Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Status Update

I hoped to write 10k words yesterday.  I dreamed they would be funny, exciting, endearing, wonderfully descriptive words and they would push me so far forward in the plot that the end would practically write itself.  Shockingly, this did not happen.

However, I did manage to get out just under 4700 words which may be the second highest single-day word count i've had since beginning this madness in November.  (I can't be sure without the little graph from NaNoWriMo which I can no longer utilize as that part of the site is in hibernation until next November.)

I find it very doubtful that even half of those 4700 words were funny, exciting, endearing or any of the other characteristics I hoped for.  But they may have been at least vaguely interesting.  Our main character now has a pet chameleon (not the small animals people often keep as pets, no- in my crazy fantasy world they're sort-of like flightless dragons) because apparently it's not enough for him to learn magic, he has to do it while attempting to raise a baby chameleon which will soon be too big to fit in the house.  Interesting, yes?

And, becuase of this new unexpected story line with the chameloen I am no closer to pushing the plot towards the end.  In fact, it's probably going to be a lot longer now.  I try not to push away any ideas when they come, even when they require me to write much more than I wanted.  I wouldn't have gotten to this point if I did.

I wonder if these are the lessons i'm supposed to learn.  To meander through the plot until something pops up and takes me in another direction.  To just let new ideas incorporate themselves into the story line without picking and choosing which to keep and which to toss.  To progress slowly in fits and bursts.  I know it's not how you're supposed to write on a deadline.  But maybe without one?

To let the story grow without judgement, without rushing it forward, without trying to change it into something ti doesn't seem to want to be.   Not brilliant, not concise, not perfectly constructed.  Just growing, like a mountain- layer by layer, spreading outwards as well as upwards.  It will, of course, be a mountain (and a nightmare) to edit.  But isn't that what editing's for?  You get this longwinded, crazy, spotty story and then have to pick and cut and poke at it until it forms something you want.  Like forming the giant slab of rock that you will later carve your masterpiece scultpture out of.

One way or another i'm writing, and that's gotta be good.  And hey!  Here's a shocker- I actually manged to come up with something not related to this novel and *gasp!* post it!  (See below.)  What a miracle that is, huh?

I don't know where all this is going to end.  I'm pretty sure it won't be tomorrow night, even if I do reach 80k.  And perhaps that will be disappointing.  To do NaNoFiMo and miss the Fi.  But maybe it will leave the door open for more.  I don't know yet.  But I'm going to keep writing until I find out.

Scene from some monster movie

Dual-disclaimer: 1) For those prone to nightmares from gory images, skip this one. (You know who you are.) 2) I find it hard to believe that I’m the first person to think up this particular scenario so if you’ve already seen in it some random horror movie, I apologize. No copyright infringement or any other theft is intended.


Mr. Fuzzles

Near dark interior of a typical bedroom, the only light we see comes from the clock on the nightstand next to a bed with a frilly comforter and bed skirt, casting a glow over the radius around the bed. From the corner of the room emerges what might be a snake, but is found to be a tentacle as it wriggles its way into the light. From the direction of the camera an old, gray cat enters the shot and crouches, clawing at the ground the way cats do right before they pounce. It leaps into the air landing on the tentacle and traps it in its mouth. A second later it is pulled violently into the darkness accompanied by a loud, panicked meow.

A hand emerges from the bed, reaching downward. It clearly belongs to an old woman with wrinkled skin, nails long and polished.

“Wha’s- what’s going on Mr. Fuzzles?” comes a groggy voice from the old woman. “Where are you?”

The cat’s head emerges from the dark corner, seemingly responding to its owner’s call. As it moves into the light we see it is actually impaled on the same tentacle which had snatched it away earlier, strands of muscle and gore hanging down where its neck should be. The tentacle pushes the head forward and the outreached hand pets it as a familiar pet owner would, gently stroking the head and ears.

“Oh, there you are,” she coos, “what happened to my little fuzzle-wuzzles? Did something scare you?”

She does not seem to see that her cat is no longer attached to the head she is petting. Perhaps she is not looking, perhaps she does not have her glasses on. For whatever reason, she does not respond with any alarm but goes on contentedly petting the head of her former cat.

We hear the sound of something moving across the carpet as the thing that the tentacle belongs to slowly enters the light. In the darkness we can see only part of it and it is unclear whether it is plant, alien or monster. It seems to have many black tentacles moving around it, pushing it forward on the carpet. As it nears the bed we can make out a pair of dark red eyes and a large, gaping hole with sharp teeth and thick saliva stretching across the widening gap of its mouth. Dangling from the mouth is the tale of the cat. It gapes towards the woman’s outstretched hand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Miracle on Lawndale Ave?

Having received two observations about the lack of updates here from two of the blog's three followers, I decided it was about time to do one.  So here you go.

And just like that, the words escape me yet again.  So much to say, so little of it relevant or useful.  I could tell you about my holiday, all the baking and over-eating and family stress and cool presents.  I could tell you how much I enjoyed the quiet time after all the chaos ended.  I could tell you about how I'm feeling regarding the upcoming end of the calendar year.  I could make up something.  But none of that is where my mind is right now.

My mind is focusing on my complete and utter failure to produce a daily word count over the past couple of weeks.  It's focused on the lack of momentum in my story.  And, as always, it's allowing my inner critic to berate me with a loud, booming voice.  And I don't need to tell you how easy it would be to slip into a self-deprecating rant about how much I suck right now.  But that, too, is irrelevant.

At the start of this, before erasing and starting over, I started to say how (barring a miracle) I’d failed to hit 80k.  But then I remembered: I have four nights.  Can I actually produce 15k in four nights?  If I were a mathematician I’d say the statistical likelihood, given my averages this month, is incredibly low.  But then again, if I were a mathematician I’d know how to derive.  I don’t know how to perform that basic action nor the statistical likelihood of my success.

No, I’m a fantasy fan.  I know how to have grand, seemingly unobtainable dreams.  How to achieve those dreams?  Not so much.  But how to have them?  Definitely.  My grand, seemingly unobtainable dream is to hit 80k by midnight on December 31st.  I figure even if I fail, pushing myself for the next four days will be ten times more progress than I’ve had in the last two weeks, so it’s gotta be a good thing.  And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I’ll give myself a miracle.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

So, last week was a very bad week for me, writing wise.  Out of the 7 days I only wrote for three of them and I wrote very little on those few days.  The usual unreasonable self-loathing and guilt ensued, pushing me to get back on track.

After two consecutive days of a more reasonable word count (around 1200 monday and 2000 yesterday) i'm starting to feel better.

Not that the writing has gotten any easier.  For most of this exercise, since November 2nd, the writing has been slow, difficult, uncomfortable and a variety of other unpleasant feelings.  While the plot's always been there the actual storytelling hasn't come any easier over time.

I had that one glorious day where I miraculously pounded out 5600 words (that historic day being November 22nd) and have not repeated it since.  I still have dreams of reliving that victory with a sudden massive word flow ending in an even higher single day word count, but that hasn't happened yet.

However, with the routine of writing everyday back on there is at least the chance of that happening again.

I knew this before, I certainly got it into my head last month, but I am relearning it now: nothing can replace writing everyday.  It's a lesson I've been taught many times before: in school by professors and in my personal life by my mentor.  And yet, here I am once again learning it.  I suppose it's just one of those things you just have to keep learning until it finally becomes ingrained or, gods forbid, habitual.

But hey, better to learn the same lesson twenty times over than never at all, right?

Still writing...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Christmas Decorations are a Good Thing

An unwanted pubic opinion:

Don't get me wrong, I hate the whole Christmas scam as much as the next person does.  I whole heartedly disagree with Christmas carols taking over my favorite radio stations for the later half of November and the entirety of the next month.  I hate the fact that stores start selling Christmas junk the week of Halloween and I certainly don't feel the need to rush out to the store to stand in line for ten hours at 3am the day after Thanksgiving (seriously- what's wrong with you people?)

No, I don't buy into any of that.  But there is one Christmas tradition that I'm ok with: lights.  Not that they should be displayed in stores in October or light up a house so brightly you have to shield your eyes to drive by it (circa National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, an excellent movie).  And not that neighbors having contests over which idiot spent the most money to have the most ridiculously elaborate light display is a good thing.  But lights in and of themselves are great.

Why?  Because it's so fucking dark outside that if you don't have some lights in the landscape the suicide rate (which is already pretty high this time of year) would probably jump even higher.  I never signed on for this whole daylight savings thing and I personally wouldn't mind not losing an hour of sleep in the summer only to have it artificially given back in the fall.  And why is it, by the way, that if i'm getting an extra hour of sleep I lose an hour of my day?

Before the whole 'fall back' thing the sun started going down earlier and earlier, but at least I had a chance of seeing it set when I walked out of work at 5pm.  Now it seems the only time I get any sun is on the weekends.  My ten minute drive into work in the morning does not provide me with nearly enough sunlight and when I step out after 5pm now the sun is long gone.  Not because it's going down that much earlier but because 5pm is the old 4pm and the sun doesn't give a rat's ass about daylight savings time.

So, I guess, really the solution is to get rid of daylight savings time.  (The farmers can keep their own time system, if they want, just leave the rest of us alone.)  But, in lieu of that, Christmas lights.

In the trees, on the fence, in the windows, wherever.  Put up as many snowflakes on the light posts as you want.  Display as many Christmas trees as you have.  Throw in all the menorahs and Kwanzaa stars as you can get your hands on cause there's too much damned Christmas stuff in the display anyway.  Just make sure it's all well lit.

In the same simple-minded way that dragons like sparkly things I am a fan of lights.  They're pretty and they make the painfully black night a little more bearable.  So put 'em up as early as you want, and leave them up well into the new year.  Cause it's a long, dark winter and we need all the light we can get.

Monday, November 30, 2009

So, Apparently I AM that much of a masochist



So, as I said, I crossed the 50k finish line.  And I had a terribly brief moment of "Go Me!!!  This is the best thing ever!!!" and I downloaded my little winner's icon (<---Look over there!  Isn't it pretty?), and I reveled in looking at my nice purple bar, and I enjoyed a few days off from writing.

Then today I sat down to just take a look at my story and maybe add to it a bit and make my final word count that much greater than 50k.  And I again thought about how much more there is to write.

I originally started jotting down notes as a brief outline for where the story would go on the very first day (November 2nd, as you may recall) and the timeline started with little Factin and ended with him some years later.  Of the 15 or so outline points that I had originally jotted down only about half of them have actually come to pass in the story.

He's about to meet the wizard who will become his mentor, but I haven't actually written the scene yet.  And there's a lot of cool training scenes I have in my mind between the two of them.
The two other characters he's with are so far from fleshed out it's a little ridiculous, plus through chatting about them over the break I had several moments of "oh yeah, I totally forgot that about him/her!".  This is not to say that the characters in this novel will be at all true to what was originally imagined, but I'd like to transfer at least a couple of the details.
There were many more battles I had in my head in which Factin would (god forbid) kick a little ass (magically speaking) and maybe, just maybe, mature into something more than the self-loathing, distrustful, spineless and relatively annoying adolescent he is currently.  (That'd be nice!)

So, with that in mind, I have decided to attempt, and baring any serious time-consuming catastrophes, complete NaNoFiMo or, National Novel Finishing Month.  Their tag line?  "One writer. One unfinished novel. On December 1, the battle begins."  (Kind-of love the sound of that!)  Their idea?  Complete your novel from NaNoWriMo by adding an additional 30,000 words by the end of the month.  Why 30k?  Because according to the FAQ on the website 80,000 words "is on the low end of what's usually considered a real novel these days".

Now, this is a much less spiffy online community than what NaNoWriMo has become (although give it a few more years and someone who does web design and I bet that'll change) as it does not have a word count validator or home page with videos, interviews, tips and other cool stuff.  So that means no daily posting to the site, no seeing my bar graph grow (which will be a little heart breaking for me cause I really loved that), and none of the other stuff that made the NaNoWriMo experience what it was.

No, this is the simpler online community consisting of nothing more than discussion forums, moral support, and people posting about their successes and failures over the course of the month.  As much as NaNo is an honor system because no one actually reads the 50k words to make sure you haven't written "word" 50,000 times this is a serious honor system as there's no one to validate your word count but you!  (Well, me and Microsoft word because i've been going off of that word counter this whole month.)

Another change is that I am actually allowed to edit this time around but only in so much as I don't edit myself out of 80,000 words by the end of the month.  And since every word I get rid of is one less towards that 80k goal I'm thinking editing is going to be pretty slim until I've gotten a hefty bundle of words added on.  Besides, the point is to finish the story, not to edit it to a publishable point.  (There's NaNoEdMo for that!  At least I think there is...)

Now, part of me thinks that I must just be a hard-core masochist for signing up for this.  After all, that 50k was by no means easy- there were days where getting those words out was just about as comfortable as visiting the dentist.  (Ouch!)  Plus, it is Christmas time and lords knows there's more than enough to keep me occupied with that this month.

But the other part of me just keeps saying "But the story's not done!!!  You have to finish!!"  And it points out that, in addition to the tortuous days, there were the good days.  The days when I actually felt ever the tiniest bit like a real writer.  The days when I finally got that scene out and it was actually sort-of funny.  The days where I had that idea and it wasn't half bad.  And the days where I choked through that 1,000 words, hated it, and then felt proud of myself for sticking to it anyway.

Because that's the main thing that I've always failed to do: stick to it.  Back in school, no matter what class it was for, I couldn't choke out those words.  Granted at that point I was supposed to not only choke them out but also share them with the class which was undoubtedly why I failed so epically, but still.  Yes, I take solace in the fact that no one's going to be reading this 80k words until I let them and that will definitely help me leave them on the page in spite of hating them.  But even with that, just writing is a pretty big challenge for me.

So I'm challenging myself to hit 80,000 by the end of the year.  It will undoubtedly be difficult even though it's significantly less than what I had to hit this month.  And I'm sure I'll want to give up and trash the whole thing at least a half a dozen times.  And I'm sure that some days I'll be thinking that I could have just stopped at 50k and worried about actually finishing the thing some other time.  A time when I'm less stressed, more sane, and more able to just write.  But waiting for that time to come would be akin to planning to pay my bills by winning the lottery: it's just not a safe bet.

If you are following me in this I'm not going to make any grand promises about twitter updates (what'd I get this month?  Like, five?) or daily posts or anything like that.  (Although I may end up just posting my daily word count to keep myself accountable since I don't have another website on which to do it.)  And I'm not going to claim that there will be a story on here unrelated to this writing challenge since there wasn't for the whole month of November.  All I'm going to do is tell you that I am still writing, and still getting Factin into trouble.

One of my favorite motivational quotes comes from the Disney/Pixar movie Finding Nemo in which the fish Dori (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, who I absolutely love) launches into a chorus of "Just keep swimming!  Just keep swimming!  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.." whenever the other character gets bitchy about how doomed they are (which he does a lot).  My new mantra for this month (shockingly) is:
"Just keep writing!  Just keep writing!  Just keep writing, writing, writing..."  And I will.

Friday, November 27, 2009

50k

Ladies and Gentleman, today a rather remarkable thing occurred.  I reached 50k words.  (Well, technically 50,169 words, but you know what i'm saying.)
Now, i'm sure that many of you, especially those who actually, you know, write- are thinking "So?"
Well to you I quote Billy Madison when I say "Well, it was hard for me so SHUT UP!!!"
Ah-hem, my point being that I have never done anything like this before and for me it is a big deal.
Now, the bad news is that Factin's story, while being over 50k words is no where near finished.  In some ways, this could be quite promising,  I could finish it, edit it and somehow, someway do something with it.  I haven't the foggiest idea what that something may be, but the possibility is there.
I could also just say "well, i've done 50k, opened up the door for more writing in the future because now i've proven to myself that I can do it so i'll just scrap this and move on."  I don't intend to do that.  Not because I have any grand delusions about becoming a best selling author- if this experience has taught me anything it's that I still have quite a lot to learn.  But because I still have a story to tell and if it can demand 50k words from me, then it can certainly demand to be finished.  Where it'll go, I have no idea.  Maybe nowhere, maybe just to more lessons which will have to be applied elsewhere.  But that's another story.
For now, i'm just going to take a minute to appreciate what I have accomplished.
To those who have supported me, thank you.  I owe you more than those small words, but for now that'll have to do.  Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

At the risk of being overly sentimental, I do have to say that I am aware of how many things I have to be grateful for on this holiday that is designed for that recognition.
I am grateful for my friends who show me more love, appreciation, validation and warmth than I can really understand.  And on that note, I am grateful that one friend in particular is on the mend after serious health problems.  (And grateful to those who have used the pledgie to donate to this cause.)
I am grateful for my wonderful boyfriend who is capable of loving me on a level I only dreamed about, only better because it's not a stupid movie.
I am grateful for my family who, hindsight has shown me, did a pretty damned good job raising me and helping to shape me into the person I am.  And who still provide a safe, supportive home base whenever I need them.
I am grateful for my cat who is, regardless of what anyone says, the cutest cat in existence.  (And I dare anyone to scientifically disprove me. )
I am grateful for my car, as silly as that may sound, because it reliably gets me from place to place with little difficulty and this is the first time in my life i've really had that security.
I am grateful for my job, in spite of everything, because I am constantly reminded of how much worse off I could be.
I am grateful for those clients who give me the good days that I do still occasionally have at work because without them there's no way i'd still make it through the week.
I am grateful for NaNoWriMo for the enthusiasm, support, fun little graphs and other things which have motivated me to accomplish more writing in the past 26 days than i've done... ever, I think.
And i'm especially grateful to those who have supported me in thie endeavor.  It helps boost my spirit more than just about anything.
I'm grateful for my gym and for the people in it because without their support and enthusiasm there's no way I would have made it through that 29 hour test.  And I am, of course, grateful for my black belt because it's an accomplishment I never dreamed of achieving and it's spurred me onto greater things.
And I am grateful for all of the wonderful food that I was able to partake of today because not only did I get to contribute and share with people I love, but I got to have it in the first place and there's a lot of people who don't have that luxury.
To those who fall in the previous categories, you know who you are, thank you.
And Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Wall

So, for the past... week? Yeah, since last Friday, I’d say, I’ve been struggling. Struggling to move forward. Struggling to write something new. Struggling to bridge the gap between where the story is and where I so desperately want it to be. I have so many great ideas, wonderful dialogues, fun-to-write events in my head that are further on in the story than where I am.

Where I am is stuck in the doldrums. Not really moving, not being funny or interesting or even remotely readable. Where I am is wondering why I started writing this thing in the first place, why I thought that anything I wrote was funny or interesting or entertaining in any way and thinking that no one in their right mind would ever want to sit down and read this thing even if I do finish it. It's stupid, unoriginal, idiotic, mediocre and just plain dull.

Now, to my credit, despite those thoughts plaguing me every time I sat down to write, I did still sit down to write. And my word count has continued to grow. I've forced myself to type out the necessary 1,200 words, 1,300 words, perhaps even 1,500 words per night- totally convinced that they are all of those terrible adjectives I listed above. But I kept typing.

I came to find out yesterday that, apparently, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Neil Gaiman wrote a pep talk for the nano people, which is so funny since I’m in the middle of Good Omens and absolutely LOVING it- concluding that he and Terry Pratchet are absolute Gods! But he wrote a pep talk describing what he went through while writing his Anansi Boys and guess what? Exactly what I’m feeling! There are his words, reading my mind:

"You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing." (Copyright, I’m sure, Neil Gaiman per NaNoWriMo or something like that- just don't cite this to me so I don't get sued!)

And I’m thinking- he knows! Here is this wonderfully funny, intelligent, witty, entertaining, brilliant writer who I could never dream of emulating going through exactly the same doubts as me! What a revelation! That this- this terribly doubtful, uncomfortable, self-deprecating, why-can't-I-get-the-damned-story-to-flow-again phase is *gasp* normal! The relief, I can’t tell you.

So, I’m still writing. And I still feel so far from where I want to be but I force myself to keep putting down the words hoping that very soon I will feel that wonderful rush that comes when the story starts to flow again. When the words become a way to transport me to the scene, instead of just being lifeless letters on paper. When the characters have life and personalities and quirks. When the plot is interesting and exciting and fun. When I’ve gotten over the wall.

I’m not there yet, but I feel like I may be on the cusp. Here’s hoping.

See you on the other side of the wall.
(34,310 words and counting…)

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Lessons from NaNoWriMo

1)  When you're using weird names that you made up, make a master list somewhere of how they're spelled because you're guaranteed to spell them 50 different ways by the end of 50,000 words and you probably won't remember where that extra i was supposed to go after about 10,000 of them.  (And spell check is no help because it'll put a squiggly red line under all of them- because you made them up!)

2)  Remember your props.  If someone entered the cemetery with a donkey at the beginning of the scene, there should probably be some mention of him at the end of it.  Even if the end is three pages later.  And come to think of it, where was the donkey while all that craziness was going on, anyway?

3)  Being sick, while giving you time off from work, is not actually conducive to bulking up the word count because although you have plenty of time on your hands you're going to be spending most of it in bed.

4)  If you are in bed, for gods' sake keep a notepad there because if you get an idea whilst roaming the haze between asleep and awake you will not remember it by the time you sit down at your computer and can actually write it.  Good ideas come to those who sleep.  But they only stay with those who write them down!

5)  Liking a character, or having your main character like them, is not a valid reason for not killing them off.  In fact, it might be a good reason to do just that.

More to come, i'm sure.
(26,968 words and counting)

Monday, November 9, 2009

More in the Life of Factin

Pratboy421:  Cell mate sprange me from jail and brought me to a tavern where I met a man who fed me some kind of potion and bespelled me.  Now i've apparently been bound as a slave working as a necromancer for a midget with a giant pig-faced man.  It never ends!

(18,366 words and counting!)

Learning to Write

So, at the end of last week, after an inspriring beginning I found myself slowing down a bit.  Last Friday, specifically, I choked out only 900 words (i've been averging at least 1,500 a day) and seriously thought of just skipping to the part of the plot I had in mind.  It wasn't a firm stuck point- I got my daily quota in, technically.  But I just wasn't feeling it.  I was writing words for the sake of the word count, not because they were moving me forward plot wise.

With a good night's sleep and a fresh idea that came to me as I was waking up the next morning (which, come to think of it, seems to be when most of my ideas occur) I pushed through and got to a point where the story flowed again.  Now, i'm actually- gasp!- starting to like it.  I'm still not at the point of the plot where the story began in the role-play, but i'm closer than i've ever been to incorporating the characters I knew and the very vague plot points I remember into the story arc.  And for the first time in... longer than I can remember, honestly- i'm enjoying the process of writing.

Now, some of you who haven't heard me bitch about writing may think "Wait, you're just starting to like writing?  Then why'd you start writing in the first place?"  The answer: because my writing Yoda recomeneded it.  And my playwriting professor in college recomended it.  And my literary teacher in high school recomended it.  And everyone i've ever known who knew the first thing about writing told me the same thing: if you want to be good, you have to practice.  It's that same old Carnegie Hall joke coming to bite me in the ass.

When I started this blog, I still hated writing.  And as you can see, that hatred kept me from doing it as often as I knew I was supposed to.  Partly because i'm so self critical that I usually can't write a single sentence without concluding that it's too stupid, poorly described, boring, un-funny or just plain bad to keep writing.  And parlty because the idea of allowing myself to show any of my work, labeled with all of those adjectives, to another person was a nightmare. 

Now, 8 full days into writing an actual novel at a faster pace than i've ever dreamed, i'm starting to be able to let all that crazy head-case stuff go and actually just write.  To let my character be whetever he's going to be without concluding that it's stupid.  To let my plot change shape and grow without trying to make it fit some idea of what I think it's supposed to be.  To enjoy the random sentences or scenes that I really like, without worrying if they're too dramatic or not as funny as I think they are.  To just fucking write.

I'm sure a big part of it is the word count looming over my head.  50,000 words is a lot and it goes a long way in stopping that reflexive need to erase what I think is crappy.  If that crappy sentence or scene just got me 35 words closer to that huge goal i'm keepin' it!  And a lot of it is the fact that I really, really want to complete this thing.  I actually like this story.  I don't know if anyone else will, but I do.

My writing Yoda said writing is best pursued by asking yourself what you want to read.  I've liked reading about Factin.  And i've discovered something absolutely wonderful and arguably even magic about writing: I make it happen.  If I want something funny to happen, I can write it, and it happens.  If I think someone should say this or do that, they say it or do it.  If I really want to see some creepy looking pig man the size of an ogre chasing a little goat around a tiny room in a tavern then guess what?  That pig faced ogre man is gonna chase that goat.  (And he did in the story.)  And I made it happen. 

And what's more is that those great stories that I would have loved to death if this didn't happen or that character didn't die or the whole world didn't implode on itself (Thank you, Douglas Adams!)- that's not gonna happen to my story!  If I don't want it to end that way, it's not gonna!  So there!

My point is that for the first time, maybe in my whole life, i'm enjoying sitting down and telling a story.  Who cares if anyone else thinks it's good?  I like it.  Silly, stupid, overdramatic, impossible, unintelligent and everything in between- it's my story, I can do whatever I please with it.  And i'm gonna.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Day in the Life of Factin

Pratboy421:  Entered a new city, got my first real job, was arrested for no reason whatsoever.  Cell mate has the creepiest eyes i've ever seen and just found out i'm a necromancer.  This can't be good...

(13,427 words and counting!!!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Daily NaNo Update

Pratboy421:  Was almost killed by crazy religious zealots, called up a small army of undead to help me escape.  May or may not have burned down my town in the process.  Goodriddence.

(7133 words and counting...)

Gratitude

Three of my cleints are graduating from the program today.  I've seen a lot of graduations over the years.  Some mean more than others.  You see the people that you think might have a shot at it, but have a lot of work left to do.  You see the people that never really engaged and you don't expect to make it (and often later hear that they didn't).  And you see the people that you believe have done the hard work but still have too many stressors and risks to get a really good feeling about.

And every now and again, you see the people that you believe, way down in your gut, are the real deal.  For various reasons, they've really got it.  Maybe they had it to begin with because of the help of the fellowship of AA or NA, and you just got to point out a few other tips and tools they could incorporate.  Or maybe they've struggled with each and every step they gained and you really feel like you trully helped them, instead of just watched.

One way or another, you know that you are a part of their success story.  Maybe a small part, maybe just a foot note, or maybe a really major charactor in the play.  One way or another, you were a part of it.  You got to witness- and this sounds horficially cheesy but I swear it's accurate- the miracle of recovery.

It feels really great on a professional level, that's a given.  Any success feels somewhat good on a professional level because you were involved.  But this- for the first time in a long time- feels really, really good on a personal level.  As a human being I am grateful to have had a conncetion with these people.  As a human being I feel blessed to have been part of their journey.  As me, I feel more grateful than I can possibly express.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Factin's Story Twitter Update

Pratboy421:  Went to my grandmother's funeral, cried myself to sleep. Woke up to find her sitting in my room, watched my father beat her to death, again. Got 'exorcised' for being a demon. Pretty sure that's just another word for torture.

(5,449 words and counting!)

NaNoWriMo

So, yesterday I started to write a little story about an old role play character for the blog.  After about five paragraphs I realized the story, if I told it with anywhere near as much details as it demanded to be told in, was way too long for one post.  Then I thought I could make a serial out of it.  But I didn't like the idea because the last serial has yet to be concluded in over a month.  Then I thought "hey- isn't it November?"

Now, i've never done National Novel Writing Month.  Partly because of my debilitating self criticism which tells me everything I write is crap so if I do get a story idea I like I tend to pummel it to death with heavy, blunt cynicism.  And partly because 1000 words a day is a lot for a person who doesn't write everyday.  And partly because, let's face it: i'm just lazy. 

But having spent the last couple of months getting into the habit of not only writing but posting things on a more regular basis than i've done in years I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might have a shot at it.  Thanks to a pep talk from my writing Yoda I started typing and 2500 words later i'm feeling like I might just have a shot at it.

So i'm writing Factin's story.  Factin is a cool dude.  He's been through a lot.  He will go through much more by the time i'm done.  He deserves to be written about.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and want to follow me there my username is Bevimus.  I believe you can check my stats when you log on if you look for that username.  If you're not doing NaNo I will be posting my daily word count on this site so you can follow my progress.  I'll also let you know, if i'm so inclined, what Factin did that day in the form of a twitter-like post so you can follow his antics as well.

And if you have no idea what NaNoWriMo is, go here immediately:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

And I may even write a short story about something completely unrelated to all this from time to time throughout the month.  But since my main focus is that 1000 words a day the posts will be brief, I suspect.  But trust me, I am writing.  My new mantra is: Shut up and type!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anti Swine Flu

Despite the warning from the birds that protests, government petitions and the other standard methods of social dissidence would not produce any kind of response one particular pig remained determined to fight against the name for the new flu. Maybe they just hadn't organized well enough, he reasoned. Maybe they were too cynical to begin with. With whatever explanations he could muster he convinced himself that his race would not suffer the same fate.

Things were bad enough already, he rallied. What with the name pig being synonymous with fat, lazy, dirty people the world over. It was bad enough being considered valuable only for the meat of one's bones and segregated to muddy pits and troughs. To coin the newest panic-inducing epidemic by the same name would just be too much.

So he held public demonstrations outside of congress. He tried to organize unions to strike. He sent more pamphlets, fliers, e-mails and other information-disseminating correspondence to various public health organizations than any anti-cancer movement had ever managed. And yet, the name remained.
Maybe it was because scientists honestly believed that they were the source of the flu. Maybe it was because people were just too desensitized to listen. Maybe the language barrier was insurmountable. Or maybe it was because pigs were, despite his belief to the contrary, just not that bright and one angrily oinking pig just wasn't enough to change that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reeses Penance

Having angered the chocolate gods by not partaking of the glorious bounty they provided John knew he would have to make a grand gesture to win back their favor.  He'd never actually performed the ritual himself and being one of the only practicing cocoalics in the area he didn't know how to find someone to ask.  So he turned to the area he usually turned to for obscure information: the internet.

Thanks to the wonder that is Youtube John was able not only to find someone performing the ceremony, but also a step by step instructional video that showed him how to follow suit.

The most difficult part was getting his hands on enough Reeses pieces to fill the tub.  But once he was settled in with the cleansing peanut butter chocolate candies washing his sins away he knew it was worth it. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunshine and Rainbows

"So, exactly what happened?"

"It had been a pretty busy day, being the night before Halloween.  Going to a haunted house is the single most popular activity in the month of October.  And after being rained out so many evenings we knew we were going to get slammed.  It's not uncommon for us to get hit with upwards of a thousand people on a night like that so I was just praying to get through the shift without collapsing.  In hindsight I should have known something was wrong, even on crowded nights like that we won't get six SnR's in an hour."

"S N R's?"

"Sunshine and Rainbows- it's our code to tell the other actors to chill.  When someone freaks out, starts losing it, and they don't have somebody with them capable of calming them down the nearest actor is supposed to step in and guide them through.  We call out Sunshine and rainbows so everyone knows to swap out the act for soothing voices and reminders that it's ok, it's not real."

"Did anyone that came through tell you what they saw?"

"Nobody knew what they saw!  Blood, gore- that's all part of the show.  A real body in there isn't going to instantly pop out on your radar with all the special effects.  Strobe lights, fog machines, moving parts, more sounds than WWII- it's sensory overload.  One real body in all that mess?  It's a wonder we found it at all."

"How did you?"

"Well, after we had to call in the medics for the last one that came through- this guy was having a full on panic attack and those look a lot like heart attacks- we had to shut down anyway.  We did walk through from the end backwards and the front on.  We met in the body room and we found him."

"The body room?"

"It's made up to look like a meat locker with bodies covered in plastic hanging from the ceiling that you have to wade through.  Stan had been in the corner popping out at people.  That's where we found him, slumped over with his butcher's costume covered in real blood.  If people hadn't slipped on it they probably wouldn't have even seen him...  There's a reason you're not allowed to touch the actors."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Ghost Story I'd Like To See

Sir Benjamin Thomas is not widely talked about by the other members of parlament as his policies and votes were neither controversial or terribly revolutionary but it is obvious when talking to those who knew him that he made a large impact on many lives.  He is described as a considerate and kind gentleman who possessed warmth and an air of approachability uncommon to those of his profession.  Which is why it surprised me to hear somewhat ominous stories of his ghostly prescence from villagers in the pub.

They say that you can see him roaming the orchards on misty evenings holding a lantern aloft or hear him in the stables talking to his prized horses when no one is there.  I also received reports of piano music coming from his quarters which have remained unoccupied since his death.  In order to verify these reports I have traveled to his estate on the outskirts of this small hamlet looking for the truth.

I am greeted at the gate by a young woman who introduces herself as Lily and informs me that she was his headmistress.  She seems pleased not only to give me a tour of the grounds and show me how very well maintained she and her late master's other servants are keeping the estate but also to have the opportunity to discuss Sir Thomas whom she was obviously very fond of.

She describes him to me much like others have as a kind gentleman of warmth who was softspoken in all areas of his life.  What she adds is an element of familiarity reserved to those who observed him in his daily actions while in the privacy of his home.  She states that he was the most fair master she or any of his other servants had ever encountered and displays an obvious sadness over his loss.  It is only when I ask her of the tales I have heard of his haunting that her disposition changes.

"Oh, what rubbish," she scoffs, informing me that a man of such quiet nature could never make such a ruckus, either during his life or afterwards.  She emphasizes his desire to keep peace within his household during his life and her firm belif that his dispositon would not change so after death.  She does, however, inform me of her and the other servants knowledge of the exact moment of his death.

"He would always be sure to say goodbye to each of us indivdually whenever he left for London.  We would all line up at the main gate to review our duties during his absence and he would say goodbye by shaking each of our hands," she says.  "The physician, of course, would not allow us in the room when he became very ill although I tried my hardest.  I would have tended to him better, i'm sure and had his sister not insisted I would never have sent for him at all.  As was I was outside the door when I felt it."

"Felt what?"

"Felt him shake my hand to say goodbye.  As soon as I experienced the sensation I knew, before his physician emerged to inform us that he had passed.  I already knew and so did everyone else."

Intriguged I ask if anyone else is as firm in this belief as she and sure enough as we tour the grounds she introduces me to gardeners, stable keepers, cooks and other servants who all attest to the same thing.  In the kitchen she introduces me to one girl in particular, no more than 12 years of age, whome she informs is her daughter, Rose and says was very close to the master.  Rose has a bright disposition and smile uncommon in any servant and seems, much like her mother, very happy for the opportunity to talk about her late master.

"Did you feel the sensation of someone shaking your hand when Sir Thomas died?" I ask her.

"Yes," she smiles, "but I was the only one who got a kiss on the cheek."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Party Pooper at the Monster Mash

Jeff had never willingly signed up for this. Public relations was supposed to involve some miracle-working, sure. But the whole reason he’d signed on for some of the older clientele was to avoid all the drama and Hollywood bullshit that the divas and A-listers and other wanna-be stars tended to throw at their representatives. He didn’t want to handle press releases about drug overdoses and break-up rumors and other crap, he just wanted to manage schedules, send out replies and help out those that had paid their dues to the industry. Dracula seemed like an obvious choice, having retired from pictures decades ago and now doing nothing more than consulting on re-makes and speaking at specialty film festivals. The one exception was his annual Halloween party which, unfortunately, got bigger every year.

The guest list was more complicated than he would have thought. All the oldies were there- the werewolf, the mummy, Frankenstein, Stephen King. But Drac had a penchant for bringing “new blood” into the mix by inviting the lesser-known stars from new releases. A whole crew from Japan flew over ever year to shuffle around. There were always a host of zombies on hand- new stars from whatever adaptation had been filmed that year. He would even invite the new horror-film directors and novelists that were starting to get talked about in the public domain. To say it was a circus was like calling the Oscars a typical awards show.

Security, surprisingly, was not the biggest issue. There was more muscle in Hollywood than at most body-building competitions and it was easy to find a company that wanted their name on the event. The catering tended to be a little tricky as the menu had to be incredibly diverse while maintaining elegance. But luckily chocolate fountains handled blood very well and this particular company had an agreement with a local cattle factory for bundles of spare parts at a killer price. The decorations were easiest to come by, people would actually compete for the opportunity to showcase their new take on horror chic hoping to get credit in the pictures from the event.

No, none of that was an issue. The issue was the old, reliable guests. After Frankenstein’s newest bride found him canoodling with one of the stars from Quarantine last year and made a scene truly worthy of the “Hell hath no fury” adage he actually contemplated bringing in police to oversee the event. But Drac was whole-heartedly against it and instead the security was outfitted with tranquilizer guns. But still, Jeff worried.

He held his breath every time a new guest entered at the front gate, squinting to see through the mob of paparazzi parked outside and make out who was in the car to prepare the security team. He camped out at the door having his assistant grab and direct people as soon as they were greeted by their host. He had activities going in every room and enough booze, food and other accoutrements to keep people occupied for a year. And the staff were well equipped to direct the problem guests away from each other and keep them busy. All seemed to be going well until a growl like nothing Jeff had ever heard came from the main dining area.

Jeff ran faster than he would have thought physically possible, his adrenaline skyrocketing and propelling him with the speed of a demon. He found the huge, ornate table smashed at one end by what he recognized as the spinach monster from Six String Samurai who Drac had invited after befriending him at a film festival exploring the genre of live-action anime. He grabbed a random party guest who was bolting out of the room and asked what happened.

“I don’t know, I don’t even know what that thing is!” she shrieked. “All I did was comment on how good the spinach dip is!”

Jeff had to hire an industrial cleaning crew and a host of contractors to clear out and rebuild the dining room. The catering company, needless to say, was never called for another party. After concluding the business and referring Drac to his asshole competitor, Jeff retired from public relations.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Learning to Sign

Is it just me or do doctors have the most illegible signatures, and writing for that matter, ever?  I always thought that there must be a class in medical school for learning to write that badly so that you could unlearn all the basic tools of letter formation drilled into you in grade school.  With that preface, I present the following story:

He looked like someone who hadn’t slept in over 45 hours would. Bags the size of walnuts under his eyes, tinted the bluish/redish purple that comes from hemoglobin degradation- he knew the term now- and hair and clothes that obviously needed a wash. It was a condition that everyone else in his class was suffering, some just wore it better. But it wasn’t the puffy eyes and hobo chic that bothered Greg when he looked at his friend. He was worried. No one else would notice it, but he did.


“Hey Ben, wait up” he called to his friend as they exited the library.

Ben looked over his shoulder and, not paying attention to where he was going, walked head-long into the glass doors that opened onto the quad. His arm full of books prevented him from doing any real damage to himself, but he dropped his load in a big pile at his feet. Greg came over and helped him gather his books.

“Wow, you’re worse than I thought, man,” Greg said as he picked up the painfully heavy anatomy book.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know you’re tired and all but you’re better coordinated than that.”

“No, dude- it’s just these fucking finals have got me all up in my head and I’m not paying attention,” Ben explained. “I’m fine, though.”

“You are not fine, and you’re coming with me,” Greg said, standing up with the stack of books he’d picked up and walking out with them.

“Wait, gimme my books!” Ben called after him. He received a poisonous glare from a co-ed in his bio class and realized that shouting after making a huge scene with the books was probably not the best idea.

“Dude, gimme my books,” he whispered after him.

“Nope, you’re coming with me and if I have to hijack your books to get to follow then I will.”

Greg kept a steady pace across the quad and Ben followed on his heels, trying to wrangle the papers and other loose items that he’d hastily stacked back up. He almost barreled into him when Greg stopped short to peer over his shoulder and make sure he was following. They arrived back at their dorm and Ben expected to stop and receive his books so they could split off to their different rooms. But Greg kept going up the stairs the common room and Ben begrudgingly followed. When he arrived he roughly and loudly plopped the books down on the table which caused one of their dorm mates who had fallen asleep on his reading to bolt upright and let a startled “Whah!”

“Sorry,” Greg said in a hushed tone.

The man glared at him momentary then went about violently rubbing his eyes, seemingly trying to re-start them. Ben settled his stack on the table next to the books Greg had finally released and went about trying to reorganize the pile into its original form.

“Sit down for a second, talk to me,” Greg said. He was going for caring, concerned friend with the kidnapping but realized he might have come off as slightly more asshole. Ben’s refusal to look at him as he sorted through his papers supported the theory.

“Man, I so don’t have time for this. I got two exams tomorrow and at this rate I’m gonna flunk both of ‘em,” Ben complained.

“Well, which one are you more worried about?”

“The signature final.”

“Seriously? You’re actually this worried about the signature final? Dude, that is, and you’re not gonna find a single person on this campus who disagrees with me, the single easiest class we get. Sign your name illegibly, easier than breathing,” Greg argued.

“Ok, so I’m retarded, I can’t sign my fucking name so no one can read it, what an asshole I am,” Ben berated himself. Greg realized that demeaning his friend’s troubles might not have been the best tactic and tried to think of something he could do to make up for it. He wanted to help him, after all, not make him feel worse. He looked down at his hands somewhat sheepishly and noticed the stack of books. He had an idea.

Greg stood, grabbed the pile of books, picked them up, and raised them to his chest. Ben pushed up from the table to follow suit, thinking that they were moving again. Greg quickly slammed the stack back down on Ben’s right hand. He screamed and pulled his hand out from beneath the books.

“Fuck!” Ben said with the kind of passion that can only be created by intense physical pain. “What the fuck are you thinking?” he said, massaging his hand.

Greg grabbed a piece of scribbled-on loose leaf paper out of the stack, put it down on the table and handed Ben a pen.

“Sign your name.”

Ben cautiously took the pen from him and tried to hold it in his injured hand. He placed the tip down on the paper and applied pressure, then promptly let out a small yelp of pain.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” Greg said. “Just sign it.”

Ben slowly, painfully scribbled the letters down on the paper. He inspected it afterward and found it to be completely illegible. He couldn’t help but smile despite himself.

“You are such a fucking piece of shit,” he said as he looked up with that smile.

“That’s the thanks I get for helping you ace your final?”

“You didn’t ask me what the other exam tomorrow is,” Ben reminded him.

“What’s the other exam?”

“Microsurgery,” Ben said angrily.

“Oh.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brain Drive

The American Red Cross wants my blood. They sent me a brightly colored e-mail letting me know that enough time had passed since my last donation that I was eligible to donate again. That nice man Ira Rosenberg from the temple where I last donated called to let me know they were having another blood drive. A volunteer left me a voicemail saying that there was one located near my apartment this weekend. And they were all very nice.

And I’ve got good reason to respond. In addition to the thanks of the American Red Cross and the patients I will help, I’ll have the gratification of knowing that my blood could save a life. And I will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gas card. And I’ll receive a complimentary stainless-steel travel mug. Not to mention the free cookies, pretzels and juice I’ll get when I donate. Pretty nice incentive.

Now, I can’t help but wonder why other people can’t use this tactic. People like to get stuff for their efforts. That old expression, you catch a lot more bees with honey than vinegar. Employers get it, for the most part. Overtime for extra hours worked and, increasingly rarely, bonuses for high production. Non-profit agencies seem to get it: a tax break for giving in your old clunker or donating money to disaster victims. Hell, even parents get it: bribing their kids with toys, outings and sometimes even money for good grades. So why not, I have to wonder, Zombies?

I can tell you that if the American Red Cross invaded my neighborhood, broke down my door, strapped me down and stuck a needle in my arm I would not respond well. And if they did that to everyone else I knew I’d be pissed. And if the world as I knew it pretty much ended because they did that to everyone all over the world? Well, no wonder people hate Zombies. They’ve got it entirely wrong.

What they should do is send out e-mails to people letting them know they’re eligible. Let them know how many zombies will be saved from starvation thanks to them. Offer raffles for gas cards or other perks. Bribe them with cookies and juice. Come to their office or church or community center with a van and well-trained brain technicians who will make the process as quick and painless as possible. I gotta think they’d get a better response.

So on behalf of zombies everywhere I ask you to donate. Come on, you’re not using it anyway. Might as well give it to someone who really needs it, right?

The need is constant.  

The gratification is instant.  

Give brains.™

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ode to the Treehouse of Horror

Of all the Halloween traditions that I wait for with baited breath, the Simpson's Treehouse of Horror has got to be among the top five.  What could be better than settling in on the couch with your favorite tv snacks and watching a re-cap of the year's trends, movies, news events and favorite plays performed by the characters we've grown to love over twenty years of hilarity?  I look forward to it with the same excitement I hold for Halloween itself.  Just as the leaves turning, the air cooling, the days shortening and the apples ripening means fall is here The Simpson's annual Halloween show means that my favorite holiday is just round the corner.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rain, rain go away

This weekend I was supposed to go to a haunted hayride.  It rained all day Friday and the place was closed.  Then, I was supposed to go apple picking at my favorite orchard.  It rained all day Saturday and that place was closed.  Just about every activity I wanted to do, save going to the movies, was closed.  Anger doesn't cover what i'm feeling.

I always associate November rain with absolute gloom but i've discovered something worse: October rain.  When all the fall harvest festivals and pumkin patches and apple orchards and hayrides and corn mazes and scare-crow making contests and gourd weigh-offs and costume prades and everything that is resplendent about the season get cancelled because of FOUR dark, gloomy, cold, soaking-wet days of rain someone needs to pay.  I don't know who.  But when I find out... adjectives haven't yet been invented to describe what I will do to them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The American Dream

Today I was listening to one of my clients talk about the beginning and end of his first marriage. He and his first wife, like many people from that generation, married young. Why? Because that was just what you were supposed to do when you were young and in love. There weren't really any other options society approved of.

Just two months into their marriage he got drafted into Vietnam. He did the best he could, sending his meager pay home to his recently discovered to be pregnant wife while watching his buddies die around him. He somewhat miraculously did not end up as a statistic after two years out there and was able to return home.

He was greeted by two strangers, one who he knew long ago and one who he'd never met. He tried to go back to school, using the money from the GI bill to fund a couple of semesters at college. But one income wasn't enough to support a young couple with a baby. And unfortunately his wife had frivolously spent a lot of what he'd sent home. So he quit school and went to work driving a bus.

At that time, and technically even now, that wasn't too bad of a gig. You got great benefits, decent pay, and they were unionized. He was perfectly happy just to be alive with a family and steady pay. She wasn't.

She didn't want to be married to a blue collar worker. All her friends at the bank where she worked wore business skirt-sets and had fancy houses paid for by their white-collar husbands. They had nice clothes and took exciting vacations. They got their hair done and went out to elegant restaurants. She came home to an apartment, a screaming child and an exhausted husband. They didn't talk about this, of course. Because they didn't know each other well enough to talk on an intimate level.

When they married they were defined by family values. After the war he had his family values and a raging case of disillusion with mankind. She had her family values and a voracious appetite for all the pretty things she couldn't afford.

They stuck it out for more than ten years despite being miserable with each other for most of it. They did the customary things couples do when trying to save a marriage- they had more kids, they put money aside for family vacations, they focused on work. And then finally, they gave up. What struck me so much about my client’s story wasn't the tragedy, but the familiarity.

A lot of people don't know that there was a big spike in divorce rates after WWII. Those young soldiers, like my client, came home to wives and places they didn't recognize. And because they were heroes, they got a free pass to do things usually considered taboo. But the financial boom that followed evened things out. There was no financial boom in the 70's. There was a societal revolution. Feminism, racial renaissances, political upheaval and the invention of a little thing called "No-Fault Divorce".

Politicians love to throw around the divorce rate as if it's some sort of proof of the moral decline within our society. I think that's horseshit. Haven't people always, from the very beginning, just been doing what they were told?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Piece by piece

I got into it for the right reason, if there is such a thing. It wasn’t for a lack of options. Well, I’ll admit- it was partly for a lack of other well-paying options. But it wasn’t for an inability to do anything else like some people say. I have lots of other skills, lots of other abilities. There's just nothing else that I know of which pays this well without the threat of jail time.

And it wasn’t because of all that psychobabble bullshit you hear on daytime talk shows. My father never abused me, my mother wasn’t one of those woman that feminists are so concerned with, I knew enough about ‘normal’ to know that this wasn’t really it. (Not that stripping is so abnormal, but it certainly is at least a slightly skewed view of normal sexuality.) And it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was getting into. At least, I thought I knew enough at the time. I thought my expectations were pretty realistic.

I expected to be ogled, I expected to be manhandled every now and again, I expected the requests for a “private show” and all the rest. I expected the objectification. The guys who see you as something to be owned or rented out instead of as a person. The ones that’ll go for that grab and then laugh with their friends over it. I always expected they’d be the ones to go home and beat their wives for not having dinner waiting for them.

I even expected that some of the guys wouldn’t be the run of the mill college co-eds or alcoholics or bachelor party participants or married dudes. The first fetishist I got wasn’t all that big of a shock. A little unnerving, sure, but not surprising.

I even, sadly, expected the lost boyfriends. The “nice guys” who’ll ask you out in the coffee shop or the bookstore, be all thrilled and attracted during those first few minutes of the date, talk about activities you might do together based on common hobbies. Then comes the inevitable question about what you do for a living and you lose any hope of getting the guy to look at you like a potential girlfriend again. I expected all that, on some level. And I was ok with it. Not happy, but ok.

What I didn’t expect, and what I couldn’t prepare for was the shift in world view. I don’t know if it’s cynicism or if I’m jaded. Or, on the other hand, if I’m seeing the world clearly for the first time and have simply lost my childhood fantasies about the good of mankind.

The world view I’m talking about is the one that lets you see, or at least hope to see the good in everybody. The one that lets you look past the bad behaviors and mistreatment of others and seemingly cruel dispositions to the wounded soul underneath. The one that says that the person drooling over you is still a real person and they’re just thinking with their junk instead of their brain. That’s the one I used to pride myself on having. That’s the one I’ve lost.

I used to feel bad that they weren’t getting laid at home. Wonder if their wives were the kind of women that took all the fun out of sex, made them feel guilty for wanting to tie you up or whip you or something. Wonder if they were a virgin and didn’t know any better. Pity the regulars who must’ve been stuck in two addictions at once. I used to think everyone had a story, even the assholes.

And when I say assholes I mean the ones that try to grab you despite the signs all over and the big, beefy security guards standing right next to them. Usually they’re just drunk, just stupid. And I used to think I could handle it just fine. The tough cookie, the girl who won’t let nobody touch her unless she wants to be touched. The girl you had to respect or at least treat like a human being because she forced you to. I used to defend myself, tell the security team I didn’t need an escort. They of course told me that I did, but I didn’t believe them. That was before the first attack.

I made out ok, altogether. The guys got him off me before he did any real damage, before he could get me into his car. But he would’ve if Bernie and Nate hadn’t been leaving right then. After that I got a little paranoid, or so I thought. Didn’t even try to walk through the floor alone. Even the grabs and the pinches were a threat then.

I used to wonder why some of these guys would look at me the way they do, why they’d stare right into my eyes and not seem to register anything. Cause the ones that avoid eye contact- that stare at your boobs or your ass or your legs but never look you in the eye- they’re no real threat. They’re either too horny to remember that there’s a real person under that body or they feel so guilty that they’re only seeing the body they can’t look you in the eyes and let you know that’s all they’re seeing. Harmless.

But the ones that look right at you and see nothing? They’re scary. Cause real people will look at you and see you. Maybe not notice, maybe not pay attention to you, but still see you. All those people walking down the crowded streets and not really registering that yes, you are a real person with hopes and dreams and a family and all the rest of it? They’re not really ignoring your existence, they’re just busy.

But these guys? The ones that see the body and the dancing and the rest of it and seem to be only registering body parts? The ones that can look right into your eyes and the only spark of recognition that registers is the fact that they are eyeballs as compared to ‘windows of the soul’? They’re the ones that’ll cut out those eyes, dismantle that body, kill that person the same way that some people slaughter cows or cut up prime rib. Whatever it is that connects the body to the person- whether it’s a soul or a spirit or something else entirely- they don’t see that. They see meat. Boobs, ass, hands, legs no different than breast meat or thigh meat or wings or whatever. Pieces of meat in a butcher store.

How do I know this? Because one of ‘em got my friend Keisha. It was, officially, the second attack. The cops claimed it was a serial killer, a really sick whacko that was unusual enough not to worry about. But I saw his eyes when he tried to get me. And I’ve seen those eyes since. Not frequently, not reliably, but I’ve seen them.

On the guy who sits in the corner watching from a distance. On the man who won’t talk, even when you ask his name. Then he’ll look at you and you know why. On the man who stops in just to grab a drink on his way home to his wife and family, he says. Then you see him peer over at you, and you see the eyes.

The cops called me paranoid when I kept calling to report the guys. They’d say “Oh, are you that stripper that keeps calling?” Like I wasn’t a witness or potential lead anymore, just “that stripper”. Objectified yet again. They’d tell me there were no news leads but sure, they’d take down the name of this guy that looked at me funny, have someone interview ‘em. Yeah, right. There were no interviews, no calls, just the cops getting the crazy stripper off the phone with false promises. They never caught the guy.

And now I see things differently. I see the potential fierceness behind the innocent flirting. I see the potential danger in the invite for a date. I see the way some guys look at you with those eyes. I don’t know what’s behind them. Maybe nothing, maybe that’s how they do it. No connection, no soul or whatever. Just a brain dismantling you piece by piece.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why there's no IT guy in the mafia

My apartment was a complete mess and it occurred to me that simply disposing of the trash and cleaning off the coffee table wasn't going to do anything more than make more space for me to mess up. I needed an entire overhaul of my entire organizational system. I needed professional help.

So I went to google, typed in "cleaning help" and came up with around 99,500,000 hits for everything from Stanley Steamers to semi-professional cleaning ladies. One particular site advertising "trash management consultants" caught my eye. I clicked on it and was redirected to a brightly colored, sparsely texted web page with a single telephone number and the phrase "Let us take care of your problem." It was so simple, so reassuring, so mysterious- I had to call.

A man with a relatively thick north Jersey accent answered and asked me how I came upon the site. "Uh, google?" I answered. He asked if I was aware of the services they provided. I said "No, that's why I called." He asked if I had a package that needed to be picked up. I said, "Huh?" I could tell he was trying to ask me something specific without actually asking, but I hadn't the foggiest idea what.

Finally he asked: "What is the nature of your problem?" So I told him, messy apartment, regular influx of garbage, lack of organizational skills, in need of a cleaning consultant. I must of said something that made sense because he simply made an "Uh-huh" sound and asked when I might be able to meet with one of their consultants. He gave me an appointment for the following Tuesday with someone he referred to as "Mr. S." I thought it odd to schedule a meeting for a cleaning service in Riverside Park but he simply informed me that they were "remodeling" and it was "safer" that way.

The following Tuesday I was at the park benches by the duck pond at precisely 1:30pm with a folder containing some photos of the biggest problem areas in my opinion, a list of questions I'd thought of and a pen. At precisely 1:35pm a bald man in a cheap-looking suit with curly black hair sticking out from the open collar of a bright red shirt walked by. I didn't think much of him. Two minutes later he came back and sat down in the bench next to me. He looked over and said "You looking for Mr. S?" Flustered, I responded in the affirmative. He moved over to my bench with an outstretched hand.

I gave him mine to shake. He kissed instead. Taken somewhat aback I pulled it away as gently as I could and asked him about the strange meeting place. He asked what the person on the phone had told me. I explained that I'd been informed they were remodeling the office. He said that's what it was, as if he hadn't known.

He said that he'd been expecting someone very different based on the problem described. For such a big job, the pricing would have to be negotiated before regular services could be guaranteed and a business arrangement could be entered. I told him it wasn't all that big of a deal, it was just one apartment and I brought out my list of questions. I explained the problem in detail, the annoying mail piling up, the clothes in disarray, the lack of spaces to put everything. And I showed him my pictures, explaining that I'd seen Martha Stewart do some amazing things with some plastic bins and a lable-maker and maybe something like that would be helpful, especially in the kitchen.

He listened, looked over the pictures, waited for me to finish. He looked at me for a full minute, seeming to study me. I couldn't understand what the issue was but I didn't want to seem rude so I just waited. He simply said "Good luck with your label-maker", got up and walked away. I couldn't understand what had happened. I thought I'd been very polite, very informative about the help I needed. I left the park without any real grasp as to what had gone wrong.

A few months later I saw that same bald man on the 6 o'clock news in a sea of flashing cameras getting pushed into the back of a police car with the headline "Minasola family goon captured. Prosecutors believe he may be the key to bringing down the head." I blinked at the tv and promised myself I'd go back to the yellow pages from now on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weird Work Day

I've always hated the fact that my office doesn't have any windows but never so much as today... when the power went out... at 2:30pm in the afternoon... on a Wednesday. I can't describe how odd it is to find oneself sitting at a desk, writing up progress notes by candlelight. It's not something I ever imagined doing. I somehow think of work as one of those places that is more insured against natural mishaps. All the computers and routers and networks running out of that building, it's too put together to be sitting in the dark. Plus the generator, the back-up lights- you'd think that if it did go out the network would re-boot. But it didn't. We had emergency lights and an alarm, that was all that worked. It was full blown lights out, complete with someone stuck in the elevator. (She got out without too much of a panic attack, thankfully.)

And i'm sitting there, in the semi-dark, straining to see the paper by the dim light and my co-worker says how this must be what it was like back in colonial times. Huh? Their computers didn't work? No, they only had candlelight and had to write with quill pens and it took a month to deliver a letter. My thoughts? No wonder they went blind by thirty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kinemortophobia

So, i've been trying to read Max Brook's World War Z. If you're not afraid of zombies, I suggest you pick it up. It's sort-of fascinating. Not the living dead part, that's sort of been done. The cinematic landscape is littered with apocalyptic visions of swarms of the living dead, those nightmares are already in place. No, what's fascinating is the way he describes the breakdown of contemporary human functioning. The politics, the social landscape, the international business break downs, the money to be made. I'm just starting to get into the post-war landscape and how the U.S. government went about winning the war and rebuilding. It's interesting to find myself picking up the book and not feeling the weird physical sensation that is fear.

Because for the last month, that's all there was. The stomach clenching, the increased heart rate which you don't notice until after you've put the book down, the hyper-awareness of the floor creaking or a dog barking or god forbid, an unexplained noise. Every time I would go near the book i'd feel that physical sensation, Yet I kept going back.

I started out reading first thing in the morning with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, reassuring me that it was just a book and I was safe afterall. I'd read a few chapters, then go down stairs, have my breakfast and put something stupid on the television while I ate. Before you knew it zombies were no longer on my mind. That worked fine. Get scared, distract myself, move on.

Then, stupidly, I read it before going to bed. Don't ask me why i'm only afraid of the dark when thinking of zombies. Show me every Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th movie ever made and i'm fine. I'll sleep like a baby. Michael, Freddy and Jason combined and I snooze away. But one zombie and i'm a goner.

Looking over the dresser to see if the closet door has creaked open, compulsively looking behind me at the corner to see if the shadow has changed at all, pulling the covers up tight around my neck so nothing can bite me and listening like a dog for any noise. And I lay there thinking "This is insane. You are bat-shit insane. Zombies don't freaking exist! What is wrong with you?!?" And then the floor creaks downstairs and I jump under the covers.

And here's what I don't understand: why World War Z? These are the old school zombies. The slowly walking, moaning, arms outstretched, limping along at a snails pace zombies. What real threat do they pose? The rage-virus zombie from the 28 Days/Weeks Later movies, those I understand. They run faster, jump higher, and bite harder than the old school zombies. Plus the second you're bit you turn into one of them. That's fucking scary! But these guys? They're slow and shambly. They're undead- decaying, easily shot in the head from a distance. So why so scared?

Maybe because of how Brooks describes it- no where to hide, no way to escape. Entire cities being taken over in days. Miles of land littered with a slowly marching army of the undead invading every safe zone, every highway, every home. The idea that you're not gonna be up in a clock tower picking them off with a rifle for more than few weeks before your supplies run out and there's no way to get more. The idea that there's no help arriving, you're trapped. The idea that the vast majority of the human population is either dead or undead and coming to make you dead. The idea that they don't die- ever- until you destroy the brain. Freeze 'em, they'll thaw out and start walking again. Shoot 'em anywhere but the head, they keep coming. Chop off their legs, detonate them, disassemble them- any part left over will keep crawling along. The end of the world, with zombies.

I guess my point is it's a good read. It's gotta be if somebody as bat-shit crazy scared of zombies as I am will keep reading it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cyndi's Call- Part Two

Sykes was careful not to make any eye contact with Brown during the relatively long drive over to Miranda Winn’s house. He scanned the road ahead, fiddled with the radio, tapped his finger on the steering wheel and otherwise occupied himself. He stumbled upon the oldies station which happened to be playing some old school stadium rock from a weird band called Queen he’d seen a frightening picture of once and turned up the volume so he could hear the sound better. A slow but triumphant sounding chorus of “We are the Champions” streamed through the speakers and he smiled to himself, wondering how such cheesy music could have been outdated. Brown leaned over and violently switched the sound off. Sykes frowned to himself but kept staring straight ahead rather than risk a reaction. He knew Brown better than he thought he did and he certainly didn’t want his partner taking out his frustration from his interaction with the captain on him.

Brown leafed through the file trying to force himself to pick up the details about the case. 8:57am on Tuesday September 22nd the call had come in. The report indicated that the women on the other end sounded panicked, scared and otherwise emotional in ways Brown and many others didn’t expect from machines. She gave the details of Ms. Winn’s schedule, the last time she was seen, her normal whereabouts on a Monday night and the logical reasons as to why something was wrong. The woman hadn’t come home for her normal workout that evening which was scheduled every night at 9pm. They were supposed to do Yoga, Cyndi had informed the officer. Mondays were stressful for Miranda and she would never miss her cool down time.

It didn’t matter that it took a full 72 hours before someone could be considered missing. It didn’t matter that human beings were not as perfectly on schedule as machines. All that mattered in Cyndi’s electronic cortex was the intent- it reasoned that an emotionally needed exercise would not be missed unless something was wrong. He couldn’t help but react at the audacity of the machine, assuming it knew better. Every artificial intelligence system he’d ever had the misfortune of encountering seemed to work like that. Their reasoning systems were more advanced, their logical analysis more careful, their assessment more correct than stupid human detectives. Of course they were all polite, of course they were all careful not to sound too condescending by voice modulation or some other artificial change. Didn’t matter. They thought they were better and that’s why Brown hated them.

This Cyndi had called every morning thereafter at the same time. When no patrol was sent out the calls went higher up. First to the captain, then the commissioner, one even made it to the chief’s desk. Didn’t matter that none of those contact codes were listed for public use. Didn’t matter that the standard 72 hours hadn’t passed yet. This machine assumed it knew better and it knew how to irritate the channels to get a response. When a call came to the media and the A.I. bleeding hearts outlets the shit hit the fan. No wonder the captain was so pissed.

He turned the page to read more about Cyndi. The c170-c was one of the “new age” electronic software systems. Like the personal assistants and housekeepers and other systems that people left in charge of their businesses, homes, health and other vital things that no machine should be left in charge of, this system was hooked into the Lynxus system. Lynxus was an ever expanding system integrating every piece of knowledge from every international operational system and “improving itself” daily. As such, the c170-c would never need to replaced, updated, or re-programmed. It would learn the personal patterns of the owner and train itself to become more efficient, effective and challenging. It would push the person exercising to reach the best of their abilities at any given time and integrate the latest health news into the tips and tools it taught it’s owner. Or so the brochure claimed.

Despite the fancy sounding resume, Brown wasn’t impressed. To him it was just another machine that thought it was smarter, better, than humans. It couldn’t understand the human mindset because it was superior to it. At least that’s what he believed and no one was going to tell him different. He shielded his close mindedness the way most people shield their kids from dirty movies and violent media. And there was no way that another overzealous exercise coach was going to change that.

Sykes pulled into the freeway of a nice single family home with a yard way too big for a one single woman. Brown knew the woman had to be rich to afford this level of software but even with that in mind he was impressed by the sheer size of space and the scope of the landscaping. It must take an entire crew a full weekend to keep this place up, he surmised. Sykes whistled his same thoughts in an exaggerated cat call.

“Lets do the nasty,” Brown said as he unbuckled his seat belt and pushed the passenger’s side door open.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Silly Saints

I learned today that there is a patron saint of throats apparently sainted after some catholic priest saved a little kid from choking on a fishbone. And now people go to church and have their throats blessed. I always knew that there were a lot of saints but I figured most of them were at least semi-practical: travel, wealth, health, stuff like that. I come to find out that there are thousands upon thousands of saints in the catholic literature. Many just got martyred and were sainted for dying. But many are patron saints of random things. There's patron saints of occupations, animals, countries, cities, royal classes, medical conditions, you name it.

Call me blasphemous but that seems just a little silly. I mean a patron saint of asses? Really? Yes, really. His name was Anthony of Padua. I quote SQPN, an online Catholic media resource: "A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues; legend says that even the fish loved to listen." Uh-huh.

Well, at the risk of being smithed, I've decided to compile my own list of silly saints, Enjoy!

Saint Fluffy: Patron Saint of dust-bunnies, pocket lint and those weird little fluffs you find in your hair.

Saint Flipper: Patron Saint of Dolphins (duh.)

On the same token, Saint Lassie: Patron Saint of Collies

Saint Latex: Patron Saint of condoms, surgical gloves, and food packaging.

Saint Gunk: Patron Saint of toilet bowl residue, sewage, oil spills and that crap on the bottom of your shoe that you can't figure out the source of.

Saint Teddy: Patron Saint of stuffed animals, sexy lingerie and popular presidents.

Saint Coppertone: Patron Saint of sunscreen. (Seriously, there should be a saint for that!)

Saint Ccino: Patron Saint of coffee products.

Saint Vaginitis: Patron Saint of that "less than fresh feeling".

Saint Clippy: Patron Saint of paper fasteners, hair fasteners, and annoying microsoft mascots.

Saint Buzz: Patron Saint of noise-making insects, electrical equipment and caffeinated beverages.

And finally, Saint Monty: Patron Saint of non-sequiturs.

This list will will be updated as there are many, many more to announce.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter to my cold

Dear random virus,

I don't know what I have to do to put the message out that your kind is not welcome around here. I've been staying away from the sick people. When a client says "I feel like shit" I get up and move to the other side of the room. I don't play with the little kids and hold their hands in karate. And I sure as hell don't hang out in the doctor's office any longer than I have to. How much vitamin C, Zinc, sleep, vegetable soup, orange juice, hot tea and warm blankets is it gonna take to get you to move on?

I'm sure there are a lot more bodies out there that would be a much better home for you. People with bigger mucus membranes and smoker's lungs and deteriorated immune systems just putting out the welcome mat for you. Go see them and leave me the fuck alone!

Hoping you fuck off and die,
Bev

Friday, September 25, 2009

On getting Black Belt

I’ve got to say, I thought this would be bigger. Much like graduating college or finally moving out of my hometown the events leading up to it were bigger than the emotions that came at the time. I remember myself sitting there some-odd years ago and watching my fellows go up to get theirs and thinking “I can’t imagine…” while at the same time wondering if that could be me. Could I survive a 29 hour test? Could I remember all those forms? Could I manage to break a board with a spinning back kick or remember Korean terminology or score high enough in sparring to achieve that? I had such awe, such childish amazement.

After all these months of teaching and being part of the crew and practicing the new form and knife defenses and everything else that goes along with black belt I realize that the transition happened some time ago without me realizing it. They always told us it was just a belt but I never thought I’d feel that way. Surprisingly enough, I do. I became a black belt before today. Now I just have the accessories.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Adult-hood?

With the ever- expanding social awareness of different lifestyles I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing something. It used to be that the path to adulthood was a well paved, meticulously constructed, clearly labeled and well-lit road. You grew up, went to school, got a career, got married, had kids, retired and died. Your kids would do the same, usually before you kicked it. Rinse, lather, repeat. Sure there were some variations. You didn’t have to go to school: you could take over the family business or you could do hard labor- but the job was always in there. And marriage was pretty much a non-negotiable. And everyone who didn’t fit the mold- the perpetual bachelors, the divorcees, the barren- they were all cautionary tales kept on the outskirts to warn growing children of what sad outcome awaited them if they didn’t stick to the path.

Don’t get me wrong- I certainly do not miss those times. I’m glad that people are able to get out of bad marriages. (Granted, I wish they put more thought into getting into them, but still.) I’m glad that people are allowed to be happily single or single parents or cohabiting without marriage or decide not to have kids. It’s good to have choices without being judged for making them. And even if it’s not by choice, things are different. Nowadays the divorce rate is high enough to make most young and reasonably in love people get commitment phobia. It’s more and more common to live with your parents until you’re thirty, forty and so on. It’s not atypical to struggle with dead-end jobs for years while waiting for your ‘career’ to take off because the economy has been ruined by generations before us and no one wants to hire. And you can’t afford a house- another typical adult milestone- because you’re paying student loans you took out to get said career which you’re waiting for.

And what about the people who don’t fit the mold from the beginning? What if you’re born with a physical disability and you can’t work? What if you develop schizophrenia when you hit puberty and your plans get derailed? What if you don’t get the typical opportunities because of your race or ethnicity? What if a million other possibilities interrupt what you’re told life is supposed to be? Is there a plan for those people who don’t fit the mold? I don’t know of any.

So without those milestones which you can’t reasonably expect, how do we know we’ve reached adulthood? I always thought that when I truly became an adult I’d look different. Like there are some genes that take a while longer to mature and when they do you are able to balance check books, keep houses and laundry and dishes clean, keep groceries in the fridge and just basically appear adult. But that’s just what the commercials tell me adults look like, right? It’s capitalism. And with the economy the way it is that definition won’t stand much longer either.

So how do we know? I think that somewhere in the desperate attempts to free ourselves of the fixed cookie-cutter molds that used to keep us in line we lost our gauge. And it’s not just us, either. I used to think that maybe it was just an American thing. Like, if I grew up in Australia or Africa or China things would be clearer. Go out into the outback with some peyote, hunt something on your own to feed your tribe, sit in a tent during your “moon time” and listen to stories from the elders, dance with the other adults around the fire, join another household in marriage, etc. A single ceremony and poof! You’re an adult. But now other countries seem just as screwed up as we are, don’t they? Tribes the world over have gone the way of endangered species and been replaced by cities and businesses and international retail chains.

So what are we left with? When do you know you’re an adult? Is it just something you decide to be? I think I am an adult, therefore I am? And for that matter, when do you know that you’re in any other phase of life? We act like adults when we’re children, we act like children until we die, we joke about being middle aged when we’re in our twenties, we talk about being as young as we feel at fifty, we get more adventurous when we’re seniors and we don’t admit to being old until we can’t move anymore. So when or what, exactly, is the lifespan?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cindi's Call- Part One

Ladies and gentleman! Without further ado, I present to you my very first serial!


“So what’ve we got here?” Brown asked, reaching for the folder.

“Missing person with a twist,” Sykes replied.

“Let me guess, she was just seen by several people the day before her disappearance.”
“Nope, do you want to keep guessing or do you want me to tell you?”

“Just tell me, I’m too tired to do the guessing game tonight.”

“Her personal trainer reported it.”

“So, where’s the twist?”

“Look at the name of the personal trainer.”

Brown opened the folder and looked over the report. The call had come from a c-170c version holographic in-home personal trainer calling itself “Cindi”. Brown laughed to himself. It was exactly what he needed, another computer assuming it knew protocol better than he did. He was so not in the mood for this tonight.

“Baker pass this down to you?”

“Nope, came straight from the captain,” Sykes replied with an irritating smile.

“The captain? Why would he care? Where is he?” Brown peered around his filling cabinet (electronic filing system my ass, he thought) to see the captain inside his office with the door closed. Looking through the window he could see that he didn’t have anyone in there and decided to chance it.

“I’m gonna ask him,” he said, pushing up from his desk.

“Ok, your funeral,” Sykes warned.

“You just don’t have my skills of persuasion,” Brown said with as much cockiness as he could manage without laughing. Sykes raised an eyebrow at him as he walked away to what he could only assume would be a much-deserved chewing out.

It was the sixth case like this they’d received in two months and it seemed like the frequency was increasing. The last time they’d managed to get off the case by procrastinating their closure of one involving real people but Brown knew that kind of shit wouldn’t fly more than once. He didn’t think he’d have to be brainstorming all these new and ingenious ways to get the cases shifted to other people but the skill was becoming a necessity. Tonight he planned to employ his laid-back “buddies” approach with the captain. It could be a risky move depending on how bad things had gone downtown but he was banking on the captain’s new girlfriend he’d seen stop by for lunch to keep him in a good mood.

Brown knocked on the door quietly but insistently. No answer. He peered through the window and smiled at the captain who ignored him. He knocked again. The captain looked up from what appeared to be a non-interstation report and looked at him with an irritated expression. Brown smiled, waved and motioned that he come inside. The captain seemed to deflate as he sighed and waved him in.

“What do you want?” he said with the same irritation Brown had seen on his face.

“Nothing, nothing- just wondering why we’re wasting time on a paranoid android,” he said in his best good ‘ol boy voice.

“Which reason do you want? The fact that in order to maintain good public relations and try to maintain our budget we have to be seen as respecting all lifestyles including those with are not biologically alive? Or the fact that the alternative intelligence society is on our ass for ignoring the last call from an artificial intelligence housecleaner that turned out to be a real lead?” The volume of his voice was growing slowly but noticeably and Brown was quickly realizing how huge of a mistake he’d made by coming in here.

“Captain, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“Or hey, here’s a good one,” he cut him off angrily. “How about the fact that since several members of this department including yourself are already under scrutiny from the commissioner due to suspected discrimination on casing we can’t afford to pass up a single lead; especially one coming from a detective who has conveniently been detained on other cases and been unable to follow up on leads from A.I.’s in the past?”

“Captain, I assure you I-“

“Do you really want to interrupt me right now? Really?” He squinted at him. Brown looked down to try to avoid eye contact and noticed the papers the captain’d been reading. Divorce papers. Fuck. He promptly shut his mouth, set his jaw tight and stood there.

“That’s what I thought. Well to make sure that you leave here with a perfectly clear understanding of your assignment since that is obviously so important to you I have one final reason.” He paused, waiting for Brown to interrupt again. Brown looked him straight in the eye, pushed back his shoulders, and said nothing.

“I’m your boss and if I give you an order, you follow it. Got it?”

Brown nodded at him with his jaw set in a firm but submissive line and waited for a sign that he could leave.

“Any other questions that just can’t wait?”

Brown shook his head, just once. He couldn’t be seen as angry at the reprimand, sympathetic for his personal life or anything else even remotely emotional if he wanted to get out of here alive. So he strove for unreadability. Not that he expected to fool him, but he had to at least make the effort. The captain looked him over thoroughly and waited for him to make a sign that he was pissed, or defiant, or anything else. But he was working really hard to keep it all under the surface and he decided to reward him by excusing him.

“Go do your job,” he dismissed him with a firm wave of his hand. Brown didn’t quite bolt but made his way out of the office in as quick a professional walk as he could manage and quietly closed the door behind him. He made his way back to his desk, slapped the folder down on the table and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair, shoving his hand into the sleeve violently.

“Let’s go, Sykes.”

“That good, huh?” he smirked.

“Don’t,” he said with as much rage as he could put into one syllable. The smile vanished from Sykes' face instantly and he grabbed his jacket to follow his partner out of the station.