Intro to Skinny Longhead

You would think that people would learn a lesson, but the Bone Macaws were not the lesson-learning kind, so when little Jimmi Macaw picked a fight with Skinny Longhead, it was purely the result of lessons not learned. Most everyone agreed he’d have it coming, whatever it was that came. He called her out in the middle of English class. He stood right up at his desk while teacher Williams was still talking and he looked right at Skinny Longhead and said, in the least crackly voice he could muster,

“Skinny Longhead, I am calling you out.”

The other children in the room snickered nervously, and teacher Williams cleared her throat and said “ahem” but Skinny Longhead merely whipped her yellow ponytail around and snarled viciously,

“I hear you,” she said.

She paused a moment for effect and then added, softly,

“Now sit the fuck down Jimmi and I’ll whip your ass later.”

“Skinny Longhead!” teacher Williams nearly shouted. “Language!”

Skinny Longhead laughed out loud watching Jimmi quake a little before sitting back down in the row beside her.

“Now class,” teacher Williams continued, “Let us continue with our lesson. Where were we?”

“Whipping his ass later,” Joudy Smallbird said and all the children snickered again.

“Romeo, Romeo,” teacher Williams corrected her. “We were talking about the word “wherefore” and what it means in the context Juliet uses it.”

“Wherefore she going to whip his ass real good,” said Antic Monsoon-Feeder, as always eager to get in on the misbehavior.

“He’s going to learn a lesson for sure this time,” Rosary Alders added.

Teacher Williams sighed. She knew very well that Jimmi Macaw was not going to learn any lesson, not now and not ever. The Bone Macaws were not the lesson-learning kind.

Advertisements

45,000 Lawns

When I was five years old I wanted to have a life’s work. I didn’t know what that meant. I just overheard my mother use that phrase. She said it as if it was something very valuable, something not many people possessed, only the very lucky few. She said she was not one of those people. As far as she could tell, she would spend the rest of her days doing other people’s laundry and taking out their trash. So I asked her, if you could have a life’s work, what would it be? She thought about it for a moment, and then said, you know? I can’t think of anything!

I was not happy with that answer. I was only five, and didn’t have much experience with the world, so I couldn’t think of anything either, but I decided right then and there to make it my mission to have a life’s work. I locked myself in my room and told myself I couldn’t have another pretzel until I’d thought of a life’s work of my own, and since I loved pretzels more than anything, you can tell I was really serious. I stared at the walls of my room. I stared at the floor. I stared at my toys. I looked out the window. That was when I had my big idea.

Lawns.

I grew up in a small city in the mid-west where everybody had a lawn, even the poorest of the poor had a small patch of something in their back yard, maybe it was only weeds, and maybe it was mostly broken cement, but they counted. Even my mom’s sorry excuse for a backyard counted for a lawn. I looked at that patch of dirt and dandelions and I said to myself, George? (my name is George). You are going to make that lawn count if it’s the last thing you do. But no, I said to myself. Not make the lawn count. Count the lawn! That’s the thing. I was going to count the lawns, every last lawn I ever encountered for as long as I lived.

I did not originally have a target number in mind. I thought maybe there were about a hundred lawns in the world, and at the time, one hundred was the biggest number I knew. I didn’t hesitate. I was never a dawdler. I ran right down the stairs and raced outside and stared counting lawns.

It wasn’t enough to see them. I had to physically occupy them in one way or another, even if only for an instant. That’s how I came upon the strategy of “one step, one vote”. I ran up and down the street, “tagging” every lawn in the neighborhood with either my right or my left foot (never both). I soon got quite carried away, so carried away in fact that by the time I counted my forty-fifth lawn I was already blocks from home and had no idea where I was.

When the police woman found me all I could tell her was that my name was George, and that my house had the sorriest excuse for a lawn, and that my mother did not possess a life’s work whatsoever. I don’t know how they ever tracked her down, but they did.

Of course I never told her what I was up to, not then, and not ever, not even when I graduated from high school some eleven thousand, two hundred and eighteen lawns later, and not when I graduated from law school, where I studied property law and amassed a total of twenty six thousand four hundred and ninety lawns by the time I passed the state bar. Somehow I knew it was nothing to be particularly proud of, especially on those occasions when my life’s work got me into trouble.

I was something of an expert on trespassing by then, but even experts make mistakes.

Still I kept my secret, even under severe cross-examination and throughout the lost years I spent in prison when I stepped on no lawns at all. I can promise you that the first thing I did on my release was begin to make up for all that time. I racked up hundreds more within my first few months of freedom.

I became a connoisseur of lawn treading. I began to resist the urge to stomp on every mere patch, reserving the right to refuse steps for lawns that didn’t measure up to my increasingly lofty standards. Now my lawns were required to be cared for, to be respected if not always treasured. My lawns deserved a degree of dignity. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a figure had begun to take shape, the number 45,000 began appearing in my dreams and randomly occurring to me even during daylight hours. Perhaps it was a shadow, a reflection of those early forty-five, the first I had counted before I got lost and had sat down by the side of the road, sobbing and miserable and certain I was doomed forever.

Now, as I approached the numinous integer, I applied my standards ever more rigorously, until there was hardly a lawn that qualified for my attention. I stalled out in the mid forty-four thousands, and for an entire sixteen months I stepped on nary a lawn. Finally I decided to break through this blockage, this self-inflicted obstacle barricading me from the achievement of my life’s work, and I resolved to trod on every lawn until I reached that sacred figure and that once I did, my journey would be complete. Only then could I rest.

So you see, your honor, that’s what I was doing in Mrs. Jenkins backyard on the evening of the 27th. I was certainly not attempting to break into her house, and of course I always wear all black when I go out counting lawns. Doesn’t everyone?

 

(the narrator would like to think that this story has been illustrated in the manner of the classic children’s book, Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millions_of_Cats)

Renegade Cover Art

Thanks to a blog post by my friend and much-admired writer Michael Graeme, I went back to look at some of the books I’d posted ages ago on the (rather dodgy)website Free-Ebooks.net (tip, you can self-publish there for free as long as you side-step their efforts to get your money). There I was surprised to find they had created and posted all-new covers for several of my books. I’m not complaining. It’s a pretty obscure site that never generated much interest in my stories . I just find it fairly hilarious. Here are some of their attempts:

 

My favorite is probably Secret Sidewalk (perhaps because it is my personal favorite of all my books) though it captures nothing at all of the content. Snapdragon Alley is not so bad either.

Really Bad Fan Fiction #1: Spiderman

Peter Parker, the young superhero slash photographer, was out with his camera wandering around the truly shit parts of the city. He visited a homeless encampment under the freeway and, inspired by the works of Dorothea Lange, took a number of heart-rending photos of some unfortunates who live there. They were dizzy from hunger and dirty from outdoor living, and there was nothing that Peter Parker or Spiderman could really do for them. He could shoot webs from his wrists and that would be of no help whatsoever. He could swing from pillar to post all day long beneath that filthy iron superstructure and not one single rag would turn to even a hint of far-off riches. Peter Parker took his camera and his photos back to the Daily Bugle where he showed them to his tyrannical editor, Mr. Jameson. Jameson took a healthy bite out of his cigar and growled, “get the fuck out of my office you little pipsqueak, and don’t ever try to sell me this kind of stupid sentimental sob story ever again. No one really gives a fuck about these homeless people. They are no one’s priority, not now and not ever. Now go out there and find me some awesome shots of Spiderman kicking some bad guy’s ass. That’s what the people want.” Parker left the office feeling low and later confided his feelings to his girlfriend Mary Jane, but she was also kind of grossed out by the pictures. “I don’t even want to know”, she said. Mary Jane was just like everybody else. She was the girl next , and she was you too, and you know it. Peter Parker decided right then and there to renounce violence and crime-fighting forever. If I can’t help people who really need help, he thought, why should I go around supporting the police state, which can and does get along just fine without me? I might as well get a real job.

I gave it my all. Now I want my all back.

I thought I had a great idea last night, in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping. I tend to narrate in my dreams, and in this dream I was not only narrating the dream but deciding that this was a kind of narrating that I could carry over into the waking life, and that it would work quite well. The idea was to write just the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story. With huge gaps in between. So it would be like the first five minutes of a movie, then a five minute scene an hour into it, and then a bit of the ending as well. I might have had this idea because of a movie I watched last night before bed, a pretty terrible American remake of a pretty good Argentine move (The Secret in their Eyes). There were only a handful of good scenes, so why not just write those, and the hell with the rest of it?

So tonight I sat down and thought I’d give it a whirl. Nope. Nothing came of it. Some ideas are just bad ideas.

Here are some other bad ideas: a story is like a roommate. You want a roommate, and at first you think, ok, this could work out, but pretty soon that roommate starts to drive you crazy. They are always in your home! They have their own agenda. They want what they want, not what you want. Pretty soon you’d give anything to get rid of that roommate. So you hurry up and finish the story. At least I do. Usually two or three weeks is all I can take. It’s also why my story’s endings tend to suck, because I just cannot wait to be done with them. Get them out of the house. Throw them onto the internet so they can’t complain. What do you want? I gave you to the world! Frickin’ lousy roommate, get out of my head.

I could do all those “fragments from books that don’t exist” because they were more like one-night stands. I was only allowed to spend up to an hour on each one, including both the cover art and the writing. But even that became tiresome after 99 of them. I couldn’t even do one more to make it an even hundred. That was six months of doing, at a clip of three or four a week. Enough was enough.

But now I’m looking for another set of improvisational/performance-type fiction. Short and sweet little beasts that won’t hang around and pester me with their arcs and clingy need for development and resolution. I don’t want characters inhabiting my home. I want them to merely visit for a brief spell, and then go away.

Maybe I’ll chop up the dream idea, and instead of writing a beginning AND a middle AND  an ending, I could just pick whichever one I felt like doing, and do that.

One of my favorite books is “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler”, in which Italo Calvino writes the first chapter of ten different books, all in a row. It’s quite a feat.

Stanislaw Lem’s “A Perfect Vacuum” is a collection of reviews of books that don’t exist. Loved that one too.

And then there is ‘The Museum of the Novel of Eterna’, by Macedonio Fernandez, which begins with dozens of hilarious prefaces. My own book ‘Macedonia’ was a tribute to that.

A lot of people hate meta. A lot of people are also Republicans. You can’t worry about things like “a lot of people”.

I still want roommates, but very very temporary ones. So I’ll come up with something. Even if I have to stick it out for two or three weeks. It’s usually worth it.

 

 

 

This and That – a Feed Book (completed)

ThisAndThat

Finished up today and posted on Smashwords as well as Kindle and Wattpad (where it was born and bred). Sometimes you just have to stop and say it’s done.

Description: Told in the style of a combined social media feed, ‘This and That’ relates several overlapping and interwoven stories; a woman facing treatment for cancer, a man held hostage for no reason by a foreign government, a global corporation enamored of its power and reach, an unstable future world disorder, and more. Filled with drama, pathos and dark, dark humor, ‘This and That’ is a piece of performance fiction that was improvised live as it didn’t actually happen.

Fragments from books that don’t exist: Graham Had a BMW

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.