A Recent Murder

I didn’t know the man who talked to me that night, only that he wanted me dead. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

I was investigating a murder scene on Main Street, which of course the local police couldn’t handle on their own. Sergeant Milton greeted me with a cloudy puff of his cigar. “Eh, detective, how’s the private business going?” His sneer cut daggers into my soul. Just then, the rain started to fall.

I walked inside the house after CSI had left. Crime scenes are always empty at night, just like my soul. It didn’t surprise me that the chalk outline lay in the kitchen. This killer was on a streak. He had struck a trend of killings, blood, gore in the kitchens of the suburbs for the past two years. No one knew what he looked like or when he would strike next. Only MacGregor the Butcher had left worse crime scenes. The only thing I knew was that he needed to be stopped.

Outside, Natalie waited for me. The taxi drove off and I knew the murder wasn’t the only problem I’d be dealing with that night. “Oh,” she uttered, smoking her cigarette like Aphrodite in a campfire. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Of course not,” I said, staring her down with my hands in my pocket. Carelessness is important when dealing with girls like her. Girls that creep up behind you and leave you gasping for air after a two hour choke session. “Murder scenes are the perfect place to find a man, eh? You’ll only find coldness here, doll.”

“I’m warm enough on my own, detective. Come home with me tonight, and you might warm up too.”

How could I refuse? A girl like her, with hips as wide as the Cumberland Gap and as rough too, ready to be ridden ’til exhaustion. “You got it, dame. But don’t expect me overnight.”

She stepped closer, the rain streaming the makeup down her face like some clown that had seen far too many men go down in that clown fire gag where they start a fire and then they jump out onto a tiny trampoline, only one of them misses and cracks his spine and there’s nothing you can do to console his grieving wife save giving her the biggest, wettest kiss you can muster. Well, that’s just what I did with her.

I said I didn’t expect to spend the night and I meant what I said. Still, I somehow found myself waking in her apartment. Maybe it was the wine, or perhaps the lilac in the air, but something trapped me there. It might have been her majestic eyes, eyes that shine in the darkest night.

“I’m going to kill you,” said the man who wanted me dead.

“Oh, yeah?” I replied, sleep lisping my voice like some death-dream. The barrel pointed at my face grew larger with each passing moment. I lit a cigarette. “Why’s that?”

“You killed my father, MacGregor.”

MacGregor, the man who killed nearly forty of Boston’s best citizens. Authors, poets, musicians, and even politicians had perished at his hand.

“And now I will kill you.”

Just before he pulled the trigger, his eyes crossed and he collapsed on the bed. Natalie stood in the doorway, gun in her hand. I took a drag of my cigarette and tried to make sense of the scene.

“Don’t bother, baby,” Natalie said, pushing the pistol back into her lingerie waistline. “He killed my father, and I wanted him dead. He’d only meet me if I brought you home. Thought I had a grudge against you, too.”

“Well, ain’t that something,” I said, smoking a long drag of my cigarette. “I suppose you don’t hold any, then?”

“That’s for me to know,” she said before laying on top of me. I put my cigarette in the ash tray and closed my eyes.

Jimmy the ice cream man

Jimmy was a hump back with dental issues. The bores on his back broke the skin, pushing puss from pores. Hair stringy and grease-covered slacked down a fat left shoulder. An exhale exhumed a bit of spittle that landed on the hot sidewalk. “Can I get…can I get some ice cream?” he asked the ice cream man, his sad eyes drilling holes in souls.

“I…um…” the ice cream man hesitated, wondering what the way was with this wary fellow. “I don’t really have any ice cream? This is, uh…it’s a front…for like, drugs?”

“I….I….I…….” Jimmy was hard of breathing. His chest tightened thick with the tension of the ticking time. “Got any…popped corn?”

“NO!” The ice cream man jumped out of his truck with a bat, swinging it this way and that. “GO!”

Jimmy tried to run, but his legs could only be pushed so much.

Only real data

I only use real words in my writing because I think it sounds better when things are real. Like, you can’t have a meal out of plastic food. There has to be actual food there for you to eat. Frankly, if it’s not real, like rally real, then how can you tell if something even exists?

It’s like…come on, it’s just so frustrating having to describe these simple concepts that are like, so totally ingrained in our nature. I mean, if poverty really exists, then why am I not impoverished, you know? So that’s not real data that I can use for my writing.

Another word that’s real that I like is “pizza.” It’s a real word that means food that’s in a circle with some cheese on top of bread on top of sauce, in that order. It’s very good, but I don’t like to eat too much because I have to watch my waistline. A waistline is something you get when you’re older and your legs have sprouted. Yeah, my legs didn’t sprout until I was seven, a little later than most, but oh well.

Another thing I like to do in my writing is to repeat things that mean stuff to me. If it doesn’t mean something, then I’ll like only say it once, but sometimes I’ll say it two times because of my bad memory. But anyone who knows me knows I have a bad memory, so if I say something three or four times, they know it’s really important.

Another thing I like to do in my writing is repeat things that are important to me. Cause then I’m able to remember it more and like where I left off, I can start again. Like a cycle of rebirth, drifting ever outward from the center of my creation, always molding and changing like the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season.

Sometimes people tell me that my ideas aren’t good and stuff, but I tell them just look at Mark, and his ideas, and then they do that and come back to me and say what good ideas I have. Yeah, totally. Mark is like second rate, and I’m maybe like…not like first rate, but close to first rate. I think that’s why Mark gets jealous sometimes.

I also like to use opinions sometimes, like other people’s opinions from the newspaper. The newspaper doesn’t really use real facts all the time, so sometimes I have to get it from magazines. Tabloids are generally good cause I like the feel of them and the crust of the paper. It’s like a texture that my fingers like when they start thinking for me.

 

Martian Immigration

I don’t know what this is. Maybe I could mix it up with something, like underground refugees he finds. Maybe he’s captured by the Martian Immigration Police. Maybe he finds evidence of ancient Martians by accident. Let it simmer…

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Too many people got on the boat. We crashed somewhere on Mars. At least, they said it was too many people, and I assume that’s why we crashed. Who knows? Could be anything. It was a cheap ride.

I walk outside under the blue-red sky and wonder what desert lay here centuries ago and what beauty is here now. The surface of the nearby lake ripples in the wind, and the trees smell like a dream. Nothing like it on Earth, nothing at all, but I guess that’s one of the necessities of progress.

The rocket that got me here was cheap. It was one of those that they overbook to get that much more money. Look where it got them! I’m the only survivor.

Any family I had is long gone. My only friend died in the crash. I’m here, alone, and I don’t know in which direction the closest settlement lies. I drink water by the lake, sit, and think.

I’m here with you, Sue.

Here’s a story based on, uh oh, real life! Actually, it’s 100% true. This really happened. Glad I don’t work on a help desk anymore….

_________________________________________________

Not too long ago, I worked on a help desk for a large corporation. I worked the early morning shift and had a lot of calls where workstations wouldn’t start up, people couldn’t log in, etc. One day I got a call from “Sue.”

“Hello,” Sue says. “My screen is just black.”

“Is the light on the monitor on?” I ask, thinking it is probably turned off.

“The what?”

“The light on the monitor?”

“The what on the what?”

“The monitor. There should be a light on the bottom right if the monitor is powered on.”

“The monitor?”

“It’s…the screen, there should be a light.”

“No,” Sue says before I can finish. “I told you, the screen is black. Oh, wait, you mean that little light that’s on the computer on my desk?”

Workstations are placed under the desk. I try as best as I can to take a deep breath without it being heard over the phone. “Yes…”

“Yes, it’s a little orange light.”

“Okay, so the monitor is powered on.” Before she can argue about what a monitor is, I rush forward, starting at level: four years old, “Have you tried tapping the keys on the keyboard or clicking the mouse?”

“Of course I have, and the screen won’t come on. That’s why I know my computer is broke. I need someone to come here and fix it.”

Ignoring the fact that the screen is indeed powered on, I say, “Ma’am, will you please check the workstation under the desk? If there isn’t a light next to the power button, try pressing the power button.”

“I don’t have time for this. Just send someone out there. I need someone to come fix my computer.”

“It could take a couple hours for someone to get there, but I’m with you right now. Please just press the power button on the workstation. It may work.”

I hear Sue mutter curses under her breath and about how she wants a hardware tech to come out and how she shouldn’t have to do this. A minute later, I hear Windows starting in the background.

“Ma’am?” I say. “Is it coming on now?”

“Yes, unintelligible.”

“Have a good–”

click

And that was how I helped Sue find the power button. Bonus points: boss was randomly auditing my call and bought me a cup of coffee.

A Tired Monkey

The wingbat stared at the sky and pondered what might be in another era. Thousands of years had passed and the gubers lived strong. These beasts, with horns that reached hundreds of feet high and trunks like the elephants that you had nightmares of as a child, destroyed the homes of the wingbats, who flitted of to Mars to live the rest of their sols.

The gubers ruled the Earth for millions, if not many millions of years. Decades? Centuries? Millenniums? They were nothing to the gubers, who wanted only production and evolution, management and organization, peace and brutal warfare.

The moon was home to an old species…you guessed it, humans. They were tall and thin and light from Luna’s light tug, but had little food to subsist on. More water evaporated into space than could be replenished. The humans were to die, and the gubars only waited.

A new type of wingbat was born one day, on Christmas Eve in the year 86,723,148 A.D. He flitted about and felt the wind of Mars and was ever happy and proud. All the other wingbats were in awe of his speed, his dexterity, and his abilities in the game of poker.

One day, an old wingbat approached Maximus and said, “My crapson, you are the fucking chosen one that our goddamn, dumbass people have spoken of for like three years. You know your shit and that’s why we’re fucking sending you to the worst kind of shit your ass has ever witnessed.”

“Just tell me what to fucking do,” Maximus said to the old wingbat.

“Go kill the shit. On the thing.”

“What the hell? You speak of Crappy the Crap, the crappiest crap who ever crapped?”

“Fuck yeah.”

“I’ll fucking go to Earth and fuck some shit up.”

Maximus, the crapperson of Plentimus, flew off to Earth to face Crappy the Crap in battle. When the young wingbat arrived there, however, he witnessed something that disgusted him: All of the gubers were ugly, lazy, and malcontent. It would be an easy battle, but there would be no honor in it.

“You there,” Crappy the Crap said, the biggest guber said. “You are Maximus? I hear you play a good poker game. How about we play a round and whoever wins shall inherit the Earth?”

“I can fucking deal,” Maximus said. Winning in poker against one of the greatest gamblers in the universe would certainly be a greater honor than slaughtering the pathetic creatures.

THe first hand was the wingbat’s, but the guber came back around in the second. The battle tipped up and down for each combatant and there was the ever flowing sound of chips being transferred back and forth as each other one gained the upperhand. Finally, Maximus landed the best hand imaginable.

“No,” Crappy muttered. Hands of sludge covered his eyes as tears poured forth like Niagara Falls expels water during spring. “It can’t be!”

“Oh, but it can, bitch,” Maximus said, the wingbat’s eyes gleaming with the shining light of righteous victory. “It can, bitch.”

“Five kings! Five of a kind! Why, this hasn’t happened since Bleepy destroyed Gappy in the Great Poker Tournament of 24,565,019 A.D.!”

“Give us our home back.”

And so the wingbats returned to Earth from their temporary shelter on Mars. The humans left the moon at the urging of the wingbats and returned to Earth, where they crossbred to become something like angels.

The gubers, on the other hand, were left with a Mars that was already rusting over. The radiation set in after three hours.

1st person, present

If people insist on writing in the first person, present tense, then how about they write steam-of-consciousness works? This crap where it’s the MC just observing what’s happening and reporting to the reader feels more impersonal and broken than writing in the third person.

“I walk down a hall. I see a dragon. Then I run away from the dragon.”

This is boring. I mean, I’m falling asleep here! Let’s jazz that up:

“The hallway is too dark, but there’s a little bright light that I see and I’m not sure if it’s just my eyes tricking me when I find a beast. Its jaws are going to destroy me, shit! Run, run, run, damnit, run!”

Anyone who wants to write in this style should be required to read James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Does your mind ever take a break? Are there times when you find that others have been talking, but you have not been listening? Of course! It happens all the time! So if you’re going to write in this style, don’t have the MC be a damned omnipotent god. In third person, it’s okay to reveal everything.

Just make it real. Put me in the person’s head. Their thoughts should be their actions.

The Martian does a pretty good job of it.