I need you to write me a three page play with no more than 4 characters, loosely themed around spring/rebirth/change, and I need it on my desk this week. It will be produced in less than a month. It can be comedy or tragedy of any genre.And so, thinking along the lines of the myth of Persephone and the origins of spring, a couple poems I've written recently, and the touchy political climate, I wrote the following play. I've never written a play before. What the hell, I thought? How often am I going to be approached to write a play that is guaranteed for production?
I'm completely serious. Rock out the play, get it to me, and we'll have it produced ASAP, probably by the end of April. Tell your friends, too. I'm getting as many submissions as possible. I guarantee yours a productions, though.
Ready, set, go.
Whadda ya think? For my Madisonian friends, I'll keep you updated as to when it will be produced exactly. I got an email back from Steven this morning which read:
This is an excellent little play. I can't wait to stage it. If you come up with some more, shoot them my way, you are at the top of my roster, batting first.So if any of you want to write a little play, send it this way and I'll get it to Steven. I'm pretty excited.
I will probably post more of my writing from this class as the semester progresses. Apparently we're going to be writing a lot and then later, workshopping them and editing for a final "portfolio" which is our final exam. Right now, I have to go finagle some lunch and read a chapter for my film class. The quiz was supposed to be Tuesday, but my class was canceled for the blizzard. I don't know how we're going to fit in the quiz & watch Sliding Doors in one class period though. Anyhoo, enjoy and adieu. I just looked up the etymology of "adieu" and discovered that it means literally "to God" which is more perfect than ever.
I first realized that something was terribly wrong when I pressed the OFF button several times and nothing happened. I wasn’t watching the screen. I merely pressed the button again. Nothing. I changed the channels, click, click, click. One more. Click. A commercial for “male-enhancement.” Click. Some formulaic sitcom. Click. Junk-in-the-trunk booty shakers dancing around a man in over-sized sportswear with a “grill of bling.” Click. A blustered and flustered preacher spat sermons at sinners in that below-the-Mason-Dixon-Line accent that only televangelists can muster. Out of spite, I pressed the ON button. True to form, the television remained on. I tried off again. Nothing. I decided to change the channel. Click. Nothing. The preacher remained, and by now had worked him up into a fire-and-brimstone frothy orgasm of apocalyptic pronunciations. Click. Click. Click. The preacher remained. His rosy cheeks and the spittle from his mouth taunted my failure, as if he was personally reprimanding me for my wasted time in front of this Satanic box of technology, idle hands, idle minds, opening a full-fledged Devil’s workshop quickly filled with commercials for consumer goods and services, the latest celebrities to emulate, the political pundits to quote, all depraved and degraded, unholy sinners and fornicators all of them. Except for the preacher, who somehow claims to be above all of it and how God will save us, how Jesus will save us, how the apocalypse will come and those who are righteous will be take away from all of this. Well fuck you, preacher man. Fuck you. I unplug the television. “Now, Jeremy, why would you do that to me,” the preacher says. I freeze. “Yes, you heard me. I came special to bring you this message and you deny the power of the Almighty- you think this power over your television is some technological issue? Oh no, son, I have come to bring you to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.” What the fuck? I thought, What the fuck?
I want to look deep into the back of my mind and think about the concept of the center. Everything magical lives in the middle, in the center of dark labyrinths, in the center of a tootsie pop, in the loci of the heart, the pineal gland, the biological third eye sitting in the center of the brain.
And I’m reminded of when we are thinking of something we look up and to the left, as if searching the sky for the answers, and yet the rational answers, the ones we access from that vault in the sky, are so rarely the right answers. It’s a cliché told a million times that we must look inside, search ourselves for the true answers, the important ones, the ones people write books about, the ones wars are fought over, are killed for, are only found in our deepest centers.
I’ve seen those who talk of transcending, moving out and beyond to some great other and yet I can’t help but see them wandering through life with their heads on a string, softly dangling and bobbing above them, detached, floating in space, carefully avoiding anything that might weigh them down. But the most secure people, the most amazing people I’ve met have been the people who radiated outward like an atomic detonation, not upward like an impotent rocket ship.
Each unto their own, as the saying goes. I should be writing one of Jacquelyn’s writing prompts. Yesterday’s post about Charlie was the first and tonight I had several more to choose from though none of them caught my fancy nor matched my mood. Perhaps she was right that I should be expanding my repertoire. The philosophical, half-formed ramblings I’ve done and even working into a theme, perfecting them in my own way. I’ve done funny and though that comes easiest too me, it’s the emotional realm which I feel the least comfortable delving into for creative projects. Some would think that it’s because I’m not in touch with that or that I lack the capacity. They would be wrong.
It’s because I know the truth of writing, and what you write reflects directly on you, in a Jungian/Freudian sense, give your readers a bare look deep into your inner structures. Writing truth lays all your kinks and curves, bumps, imperfections out in the open. How can I hide my weak places, cover myself, protect myself when I’m laying out everything on the table like a thief at the precinct. Empty your pockets, son.
God, who wants to see that? And more so, do I want people to see that? Some of Jacquelyn’s ideas were tragic, some were sad, some were merely difficulty to imagine. Yet one was rough because it’s a true story and it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done. I wasn’t in the mood for that either, and yet I listened to Gary Jules cover of “Mad World” and now I’m feeling a little melancholic and perhaps I can do it justice.
Jeremy had just turned thirteen in the summer of 1990. You can see him there, behind the garage pushing the aging, grease-laden lawnmower, only the tiniest streaks of red paint visible beneath years of oil drips and rain storms, rust and grass clippings. The yard behind his house is massive. He’d overheard the landlord tell his parents it was half an acre, but in retrospect he thinks she might have had a propensity for exaggeration. Yet, the lawn was still huge and irregular. A steep hill on one end, used for sledding in the winters, a rock circle of wildflowers, two rows of grapevines, tart purples ones that make great jam but terrible snacks, and a failed garden of weeds, clovers and dirt hiding behind the garage where Jeremy now mows. He is shirtless and sweating profusely, a cliché phrase he knows, but true nonetheless, which reminds him of a comedian he saw who said that men sweat and women glisten, and that sometimes women glisten like pigs.
He’s been mowing, back and forth, in large squares and small circles, around vines and trees. He’s been mowing all day and evening approaches. Jeremy stopped for a few minutes every time the mower had run out of gas. Lemonade and a few minutes of a Saturday afternoon movie. This time it was Weird Science, and therefore not a big loss since he’s seen it several times. You can see a frantic, hurried energy in him as he pushes the mower. When you glance around, you realize he is almost done, merely this last patch behind the garage, bordered by a row of the grape vines and the property line of hedges. On one of his passes, very close to the vines, right up to the edge, he mows over a small pile of raked-up grass clippings. The lawnmower makes a strange noise and something is obviously wrong. The light is fading and yet there were streaks of red, not of the lawnmower, but coming from the lawnmower. If you had a certain view, you might have seen Jeremy’s heart leap into his throat, a throbbing pulse enter his heat, heating up his face in shock. He stops the mower, and adrenaline races through him as he snaps the mower away and flips it over. He can’t believe this vision and his eyes quickly fill and overflow with tears as a sadness claws up from the dead garden, and drags him to his knees.
Pieces of young rabbits lie in an irregular path of blood and fur. From what he can tell, there were three of them and no mother rabbit nearby, nor in the makeshift home she had made in the pile of dull green-grey grass. Shaking and shuddering, Jeremy stands up, and collects the remains, salt-water replacing salt-water as his tears wash away the summer sweat.
Jeremy digs a hole beneath the hedges with his bare hands, digging, clawing at the baked earth. Bent fingernails, cuts, scrapes and blisters are nothing, mean nothing as the hole deepens and widens, finally large enough to bury the baby rabbits he’s killed. Even in this horrible emotional state, as his body shudders with Richter-scale aftershocks, crying from some deep reserve that only so rarely is tapped, he knows the hole must be deep enough to keep predators away. Though he couldn’t protect their lives, he would protect them in death.
He places the babies, the kits in the hole and covers them with the dirt. Were he a religious child I imagine he would have said something, done something to sanctify the grave, something to mark this place, but at that age, he doesn’t believe, doesn’t think of the big picture. In retrospect, I think the grave was sanctified by his sweat, his blood and his tears, leaving a stronger impression behind, a brighter grave marker than any headstone or cross of sticks.
Jeremy washed his hands in the cold water of the green yard hose. He sprays out the lawn mower until no evidence remains of his crime. An accident yes, but to his young mind, a crime all the same. This is the boy who set up a road block to save baby opossums after the mother was hit by a car, the boy who brought home a bird with a broken wing to care for it, the boy who pretended to miss when he was taken hunting. Jeremy’s philosophy of life may not have included a big picture, but life was sacred and he’s just cut three cords in the fabric, took three players out of the game, turned three sacred lives into a hole of blood and bone and he was ashamed.
Jeremy went in the house, took a shower and went to bed and never said a word to anyone about his secret shame.
The end, I suppose.
Charlie was ninety-six when they came for him. They at least allowed him the decency to pack his own suitcase. A strong baritone echoed from the next room, “We haven’t got all day Mr. Colson. Just pack what you’ll need for a few days.”
That is all he was trying to do, but his intentions were derailed. Charlie was transferring some clothes from his burnished oak dresser into his suitcase. As his hands, strong hands, he though, but really thin and gnarled, carefully folded a red and black flannel shirt, a large amber Abyssinian cat leapt onto the lid of the suitcase, snapping it shut.
“Now, Lester, you stop that. I’ve got to go,” Charlie said. Lester met out a long meow, almost human in tone, young, like a child’s first attempt at serious articulation. Charlie smiled, caressing Lester’s brow. The cat responded with a deep purr, rubbing his scent glands into Charlie’s hand. “I wish I could take you with me, but I’ve told you before, all of you,” he said as he scanned his bedroom, eyes moving from one cat to another, a room full of little sentient furballs, “that I can’t. Where I’m going, they ain’t allowing no animals.”
Several of the felines stirred at this. A smoky grey Chartreux with glistening golden eyes stalked out of the room like an indignant wife. Charlie sighed, “Come back here, Betty.” She kept walking and disappeared around the corner. He remembered when he’d picked her up from the breeder’s place in
“It don’t make no sense to me either. You kids are cleaner and better behaved than most the people I met in my life.” Charlie reopened his suitcase and placed the flannel inside. “Now listen up. I’ve arranged good homes for you all. Each and every one of you. God, how many are you now? Thirty-five? Thirty-six?” Lester meowed. “Yes, right thirty-six,” said Charlie. “That damned son of mine is going to make sure you all go to the right people. Then the movers are gonna come and take what they can to that institution they’re sending me to. I never broke no laws but I getting’ sent up the river nonetheless.”
Charlie wasn’t getting sent to an institution. He wasn’t going to jail. However, his son had arranged an apartment in a retirement community. It was “a very fine facility” according to the aforementioned damned son’s wife. But to Charlie it might as well have been
It was very classic Vonnegut, he tells a few of the same stories you may have read elsewhere, but all the new material is amazing and the old material merely helps to build his narrative. A Man Without a Country reads like a heart-felt eulogy for the planet, and more specifically the United States that we once had the potential to be.
From another perspective, it's almost like Kurt is writing his own eulogy, giving us his final good byes, his last look around before he closes the door on his way to wherever humanitarians go when they die. How a book can be sad, heart-wrenching and triumphant all at once, I'll never be able to tell you, but Vonnegut pulls it off without breaking a sweat.
Kurt is probably more responsible for me wanting to be a writer than any other author. I owe him so much. Breakfast of Champions saved or changed my life when I was sixteen, I can't decide which. His ideas have probably influenced me in ways I'll still be discovering when I'm Vonnegut's ripe old age of 82.
For instance, here is a piece I started waaay back in January of 1998, but never finished. You can probably smell the Vonnegut all over this thing.
I am now jackshoegazer.
In celebration of this momentous occasion, I am reposting the opening scene of my first Jack Shoegazer novel. Comments, criticisms and critiques are welcome.
I'd like to thank everyone who read, commented and supported me during the fnord777 era, and hope that I continue to astound, inform, and entertain you.
but a vacuum hum
and a buzz
in my ears as I write
try as I might
to create a titillating
which ever escapes me
in my cube of doom.
I realize now the folly of the unprepared, the unplanned. Without the internet, I am helpless, my mind clean and ready, primed and pumped, but missing the key little details I've told myself I need but to look up. My, how the ethereal connections, the information floating in the nether regions of the universe elude me when I am without a modem. Why does my brain taunt me with these thoughts; that if only I knew how, I could attune my feeble grey matter into these invisible caches of knowledge?
For now it will suffice that I merely encode these mumbled ramblings, perhaps unedited into the bowels of LiveJournal; my failings strung up like fallen heroes, paraded before people, shame and honor reduced and scattered amongst the stars.
Alas, this is my finish, the last I will write tonight. Fearless is the man who is megalomaniacal enough to assume that others wish to read what he has written. But that's not true. It's a facade and we all fall for it.
I read once that there are only seven jokes in the existence and all jokes are variations on those seven jokes. Apparently the most common is the three-step misdirection. Set-up, set-up, punchline. Two Jews walked into a bar. The third one ducked. You get it.
Puns are some of my favorites. I like the one about the pastor who hires an armless and legless man in a wheelchair to ring the church bells by biting the rope and yanking on it. When the bells don't go off on time, he and others go to investigate, and they find the limbless fellow lying on the floor, unconscious. When someone asks who he is, the pastor says, "I can't remember his name but his face rings a bell."
My other favorite has a punch line about Gandhi. He was a super-calloused, fragile mystic plagued with halitosis. Say it out loud if you don't get it.
I will report that I have invented one joke in my life, though I have heard others tell it and swear that there's no way I could have made it up. I did though. In a George Webb's 24-hour diner. It goes like this:
Me: Hey, ask me if I'm a truck.
You: Uh, are you a truck?
Trust me, it's all in the delivery.
I suppose, if everything's been said, there's no reason someone else couldn't have invented that joke also. Two people invented vaccines and postulated the spiral-structure of DNA at the same time, hundreds of miles apart. Life seems to have sprung up all over the world at the same time, not just one plant in Africa that spread slowly across the globe.
It seems that when the world needs something, wants something, is ready for something, it just appears wherever the environment is ripe. I think it's every person's secret wish to be a catalyst, to be the right kind of fertilizer, the right kind of vehicle for something the Universe wants.
We have all this potential just begging to be used. How many lives are wasted waiting? The chaff and the wheat? A lot of fertilizer for one bright flower - a lotus with just it's bloom above the surface, most of it's life underwater and invisible.
I want to write something that's never been said, do something that's never been done. I want to bloom across the Universe, I want to fly around the world. I want my very own supernova. I want to blow up. I want to expend and expand. I want to say something so true, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I want the Universe to look upon me with eyes proud and affirming and say, "Yes, Jeremy, you are a bright light shining in the darkness. You have brought the dawn to a new idea, awakened a slumbering truth. Thank you."
To which I will reply, "What do I need a refrigerator for? I don't smoke."
I haven't written two poems in a single day in, well, I can't ever remember doing it, actually. One was spur of the moment, the other was tweaked and edited for an hour. Any guesses which is which?
I was doing dishes this morning and one of Jacqui's plates *asploded* on me and now I have limited use of my left pinkie because part of the knuckle is in the sink somewhere. Ew. Well, maybe not. But there is a definite chunk missing. About the size of half a dime. It will leave a scar. From the scars on my hands, I will forever remember the days when a plate broke, when a beef gravy can attacked me and when I lost a pillow fight.
Yes, I have scars from a pillow fight. I think I might be the only person in the world with permanent damage from a pillow fight. Pillow fighting is pretty innocuous, except when you don't notice that there is a glass light cover between you and your target. Yeah, someone call Guinness. The records people, not the beer people.
Oh wait, they're the same people. Even better.
I just secretly ordered Chinese food for my roommate who has had a horrible day and thinks he's coming home to scrounge the fridge for old hot dogs or something. I am teh evil.
I watched The Anniversary Party and it reminded me that I love Alan Cumming and Jennifer Beals. They are terrific and should be in more movies. I would cast them as a husband/wife team of paranoid conspiracy theorists who run a bar in Laredo, Texas. Alan would smoke too much pot and make pottery in his spare time. Jennifer would smoke too many cigarettes and be very cynical of Alan's pottery. Gary Busey and Quentin Tarantino would arrive as Men In Black after Alan buys a block of clay which contains an alien fetus. Then Warwick Davis and Scarlett Johansson enter the scene, claiming to be the child's parents from a planet orbiting Sirius B, where children are implanted into clay to incubate after conception. There will be everything you need for a popular movie. Sex, drugs, violence and car chases.
I can make it a Jack Shoegazer movie! Johnny Depp would play Jack! I would call it Jack Shoegazer and the Mystery of the Clay Baby.
Yeah, that's the ticket. See you at the Oscars.
Day upon day of gloomAnd I mean it. I feel like I haven't seen the sun in weeks, and being on third shift and thereby sleeping most days, does nothing but exacerbate that impression. I used to think seasonal affectiveness disorder was a crock of shite. Then I did a large amount of research into the pineal gland, melatonin and vitamin D production, all of which are linked to sunlight. Now, I feel like a wilted plant, the sheltered half of a childhood science project. Somewhere, there is another of me, getting all the sunlight and love a photosynthesizing entity could hope for, while I rest in a dark box, ignored by the glorious incendiary nuclear reactor in the sky.It hasn't been all for naught, because it has left me in an introspective mood, forcing my inner sun to shine, if you will. A lot of malfunctions have been highlighted, as well as their solutions and I'm almost optimistic. I've also been formulating my next novel, and it's starting to take shape.
has rested in the sky-
and disturbing dreams
with pinnacles of light
I am going to go forward with my Jack Shoegazer, Esoteric Investigator idea. He is going to have a Watson-like research assistant/sidekick, a Frenchman named Avec Moi. Jack is going to get brought in to investigate a mysterious incident, what most people described as an explosion, but a few said they saw strange lights and weird unidentified flying objects. And I will tie this all into the origins of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Ceremonial Magick, Aleister Crowley, and the LAM/Grey phenomenon. Now I just have to find some time to write it.
Ah, Jacquelyn made a stir-fry with one of my aforementioned rices and I must now eat. Toodles!
I spelled it wrong.
I'm not going to tell you everything to type, she said.
Especially if you spell things wrong.
When do cliches become cliche? When is it cliche to say something is cliche?
When does novelty become novel?
How long until parody and satire are immediately applied to everything?
She is a cricket on my shoulder and I cannot shoosh her.
I did it again, she said.
But no one will know because I fix it.
But she knows.
And my eye smelled my finger as it wiped away a crumb and it smelled like garlic.
Everything had garlic.
I cut up garlic and ginger.
Mary Ann was nice and begged for her life.
I said no one will get it.
But she got it.
I bet you think I'm high but I'm not.
Not even drunk.
But I'm blah and that's like a drug too.
She said it's worse.
I have a bad Seether song in my head and I am not happy about it.
She said that's cliche.
Haha, Sayid said.
Ok, it's just for breathing and my neck is cramped.
So good night and new year and monkey love.
She said it's a sad post.
I say no one will read the whole thing anyway.
But she read it because she watched as I wrote it.
Does that count?
Thank you for submitting your letter to the writing contest. It was the
funniest thing I've read in quite some time. I'm sorry to say that a winner
has already been chosen for this month's contest. I look forward to reading
your future submissions!
Juice Features Editor
Here is my submission:
To my dearest DeeDee,I know when you arrived home this evening, you were surprised I wasn’t here, huddled under an afghan, watching my soaps. If you haven’t already discovered it, you’ll be still more surprised to discover that your clothes are gone. Yes, your clothes. I can’t think of an easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it. I’m leaving you.
Remember when I went in for that tonsillectomy? And remember how upset I was when they accidentally switched charts and gave me breast implants instead? And now it’s been months, but my lawyers haven’t gotten anything done and I haven’t planned to have them removed? Yeah, um, because it was no accident. I got them on purpose.
This is years in the planning. I’ve been skimming off the top of my Social Security check since before I met you. The circus pays twice what I’m getting from the government! And I’ll feel fulfilled. Since I was a boy, whenever I saw a bearded man, I pictured him in a dress. Like a fuzzy Laura Ingalls.
I know this is hard to understand, and I don’t expect you too. I also don’t expect you to try and find me, knowing who I really am. See, I’ve had this dream, since as long as I can remember… to be in the circus, as the bearded-lady. I’m sorry I lied.
You must be asking yourself, WHY? I can’t answer that. Call it fate, destiny, call Jerry Springer.
It was originally much longer with more punchlines, but hey, limits are limits. For instance, on this piece, I wanted it to end with "Call it fate, call it destiny, just don't call me Jason. I'm Priscilla!"
I once wrote a story that had to be 2500 words and was only 2250. I then wrote an exactly 250-word P.S. explaining why it was short and tying the explanation into the theme of the piece. It was damned clever and can't find it anywhere.
Tonight's entry has been brought to you by the letter and the dastardly denizens of Denmark.