Sunday, December 2, 2012

Audrey is one!


Babies make it tough to write!  I wrote Mindtrip during a three month binge just before Audrey was born. At the rate I'm writing, Psychopomp's first draft is going to take six, seven months. But today, she's given me a present - a nap that's been going on for nearly two hours.

Thanks, Audrey.

She turned one a couple of weeks ago! We had a combination Thanksgiving and Birthday Party.





It was pretty good.  Audrey ate a cupcake.

A year ago was a very tiring, confusing time. Audrey did two things: slept and cried. It's amazing how much she's grown in the first year. She started out at 21 inches and ended up growing ten inches in twelve months. She walks. She says "Duck." She has a snarky sense of humor. She likes to be scared and mock-screams in delight.

It's kind of amazing.

Her favorite song: "Class Clown Spots a UFO", probably followed by the theme songs for 21 Jump Street and Daria. Her favorite food: macaroni and cheese, as well as pulled pork and any sort of fruit. Her favorite toys: cell phones, remote controls, and plastic plates.

I don't want to forget any of this.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

THE DARK CARNIVAL

Happy Halloween. I don't even know when I wrote this.

The Dark Carnival



"Ow," said the clown, accidentally bumping into the strong man again.
"Whoops, sorry about that."

It was not his fault.

The problem wasn't that he was a clumsy, silly oaf, which he was, but that he was a member of the Dark Carnival. Back in the day when the Dark Carnival was the mythical creation of Ray Bradbury in his stories "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "The Illustrated Man," it was pretty cool to talk about. Most people thought of it as the place where childhood dreams were corrupted, where monkeys capered without fear of peanut-throwing audiences and where the fire-breather and the tattooed man could plot evil conspiracies over whatever it was that Ray Bradbury was thinking about that particular day. It was sort of frightening, and if you were afraid of ventriloquist dummies, it was probably even scarier. There were no ventriloquists in the Dark Carnival, but everyone was willing to bet you money that they'd fit right in.

Later, the "Insane Clown Posse" became the first musical group to claim that they were actually members of "the Dark Carnival," with brilliant insights into the mind of "Insane Clowns." Perhaps their greatest achievement, "The Evil Dark Carnival that The Insane Clowns Live in," explains America's fascination with the Dark Carnival best: 

"We livez in the dark carnival
Ya ha ha ha ha 
Evil clownz drinkin all the Faygo
Bam shackalackalackala!" 

It was this sentiment more than anything that made children under the age of 14 want to join the Dark Carnival when they got old enough to legally work for the old carnies. In fact, some children even cheated, working when they were seventeen and absolutely not eighteen, under the pretense that they were "Dark Carnival Interns." Everyone know that this was just a cover, that they were really becoming evil souls working for the Dark Carnival and should be stopped, but no one really cared either way. 

The Dark Carnival was not particularly evil or spooky, but was actually just a poorly lit carnival. This did not explain its bizarre and fascinating appeal. No one really understood it, in fact. It was pretty spooky, I guess because most carnivals are well-lit, and this one was not. That made it different. 

The clown that bumped into the strong man was fairly myopic, and combined with the poor lighting and a bottle of bourbon consumed just a few moments before, this totally explained the minor accident. "Jesus," the strong man exclaimed in consternation. "Watch out, Mr. Clown!" 

"Oooops," murmured the inebriated clown. "Sorry, mister Roosevelt." But the strong man's name was not Roosevelt, and the apology was lost like dust to a storm. 

The clown stumbled into the ringmaster's tent, barely able to see two feet in front of him. The ringmaster was sitting at his desk in a fairly frightening pose, sort of hunched over and very evil. 

Mr. Johnson," the clown shrieked rather loudly. The ringmaster winced. "Mr. Johnson, I can barely see a thing in here." 

"Please, stop shouting," the ringmaster told him. "I was trying to take a nap. That's why I turned off - look, it's hard to talk to someone I can't see. Are you still listening?" 

The clown wasn't, really, but this was to be expected. He was trying to find a piece of candy that he'd dropped on the ground - the damn carnival, he thought to himself. This damned dark carnival. I can't see very well. 

"Ah, Miller," murmured the ringmaster. "Did you ever hear how this carnival got its name? How it came to be called the dark carnival?" 

"Who said that?" asked the clown, who'd forgotten that he'd told the ringmaster his name was Miller. His name was actually Rumparuck, which he felt was a silly name for a clown. 

"It was thirty-odd years ago," mused the ringmaster. "Thirty odd years ago. When I decided to make a carnival. And I named it after myself: 'Mr. Dark's Carnival.'" 

"I thought your name was Johnson," the clown told him, but the ringmaster was lost in a world of his own devising. Nostalgia, the clown told himself, is the bitter fruit that Age bears. He thought this was deep and witty, and maybe it was, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally. The last deep and witty thing he'd thought before this was "the Taco Supreme is the bitter fruit that Taco Bell bears." Why this was meaningful to him was anyone's guess. The fact that it was meaningful to over five hundred thousand people was even more startling, until you realized how many people actually existed. 

"Mr. Dark's carnival, and little did I know that this place would become known as 'The Dark Carnival.' I was going to make this a happy place with bunnies and flowers and pixies, and magical leprechauns," continued the ringmaster. The clown was busy fiddling with his shoes by this time and had managed to tie both of him together, but the ringmaster continued with his rambling anecdotes for at least ten or fifteen minutes. The ringmaster never actually mentioned why he thought his name was "Mr. Dark" in the first place, when it was actually "Felipo Guiterrez," and why he thought they'd named the place after him when he'd actually been a plumber when the carnival was created. The place was only called the Dark Carnival because they couldn't afford the lighting, and millions of children shivered in their beds. 

Pray that the Dark Carnival never visits you... with its sad, pathetic clown, and the dark, twisted monkeys that the carnival bought from a roadside monkey stand. Pray! Or else you might end up paying five dollars to visit the Dark Carnival... with its evil, twisted freak show consisting of two guys who look kinda like Tony Danza and a jar of brine shrimp labeled "Sea Monkeys" ... and you won't be able to see any of it, because the carnival is too dark.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Audrey Harper!

After Audrey was born, I thought I should keep a journal about everything. Everything! Something that Audrey could read when she was older, to trace the early childhood that she'd never remember. Anyway, that never happened.


She's REALLY cute. Right now, Audrey is incredibly into
* Books (she wants to read all of them three times in a row.)
* Bananas
* Tablet computers
* Things on the floor that are very small and possibly edible
* Daredevil stunts
* Sign language for 'bath' (it's the only one she's really sure about.)
* Watching me cook

It's pretty good. I'm beginning to feel like a real member of the human race again. Like, I get to sleep... all night! Almost every night! And Audrey is maybe the friendliest person in the UNIVERSE. She's always, ALWAYS happy to see Rebecca and me.

Pretty soon, she's going to be ... a lot more coherent, and one day, probably a little less jolly. I'm going to miss how HAPPY she is all the time. She's adorable!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ghost Writing


I finished writing The Cherubim three years ago. At the time, I was like - okay, after this gets published, I'll start writing a sequel. Until then, I'll work on something else.

Then I got something like ten form rejection emails and I stopped trying.

In retrospect, that's admittedly ridiculous. But those ten rejection emails absolutely paralyzed me. It didn't stop me from writing other books, because writing is amazingly fun. I'm just hoarding manuscripts.

Which is okay. Because now I'm finally working on the sequel to The Cherubim that I started plotting out three years ago, which is also a quasi-sequel to Mrs. Shadow and Mindtrip. That sounds like a big mess, but I think it totally works. I'm doing a mass reread of all three books; the plan is that once I finish and come up with a rough outline for the last book, I'll re-edit the first three. I'm hoping to have the whole thing finished by early 2014.

I don't know what happens after that. It's just pretty nice to have some sort of plan. Is it still a rad thing to write fiction that no one reads? Is the act of creating enough? Sort of. But I still wish that I had a real way to share my books with everyone. A handful of people have copies of my books; everyone seems to really enjoy them, especially Mrs. Shadow. But... it seems like without any promotion, no one's going to read them.I'm no good at promotion.

Okay! Back to scraping the barrel. This story was written around a decade ago. It won a second-place prize in a literary journal. 

http://www.cbu.edu/News/Connection/Con-169.html
That's more than a little heartbreaking.



Michael Bolton's War

"So you think you're tough," spat Michael Bolton. "Any of you punks want to bring it on, that's fine with me. I've tangled with the harshest men on the streets, downed shots of V8 like it was Kool-Aid, so none of you want to mess around."
The leader of the Monkeys, toughest street gang in St. Paul, Minnesota, looked appalled. "Man, Michael Bolton," he explained in a whine, "I didn't mean to diss on you. I just wanted to know if you wanted a shoe-shine."  
Michael Bolton pulled out a Kleenex and tossed it to the ground. "There's your answer, fool." He turned around and began walking off, sure that his answer was enough for the young hooligans to comprehend.  
Michael Bolton had once been a popular music artist. He was hailed as possibly the greatest singer of all time, and he had been someone. His later years brought on hair loss and the trial - he'd been found guilty of plagiarism and forced to pay thousands in royalties for the hit song "Love is a Wonderful Thing" - had taken its toll on the rock star. He now wandered the lands, living off his own toughness, having ninja battles, and loving like only the crooner known as Michael Bolton could.  
He stumbled over a rock as he walked away from the gang, then did a couple of dance steps so it would look like he'd MEANT to trip as an introduction to a musical number. He was sort of embarrassed by the whole thing and mumbled "oops" under his breath as he briskly walked, then jogged, and finally ran like a drunkard down the boulevard.  

Meanwhile, Mr. Bob Saget had heard that Michael Bolton was in town. "That punk!" he spat. "Why, I was busy starring in 'Full House' when that sucker was only beginning to write 'Said I Loved You (But I Lied.)' I ought to bust a cap!"    
 He immediately knew by either instinct or through a kind of osmosis that only one late 80s/early 90s star could live in Minnesota, and the other would have to be banished to Idaho. He liked where he lived: there was clean air and sometimes, when he walked down the block, someone would notice him and say "Dude! Jackalope ruled!" He never mentioned that the person was invariably thinking of Dave Coulier (who later made the Jackalope famous on 'America's Funniest People') - no, he'd been recognized, and the fame was good enough for him. Besides, he had been on 'America's Funniest Home Videos,' which was close to 'America's Funniest People,' so why ask for more?  
"That song... 'When a Man Loves a Woman'... I hated that song," he said, gnashing his teeth. "It is time to begin the war."   

Michael Bolton was walking briskly through the shopping mall when suddenly a shout made him turn his head. "BOOLLLTTOONNN!" screeched the voice.   
"What! Who's that!" shouted Michael. Then he turned around to see who it was.
When he saw, he gaped like a small child at a zoo.   "Oh My!" he cried. "Pat Sajak!" 
"That's Bob Saget," yelped Bob Saget, as he jumped down from a carousel. "And it is payback time, Michael Bolton. Now you will die!"  
"I don't want to die," cried Michael Bolton.  
"Then," said Bob Saget grimly, "we will thumb wrestle." 

"One, two, three, four," began Michael gamely, his hand in a lock with Bob Saget's, "I declare a thumb wa... hey, wait. I didn't finish yet. You can't start until I finish."    
"You talk too slowly," complained Bob Saget, but soon the contest was on. The two men fought with all their might, sweat trickling down their foreheads as their thumbs circled warily, ready to pin the other as soon as possible.    Michael Bolton's thumb feinted to the left, then right, quickly pinioning Saget's thumb. The thumb, slick with sweat, quickly moved out of the way of Bolton's thumb and, with a jagged motion, cut Bolton's thumb with its thumbnail.   "Ouch!" yelped Michael Bolton. "That hurt! That's no fair!"  
"You wanted fair?" sneered Bob Saget. "This is war, Bolton. All's fair in war." 
A left, then a right. An up, down motion. Michael Bolton's thumb was double jointed, but he wasn't sure how much it mattered in a contest like this. Bob Saget knew what he was doing, he'd thumb wrestled before, but Michael Bolton was no pushover.  
The two thumb-wrestled for hours. Finally, with a grunt of despair, Michael Bolton's thumb fell to Bob Saget's thumb. "One-two-three-four-I-win-thumb-war!" shouted Saget quickly.
"Hey," protested Michael Bolton, "that was too quick! No fair!"  
"No mercy!" shouted the crowd of hooligans that had gathered around the two. "Show him no mercy!"  
"This," explained Bob Saget in a roar, "is for 'Time, Love, and Tenderness!'" He proceeded to give Michael Bolton a wedgie and then ran around in a circle, hooting. His actions, though inexplicable, were a warning to Michael Bolton: he was to immediately leave town and go somewhere else.     
A tear ran down Michael Bolton's cheek, much in the manner of the Indian in those commercials about littering. He lifted his hefty briefcase to his shoulder and trudged off, looking for new adventures and hoping to find a town where no one remembered his hit "How Can We be Lovers."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fred Savage

"What is not well-known is the fact that Fred Savage was, indeed, schizophrenic."
  -- Confucious



Yep, that was Fred Savage. An all-around American kid. Man, remember the Wonder Years? Who doesn't!

I think we all had a little crush on Winnie. Unless you were a girl, in which case you liked Paul. My favorite Fred Savage movie was The Wizard, a brilliant film in which we learned that the power glove "was so bad." I threatened to slit my wrists unless my parents got me a power glove after watching that movie. My parents told me to "go right fucking ahead" since they paid "a hundred fucking dollars" for "that piece of shit Nintendo system already" and there was "no way in hell" that they would buy me "a goddamn glove power, so go do your homework." It almost broke my heart that they didn't even know it was called a power glove, and my life was mostly ruined.

But that is nothing compared to the sultry life of Fred Savage, the most dangerous man alive today.



Yeah, looks like a normal kid, doesn't he? But did you know that Fred Savage was, indeed, schizophrenic? In the interest of mental health studies, I'd like to recreate one of his delusional episodes for you so that we can all get a better idea as to how to watch the hell out for Fred Savage.



"Fred?"





Fred: Oh my god. Not again.




"I need you to do me a favor, Fred."





Fred: What now?





"STEAL A PENGUIN."





Fred: I can't do that anymore, Edgar. I told you that already.





"But we're hungry, Fred."





Fred: It's three o'clock in the morning. Where am I going to get a penguin?







Fred: You have to be shitting me.




"It doesn't have to be a real penguin. We'll accept a substitution."








Fred: That's not funny!




"We offer you riches beyond your wildest dreams, Fred."




Fred: Then it's time to go Penguin-catchin'!



Fred Savage is still legal in over twenty-four states. Our government says that he's 'a slice of Americana', and 'certainly not a man that you should run away from, screaming.'  But are we safe? Can we ever be truly safe from this madman?

I implore you: contact your congressmen, your senators, and Nintendo Power. Urge them to boycott Fred Savage until he gets the medication - and the savory crueller - he so desperately needs.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

LEO

Writing is hard.
Like, not just the sitting down and making stuff up for five to ten hours a week. It's the part after, when you have to figure out what to do with your book. I planned to spend a week or two writing a query letter and a synopsis and all that, spending a couple of weeks coming up with a list of agents, and querying. I really, really don't want to.
I don't even want to.
I put so many hours into writing this thing that no one's interested in reading; why waste more time to wind up getting rejected?
That's the hard part about writing. The rejection.
I absolutely LOVE Mindtrip. But I have no confidence that it'll grab anyone. Does anyone else have that problem? Is that a common thing? Writer people: how do you deal with it?

Here's a story I wrote a few years ago. Maybe it's based on a real person. Who knows!


The first time I saw Leo, I figured he was an accountant. Squat, toad-like, nearing 60, and balding, he wore large pants with no belt loops. He reminded me of Danny DeVito’s rendition of The Penguin. He was nebbish.
Four days after he started working at my company, Leo approached and said:
“So. You’re one of those good tree-hugging left wing hippie liberals, aren’t you?”
I looked up. “Uh – I don’t know.”
“I mean, you ride a bike, right?”
I nodded.
“Do you recycle?”
“Sure.”
“Do you think it does anyone any good?” He pointed out the window. “Look at that dumpster! Full of plastic water bottles.” He laughed loudly. “It’s just a trick! Designed to make you feel good!”
Sure enough, the dumpster was full of plastic water bottles. It was the recycling dumpster, after all. I sat down at my desk and started working again, only to be interrupted a little while later.
“Watch this,” Leo instructed. He wound up a toy and then released it. It wriggled across his desk.
“What do you think of that? You have to have a little fun around here!”
“What… was that?” I asked.
“Don’t you know,” he said scornfully, and sure enough, it was a wind-up sperm. Leo carefully placed it next to the Mickey Mouse wizard and the stuffed pink flamingo lined up on a shelf next to his desk.

            He decided that I was his liberal nemesis. From the fact that I rode a bike. Over the next few weeks, he began forwarding me anywhere from two to five emails every day, most of which were complaints and lengthy quips about lazy welfare liberals. In his signature line: “Have you made God smile today?”

I never saw him do any work. As far as I could tell, he came in late, left early, and spent the rest of the day playing solitaire and sending forwards. He was a hero. Here are some of my favorite Leo stories.

  • September 9th: A woman nearby says “Happy Tuesday!” and Leo yells “HAPPY NEW YEAR.” The woman pauses, and then cautiously says, “I think it’s still a little while before the new year.”
  • September 11th: I discover Leo has a handicapped license plate, despite having no discernable physical handicap. However, I do learn that he has sleep apnea. He also enjoys pushing buttons on his phone. I listen to him press buttons for two solid minutes.
  • September 19th: After Hurricane Ike, we are off work for a week. When we return, Leo spends two days on the phone with FEMA trying to get the contents of his refrigerator replaced and trying to get them to pay for the meals he ate in restaurants while the power was out. He reports that he bolted the windows on his apartment closed so that intruders couldn’t get in.
  • September 26th: Leo asks me if I support PETA and their attempts to get cow’s milk replaced with human breast milk in certain ice cream companies. I tell him no. Later, I hear him on the phone with his estranged wife, crying.
  • September 29th: I am talking with a coworker about the weather in Texas. Leo walks by and says "Every year, just for laughs, I pull out the barbeque on New Year’s Eve and fire it up. Just to tease my brother who lives in the north. But he laughs at me when we have summer here."
  • October 7th: Leo emails me about economics. Later, he tells me that “even a liberal like you has to admit that you have to keep the people at the top happy!” Every time I walk by his desk, he is playing solitaire. Later, he scolds me for having a library book. “You have the money!” he says. “Libraries are for people who can’t afford the books. You’re cheating the system.”
  • Later, the same day, I hear him having the following conversation with his ex-wife:
Are you as depressed as your mother says you are?!
(long pause)
(fake hearty voice): Okay!
(long pause): Okay!
(long pause): I understand that.
(long pause): I really do.
  • October 8th: Leo shows me HoustonGasPrices.com. I find that he is a regular poster under the name Leo III. Later that night, I search for him on Myspace and find him. His profile describes him as “5’6” / Some extra baggage.”
  • The same day, Leo calls a grocery store and asks for a Watermelon Boat. He is transferred several times, then asks to speak to “a manager who can at least speak English.” He speaks rudely and demands that the store create a Watermelon Boat “Or I’ll just go to Kroger’s and get one!”
  • October 10th: I ask Leo why I didn’t see him the day before. He snaps “Because yesterday was Yom Kippur! I’m always gone on Yom Kippur!”
  • October 14th: “Jesus Christ, Leo just farted loudly.”
  • October 16th: Leo tells me that everything is my fault, then sends me an email about drowning “coon asses” in New Orleans. I notice that he seems to get into work around 9 every day and leave around 2.
  • October 17th: “Leo is making me sad! He's talking to himself and laughing loudly. Maybe there's a person paying attention that I don't see or hear.” Later, he has this conversation with a coworker:
Leo: Jared! Do you feel like no one loves us any more?
Jared: Yes. I do feel that.
  • October 17th: My coworker Leslie announces that Leo has asked to see her tattoo. Later, Leo tells an exciting story about an old friend who is terrified of midgets.
  • October 23rd: Leo has a conversation on the phone in which he tearfully says, “You drove me away, but that mistake put me over the edge.” Then he asks if the other party could talk to him about an incident over the phone, or if she’d need her counselor’s permission.
  • October 27th: Leo tosses a brownie on my desk unexpectedly. I scream.
  • October 28th: Leo’s ringtone is “The Monster Mash.” When he comes back from lunch, I say “Welcome back!” He looks sad and angry. “Was I gone?” he asks. “Some days, I can’t tell.”
  • October 29th: Leo spends two days on the phone with Comcast in a wild heat fury.
  • October 30th: Leo sends me a forward about soldiers serving their country. Rebecca proceeds to edit it into a filthy pornographic mess.
  • November 3rd: Leo asks me what will happen if Obama is elected and it turns out his birth certificate is a fraud. I shrug.
  • November 6th: Leo tells a story that ends: “I just wanted to say, ‘THIS IS EXACTLY THE REASON WHY I WANTED TO STOP BEING MARRIED TO YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.’”
  • November 7th: Leo hits on my coworker Leslie and tries to get her to go to lunch with him. When she says no, he leaves work for the day. This happens repeatedly over the next two weeks.
  • November 17th: Leo coughs loudly for the entire day and then leaves early.
  • November 19th: Leo offers me a shot of cough syrup. “It smells of Fritos,” he muses. “Even though I can’t breathe, I can still smell Fritos.”

Leo was gone from work for nearly two weeks. When he came back, he told me that he had bronchitis and asked if he’d caught it from me. Then he forwarded me an email saying that anyone on welfare should have to take a urine test before they can get a welfare check.
I listened to him on the phone all morning telling someone about how he was visiting his girlfriend’s parents’ house, only one of her seventeen year old nieces told a Holocaust joke so he left in a huff without telling anyone why. His girlfriend was apparently still confused and distraught.
Midway through the story, his boss came over and asked if he could talk to Leo. They walked away, and when they came back, his boss said, “Sorry it didn’t work out. You can put your belongings in this box.”
Leo took fifteen minutes to pack up his Disney merchandise, and then he left, escorted by a bear of a man.
I still miss him.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SLUTCAKES

This is what's been going on lately:


So I have that going for me! That's it. I feel like if I spruced up this blog a little, maybe I could really have something going. But. It's hard to balance a work day, a house, a baby, and a blog. One of those has to go to the bottom of the pile. At least I have a huge store of awful old stories to provide free content. This one is called Slutcakes, and it's about your mother!

Saturday morning; I sighed, scratched myself, and arose from the dead, a soul destined to walk another lonely day through the crooked streets of the city. I stumbled away from my bedroom, down the hall, and into the dining room, where last night’s empty pizza boxes decorated what had once been a handsome plastic picnic table purchased for ten dollars from K-Mart. 

“Damn it,” I mused silently to myself. “Not another morning of Cap’n Crunch and chocolate milk.” Not that it didn’t have a particular charm, but this had been my breakfast every morning for the past twelve weeks, and I was getting sick and tired of it. Exploring my freezer, I found a cornucopia of hardened, brittle, cold entrees. Would I like a Cheese Cannelloni Lean Cuisine? Or a frozen can of orange juice? And yet far in the back, I found my salvation: a two-year-old box of frozen pancakes.

Frozen pancakes!! I was filled with delight. I popped two of them into my toaster and waited patiently. As they baked in the beautiful countertop appliance, I searched my cabinets for syrup. No luck – and yet here were ten packets of Splenda that I had stolen from a coffee shop one warm summer morning. “Oh, shit!” I cried delightedly, and immediately poured them into a stained coffee mug. I mixed the powder with a little water, microwaved it for a few seconds, and poured the syrup all over my now-hardened, browned pancakes.

As I wolfed down my breakfast, I thought, “Frozen pancakes are God’s gift to humanity. Why can’t the rest of my life be so simple? Why couldn’t I get sluts this easily?” I dug on it for a while, considering the implications. Imagine going down to the local grocery store and buying a box of SlutCakes from the freezer – just heat in the toaster oven and they’re ready to go! And then inspiration struck; lightning burst into my head the way it had burned the medulla oblongatas of such greats as Newton, Einstein, Daltrey. “Holy shit,” I thought. “SlutCakes is the most perfect name for a rock group in the world.”

That was it. That was the next stage of the game. That would be how I would make my name, make my fortune, make love. SlutCakes would tour the world; I would be a mega star. Women would love and adore me, fortunes awaited. But first, I realized, I need a band. How to get one?Well, the way that my uncle had gotten rid of his litter of kittens was to advertise them. The idea seemed sound, I shrugged. Tearing off the top of one of my discarded pizza boxes, I scrawled “SLUTCAKES! AN INCREDIBLE NEW REVOLUTION IN MUSIC! TRYOUTS TODAY.” As an afterthought, I scrawled down my name and phone number.

The next step was to find a telephone pole that faced enough traffic. I must have walked two or three miles before I found one at a busy intersection, and then I duct-taped my sign to the front. I put my hands on my hips and stood back, awed at the prodigious amount of work I’d achieved this morning. Two people honked at me and I waved happily at them, and then was confused by their angry grimaces and scowls. One guy rolled down the window and told me to eat it, and I shouted “SLUTCAKES FOREVER!” at him, and he gave me the finger. I didn’t know if maybe he was going to try out for my band later, so I waved at him, and then turned around and walked home.

While I waited for my phone to ring, I started drawing up a band logo. The first thing I drew was a big stack of pancakes with two boobs on it, but that looked like maybe pancakes with sunny side eggs on top. Then I drew some more boobs to show that these were indeed SlutCakes, but then it just looked like a big cyst, so I crumpled up the first sheet of paper.

The second thing I drew was the devil holding a scythe and making the sign of the devil. But I thought that would be confusing to most people, because why would the devil signal himself? So I threw that one away too.

The third logo was well underway when I realized that I was just copying off a Megadeth CD, and right then the phone rang.

“Hello, SlutCakes!” I said excitedly, and there was this long pause and I felt my heart sink. Sure enough, it was my mom calling to check in on me and ask me if I was going to give her the fifty bucks I owed her any time soon, and I had to tell her I didn’t have a job yet but I was working on it right now. My mom sighed and asked why I had called her SlutCakes when I picked up, so I started telling her and she interrupted and told me not to forget we were having dinner at her house on Tuesday night as usual. Then she hung up.

SlutCakes got its first official band member at 11:45 that morning. I was cutting my toenails and the phone rang. “Hello, this is SlutCakes speaking,” I said, having carefully modified my previous greeting.

“I saw…your ad,” said this slow, thick voice.

“Oh!” I said. “SlutCakes is indeed having tryouts today! What instrument do you play?”

There was this long pause, and then the voice said, “How much… are… SlutCakes?”

“I haven’t really thought that far yet,” I told him. “Maybe a three member band, maybe four. If we got a really good keyboard player we could have this really badass five piece unit, and it could go from there.”

The voice paused again, and then slowly, like a man clawing himself out of a deep grave, said: “SlutCakes… sounds…” and then he said a word that was like half word, half cough, and half gargle. Like maybe he said good, or maybe gay, or maybe elephant. I’m not sure, but it sounded cool.

“It’s awesome to have you aboard,” I told him. “First practice session is next week. See you then!” And I hung up, cheerful to be so far underway in the creation of SlutCakes.

I waited by the phone until 11 that night in hopes that someone else would call, but after that I wanted to get some dinner. So I got in my car and headed to the supermarket, singing the first song that I’d written for SlutCakes. It was called “SlutCakes Doesn’t Waffle” and it was probably the baddest of the badass songs ever written. It went like, “Sweeta than syrup / and smoky as bacon / can you smell the smells / that SlutCakes is makin’ / Delicious and fragrant / All fresh on your plate / These is the nastiest SlutCakes / A playa could bake!”

“HOT SLUT-CAKES! Oh yeah!” I shouted out as I pulled into the parking lot, finishing the last line of the chorus. And as I sat in the parking lot, looking through my wallet, making sure I had enough for the Little Debbie Brownies I was about to purchase, I had an epiphany. SlutCakes really would be the best band in the world, and I would be up to my ass in sluts by the end of the week. And as sure as God had graced me with my epiphany, I had another vision: just then, a girl walked by. And though I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure she glanced at me – just once, just a quick peek. But she did not recoil and she did not wrinkle her nose, and to me, that indeed was a wonderful portent of the mystery and magic that SlutCakes would soon bring to my life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tattoo

Things are FANTASTIC. I haven't written in like... two weeks now, I guess. Other than a bunch of ideas for my next book. I can't stop thinking about it.
Audrey's doing some really exciting gymnastic maneuvers, and she's also jabbering a LOT. It feels like she's pretty much a kid now, instead of a terrible screamy thing. That's good news, too.
Here's the really bad news: this is not a great story. I think I remember writing it in my mid-20s just because I haven't written anything in months and I wanted to prove... something. I think, somehow, I did.


            Steve wondered later if it was perhaps destiny that led himself to accidentally jam his ballpoint pen into the palm of his left hand. Had The Fates, maybe an ancient Hindu deity, conspired to come down to his work area, had watched as he attempted to sign his own name on an office supply sheet, had surreptitiously maneuvered his writing utensil so that the bright blue Bic in his right hand moved a few quavering inches to the left, then plunged into his palm with fury? He was unsure, nor could he ever be fully certain. But he did notice two things immediately afterwards: first, how badass it looked to see the deep blue pen against the bright red dot slowly burgeoning on his palm, and second, it looked like a tattoo of a really awesome blueberry.
            A blueberry! He had always wanted a tattoo of a piece of fruit on his hand, and yet every time Steve walked into the tattoo parlor, he was intimidated by the needles, the smelly bearded tattoo artists in their wife-beaters, the shocking prices listed behind the counter. And so he would walk out, head down, shoulders hunched, sure that his dreams of tattoos would always die out as painfully as his goldfish Trixie had died, gasping on the carpet as Steve shrieked and tossed his hands in the air in horrified wonder.
            Steve stood up, carefully examined his hand, wiped the dab of blood on his khakis, and walked into the next room. There was a beautiful young intern – well, a 53 year old temp named Dorothy – and he had been dying to impress her for weeks. Steve made a beeline, noticing that she was carefully averting her eyes to avoid his gaze, and decided that from here on out, she was HIS woman. This tattoo would be his reigning glory, the spark that set their love aflame, and as he shoved his damaged hand in front of her bespectacled face, he nearly shouted at her, “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK AT ME!!” Steve knew from experience that women did not always respond well to this opening gambit, and so merely said, “I got a tattoo.”
            “Jesus, Steve!” Dorothy shouted, recoiling in horror. “Oh, what did you do to your hand?”
            “It’s a tattoo,” Steve said modestly, waving his hand around like a week old tuna sandwich. “Check it. A blueberry.”     
            “That looks pretty bad,” Dorothy said in disgust, studying the mark. “Who did this to you? I think you should see a doctor.”
            “I did it myself,” Steve said, and then unsure as to why, he added awkwardly, “I’m training to be a tattoo artist. Maybe I could… give you a tattoo one day.”
            Dorothy stared at him a while, and then turned back to her computer. Typing mercilessly into her data entry program, it seemed she’d dismissed him entirely. What had he done wrong, Steve wondered. How had he failed to win the heart of his woman so fair and true? Had he not gotten what his friend Ed had called “a bitchin’ tattoo”? Wasn’t that supposed to “drive the bitches wild”? Steve felt hurt and a little confused, and his hand was starting to get a little sore, and he wanted to cry a little bit.
            “Do you think it would look cooler if I got maybe some other kinds of fruit in there?” Steve asked finally. Dorothy pursed her lips, pinching them tightly until they were as pale and thin as a Swedish model. Steve pondered. Maybe a cantaloupe? Or a bunch of grapes? The grapes, he decided, because they would look super cool next to the blueberry.
            “Do you think we have a green or a purple pen in the supply cabinet?” Steve finally asked. Dorothy, again, sat silently at her computer. “You really need to go to a doctor,” she finally repeated, and turned her head to signal that the conversation was finished.
            Rifling through the supply cabinet, Steve was reminded of his first day on the job, and how he was reprimanded for slyly sliding three staplers and a box of rubber bands into his pockets on the way out the door. How was he to know that the management would frown upon simply borrowing a few tools? And what would lead them to become so angry when he told them that he needed them for ‘a really bad-ass staple and rubber band war that I’m trying to organize’? The powers that be, he decided, were complete fuckwads, and did not deserve the supplies that they already owned. And as he peeked over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking, he though, “My god, once I have my tattoos and look like a total badass, they will sorely regret putting a limitation of five rubber bands out at any given time.”
            Steve’s plan was nearly put on hold for a time by the supply cabinet’s utter lack of a green pen. What the hell was this? Did no one ever need to draw grass on their pictures of houses? Did no one ever need to draw Gumby on their forearms? “Jen,” he shouted up front to the secretary. “Jen, do we have any green pens?”
            A long sigh, and then: “Yeah, third shelf down.”
            Steve searched frantically with his eyes. “No, these are highlighters. I need, like, a green ink pen.”
            A long sigh again, and then a silence. Jen apparently did not feel like answering his questions, did not feel like doing the job she was paid to do. Steve swore under his breath, and then looked at the ink pens again. Red. Black. Blue. That was it. That was it? What the hell could you draw, other than an assaulted mime or a squished zebra? This was complete bullshit, and he was fed up with the working conditions.
            He sighed loudly, trying his best to emulate the smartass receptionist, and selected the red and black ink pens. His plans of a bunch of grapes were completely blown by now, and so he figured that he would have to improvise. A pair of cherries, he decided, and maybe a really cool blackberry. Once he finished the tattoos, maybe he would get a motorcycle or a moped and cruise around, shouting to the girls on the side of the road, smoking Marlboros and just generally looking awesome. He gave himself a mental high five so hard that it made his mental hand turn bright red. He winced, gave himself two punches for wincing, and walked slickly back to his desk just like the Fonz.
            Steve uncapped the black pen and tentatively poked his skin hard. It wasn’t hard enough, because instead of poking through his flesh and giving him an awesome tattoo, it just made a big speck on his hand. Steve though about it and decided it kind of looked like a puppy’s nose. He drew two big, floppy ears and a long tail, and then made the puppy have large droopy eyes. He laughed delightedly. It was the cutest puppy he’d ever seen.
            Steve hurredly finished the sketch and ran back to show Dorothy. “Dorothy, Dorothy!” he yelled, shoving his hand in front of her face for the second time today.
            “Jesus, Steve,” she shouted, “you need to go see a doctor already! I have got to get these payables out by the end of the day, you know that, right?”
            “But I got a new tattoo,” he said, hurt, waving his hand like a six year old know it all who’s got the answer to the math question that’s been busting your balls for the last three minutes.
            “Yeah, what is that, sweetie, a truck?” she asked, turning away and typing furiously into her computer again.
            “It’s a puppy,” he said, and waited for her reaction. She sat silently at her desk. “A puppy,” he repeated, thinking maybe she hadn’t heard. 
            But Dorothy never answered. Furiously typing away, she was as distant from him as Papa Smurf was to Donatello, the coolest ninja turtle in the whole gang. Two characters who would never meet, doomed to spend their entire lives in separate cartoons. He let out a choked, half-contained sob, ran out of Dorothy’s office, and kept on going.
            Steve ran out of the building at full-speed and did not stop until he was home, which was two blocks away. Gasping and panting, he let himself in, and then stared into the mirror in his living room. Slowly, he raised his hand to his face, looking at the badass tattoo on his hand and feeling how awesome it made him feel. Perhaps he would go to the store tonight and get himself a tall beer and drink it all. Perhaps he would take up smoking, the way he’d planned to since he was twenty seven. Either way, his tattoos made him special, and – at least until they washed off – he would take joy in their complete awesomeness. And, he thought to himself, smiling fondly, I bet they will really get me some bitches.

Friday, June 29, 2012

FINISHED!

I'm FINISHED. MindTrip is done. Now to let a few people read it, and to get it proofed. If I don't have your email address and you'd like a copy, let me know.

My brain's too tired to think of anything good. I... will simply... post a new old story in celebration.

The people of the village were impoverished and dim-witted, so they were easy targets for con artists and mimes. The town rested on the flatbeds of a small valley. The soil was rich and fertile. Unfortunately, the ignorant folk were unaware of the possible ramifications of agriculture, so they plucked up any stray vegetables that were stuck in the dirt and refused to grow more.
In fact, a small majority of seven families controlled anything even remotely resembling farming. Every winter, Brother Joe would toss out a hand of grain into a field, cackling wildly. Some of the crops grew, but most of them were eaten by birds, who were just pleased that they got so much food.
Crops were few and so everyone pretty much stuck to eating Hostess Twinkies with the occasional Vienna sausage. Folks got their money from stuffing envelopes, an occupation discovered by Jill Anderson when she was surfing the Internet.
So life was happy, even though most of the older people had really bad stomach problems and the smallest children (even little Bob at the tender age of 3) cried for milk instead of Gatorade.

Suddenly, a young sly man strode into the midst of the township. He wore tight blue jeans and a green and red striped shirt. "Is it Christmas?" some of the villagers wondered, but it was not.
No, but this was not an imposing gentleman. He had a silk necktie and a funny moustache that crawled over his face like a centipede making its way up a dogwood tree. His hair was a tousled mass and his nose was normal. His shoes were manufactured by Nike. He looked quite like an older, depraved Bob Saget.
"Lor," he said, shaking his head in a confused manner. "You fellers got any food? I'm hungry."
"Have a Twinkie," said one of the natives, peering at him. "Have a Twinkie, sir."
"No thank you!" stated the gentleman quickly. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name: Seymour."
"Seymour?" asked the town to itself quietly. "Seymour? Seymour."
"And how do you do?" asked Seymour. "I will make a delicious meal if you would like. A delicious meal the likes of which you have never seen!"
"But we are poor," stated a villager. "We are poor and have no food to make a delicious meal."
"Oh, that is fine," said Seymour. "All I need is a big rock and a pot of water. A cauldron, if you have one. That is what is in all the illustrations of the various versions of stories like this, anyways."
"We have a large stone AND a cauldron of water!" cried the fortunate villagers. "But what will you make!"
"It is called Stone Soup," Seymour stated proudly.

Hours later, the rock was cooking up mighty fine. Seymour tasted the soup carefully.
"Blugh!" he cried, spitting out the soup. "I mean, it is not quite done yet. I believe it needs more seasonings. What this soup could use is a nice onion."
"I have onions," one woman said hesitantly. "Several. They grow in my garden."
"May I have one?" asked Seymour.
"No," the woman told him.
Seymour cooked the rock some more. He tried it again, gagging. "This soup could sure use celery!"
"I have some celery," a man told him. "Would you like some?"
"Yes," said Seymour.
"That is too bad," the man told him. "So would everyone else!"
Seymour felt foolish. "Well, does anyone have salt? Or garlic?"
"Yes," said a boy. "I have garlic."
"Hand it here, boy!" shouted Seymour.
The boy handed him a big piece of dirt. "Garlic!" he cried. "Garlic for the stone soup!"
"This is not garlic," spat Seymour, throwing the dirt at him. "I hate you."
Eventually, Seymour got a couple of Vienna sausages and a Twinkie to put in the soup, but it wasn't too good, since no one wanted to give away their food. It took fifteen envelopes to get a Twinkie and twelve to get a Vienna sausage.
The soup wasn't any good and Seymour left the village angrily. Some punks met him on the path and beat him good for trying to trick the good people of the town, and Seymour never ever came back.