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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Exquisite Corpse: The Play, Part 3

Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

Jacob: Err, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a dead body or something. This is a heavy motherfucker.

John: What are you two nut cases doing? Pull it in already.

Jacob: We’re trying man, calm your shit.

Schmidt: What is that awful smell? Oh, Jesus!

John: I wiped!

Schmidt: I uhhm I didn’t.

John: Who denied it supplied it.

Schmidt: Nice to see you can use your brain for more than cocktail recipes and porn storage.

John: On occasion…

Schmidt: On occasion for what?

John: It’s personal.

 Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

John: I took biology in high school. That was twenty years ago. But, I mean, do tunas have high heels and wear yellow “Live Strong” bracelets?

Jacob: I don’t know man. I saw this tuna on TV once that beat a man to death with a mackerel.

Schmidt: I caught a 47 inch Spanish mackerel while sailing off the coast of key largo in the deep water. I battled that beast for 40 minutes!

John: Hang on, lemme get the number for my doctor, you musta broke something with all that back patting.

Jacob: Just your pride, bitch!

Schmidt: Just my what?

John: Never mind you idiot.

Jacob: Fine. But don’t come crying to me when you need help reeling in the next one.

Schmidt: Next time you’ll be in the water, you asshole.

John: Speaking of that, my therapist says that whenever you think someone is an asshole, it’s really because you’re jealous you don’t possess that very quality that you think makes them an asshole.

Schmidt: Don’t try to compare a rose and a pile of shit.

 Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

John: Keep reeling, Jacob! Keep Reeling!

Jacob: Fuckin’ A, keep your damn pants on already! (Reels in furiously)

John: Fuck you! Just get the goddamn fish…

Schmidt: Reel the fucker in!

John: I would if you help me. I’m not Superman you know.

Jacob: There is no need to point out the obvious.

John: Oh, I’m sorry Jacob. I didn’t realize that a rotting body was obvious!

Jacob: I have something important, John, to tell you. Regarding that very matter.

John: I don’t even wanna hear it, Jacob. I already know what you’re gonna say.

Jacob: Llama.

John: How’d you know…?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Exquisite Corpse: The Play, Part 2

Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what? (Cocks shotgun)

John: Feels more like your mom after we hauled her drunk ass home from the Christmas part.

Jacob: I’d fuck your mom, Schmidt!

John: I already fucked her.

Schmidt: What the hell!! You’re sick!

Jacob: What man? I was only trying to dance with it, you know, lighten the mood.

Schmidt: Dance with it? Looks like you’re doing more than dancing! What’s wrong with you?

John: Tuna-dancing, I will have you know, is an important form of exercise.

Jacob: Oh yeah, that’s usually practiced in the West Indies though, isn’t it? I’ve never seen it done around here before.

John: Are we still talking about cannibalism?

Schmidt: No, we moved on to whether or not it’s a sanctified move to make implants mandatory in all porn stars.

Jacob: Depends on the porn.

 Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

Jacob: I don’t… WHAT THE FUCK!!

Schmidt: Come on, help me pull it in.

John: How am I supposed to help you man, I’m holding the bucket for Jacob. Damn sea sickness!

Jacob: What do you have there? It’s huge. Pull that shit in faster John!

John: That’s what she said.

Schmidt: Oooo, too close to home Johnny.

Jacob: What? We’re all men here. Or well, those of us who weren’t born with the natural male apparatus had one sewn on. Haha, I’m just joking.

Schmidt: …Remind me to check your hospital records when we get back.

Jacob: Not sure about that…

Schmidt: Let’s throw the body back into the water.

Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

John: I don’t know! Help me pull it in.

Jacob: Get the net Schmidt, or wait…no, I’ll get it, it’s over here.

Schmidt: Well, let’s hurry this up. What is that?

John: You can’t hurry perfection. I tell my wife that all the time in the ol’ sack, if you know what I mean.

Jacob: Yeah, some of us practice what we preach, ya know.

Schmidt: Yeah, and some of us practice on peaches.

Jacob: Fool, are you drunk? John, check to make sure he didn’t spike the bottles again.

Schmidt: Just a little Rohypnol.

John: …huh?

Schmidt: Are you hard of hearing?

Jacob: What?!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Exquisite Corpse: The Play, Part 1

Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

Jacob: It has to be or else I am putting in this effort for nothing.

John: Well, put a little more effort into it man. I need to get home before the old lady starts bitching.

Schmidt: I forgot about her! What’s her name again?

John: Steve! (Elbows Jacob) Right Jacob, am I right?

Schmidt: Who the hell is Steve?

John: Wasn’t he that hopped up Irishman, always looked like someone struck his head in a power box with 
the current still on?

Schmidt: Jaysis!

John: I think I need to change my pants.

Schmidt: Dude, you’re sick.

Jacob: Dude, I thought we had already established that.

Schmidt: The only thing we’ve established here is that John’s gay and we are no longer friends. Be supportive man! This is our last fishing trip!

 Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

John: No, lay off man. I’ll get one sooner or later.

Jacob: Hey, Schmidt, why don’t you lay off? It’s not like you got anything and you got two hands.

Schmidt: At the moment I only got one actually…corpses don’t get you hot?

John: NO! Corpses don’t ‘get me hot’ you sick fuck!

Jacob: Could have fooled us…

Schmidt: Strewth! Could have fooled Odin!

John: What da fuck kind of language is that you speaketh, Schmidt?

Schmidt: The kind your mother speaks.

Jacob: Don’t you dar talk about my mom. I will cut you!

John: If you cut me, I’ll do you one worse. I’ll feed you to whatever is in that stinking water!

Jacob: We’ve all gotta go someday, little brother. If Nessie gets me, she gets me.(Spits tobacco.)

The three sit in silence.

Exquisite Corpse

Setting: On a boat, three guys fishing.


Schmidt: Did you get a tuna, or what?

John: Depends, do tuna wear wedding rings?

Jacob: That doesn’t make any sense, John. Wow, this is a big one!

Schmidt: (Cocks shotgun) Looks like it needs some convincing…

John: I don’t know, it don’t seem to be breathin’.

Schmidt: It’s all kinds of different colors.

John: Ew, that’s disgusting!

Schmidt: Not as much as your mom.

Jacob: Leave our moms out of this! You know John’s mom is dead!

John: But there’s something you should know about that: I killed her.

Jacob beats john over the head with fishing pole until he is dead.

Schmidt: I guess you can say he’s dead on the hook.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Exquisite Corpses: Introduction 2

Here’s another set of Exquisite Corpses from my time at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. These took place during my junior year at the end of the fall semester. That semester I had taken a course on Playwriting that was being taught by Colleen Abel, who was also the instructor for my Introduction to Creative Writing course during my sophomore year. We used the same concepts to write these Exquisite Corpses as we did during the poetry corpses, we just did it with plays instead.

As before, I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due. Here are the people that were involved in this project (excluding myself): Colleen Abel, Colton Dunham, Mercedes Hernandez, Heather Meuret, Latia Parnell, Matt Roeder, Jake Schultz, and Jacob Sindic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Story Behind "First Time Family Visit"

I don’t often write from personal experience. While everyone says that you should write what you know, what you know is different for everyone. Writing from personal experience can lead the writer to become too attached to memory and force that into their fiction. On top of that, forcing embellishments on characters based on real people in real situations can fall flat. Having said that, this is definitely a story in need of revisions because it is based on real people in real situations.

This event was based on the first time I took my wife to Florida to meet my parents. It was my dad’s birthday week, and we had bought tickets for my parents and us to go to a Florida Gator football game since that is my family’s college team of choice. One night, after dinner, the conversation took a turn exactly like the one here, although the aftermath was considerably different. The result is that I was unable to really flesh out the mother character and she came across as overly villainous. The revelation of Olivia’s brother being gay and having AIDS also seemed overly convenient, even though that actually happened.

I’m not divorcing myself from this story, there are a lot of things that I really like about this story, and I think that I could craft it into a good or even great story dealing with themes of family dysfunction, religion, and politics and I have a few ideas of what I want to do for a future draft. So make sure to stay tuned for a better version of this story.

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Time Family Visit, Part 2

His mom initially seemed very cordial to the both of them. She exclaimed about how she had a long day at the healthcare facility. She made sure to emphasize to the fact that she was a Nurse Practitioner to Olivia, but beyond that she was happy to see the both of them giving them both a bear hug upon seeing them. 
Tyler noticed that Olivia looked a little uncomfortable, being from Door County and not used to the difference in racial equality in the room, so he kept his arm around her to keep her stable as his mom and aunt prepared the meal for the evening. Bruce seemed to not mind anything sitting in his easy chair with an episode of The Andy Griffith Show blaring in the background. Olivia wasn’t a fan of classic TV, but she seemed more at home with Bruce than she did with Tyler’s mom and aunt and Tyler wasn’t going to take that away from her. Olivia and Bruce were the only silent people in the room at this point besides himself.
It wasn’t long before the buffet style food was ready, and Tyler was appalled to find that his parents and aunt had gone completely healthy in their diet. Gone were the days of ribs, collard greens soaked in pig fat, and fried chicken; and in were the days of steamed veggies and fish. He wanted some of his grandma’s cornbread, but realized that, as she used to say, “…it sucks half the moisture out of your body…” The cornbread his mom did make was more like cake, sweet and nothing like the recipe bequeathed to her.
Tyler had often told Olivia about southern soul food, and having been raised on it, he expected it from his parents. Despite his ignorance of his current situation, he ate along with little explanation. Finally, his mother said, “I know this isn’t what you ‘spected, but we tryin’ to eat healthier.” Tyler didn’t like the tone of the comment for a couple reasons. One: he knew his mother was acting the southern part for Olivia and not being herself. Two: she was pointing out the fact that she felt they were both overweight by making sure the meal was healthy.
He tried to keep the peace saying, “I completely understand, in your line of work, you gotta keep it healthy.”
“I got a new patient earlier today,” she said, “one of the local newscasters, Dad just loves her,” she always referred to Bruce as Dad, “and she has colon cancer. Your dad wants her autograph.” She was matter of fact about the entire ordeal, but Tyler got her meaning from the story. She took in a piece of broccoli shortly after telling the story.
“So what do you do?” Minnie asked Olivia.
“I work archives for the Parthenon in Nashville,” Olivia replied. “I was lucky to get this job right after college, we were both lucky to find jobs in the same city really.”
“Especially with that good for nothing president we got in office now,” Tyler’s mom said. “Hopefully we get a change in office next election.” Minnie pursed her loops as she hummed her approval of the opinion and nodded her head. “I hope neither of you voted for this guy.”
“Actually, we both did,” Tyler said, feeling a little hot under the collar with anger, “and I think we’re voting for him again.” Tyler’s mom shook her head but didn’t say much else after that.
The rest of dinner passed fairly quiet; after the food was done Bruce put on a pot of coffee and served it to the rest of the family gathered around the table. “Oh, I almost forgot, Dad,” Tyler said, “I got you something.” Tyler jumped up from his chair and ran outside and rummaged through the car until he found his father’s gift. Within a couple minutes he was back in the house handing it to Bruce. “I know you’re not a Badgers fan, but I picked this up before we moved out of Madison and thought you might want a new football.”
Bruce beamed as he took the football from Tyler. He palmed it and made motions like he was ready to throw it even while it was still in the box. “Man, this is awesome! Thanks Ty! I was just telling Mom the other day that I needed a new football. Remember when we used to go out to the Gainesville High field and throw the ball around. Man, those were the days. Thanks a lot, man!”
“You’re welcome!” Tyler replied. Bruce gave Tyler a big hug.
“Maybe tomorrow we could go out to the ol’ field and throw it around a bit,” Bruce said, still acting like he was throwing around the ball in the house.
“Definitely,” Tyler replied.
“Great!” Bruce exclaimed. “I’m gonna go put this away.” Bruce left the living room still playing with his new football.
“You know he’s not coming back now,” Tyler’s mom said.
“I kinda figured,” Tyler replied with a chuckle.
“Why not?” Olivia asked.
“He’s never been much of a talker,” Tyler answered, “so after dinner he always finds an excuse to escape the conversation in favor of watchin’ The Andy Griffith Show or somethin’.”
“Even though he’s seen every episode a thousand times,” Minnie chimed in. They all laughed.
Things got quiet again as they all sipped their coffee. Tyler knew that Olivia must feel awkward, but he also couldn’t think of a conversation starter that wouldn’t lead to something offensive to the sensibilities of any member of the current party. Finally, his mom spoke up: “Minnie, did you watch any of the Democratic National Convention coverage?” Tyler cringed.
“Of course not,” Minnie replied, “I don’t want to listen to the garbage they peddlin’.”
“I had a morbid curiosity it check it out,” Tyler’s mom said. “Couldn’t stomach most of it though. Buncha queers and queer sympathizers talking about women’s rights to kill unborn babies and blaspheming God.”
“That’s no surprise to me.”
“I don’t see how they don’t understand that God is trying to punish gays with plagues like AIDS. Look, I don’t condone women in positions of authority like in the presidency, but Michelle Bachmann’s husband was cured of his sinful lust. She understands it, but we have these Democrats in charge. I’m tellin’ you, this country’s goin’ to hell in a hand basket. You agree with me, right Olivia.”
Olivia and Tyler stared at each other in amazement at what they had just heard. Tyler could tell that Olivia didn’t know how to respond to what she just heard, so he spoke up for her, “Her brother is gay and has AIDS.”
Minnie looked shocked by this admission, but Tyler’s mom was unperturbed. “So you know exactly what I mean,” she said to Olivia.
“Her family doesn’t look at it that way, and I don’t think you should either.”
“Why shouldn’t I? The Bible says it’s a sin, so that’s how I see it.”
“It’s not a sin, these people are born gay, they didn’t choose it.”
“It’s sexual deviancy, maybe you should read your Bible more.”
“Maybe not everything in the Bible is true,” Tyler could feel his blood begin to boil.
“I won’t have you blaspheming in my house,” Tyler’s mom began to raise her voice. “There was a time when you knew better, when you believed the Truth. You were going to be a youth minister, remember that?”
“Yeah, I grew up though,” Tyler replied coolly.
“I hope you get right with the Lord, or you’ll find yourself in eternal damnation in the lake of fire.” Tyler felt his face flush with anger, but he tried to keep his composure. “That goes for you too Olivia, and you should tell your deviant brother that as well. God ain’t gonna mess around when he comes back.”
“There is no god!” Tyler exclaimed.
“I thought you had quit,” Olivia said, walking up from the house.
“I had,” Tyler replied, “but a kept half a pack for this week just in case.” He took another drag of his cigarette as Olivia came up beside him and put her arms around him. “I’m really sorry about that. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to come up here during an election year.”
“It kept the night interesting,” she said with a laugh. “Did you mean what you said in there?”
“I don’t know,” he replied flicking his cigarette butt toward the road. “I think I just really wanted to get a really good dig in at her. What was the scene when you left?”
“Your mom and Aunt Minnie didn’t say anything. Minnie was looking into her coffee mug shaking her head. Your mom sat there with her mouth wide open for a few minutes, but then she started glaring at me. I thought it might be best to come after you at that point.”
Tyler turned and pulled Olivia in for a hug. “I’m really sorry, I was hoping for something…different from them.” He sighed and let go of her taking her by the hand, “Let’s get out of here.”
They walked back to the car, Tyler once again taking the driver seat and Olivia getting into the passenger seat. As Tyler started up the car, Bruce came out of the house onto the carport and walked toward the car. Tyler rolled down the window as Bruce walked up. “Everything alright?” Bruce asked.
“Alright as it can be,” Tyler replied. “You know how Mom can get.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t know how much longer we’ll be staying in town, so we might not make it back here.”
“We still have a game of catch to play, you know.”
Tyler smiled, “Yeah, Dad, I know. Meet you out at GHS tomorrow?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Bruce replied.

“See you then, Dad.” Tyler pulled the car out of the driveway, the events of the evening all but pushed out of his mind by the thought of playing catch with his dad again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Time Family Visit, Part 1

            “There is no god!” Tyler exclaimed, standing at the kitchen table where previously he sat, staring at his mother whose mouth was agape with shock and disdain. Olivia, his fiancée sat next to him, her head buried in her hands. Even the dogs sitting in the corner of the dining room were painfully aware of the awkward situation, as they jumped to their feet at his quite loud declaration. Tyler looked from his aunt, to his mom to his fiancée before exiting the room embarrassed and angry.
            He made his way quickly out the side door in the dining room to the carport and out to the oak tree that stood in the side yard. Leaning against the tree, Tyler pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket and lit it with a Zippo he pulled from the other. Olivia and his mother would not appreciate his current action, but after the scene in the dining room he needed this little release.
            “I really hope you like my family,” Tyler said to Olivia as she sat next time him in the car, looking at her phone as he drove. “I mean, we already know that I love your family, and your family loves me, but my parents aren’t as open as yours. I’m sure you’ll see that tonight. They can be very argumentative and opinionated. Everything is personal. Don’t be surprised if Dad is quiet and doesn’t participate in most of the conversation, but Mom will talk and talk and talk. If Aunt Minnie is there it will be hard to get a word in edgewise.”
            Tyler had wanted Olivia and his parents to meet for quite a while. Unfortunately, while they were going to school in Madison, WI they didn’t have the opportunity to travel, and while his parents had the means to travel they opted not to make the trip. Now, Tyler and Olivia lived in Nashville. Tyler had a job writing for The Nashville Tribune while Olivia worked at The Parthenon in Centennial Park. The closer proximity made a trip to Gainesville, FL a more sensible possibility for them.
            “I see where you get it from,” Olivia said with a sarcastic smile on her face, not looking up from her phone.
            “Get what from?” Tyler replied.
            Olivia looked at him with that shit eating grin, “The ability to talk like you’ll never talk again.”
            “I think from now on I’m going to call you Mayor Sass of Sassington!” They both laughed as Olivia kissed Tyler’s cheek. “I’m just nervous. I haven’t seen my parents in…what?...six years! Christ, it seems like forever! They haven’t met you yet, and we’ve been engaged for two of those years. I just want to make sure y’all like each other.”
            “I’m sure it’s going to be fine,” Olivia said reaching over to stroke Tyler’s neck as she put her phone back in her open purse that sat in the floor board of the car.
            “I hope so, things get so touchy sometimes,” Tyler leaned his head back into Olivia’s hand as she stroked his neck and the back of his head. “I mean, we didn’t talk for a year after you and I first started dating.”
            Olivia nodded, but Tyler’s mind drifted back to the circumstances behind that lack of communication. It was a sore subject even now a few years after they began talking again. His parents loved his last girlfriend, Alicia. They had never met her, but she was the daughter of a preacher which automatically made her a saint in their eyes. They didn’t even care that she was a different denomination than they were; all they cared about was that she might put Tyler back on the straight and narrow. When Tyler broke up with her, they kept in contact with Alicia and practically cut off communications with their own son.
            Alicia made herself look like a saint while talking about Tyler’s drinking habits. Since Alicia had the first word, he knew he had no chance to speak about her dark side to his parents. If he told them that Alicia was the girl that introduced him to cocaine and ecstasy, they would think that he was simply trying to make her look bad even though he was just telling the truth. As far as they were concerned, her position as a PK meant more than the demons banging around in her closet.
            He had given up on being upset about Alicia’s actions; after all, it’s only natural that a scorned loved one would try to lash out in the most hurtful way possible. Tyler was still bothered by his parents’ ability to throw him away so easily. They made up shortly after he had started dating Olivia, and while they were civil enough to speak to her on occasion, they weren’t happy about the fact that he was dating a Catholic. A devout Catholic wasn’t the same thing in their mind as a devout Protestant. He loved Olivia and his parents though, so he tried to keep the peace with both.
            “I’m still really excited though,” Tyler said to Olivia when the reverie was interrupted by a car cutting him off. “Fucking FIB! Learn how to fucking drive!” he shouted.
            Olivia held on to the dashboard as he quickly jumped lanes and sped past the Illinois driver while flipping him the bird. She shot Tyler an exasperated look.
            “What?! Come on, what I did wasn’t that bad!” he replied.
            Olivia slowly leaned back in her seat acting scared by Tyler’s driving.
            “Oh don’t be so dramatic!” Tyler said to her.
            “I’m not; I’m just appreciating my life.”
            He scowled at her as much as he could while driving. “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but mom looks like Harriet Winslow from Family Matters. It’s really weird because looking through her old yearbooks she actually looked like Kelly back in the day. Dad looks like Professor Lasky from Saved by the Bell: The College Years.”
            “I think you can introduce me to your dad first, yum!”
            “Disgusting, and I’ll keep you as far away from him as I can,” Tyler said before he had to practically slam the brakes on for the slow moving car in front of him. “Get out of the way, asshole, the speed limit’s 65 not 40! Fuck!!”
            “Hopefully I get to meet your dad today…rather than die in a fiery car accident…”
            Tyler shot her a frustrated glance as she pulled out a copy of Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues from the floor board of the car next to her purse.
            They arrived in Gainesville just in time for dinner. As they pulled up, Tyler’s dad was setting up sprinklers on the lawn and eyed the car suspiciously.
            “I flew here last time so he doesn’t recognize my car,” Tyler giggled.
            “And he doesn’t know we’re coming?” asked Olivia.
            “I thought I told you about that!” he replied. “No, his birthday is tomorrow, so Mom thought it would be a great surprise for him.
            “Awww!” Olivia said in that extremely girlish way that made Tyler glad his complexion kept the red in his cheeks from being seen.
His dad slowly walked over to the car, trying to look through the windows as he made his way to the driver side of the car. Finally, just before his dad made it to the driver side window, Tyler opened the door and stepped out of the car. His dad took a step back and reached for his chest as if he wasn’t quite ready for this shock.
“T…Ty?” Tyler’s dad asked as he stumbled backwards.
“Hey dad,” Tyler responded. His dad laughed loudly gripping his chest as Tyler and Olivia exchanged pleased glances. Tyler motioned for Olivia to get out of the car and she complied. “This is Olivia, my fiancée.”
Tyler’s dad laughed heartily as he walked to her, “I’m Bruce, Ty’s dad.” He chuckled more to himself, “Well, I s’pose you already knew that!” He reached out to shake her hand, but then shook his head and gave her a hug instead.
Tyler felt the sting of possible tears in his eyes and blinked a couple of times to hold them back. “Happy birthday, dad!”
Bruce laughed hysterically and wiped tears from his eyes, “How…how did you...?”
“I don’t know if Mom told you,” Tyler said, “but we moved to Nashville a couple weeks ago, and back when we found out that we were making the move we decided to come down for a visit. Besides you had to meet my future bride!” Tyler motioned for Olivia to come to him. She came up and took his hand. “And it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen y’all.”
“Six years by my count,” Bruce responds. “It’s good to see ya, son!” He walks over to Tyler and gives him a hug. “Your mom should be home in ‘bout an hour and a half. We’ve done some stuff to the house, let me give ya a look ‘round.” With that, Bruce led Tyler and Olivia through the carport and into the dining room through the side door.
Bruce showed Tyler and Olivia around the house, most of which hadn’t changed since Tyler lived there with the exception of his room which had been switched to something of a library. The biggest surprise for Tyler was the back yard. The place he used to target practice with his BB gun had been changed to a pond over the last several years. Tyler would have felt bad about the loss of his history, but the pond was used as a home for red ear sliders he had caught as a kid that had become too big for the aquariums in the house.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that Tyler’s mom got home, and both Tyler and Olivia were surprised to see Tyler’s Aunt Minnie with his mom. He always had fond memories of Aunt Minnie, and explained to Olivia that she got her nickname Minnie because she was a huge fan of Minnie from Mickey Mouse that her brothers and sisters started calling her Minnie and it just stuck. She had an interesting since of humor as well, that Tyler fondly remembered. When she saw the abbreviation for things like Boulevard, she pronounced it as it appeared. Tyler had been a big fan of classical music growing up, and when he spoke of Beethoven, Aunt Minnie would pronounce the name Beet-ho-ven rather than the typical pronunciation of Bay-toe-ven.
It had been so long that Tyler had seen her, though, that he considered Minnie as an ironic name. Upon seeing her again he thought he ought to rethink the irony of her name. Last she had seen her she was quite large, but now as she entered his former home she was quite thin. He found her appearance somewhat awkward because she looked like a small woman on a large frame. Of course, he felt himself a large man on a small frame, and Aunt Minnie made sure to acknowledge that in their first meeting in years as he had made sure to bring up her new and improved appearance.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Story Behind "Passageways & Portals"

The seed for Passageways & Portals was planted after reading Stephen King’s The Gunslinger in my junior year at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Not one to be swayed by spoilers, I decided to look ahead to see how the series progressed. While I have yet to continue through The Dark Tower series, I was sufficiently impressed by the plotting to consider an epic multi-novel book idea of my own that I considered to be inspired by The Dark Tower but was an entity of its own. Around the same time I got into the comic series Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon, which has had a little influence over the story itself as well as where this is going. More on that in a minute, though.

I don’t want to give too much away as I do intend to continue this concept. Rebirth is the subtitle for what I hope to be the first book in the series. As the subtitle and the posted sections of the book here suggest the first book deals with a man trying to determine where he came from, where he is, and where he’s going. As such the book would work as something of a mystery, unfolding how the main character came to be where he is. I wanted to play with the narrative a bit, so the reader would find out who the character is as he does.

This led to a little bit of a problem when I showed the first draft of this story to some of my writer friends (a group we refer to as “The Pensmiths’ Guild). With no name for the main character over the first four chapters of the book, they felt as though it was difficult to connect to the main character and his plight. The emotional connection wasn’t there. While I understood where they were coming from, I also didn’t want to change my view that I didn’t want to give the character’s name to the reader until he learned who he was. Another type of compromise was needed to make this work.

It was around this time that I started really getting into graphic novels. I’ve always been a fan of comics and graphic novels, but at this time I went on a graphic novel spree. I picked up some new Hellboy, Hellblazer, V for Vendetta, Atomic Robo, Batman: Venom, and the aforementioned Preacher. While talking to a fellow member of “The Pensmiths’ Guild” I learned that he was looking for a concept to turn into a graphic novel. At the same time I was thinking that if I could show the main character’s face, I wouldn’t have to reveal his name. As a result we decided to work together to turn this into a graphic novel.

So, I guess I should amend my earlier statement to say that this would work as part of the script for the first graphic novel. So don’t expect much more here from this novel idea, but hopefully you’ll get the opportunity to see it in another form at some point.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 11

He felt the wall as he hit it and no longer did he doubt whether it was in his mind or not. Tumbling down the side of the crater, he felt as though he hit every rock and pebble on his way back down to the bottom. When he reached the bottom, though, he wasn’t knocked out as he was before, nor did he black out.
When he came to rest he just laid there, looking at the blank blue sky. After a few moments, all pain subsided as though it had been a dream.
The old man appeared above him, “I told you I wasn’t worried.”
“You knew I wouldn’t make it?” the young man asked.
“Something like that. You’re not ready to see over the edge.”
The young man sat up and started to brush the dirt and dust off of himself. “And why is that.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Why not?”
“You’re not ready.”
The young man picked up a handful of dirt and rock and flung it at the old man. “Why don’t you say something useful for once, for chrissakes!”
“I won’t do anything for Christ’s sake, but for your sake I will recommend that you get some sleep.”
“It’s not even nighttime yet,” the young man said as he stood up.
“And it may never be, even if it gets dark. Sleep may bring understanding, though.”

“And a break from you,” the young man said under his breath. “Maybe you’re right. Come to think of it I do feel exhausted.” He laid back down on the sand, not noticing the old man stood still in the same place he had been since they arrived at the slope. Almost immediately he began to drift off. In his near sleep state without realizing what he was thinking or saying, he said, “I just wish I had a bed to sleep on,” and then everything went dark.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 10

The young man walked from one end of the pit to the other as the old man followed. The old man continued to talk as they walked, and the young man continued not to listen.
“The say the grass is always greener on the other side,” the old man said as they embarked on their journey, “but I always ask, ‘Where are the dogs shittin’?’”
Sighing, the young man didn’t care what this meant anymore. He felt blissful in his ignorance, freedom in his lack of emotional attachment to the words of this senile old fool. At the same time, knowing there was someone else alive in this desolate landscape did help him feel a little more comfortable. The only other living thing he had seen in this place had died on his chest, and despite his insane musings on the subject, the old man kept the young man sane. It felt as though the young man channeled his crazy into the older man. For that opportunity he was somewhat grateful.
They reached the other end of the crater. As he looked up the wall of the pit, the young man was surprised by the features he previously was unable to discern from the other side. This side of the crater was far less steep and much less rocky. He wished he had tried climbing this side first, but then he wouldn’t have met his current company.
“Maybe you should have tried climbing this side first,” the old man said, leaving the young man to question again whether being along would be a bad thing. He looked around. The air was still. The only time the air had stirred actually was after the sparrow had died, he recalled. He didn’t necessarily wish for it to return though. It’s presence, and the timing thereof, had creeped him out. Besides, while he might be trapped in a desert like landscape, it wasn’t hot like a desert. Nor was it frigid like a tundra. That was the one pleasant thing about this crater: the moderate environment.
That was no reason to stay though, and he was hoping that now he may actually be able to leave. He hadn’t forgotten about the invisible ceiling he had faced before, but he hoped it was more a manifestation of his imagination than a real thing. Or a supernatural thing. He didn’t think he believed in that kind of thing before, and if he had he didn’t now. It had to be psychosomatic. This time he assured himself that he would not succumb to it.
He looked back toward the other side of the valley. It stretched on for miles upon miles. How far he must have come seemed unfathomable to him to the point that it felt like a trick of the eyes. Still, he knew he had come a long way, he just hoped he had gone as far in mind as he had in body. He felt as though he had.
He turned back around to face his new challenge. “I think I’m ready to give it another go,” he said to the old man as he faced the rock wall.
“Are you sure?” the old man responded.
“Yeah, I think so,” he responded, looking back at the old man.
“Well, then Godspeed ya, son.”
“Hopefully, I won’t be back, but if I make it up and over and I find someone that can help, I’ll be sure to send ‘em back for ya.”
“I ain’t worried.”
The young man took a couple of deep breaths. What would his strategy be? Last time he had been climbing up rocks and couldn’t move very fast. Maybe speed had partly led to his failure before, perhaps if he moved faster he could avoid the mental block that had prevented him from making it up the wall before.

He would definitely be able to move faster up this wall though, so it seemed his strategy would be simple. With one more deep breath he sprinted up the side of the canyon wall. He felt as though he passed the altitude he had reached on the other side and the blue was the limit; then the great beyond slammed shut.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 9

“I don’t feel a heartbeat. Why don’t I feel my heart beating?”
The old man looked at him puzzled. “Maybe it’s at home!” The old man laughed, a deep guttural bellow that the young man though was undeserved and inappropriate. It also went on for five minutes longer than it should have, even if the statement had been funny, as far as the young man was concerned.
Frustrated and dejected the young man began to walk away. Maybe the old man would continue to stand there and laugh himself to death. The young man would be perfectly fine with that. As he walked, he caught a faint whiff of decaying and rotting flesh. Did the old man already bite it? he thought knowing it to be untrue. Then he saw the sparrow again.
The little bird’s feathers had fallen off and rested around its corpse. Its body looked as though it had lain there for weeks undisturbed. Its skin had gone from pink to black and blue and was peeling back to reveal the organs within.
The young man felt a light breeze and the feathers were carried with it. They were carried on the wind up the rock wall and dispersed out of view. He turned his attention back to the body of the sparrow and watched as, from tail to beak and claw to wing, it dissolved into sand, no different from the sand that surrounded it.
A hand came down on his shoulder and the young man jumped. “Wha-“
“Angels or demons guard this pit. They either show mercy to its residents or mess with the heads of its denizens. Best not think about it too much, George, it’ll drive you insane.”
“Is that what…” he started to say, but then he looked at the face of the older man. He looked different than he had previously. The white beard still hung down his chest from his face, but now the face it hung from had less wrinkles and more understanding. It was as if he had grown younger by a few years. “You look different.”
“Do I?” the old man asked. “Have I changed, or did the way you look at me change?”

The young man looked at him for a minute, but he was tired of rhetorical questions and mysteries. He resolved to ignore the riddles and continue to find his way out of the crater. With that thought in mind he just walked away.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 8

When the young man woke up he found himself back at the edge of the valley wall that he had previously tried to climb. How he had landed he was not sure, but now he found himself curled in a fetal position. Everything had seemed so real but now the memories faded like fog in a steady rain. Even the headache that had pulled him out of his dream, which had felt like a bullet shredding his brain, had receded to a dull roar. Was it of this world or the one he just exited?
As his senses joined him in in the land of the living, he became faintly aware of something dancing on his arm. The weight of it was small, but he could feel two sets of tiny claws jumping around. He lifted his head, looked at his arm, and was surprised to see a sparrow looking down at him. The sparrow lacked any sign of fear at the man’s movement; on the contrary, when it noticed the man looking back at him it pecked at his shoulder as if it wanted to play. Slowly the man turned over, and the bird followed hopping from arm to chest until it was standing on his chest. They looked at each other curiously. The sparrow hopped a couple steps until it was almost standing on the man’s throat. The man laughed as the bird hopped back to its original position on his chest.
“You’re quite the friendly bird, aren’t you?” the man asked. The bird cocked its head to the side as if analyzing the man’s words for meaning. When the sparrow seemed to comprehend the words, it fell over on the man’s chest. 
He looked at the sparrow stunned. He reached out with his finger and prodded it, expecting it to wake up at any moment. The bird lay still on its side though, the only movement being the movement it made when he poked at it. Terrified by its sudden death he quickly flung it from his body and jumped to his feet brushing off his chest as if it left some visible evidence of its expiration. For a long moment all he could do was stare at the dead bird until a voice drew him out of his dark reverie.
“Nothing can live as long as it is dead in this world, son,” the old man opined. The young man had forgotten about his companion, and this sudden reminder of the old man’s presence startled him.
“What the hell just happened?” he asked.
“Death has visited you, and I daresay it’s not the first time,” the old man answered. “Nor shall it be the last, most likely.”
As was his experience prior to his ill-fated climb of the rock wall, the old man spoke in unintelligible riddles. While he previously found this talk to be extremely unhelpful, he now found it to be extremely irritating. He, however suppressed the urge to comment on his frustration. It was possible the old man was merely senile, but it was hard to determine if he was unstable as well. There was no use in waking his ire when there was no other living person in sight.
“So where did you go?” the old man asked.
“Huh?” The young man had to shift his perception from his experience with the sparrow to determine what the man was referencing. “Did I go somewhere?” he asked when understanding caught up to him.
“What do you consider you?”
“I am…” he started to say, but cut off his train of thought. This felt like another meaningless riddle, but there also seemed to be lucidity in the question. What makes me, me? he thought. It was a question he wondered if he had ever asked himself before. Is he merely the sum of the bones, muscles, tissue, and mass that comprise his body? Or is he the sum of all the experiences that had shaped him into who he is at this moment? At this time he didn’t recall those experiences though, nor did he know how those experiences affect who he is. At the moment all he knew was the physical world around him. “…me. This body is what makes me.”
“What is a home?” the old man responded. He jumped down off of the rock on which he sat and walked over to the young man.
 The young man didn’t know what to make of this, and with the old man walking toward him he lost the capacity to ponder his words. He turned to look toward the other side of the canyon and heaved an exasperated sigh.
“A home is where the heart is, is it not?” The old man finally said. “But what is the heart? Is it a piece of flesh that beats in your chest, or is it an essence? If you’re not at home where is your heart? It’s a duality problem isn’t it? It really depends which heart you speak of. If you’re away from home the flesh that beats in your chest cannot be home or it would stop beating.”

The young man had hardly been listening to the old man, but his words had drawn the young man’s hand up to his chest. He felt nothing. He looked up at the old man with a look of horror. “I don’t feel anything.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Passageways & Portals: Rebirth, Part 7

He pictured all of this, not as if he had just seen in seconds before, but as if the memory of this place was burned into his brain. He opened his eyes and looked around. Everything was just as he had pictured it in his mind. That feeling of déjà vu came back stronger than before. The feeling of it consumed it and he found it hard to breath.
Quickly he walked through the room, reaching for the door on the opposite side of the dresser and making his way into the bathroom beyond. He didn’t need to look around, he went straight to the sink on the opposite end of the room.  Turning on the tap, he began to splash the water that came out of the stainless steel faucet on his face. Next to the sink was a towel rack with a hand towel on it, the man didn’t need to look to know it was there sense memory reminded him that it was there, so he picked it up and dried his face off.
He looked around the bathroom; it was like an inverted version of James and Ronald’s bathroom, but cleaner. There were no stray towels in this bathroom; they were neatly hung up on towel racks. The bathtub was built into the wall, not on metal legs like the other bathtub. This tub also had a shower and a maroon shower curtain pulled halfway around the tub concealing most of the tub. Otherwise, the bathroom was nearly identical to that of the boys.
The man walked back through the door into George and Dorothy’s room. As he had done in the boys’ room, he wanted to look through the window to get a glimpse of the outside. Unlike the window in the other room this window was closed. He crawled onto the bed, his knees on the pillows, and peered out the window.
Where the family was at quickly was answered, they were in the back of the house. In the middle of the decently sized backyard was George, James, and Ronald each of them were wearing baseball gloves and they were passing a baseball between them. A little closer to the house, Dorothy lay on a lawn chair in a bathing suit reading a book; it was a great day for a tan.
The man sat there feeling as though he had been here before, in this very moment. A sense of dread pressed down on his shoulders. The image below him was a happy moment, but he felt as though it wouldn’t be happy for too much longer. He wanted to shout out to them to leave, get out of here, but he knew that no one would understand that he was in their house. Somehow, he felt that he knew these people, but he didn’t know how. Would they recognize him if he cried out to them?
Before he could even contemplate that idea further, James looked up at the window. The man wanted to leave, wanted to bolt down the stairs and leave the house, but he was rooted to the spot. James squinted as he looked up at the window. He began to say something to George and Ronald, it was muffled through the window and the man couldn’t pick out exactly what he was saying. Both George and Ronald looked up at the window; Dorothy laid her book on her chest and did the same. James pointed up at the window.
Just then, a loud but distant boom caused the man and the family in the backyard to jump. They turned their attention from the upstairs window and began to look around, but the man was no longer paying attention to them. A great pain shot through his head, from his forehead to the back of his head as if he was splitting in two. He doubled over onto the bed, his eyes streaming tears. 
Shaking from the great pain in his head, he lifted his hand to his face and wiped away the tears. He forced himself back up to the window and looked out. It was hard to see through the pain, but he could tell the sky was lit up bright as a roman candle. The sight of it made his head hurt even worse, but he refused to turn away. A rumble could be heard, it seemed as though the window and the wall might muffle it but he could tell it was getting louder.
He chanced a look down where George, James, and Ronald were previously playing catch, but they were gone. He looked to the lawn chair where Dorothy had once sat but she too was gone. Where they could have gone he didn’t know, but he knew no one was safe. 
 Everything started to happen in slow motion. The ache in his head got worse as everything started to become intensely hot like the sun was bearing down on the house. A massive gust of wind rocked the house, threatening to knock it off its foundation, and blowing out every window in the house including the way he looked through. The man was sure that shards of the window and penetrated his skin, but he couldn’t feel any pain but the throbbing of his aching head. The trees behind the backyard had all been leveled and the man could see a wall of smoke coming at him. 

This was what he expected, this is what he knew was coming. In that moment, though, all he could do was hope that the aching in his head would stop. The pillar of smoke and debris couldn’t reach him soon enough, he felt as though it was taking its sweet time getting there. Then the walls of the house began to disintegrate and he lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Everything accelerated and he was thankful. Soon the headache was gone, as was all feeling and thought.