Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Morning Goes Meta


"But it was mostly beer doing the talking."


It was a dark and stormy night… Well ok, it wasn’t. It should’ve been. Considering. Instead it was seven in the morning, and the place being in Southern California, the sky was the same as 350 days a year: bright blue and twinkling like… like the eyes of Ewan McGregor. (Oh, Eewan… The narrator coos, and drools a little.)

Our intrepid heroine rolled out of bed, sleepily ambled to the computer and pressed the power button with her big toe. Instead of the usual chime and light hum, a click-click-click sound issued forth from the brushed aluminium box. (The narrator digs in her heels about the spelling of “aluminium “.)

“Muerto!” she cursed under her breath.

This was an ominous sign, indeed. Still, she opted to borrow some cloudless optimism from the sky and force-rebooted the machine. There was no clicking this time.

After a quick, but necessary stop at the bathroom, our heroine ambled to the kitchen, bee-lining for the coffee maker. The two cats circling around her legs reminded her of a nature documentary about hungry sharks. (The narrator wonders if there is such thing as a not hungry shark. Stuffed and sated Shark, perhaps?)

Cats fed, coffee brewed the morning started to shape up. With a very large cup of joe in hand she made her way back to the computer, a trifle more steadily this time. The blasted machine was still on the loading screen. 'Not good, not good at all,' she mused broodily. After several fruitless forced reboots later she gave up. All signs pointed to a dead hard drive. She would, of course, check the tech support forums from work later, maybe ask advice from the IT people, but it was obvious: the drive was deader than a dodo-shaped door knob. Boo to technology!

This would have been just the suitable occasion for gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands, but that never did anyone any good. Anyway, there was the silver lining: now she’d have the perfect excuse to buy a new ‘pooter.

Our resourceful heroine dug out her iPhone, and entered the tiny version of the World Wide Web. (Hurray for technology!) She was itching to know what sinister sentence did that diabolical Dive served up on this doomed day.

“But it was mostly beer doing the talking.”

With alliterations.

Well, that was loaded. Too loaded. Her mind went blank. ‘Don’t panic,’ she told herself. She just had to find her characters and their environment. Let’s see…

Seven salty sailors sitting in a saloon in Singapore. - Mmm, too salacious.

College knuckle-heads at a kegger. - Overly Clunky.

A beer, a bourbon, and a bottle of bubbly walk into a bar… - Nah, that’s just too barmy.

On her high heels, Tina teetered to the bar. Behind her Bob, her boyfriend belched loudly, like the lousy lout he was.

“Wayne, a whiskey!” she wailed at the hapless heap across the counter.

Wayne wobbled…

(The narrator glances at the word count.)

Oh, bollocks!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Secrets of the High Tower

Thomas Babington Macaulay:

"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."

Many thanks to Anna for proof reading, so now I may have fewer spelling and grammatical errors.

I think this tale is a different Rosamund adventure than the last one. I believe her to be a regular Nancy Drew of Swinegart's School of Deadly Deeds. One shouldn't be too surprised at the murder rate however - it's a school for assassins, after all.


It was an hour later than they planned, and almost completely dark by the time they finally made their way back to the room in the tower. As soon as they entered, Rosamund knew that something was off. The change was so absolute, and everything else looked so much the same, that it took her a second to catch what was wrong. It was like one of those puzzles where you have to find the difference between two seemingly identical pictures. Finally the gleaming, empty surface of the secretaire caught her attention: the scrolls, sheaf of scripts and documents that had been piled on it that morning were now gone. With a heavy thud in her chest Rosamund rushed to the fireplace with Pree on her heels. Her worst fears were confirmed: it was full of the delicate ashes of paper. She sighed despondently. They were too late. Again. If only they hadn't been waylaid by that frightful old crow, they might even have caught the perpetrator in the act. Pree seemed to read her mind, as was her habit.

“I hope Professor Gorehart catches parrot flu!” she huffed.

Rosamund couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “Undoubtedly, that would amuse Professor Fairwright to no end.”

She was about to turn when something among the ashes caught her eye. Leaning closer for a better look, she reached in, and with the tips of two fingers got hold of the little corner of white within the mound of grey. She slowly pulled out a small piece of paper that, aside from a few smudges, was untouched by the fire. She knew immediately what it was.

“That’s impossible!” Pree gasped.

"Mandora Scripts don't burn," Rosamund explained.


"Because of a little known decree from over a hundred years ago, Mandora Scripts are always written on a flame proof material. It looks almost exactly like regular paper, but it doesn't burn."

"How do you know this stuff?"

"My father is an accountant. When we were little, he used to tell us wild tales at bedtime. Mother always complained that he was filling our heads with nonsense." Rosamund smiled to herself at the recollection. She suspected that despite her protests, her mother had been rather fond of those stories; she had always stayed, sitting on the edge of their bed, her reproachful frown softening into a mocking smile as the tales went on.

Tearing herself away from the memories, Rosamund turned her attention back to the sheet in her hand. She carefully shook off the ashes so she could read the single sentence inscribed on it in cursive script. She handed the sheet to her companion who read the words out loud:

"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."

“Well that’s completely useless,” Pree grumbled, “talk about anticlimactic.”

“Au contraire, my dear Pree,” Rosamund turned to her with a wide grin, even her freckles radiating excitement, “I now know who the murderer is.”

Friday, May 14, 2010


It was a while ago. The quote was from Boris Pasternak's 'Doctor Zhivago.'

"The hotel staff were being driven frantic; the incident in No.23 was only one more nuisance added to their daily vexations."

I got a good start, but got stuck exactly at half way. I've been sitting on it since, hoping that I might be able to finish it one day. I give up. Here it is unfinished.


The hotel staff were being driven frantic; the incident in No.23 was only one more nuisance added to their daily vexations.

"What happens on Vega5 stays on Vega5" was the mantra, and the staff was accustomed to the vagaries of intergalactic gamblers, pleasure seekers, tourist, and assorted riffraff of the Milky Way. They were proficient at removing blood and other bodily fluids from carpet and upholstery. They had, on many occasion, demonstrated their considerable aptitude for extracting giant lizards from toilet bowls, tigers from tanks, gonzo journalist from sticky substances and circumstances.

The staff hadn’t been fazed when the Orion Adult Entertainer Awards and the Judoon Mercenary Training Workshop fell on the same weekend. However, the five-day Terran Literary and Cinematic Conference set their teeth on edge. On Sunday Greek Tragedies and Italian Neorealism got drunk and started a fight with Manga and Graphic Novels. The staff was picking up stray speech bubbles and scrubbing pathos out of the carpet for days.

On Tuesday inexplicable darkness shrouded the entire hotel, and chill swept through the hallways. The suspicion first fell on Film Noir, but after the howling and the rattling of chains started there was no doubt that it was the doing of Gothic Horror.

On Wednesday the staff was chasing after yellow butterflies that were following the woman in No.23, and were slowly spreading through the hotel. She was staying with a huge black cat that walked on his hind legs, spoke flawless Galactic, and had penchant for vodka.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Un-American Life

Prompt: From the The Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt: "We must act, and act quickly."

Thursday. Morning. Early rush is over, lunchtime rush yet to come. Raj eyes the coffee pot, trying to decide if he should dump the sludge and brew a new batch, or leave it till just before the midday crowd starts trickling in. It’ll taste like crap either way. Fortunately, nobody buys coffee at 7-eleven for its exquisite flavor. He leaves it, and goes back to reading his magazine.

It’s the smell that hits him, the ripe aroma of garbage and unwashed body. Bill the Bum. It must be 10 am then. For someone who sleeps in an alley, Bill’s surprisingly punctual. Every morning at ten sharp he shows up and buys a bottle of Colt 45. He always heads straight for the coolers, grabs his bottle and dumps a handful of change on the counter. Raj practices holding his breath while he counts the coins. Suppose, he could throw him out, but it would probably not befit a Buddhist. Or something. Anyway, bums need a drink too. Bums especially need a drink.

Bill is different this morning; he’s clutching the bottle of malt liquor to his chest, but has stopped, and is now swaying lightly in front of the Hostess cupcakes, looking indecisive. He drifts towards the counter, considering the tubes of dubious meat tumbling over the hot rollers.

“Are these hot dogs good?” He asks with the air of a connoisseur.

“They are hot dogs,” Raj answers noncommittally.

Bill takes an offense to this implied affront to the iconic foodstuff, and breaks into a rambling diatribe about foreigners and terrorists. Raj listens in fascination as Bill jumps from topic to topic. He seems to have a beef with most ethnic groups, from the “dog-eating” Chinese to the “lazy Mexicans”. Raj wonders if Bill is a Republican, but then he breaks into a completely nonsensical, but riveting conspiracy theory about the Bush administration’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack. Bill is an equal opportunity loony after all. He rounds it all up pointing one grimy index finger at Raj’s chest accusing him of polygamy and anti-American sentiments.

“I’m Indian, you nut, not Arab,” Raj tells him amused, “from India,” he adds to avert possible confusion.

“Oh,” is all Bill says in response.

The stink is now so thick in the small store that one could chew on it. He has to get the verbose vagrant out of there soon, Raj realizes. “We must act, and act quickly,” he tells himself, quoting someone, he thinks, not remembering the source. He takes one of the beige sausages and shoves it in a bun, douses it with mustard, ketchup and relish. He wraps it in foil and puts it down between them like a peace offering. With a toothless grin, Bill slams a ten-dollar note down on the counter. Raj gives him change; puts the beer in a brown paper bag. The door clangs closed behind Bill, and Raj’s alone again.

He decides to make a fresh pot of coffee after all.