Writing: Part 5

Playwrights

That actor on stage is nothing more than a middleman. The gesticulations are his, and the emotions, but those words, those lines, are borrowed from someone else. These thespians whom we’ve elevated to idols, on the stage or on screen, dedicate their lives to memorizing someone else’s ideas. This “someone” is a writer who lives on the leeward side of the gossamer curtains that separate fame from obscurity. I know exactly who Brad Pitt is (he’s that guy who’s buying foreign children like the rest of us buy candy bars) but I can’t name any of the people who’ve written the words upon which his fame has been founded. It’s a shame. Ergo, I’ve decided to dedicate my final look into burgeoning authors to playwrights.

As a personal point of contention, the honorific of “playwright” has always annoyed me. I understand that the “wright” is added because of the profession; a wheelwright makes wheels, a playwright makes plays. But it’d make more sense if we spelled it “playwrite” because 1.) silent g’s shouldn’t exist, and 2.) plays are written, not forged like wheels. Whatever. I know it’s a rather trivial complaint, but I still think it’s valid.

I’ve never attempted to write a play, but I grew up going to them. Granted, the productions that made it to Alaska were about as far “off-Broadway” as they can get, but they were better than nothing. We’d bundle up and drive down to the performing art center in downtown Anchorage and mingle with the other fur-clad denizens of our arctic paradise. All the grownups would sip champagne and do their best to pretend that they were surrounded by culture as opposed to living in an Alaskan exile. All the kids would pretend to be grownups. We’d file in, ushered by the ushers, and find our velvet upholstered seats. We’d thumb through the program. The lights would dim, the curtains would part, and the show would begin. Afterward, we’d always stand and clap for more no matter what. The ovation was a product of our far-north isolation; it had nothing to do with the quality of the play. “Please, you fine thespians from a place with four seasons, please give us more. Don’t leave us here with naught but the cold.”

We’d always linger long after the play had concluded. Everybody seemed to speak a bit louder, laugh a bit longer. Maybe they were trying to imitate the actors whom they had paid dearly to see. Maybe they too were trying to project their voices to an impromptu audience of their fellow play lovers. Either way, I remember the plays from my youth fondly. But again, I only remember the actors on stage. I’m sure the playwright was given due credit in the program through which I thumbed, but in retrospect, it just doesn’t seem like enough.

***

The first author in this last segment is Alicia Wozniak, who was born and raised in Cleveland. “Woz” now lives in Tampa, with the rest of Ohio. This 40 year old can be found teaching Zumba, all over Facebook, figuring out Twitterblogging, and working her full time gig in a marketing division of a textbook publisher. She wonders how many jobs she really needs. If she isn’t moving, she’s unconscious. Life, which includes a Weez, is good and as long as the beer is cold and it isn’t snowing, she’ll keep moving forward—Xanax close at hand.

You can find more of her work at: http://putthecatdown.wordpress.com/

Alicia Wozniak

Harry’s Melon

Once upon a time in a faraway land… Oh who am I kidding? (take an enormous bite of a sammich and talk with your mouth full while speaking) There’s dis guy who lives in Cleveland. His name is Harry, but he ain’t got any on his head. You’d think dis guy would like, ya know, wear that stuff, what’s it called, sunscreen? (finally swallow) Yeah, or maybe even a hat to protect his dome from the sun. I mean, that giant ball in the sky Clevelanders hardly ever see has powerfully wicked stuff coming outta dere that can cause like cancer and shit. (take a long drag on a cig)

(another bite of sammich…wipe mayo from chin after wife hands you a napkin) Well, Harry, he never listened to his mutha. (swallow and pick food out of teeth while still talking and laugh) So, dis guys been walkin’ around Cleveland for like 60, maybe 70 years with the sun’s rays bouncin’ off his melon like a friggen disco ball, right? Right, Pauly! (Pauly, covered in marinara sauce, nods)

(sit back in chair and loosen button on pants, remove napkin from tank top) Yeah, so his doc says, “Hey, Harry. You gotta bump up here and I gotta take it off, OK?” So, now Harry looks like a friggen bowling ball, right Pauly!? (Pauly raises a greasy two thumbs up) Dis guy, he’s funny. He’s making up stories and stuff about Obama-care policy of withdrawing active brain cells from the accomplished for implantation into the heads of less skilled members of a certain political party or some shit like that. I ain’t got no idea what the Hell he’s talkin’ about. I’m thinkin’ Harry hits the Jack maybe a little too hard, but what do I know, right? To each his own. Hey, Maria! Where the Hell is my dessert?! (obscene words and breaking dishes heard from off stage)

(take a giant gulp of iced tea from a ridiculously large plastic cup from random theme park) So, yeah, Harry’s got holes in his head now and he’s gotta be good and wear hats. I mean had he just listened to his mutha… (drag on cig) I’m sure she bought him some nice hats over da years and his kids too. I bet they bought him hats too from where ever the Hell they go cuz you know they don’t come home as often as they should, right, Maria? Friggen ungrateful little bastards. I tell ya, me and Maria we ain’t got nuttin’ nice because we spend all our money on our kids and you’d think they could come home once in a while and show some respect. (look around in disgust and admire plastic covered couch, get lost in on coming food coma)

But I digress. (put out cig)  Harry, he’s a good man and da holes they are gonna heal. Let’s all say a prayer that the doc got da crap outta his head. (obscene words and breaking dishes heard from off stage finally stops, Pauly stops eating and our narrator starts snoring)

 

***

The second author, and the writer with which I’ll be concluding this five part look into burgeoning authors, is Randy Carr. Futher information on this last writer can be found after his piece. The following is an excerpt from his play which has been chosen to kick off the 2013 South West Festival of the Written Word in Silver City.

Randy Carr obtained his BA in Acting and Directing from Eastern Washington University and his Masters in Human Relations from Pacific Lutheran University.

A retired investigator, now settled in the history rich southwestern corner of New Mexico, he quickly immersed himself in the history of the area.  The result is “TUCK,” © an original play designed to entertain and educate audiences about the real old west and one of its true-life unsung heros.  He can be reached at deputydantucker@gmail.com.

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TUCK

ACT II, Scene 1

Thet there wern’t the first lynchin’ bee in town.  One feller got his self hung three times.

(Refills coffee.)

See, theys two perfessions thet wuz highly regarded in yer frontier town.  One wuz a good blacksmith, t’other wuz a good bartender.  ‘Cordin’ to many, Arkansas Bob Black wuz the best bartender Shakespeare ever seed.

Now fer this story to make any sense at all you haf ta unnerstand thet the first civilizin’ influence on any frontier town wuz the arrival of the wives.  The presence of them wimmenfolk jus’ had a calmin’ effect on the men.  They demanded, ‘n got, the kind of comforts ‘n genteel social atmosphere thet might be found in yer better locales.  As you might figger, the menfolk, ‘specially husbands, would do near anythin’ to keep the wives happy.

(Chuckles to himself.)

S’pose some things never change (Pause.)  Anyways thet is why old Arkansas Bob got his self hung.

He wuz a handsome scoundrel, alus wore his hair greased back, sported a big waxed handlebar mustache ‘n a ready smile.  He had quite an eye fer the ladies, too.  But they wern’t no single ladies in Shakespeare jus’ then, so Bob Black took up with this married gal.  ‘N fer whatever reason, her husband didn’t object.

When he started sparkin’ thet married gal, the other wives in town got some (Pause.) o-ffended, I reckon you could say.  This jus’ could not be allowed ‘n they demanded their husbands do sumthin’ ‘bout it.  So, one night a bunch a husbands come up to Arkansas Bob, explained the sitchyation ‘n po-litely suggested it would be good fer him to leave town fer a spell.  They done this with some pause cuz they liked Bob.  Imagine their surprise when ol’ Bob tol’ em’ to go stick it in their hats.  When the husbands reported back to the wives thet Bob wouldn’t leave, the wives, bein’ the great civilizin’ influence thet they wuz, sez “Well, hang ‘im then!”

(Crosses and picks up lariat.)

Soooo, the men got ‘em a coil a rope ‘n went huntin’ fer Bob.  They give him ‘nother chance to leave, but he weren’t movin’.  So they took ‘im over to the Blacksmith shop, tied his hands, roped his neck ‘n hung ‘im from the main beam.

(Imitates hauling down on rope.)

Course, they lowered ‘im right back down ‘n ast if he’d leave now.  He sputtered ‘n tol’ em in no uncertain terms thet he weren’t goin’ nowhere, so they hauled ‘im up again.

(Again imitates hauling down on rope.)

They kept him a danglin’ ‘til he turned this pretty shade of blue then lowered him down ‘n ast’ him again if’n he’d leave.  His answer wuz nearly as blue as his face.  The gist bein’ he wern’t leavin’.

So, up he went a third time.

(Once again imitates hauling down on rope.)

This time they kep’ him swingin’ ‘til he passed out.  Then they brung him down, threw water in his face to revive him ‘n ast’ him again.  He gasped ‘n wheezed ‘n panted ‘n when he fin’ly got his breath back, he tol’ his strangler’s thet if’n they’d untie ‘im (A beat.) he’d beat ever last one of ‘em into the ground, but he wern’t leavin’.

Now, this left the would-be lynch mob a scratchin’ they heads.  They didn’t want to hang ‘im to death, they liked ol’ Bob.  Fin’ly one feller suggested thet if they couldn’t git Bob to leave mebbe they could git his galfriend to go instead.  So, the group trooped over to thet lady’s adobe, ‘n wakes her ‘n her husband up.  They dangled thet rope in her face

(Dangles loop end of lariat.)

‘n tol’ em in no uncertain terms thet if she didn’t leave town she’d be found at the end of thet rope, come mornin’.  Sure enuf, before daybreak, thet lady ‘n her husband packed a wagon ‘n headed out.

The miners proudly announced to their wives thet they had fixed the problem. (Pause.)  Would they a really hung her?  Don’t you ever misjudge the power of a pack a angry wives.  ‘N Arkansas Bob?  He went back to tendin’ his bar, but thet’s ‘nuther story.

***

Dan Tucker is an undiscovered real life hero of the old west.  He was the Chief Deputy Sheriff in Grant County in the New Mexico Territory from 1877 to 1888.  Later becoming the first Town Marshal of Silver City, Special Agent for both Wells Fargo Stagecoach Company and the Santa Fe Railroad and finally Deputy United States Marshal.  He became one of the most feared, fearless and deadly lawmen of the era, credited with besting at least 12 men in shootouts.  He was the one man even Wyatt Earp and his posse gave a wide berth.  Tucker’s exploits were not publicized by the dime-novelists of the the day and were not written about until recently.   “TUCK” © is his story, the story of the Southwest in the wildest days of the 1870’s and 80’s seen through his eyes.

After the premier of “TUCK” © in Silver City in August of 2012, reviewers wrote the following:

Randy Carr brings “Dangerous” Dan Tucker to life on the stage, in a one-man show that transports the audience back to the heyday of the Wild West. The script deftly mixes history and personality, with just enough bits of both humor and gunplay. Carr makes an ideal Old West lawman, looking back on his “dangerous” career on the occasion of New Mexico’s statehood—think Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain, if he were packing heat.

David Fryxell – Editor – The Desert Exposure

Those who delight in both local history and good drama will wish to experience Randy Carr’s “Tuck” ©.    Accurately dramatizing an earlier Silver City through the dramatic monologue of Deputy Sheriff Dan Tucker, Randy, as author and actor, brings to life a segment of our precious past.  Highly commendable as both history and drama, “Tuck”©  will significantly enrich our 2012 celebration of New Mexico’s centennial.

Larry Godfrey – author of Dancing with Gods.

“Randy Carr assumes the persona of Sheriff Dan Tucker like it was his second skin. In the deliciously florid yet rough and wry victorian voice of the Old West, Carr/Tucker enthralls us with true and often outrageous stories of hardship, violence, tom foolery, adventure, and wit in old Territorial New Mexico.”

Starr Belsky – Co-Chair, Silver City Arts and Cultural District.

To view the youtube promotional video for the Statehood anniversary presentation of “TUCK,” ©  click here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRk0Zn1fpGM&feature=youtu.be

***

If you’ve made it through all five of these segments, I thank you. I’ve written over ten-thousand words throughout these five pieces, and introduced ten different writers who cover the gamut of success and skill. In truth, I didn’t plan on going any further than that first installment, but it’s been fun; I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

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Trolls

“It blows my mind to think that ‘LOL’ is probably spelled differently in Spanish.” –Me

 

It doesn’t really blow my mind; that was just an attempt to be funny on Twitter. My little snippet was tantamount to verbal diarrhea. It’s an interesting thought though, because most of my Spanish followers type “LOL” at the end of their Spanish tweets even though the acronym is clearly English. Technically, they should use “RAC” for “riendo a caracajadas,” but whatever. I guess our American shorthand is insidious enough to infect other languages.

 

But after I tweeted the above mentioned nonsense, a troll came out of nowhere and responded by saying “you have a very tiny mind.” Of course he immediately blocked me so I couldn’t respond, you know, because he’s a real man. And it pissed me off because I wanted to post something supper witty like “I know you are but what am I?” but his hasty departure robbed me of the chance. So I looked through his tweets because anybody who could so flippantly insult me should have some badass wit, right? Here’s the first one I found:

 

“I’m all for reparations if it will get black people to stop saying ‘nigga.’” –We’ll call him “Mike”

 

Holy shit. How does one say “OMG” in Spanish? I guess I was wrong. Mike turned out to be a fat-ass ineffectual fuck-tard as opposed to the witty guy I was hoping to find. But that’s usually the case with trolls. In case you didn’t know, a “troll” is anybody on a social media site that intentionally insults something you say to make up for the fact that they were born with an innie instead of an outie (you know, down in their pants where it counts). These walking penises usually hide behind a fake profile picture to minimize the backlash from their offensive comments, and that’s exactly what Mike does.

 

You know, I’m finding it really hard to be pissed at this guy despite his assholeishness because he’s got some serious style. I bet the inside of his trailer is uber pimp.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Mike suffers from clerk’s syndrome. Man, “Clerks” was a great movie, and it taught me a good deal about human nature. Just in case you’re not familiar with clerk’s syndrome, I’ll fill you in. Basically, gas station clerks develop a certain amount of resentment towards customers over the years. They eventually begin to look down on them despite the fact that most of their customers do more for our species than your average gas station clerk. The customers are doctors or teachers or educated professionals. Yet they all look the same to the clerks who talk shit about them as soon as they pay for their burrito and leave. Customers can be annoying with their repetitive complaints and quotidian bullshit, and ultimately, the high and mighty clerk realizes that they’re better than the sheep that ring the hallowed bell on the gas station’s front door.

 

You see the same thing with the “geniuses” at the Apple Genius Bar, and with the “geeks” on Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.” They deal with the average Joe so often that they start to think that the average Joe is beneath them. I had one of Best Buy’s Geeks get pissy with me because I had questions as to how I should apply the screen protector onto my iPad. How dare I bother him with something so trivial! The snide little bastard rudely answered my questions and never realized that I make five times as much as he does, or that he had reached the pinnacle of his existence.

 

I have no idea what Mike does for a living (it probably involves the bathroom at a truck-stop) but I know clerk’s syndrome when I see it. I usually ignore the trolls on twitter because I know what they’re doing. They’re reaching up out of their pit and trying to pull me down into their negativity where all the petty little people live. I usually ignore them, or respond with positivity when I’m not blocked, but today, I’m going to take Mike’s hand and let him pull me down into his bullshit to see how the lesser half lives.

 

Mike, here’s the response I would’ve given you had you not blocked me: I know you are, but what am I? RAC!!! If I was sitting next to you at the bar when I said what I did about the Spanish LOL, would you have told me that I have a tiny mind in person? No. You would’ve said it to yourself, or mumbled it into one of your chins because you, Mike, are a pussy. It’s easy to be brave behind a fake avi and say things about other races. It’s easy to insult and run, so stop congratulating yourself, because you’re not nearly as profound as you think.

 

Mike runs a YouTube channel that features short, animated videos staring an octopus with a unicorn horn. It’s pretentions as hell but I have to admit that his work comes close to art. Some of his videos have even had as many as five-hundred views. I don’t like the videos, but maybe that’s just because Mike doesn’t like my tweets. I can be pretty petty when I set my tiny mind to it.

 

And in truth, I’m not really being fair to Mike. It’s just that I’ve encountered a few trolls this month and I’ve grown tired of their antics. Usually, they do it for publicity. You see, I have well over eighty-thousand followers on twitter, and if a troll can bate me into a back-and-forth volley of insults, all my viewers get to see it, and then maybe the troll gets a few more followers of his own. It’s a rather sound tactic when you think about it. I know I’m not supposed to let it get to me. I’m supposed to remind myself that I have a bulging intellect (wink, wink), an abnormally well-paying job, a healthy family, and a damn good life. I’m supposed to let a troll’s idiocy bounce off of my confidence and go about my day. But it’s hard. No matter how secure you are, a stranger’s insults still sting a bit.

 

Some tweets are more susceptible to trolls than others. If you ever talk yourself up, those furry little assholes come running. They want to bring you down because it’s easier to look up at those above you with a derisive sneer if you have someone standing next to you. And if you ever tweet about working out, watch the fuck out. You might as well walk over a bridge like a Billy goat gruff and prepare yourself for a full on troll invasion. My wife once said something like “twitter is a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes and to be accepted by other assholes.” It’s not entirely true, but it’s close.

 

I posted a picture of the weights in my home gym last week, and about five minutes later, another “artist” troll immediately responded with something like “oh wow! You go to the gym! Who fucking cares!” He even used a hash tag which is the social media equivalent of drooling in the middle of an insult thanks to inbreeding. So, just like I did with Mike, I looked at the troll’s pictures. Surely this guy was going to have tons of artful pictures that’d put mine to shame, right? Nope. There were hundreds of pictures of women’s shoes that he’d painted. He was trying to sell them via his art blog. I guess it makes sense that a grown man who finger paints women’s shoes should be able to insult a man who works out. Err… um, actually, no it doesn’t.

 

But I get it. I’m pretty sure that Cross Fit is actually a cult, and all the pictures of people doing pull-ups are a bit annoying. However, two years ago, I was coming close to weighing 220 pounds. I looked like… well, I looked like a younger (more attractive, better dressed, not so fat) version of Mike. I took steps. I started dieting and working out like a psycho and lost more than sixty pounds. I’ve since been putting on muscle. I can see my abs. I can run 5K races. And frankly, I’m damn proud of it, so of course I’m going to post the occasional picture because they chronicle my achievement. If you don’t like it, don’t look. Hell, just un-follow me.  I don’t say snarky shit when you proudly display your foot fetish, so you should keep quiet when I talk about something healthy. It just makes sense. In this specific instance, I replied that I was too big of a pussy to go to the gym, and that I liked the shadows in the picture so I posted it. The troll laughed and erased his comments. I killed him with kindness; he still follows me.

 

My point in all of this is that there’s really no point in being a troll. You’re not scoring any points or affecting any change. I know for a fact that my wife is laughing her ass of right now because I’ve posted my share of smug idiocy, but I’ve been trying not to. All these little comments trolls leave are permanent. They’re little electronic ripples spreading out in the wake of their insults, and even though the hurt is small, it still exists. A troll’s legacy is a virtual epitaph that reads “here lies an asshole.” You can only play devil’s advocate for so long before you’re not “playing.”  But I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything else, because I constantly spout my nonsense like an asshole into a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes. Trolls just come with the territory.

My Gym

Writing: Part 4

Short Speculative Fiction

I opened a rejection letter yesterday; they don’t come as often as they once did, but they still sting. I’ve become abnormally good at almost getting published, so I usually get the “we loved it and you’re on the short list” letters, which I like to refer to as “eventual rejections,” and I get a flat out “yes we’ll take it, here’s your ten bucks” once or twice a year. But the main reason I receive fewer rejection letters is the fact that I’ve chosen to self-publish and post most of my work on this blog… See how I made it sound like a choice? That was me trying to make you think that I could go the traditional route if I wanted to because publishers are constantly kissing my ass. Spoiler alert, they’re not.

Anywho, most of the publications from which I’ve received rejection letters have fewer subscribers than this blog. The truth is that I get more exposure this way; I only make the occasional submission to a third party because I crave the validation. Yes, it hurts like a bitch when some magazine with thirty regular readers says “thanks, but no thanks,” but it’s nearly orgasmic when they say yes.

It’s gotten to the point when even if I receive a rejection letter, the editor always sends a nicely written note with a few critiques and a reason for the rejection. This last one said that “the story felt rushed” but that they loved my style, and that I should submit again ASAP if I had something written in a slower pace. Actually, it was a damn good critique. I reread my piece and came to the same conclusion. But here’s the bitch: this particular publication has a five-hundred word limit for submissions. Holy shit.

“They” say that the hardest part in writing a good short story is keeping it short, and “they” are damn right. How the hell is one supposed to tell a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, complete with believable character development, in five-hundred fucking words? Of course it’s going to come across as rushed.

The trick, I’ve been told, is to boil it down until all you have left is unalloyed story. There’s no room for maudlin prose or overly descriptive bullshit. One must rely on simple fiction and pure plot to be a successful short story writer, and according to my most recent rejection letter, I don’t always pull it off.

Another thing that “they” have been saying is that “the short story is dead.” I can see where they’re coming from, but I’d like to think that short fiction is simply resting in a lull of sorts because the full length novel is just so damn trendy. I might be full of shit, but whatever. Honestly, I enjoy short fiction, and I absolutely love collections of short fiction. I might be a bit solivagant in this love, but so be it. Short stories are like perfect little vignettes of make-believe into which a reader can delve briefly without commitment. And collections are even better because if you start into a story that doesn’t feel right, you can always move onto the next piece. I don’t want you to think that I’m promoting a short attention span, it’s just that every once in a while, a trip to the buffet is better than a single entre meal. Get it? That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate the fourth segment of this look into burgeoning authors to writers of short, speculative fiction.

***

The first author I’ve chosen to feature is Rob Walker.

Robert Walker

He’s a writer and filmmaker living in Colorado. Rob is perhaps best known for “Victorian Cut-out Theatre”, an animated comedy series featuring monsters, deranged billionaires and time travel which is distributed through Cinevore.com. He also writes for the pop culture website Nerd Reactor. You can read his blog at www.robwalkerfilms.com

WEBSITE: www.robwalkerfilms.com

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/robwalkerfilms

YOUTUBE: youtube.com/robwalkerfilms

TWITTER: @timidwerewolf

The House on Maple Street

In a normal state, in an average town, on Maple Street, there was a house. The house was guarded over by two long dead trees. These trees, being long dead, had no leaves. In place of greenery, however, there were several crows. So many crows, in fact, that if you were to view the house on Maple Street from a distance, you would swear that these strange trees were in full bloom. But you’d be wrong.

If anyone had ever taken the time to measure the inside of the house on Maple Street, they would have found that it was a foot bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. That sounds impossible, but it’s true. And contained within the house were twelve rooms, one for every month of the year. Thirteen including the cellar, but no one ever did.

The house on Maple Street had been designed by Edward Clemmins in 1928, for George and Emily Bryant. Clemmins was considered a genius by many of his contemporaries and was responsible for designing the bakery in New York that looks like an elephant… you know the one.

Shortly after finishing his plans for the house on Maple Street, Clemmins shot himself in the head. They say that he knew that this house was cursed from the beginning and couldn’t live with the knowledge that he would be responsible for such a place. I think maybe he was just sad.

George and Emily Bryant moved in upon the completion of the house, and set to creating a family. After a year in the house they bore no children, and soon Emily disappeared. Many thought that Emily left George in the middle of the night to avoid the shame of a public divorce. Neighborhood children thought that George had murdered his wife and hid her body in the cellar. Nothing was ever proven. Before hanging himself in their bedroom, George wrote a note with one word on it: “Whispers”.

George might have been referring to the stories told behind his back after his wife’s disappearance. However, his friends say that before his demise, he complained about hearing Emily’s voice echoing throughout the house, like she was close, but he could never find her.

The house sat empty and had no visitors until 1930, when famous spiritualist Madame Devoe paid the house a visit, to cleanse it of what she called “disquieted spirits”. This visit lasted fifteen minutes before Madame Devoe was stricken blind. She retired from spiritualism shortly after. Though blind, she led a relatively happy life with her daughter in Florida until her death in 1975.

As so often happens with buildings of similar reputation as the house on Maple Street, local children would often dare each other to go inside, or at the very least knock on the door. One such event happened in 1963 when ten year old Jimmy Boyd entered the house on a dare. By many accounts, he was the bravest of the children. Five minutes later he emerged claiming that a beautiful woman that lived in the house offered him cookies if he would stay with her for a bit. After three weeks, Jimmy’s raven colored hair had turned white. This extreme and early change in hair color earned him the nickname “snow-top”. If you find him, ask him about the woman. He’ll be more willing to talk if you bring him a plate of macaroons.

Over the years, the people in town thought of tearing down the house on Maple Street. Everyone agreed that it was unpleasant to look at, and no one could ever sell it given the history. Town officials never did tear it down, though. So it still sits on its yard, all twelve rooms, well unless you count the cellar. Guarded by two long dead trees and several flocks of crows. A group of crows is called a murder by the way, I wasn’t sure if you knew that, but it’s true.

***

The second author I’m featuring is KendallJaye Collard:

Kendall Jaye Collard

“I live in Springfield, IL with my husband and daughter. I am in an unhealthy relationship with a 1967 4-door Chevy Impala hardtop. Cancer survivor, wine drinker, and protected by rock salt.

I can be reached at kendalljaye.collard@gmail.com and can be found lurking around Twitter @KJCollard.”

Failure No. 12

I’m all groggy. Something smells like industry. Something metallic. Like iron.

I realize it’s blood.

I sit up and try to open my eyes. It’s blindingly white. Like a million watt light bulb pointed directly into my eyes. My head should hurt but it doesn’t. What the fuck happened to me?

I squint and try to open my eyes again. It’s still so very white, but it’s okay. The white isn’t from a light at all. The white just is. I’m so confused.

Then I realize I don’t just smell blood. I taste it.

I rake the back of my hand across my mouth. I look down to where my hand should be. There is nothing there but white.

Then ever so slowly, outlines happen. Nearly paper thin lines of black simply appear and grow. The outline of my hand. The outline of where blood is smeared across the back of my wrist. There’s not even a hint of color. It’s like a blank page with a few calligraphy pen marks. The lines of the liquid blood far thinner than the lines defining my hand. How strange.

CLICK Hello there. Do you know your name? CLICK

A voice. Where is it coming from? I look around, and white things start to come into focus. Black outlines defining a ceiling corner. The walls. The chaise I’m lying on. But there is no shading. No colors.

“Hello?”

CLICK Hello. Can you hear me? CLICK

“Yes, I……”

CLICK Do you know your name? CLICK

“Yes. But… who…”

CLICK Just answer the questions for now ma’am. Everything will be answered in due time. What is your name, ma’am? CLICK

“My name is Cawks. Where am I?”

CLICK You’re very safe. Glad to meet you Cawks. My name is Beeks. Do you know where you are from? CLICK

My head should hurt. I’m bleeding. Why doesn’t it hurt? “Um… No. I can’t… recall.” More lines materialize breaking the monotony of white. This is an interrogation room. A pane of glass on the far wall. I sit up on the chaise and hang my feet over the edge. The velvety touch of the fabric tickles my fingertips. But it just looks white. I look across the room and notice a table being drawn before my eyes.

CLICK Where are you from Cawks? CLICK

“I said I don’t know. What’s going on here?” I stand up and trust that a textureless floor will support my weight. But why wouldn’t it? The chaise did. And the floor responds in kind. It’s cold on the pads of my feet. My bare feet.

I look down at myself for the first time and see more than just my blood smeared hand. I see the outline of feet, legs, arms. All the normal human body parts. I realize I am naked. The outline of the tiny vent in the corner breathes a sigh and the rush of chilled air goes across my skin. I feel panic rising.

“Beeks, where are my clothes?”

CLICK Cawks, I need you to go over to the table for me. CLICK

I look back again at the table. I walk across the floor. My feet go one in front of the other. The table inches closer, and the chaise moves farther away. All still white. I see the outline of the speaker come into view. Beeks.

On the table is an assortment of weapons. Their outlines are familiar to me. But I’ve never held a weapon. Why can’t I remember where I’m from?

CLICK Cawks, I need you to pick up the one you like best. CLICK

My eyes roam the table. So many to choose. “Which one?”

CLICK The one that suits you. CLICK

I let my eyes roam over their forms. Pistols. Rifles. Slingshots. Knives. My eyes stop at the longbow. I cock my head to the right. Suddenly I smell the wood and the oils used in it. “The Bow, Beeks. I like the bow. Can I hold it?”

CLICK Of course Cawks. It’s yours, after all. CLICK

I gingerly lift the strange white bow. It is firm in my hand. It feels like it should. Even though there is no wood grain to identify it, it feels familiar. Comforting. The outline of the bowstring somewhat thinner than the hard outline of the bow itself. There are no arrows here, but I snuggle the grip deep into my left hand. I hold it as if to take aim. I pull the nocking point back across my cheek. It feels like home.

“Beeks, why are there no colors?”

CLICK What do you mean? CLICK

“It’s like a blank sheet of paper. Like someone is using a pen or charcoal to draw lines. There are no shades or colors. I can only feel the textures.” I release the bowstring as I exhale.

A sudden crushing. My chest. I can’t breathe. “Beeks?” I drop my best friend on the ground. I grab at my chest. “BEEKS!”

No response.

“BEEEEEKS! I CAN’T BREATHE!”

Nothing.

My eyes fall on the chaise. I stumble my way there and fall heavily upon it.

Just a nap. That’s what I need. Just close my eyes. Just a little sleep.

Then darkness.

***

Somewhere in the United States three scientists continued their conversation.

“Cracking job on the tits, Reeve.”

“Thanks, Jude. I’m kind of an expert,” she replied as she crassly grabbed her own. “Sorry about the optics being off. Bummer man.”

“It’s okay. I’m really close. There’s a blood leak on start up, too. And Beeks hasn’t quite mastered the memory implants anyhow.”

Beeks shook his head. “Can’t stop until She’s perfect. Then we’ll make a million more of Her. Hated putting Her down though. You’d think it would get easier.”

Reeve slapped him on the back. “C’mon. Let’s go get lunch. We can clean up the mess when we get back.”

The three scientists laughed heartily and headed out the door.