Dark humor fiction: The Teletubbies’ Final Gig

2007-3-27-teletubbiesAnarchy.

The children of J. Edgar Hoover Elementary School were very close to it, and the teachers were concerned that a fourth fire drill in as many days might tip them over the edge.

The principal, Mr. Faber, put his foot down when the teachers asked him to delay any more fire drill for a few months.

“We used $15,000 of the taxpayers’ money for a new fire alarm system,” he told them at the Teachers Committee meeting. “We’re going to get the taxpayers their money’s worth out of this system!”

Mr. Faber scratched the back of his neck, digging under the collar. “I suppose you all know,” he said, “how kids are today: stubborn, rebellious, unteachable, disrespectful.” He frowned and stared at the ceiling.

“And dirty!” chimed in Mrs. Drought, the first grade music teacher.

Her fellow teachers murmured their agreement.

“Nasty little monsters!” came a high-pitched voice from the back, most likely the math teacher, Mr. Poderkin, who disguised his voice so that it sounded like Minnie Mouse. He recently was accused of hoarding children’s socks.

“They come to us without even the basics for communication!” Miss Lehrenson, the young Communications teacher lamented. “They don’t even know how to talk right!” Everyone in the room clicked their tongues in loathing and agreement.

“And they’re too short!” The Crafts teacher yelled, sending the whole room went into an uproar of chatter. The teachers threatened to develop a “list of names” of the most dangerous of the students against whom some type of unsanctioned actions would be undertaken.

Mr. Faber clapped his stubby hands together, “Please! Sit down!” But the uproar was too uproarious. Plans were being half-baked, petards were being foisted. Unable to regain control of the staff meeting, Mr. Faber walked quietly through the door and a few paces down the quiet hallway, and then he pulled the arm on the red box, sending the harsh blare of a fifteen-thousand-dollar fire alarm through out the school. “Now that,” he thought, “sounds like a million bucks.”

 

**************************************************

Two small people stood before Mr. Faber, pushed forward Mrs. Kinderpants of the second grade.

“Mr. Faber,” she said, “This is Dana,” and Mrs. Kinderpants indicated the little boy lodged on her right hand, “and this is Ruby,” and Mrs. Kinderpants pushed her left hand forward accordingly. “They were found in the janitor’s closet, Mr. Faber, and they were kissing!”

Dana smiled and raised his eyebrows, causing his ears wobble.

“Is that true, Ruby? Were you doing something naughty in the janitor’s closet?”

Ruby stared intently at her feet and seemed about to cry. “Will I get in trouble if I tell the truth?”

“No, of course not! Honesty is always the best policy, young lady,” and Mr. Faber leaned down next to her on one knee and said, “now tell your Uncle Fabie, did you let Dana here give you a smooch?” Ruby nodded slowly and sheepishly. “Well, that was very, very naughty, and I’m afraid you won’t have recess for a week.”

Ruby started to cry and scream “not fair!”

“Unless…” Mr. Faber raised a hand to stop her outburst.

“Unless what?” she sniffled.

“Unless you come to work for us,” he concluded.

Her eyes widened. “I could teach the pony-riding class!”

“No,” Mr. Faber shook his head sharply. “Idiot. I mean, keep an eye on the other children. You know, spy.”

They came to terms: three Good Work! stickers on every assignment for information leading to the capture and punishment of potential terrorists. Mrs. Kinderpants led her away leaving Dana to Mr. Faber for further questioning.

“Do you like my big leather chair, Dana?” Mr. Faber stood and patted the seat of the mahogany leather. “Go on! Give it a try! It spins!” And Dana slid on and used his feet against Mr. Faber’s desk to push the chair around and around.

“You like to spin, don’t you Dana?”

Dana giggled and spun faster once he realized Mr. Faber was paying attention. Mr. Faber, however, had enough of the spinning and gripped the back of the chair sending Dana slamming into the armrest.

“Hmmm…‘Dana.’ Isn’t that a girl’s name?”

Dana nodded, rubbing his ribcage. “Uh hunh.”

“Well, you can’t go around having a girl’s name. I’ll call you ‘Danny’ instead. You’re not a girl, are you, Danny?”

Dana smiled and nodded. His ears seemed barely attached to the sides of his head, and they bent and unbent themselves. “I’m a boy-girl! I’m intersexual. I’ve got a friend, too, and he’s the Green Monkey and he likes me and we go to the fence and put rocks on there.”

Mr. Faber’s face flushed. “That won’t do! You’ve got to choose one way or the other, Danny! Are you a boy or a girl?”

Dana leaped to his feet upon the still-spinning chair, “I am the Green Monkey and I built a rowboat out of a shoe!”

“Okay, Danny, settle down. Be careful. That chair cost your parents a lot of money. Now, do you like to play football and play cops and robbers or do you like to play with dolls?”

Dana sat on the chair with his little legs folded beneath him. “Sometimes when my sister is gone I take her dolls…” Mr. Faber frowned and rolled his eyes “…and I light them on fire because the Green Monkey has a matchbook that he lets me look at sometimes when my sister’s not around.”

Mr. Farber’s face brightened, “Oh, that’s good, Danny! You kiss girls and burn their dolls! I think you’re going to be all right!” Mr. Faber explained about the committee with the list of names and said that Dana’s name was on the list and that bad things could happen if the committee caught up to him.

“You don’t want anything bad to happen to you, do you Danny-boy?”

Dana nodded. “I caught a locust. In a jar.”

“So if you help me with a little project, I’ll see to it that your name comes off that list. And that means that you’ll be safe. You want to be safe, don’t you, Danny?”

“My locust’s name is Hal. He’s got a jillion friends and they’re coming here from Egypt to look for him.” Dana stopped spinning on the expensive chair long enough to heave into the expensive trashcan.

“That’s okay, Danny. You’ll be all right now. As long as you help me. But until you agree, I can’t promise that bad things won’t happen. Very bad things.”

“Sometimes the Green Monkey does my math…”

“Enough with your delusions, Dana. Go back to class. Think about what we talked about.”

Dana wasn’t suffering from delusions as Mr. Faber supposed. There really was a locust named Hal and there really was a Green Monkey and his name was Schubert. Schubert and Dana and Hal lived a half mile from the school. Technically, Hal lived in a jar in the garage and Schubert lived in Dana’s psychoaural field.

And there really was a matchbook. It had a picture of Mrs. Kinderpants naked on it because the matches came from the Torchlight Lounge where Mrs. Kinderpants supplemented her meager teacher’s salary on the weekends with a thong and a penguin. The penguin wore the thong.

It turned out that the “help” Mr. Faber wanted from Dana involved the matches. Having been visited by a select and particularly vicious arm of the Teachers Committee one night, Dana was convinced that the only way he and Hal and Schubert could maintain normalcy in their lives was to comply with Mr. Faber’s request: to light the school on fire to give the expensive fire alarm system a real test.

Schubert and Dana bought seventy-two gallons of gasoline that they wheeled to the school in a Radio Flier wagon. It would take them several trips, let’s face it.

Dana wondered if he and Schubert would be able to get past the security force that each day frisked the children. The guards employed by the school came from an agency featuring washed-up television stars. J. Edgar Hoover Elementary landed the frighteningly plushy cast of the Teletubbies. LaaLaa ran the portable metal detector over the frightened children as the brutish Tinky Winky carelessly frisked them with his cold, fingerless paws. Po dumped out the contents of each backpack and lunch box and swore in Chinese. Noo-Noo handled all the aggressive cavity searches while Dipsy danced and giggled (which was classic Dipsy).

As Dana neared the entrance, LaaLaa spotted his huge canister of gasoline, and she leveled her Taser® and sent the boy flopping to the floor as electric current coursed through him.

Tinky Winky clapped his paws. “Again. Again-again!”

Mr. Faber pushed his way past the Teletubbies. “Let little Danny-boy pass through. My what a big science project you have there!” Then in a lower voice, he whispered in Dana’s ear, “Do it down and dirty around ten o’clock. That’s when we’ll have all of the Names trapped in the auditorium during the Puppets for Safety show. Meanwhile, you and me and the Committee will be safe and sound out front listening to the sweet music of our expensive fire alarm. You like our fire alarm, don’t you Danny?”

Dana shook his head. “Schubert thinks Mrs. Kinderpants needs to drop ten pounds.”

“Good boy, Danny. Do you have the matches?”

Dana nodded and waited until all of the other children and the safety puppets were in the auditorium, soon to be entombed in a crypt of Dana’s fire.

After pouring out the entire contents of the fiery red canister at strategic entry points, Dana began rubbing the match head against the black flint strip that corresponded to where Mrs. Kinderpants’ dirty place should have been. A little flame sprang to life. Dana knelt and was just about to drop the flame that would light the gas that would torch the school that taxes built when a strange humming filled the air. At first Dana thought it must be the fire alarm. It grew louder and it wailed unlike any fire alarm drill Dana ever had heard. It was the drumming of a jillion wings beating against a jillion crunchy thoraxes.

Dana yelped and blew out the match. The children within the auditorium inhaling the delicious aroma of gasoline were safe from a plague of Egyptian locusts who had been trapped in an evil Pharaoh’s tomb with Brendan Fraser’s potential for thousands of years. They were angry and had the munchies.

The Teachers Committee and Mr. Faber and Po and Tinky Winky and LaaLaa were devoured in a bloody frenzy of clicking and screaming by the black cloud that enveloped them.

Dipsy danced and giggled, and then he died.

Dana was revered as a hero by the city for saving the children, and the locusts worshiped him as their new deity. This allowed him to establish himself as King of North America, ruling the continent from Mr. Faber’s spinning chair. His reign was marked by a period of relative stability, except for the occasional mass genocide of those who disagreed with him.

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WTF Do Writers Want?

What writers want: readers.

The thought of sharing a story from the ether, materialized in book (or e-book) form motivates writers.

The question has changed.

When I told people I was publishing a novel, the first question they asked is “what’s it about?”. Then I published it, and now the question is different: “how many copies have you sold?”.

The first question is tough to answer, because (speaking just for me) I don’t want to truncate a story into twenty words or less after I have spent hours and days fussing over the lives of characters who are as real to me as the farmer who sells me eggs.

The second question is easy to answer.

“A few,” I answer.

People ask, I suppose, because they want other people to do well. They enjoy stories of an “average Joe” (or average Chaunce, in this case) who wakes up amidst piles of wealth, because, they may think, if he can do it, then so could I.

But I don’t write to make money. I write because I want to share stories with people, and it just so happens that “copies sold” is one way to measure the number of readers who might be enjoying something pulled from the ether and materialized in book (and Kindle) form.

Ideally, the reader with whom I’m sharing will enjoy the story as much as I do. After all, I’m not writing to punish readers. Writers want to connect. Maybe it’s because we (or at least I) find one-to-one interactions a bit overwhelming. So much can go wrong. So much goes unsaid. When we write, we can tell the whole story without fear that a nervous laugh will be misconstrued — unless we want it to be.

I told my wife, Naomi, that I will die happy after finishing the (at least) two more novels in the works AND when I stumble across a copy of Luano’s Luckiest Day at a used book store (or, hopefully, and antique store). It’s important for all of us to feel that we contribute something to the world that lasts. Some people accomplish that through their children, or through their profession, or through extremely admirable ongoing charity or through a dazzling moment of heroism.

But what a writer wants is readers, now and forever. Amen.

Livin’ the Dream: Writing as Dissociative Disorder

La Liseuse (Jeune Fille lisant un Livre), 1876...

La Liseuse (Jeune Fille lisant un Livre), 1876. canvas, 45x37 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers have the advantage of working alone. Wherever we physically do the writing, our real “office” is in our thoughts. Then when we reduce power to the part of the brain responsible for nagging self-doubt, the intimidating editor, the gaps in our finances, and the holes in our roofs, something remarkable happens. We disappear into our stories.

Recording what we see, we return with a travelogue of the people we’ve met there in that waking dream. It is one of the most beautiful and useful forms of the dissociative state. But god forbid if we don’t write what we see and hear.

Then we wouldn’t be writers – we would just be creepy people who zone out for hours on end.

We’ve all had those moments of being somewhere else, figuratively. I’ll call it a waking dream. We are transported. It can happen when we’re writing, when we’re reading, when we’re watching a movie or a play. More challenging, perhaps, is when we are struggling to remain outwardly aware for critiquing purposes.

Imagine you’re in line at the Louvre in Paris. You want  to cram all the great works of art into a few hours. There, even when we plainly can see first-hand powerful paintings and sculptures with fabulous transportative powers, the loud, pushy people around us, the echoes of tour groups from all over the world, the guidebook in our grasp, and our own tight schedules can inhibit our ability to drift away into a Renoir or Vermeer.

Sometimes when I’m walking, contemplating my day or sussing out a story, I may have covered two miles or more and not remembered the physical world. My active thinking requires extra juice. The brain’s various processing centers borrow “the juice” from the outward awareness, but only just enough. Any more and I may find myself lost or splayed on the hood of a speeding texter.

But then, other times, I notice something. Something real, and it’s happening right in front of me. The melting snow creating a small lake in the cemetery and only a single monument rises from the slate water. Cigarettes and empty beer bottles on the sidewalk and a half-eaten chili dog from a gas station, details from a night of small-minded debauchery. The skyline of downtown as I stand on the steps of the Capitol building, about to plunge into its skirts, haunting local coffee shops. And pennies, some tarnished, some heads down. I notice them, and I put them in my pocket, scheming what I will do once I collect ninety-nine more.

Walking Writer Confessess: Editing is the Pits.

The Walking Writer knows editing is important, like a root canal.

They say every writer needs an editor. Although this is absolutely true, it is one of those true statements like “the only certain things are Death and Taxes” or “your face will freeze if you keep making that face.” There will be no parade in honor of those editors so important to the success of innumerable stories through the millennia.

God bless ’em.

I much prefer the writing process, the kind where I get into such a creative flow that I am transported into my imagination and time and space in the “real world” cease to exist. This is much preferable to the laborious delayed gratification required during the editing process, where each word is painstakingly weighed, story continuity and flow are tested, and sentence restructuring is a grueling series of gymnastic floor routines.

As a writer, I want to share my story. During the past few months of reworking Luano’s Luckiest Day, I learned to adjust my internal schedule. I had self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines that moved me towards publication.

A word of advice to a first-time novelist and future me: deadlines are a great way to make progress, but make sure the deadlines aren’t too “hard and fast.” When I felt I was running behind my imaginary schedule, I was more likely to make decisions that were more focused on completion and not quality.

Having to go through editing made me feel like poor old Tantalus, always so close to quenching his thirst and satisfying his hunger – but never close enough. Now, even though Luano’s Luckiest Day is available to the world, there is another daunting task that limits my writing time: marketing the book.

But that’s fodder for future posts.