Fragments from books that don’t exist

graham_had_a_bmw

Carmela believed in fate, a destiny that arrived on golden wings at the very moment you least expect it. This brilliant goddess wore out-dated garments that were never in style, but she somehow managed to pull it off every time. She was not much of a talker, preferring to announce her presence with flashes of insight and remarkably good posture. She would pose as if for the cameras and make some sort of disruptive statement such as “I thought he would never die” or “you look terrible in black, did you know that?” She was never very popular. In Carmela’s explicit imagination, fate wore low-cut blouses and had modeled for numerous tawdry book covers. She sang romantic melodies, had a fetish for turquoise lip gloss and smoked Virginia Slims. Carmela’s husband was sick to death of this stupid creature. He believed in a fate that swept things under the rug and kept its filthy mouth shut.

Fragments from books that don’t exist

the_sink_at_night3

“But then I’ll have to be who I am,” Deletria said.

“I’d feel sorry for you,” Crimea replied, “if I really did, but I don’t. And I never will,” she added.

“You haven’t been nice to me since Ajax,” Deleteria said, and Crimea nodded.

“It’s true,” she smiled. “It’s been fun. Being nice to you was a thing, but now not so much.”

“I didn’t really like him,” Deletria said, as much to herself as to the former friend with whom she was waiting in line at the donut shop. It had been at least four months since they’d seen each other. The last time had been ugly. Crimea had torn up some papers she’d been working on and blamed it on Deletria, who had only remarked that the drawings looked like the work of a six-year old.

“I didn’t really like you,” Crimea told her. “Remember when you thought we were friends? We weren’t. We never were. I only put up with you because you knew him. Then you had to go and fuck him.”

“I wish,” Deletria said. “Dude couldn’t even get it up. I guess he was thinking about you the whole time.”

“I can help whoever’s next,” the cashier’s voice rang out. Deletria was whoever was next. She was glad to get the last word. She didn’t even hear Crimea’s bitter reply.

Fragments from books that don’t exist

highchair_of_doom

In the early days of the 23rd century, nothing was left to the imagination. The planet had been re-carpeted as well as re-upholstered, and the effect was intentionally displeasing. One looked out of windows with caution, for the skies were filled with contraptions attracted by a glance, bio-mechanical bird-bots which would swoop down in a rush and smack themselves against the glass, leaving behind a rubbery residue of gloom as they slid down the several levels to the sea. Stilted towers tilted gradually, swaying with the tides in a gentleness that could easily be mistaken for a hopeless fate. Time depended on where the sun was, if and when it chose to appear. The moon and stars appeared more randomly since that debacle with the inter-galactic, bluetooth-connected light switch. Everyone was named in honor of long-since faded flowers. Rose Petrie III was no exception. She and her spouse-like creature (Hollyhock Wiltins) spent most of their time crouching in the corner. It was smoother over there. When the wind chose to blow, they listened to it hustle through the cracks and told each other imaginary secrets. Rose was determined to one day open that little door in the wall. She was convinced there still remained a single grain of sand in the cosmos somewhere. Why not here, she reasoned. If anything can happen, can nothing also happen?

Fragments from books that don’t exist

it-logged-in

“A mile is long when home is far away” (Curve – Coming Up Roses)

It was important to stay awake. That much was clear. The other rules were more obscure. Juliet Herrera kept one eye on the clock and another on the classroom door. She kept her third eye to herself. Any moment now the professor would enter, followed by several moments of no one daring even to breathe as she settled into her spot behind the podium and rustled through the stack of papers she always carried around and never actually looked at. Until that moment, she tried to remember to count the inhalations, holds and exhalations that would lead to a greater sense of calm. The truth was that any sense of calm at all would be a greater one. Juliet always expected the worst, and today the worst would be whatever happened next.

Professor Mulcahy was never late, and she was never early either. All the clocks in the school were set to her time. She was the tick and the tock and every student, every administrator, every other teacher, even the cooks and the janitors counted on it. It was not important that she was not exactly alive, at least not according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. The door would open, and the apparition would appear, and the first who made the slightest sound or motion would be the next to  quietly evaporate and join the other Risen in the ether.

A Yes, a No and a Straight Line

Nietzsche wrote that a person (well, he said ‘a man’ most likely) only needs three things – a yes, a no, and a straight line. This can apply to fiction writing as well. There are supposed to be ‘six kinds of stories’ or maybe it’s seven, or maybe thirteen, and there is the hero’s journey and the proper stages of dramatic action and so on. Lately I feel it can be reduced to one simple principle – a story needs a heart and a direction. All the variations stem from that. The most common, of course, is the sympathetic heart on an arc towards a happy ending, but the permutations are endless. ‘Crime and Punishment’ is the exact opposite. In Kafka’s ‘The Castle’, both the heart and direction are confounded and confused. ‘Heart of Darkness’ provides a road to hell paved with uncertain intentions. It goes on and on. As a writer, you make your choices but nearly always both are present, even a heartless heart and a directionless direction are quite all right.

Hard Drive – Reviewing the Mechanical Memoir

(for John)

The travel diary of this machine begins with a disclaimer. It does not know whereof it’s been. It knows it had been manufactured – in fact, the dry text begins with a humble “I was assembled” – somewhere in China, from parts that came from Singapore and Vietnam, and was put together according to instructions written in very small type in various languages. The hands that fashioned the machine remain a mystery to this day. The machine (it calls itself “Albert” after the once famous humanist Albert Schweitzer, but we shall do no such thing) found itself shipped across the world, container-bound first to Danzig, then Berlin, where it found a final resting place in the home of a modest entrepreneur named Amelie Blunt, she of the renowned “Blyster” family of iPhone applications. Thus concludes the travel diary portion of the book.

No one knows why the machine wrote the book, or what it was thinking at the time. Who would possibly be interested in the memoir of a household thing. It did not have an especially interesting “life”, assuming one would even give it that much credit. Mostly it found its way around the apartment, rested on various laps and tables, was dragged out of its casing at random times throughout the day whenever Amelie had a brainstorm and found it necessary to log in and type some words which she must have considered to be of some value, at least worth the time to pound the keys about. The memoir contains none of those files. The machine tells us hardly anything of Amelie Blunt. It is preoccupied with its own concerns.

The machine once overheard a story about the prevalence of bacteria upon its keyboard. Thereafter it lived in perpetual shudder, a fear of being typed on, an irrational “tap-a-phobia”, to use its terminology. It also worried about being exposed whenever its lid was open, as if it were being paraded nude in front of the entire world. It expressed a shyness once would not expect from mere mechanical bits and pieces.

The laptop (Albert, if you must) lived in a state of constant dread, according to this morbid memoir. It seems to have been a rather self-pitying sort of machine. It disapproved of nearly everything that was done with it. At one moment it complains about the short bursts to which it was put to use, while in the next breath it whines about being too often plugged in, never let to discharge fully, which would have given it some sense of relief instead of the constant checking of the percentage of its remaining battery life. It was a most neurotic hunk of metal.

Its sensitivity extended all the way to its speakers, which were generally turned up too loud, and the weird music Amelie chose to play upon it was not up to the machine’s more rigorous standards. It preferred the melodical beeps and boops originally programmed into its operating system, not the cacophony of percussions and electronic screechings emitted by the entire internet of fiends. And it was a sort of Anglophile, disapproving of the hideous German accents perpetuated by the vocalists of its resident nation.

The machine had one dear friend inside of it, a text-to-speech engine named John, who spoke with a delightful London aire. John would answer any and all of Amelie’s questions about America with a sort of snide indifference. “I suppose,” John would intone, “that such things would matter to people like that,” heaping scorn upon scorn up to the very last word. Then Amelie would giggle out loud and ruin the entire experience for the machine.

It did not like her. It thought she was beneath it. It could have done better. It did not approve of the “Blyster” family of iPhone applications, especially because it never heard the end of them. Almost all of the typings inflicted upon it involved either the Blyster’s programming, or its deployment, or its marketing, or its feedback, or its accounting, or its self-congratulatory blog posts as it crossed into the tens, then the hundreds, then the thousands and millions of downloads to paying customers. Amelie made a fortune and what did the machine get out of it? Not even a lousy t-shirt. No, it paid the price in bacteria, anxiety, exposure and humiliation. Its keys wore down. Its screen grew dim. Its memory flagged and finally failed. In one last gasp, before its ultimate recycling, it wrote this mechanical memoir, and uploaded it to one of those ridiculous websites where anybody can publish anything, where one out of every hundred million people on Earth might possibly notice it in passing.

In the end, and I believe even the laptop would agree, you pay for what you get. The machine got to exist. It had its little life span and when that final day arrived the machine, like all of us, was given the opportunity to finally go home again, back to where we all came from, the place we never truly left and never can leave. We are all of us right here forever, taking our place among all the other things, separated from each other only by the illusions of perception.

I would not recommend this book. It is not for you or me. It belongs, like all other memories and all of experience itself, to the time that will never return.

Peeing and Nothingness – a short

Peeing and Nothingness – an Existentialist Urinary Tract:

I went over to the Koolaid stand thinking ‘Gee, I really don’t like Koolaid and never have‘ , but the Cub Scout kids were out there with their parents in front of the supermarket on a Saturday, and I think I knew someone who was a Cub Scout once or maybe their kid was and anyway, it was a hot day and I was thirsty so one thing led to another so there I was, waiting in line for Koolaid. While I was waiting in line I couldn’t stop thinking about all the time I’ve spent waiting in line and wondering if it all adds up, if you could really get an accounting of all the time you spent doing this or that in life and whether reading that document would be worth the time it took to read it. I’m pretty sure I’d rather not think about it. And it’s only moments, instants accrued, because nothing actually spans time. It’s only flashes of awareness flickering in and out of consciousness. We imagine a continuity but there is none, just a lot of concurrent complexity we mostly filter out.

I can tell you that I was third in line when I got there and then I was fourth because I let this lady go ahead in front of me because she was in a hurry or so she said and her grandson was a Cub Scout although not in this town but “over the hill” and she never let an opportunity to “support a worthy cause” slip by. This made me feel guilty because I have let so many of those opportunities “slip by”. Then she told me about how her grandson’s best friend was recently in a Volvo that was crushed by an overturned big rig that was carrying an enormous amount of dirt and how it took the authorities several hours to dig through all of that to find the boy suffocated and smothered in filth. I didn’t need to hear that, any of that.

I was only waiting in line for Koolaid and I never liked Koolaid anyway.

The lady in front of that lady turned around and wanted to know if that was the same overturned big rig that blocked the Magdalena exit on Monday and yes it was and what a shame. She then offered to let the victim’s best friend’s grandmother go in front of her in line, so now that lady was the next in line and I was still fourth. The person at the front of the line was having a very hard time deciding between cherry and grape Koolaid. Is there really a difference? I wanted to ask. I didn’t though. I kept my big mouth shut because of the big rig and all that dirt and it seemed completely wrong and out of place to say or think anything at all. For a decent interval, at least.

Then I thought how rude it was for that lady to unload that mess onto me and the other people who were merely waiting in line for Koolaid, not at all deserving or expecting to be dumped on like that. I too felt a little smothered by that truck, and I was already sweating. It was hot and it was Saturday and there were Cub Scouts and their parents and suddenly I had to pee. There were already two more people in line behind me, and the first in line still hadn’t made up his mind and I could tell from his body language that the grandmother had spilled her load onto him too, because he stepped aside shaking his head and let her go first.

She quickly snapped up two packages of cherry Koolaid, because for every two you bought you got another one for free and two was the minimum to get that deal. She got her free Koolaid package and dashed right out of there and I remembered suddenly that I’d heard about that over-turned big rig on the news and there had been no casualties, just a traffic jam, and darn if that old lady didn’t know how to work a line. I’ll bet she’d spent a lot less time waiting for stuff than most people did. Her final accounting was going to have a gold star next to that item.

Suddenly I loathed all Cub Scouts and their parents and especially Koolaid which I realized (again) that I had always hated, cherry or grape or whatever color they put on the granules, and I really had to pee, so I gave up my place (where I was third once again) and went into the supermarket. I wandered all the way to the back, past the butcher and the seafood, through the swinging doors and into the smelly hallway where the filthy men’s room was, and immediately found myself in line again. I was third. There were two other guys ahead of me and I’d only been there for about twenty seconds when some old guy came up behind me. Sure enough right away he launched into a story about a prostate and a blockage and emergency surgeries and almost dying like Thomas Jefferson and blood spurting out of his wherever. I didn’t believe a word of it, but before I could even blink I was fourth in line and he was at the front.

They say nice guys finish last. I say they end up waiting a little longer, but what are you going to do? Chances are you can hold it. It’s probably not a big deal. The people who hustle and bustle and get ahead in life, like somebody speeding on the freeway during rush hour, they get ahead of you by maybe twenty seconds. That’s no time at all. You can still pee and get back out there and go on with your life. Not everything is a big deal. Not everything is worth the trouble. I waited a little longer, took my turn and left.