranging healthcare resources more efficiently than he’ll ever use them up. He could hire two guys to go build clinics while he pounds Big Macs. Now who is better for the healthcare system: the one who enabled them to have a new MRI machine, or your skinny ass? Which, by the way, is still freakishly ugly.

Yes, the fat guy is ugly, but most thin people are hideous, too. Even supermodels. That’s why they invented Photoshop, so I can masturbate to an ideal that nobody’s trying to live up to. Moles, boils, scars, stretch marks, bad bone structure, bicep flab, chicken legs, post-pubescent acne, hair where you can’t shave – don’t get me started on the list of erection-killing traits you could have hidden under that fashionable tracksuit.

You don’t have some inner beauty the fat guy lacks. He’s got feelings. He’s got family. He’s had heartbreak and loss and one day walked out of a building wondering if he still had a soul. The beauty that culture makes sure we sheathe and hide and wrap in an intellectual condom is in both of you. But seeing either of you naked? That’s like asking if I want second- or third-degree burns. You’re not ethically right, you’re not helping him, and you’re unfuckable despite fitting into those jeans. Shut the fuck up and leave the fat guy to people who care. Give him the decency of ignoring him like you ignore the majority of the human race.
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