Writing Practice 2/27/2019

What is this? See YouTube video:

Something Strange This Way Comes

This is a single sperm of a gigantic rubber monster. It’s about 600 feet tall, and it lives generally in the Amazon rainforest. Last month it was on a multi-national trek, on a press tour or something, and it got kind of antsy. The handlers realized something was wrong, so they jerked it off. These things are the result. They spew out ten million at a time, and when this one here was blown up into the air it caught the attention of an eagle, who mistook it for a fish. The eagle grabbed it in its talons, and returned to its nest, whereupon it found that there was no way in hell that that was a trout or a bass. Instead of returning to the jungle where it was caught, the Eagle simply dumped the rubber sperm over the side of its nest, where it fell to the ground a couple of hundred feet below, then tumbled down a hillside and landed in a stream. This is all in Mexico, remember, because that eagle has quite a wide territory.

Well, about three days of floating in this stream, the rubber sperm ends up in a larger river, which ends up in a larger river, which eventually ends up in the ocean, in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad, except the giant rubber sperm got caught in a blue whale’s mouth as it opened and sucked in [illegible] to capture & eat plankton. That’s all well and good, and would have been fine, except that this rubber sperm didn’t dissolve in the whale’s stomach, and was, in fact, shat out by the whale two days later.

You know what’s gross? Sharks eat whale poop. Yeah, they do. Not on purpose. But they do. So there was a whole colony of sharks following our hero whale with the rubber sperm in its tummy, and when the whale had a massive bowel movement those dudes went crazy; They sucked up all the little half-digested-whale shit they could, and this thing ended up in one of them. Not that bad, really – we find sharks with license plates and buoys in them, for Pete’s sake. But anyway, the shark was going on his merry way, enjoying the Gulf of Mexico, when all of a sudden the producer of Sharknado decided they needed some realism. So they got an artificial typhoon maker and sucked up ten million gallons of water, including our friendly rubber sperm-infused shark. Then they took this artificial dumping ground to Nebraska, no, North Dakota, and dropped it into a tornado, and filmed SharkNado 5 – The SharkPocalypse.

All was well and good until the shoot wrapped, and then the sharks were free to go. One of them decided to make his way to New York to become a dancer, a few went into investment banking, and a couple got married. Our special little guy, though, ended up traveling down the Mississippi River, until he ran smack into Hurricane Ivan, or Whatever it was that hit Texas in 2017. This thing poured a Great Lake’s worth of water on the Mississippi River basin in a day, causing the river to flood. It overflowed all the banks, all the way, inundating all the places. Hell, even out by my house got a foot of standing water, and, unfortunately for the shark, she got caught up in that and stranded on Baxter Road.

She died about three hours later. It took six months, but the scavengers around finally picked off all her flesh, scales, and internal organs, leaving, you guessed it, one Rubber Monster Sperm lying in the gutter, just so I could find it. Isn’t that a coincidence?

Writing Practice – 2/25/2019

A walk in the woods…

Footsteps crunch on brittle lanes. Pebbles scatter before the toe of my boot, startling and chasing away small creatures of 4 legs or no legs, the brown-and-green-and-yellow of a garter snake just barely registering in my mind before it disappears again into the underbrush. I hear chickadees calling, twit-tweet, twit-tweet, echoed falsely by jays, robins, maybe even a crow or a raven. I walk in my ignorance, knowing names of things, but not essences. I can hear bird songs, identifying that they are different, but I am no ornithologist. I cannot, with any certainty at all tell you which is the robin and which is the cardinal’s song. I can recognize their picture, but everything else is a false front. I know nothing for real; all I list on these walks is impostering.

I cannot tell you the difference between granite, quartz, shale, limestone, other than that they will be found in different layers, exposed as the winding streams have cut mercilessly into their hillsides over the last ten million years. Which must mean, then, that those same hillsides are far older than that, right? Which came first, ended up at the bottom of that pile, and will be exposed last: limestone or igneous rocks? See, I cannot even be sure I have the right kinds and thin categories. I have many facts within my head, but little use of them.

I cannot tell you, again, with any kind of certainty, whether you are looking at an aspen, a maple, or a boxwood cedar. I think I could reasonably tell you which is a birch, and maybe an oak; yet to distinguish an apple tree form a box elder would take much more expertise than I can bring.

It’s not that that I am ignorant. I care. I do. When I am in that environment, active, embedded, I listen to my guides and gurus, I understand what they say, I nod along when they explain how the leaves of this species are identified by the thick veining pattern on the underside of their leaves. I pay close attention as she points out the differences in this bark from that. I strain my hearing and indicate, with a subtle nod, that yes, I do hear the differences between the twoot-twoot-twoot of the whippoorwill and the tip-tip-toop-tip of the nuthatch. I concentrate, hard and expressively, on every word that helps me to differentiate the bluebells from the lady slippers growing beside the path. I am a good student, the best, and I ask insightful, meaningful questions, ones that inspire my guide, impress them with my ability to make connections between fauna and flora, that show I am not only paying attention, but that I care, and I will continue to care in the future, and that perhaps they have convinced another disciple, they have converted another recruit, they have a future bird-watcher or tree-hugger or trail-sustainer in their midst, and all their effort has not gone to waste, that I will come alongside them, and will come along behind them, and I will pick up their convservationist bent, and I will continue their work after they are gone, and I will pass that love and passion on to another and another, and another, and these great resources, these great forests, these trees and trails and pine-needle-strewn meadows, they will never disappear, they will always be with us, they will always remind us of our responsibility to care, to husband, to shepherd the world around us, as our responsibility and our privilege for the privilege of living the blessed life we do.

I will let them believe this, for I am a good person, and, then, I will finish my tour, I will walk out of the woods, I will knock the dust off my boots at the edge of the parking lot, and with that dust will fall my intention, my memory, my insightfulness, my burden to carry on their passion, their love of nature, their desire to see this world thrive for generations, centuries, millennia to come, and I will return to my life, my world, retaining nothing more of my experience than a few more names to add to the list of near-meaningless facts accumulating within my mind.

Writing Practice – 2/23/2019

[the punchline of a joke is:] Put up a Bingo sign. [I’ll tell the joke after the writing exercise.]

Here’s the scene: crowded airport, filled with travelers. Small kids with moms, business executives, families heading to another state to take a daughter to college. Within the crowd, one person stands out. It’s a clown, an old-man clown; he’s clearly been doing this a while, because his outfit is frayed and worn. not intentionally, but, yes, intentionally – his yellow suit is “patched” in various places with other colors of fabric, but as you watch you can see where the patches have themselves started to pull away from their seams. The seat of the suit is wearing through and has new holes. The gloves are dingy around the edges, and his shoes – large, exaggerated toe box, thick sole – are black but spotted, as if he’s needed a shine for quite a while but just can’t afford one. Or is too proud.

The clown doesn’t so much fight the crowd as meekly wait for the occasional breaks in the stream, to make his way towards Baggage Claim. The jostling jumbles his make-up occasionally. He usually covers his whole face with white, then comes back again with purple nose and orange oversized lips. Today he has added red cheek spots, in the hopes that looking happier will make him feel happier. It’s not working. The people in the crowd see him, smile, pat him on the back occasionally, maybe stop to take a quick picture – who can blame them? They’ve never seen a clown in an airport before – and then go on their way, when they feel the cloud of sadness wafting form him, rolling off the shoulders of the too-wide suit in waves that reach out five, then, fifteen feet in his wake.

He is not a happy clown today.

He holds a bunch of helium-filled balloons, another attempt to make himself feel what he doesn’t. It’s not working, either, their jumbled rainbow does not inspire joy, or elation, or even much more than a general amusement, even in the other by passers. Occasionally a traveler will stop to consider the logistics, whether the balloons, too, wen through security, or whether they were inflated past the gate. But none really stop long enough to ask the question. Most of those who do, who think of it, feel the blackness, the unseen sadness, radiating off his suit and shoulders and smile-that-isn’t-real and they move along without really knowing what it was that they wanted to say anyway.

Only one person actually talks to him. A young man, perhaps twenty years old, with Down Syndrome, and therefore a much greater appreciation for how hard it can sometimes be in life just to feel like you don’t fit in, stops and talks to him. “Hello,” he says. “Hello,” is the response. “You look sad.” “I am.” “I was sad yesterday. I had some ice cream. Maybe you should eat ice cream.” “Thank you, that is very thoughtful.” “Can I have a balloon?” The clown pauses for a moment, then hands the whole bunch, multi-colored globes and strings of gift ribbon a handful, to the young boy. His face breaks into a huge grin as his escorts frantically wrack their brain wondering how they’ll get these new objects through Security, and before they’ve even had time to ask “Wait, what?”, our clown has moved along. He is not happy, yet, for so many other events of the past three days weigh so heavily on him, but at least lightening his burden also lightened his spirit – a bit.

Our clown has found the DOWN escalator to take him to Baggage Claim and Ground Transportation. He has no baggage (physically) to claim. He carries a briefcase and thirty years of memories. He wishes it weren’t so, that this trip never happened, that he’d been able to reconcile before the end, but, alas, estrangement does strange things. Our clown finally notices his driver, one of only three or so, holding a sign with his name on it -“KYLE” –

“It really should say BINGO,” he thinks. “I mean, really, that’s who I am, right?” He looks at himself, then, and without a moment’s hesitation, and without a moment’s shame, the weight and grief of the past three days come flooding back over him, washing upon his heart like a tidal wave, overpowering him, and Bingo, Bingo the clown, the one who chose his “career” of happiness over his family, who allowed his pursuit of passion to drive a wedge between himself and his mother, his now-dead mother, his dead mother who never approved, who couldn’t see anything other than a whole in fancy-colored clothes, who herself was incredibly closed-minded, judgemental, rude and simple, who was now dead and rotting in a box six states away back where he’d left the family immediately after the funeral, his mother, he knew, would scold him for crying like this, for making a scene in the airport, for blabbering and streaking all that fake-up and messing up his old, worn suit, and causing a scene, his mother would have scolded him and told him to shape up, she wold have wipe his whole face clean of orange nose and purple lips and clear tars and yellow snot, she would have said, “There, there’s my boy, there, Kyle, why don’t we go home now,” and Bingo, he should have gone along, he would have buried his head in the corner of her shoulder, between her neck and her arm, he wold have felt her love and acceptance, for him, at least, if he were Kyle and not some simple sad sack clown, if he’d gotten a real job like architect or manager of the water treatment facility, or, hell, anything that wasn’t performing, he would have felt safe and comfortable, but – he couldn’t because he had missed out on all that those last 30 years, and now she was gone, and he was alone again, and, stupid pride, that’s all it was, stupid, so as Bingo/Kyle stood in the airport Baggage Claim and his tears dried and his snot ran onto his upper lip, he waited. He waited for a sign. For something inside his mind to tell him what was the right thing to do.

He didn’t know.

So , he waited.

***

Q: How do you get 500 old crows into a barn?

A: Put up a Bingo sign.

Writing Practice – 2/18/2019

Describe this man…

This man is confident. He smiles as if he knows he is better than you. He holds his hands together in front of him as if he is pointing at you, to say, “You should be intimidated by me, and because of how handsome I am.”

Yes, he is handsome. His hair is flopped over slightly on his head, short, straight, medium-trimmed. It is not close-cropped, but not hanging past his ears, either. This is a look which has been carefully cultivated. HIs cheek bones stand out from the flush of his cheeks just slightly. His ears fall back tight against his head. They don’t stick out, which would give him an idiotic, imbecilic look.

His shoulder, inside his suit, are proportionate, straight level across, not sloping, not stooped. He holds himself this way and we recognize his power, his alpha qualities. We see in his body that strength of authority. Yet his necktie is slightly askew; slightly off at the little crook beneath his neck. Does this imply he’s a bit lax at times? Or just that he wants to appear “approachable”? Like, “Hey, I’m not really a bad guy, you can talk to me. I promise I’ll listen.”

His eyes, half-closed, suggests a smirk with his lips. These tell me he thinks about me; he wants me to come over and gather round, to hear his tale he is about to tell. He wants to hold this audience in rapt attention for five minutes, ten, fifteen, as the crowd at the cocktail party gradually swells, noting the attention and coming to find out what all the fuss is about. And he knows, too, that his story is thrilling, enthralling, so he continues to speak, to add details, wild and exorbitant that bring his audience even more delight, and as new people glom onto the back, they whisper to one another what’s happening, and they hear similarly whispered responses recapping the tale of adventure so far, how he and his wife were driving one night and picked up a hitchhiker, who turned out to be a billionaire, and they ended up at the billionaire’s home, and now he’s telling how there were thirty people in the pool, all in various states of nakedness, “Oh my, can you imagine, I never,” and he’s got this story down, he’s completely mesmerizing thirty or so guests in this new dinner party, he’s the center of attention, and soon he realizes that he’s pushed the limits of credibility to their furthest ends, any more and even he won’t believe it could have gone like that, and so, with a flourish, with a large loft of his glass to toast the room, he winds up the story with a wild “And, so, my friends, to adventure!” And all their cheers resound through the night, and they all drink toast, Cheers!, and then gradually, and suddenly, and middlingly, they distribute, they disperse themselves back out to rejoin the party, [illegible] a man, this strong, confident, Alpha male, remaining behind with his date, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her a little tighter, sips and finishes his drink, places the glass on a table behind himself, and leaves, to bask in the gazes of the experience, having once more justified, validated, ensconced himself at the top of the social totem pole once more.

Writing Practice – 2/17/2019: Imaginary Friends

Imaginary friends…

My imaginary friends are having a real war, and it’s taking a toll on my room. Last night Katie threw my Spider-Man across the room at Jacob. It missed him but hit the mirror and knocked it off the shelf.

Mom says that she doesn’t believe me, that it’s not me doing it, but Dad does. He always takes my side. I wish they weren’t so made t each other, but, sometimes I don’t get what I want.

Katie told me she doesn’t want to be my friend any more, if Jake is still coming around. She said I have to choose – who am I going to pick her or him? I told her I don’t want to pick. Why can’t I have both? Why can’t things be like they used to be?

It started like two years ago. Mom told me that’s when I started having nightmares, but I don’t remember that part. She says she would hear me screaming about monsters. She would come in and check on me, tell me it was okay, and leave. I didn’t remember that part. I do remember that a lot of times I would wake up and Dad was lying in the bed next to me, his arm around my shoulders.

“Hey, big guy,” he’d say, when I woke up. “You were having another bad night, huh?” I didn’t remember him coming in to my room, either, but i do remember when I met Katie and Jake. I was out at the swingset, no – maybe it was the little creek out at the community park – anyway, all of a sudden I heard two other voices and they were arguing, too.

I was able to stop them from that argument, and they made up. They were okay, and I was okay with each of them. I like Jake a little more; he’s about two years old than me, he doesn’t like to ride bikes like I do, so I have to play at the park when he’s already there.

We don’t hang out with Katie much any more. We did for a while. She’s a little younger than Jake so she’s just a little older than me. She likes to ride bikes, so we do that together. She says her grandma promised her a gear-shifter bike for her next birthday, but when ask when that is, she always says, “oh, in a couple of months.” I’ve had two birthdays since I met her, and she hasn’t had any.

I’m afraid if I keep going to like this that she’s not going to get any older, but I will. I might grow out of my imaginary friends. I grew out of my hi-tops last year and my older brother grew out of his shorts and that’s why I have his. I don’t want to grow out of my friends. I want them to stay with me.

But Mom says that I need to leave them behind. It’s not that they can’t help me anymore, she says. It’s just that they don’t need to be there every day. Dad says it’s okay. He thinks as long as I have a way to “process” those things it will be fine.

Sometimes, I wish I did just leave them behind – you know, go out and live by myself. But then I realize I’m only ten, and I can’t give them up that easily. Who’ll take care of me? I can’t get a job. Now way I could take care of myself.

Writing Practice – 2/8/2019

One of your eyes, hands, or feet will be taken as payment to vote in the next election. Do you vote? If so, which do you give up?

Of course I vote. It is not only a civic duty, but there are real consequences for the fact that I have to get out of power whoever it is that has put this policy in place. At this rate, I can only vote 6 times unless something changes, and that’s not a lot. So I’m going to create the “One-Eyed, One-Armed, One-Legged” coalition, and we’re all going to band together and vote for politicians who don’t want that policy to continue.

As for me, first I’d choose to lose my left hand. I write with my right, so I need that. Second preference, 4 years down the road, is that I lose my right leg. I guess maybe I could go left. But that would seem unbalanced, like all my RoboCop is only on one side of me. Because let’s be real, I”m gonna get prosthetics or artificial limbs or something. I could do a lot with that pinch-grabby thing on my non-writing hand, and when it comes down to it, those dudes who run on those fake blade-legs look pretty damn cool.

So – if we don’t get the policy changed after 2 election cycles, I have a big decision to make – Lose an eye, and therefor binocular vision, or one of my remaining really popular appendages? Because, face it, in a market with just one hand, that one becomes much more than twice the value of one in a market where there’s two. I really need hand for doing the stuff I do – putting DVD’s into the player, jerking off, turning down the lights – so I guess I”ll give up a foot before the other hand.

Why, though? Why wouldn’t it be better to lose an eye, and learn to compensate as a full half-a-man, rather than lose the foot and have to either wobble on two blades or get crutches or a wheelchair or something? Maybe because if I lose the other foot, but I can still see really well, I’ll be competent enough to drive a wheelchair, and then I can enter wheelchair runs. I bet I couldn’t do that with only 1 eye and 1 leg. Poor depth perception, I’d probably run off the road into the ditch too many times.

Do kids these day even know what ditches are? Should they? Well, yes, they should, because it’s a thing around them. But do they really understand wha goes on in them? Hell, do I?

How did I get on this topic? Don’t think, don’t get logical. That’s how.

Would I survive the loss of a 4th element of my body just to vote? I’m guessing that by that time, if we haven’t had a large enough groundswell of voting and turnout and momentum to swing the legislature towards the “vote without blood” side, we probably won’t ever win, because by the fourth or fifth time, we’ll have enough people who’ll be like, “damn it, I lost both my eyes voting, I don’t want to let youngsters vote for free,” and so they’ll vote, but they’ll vote for the “pay to vote” candidates. Kind of like a fraternity – once you pay your dues, you don’t want to let freeloaders in. Does this develop a sort of social signaling system, whereby only those who have “sacrificed” in order to vote are viewed as committed enough to the cause to get the good-paying jobs, the management positions, the raises and bonuses? Man, that’s a weird world I have in my head. Hope nobody ever goes in there. They’d come out screaming in terror.

Writing Practice 2/4/2019

A lady in the streets, but a freak in the bed.

Miss Madame Margaret Marybelle Morton walked the thick-choked streets of London with her parasol in one hand, the other clutching her new purchase tightly beneath her elbow. The box wiggled occasionally, and with the jostling of the crowd she wished not to lose her grip and expose the contents to the onlookers, for the benefit of herself and them. That had happened before, and the terrified gasps that inevitably resulted not only pained her delicate ears, they also led to public shaming, ridicule, and required Miss Morton to leave the city. It had happened twice before, in both Admonton-on-Leeds and Shirshey, and now that she had established herself here in London, she hoped to avoid yet another uprooting.

Miss Morton threaded her way carefully, through the crowds, her parasol not only intended to keep the sun off her neck but also to ensure she fit in with this society. It sometimes bothered her that she was so different in so many ways, and yet such a feeling could be mollified by the appearance, such as now, in that group in public in which she simply looked like everyone else, and it was easy to believe that none of them were any the wiser.

She reacher he building after only about ten minutes’ walk from where she procured her purchase, and it had settled. Good. Perhaps the shock of uprooting and dumping into the box had worn off; that would make the next few minutes easier. Lady Morton had tried to teach her daughter other ways, but the younger had never really took to those, so… she must live like this.

In through the door with her key, up the three flights of stairs, inside the flat’s single locked door once again, and Miss Morton could finally drop the parasol and the accompanying charade. Off went the overcoat, off went the petticoat, and out came the fangs.

Miss Morton carried the box, with the squirming, living, breathing, now suddenly squealing rat into her bedroom. She had taken each and every stitch of clothing from her body and dropped them in the living room entryway, forgotten for the moment as her hungry mind lusted for its soon-to-be-feast. She gently closed the bedroom door and set the small box upon the duvet cover.

She knelt before it, feeling the softness of the sheets on her knees. With trembling hand she reach out and lifted the lid. The breath caught in her throat as she felt her stomach clench in wondrous anticipation. There it was – thick, brown, beady-eyed, a fine specimen.

She lifted the rat from the box and it squirmed, slightly, wrapping its tail around her wrist. It squealed, and she felt a smile creep across her face. The miniature claws scratched at thin air, and she placed her other hand near them, to let it rake against her palm. Would it draw blood? No, not this time. Just as well. She tightened her grip on the animal and brought it towards her face. She could smell its musk, dank, like the sewers, dark like the night. She inspected its back. The bite mark she’d left there in the shopkeep’s presence an hour earlier, her teeth-marks as she tested the goods, were still visible, the blood having dried in the two opposing crescents. She felt her smile widen even more. Miss Morton opened wide, turned to expose the soft underbelly, and began to get her freak on.