Posts Tagged ‘ Fictions ’

“Thrustwell’s Tale, or Beware the Bottle”

2010.12.30
By

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE Renaissance Pleasure Faire and a guy named Greg Pursley, who hired me to help him sell fencing lessons in Elizabethan garb and accent. The Cardiff Rose was no mere concession but a virtual privateer, with each crewmember having a complete character history as an aid to improvisational acting. (Fun? “Those who know, grin.”) In the interests of all-in-one-eggbasketry writingwise, I’m including here my own, or rather that of “Will Thrustwell,” purple prose and all, just as written in 198…8? 9? It’s necessarily in-jokey for a tight circle of friends (and includes the origin of “Trolle Sweate,” a particularly potent potable with which “Thrustwell” is synonymous). Some of whom may get a bit of a nostalgic hoot hereout, others may simply enjoy. I know I did. (Even the “heaving, tortured bosom.”)

UPDATE: I just Googled “Will Thrustwell” on a whim. All I can say is, “If it’s not a pirate, it’s not me.”

Will Thrustwell, c. 1987

Fig. 1.

Thrustwell’s Tale, or Beware the Bottle
(Being the Somewhat Revised, yet Mercifully Succinct, History
of
WILL THRUSTWELL,
Senior Pilot of the
CARDIFF ROSE)

Set down by his good friend Peter Boggs, Special Correspondent to the London Illustrated News
Read more »

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Days Like Doors

2010.12.26
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THERE ARE DAYS WHICH OPEN into unglimpsed circles that inspire and uplift.
And there are days which close the heart like a fist.
There are days when the angels sing within range of human ear
And days when all you hear is chopping.
There are days like green hills, a-prance with lambs,
And days like rotting undergrowth a-stench with mold and maggot.
All these days are given unto you,
like gloves God wears when He’s fixing something special
like small wandering children seeking a hand in the dark
like the door that opens into silence and light.

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Those Two Little Words I Long To Hear

2010.12.04
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“THEY’VE LANDED.”

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Prosatio Silban and the Escorter of the Dead

2010.11.24
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FROM HIS GALLEYWAGON AT THE edge of Pormaris’ busy South Market, Prosatio Silban could see the funeral pyres at their greedy task.

It wasn’t the best location, but the result of being last through the gate of the City of Gourmands that morning with all the good spots already taken. And it wasn’t so much the spectacle which bothered Prosatio Silban as the lack of custom; mourners were a notoriously unhungry lot. Here it was approaching dinner, and he had not sold so much as a bowl of beans. Such is life, he thought, opening the ‘wagon door to a light salt breeze. Life’s only constancies are death and hunger, and like most extremes they make a poor mix.

The beefy cook stepped down from the galleywagon and stood, stretching, between the two tables he’d deployed earlier. His eyes swept the pyres: a long row of smoke- or flame-crowned mounds at the water’s edge, surrounded here and there by bowed figures. The muted rhythms of Uulian death chants were just audible under the bustling of the market-throng, like a burnt undercurrent in an otherwise delectable pilaf.

One mound was unaccompanied save for someone tall in a black robe and golden sunhat. Prosatio Silban’s eyes narrowed. The pyre couldn’t have been burning that long. The cook had noted the solitary mourner when he set up his tables.

The figure knelt, then arose, shoulders drooped. When she turned, Prosatio Silban looked into one of the saddest faces he’d ever seen. Each line had been etched by a hundred sorrows; the otherwise clear blue eyes were red with weeping; her gaunt cheeks were daubed with tears. She sighed, wiped her face with a handkerchief and looked vaguely about. Seeing Prosatio Silban’s galleywagon, she started toward it with surprisingly brisk step.

“Yes, madam? Something to comfort soul, or body?”

Her voice was like wheezy reeds, but warm. “Thank you,” she said, seating herself. “A simple cress-and-cheese horn would satisfy both, please. And a glass of blue duliac.”

Prosatio Silban bowed and stepped up into his galleywagon. He retrieved from his cold box a bundle of greens and three slices of pale yellow cheese, then selected from a basket a thick blue-rice crescent. He sliced open the latter, tucked in the former, and drew a thin stream of sapphire liquid from a large cask into a fluted glass tumbler.

He arranged it all on a painted wooden tray and set the meal before his customer. “Thank you,” she said. “What do I owe you?”

“I am the Cook for Any Price,” Prosatio Silban replied. “But this has been a slow day, and I am tempted to charge accordingly.”

She looked up at him. Her smile was like the sun rising behind a thunderhead, so much so that Prosatio Silban took a half-step back.

“Well, then, I am at your mercy,” she said. “I am not a woman of that many means.”

“Fortunately, your tastes are inexpensive,” Prosatio Silban said, then dropped his voice a touch. “And I am sympathetic. You have been at the pyres all day.”

“Yes?”

“Was the passed-on someone close to you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“I’m sorry?”

“I never know. That is why I am here.”

“I don’t understand …”

“It is a kindness I cannot repay.” Her voice was even, but her eyes remembered. “Do you have a family?”

“Not here.”

“Neither do they.”

She held Prosatio Silban’s eyes; realizing it, she looked away. “May I pay you for the meal?”

Prosatio Silban bowed. “You already have.”

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From “Ol’ Thinkypants Speaks”

2010.11.24
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“I’M NEVER HAPPY WITHOUT JUGGLING three or four levels of meaning at once, no matter what the subject,” said Ol’ Thinkypants, and scratched meditatively. “Maybe two before coffee. But three or four is where it’s at. And if you can kick it up to eight or nine, you can have yourself a time.”

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A Great Line I’ll Have To Work In Somewhere

2010.10.23
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“IT WAS AT THIS POINT in the narrative when those skilled in the nuances of the oral tradition began chuckling with anticipation.”

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Fiction: The Little Green Man Who Didn’t

2010.09.27
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HE WAS DANGLING FROM THE upper corner of my typewriter window, upside-down and scowling, when I first saw the Man from Mars.

That’s what he was, no doubt about it. He was three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, and with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointed with disbelief, as though his worst hopes had been realized about a minute before he appeared.

“I cannot believe you people,” he was saying. “Just can’t believe it.”

“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.

He climbed down around the sill until his scowl was level with my eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Would you mind opening the window?”

“I would,” I said. “How do I know you’re, you know … not part of some invading force?”

“Because I can’t even open the window by myself,” he said. “The latch is on your side.”

“So it is,” I said, and raised it.

He stepped into the room. The spacesuit was ribbed silver and sans helmet, although a tubed canister on his back suggested its existence somewhere nearby. Most likely in a flying saucer, of course.

“This is why I contacted you,” he said, looking up at me with hands on glistening hips. “You remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Remember me. Remember us. The little green men from another world. Few do these days. I mean, you still use a typewriter. And not for irony.”

“I like to pound the words into the paper,” I said. “It feels like I’m sculpting them.”

“Whatever. You still remember the Old Ways.”

“I thought I was the only one who used that term. You mean, of course, when the future was shiny and worth a damn?”

“When there was a future. These days it’s all zombies, and mutants, and vampires, which are by the way the most pretentious of all the undead.”

“No question there,” I said. “But what do you mean?”

“What was the first post-apocalypse you remember?” he asked. “Mad Max, wasn’t it?”

“No, Road Warrior,” I answered. “I missed the first film somehow. But I had a subscription to Heavy Metal. The Church of Moebius.”

“Whatever. Remember the world situation then?”

“Sure. 1980s. Ronald Reagan and the Evil Empire. We kept expecting nukes to drop every evening.”

“Right. Sure did take off, though, didn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Post-apocalypticism. It’s a very seductive look: dead cities, mutants trading in the wrecked underbelly, black trenchcoats, green lighting. It’s very easy. Not like futurism — optimistic futurism, anyway. See the connection now?”

I didn’t, and said so. He looked at me with patience.

“You weren’t expecting the future anymore…” he began.

My heart froze.

He looked at me in sad silence.

“My God. What happened to us?” I asked. “This is why there’s no jetpacks – we’ve torn down all the launchpads and replaced them with franchised dead things.”

“That is about the size of it,” he said. “That’s why I’m here — to say goodbye, to someone who’d miss me.”

“But wait! What about Roswell?” I asked. “Flying saucers are still part of the brain politic.”

He stepped to the window, put a leg up. “But those saucers crashed,” he said. “And you people autopsied the occupants. See?”

Then he was gone.

I hope he comes back.

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Prosatio Silban’s Table Tips: Place

2010.09.15
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SOMEONE ONCE ASKED PROSATIO SILBAN his thoughts on “presentation;” i.e., how a dish should look when it leaves his kitchen. The Cook For Any Price thought for a moment before replying.

“I suppose it depends on your notion of what the food’s for,” he said. “In ancient and epicurean Pormaris, more than elsewhere in the Commonwell, cooking is an art like music, painting or courtesanry. There, the current fashion is to pile the food as vertically as the ingredients and imagination will allow. I suppose it accents the dinner setting.

“My own customers range from wealthy banqueters to the bowl-of-beans poor, but they have one thing in common: they’re hungry. So I try never to let the food get in the way of itself. A pretty plate pleases the soul, and that’s important. But people don’t always know what to do with too much prettiness.”

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Being Here, Doing This

2010.08.26
By

THE GUY IN THE BACK seat of Cash Cab
is heavily into the Neo-Beat Chic
(hip snap-gnosis, deprecate gesture):
Shirt buttoned horn rimmed open face serious sandwich,
And I guarantee he’s wearing
although I can’t see them
scuffed brown oxfords.

O my tribe, my freakish tribe;
freaks and smarters, lovers and waders;
It seems sometimes we’ve been us all:
timorous t-shirt wearer
ardent bandplayer
elder statesman
louder advocate
interoutcast
audient
spotlighter
extra.

And I know this, him, us, the shoes, all and none, because:

Mine are in the bottom of the closet,
road-kissed soles of a tale that’s its own telling
ready and waiting
and definitely
on the bus.

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Fists Against The Posts

2010.08.16
By

One kept thinking there had to be another way of looking at it, of really seeing *I*T*, and kept lamenting that particular brand of consciousness so limited in terms of time, space and perception. Oh, to soar as a school of fish — to feel the sea passing between its thousand fins now this way, now that. Or a yearning of swans — the intertwined indefinity of wings passing air down along the silent wind for others to grasp and master; Or roots pushing deep into moisture-thick earth, hardness yielding to an infinitely subtle softness; or to cry with the thousand-voiced dawn, not as birds but their urgeful chirping and its solid unyielding core: ball of life whirling through sunbound courses to push and dive and collide and bend around and back on itself again — and to know the immediate, im-mediated, proxyless and inviolate NOW of all and none of these NOW: … instead of one of a billion desperate afterimages, held in fading fingers as proof.

5 Thoughts: From Mix to Memory

1. A TREASURED ITEM IN HOUSEHOLDS of more than 40 years duration is the Mix Tape: an audio cassette of 40 – 60 minutes per side containing music from an LP or radio station which the user wishes to either preserve or make portable via boombox or Walkman. Some content may also come from such late-night performance venues as “Midnight Special” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” This technology was part of a primitive file-sharing service called the “music industry,” which is something like Pirate Bay only more centralized.

2. Perhaps the most evocative of my own seven or 12 mix tapes was made in late 1978 through early 1979, AKA my junior year of high school. It’s mostly punk and new-wave air-taped from San Francisco radio station KSAN (a”h), which means what’s now played as oldies on “modern rock” stations true to their roots (e.g. KFOG, Live 105 and Alice@97.3): Talking Heads, Boomtown Rats, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Ian Dury, The Normal, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Horslips, Joe Jackson and various artists whose names provoke blankness in the ignorant and bittersweet pangs in the worthy.

3. Listening to the same tape for 30-plus years builds up a close patina of memories and associations — not only of its making and subsequent hearing, but of individual songs as well. “Warm Leatherette” I first heard with two friends driving to San Francisco; “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” was recommended to me by a mad crush; “Changes” and “Ziggy Stardust” were two of my all-time favorite Bowie songs even before this tape. On the other hand, I can’t hear either today on radio, CD or MP3 without “overhearing” the version on “the KSAN tape.” (And “Harmonia” just doesn’t sound right without that two-second burst of static).

4. Extended listening also implies/shows/initiates a change of tastes, or at least of understandings. The suburban punk who cheered the frantic teenpocaplyse of “Rat Trap” has traded in, so to speak, for “Sultans of Swing” (which once seemed to me just a mellow bass line and amazing Knopflerian guitar run rather than a paean to everyone like “Harry (who) doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene / He has a day-time job, he’s doin’ all right / He can play the honkytonk like anything / But he’s savin’ it up for Friday night”); “Walking In The Rain” is no longer anthemic, but “Surrender” is; the once-defiant dabbling of “Walk On The Wild Side” has given way to a bemused nostalgia.

5. It’s tempting, very tempting, to say that “they don’t write ‘em like this anymore” — that today’s “modern rock” either takes itself too seriously, or ironically, or breathily[1] to be much fun — and to lament that the music of one’s own youth is co-opted to sell blue jeans, lifestyles and safely manufactured rebellion. Such is life among the short-spanned; things will always be both better and worse than they were in one’s youth. But remember this, o my fellow middle-aged punks: When the world gets as grim as it seems to be right now, the most brazen act of defiance is happiness.

_ _ _ _ _
[1] Really. Some of these people need to quit smoking or gargling with cotton balls or whatever it is they’re doing and leave the tentative whispering to spies and other lovers.

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Prosatio Silban and the Mayor of Ixtachet

2010.08.10
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EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE Mayor of Ixtachet, at least until they become so: this Prosatio Silban discovered on a chance visit to the edge of the Blue Void which forms one border of the Uulian Commonwell.

Ixtachet was one of the few villages in the Commonwell not blessed with verdant pasturage and running streams. Instead, its inhabitants lived in a series of cliffside huts, each with a breathtaking view of the Blue Void’s eternal twilight and a small landhold containing a handful of roosts for the precarious-clinging snoat, whose richly flavored eggs were the economic foundation of Ixtachet’s existence. The village consisted solely of the cliffside huts, one public well, and a great warehouse called the Mayor’s House, and was largely unvisited save by those lost or seeking snoat eggs.

As a wandering cook, Prosatio Silban was both – rather, he had been lost until he realized (as one long-schooled in Uulian delicacies) where he was, and the prosperous figure before him had introduced himself as the Mayor of Ixtachet. He certainly looked the part: well-made red and yellow silk robes set with small gems, and well-fed mouth set in a disapproving frown.

“Unless you are licensed by the Victualer’s Guild, I can sell you no snoat eggs,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “They have each one of them been marked or spoken for.”

Prosatio Silban displayed a confidant’s smile. “Surely you could spare a single egg – say, sufficient for a half-dozen custards to adorn the table of a discerning Heir Second, as a complement to clinking crystal and after-dinner laughter?”

“Alas, no,” replied the mayor. “I could no more spare an egg than I could spare an Ixtachetian.”

“Why so?” Prosatio Silban asked.

The Mayor of Ixtachet then related his particulars: that his village was the only spot along the Blue Void’s rim where the tentative snoats would roost, and then only under such conditions as could be guaranteed through constant supervision by the entire village. The eggs brought almost incalculable wealth, but so busy were the Ixtachetians with snoat maintenance that they could spare only one day a year to enjoy it: the day they buried the old Mayor of Ixtachet and elected the new. Everyone wanted to be Mayor of Ixtachet – it meant a rest from the ceaseless toil of snoat-watching – and the election generally picked that year’s most charismatic and beloved person; it was considered an act of both mercy and trust.

But the Mayor’s task it was to guard the village’s health as well as its wealth: the vast treasure would also have been his pleasure were not his the hands which repaired and rebuilt, his the tongue which dealt with (licensed) traders, his the eye which oversaw everything and his the shoulders which carried it all, day by day.

This lesson was only learned on the first day, and confirmed by slow experience, because those who learned it were too enfeebled and used up by their service to warn their successors on Election Day.

“All they see — all I saw — is the robes and the restfulness,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “Not the responsibility.”

And as Prosatio Silban bade the village an eggless farewell, he reflected: Everyone wants to be the Mayor of Ixtachet – and probably, always will.

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All Purpose Disclaimer

2010.08.04
By

THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR may not reflect whatever he’s thinking about now, or however he’s thinking about it, although they most likely did when he wrote whatever you read; thus and likewise, he is not responsible for anything you do before, while, or after you read whatever he wrote. The author’s responsibility is to communicate as clearly as he can at the time he’s writing, and if he’s failed in that mission then by “God” buckle up and try again. While his views may differ from yours, he is a creature like yourself, although perhaps a bit wittier (unless you’re his wife) and with a great delight in Lower North America’s free-speech guarantee, which, despite that some rascals who would abolish it like to hide behind it, he feels to be the greatest thing since Gutenberg. The author further notes that any disagreement is best handled a) openly, b) tactfully, and c) with the calm assurance that “God” makes us all special, and that if you continue to be offended, irked, troubled, disturbed, bored, annoyed, disgusted or negatively impacted by his words, the author sincerely suggests consulting your pineal gland. (Or maybe, read something else.)

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