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Sunday, May 21, 2017

374. Writing

“What in the world are you doing?”

C.W. looked up at me. He had been hunched over my laptop computer typing furiously. I would describe his shape closer to John Steinbeck, the author, than anyone. A lit cigarette dangled from his mouth. “What?”

“You’d better put that thing out before my wife gets home,” I said.

“Nuts,” he said. He took a long drag, walked to door, and flipped the butt away. He returned and sat at the laptop again, seeming to forget I was there. He typed for a moment, then appeared to notice my presence. He looked at me. “Don’t you have something to do?”

“I hope that if I do, I won’t need my computer for it.”

“Use Mrs. Big Dope’s,” said. “She’s not here.”

“I don’t share your death wish. Just what, exactly, are you doing?”

“Updating Elmore Leonard’s rules of good writing. It’s time someone did.”

“Oh,” I said, “such as his advice to ‘leave out the part that readers tend to skip?’”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I have one better.”

“Oh?”

He turned to the laptop screen, “If you feel compelled to write a lengthy flashback, stab yourself in the foot with an icepick instead.”

“That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

“Never shirk from suffering for your art,” he said, “That’s another one.”

“Suffer?”

He read again, “Before attempting to describe a sex scene, digest a good laxative. Both your body and your readers will thank you.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Here’s another. Don’t dignify a child character with insight, logic, or meaningful dialogue.” Before I could respond, he continued. “Unless you are certain that you are William Faulkner reborn in a new skin, and ready to take up where he left off, don’t ever include a sentence containing more than 14 words, including adverbs and em dashes—which you should omit anyway—no matter how strongly you are tempted.”

Aching to respond, I chose instead to listen. He was on a roll.

“Never write a novel using the present tense,” he said, “That isn’t story telling, it’s stage direction.”

For this one, I nodded in agreement.

“If all you want to write about is angst,” he said, “do us all a favor and join a monastery.”

“Uh,” I said. “I don’t think there would be any modern novels being published.”

He ignored me. “If a man buys his wife a new gas range in Chapter One, make sure someone finds his head in it by Chapter 20.”

What can I say? - C.W.

I had to think about this one.

“Avoid using the literary suicide of metaphors and similes, like a politician avoiding the truth.”

“Uh … .

“And finally,” he said, “the best of all.”

I braced myself.

“Never, never, never, let female soldiers, at isolated outposts, wear uniforms consisting of wet t-shirts and bikini bottoms …” He stopped. “No, no,” he said. “That’s one from my rules for filmmaking. Wait one.” He scrolled.

I waited again.

“Here it is,” he said. “Never allow a female to resolve a crisis with her raw strength or a man with his logic.” He smiled and looked up. “So, what do you think?”

“I think I want to think,” I responded gravely to his question. Suddenly, a dam burst in my head. The brown-tinges walls of the room, set off by ivory trim and decorated tastefully with art purchased carefully over the years and immaculately placed in an arrangement best complimenting one another and adding a splendid counterpoint to the glass fixture hanging from a dappled ceiling took me back to the first day I thought I might like to write something someday. I am enjoying a warm day in late April and a gentle breeze is bringing darkening cumulus clouds that are threatening rain …


See also:
Delta Dreaming
All Hat No Cattle
Order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers.





Friday, May 19, 2017

Morning thoughts: Abuse

C.W. and I were talking …

“Did he really say that?” Left Head asked.

“Oh yes. It’s on tape.”

“That he is mistreated somehow?”

“Yep.”

“Unfairly?”

“Most unfairly.”

“Made to suffer?”

“More than any politician in history.”

“Has he ever been to a Syrian refugee camp?” Middle Head asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Right Head, the happy-smile one joined in. “He feels he’s been abused somehow?”

“Apparently. At least that’s what he told the Coast Guard graduates.

“Has he ever been to a Miley Cyrus Concert?” Right Head wanted to know.

Middle Head stared into space, thought, and spoke. “Or to a poetry jam?”

Left Head: “A Joel Osteen service?”

Middle Head: “Forced to sit in a waiting room with Fox News on the TV?”

Right Head: “Has he ever picked strawberries for a living?”

Left Head: “Sat through a Henry Kissinger lecture?”

Middle Head: "Roofed a house during an Arkansas summer?”

Right Head: “Forced to attend a massed banjo concert?”

Left Head: “Or a Jennifer Hudson one?”

“The horror! The horror!” I said. Please stop. “I get your point.”

“One more,” Right Head said.

“Okay, but hurry.”

“Remember,” he said, looking toward the kitchen, “that cornbread gravy Mrs. Big Dope made from some magazine recipe?”

“The nifrphceenacin! The nifrphceenacin!” said Middle Head, lapsing, in his shock, into Falloonian.

“I think we might better change the subject,” I said. “She has great plans for supper. It is the greatest plan ever made. It is going to be a super plan and we are going to love it. We’ll be winners again, right?”

“Yes, of course,” in unison. “It is good when she cooks. We win when she cooks. We’re almost tired of winning.”

I think they are beginning to learn what abuse truly is.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

373. Truth in Advertising

“I’ve been thinking.”

Oh no.

“Did you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“I said I’ve been thinking.” C.W. was in the form of Reggie the Young Conservative. (Picture Sean Spicer without the disarming personality). Any wariness developed from a memory of the last time he admitted to thinking. This time, we were driving around looking for ideas for a column on urban planning due in a week. It was no use resisting. When he gets in this shape, he is like a bulldog.

“Okay. Share.”

“I still think I could make it in the advertising business,” he said. With that, he produced a notepad and began to study it.

“We’ve been through this already.”

“I know. We’ve had some rough times before.”

“Correction. You’ve had some rough times before.”

“Oh?”

“Remember the time you wanted my wife to become the model for ‘The White Aunt Jemima,’ and what happened?”

“Like I explained to Mrs. Big Dope, it was a brilliant plan to take racism out of an otherwise successful ad campaign. It would have worked, too.”

“Do you still have the bruise from the iron skillet?”

He pressed on. “I’ve done the research, this time,” he said. “I plan to capture and utilize the three major elements of the current mood in your country.”

“Which are?”

He consulted his pad. “Braggadocio, brevity, and bullsh… .”

“Stop there. That’s enough.”

“So, what do you think?”

“Try me." I had turned the car and was headed home.”

“Okay.” He looked and read. “Our light bulbs last a whole two weeks.”

“Oh, that it were so. What else?”

“Our print cartridges will print 20 sheets, guaranteed.”

“If they could do that, you’d have a winner.”

“We don’t have to win,” he said. “We just have to sell.”

“Ah.” A minute passed. “Have any more?”

He looked and read. “Our clothes even look good on fat people.”

“Hmm.”

He was on a roll now. “Be thin, win, never exercise again, no matter how big you’ve been.” He stopped. “We’ll have to have a spokesperson from the South, so all those words will rhyme.”

“Of course. Do you see any applications in political campaigns?”

“Oh,” he said. “That where we will excel without a doubt. Here … ,” he turned a page in a notebook and read, “Feel trapped? We tell the truth, and it will set you free.”

“Oh please.”
The truth may set us free.
But it doesn't pay the bills. - C.W.

“We fear no woman alive.”

“Barf.”

“We love everybody and everybody loves us.”

“Stop. Stop.”

“Win with us and stop the fuss.”

“You’re getting worse.” We had completed our touring by then and were back home in the living room. He had gone nonstop and was still going. I was having a beer, and he was on fire. “Here’s a great one,” he said. “Our vision of America is so simple a public-school teacher could understand it.”

“Suggest you don’t try that one out around the mistress.”

“Oh,” he said, “here’s one I did just for her. He flipped a page. “We promise to round immigrants up like a bunch of stray dogs and … ,”

A voice from the kitchen interrupted him. “As soon as I find my skillet,” it said, “I’m going to round somebody up.”

I had turned toward the sound. When I looked back, Reggie, C.W., whoever, was gone. Since then, I’ve heard no more about this advertising business.    

See also:
Delta Dreaming
All Hat No Cattle
Order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers.




Sunday, May 7, 2017

372. News

“Gone? For how long?”

“Don’t know. It depends on the punishment they mete out to me.”

“Punishment?”

“Punishment.” It was the Walter Cronkite—C.W., his most somber form, the one he takes when things are serious, very serious.

“By whom? What kind of punishment? For What?”

“The Falloonian Elders are punishing me for sending them fake news. The sentence will depend, of course, on my defense.”

“Fake news is punishable now?”

“In Falloonia, yes. We take information much more seriously than your species does.”

“So, have you just been making stuff up, like our …, uh, like some folks are doing?”

“Certainly not,” he said with an uncharacteristic vehemence. “Everything I’ve sent them is fact-checked and accurate.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“They’re saying what I reported could never have happened.”

“Too complicated, or too controversial? Do the events not translate? Are they cynical, or too critical?”

“Oh,” he said, “it varies. Some are quite tragic.” He fumbled in a pile of papers and handed me a sheet. I recognized it at once. It involved an incident in our state that happened just last week. During a heavy flash flood, a woman in a mountainous community donned a helmet and life jacket and went “tubing” down a raging creek. They found her body later.

“This really happened,” I said. “I can vouch for you here.”

“Would you?” he said. He thought. “But you can’t help me with this one.” He retrieved another sheet and handed it over. It was another flooding incident, one of numerous similar stories published during the recent flooding. This one involved a man from a neighboring state who drove his pickup truck around a police barricade and was swept into the floodwaters.

“But,” I said. “Look where it happened. Won’t they make allowances for that?”

“No,” he said. “Unfortunately, it came on the heels of this national report.” He handed the next sheet over. It was an account of plans to market a cell phone shaped like a banana. Yes, really, a banana.

“I see. Well, these are easily proven.”

“Those aren’t the most serious,” he said. “Here’s the one that got me into the most trouble.” He handed over a sheet and I recognized it at once. It occurred just this week in our very city.

“But this happened,” I said. “It really happened.”

“Try convincing a bunch of aged creatures from a civilized planet of that.” He read from the sheet, Three drunken men steal a three-foot livealligator from a nature center.” He stopped, looked at a wall clock, and stared back at me, his voice breaking. “I’m doomed,” he said.
 
I call this, "Hold my beer
and watch this news." - C.W
.
He stiffened and his eyes turned metallic. This means one thing. He is getting a message from his home planet and responding. He listened, then nodded slightly. Then he did the strangest thing. He let out a soft laugh. Next, his face brightened with a smile. He nodded once more, relaxed and turned to me.

“It’s over,” he said. “They’ve received verification from the other resident aliens.”

“That’s great, but you almost laughed once,” I said. “What was so funny?”

“It seems,” he said, “that reading these reports has become a huge source of planetary merriment on Falloonia. They want more, and they want them fast. Do you think we can manage? I’d hate to be in another kind of trouble for not fulfilling their orders.”

“C.W.,” I said. “This is America. Don’t worry about a thing.”

See also:
Delta Dreaming
All Hat No Cattle
Or order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw Press, Amazon, or other book sellers.





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Morning Thoughts: Humor

C.W. and I were talking …

Right Head, or “Giggles” as I call him, was guffawing. The other two were frowning and trying to ignore him.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“He’s been reading about the leader of this political party that’s in power now, Left Head said.

“He thinks it is funny,” Middle head said. “What do you think?”

I pondered the question. “The word ‘alarming’ comes to mind.” I said. I turned to Giggles. “What’s cracking you up now?”

“Mrs. Big Dope,” he said. “She keeps me in sudden, stabbing pains in the side.”

“In stitches?”

“Why do repeat things I say?” he said, stifling a laugh.

“So, what did she say about our president?”

Between laughs, he said, “She said he was so helpless that he needed a dictionary to spell TV.”

We all smiled. “Tell him the one about the chair,” Left Head said.

“She said she heard he stands on a chair two hours a day trying to raise his IQ.”

We all had a good snicker over this. That just encouraged Giggles.

“She said the only way they could keep him out of trouble was to sit him down, coat his fingers with honey, and hand him a feather.” With this he mimicked a person pulling something from one hand and then the other, repeating the process while concentrating intently.

“Has she told you about what he and his staff remind her of?”

I thought. “Does it involve monkeys, copulation, and a football?”

He quit giggling and looked crestfallen. “You’re no fun,” he said. He turned to the others. “Let’s go find Mrs. Big Dope. She’s a sound an owl makes.”

“She may be a ‘hoot,’ I said, “but you shouldn’t egg her on like that.”

“Did we tell you what she said about you?” Middle Head asked.

“I’m sure it was something pithy,” I said.

“Oh no,” Left Head said. “It was a nice compliment.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” she said at least Donald Trump makes you seem like Albert Einstein.”

Big Dope says that she is having a
1960s "Flash-up," whatever that is. - C.W.