Fill in the Blank

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Since I am lazy by nature, I have failed to complete this scrappy story.

You, on the other hand, being even lazier, have fittingly only one word to contribute. Make it good. (An example of democratic writing.)

I’d like to buy a new car, but as a general rule I find car salesmen insincere, so I’m hesitating. You may say that I’m overly sensitive, and you may be right. But insincerity isn’t my only worry. Car salesmen are completely transparent about the personal benefits a sale can make to their hollow lives. In fact, if they were to stand by a window and you happened to be looking across the street at some poor petrified sod, with a grimy hand clutching a paper bag, waiting to cross an enraged street, mad with traffic, you would see him without obstruction.

But what if the salesman’s son is, let’s say, unhappy at work? I mean, it shouldn’t be a distraction, but what if I keep hearing about Simon’s problems. I’d get queasy. And after some banter about Simon’s awkward performance in an off-Broadway production of Hello Dolly , he says, “Standard or automatic,” hoping to take my mind off Simon’s problem with drugs.

“Automatic,” I say, in a reassuring voice.

“Here’s a cute little number,” he says, placing his palm on the hood of a Chevrolet Trax. “It’s available in Crack (a yellowish white), Hash (a handsome brown) and Weed (an unconvincing green).”

“I’ll take it in Hash,” I say hesitatingly, looking at the gigantic creases in his forehead, which are, it now strikes me, like trenches from some pointless war.

The salesman makes a tight fist and delivers a horrifying blow to the passenger-side window. The glass absorbs the shock, but the car is terrified. Owing to this show of brutality, I understand where Simon got his violent temper, and why Nadia, his girlfriend, who works in a sweatshop, has to call the police whenever Simon comes home drunk or can be seen dancing on the rusted steps of the fire escape while in a parlous delirium.

“It’s only available in Weed,” says the salesman, favoring his swollen paw.

The magnitude of my shame is bested by the immensity of the salesman’s natural gift for [FILL IN THE BLANK].

Moses and the Rio Olympics

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Like a majorette and her baton, a mountain man, living in a remote, montane, thatch-roofed hut, often seen chewing cud, keeps a shotgun at his side. Apart from this being a brilliant literary conceit, it introduces, more or less painfully, the subject of long unkempt beards, touching ever–so-slightly upon the dark penumbra of guns and horrific violence.

Are you with me so far? Good. Let the narrative continue.

I sallied forth with my manservant Sancho Panza, past windmills and other distractions, to the nearest drugstore, whereupon I came to understand (and you should have seen the rictus of disappointment on Panza’s mouth ) that my favorite brand of disposable razors—Gillette, if you must know—was not to be found, and was directed by Elsa, a neurotic cryptologist who was apparently having trouble finding work in her chosen field, to try the Occam brand since it was, in her words, “as good as a mischievous cipher.”

That’s when my campaign of firebombing various drugstores began in earnest. This was indeed the simplest solution and consequently the most effective way to make a point (everyone is doing it these days.)  Incidentally the Occam razors were not all that bad after all, but it’s was the principle of the thing.

Now, a few words about the Rio Olympics. As a biblical scholar, I’d like to share some of my research with you. Most of you will know that Moses came down from the mount with a bunch of tablets purchased at a high altitude garage sale. Then, when taking the stationary home (they offered him a plastic bag, but environmentally conscious Moses refused), he tripped, a notable contretemps, on a coax cable (fiber-optic cables did not yet exist) and hurt his patella. But my research, using the latest spectroscopic analysis, demonstrates that there were eleven commandments—not the oft-quoted ten.  The last commandment was: Thou shall not take selfies–you can always look like a fool later.  Olympians, diplomats, please take notice.

https://www.101words.org/conrads-keys/

The book review that never was…

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Wow them with unexpected flora to suck them in. Anonymous.

 

I thought I’d review Pride and Prejudice, but after a thorough search of the internet–and later the pockets of every venerable vagabond in the vicinity, which yielded several condoms, a crumpled picture of Chairman Mao, and a stack of tiny plastic zip bags–I have concluded that it’s been sufficiently reviewed by my peers, and I don’t want to crowd the field with another essay, which would nevertheless have been received with great éclat, as the work of literary Bolsheviks is always in demand. Luckily and vibrantly, her next novel, Prick Me With a Fork to See If I’m Done, will be out soon and I’ll review that one instead. I’m drooling already.

Jane Austen is an author worth sleeping out in a van for–on a frosty night, without anything that might reasonably pass for a blanket or, alas, without a half-empty (or half-full depending on your general outlook on life) case of cooking sherry procured from a one-armed vivandière and sure to take the bite off the cryogenic chill.

And it must be said that Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s defining work to date, apart from story, setting, and character, is fairly good. My major quibble with Miss Austen is that she’s an unapologetic technophobe. I mean just look at the opening scene. Why not fax the news about Mr. Bingley (Mr. Big) to the Bennet family? In a modern context, what could be more natural than for the Bennet gathering to learn by facsimile that Mr. Bingley is gay and that he’ll soon be moving to Netherfield Park? The fax is a small detail, but it’s symptomatic of Austen’s inability to grasp the import of modern telecommunication devices.

And to add to her modern-day gadget gaucheries, she uses quaint anachronisms in the transport realm as well: no bullet trains or supersonic jets for Austen.  It’s a sort of parallel structure, office equipment and handheld devices on the one hand and monster cars and trucks on the other, that doesn’t quite seem to work. Jane Austin’s Audi never gets into the fast lane, if you’ll pardon the grotesque though totally apt and refreshingly wrought metaphor.

I can’t tell you, for example, how many times Austen mentions horses. Private cars, buses—even unicycles would have been better, grittier. See for yourself:

Your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure.

An author with an ear to the ground would have written something such as–

Your father cannot spare the jetskis, I am sure.

And this business with Kitty and Wickham. Couldn’t flower-sweet Wickham, somewhere in the misty dawn of his tawdry affair, have texted the doe-eyed girl with the news that he was transitioning? Why leave poor, flirty Kitty in the dark for so long? Text the girl, Wiki—you know she always has her phone with her.

Somehow Austen’s work seems stuck in another age. And for this reason her opus stops at the door of greatness (as the security cameras deem the small stack of books to be just about the size of a I.E.D and shoo it away indecorously).

 

Anyway, it’s still a pretty (in)decent book and I look forward to reviewing her next novel, which is, as far as I can tell, a space opera that takes place on the rugged mountains of Mercury, amid hordes of belching sasquatches, under an incandescent sun that is as close to the bald pate of Jason, a convivial moneylender, as Obama is ideologically to Hillary.

And just as Pride and Prejudice before it, Prick Me is essentially a thriller, so you can look forward to some pretty villainous shenanigans—the type of thing you might expect from, let’s say, twin political conventions.

 

Don’t forget to read this or my royalty checks no longer clog up my red mailbox.

 

K & B Get Married

New story published today

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A story about collapsible umbrellas and love…

This flash fiction story is appearing today on the pages of Flash Fiction Magazine.

Are You Crazy?

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Cinnamon plant

On trying to grow true cinnamon: Cinnamomum verum  (formerly Cinnamomum zeylanicum, till the council decided that a name change would greatly benefit the world in some small, practically intangible way) is not easy to grow in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe it doesn’t like saline mists. Poor baby. I like the sort of plant you can have shipped from some faraway place, such as Maine or–well, I can’t think of another place, so let’s just say from the jungles of Maine, near Quebec, where a spattering of French is sometimes heard spoken by local magistrates–and, in some unscheduled tempest, the carton containing jungle lianas and the like, falls into the sea and gets tossed around–only to later be discovered by a tribe of wobbly pygmies, whose idea of sartorial excellence centers around the artful arrangement of bits of tawny rope on  their person, accentuating flabby protuberances of soft, pygmy flesh, deemed immoral by the captain of the containership tasked with transporting exotic flora to undisclosed ports, who is now captive and tied to a rubber tree, waiting for the large cauldron within his line of sight to heat up and start bubbling, like lava from the pit of the earth;  and later, as a testament to the miraculous work of international couriers–unafraid of hard work or the scepter of cannibalism–the package containing the plants from Sagadahoc, a consignment of man-eating species and various sought-after spices, arrives safely at my doorstep.

 

If you found this 250 word post confusing, opaque, and irreverent, a 1,000 word story of mine called Are You Crazy? will be published with great fanfare on the pages of Flash Fiction Magazine on July 24. Do the math and you will conclude that the new story will be four times as confusing as this post on cinnamon, the stuff on your Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal. Full disclosure: I get a small kickback in the form of a free cereal box every millennium or two just for mentioning Kellogg.

Then there’s this ditty–

Slipshod Service

 

Don’t stand in my way of the sky

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Most bloggers would probably choose a photograph that in some way encapsulates the meaning and spirit of the post it is perched upon. This is a mistake. Wet-behind-the-ears bloggers–henceforward referred to as greenhorns–may attempt this strategy thinking it is for them a road to riches. I laugh scornfully. Such incompetence in the blogosphere, such bravado on the part of the greenhorn!

 

No, really–here’s the way to do it. Think of your subject. That’s the first thing. Then, let your mind wander to the far reaches of our planetary system. Now stop that. It’s worth doodly-squat and you are wasting your valuable time. Instead, think of your first job. Then think of the first person you encountered while discharging said duty. Was that person sloppily dressed? If yes, think of the object next to them at the time–maybe it was a cantankerous poster of Karl Marx waving a disapproving finger, a floor lamp vaguely in the shape of a giraffe, a full grain leather car seat (if you happened to be in a limousine at the time), or a large storefront window with vistas of dim-witted shoppers in mortal combat. Now you have your photograph.

 

If, per contra, the person was impeccably dressed, then trouble your memory for this: what was the dominant color of their handsome attire? Maybe a red scarf screamed out at you as through you were a bull in a matador’s laird. Maybe it was a yellow polka-dotted necktie as thin as Twiggy, the British model from a bygone era. Now photograph something of that color. Anything.

 

I hope some of this information is helpful to bloggers. It isn’t readily available as most successful bloggers will not disseminate this sort of information to the greenhorn. Consider yourself lucky that someone as magnanimous as myself would willingly, noisily part with a powder keg of trade secrets. But I do it for one reason alone. I do it for the money.

 

‘Don’t stand in my way of the sky’ is the name of a soon-to-be-released single by a nonexistent band.  Don’t look for it in stores.

Actually, it’s my advice to birds, but you already knew that.

And all this makes a perfect segue to “Lemonade Stand,” which you may marvel at now.

Rewriting it fourteen times allowed me to include every possible way the word ‘stand’ might be used in a fictional work. Naturally the editor I was assigned to had to be hospitalized by the tenth draft. I sent flowers, of course, but that’s only because I’m sentimental about things. I’m magnanimous too. Maybe I mentioned that.

Lemonade Stand

Naturally I was going to give this lovely photograph a title, but something distracted me and I plumb forgot. This is quite bad. I mean bloggers have been burned at the stake for less.

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Messy Embrace