Archive for October, 2011
The man walks into a bleak looking house and hears a whispering sound from the basement. He steps towards the door, the rusted handle twitching with the wind that rattles the windows. A whisper comes to him through the door as he grips the handle.
He opens the door. There’s a song coming from the basement, he recognizes it as a Johnny Cash tune being sung in Portuguese. “What the…” He goes into the basement.
I love reading horror. There is nothing more enjoyable than a story that can terrify you out of your comfortable armchair or an eerie book that has you analyzing every sound in your house. I have had countless ideas for horror stories, but there’s one problem: Everything I write turns out funny.
So the man in the above snippet will walk in on an all-Portuguese Oompa-Loompa production of Walk the Line in the basement. They force him to make them whiskey sours and translate the playbill into Esperanto.
Clearly the work of a deranged mind, but not quite as disturbing as Stephen King. More like a mix between Roald Dahl and David Sedaris.
In writing, maybe more than any other artistic venture, you have to be true to yourself. There is no way to fake your abilities or your strengths. Can you imagine Danielle Steele writing hard-boiled detective fiction or Stephen King writing a light romantic comedy?
And for this reason I am always somewhat frustrated with my horrific efforts. I’ll write out a story that seems terrifying in my head to find that it reads more like Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
But I have decided to make literary lemonade. The story in the link (and post) below – My Domovoi – is about a guy who finds a ghost in his flat and then buys a cat for protection. Hopefully it’s a good example of mixing humor and horror (or spookiness, anyway). In honor of Halloween I have put it up in hopes that it either gives you the creeps or gives you a giggle.
Or with any luck, both.
O fathomless cat,
of human chambers
Scenario and Specifications: Student R has been missing since the end of his Wednesday morning English lesson during which he offends every student in the class as well as Teacher X. R is a fat man and insolent in manner. His voice gives off the same effect as a Gilbert Godfrey aria and his dental hygiene leaves much to be desired. He is in class with four female students who are studying for a high-level standardized English exam.
Murder is assumed.
Stage: Classroom **4 at the Gigglesworth *&#^^#it*ity in a small, central (or eastern) European city. Nota Bene: This depends on your view of what constitutes a central or eastern European state in post 1991 Europe. Determining factors: There is a McDonald’s, legal prostitution and no ban on smoking in pubs. David Hasselhoff is not popular here.
Suspects: One teacher and five students, including the infamous R, who owns (at his own admission) a straight razor. The other four students are females ranging in age from 18 to 36. Teacher X is notoriously irritable, a recent Magellan enthusiast, and handsome in a Middle Earth mien. All names have been initialized to protect the innocent and to save my furry hide from retribution. Plus, my memory is bad.
I’m standing at the urinal, confronted with the usual conundrum: Do I pee the Bonanza theme song or do I play the urinal translation game with the advertisement on the wall in front of me? I have already screwed up my urinary rhythm so I opt for the game.
Urinal advertisement translation is a self-invented (and until now, esoteric) game which involves combining the 80% understood words with the 20% unknown words and the weird advertisement picture and making an unusual scenario out of it all.
The girl is sitting on a bed chatting on a webcam with a boy who is somewhere in Asia. There are cartoon dialogue bubbles coming from their mouths. I create a dialogue that would, let’s just say, not thrill any nun I ever had in grade school.
My naughty avenue of interpretation is not totally my fault. Webcams are impossible to place in conversation without sounding lecherous and propositional.
“We can chat online, I have a webcam.”
I don’t care if Kermit the Frog says this to Mother Teresa – in my mind, someone’s getting naked. I suppose it’s all about jumping to immediate conclusions.
On Monday night Harold Russell was in the living room of his small apartment reading a book. The soft spring weather seeped in through the open windows. His legs were crossed and his cat Samuel lazed on the couch. The book, a biography of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, was unsuccessful in holding his interest and he kept drifting into a variety of thoughts.
Some years ago I got my favorite movie, Jaws, on DVD as a Christmas gift. We’ll leave the probing psychological question of why my favorite movie is about a man-eating shark for another time. The DVD was the 25th anniversary release and the DVD was chock full of extras and interviews.
In an interview with Jaws’ writer Peter Benchley, he talked about the birth of the idea of Jaws. He said that he had always wondered what would happen if a big shark was attacking people and wouldn’t go away. Then he read a newspaper article about a guy who caught a 4,500 pound great white shark off of Long Island. Inspiration had met information and a little while later he started work on Jaws. And thus, for thirty-five years people have been afraid to go in the water. When I say people, I mean me.
What if: The question that sparks most of my writing and story ideas. I can map the genesis of my idea for a novel to the frustrating experience of losing my sense of smell and getting no answers from doctors. I can map the genesis of my novel to when I asked the question: “What if a guy started losing all of his senses and didn’t know why?” Once again, information and experience had met inspiration, and five years later the result was Senseless. Maybe I could get Richard Dreyfuss to play Phineas’ father.
When Lee told me about the concept of Rule 34, I was amazed. How had I never seen this concept portrayed in a movie or book? I immediately started in asking what if…?
What if a guy just introduced to the internet and internet porn stumbled upon a disturbing world?
What if that guy believed that he had some control in this world?
What if he was wrong?
Anyway, the genesis of this story, Rule 34, is the line of questioning above. It has been drafted a couple of times, but I more than welcome feedback and constructive critique.
Read it here RULE 34
The girl is built into the wall, so that her back, waist and shoulders are behind the wall and her knees, forearms, face and pelvis are exposed. Her naughty bits are fully accessible and she is wearing panties. The husband and wife chat about the girl and then sit down for a nutritious breakfast of fruit, coffee, juice and cereal.
The wall girl remains quiet, looking alarmingly unconcerned about the fact that she is built into a wall. Despite my lifelong fear of living wall decorations, I continue to watch.
In case you missed it, please feel free to check out my story that got published on Nerve.com last week.
I could tell you what it’s about, but instead I’ll just tell you that It’s titled: Notes of a Former Peeping Tom.
I am always open to feedback and critique, so don’t hesitate to bring the pain. Hope you enjoy!
It’s five minutes before my noon class on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011, my 37th birthday. It’s an otherwise ordinary day: I’m laying out markers, practicing grammatical example sentences, eyeing up trouble students. I pour a glass of water and reconfigure my boxer shorts in an effort to counteract their invasive nature. I lean over, feigning interest in my notes while my hands are in my pockets unrolling them against my thigh.
At one minute to noon, as I am engaging in small talk to get the students laughing but stopping short of breeching my lesson plan, I get the call.
The call comes every October 11th. The message is exactly the same every year, though the voice sounds a year older each time. I pick up my phone.
“Hello,” I say.
“Happy birthday, you fat cunt!” the voice has the same Cockney, but is a bit more grizzled than on October 11th, 2010.
“Thanks, buddy.” The students are reading my expressions and whispering amongst themselves.
“Love you, mate,” the voice says.
“Love you too.”
Click. Class begins.
The alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and I pray for death. I let out a manly groan (sob) as I unfold myself out of bed and peer out the window. It’s a blustery day; windy and wet. A darkness that hints at winter lingers in the air. It’s a perfect Saturday morning to spend in bed, reading and eating cereal shaped like Dracula. Instead, I look forward to seven hours of classes.
After a six-minute shower filled with tears and violent epithets that are better left unpublished, I boil a Moka pot of espresso with the strength, taste, properties and effects of jet fuel. I sip at it and slip on my shoes. Adding insult to injury, the cat is sleeping in my still-warm ass groove. Nothing evokes more envy than a sleeping cat.
This is my penance, for today I am a student.