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Fat Jesus
Jul 13, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome




Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

city: Berlin, Germany
book: The Pastor, by Hanne Ørstavik

city: Taipei, Taiwan
book: the sailor who fell from grace with the sea, by Yukio Mishima

city: Bern, Switzerland
book: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Mar 17, 2010



Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

city: Kathmandu, Nepal
book: drive your plow over the bones of the dead, by Olga Tokarczuk

Green Wing
Oct 28, 2013

It's the only word they know, but it's such a big word for a tiny creature


Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

city: Porto, Portugal
book: The Woman in the Dunes, by Kobo Abe

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


drat, I'm in.

Slightly Lions
Apr 13, 2009

Look what I can do!
Yeah alright, In.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Kuiperdolin posted:

drat, I'm in.

city: Alicante, Spain
book: Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride

Slightly Lions posted:

Yeah alright, In.

city: Minsk, Belarus
book: Concrete, by Thomas Bernhard

Feb 24, 2023

Week 575 Crits: Part 1

Crits for the first four stories below, with the rest to come before the end of the day. Please take everything I say just as jumping off points for revisions: I sometimes like to suggest places the story could go but it’s of course all up to you.

“Beginnings and Endings and Naming Conventions“ - The Cut of Your Jib

A storm forces a crew to band together to keep one of their members from losing his leg.

Occupation: Racing yacht rigger (I think)

What worked:
-Loved some of the language and turns of phrase here.
-”A hyrax comes up and nibbles on my shoelaces” = great sentence.
-I think I got the main theme of the story as “the grind,” aka the way life at sea erodes your sense of time, as well as the drive to continue on despite this.
-Opens in the middle of a good action-heavy setpiece to center the story around. This could have easily been the entire story, ending when the crew gets to South Africa.
-Incorporated jargon pretty well. A lot of it was stuff that felt authentic but was easy to figure out in context (“snakepit,” “skeleton,” “monkeyed” etc.).
-I liked learning that the narrator was a Yinzer.

What didn’t:
-Didn’t understand the title or what “the jigsaw of a Ren and Stimpy bit” meant at first read, still not 100% on the latter.
-We had an issue with nameless first-person narrators this week, and while it isn’t always a bad thing, I feel like I needed to know more about this one.
-There are a decent amount of characters and I don't feel like I get to know any of them except Spike very well. Who are Tina and Amber?
-Beware of tense changes. We abruptly shift from past to present tense when the heli shows up and then back and forth in the final section. If you want this to work stylistically we need a better sense of that “timelessness” theme,
-The ending section (after the break) confused me. Putting the exposition at the end could reinforce the theme of timelessnes/getting lost in “the grind,” but it doesn’t really feel connected to what happened before and instead comes across as pointless.

-My suggestions below assume that we loop back to before the incident on the ship BUT if that's not the intent, then that needs to be made clearer.
-If you mention a character by name you need to give them a little more description or involvement.
-Tie the chronological ending of the story to its actual ending (maybe with some revelation or call-back).
-Consider maybe framing the entire story around the incident at sea and looping back to it so it begins with the storm and ends right before it happens. Maybe similar events have happened so many times they all blur together?

“Siege Defence for Beginners” - Fat Jesus

A new recruit gets a crash course in castle warfare during a particularly ugly raid.

Occupation: Man at arms

What worked:
-This was a good take on the prompt: on-the-job training during a Medieval siege.
-The narrator’s voice and jokes reminded me of a cross between the first season of Blackadder and that SNL sketch about the scalder and his son (“And ye tip it” especially). He (assuming they’re a he) doesn’t sugarcoat the violence but is also surprisingly compassionate, even comforting him at the end.
-The format also allowed you to describe some weapons (halberds, cavalry hammers) and tactics without sounding too much like David McCauley.
-In fact, the instructions about putting on the armor and how to use the halberd were some of the most interesting parts to me: more of that, please!
-I like the little bits we learned about the narrator. There’s a sense that he and the rookie mirror each other, and that this is part of a cycle.
-The urgency of the siege does help break up the instructional moments.

What didn’t:
- A little more historical specificity would have helped this stand out. There are some details (mention of the Turks and the Pope, character names) but I didn’t get exactly where or when this was on my own. You don't need to spell it out, but I would have liked a few more hints.
-Jan and Vitomir get introduced too late. Meeting them earlier on (and maybe including a few more details about them) might help establish the world and allow you to refer to them later.
-There’s a lot going on, both to the story’s benefit and detriment. I do like the chaos of the battle but maybe just use that as bookends and ground the bulk of the story in one spot.
-The amount of time that passes between paragraphs (and even sentences) is hard to parse. Sometimes things are happening in real time, but in others there’s a jump.
-I would also break the lines up when something dramatic happens (like the catapult attack at the beginning) so we can feel that impact more.

-Add a few more details to help us figure out the setting. Maybe refer to the landscape, throw in some words from the local language, or mention what castle this is?
-More character details or action for Jan and Vitomir.
-Use line breaks to space out the action more.
-Consider setting the entire story in one place within the castle (or just give us a more consistent sense of time passing). It could take place within that hour before they start ramming the doors: you could still have the narrator leave the boy the same way, but it might make it easier to follow the action.
-The entire story could even just be the suiting up part before the two of them part ways.

"Underwater Welding: Principles and Hazards" - Ouzo Maki

A transcript of a simple repair job gone wrong.

Occupation: Underwater welders

What worked:
-I had to do a double take because I ALMOST gave "underwater welder" as a prompt to someone but didn't. I'm glad you picked this profession.
-This was very well executed technically. Loved the format and feeling that we were reading this after the fact as a found document.
-Good sense of relationship between the characters.
-Believable dialogue that worked the prompt into a realistic setting.
-Lots of great details and jargon, as requested.
-I liked the use of “[unintelligible]” and would have appreciated more like that, suggesting we can’t entirely trust the transcript.

What didn't:
-Kind of ended on a shrug for me. It feels like you had a really cool image in your head for what happened during the final scene but we don’t get it just by reading. The crack and sinkholes get mentioned quickly and then it’s just a bunch of screaming. Presumably there’s something monstrous down there but there’s nothing to hint that, and even then it only comes up at the end.
-Although the dialogue felt real, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the characters as I wanted to be.
-It seemed like there should have been more to the ending than “A woman with O’Roark’s last name is suing the company.”

-You could go two ways with this: if this is a tragedy, then give us more to make us care about Samuelson and O’Roark. If this is some sort of “monster emerging” or disaster story, then give us more about the environment. Are we supposed to fear what they found, or should we be more focused on the tragedy of their deaths?
-Either way, we need more of a buildup to what happens at the end.
-Play with the format more.
-What if there was evidence that suggested the company or Tina knew about this and was leading them there on purpose?

"Little Red Lamp" - Green Wing

Zaq resents the drudgery of his job despite its massive consequences.

Occupation: “Watchers” (angels)

What worked:
-This was the only story that attempted a semi-gradual reveal of what the narrator’s job actually was, mapping a seemingly boring task onto something truly apocalyptic, which was a clever take on the prompt. An easy top-tier pick for me.
-Great satirical Douglas Adams-esque tone.
-Believable banter between Raz and Zaq.
-The line “call the plunger a trumpet” raises some fascinating questions. (do our notions of the divine actually come from misinterpreting this mundane technology? How much of a connection do these “angels” have to human depictions of them? Does this bureaucracy oversee all universes?)
-More stories should mention muons: great word choice.
-It’s both funny and depressing that angelic jobs are being automated too. I can only imagine what’s going on in their version of the film industry right now...

What didn’t:
-I love the final line but the ending still left me cold. I appreciated it more on a second read.
-In general, I wanted to know more. I like how blasé the characters are about the death of a universe but a few more details about angelic society would have helped me connect with them.

-More details about Zaq’s history.
-I think I wanted more conflict between Zaq and Raz? Or more about why this universe was being destroyed?
-Maybe some more satirical details about this crappy job and where it sits in the hierarchy of angel duties. What sort of job does Zaq actually want and how is this assignment thwarting that?
-How often does this happen, and how does a universe get the red light? It’s obviously common enough that they have an entire job for it but it doesn’t seem to be that common. This is a decent story on its own that you could expand and improve upon further.

FlippinPageman fucked around with this message at 18:08 on Aug 16, 2023

Feb 24, 2023

Week 575 Crits: Part 2

“anti” - derp

A snake obsessive doses themselves with venom to get stronger but is not as invulnerable as they think.

Occupation: Snake wrangler

What worked:
-The narrator’s voice here is very well done. I love that this character not only has a specific job, but a philosophy and personality informed BY that job. That was a big part of why it won for me.
-Great descriptions of the snakes and the venom extraction process.
-The lack of a name for the narrator here didn’t bother me as much. It suggests that their obsessions have subsumed their identity, kind of like the nameless narrators of some Poe and Lovecraft stories.
-Loved the colorful, gross description of the venom and its physical effects.
-Vivid and memorable imagery in general, such as the jar of venom on the coffee table.
-Haunting ending.

What didn’t:
-The long stream-of-consciousness paragraph railing against antivenom risks overstaying its welcome. I think it serves an important purpose but goes on a bit long.
-I’m not sure how you’d expand on this without diluting the POV, but Shelly is rather flatly characterized.

-Shorten that one paragraph. You could possibly break it up and disperse it across the story.
-Maybe add one or two more interactions with Shelly that reveal more of her character.

“My Gun Shoots Fondant” - Thranguy

Bad news for a wedding means good news for the cake maker (and kickbacks for a dentist).

Occupation: Professional baker/cake decorator

What worked:
-This was funny and charming. For something so short it managed to pack in a memorable character voice (even if we don’t have a name), lots of action, and some witty observations.
-The way you use Cliff and Will is a good example of how to include minor named characters that serve a purpose.
-The shortest story of the week (even with an extra 500 words allowed) still had a complete narrative and a lot of detail.
-Wedding playlist description was a highlight.
-Loved Darla and her racket.
-Great beginning and ending.

What didn’t:
-Not to harp on it, but I gave you “cake decorator” and was kind of hoping to hear about frosting and decorating techniques (or maybe how to construct confusingly realistic cakes to torment Mikey Day). Instead most of the “insider knowledge” had to do with how wedding planning works and was kind of underwhelming. I feel like most people know you don't need the "speak now and forever hold your peace" part in your wedding?
-There’s no actual fondant gun action and that was disappointing.
-This is a story where the narrator doesn’t really change and is never seriously challenged. Their voice and humor was enough to make up for that and still earn an HM, but I can see some people not caring.
-The metaphor of the cake decorator being a gunslinger is so funny and fitting that I kind of wish there were more references to that, or that the story had more of a structure of a Western (without being a full on parody). If this is how the narrator sees themselves, they could even act like a super-cool Man With No Name-type in dialogue.
-Was I supposed to know who Little Bagger was? Is that a nickname or a job title?

-More stakes for the main character OR more of a sense that they are as super cool and detached as the gunslinger they reference.
-More specific details of their job as opposed to tidbits about weddings.
-Pay off on the promise of the title more (or change it, I guess, except don’t do that because it’s a great title).
-Consider adding some dialogue between the narrator and Darla.

“Stay Inside the Basket” - Chairchucker

An overbearing boyfriend embarks on a lavish, doomed proposal.

Occupation: Hot air balloonist

What worked:
-Despite the DM and the criticism below, I do appreciate that you managed to submit and wanted to avoid disqualifying anyone outright this week.
-I actually rather like the first half of this. I think you build up tension and the feeling that something bad is going to happen well. It reminded me of Flannery O’Connor or Roald Dahl stories that start with microaggressions and lead to a grimly comedic ending.
-I like how cynical the owner is (“You can’t fly my balloon”) and how obnoxious the would-be groom comes across. What a creep.
-I love the bit about the “dirty little secret” of ballooning: exactly the kind of insider knowledge I was looking for. I don’t know if it’s true, but it feels like it is.

What didn't:
-For me, all this potential just kind of led to not much. The good news is I think you have the basis for a compelling story here and can leave a lot of the dialogue as is.
-The ring going out of the basket feels like it should have been an escalation but everything kind of peters out after that. And yes, I know you warned us it was rushed, but you had enough space to end on something better.
-It also feels like this doesn’t really impact the narrator that much.

-Do I want the boyfriend to fall over the side? I think it would make a more satisfying climax but it’s not the only way to end. But something more needs to happen than just everybody landing and parting ways.
-I need more about who this narrator is. They claim to be younger but they have the world-weariness of someone who’s been in the biz for a long time.
-How does this particular “grade a dingus” stack up against others? Why is he worse than usual?

“How to Surf the Multiverse” - Fuschia tude

Interdimensional traveler Jules Hartley describes his exploits as part of a pitch to potential customers.

Occupation: Multiversal tour guide

What worked:
-I appreciate you working to submit this even if it was late, which is why I didn’t disqualify.
-This is a fun character to build a story around. Made me think of a cross between Baron Munchausen and the guy with the plastic donuts on his jacket from the Doctor Who story, “Carnival of Monsters.”
-Fittingly, some of the language works with that kind of loquacious character. “Seeing no alternative, I took the plunge” and “I outplayed him with wiles and words” are exactly the kinds of things I imagine this storyteller saying.
-Great little details at the beginning, like the fact that Jules has wings and a mention of a “transdimensional mulesnail.”

What didn’t:
-Unfortunately, this was an L for me for one main reason: we didn’t actually learn how to surf the multiverse! Granted, I could buy that Jules doesn’t really KNOW that much about it and is misdirecting people, but all the juicy job details I was looking for just weren’t there.
-I get that he’s literally telling this story, so it’s ok to “tell, not show” in parts, but it does feel like Jules would use more colorful language. Like, would an intergalactic blowhard describe someone as “the gentle yet mysterious Bobby,” or would they say something like “Bobby, who wore a hat of purple Quajulaark leaves that shrouded his face” or something? Does that make sense?
-”Jules-Omega conceded defeat” is a pretty boring end to that confrontation and robs us of seeing how the narrator actually beat him.

-More action and description that matches the tone of voice.
-What if someone in the audience called out Jules on his bullshit? Like, he started to describe something technical and then had to deflect when someone argued with him? You don’t need to have someone else butt into the narration, but you could have him refer to them. “Yes sir, you’re correct that NORMALLY a quantum helmet would not withstand the void, but fortunately I was prepared…” etc.
-I would have appreciated more of a straightforward adventure than the doppelgänger war we got.

FlippinPageman fucked around with this message at 18:00 on Aug 16, 2023

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

In and toxx to do my crits from a couple of weeks ago by the weekend

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

sebmojo posted:

In and toxx to do my crits from a couple of weeks ago by the weekend

city: Guangzhou, China
book: Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
signups are closed

beep-beep car is go
Apr 11, 2005

I can just eyeball this, right?

Theme: Travel and Travel
Length: 1467 words
Must take place in: Berlin, Germany
Must have something to do with or be inspired by: “The Pastor” by Hanne Ørstavik


Ella arrives at Wittenberg Platz station. It’s a touristy part of the city, so she wouldn’t normally come here, but it is also one of the oldest stations on the U-Bahn; it’ll work for her needs. She walks purposefully over to Platform 1 and leans against the wall, next to the red and blue sign for the station donated by the city of London. There’s no train, and for this to work, she’ll need to wait for one.

Two weeks. That should be enough time to fix things. She looks down at her palm. The complicated runes painted in henna on her palms shimmer under scrutiny. Her roommate helped her apply them all the way up her arms to her shoulders.

When Ella hears the roar and tinkle of the approaching express train, she starts chanting the words. As the train speeds past, her shouts are drowned out, concealing what she is doing.

She finishes the chant and pushes her palms forward. A blue and white light pours from her palms, pooling onto the ground. She takes a deep breath, step towards it, and-

“Fraulien? Are you hurt?”

Ella is on the ground looking up. Fraulien? The last person to call her that was her grandfather; nobody uses that anymore. She looks around and a man a few years older than her is looking down, concerned. He’s wearing a large overcoat covering quite a nice suit with a smart little hat on top. It looks like it’s made of straw, with a ribbon wrapped around it. It seems more like a costume than clothes.

“Ah, thank you, I must have… slipped.” Ella as sits up and looks around her eyes widen.

The station is completely different. There are small incandescent bulbs in the ceiling where there were LEDs before. Not only that, but there are only two platforms. Wittenberg Platz has three.

“Slipped? Fraulein, you appeared in a flash of light.” He holds out his gloved hand to help her up. After a moment’s pause, she takes it and stands. She watches his eyes flick to the runes on her hands. “And, given how you’re dressed, I’d say you’re… not from around here.” Ella dusts herself off and looks around. For now, it’s the two of them and two other men, engrossed in large paper newspapers. Ella catches a glimpse of the headlines and… oh no, the whole paper is written in Fraktur.

“Uh, Pardon me, Herr. Can you tell me the date?” It’s a wild question to ask someone you just met, but seeing has he already clocked that she came through a flash of light and hasn’t mentioned her – probably very scandalous – clothes, he must realize something. Perhaps he’s a practitioner too?

“Of course, Fraulein. It is the 13th of October.” In a flash, he winks. “Nineteen Eleven.”

More than one hundred years. Ella’s knees weaken. She hadn’t even prepared return runes, she had planned on going back the two weeks and setting things right and just riding it out on holiday somewhere warm.

Seeing her face, his impish smile vanishes. “Too far I’m guessing?”

“More than one hundred years too far,” she whispers.

He stares at her, hard. Ella feels something happening as he does, and she could swear she saw his eyes glow. Finally, he nods. “You are telling the truth.” He starts shrugging out of his overcoat. “Here. Wear this. You are dressed completely inappropriately. Come. We’ll go to my lab, and we can work out what went wrong.”

“Thank you. My name is Ella, by the way.” She starts following the gentleman out of the station.

“The pleasure is mine, Fraulein Ella. I am Professor Otto Müller.”

“Herr Professor, thank you for your help.” Ella had to keep working to use the outdated honorifics. All she can do is hope she is using them correctly.

“Please. After all of this? You may call me Otto.” He smiles again. He really is quite handsome.

As Ella and Otto exit Wittenberg Platz, Ella was expected to be surprised by the view, but nothing could prepare her for what she saw. “Otto? What is that?” She’s pointing up in the sky.

Otto looks up, curious. When he notices it, he scoffs quietly. “Why that’s one of the new toys of the English. It’s one of their dirigibles. It doesn’t compare to the work of Count von Zeppelin. Still, they are very proud of it. I suppose we should humor them.”

Otto walks on, with Ella trailing behind, clutching his greatcoat to her tightly. As she does so, she catches sight of people, both men and women glancing at her while they walk. She feels their eyes and can hear snatches of conversation. “Otto? Can we hurry? I feel… exposed out here.”

Otto stops and turns. It seems like he has noticed everyone for the first time. “Oh them? Pay them no mind.” He turns to the people who suddenly take an interest in their newspapers. “My friend here is just cold. She’s borrowing my greatcoat because of the chill in the air.” As he speaks, he makes a complex gesture with his gloved hand at his side, and everyone immediately relaxes and turns back to what they were doing.

Ella’s eyes widen. “You are a practitioner!”

Otto laughs. “Fraulien Ella, I am a professor of thaumaturgy with a specialization in rune scripting. It’s entirely possible that I wrote the book you used to travel here.”

“In my time, the study of magic is forbidden. Most people think magic doesn’t exist.”

Otto’s laughter stops. “Curious. I wonder what happened in the intervening century to cause that. The study of magic is just another skill, alongside engineering, or chemistry.” He turns down an alley. “Come. My laboratory is just around the corner.”

After a moment more, they arrive at…

“A bakery?”

“My laboratory is on the second floor. I rent from the baker.” He thinks a moment. “Though I suppose one could thing of baking as a kind of magic.” His smile is infectious. He really seems to be enjoying himself.

Ella frowns. “Otto, I feel like you are treating my predicament entirely too lightly.”

He turns to look at Ella, apologetic. “My apologies, Fraulien. I am merely trying to lighten the mood. You have lucked into appearing in front of the person who is probably best able to help you in all of Germany. Come, let us go into my lab, and I will examine your runes.”

Otto snaps the lights on when they enter. The lab smells of soapstone, and the incandescent bulbs bathe the room in a warm, yellow light. All around the lab are blackboards covered in runes with notes in careful handwriting. At the large soapstone tables are glassware and spirit burners, off now, but clearly have been recently in use. In the rear is a massive wooden desk and a few large barrister bookcases, filled with books. He gestures towards a large chair in front of his desk. “Sit, please. I would like to see your runes.”

Ella shrugs the overcoat off, and then starts to remove her blouse. She looks up and notices Otto blush furiously and turn away. “Otto, are you embarrassed?” Now it’s her turn to smile.

“Fraulien Ella, I am unmarried.”

“I shall keep my underclothes on then.” She removes her blouse and leaves her sport bra on, revealing the runes that climb up her arms to her shoulders, painted in henna.

When he catches sight of her runes, his embarrassment is forgotten. “Fraulien Ella, these are quite well done. Did you apply them yourself?” He takes her left arm and peers closely.

“I calculated them myself, but I had help applying them. There’s no way I could have written that clearly up near my shoulder.”

“Yes, I see that. The lines are quite clear and this… ink you used? It’s quite ingenious. Very little chance of smudging.”

“It’s henna. Ink made from a plant extract from, er, the Ottoman Empire, and India. It has a long history of being used on the body there.”

“Fascinating. I should try and find some of this henna myself. It looks much easier to use on the body than India Ink. Regardless, I see the error. You have written ‘four hundred quarters’ where I think you meant to write ‘four hundred hours.’ You have traveled back four hundred quarters of a year, or about 100 years.”

“Otto, it’s been more than that though. It’s closer to one hundred ten or fifteen years.”

He gestures dismissively. “With that kind of distance, a bit of drift is to be expected. The further back you go, the less accurate it is.”

Ella looks down at the runes. “So that’s it? I made a spelling mistake?”

Otto shrugs his shoulders. “Essentially.”


Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


FlippinPageman posted:

Week 575 Crits: Part 2

Thank you!

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 576 Submission - Travel and Travel

City: Istanbul, Turkey
book: The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald

Collisional Cascading

If ever there were rings around the Earth, they were absorbed by the formation of the moon. One moon to shield us from cosmic horror. One moon large enough to make life possible. We fill the skies between us and it with the junk of humanity, and soon, we’ll reach an equilibrium where we will be locked on Terra and the universe will be separated from us. The disease is called Kessler Syndrome, but that’s just a name.

I sat on the veranda of the Turkish coffee shop and went to pour the cezve for a refill when the boy stopped me. It was his job. A boy of thirteen with a job. I remember my first job picking strawberries at fourteen. By my parents’ decree it would have been earlier if the law allowed. Now, I don’t know. This same child could be working on an auto assembly line or carving pig carcasses until he teeters into the abyss. Is he lucky just pouring coffee?

I asked him, “Is this your nature?” and naturally, he didn’t know how to respond. He was just a boy. I didn’t make eye contact. Instead, I stared at his feet. Crocs: the petroleum amalgamate plastic, the industry that sustains and destroys us; the poison lifeblood.

The Crocs were split in the front, intentionally. Little bits cut out where this boy had done it intentionally, where the intentionality was dire and off-putting. Crocs trimmed and cut so his toenails could comfortably grow, large and in charge. I heard them clack on the paving stones as he approached. I could only ask, “Where do you get your shoes?”

I sat outside the cafe, looking across the Bosporus, where the hill of antiquity’s earthenware jostled for position with the slivers of modern glass ghosts.They reflected blue, though the sky was anything but. The water of the strait, maybe still.

Turkish coffee is a subject. When I was a someone, I wasn’t anyone. At the New Year’s Party, Aldona took pity on my sad visage as the clock struck down and kissed me. Lithuania has the same tradition of brewed and unfiltered coffee, perhaps without the cardamom. When I went to her grandmother’s apartment, we fought about the proper rolling of pierogies and the sparks were a firework of old-country magic.

I was in the cafe, in Turkey, to write my next hagiography of bucolic filth. It was an expectation. I glanced down the alley, where there was still the rubble of a bombing. And I didn’t know who or what or why the explosion happened. It was a spectre of chaos, and chaos is the world, the life I never asked for.

My agenda was to head to Batman. It was a day and then some’s walk. ‘Walking to Batman’ conjures the impossible. But it’s just a city. In fact, it would confound Batman with its lack of disseminated cameras and fascism. I sat in this cafe, the boy with foot-long toenails hovering about me, and pondered the back-fence chatter of the western world.

For six years running, I’ve thrown the turkey bones of my Thanksgiving feast out between the pine trees, and I’ve never been caught. It’s square next to the garden, where we grow stringers and tomatoes and cucumbers and squash as big as a newborn. So it means that whatever souls are out there suffering in the snow have completely consumed the carcass, bones and all, by the first thaw. Their desperate hunger is my luck.

It’s a statement of Thanksgiving and desperation, and I sit in my climate controlled abode and feel the dominance of my thumbs. That’s all there ever was. When I made the ‘mistake’ of getting high with my mother-in-law, I felt no better proof that there was no god when her “b-f-f” transformed into a chimpanzee and climbed on the table, gumming the fat plastic straw dipping into the squeeze bottle of mt. dew and vodka.

Batman was where the museum resided. Like history, a museum is transitory. It housed the oldest board game in the world. An odd assortment of pieces conjectured in the modern day into ‘dogs and pigs.” They are, in truth, a bunch of cones and D&D dice shapes that could be anything. But we, of modern times, can’t conceive of the imagination of the elder ages. So they are dogs

and pigs. Perhaps, there are a few piggidly shapes. In a thousand years’ time with a lost language and a lost culture, what would be chess? A series of horses and dildos, some more and some less painful.

It may be a predecessor or an offshoot of an Egyptian game, but that peg in grid system of Senet has its own determination. The board of sixty-four is Turkish. I was here, enjoying the caffeine and ambience, in part because of Erasmus+. And I could scarcely believe the ‘eff-plus’ energy of the program. The strength of the modern world is a girdle of misinformation.

On top of the highest mountain is a cone where no snow sits. The wind is more powerful than the downward thrust of flake and silt. Barren stone is the ultimate goal of all the thrill seekers who want to reach that summit.

Erasmus was a Catholic priest who came to the monastery life when his parents died from the Plague. While he was devout, he never embraced asceticism. His vow of poverty was by fiat, his patrons allowed him to travel the world. The evangelist who preaches the sermon of ‘do whatever you want, I don’t care,’ and like all messages, it was co-opted by systems beyond their ken.

Aldona’s boyfriend was a Joe, both in name and plenitude. She kissed me, and I still, well after the towers fell, hear the guttural arguments about her name. Uhl-dunn-a is about the closest I can recreate. But it’s still not quite right. It doesn’t matter where you put the hyphens, it will never be right. A half-remembrance of a woman from my youth is not a representation of a person at all; it’s at best, a story.

The stroll from Istanbul to Batman ran along the same rustic roads from my childhood, though not a wooded country side, it was a barren sandy waste; the desolation was the same. Here and there, like as a ten-year-old notes the day-glo hunter orange signs of gas well trails and ‘no deer hunting’, there were the same, but the ten-year-olds of the Turkish countryside would see “Land Mines, No Encroachment.”

It was such a strange word of caution. But it is, I suppose, human nature, to creep like fungus across the land, taking every morsel available and subsuming it into itself. Encroach as if it’s destined fate.

Mother never made a turkey stuffing with mushrooms. Always stale Wonderbread with celery, and two bullion cubes regardless of size. Nothing else. Perhaps that explains the wonderment of Old Bay when any old tongue gets a taste of salt.

The coffee shop was right on the beach, but it was a beach of pebble and outcropping, not one for lounging and sunbathing. Twenty feet from the water was a concrete rim that held the water from the people and the people from the water. But you move any camera far enough back and it appears pristine. In 1988, Francys Arsentiev was dubbed the Sleeping Beauty of Everest because he looked so serene. His body has yet to be recovered.

Neverminding Anansi wisdom is easy when all of history is frozen in a staid frieze of a stolen diorama in the British Museum. A spider’s web fills every unattended corner like acoustic bass.

The Batman museum was more an open pit of archaeology than a Met with guides in suit and tie.There were no polished granite staircases and no paintings of ‘masters’ gilding the walls. If you came here you came for the forty tiny pieces of stone.

In twenty-twenty the US state department recognized the natural pronunciation of Türkiye. It took a long time and more desert than I care for to lay my eyes on Göbekli Tepe, but I see the past and present and the future when I witness the strength of the megaliths uncovered in the sand.

As I sip my coffee, I can’t see the Hagia Sophia from where I am. If I walked down the block past the westernized shops of Nordstrom's and Macy’s and Manolo Blahnik, I would see the minarets. I did just such a thing. I couldn’t hear the call to prayer from across the water, but I saw the bells ringing.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

FlippinPageman posted:

Week 575 Crits: Part 1

ty critter, appreciate it.

Fat Jesus
Jul 13, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


derp posted:

city: Bern, Switzerland
book: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño


1500 words


“Again.” Eliza barked, and Peter slammed the man’s head back as Manny slapped the wet towel to his face and held the hose to his mouth, pushing down hard. Eliza nodded to the bored Jonah who turned the tap to full. The large man in the chair struggled against the wire holding his wrists and ankles, raw and bleeding, as he gurgled and coughed fruitlessly against the drowning, and after half a minute started to go limp. Peter pulled the man up by his hair and slapped him hard. He held him by the hair again, forcing him to look at the slim blonde woman before him, squinting from the light in his face.

“Bernard Archimbold.” She said. The man gasped and struggled for breath, “Where is he, we can do this all night long.” A voice of falling ice colder than the water that surrounded his cluttered mind.
“B..Bern.” He spat out weakly. “He… is in Bern. Please stop!” He lurched forward as the hand released, vomiting water into his naked lap.
“Bern… does he know we’re here? Tell us everything, omit nothing, nothing at all… ” She raised a pair of secateurs in a bejewelled hand, clicking them. “Or lose those thumbs.”
He stared at her in the shadows, terrified, unable to think as the hand clutching his hair tightened it’s grip an the towel came again.
“I…no..He’s in Bern…going there…yes. Please, he…is meeting Halder… the Bellevue….hotel….the weekend…after this…please, I don’t know…please, I didn’t know who he was...” She lowered the secateurs and picked up a custom silenced FN 1910 pistol, and shot him in the head.


“That really wasn’t smart.” Manny spoke softly as she stared at the windscreen ahead, the two others asleep in the back of the stolen Mercedes as they approached the inner medieval old town with it’s clock and it’s bears. She finally looked at him as the others woke as the car slowed.
“What were we to do with him then, let me worry about Oscar, unless you want to go back to Tel Aviv.”
“And you go back to London then, your people are not loving about anymore. They don’t care about Nazis, not now.”
Peter had spoken up from the back seat, gazing at her in the rear view mirror and saw her stare back, making him flinch inwardly.
“They want the man, we want what he has, we have been over this.” Her cold voice returned. “And you’re right, nobody cares about some old men, it’s all communists now.”
Peter rose up from his seat, leaning on the back of the plush ivory leather.
“Ben-Gurion cares, about the 2666 women at Treblinka in 1943. We can give them justice, and get what we want as well. They won’t just go away, they’ll find out soon.”
He found himself staring at her breasts, then thought he saw the slightest smile, reminding him it was Manny that hosed her now as he looked up, quickly blinking away towards the distant Bellevue Palace Hotel.
“He cares about killing Arabs, and that’s what he’ll put you back to, or maybe prison, if we don’t get this money and disappear.” She stopped the car.
“We’re supposed to track them, not torture and kill them.” He sighed and looked away towards the Aare river and the stone bridge that had seen a million deaths by spear and sword, and the underlying forgotten brutality of the tidy cold cobbles of the medieval streets beyond.
“I’ll talk to Oscar, I said. The Zionists will be happy, they’ll stop looking for you once we get to Mexico. Now go to your places, meet tonight at the cafe below the hostel.”
“You stay in a palace and we stay in a hostel.” Manny nodded.
“Like good American college boys, living simple, speak only English or German, and go knock doors.”

She had parked the car they had stolen in Zurich from a man they saw get on a train having bought a ticket to Munich, knowing by his bags and dress he would not return for several days. She had checked into the hotel and had walked some time til she reached a phone box inside the great covered markets, waiting nervously as it rang on, when a woman with a strong Scottish accent picked up.

“Aye? McKellar’s shoe repair.”
“I have two left boots.” She waited.
“Aye, what size?” She repeated the number on the phone twice and the woman hung up. She got out of the box and looked around, lighting a cigarette as the crowd passed by. She had nearly finished her cigarette when it finally rang and she stamped it out, annoyed with herself, seeing it was Dunhill and giving it an extra twist with a foot, no small detail.

“Miss Norton.” C sounded like a concerned grandparent. “You must miss home. Where are those handsome Israelis? Not around are they?”
“They killed the Machinist.” The lie brought out a cold sweat. The line was quiet a time.
“Oh dear. The Americans will be so upset with them. And this Halder, and Hans Reiter, what was he calling himself again?”
“Bernard Archimbold.” She closed her eyes. “He’s at the Bellevue now.”
“Oh. Delightful. Such glorious dining in the very seat of government. Now, dear girl, we’re going to give you special dispensation. MOSSAD thinks they’ve gone on the run, claim they no longer know them, seems they’ve gone on a treasure hunt.” She heard his small laugh as her mind spun unavoidably to what was next. “Whatever gave them that idea?” He mused, making it clear in his voice.
“Oscar, they’re just kids… “ She started, a fruitless thing done only to show to herself an empathy to which she knew she was not owed by any form of morality, the trade of treachery notwithstanding.
“Yes, murderous kids. Unit 101, if I recall.”
“And we’re in Switzerland.”
“Yes, much nicer there than Moscow, I would think. How’s your Russian coming along?” His threat made clear. “You led them this far with your charms, and so well.”
“And Reiter, Halder?”
“Oh, let them enjoy their strudel and Wagner, we know where they are, always have, maybe that old commie Ben-Gurion will want to know too, he certainly won’t want the Swiss police digging up his commandos, very embarrassing. And the Swiss? Nazi’s dining freely amongst them, lovely pictures, they simply couldn’t have that. Now, be a good girl and maybe you can run things in Zurich, sipping coffee and following bankers?”
“I.. alright, of course.”
“We don’t expect you to do this yourself, oh no. Trident. Garden. You have a pen?”
“Yes.” He gave her an address just outside Bern, she scribbled it down.
“Their treasure's there. Don’t forget to return the pins. I’ll send you some Yorkshire tea. Cheerio.”
She stood there as the phone clicked dead, looking at herself reflected by the glass.

She sat in the bath overlooking the Aare at the hostel beyond, wondering which of them was watching her, knowing neither would tell the others what he saw and longed to know again. She got out slowly and turned her back to the window, reaching down for her towel on the marble floor.

The small cafe was empty, too early in the evening and they had found her waiting dressed in a more simple style of the people around her, a dress still too tight like all the others she wore.
“I have an address, they’ll be there alone.” She spoke softly looking to each set of eyes as they leaned in closer. “They were in the restaurant, so was I.” She watched them nod.
“Show me.” Manny said. She slid it to him. “Tonight?” she nodded.
“The money?” Peter asked.
“That’s why they’re in Switzerland, nice secret banks.” She said. They said nothing.
“Alright then, we get the numbers, tie them, make the call when we’re at the airport.”
“OK. Just the two?” Jonah asked. She nodded at the bulge at his lap.
“Let’s get on our way. The bags' in the car.” She rose and they followed.
They arrived outside the farmhouse across the river north of Wohlen, watching it driving past. She had stopped nearby and they looked to her.
“We’ll park half way up the driveway, looks like there’s a garden.” They got out.
They loaded their Uzi’s and slung them low to their backs under their coats and got back in the car.

She followed them, her pistol in her hand as they walked slowly to the garden, when two men appeared in front of them. The men in darkness raised guns and shot Manny and Peter in the head, their dead fingers frozen tight on triggers of the Uzi’s without firing pins, while Eliza raised hers and shot Jonah from behind. She avoided Peter’s dead gaze, giving him a final look between her legs as she stepped over him to meet her new men.

Toaster Beef
Jan 23, 2007

that's not nature's way
Theme: Travel and Travel (Week 576)
City: Toronto, Canada
Book: The Blind Owl, by Sadeq Hedayat
Word count: 1,482

Fashionably Late

This is what happened: I stepped out of the party and into the narrow street, where my phone told me it was twelve past two in the morning. The heat and humidity hadn’t gone anywhere. The haze made the streetlights even less effective than usual, and fog obscured everything more than five or six row houses down.

Ours wasn’t the only party happening in Dufferin Grove. The night thrummed with other raucous college kids celebrating the first weekend back from summer break. Somewhere a few blocks from here, tired bar staff were sweeping up and sweaty stragglers were calling Ubers because the subways were closed. A few blocks away from that, downtown Toronto was asleep, buildings disappearing upward into the fog, roads empty, the waterfront abandoned by all but the homeless.

I stood in the middle of the road scrolling idly, my phone’s dim screen still bright enough to shut out nearly everything else. I focused on it. Inside, the party wrapped itself around me. I wanted a bubble in space. A voice called my name over the throng of partiers as I stepped out, but thankfully, nobody followed. Outside, for a moment, I could breathe — but it didn’t take long before I sensed the wall of fog inching closer, the streetlights leaning in. My shirt was glued to me, cool and heavy, pressing with every breath.

The phone stopped helping. I pocketed it and looked up. The fog had drawn closer from my left and right — and even began to obscure the party behind me — but my focus was straight ahead, as what should have been an opposing row of houses on the other side of the street was instead a cramped, poorly lit accessway lined on either side with shoddy garages in various states of disrepair. One of these alleys ran behind each row of houses in the Grove, serving as storage. I knew this alley. Our garage was in this alley. This alley couldn’t be here.

I turned around. Our house was gone, replaced with another long, dark, impossible stretch of alley.

A scream — a woman, somewhere in the distance. Surprise. Pain. Inconsolable terror. Sharp. Over quickly. I willed my weakened legs in her direction, slow, squinting, unable to see. The darkness was unrelenting. The garage doors, each their own shade of off-white, many adorned with crude graffiti, were the only semblance of light. The haze had simply swallowed everything else.

After hours, days, weeks of pitiful shuffling, I could see it: a flashing orange-yellow light, rhythmic, reaching through the fog and guiding me forward. At first it was so subtle I didn’t want to let myself believe it was real. As I got closer and it became more pronounced, I moved more quickly.

I closed in on the source: a flashing traffic light, a temporary fixture sitting atop a ROAD CLOSED AHEAD sign. A construction sign in Toronto was hardly an unfamiliar site, but here, no, none of it made sense, and where had the —

I saw her then, in a tanktop and jeans, laying near the edge of the path, her left arm wrenched unnaturally up over her head. Her legs were crumpled underneath her in a way that suggested she’d landed here. They were shattered in multiple places. Her clothes were scraped and torn and soaked in blood that looked red-black under the pulsing light of the construction sign. Her face was obscured — her long, dark hair matted to it — and as I rushed to her side, hand digging in my pocket for my phone, I could tell she wasn’t breathing. Regardless, I tried to utter comforting words as I pulled my phone out and dialed 911.

Immediately — too quickly — I noticed more flashing lights, these coming from behind me, red and blue and white. I turned away from the broken woman to watch them approach and found myself staring down the lane of row houses, once again in the middle of the street. Outside our party. It appeared to have stopped, people gathering on the porch and in the windows to stare out at me. Their expressions made me look down at myself, which is when I first noticed I was covered in the young woman’s blood. In shock, in panic, I turned back around to look for her — and instead only saw the other side of the street, the other row houses, all as it should be. No alley, no light, no dead woman. I turned once more back to the crowd, my confusion no doubt all over my face as the paramedics and police arrived. The former looked at me for just long enough to make sure none of the blood was my own before turning me over to the eager arms of the latter.

Hours later, I could only assume the sun was rising outside. I was in a windowless room with sparse furniture, waiting for a detective. He walked in without an ounce of compassion or grace, tossed a legal pad into my lap, and demanded I write down the evening’s events. I was all too eager to do so.

This is what happened: I stepped out of the Nightingale onto Bloor Street at 1:15, my ears ringing from the music, my eyes squinting from the sudden onslaught of light. The extra tabs in my pocket called to me but as the club’s crushing impact on my senses wore off I was awoken to the world as it was, a buzzing masterpiece of color and sound. Neons, yellows, oranges, whites, greens, the roar of passing cars, the breeze winding its way off the water and through the streets to rustle the hairs on my arm. I felt everything. I needed more.

Ubers rolled up and down the street ferrying those too drunk or stoned to navigate the subway, which would be running for another 45 minutes. I considered each option briefly, but at that moment I decided I needed to feel wind hitting me through an open car window. I’d only parked a short walk away. If I hurried, I could even make the end of my housemates’ party. It’d be rude to do anything else.

The car growled and spat under me as I hammered on the accelerator, the windows down, the stereo up, the world flying by in streaks of light. I flitted and dodged, my reflexes impossibly sharp, the car an extension of myself, a machine built for me, built for this road, this night, this drive.

I do not know what distracted me. What I know is a construction sign — ROAD CLOSED AHEAD — with a flashing yellow light atop it was suddenly sitting in the middle of my lane. Hardly an unfamiliar sight in Toronto, but it snuck up on me all the same, and I jammed on the brakes. The tires gave a jittering squeal, and in the split second afforded me by the anti-lock brakes I chose to swerve away from the other lanes of traffic and into the sidewalk.

Initially I heard her but didn’t see her. The first time we met, her face was cratering my windshield. I watched her body crumple against the hood, her face run into and partially through the glass, her limbs flail and shatter. It took hours. I came to a stop before she did. She hit the ground and rolled two more times before finally resting, her legs crumpled underneath her, her left arm wrenched unnaturally up over her head.

I leapt out of the car and over to her shattered body. Her breathing was clipped and mechanical, her hair matted to her head, her clothes soaked in blood. I knelt down and cradled her, willing everything to be a hallucination, desperate for any kind of way out — and that’s when I looked around and noticed that, against all odds, the street was completely empty. The dwindling but steady traffic was nowhere to be seen, the late-night crowd, the Ubers — the entirety of Bloor Street was abandoned to the night, devoid of any witnesses. Without thinking, without rationalizing, without anything other than my basest and most animal instincts shrieking commands at my trembling frame, I dragged what was now her body over to the base of the construction sign and leaned her against it. I then got calmly back into my car and drove home.

The party was, in fact, not over yet, but nobody seemed happy to see me.

I stared down at the yellow handwritten pages. Alone in the barren room, pen in hand, they still felt as though they couldn’t have come from me. Fatigue pushed back as I tried to grapple with my memory of the evening. I looked up from the table. Darkness, pierced rhythmically by an indistinct yellow flash. Fog pushed in from the left and right. Ahead — and behind, I knew without even looking — stretched an endless, forlorn alley.

Green Wing
Oct 28, 2013

It's the only word they know, but it's such a big word for a tiny creature

630 w

Dear sir, thank you for the assignment but I regret to inform you that my circumstances are very special and very unique and therefore I cannot accept it. I am really under a great deal of strain at work, you see, and,

"You see, I have never been to Porto and have no time to read this book. I have to be in work at 9 o’clock sharp and have no time to watch the film either. Any story I write would be, at best, the work of a sixth former rushing to achieve a passing grade by examining Wikipedia articles of the subjects. I therefore respectfully refuse the assignment."

A neat little paragraph, and I think after that I’m allowed a moment of satisfaction. That’ll show ‘em.

I’ve been to Porto often in the last 5 years, in my mind. A few months before the divorce, we went to Lisbon and spent our days drinking Aperol Spritz served from tiny gazebo cafes perched in the middle of the streets like information booths. We spoke none of the language, I at least tried. Muddled our way through Moorish forts trying to make conversation, avoided going back to our hotel room for as long as we could.

Porto next year, we’d both try to learn some Portuguese. Next year didn’t happen. So I’ve been there often.

Let’s take a look. Let’s go there now. A sojourn to street view, and I’m there. A hotel here, an apartment block there. Every sun-drenched Iberian city looks the same. Half of these buildings would be AirBnBs, street corners packed with cigarettes and backpackers. American youth, bored of the sights and tired of walking, looking desperately for a restaurant among white-faced blocks. Eventually to the same strip of tourist trap seafood even other went to. Pastel de Nata after eating other half a plate of grilled sardines. They start speaking Spanish to the waiter halfway through.

I’ve never been to Porto. Caricature, caricature. I must be at work in 10 hours. In 2019, I and her would go to Porto. We’d learn the language and the culture. And when we got tired of the buildings and the noise and the cars, we would hop over into Spain and hike in Galicia and talk about what we would do at work when we got back.

And as the time would stretch on, we would get tired of one another’s company, we would start to worry about work. And I would twist my ankle on the hike and perhaps, oh, perhaps we should have stayed in Porto. They have WiFi there and the tourist traps aren’t so bad (and it isn’t as though they don’t all speak English, my haphazard schoolgirl attempts at the tiniest ‘abrigado’ gaining me nothing but contempt)

And maybe, maybe as we make our way back to the familiar, I would think about work (maybe just log on a little here, see what emails had come in). Perhaps there was something I need to do, shouldn’t have stayed away this long. Shouldn’t have stepped out of the urban, out of the tourist. Stay in Porto, isn’t the sea lovely? Aren’t the buildings quaint, isn’t the sprawl comforting? You can be anonymous with nothing, this is what being on holiday is all about. Aperol Spritz and seafood.

And perhaps when we look down at the sprawl as we start back to our hotel room, we’d think about how good it would have been for us never to return from our trek, to lose ourselves on the mountains, to choose new names and find new lives. To say goodbye to our neat little paths and find purpose in a handful of sand.

But I couldn’t do that. I must be at work in the morning.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


derp posted:

city: Alicante, Spain
book: Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride

A proof than Mr Hermann was not crazy
1499 words

Don’t ask me to describe Alicante. I have been there seven times in the last two decades, but it was always on the job, and I had no time for sightseeing. At most I could tell you about its airport, a succession of huge, cheap, industrial-looking terminals, always changing and never improving. From there I took a company shuttle to Las Palmas, an all-inclusive resort that catered almost exclusively to German tourists.

The last time I went there was in August 2019, before the COVID crisis that cost many of us their jobs. The hotel was fairly crowded, which pushed its operations to their limits. So it was no wonder that one of the plastic coat hangers in my dresser was broken, and that pastry baskets at the breakfast buffet remained almost empty after ten. Lunch, on the other hand, was beyond reproach, as was the swimming pool. I quickly came to the provisional conclusion that the hotel, as during my previous visits, was a fine establishment and correctly managed, which I would fairly mention in my report. I had only trifling observations to make ; presumably they would be easily fixed later, although I was not involved in that part.

The rest of the week confirmed my good first impression. Meanwhile I was blending with other guests, to gather their opinions. There the crowdedness helped greatly. I would come to the restaurant at rush hour, walk timidly up to a family and ask if they minded me sitting at their table, since all the others were occupied. Of course, of course, I could sit. Even after that I would remain apologetic, insisting that truly there was no place available anywhere. Was it their first sojourn there? Was the resort always so bustling, and what did they think of it?

People praised the place, mostly on aesthetic grounds. The restaurant was on a shaded terrace, which afforded a great view of the rugged hill dominating the city and the pale squat fortress atop it, which we recommended to visit but did not operate. That breathtaking sight was very popular with guests, as was the hearty paella. But this year another subject dominated conversation, and it was the strange behavior of one guest, although, as people would note, he was not harming anybody.

Mr Hermann had already been there one week. He was a sullen sunburnt giant with an enormous head, even in proportion to his stout body, sunken eyes and a florid brown beard. Every night, and oftentimes during the day, he sat at the indoor bar, drinking. Unlike his compatriots, who favored watery German beers or sweet fruity cocktails, he always ordered some sort of schnapps or brandy, which he imbibed with impressive endurance, even for a man of his heft.

As the evening progressed, under the influence of liquor, he got talkative and made, to no one in particular, weird and rambling declarations, the gist of which was that he was an immortal mercenary who had fought in many famous wars ever since antiquity, although he seldom said so directly. Rather, he would loudly but obliquely mention ancient events and people, like a Teutonic comte de Saint-Germain, with perfect aplomb, as someone who did not at all consider such talk bizarre, or even admitted the possibility that someone else might see it as such.

“Even when I rode with El Cid,” he would for example say, “I had never come back here again. And now I can not recognize the place, except for the white mountain. In the days of Hamilcar it was a huddle of terraced tenements some distance away from the port. I dwelt in the barracks, with my long-dead brothers. In the evenings, we sat in the temple gardens and drank sappy wine, toasting to glory and danger and being alive another day! The air smelt of laurels, coriander and burnt flesh.”

That kind of talk attracted attention. Some thought he was doing a bit. Many did not quite understand what he was saying. One guest, this week, happened to be a Classics graduate student, who had come for a relaxing week with his family and a Teubner edition of Polybius in his bag. Other young vacationers convinced him to approach Mr Herrman one night; the millennia-old veteran humored him, even paid for his tangerine rebujito, and talked at length. The next day I happened to sit at the young man’s table as he recounted their conversation.

The man was enthusiastic and facund ; he claimed to have fought in Spain, in Sicily and in Numidia, where white-teethed warriors hunted elephants in foggy primordial forests. But as soon as his new acquaintance had started broaching the subject of the political and strategic situation of that time, of who ruled in Carthage and what cities were allies or enemies to it, Mr Hermann had started to hesitate and mumble, and finally proclaimed that a man who eked a wild and dangerous life by selling his sword could not be expected to keep track of all that, and that he knew no master but the paymaster, no country than the open road, no politics but the eternal clash of arms. Wasn’t it convenient. His descriptions of antiquity, by the student’s reckoning, owed more to Alix and Salammbô, not to mention a copious imagination, than to genuine knowledge.
“I feel a little sad for him,” said his mother.

The student’s judgment, which spread throughout the guests, emboldened a few German patres familias to start more actively making sport of him. After dinner they surrounded him in the bar, and made him talk, encouraging his wildest tales. By then I spent most evenings in the bar too, only drinking virgin cocktails of course, because I was worried that the service was slow, and that not all drinks were available every night. So I witnessed most of it.

One of the mockers, not always the same, would ask questions politely : what weapons did he use, back in the middle ages? And what happened then? Did he meet Don Quixote? The others would at first only exchange looks and surreptitious smirks. But as the evening progressed, and they too drank, the smirks turned to sniggers, then to outright laughs. Something like hunger animated their reddened faces. They drew closer and louder, interrupting him.

Mr Herrman at first did not seem to mind. He would answer every question and then launch in amusing tirades, while guzzling liquor even stronger than the sappy wine he had drunk at Saguntum, after the victory, in a dead Gaul’s helmet. Yet sometimes he grew frighteningly quiet. His arms as thick as trunks tensed, and his pale sunken eyes blurred. He would try to get up and leave, but they entreated him to stay, sorry if something they had said had come across wrong. Soon Mr Hermann was rambling again.

Wiser men, maybe, would have considered they had had their fun, and dropped the matter. Indeed their wives generally reproved their behavior.
“We’re just joking around,” they would say. “Nobody’s forcing him to talk.”
At lunch they would recapitulate his stories, underlining the best parts of it, sometimes with additions, stopping only to look at Mr Hermann, alone and oblivious, over their shoulder. He ate steak and mussels inelegantly.

On Saturday night, the mockers got so vicious that the barman slipped away and soon the night manager appeared, and announced that unfortunately the bar had to close early for inventory.
“Okay, okay,” they said, and they withdrew a little, but they did not leave the bar, hanging around, fussing with their satchels, looking at Mr Herrman who now appeared more tired and melancholic than boisterous. By the time they walked away, he had rested his enormous head on the table and snored.

I could say nothing, of course. It was important that I remained incognito, and besides the guests would not have appreciated learning of my profession. Many of them saved yearlong to afford their one or two weeks in the sun. To learn that I saw that vacation as a job, that my own idea of a vacation was to sleep night after night in my own bed and to drink middle-shelf beer in front of the television, would have made them aghast. So I could not tell anybody that I, in fact, knew Mr Herrman well.

He was one of our better clients, and I had sighted him again and again over the years. In Deauville and Biarritz he would tell people he had fought on both sides of the Hundred Years War, on Antigua he would sip rum and regale tourists with tales of piracy ; in Balaclava he boasted of Cossack adventures ; in Naples he had been a famous gladiator. All these sojourns, and the attending bar tabs, must have added to a considerable cost ; and so, whether from the plunder of centuries, or any other reason, he was rich enough to be eccentric and not crazy.

Slightly Lions
Apr 13, 2009

Look what I can do!
February Azure
City: Minsk, Belarus
Book: Concrete by Thomas Bernhard
1330 words

Hello, Dear Comrade Reader. I hope this finds you well. I hope it is found at all. Introductions are in order. My name is Comrade Dmitry Petrovich Novikova, and I have the distinct honor to be Junior Curator at the State Art Gallery here in Minsk, Belarus SSR, Queen of Cities. Or I was, until today. It is a bright day, the warmth of late June bakes the pavement along vulica Lienina. The air is rich and fragrant; I wish, dear Comrade Reader, I could tell you it was all fresh cut grass and fresh baked bread and fresh dreams of a newer and better world, but I cannot. There is a sharp tang of petrol fuel and rubber as Red Army trucks move people and material east. There is the reek of burned stone and scorched concrete and sweat and fear. I am surprised at my own calm. My heartbeat remains steady, my breathing deep and slow even as I carefully skirt the craters at the intersection with vulica Karla Marksa where, four days ago, the first bombs fell. Others do not maintain my studious detachment. I find it dismaying, un-Soviet, the furor of so many of my comrades. The Germans will arrive soon, and certainly it is better that they be gone ahead of the fascist menace, but it is unseemly that they should nash their teeth and wail so. They have no sense of history. They think their little lives worth so much in the grand march of events, their dramas unique, their homes and favorite cafes and cinemas irreplaceable. They do not grasp the truth: when the crash of the fascist wave ebbs and the inevitable surge of the Red Army drives them back from our hallowed motherland, all this will be rebuilt. There is no structure here that cannot be remade, newer and stronger, by the power of our industrial might. Even should they give their lives then their children, their brothers, their nieces and friends shall take up the red banner and carry on our work, forever and for all mankind. I leave them to wait for their trucks and busses and trains. I have more important tasks. I mount the stone steps of the State Art Gallery two at a time, suppressing my customary grimace. Though this example is tastefully restrained I have never enjoyed the neo-Classical look that dominates old civic architecture. It is redolent of Tsarism and the Imperial Romanesque; as their rule has been consigned to the dustbin of history, so too I think should be their aesthetic. Perhaps when the war is won we will have the time to build new buildings for a new people. Marble tiles ring under stiff leather soles in the narrow, echoing atrium. I ascend the stairs and try not to look at all the empty spaces on the walls, the porticoes, and galleries. Three days ago Comrade Chief Curator Pavel Ivanov ordered the jewels of the collection moved east, ahead of the evacuation. There are many in the throngs outside, crowded around the bus depots and the Minsk-Passazhirskij station who glower and say he should not have done this, that the space should have been saved for them. They are cowards. Buildings can be rebuilt, populations can recover, but art is unique and irreplaceable. I slow my walking, taking in the pieces that remain. Comrade Ivanov wanted to move the entire collection, but the Soviet declared it impossible and only the most precious, the most important, and necessarily the most portable works could be rescued from the German hordes. I look at the paintings, the sculptures, the delicate porcelain curios, and I shudder. These are my charges, my responsibilities, my friends. Up the right hand staircase and through the double doors of wood, polished golden-bright. It is still there, I knew it would be. I pleaded with Comrade Ivanov, I begged him to take it with him, but he was solemn and steadfast in his refusal, as he is in all his dealings. I stand before it and am awed. I think every time I will be used to the sensation, but every time is still like the first time. Sunlight plays across pigment snow, brightness and cold made tangible by genius. Silver-white birches thrust up the narrow canvas, arched in maenad ecstasy; a profusion of branches, crimson-leaved and ochre-crowned, casting delicate violet shadows grasp towards an achingly azure February sky. A step towards the canvas and all meaning and perception dissolve into a spray of inchoate color and bold, thick brushstrokes, each carefully chosen to contrast or complement its neighbors; a riot, like the static of a radio tuned to an empty band, if radio waves were made of rainbows. A step back and it slams into focus so sharp I can feel my breath fog in the Siberian air. I am sure that in the years of posterity there will be other critics to disagree, but to me this is the finest work of Igor Grabar’s hands. It is my favorite of the paintings the State Gallery has been kind enough to entrust to my hands. It is my dearest friend. And it has been left behind. Comrade Ivanov was sorry, but it has been deemed too staid in its subject, too wild in its technique, insufficiently Soviet to earn a spot in the evacuation. I am a good communist. I believe in the great Soviet project, the joyous work of the collective masses. I love my country and the Union. I have had little cause to buck against my superiors. Comrade Ivanov, Pavel, is one of my few friends that is not made of paint, marble, or plaster. But now I curse them. I curse them for asking me to leave, and when I would not, for leaving without me, for abandoning our treasures, our friends, the artistic posterity of the nation to these Nazi jackals. I have read the letters from colleagues in the west, fleeing the fall of France. I know what these fascist will do to art they deem degenerate, that which does not coddle the fascist sensibility. I have heard horror stories of Matisses burnt, of Klimts slashed, of abstract statuary smashed. I will not see that happen to my friends. I will not return from Moscow to find ragged frames and ash and broken shards. Four days ago when Panzer columns crossed the border and swept the unprepared garrisons before them I did my duty and volunteered for the defense militia. They were not unkind when they turned me down, saying they did not doubt my courage, but the strength of my body. I will be the first to admit it is not great. But I love my country. I would lay down my life for her, if she asked me to. But I was not asked. So I will lay down my life for this, for my friends. I have brought tools. With them I pry open the panels at the base of the wall, left empty in planning for a heating system that has not been installed. I must be careful to leave no tool-marks that might reveal what I have done. I take my beloved Siberian snowscape and wrap it in brown paper and put it safely, gently away. I accompany it with as many of its fellows in the gallery as I can fit. I check the revolver that has weighed heavy in my coat pocket, count the extra rounds I bought from a supply clerk who I hope will not be punished too harshly if they are found missing. I will conclude my account now, and wait for the German dogs to come. I hope, dear Comrade Reader, that you are reading this in better times. I hope that the march of progress and the flowering of the socialist dream are still strong when you find this. I hope that my Siberian sun will shine as brightly for you.


Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

city: Taipei, Taiwan
book: the sailor who fell from grace with the sea, by Yukio Mishima

772 words

The door slammed open with a violence that was out of place with the carefully luxe surroundings. Gina, past all caring about decency and formality, shrieked back at her now ex-fiance, in English and in broken Mandarin, “Get hosed you cheating, lying, shithead!” The only thing she regretted in that moment, storming down the hallway and ignoring Peter’s answering invective, was that she hadn’t thrown her ugly, gaudy engagement ring right in his stupid loving face.

She made it about as far as the hotel atrium and its pretty gold and white decor when she started to regret other things. Like storming off without her suitcase. Or her passport. Or her phone charger.

gently caress.

Gina stepped out into the street and tried not to look too much like a tourist. She just needed to clear her head. Peter wasn’t the kind of guy who would take out his anger on her stuff. Then again, she hadn’t thought him the kind of guy who would bring a side-piece to his hotel room while his fiance was seeing the sights. Even with her anger continuing to simmer, Gina felt a flash of sympathy for the poor woman. She’d looked so confused, then upset, and then she’d locked herself in the bathroom while Gina and Peter screamed at each other until all the futures they’d planned together were shattered.

Almost without thinking about it, Gina’s feet turned her toward the Botanical Gardens. She’d been begging Peter to go with her the second they planned to go to Taipei. He said he had allergies. He said he was jetlagged. He said it was too crowded.

Come to think of it, he’d said that about every tourism opportunity. He wanted to eat street food and sleep. That was it.

The gardens were beautiful and Gina was too angry to appreciate any of it. Wide, stone paths lined with palms welcomed her. Beautiful hanging vines, flowers of every color imaginable, and Gina was blind to all of it. Her anger consumed her.

How could she have been so blind? He’d always had an excuse, there was always a reason for Gina to go on without him. She thought it was nice that he valued her independence. Was he bringing home girls every time she went out?

She sat down on a bench and glowered at the lotuses. They appeared to drift, aimless and blameless across the water, but Gina knew better. Every plant had a stem. A long tether reached down to the muck, passing nutrients up to the leaves and petals, passing sugars and carbon dioxide down to the starchy root.

What would it be like to be rooted, she wondered. What would it be like to be tethered to something that fed and sustained you? She’d thought she’d known. Did the roots ever betray the flowers the way Peter betrayed her? Gina wondered what would happen if she dove into the pond and buried herself in the fetid, fecund mud at the bottom. She wondered what sort of flower she’d make. Something acrid and hateful and poisonous. A flower that would give Peter an asthma attack, just by breathing her air. She could drip herself into his tea and paralyze him. She could brush against his skin and leave weeping sores in her wake.

Gina’s ring flashed on her finger. She held up her hand, examining it. It was a big stone, to be sure. But it was cubic zirconia. Peter said they could replace it later on with a real diamond, or even better a lab diamond with no blood attached. Gina had thought the ethics were sound, but given how much Peter had bitched to their friends about the price of even this ring, she suspected ethics weren’t at the forefront of his mind.

Christ, she’d waved off so many things. Because he was nice. Because he made her laugh. Because he took her on vacations to London and Paris and Taipei. So she could laugh off how cheap he was. She could laugh off how he never actually wanted to hang out with her and her friends. He’d formed a tether to her, a long stem of exchange, but he clearly didn’t want to hold up his end of the bargain. She could pass him all the sugar and sunlight he wanted, but he had nothing to feed her.

There was nothing left for Gina here. She worked the ring off her finger and flung it into the pond. Let the long fingers of the rhizomes wear it. She’d be gone tomorrow, uprooted, a lonely seed flung into the sky.

Ouzo Maki
Jul 4, 2023
Gull at Pike’s
City: Seattle, WA - USA
Book Inspiration: The Peregrine, by JA Baker

Hungry. Wet stone but no rain, no wind, a good day to fly. Smells of bake, and fish. Down to where the animals gather, again to wait, to watch. Keen eyes to spot the big ones that take notice of me. Most don’t see me, part of the surroundings. Those that do try to hit me or shout–better to avoid. Big ones lead small ones. This small one has two big ones on either side to protect it. They are looking to the sides. They do not watch the small one’s sweet warm delicious spiral treat. It falls to the ground, and the big one with fur on its face squawks. It drags the small one forward–quick! Grab the spiral! Eat and eat. Happy.

- - -

Hungry, but rain today. Lots of rain. No flying on days like today. Watch as the big things gather and yell. They toss the fish back and forth. Back and forth. No catching that fish no matter how good it smells. Hungry, and cold. Tuck head under wing and wait.

- - -

Hungry! Rain, rain, rain. Sweep wings and stay low. Under the cover, away from the rain. No flying where the animals wait in a row. Always here, always in line. Stay on the ground. Walk slow. Not too close. A big one comes out, struggling with its black wing. One paw holds the brown paper with more sweet bread. Now fly! Grab the paper! Fly Fly! The animals are so loud! They shake their paws and yell and squawk but it doesn’t ruin the taste of bread. Bread bread bread.

- - -

Hungry. No rain, bright sun. Means more big ones and more small ones. More food. A big one raises a hot yellow stick, the ones that taste so good. It’s holding the stick and a gray square and not watching me watch. Soar! Fly fast! The big one falls to the ground and squawks. The yellow hot sticks are delicious.

- - -

Hungry. All the bigs today are bright and colorful. They have purple feathers on their necks but not their bodies. Shiny, loud, big ones everywhere, some with face fur and some without. Lots of sounds, voices, noise from black boxes tangled with black cords. Too many animals, too dangerous. But they have the sweet rings! No saying no to sweet rings! Rings waved in the air, dropped on the ground, rings everywhere in animal fists. Get one! Find and eat the rings off sun warm stone. Fight and cry and flap wings to scare brothers and sisters and eat eat eat. Happy!

- - -

Hungry! Colder but no rain. One of the big animals is alone. Sweep down and walk. Slow. It’s watching the big loud boats on the water. Boats bringing more big ones back and forth, back and forth. This big one has twisty chewy bread. The bread sits on the rail. Get closer. The boat makes its loud call and the animal waves a paw and knocks the bread! Quick! Fly down to the water, fly before–cry, cry, cry the fish got it first. Time for more flying, above where the animals gather, and watch for more bread.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Guangzhou, Nausea

Squaring the Circle
555 words

Guangzhou is a city that moves entirely upwards, into a sky the bland grey colour of the knock-off Panasonic television/DVD units they sell down Tianhe Market. Today that sky seemed closer than ever, close enough that an outstretched questing finger might touch it. Emberson swayed at the viewing platform high up on the Triple Jade Ring and gripped the railing tight, fighting the urge to reach out.

Around him swirled a comfortless mass of humanity, he could feel it like a fish feels the currents in a cold swelling depth of ocean. Little packets of life, fixed on their next step, their next meal, their future, their past. Emberson had a sudden shattering vision of a bomb, a blast, a green light that bellowed out of the sky and ate everything up in a single actinic flare. For a moment he luxuriated in the thought, in the thought of his own annihilation.

Then a wave of sickness washed up through his veins, from his toes to the sweating skin of his face, and with it the thought that even that all-encompassing obliteration would only be another event. Worlds had been destroyed before, a world was destroyed every time a man died, or a child was blinded. There was no escape from the grinding, linear progress of time.

The speaker behind him crackled out a blast of Cantonese, followed by a woman’s voice in English: “The viewing platform will close in five minutes. Five minutes. Please prepare to depart the viewing platform.”

The railing was cold under Emberson’s palms. He plotted out the sequence of movements that would lift him up, and out, and away. Simple, really. A surrender to gravity one last time, a leap into the faithless air.

Emberson could feel the warm wind on his cheeks, flapping his cheap jacket behind him.

He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it.

It wouldn’t let him do it, the cruel mistress earth. Dragging him back, dragging him down.

He would do it.

He was going to do it.

One last act, and then no more, no more expecting, remembering, dreaming. He would become an action. A gesture.

Emberson tensed his muscles, eyed the steel frame above him. He would put his feet there, and there, and grasp that, and then flip over the barrier up there, and then at last, at last, at last.

The hand fell on his shoulder just as he smiled, an unfamilar feeling for the muscles of his face. He was still smiling as he turned to see who had touched him.

It was an official, in the livery of the Triple Jade Ring. “Sir. The viewing platform is closed. Please make your way to the elevator.”

Emberson looked into his eyes, which were flat brown and white lozenges. There was nothing behind them, there was nothing behind any of them. Emberson suddenly felt a huge, wild humour within him, filling his interstices, expanding his body like a balloon for a single painful instant.

Then, it was gone. “Of course,” he said. He took his hands off the rail. “I will leave directly.”

Emberson walked, with the heavy tread of a man condemned, to the waiting elevator shaft.

Mar 17, 2010


City: Kathmandu, Nepal
Book: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk

Climbing Season

Spring in Kathmandu brings high river flows, muddy streets, and rich people with lots of expensive gear. It also brought my research team a new round of funding, enough that we could vacate the hostel we’d nearly monopolized for a year and get an actual hotel with doors that lock and more privacy than a wooden screen. No more taking turns to stand guard over the gear, or people in various stages of undress. That alone would probably increase our productivity by at least 10%, I reckoned.

Alas, the dilemma: move into and stay in a nicer hotel during The Season with insufficient notice, thus competing with a bunch of wealthy masochists, or move into a similarly sketchy place with bare minimum upgrades (our own bathroom and someplace secure to put very expensive scientific equipment), in hopes the wealthy don’t overflow the nicer hotels or try slumming it.

I was sitting in that nicer hotel’s lobby, pondering our options under air conditioning and reading a novel I’d found at the hostel, when the first wave burst in. There were a lot of sudden “ooh”s and “ahh”s, as if they hadn’t expected an interior as grand or better than the outside. Some of them looked drenched in sweat and had miscellaneous ski gear on them. Had they been geared up on the plane for landing, expecting all of Nepal to be like the EBC? A few people looked like they’d done their homework; short sleeves, shorts, and gear almost hermetically sealed until at least Lukla. The leader stood out, tall and bearded; I suppose it’s hard to convince people you’re a mountaineer capable of multiple runs up and down Everest if you’re short or balding.

While they stood around fighting over their reservations, I left my seat and approached the receptionist at the counter, requesting six beds in whatever configurations worked for her. She raised an eyebrow but I shook my head. “We’re geologists working to better understand the Main Himalayan Thrust. I don’t know those other people. I can pay in cash right now, if that’s easier?” It was. She palmed six keys into my hand and I slipped them into my jacket pocket, muting their jingle with my hand and the wool fabric.

I returned to my seat and opened the novel, switching my attention between it and the pathos unfolding in the expedition team. It seemed that their reservation was suspicious and the transaction never went through on the hotel’s end. Everyone had to pay for their rooms, and instead of booking a whole section of a floor, they would be scattered around the hotel. There were lots of reservations already, taking up various sections of various floors, even without counting the rooms I’d just bought. The leader seemed unruffled and kept praising the immersive experience, but his clients weren’t buying it. Apparently a lot of them were friends and had requested a certain configuration, which was now impossible; there were four other expedition teams on that floor alone. I checked my own keys; indeed, my whole team was scattered around the hotel as well. We were unlikely to bother each other in our rooms after spending a year with zero privacy, so it didn’t matter to us, but one guy kept puffing himself up further and trying to intimidate the manager. The manager clearly had no idea who he was and also didn’t give a drat. Eventually, the expedition leader went and towered over the guy, intoning “You will take the room and pay the fare, or you aren’t going to Everest. Take your pick.” That seemed to work, and everyone begrudgingly pulled out their credit cards and took their keys.

They were still being distributed through the group, jangling softly, when the door burst open and another team came in, fanning themselves and admiring how modern and sleek it all was. I glanced at the receptionist and manager but they just slapped professional smiles on their faces and welcomed the new batch of bewildered and irresponsible wealthy to their hotel. I needed a palate cleanser after watching that first mess; the novel had turned to horror, and it was a weird combination for my brain.

The rest of my team had decamped from the hostel and waited for me at a tiny park. I distributed the keys and we all decided to go out for dinner that night to celebrate, once we were comfortably in our rooms. Of course, that meant convincing myself to stand up and move again after I’d flopped down onto the comfortable mattress, but my empty stomach drove me out of my room and downstairs to join the team. But as soon as we walked in, it was like visiting a college bar on a Friday night all over again, in all the worst ways. Every table was packed with mountaineers, drinking beer and Perrier, talking ever louder to be heard over the crowd as they boasted about how many times they’ve summited, how many people they’d ferried to the top and back, what kind of near death experiences they’ve had. There was football on one TV, and cricket on the other. Half the menu was marked “sold out”.

“It wasn’t like this last month when Joe and I came here.” Amrita said, frowning. “No TVs, quiet, extra breadsticks. It must be climbing season.”

I chimed in. “It is, I saw an expedition team while I was checking us in. Apparently most of the hotel is booked solid tonight.”

“Why did you pick an expedition hotel during climbing season?” Mike asked, incredulously.

“I like people-watching, and the group I watched was entertaining.” I shrugged. “Watching TV is hard when you don’t know the language well. I don’t understand cricket.”

“Fair enough. We have a table.” Mike replied, following the hostess.

The table was tucked between two mountaineering groups, and the leaders seemed to be rivals. Some members of each team had only just arrived, and hadn’t bothered to take their luggage and gear to their rooms. Duffle bags, hiking poles, and jackets overflowed their booth and spilled onto the floor. Ours was the only table free that seated six. We ensconced ourselves and ordered pizza, leaning in to talk quietly about our plans for the new funding. Probes that could transmit data, instead of needing a USB dongle manually switched out, were high on our list, as was extensive mechanical work on our truck in order to keep visiting the probes.

Joe had just started arguing in favor of ditching the truck and getting motorbikes instead, when he was interrupted by one of the expedition leaders shouting that 100% of his clients summited Everest and if that didn’t make his team the better one, by God, what did?


Julie whispered “Jesus, Mike” and he sat back down, looking self-conscious and uncomfortable. The rest of the room was silent but for people clearing their throats and trying to think of something less grim, but I knew their dinners were ruined. Climbers, once they’ve come this far, don’t like to talk about exactly how dangerous Everest is unless they’re boasting for cred, and how likely it is that they’ll be another dead and frozen landmark for future climbers. It makes clients nervous, and a nervous client might decide not to summit at all and request a refund.

As people attempted to restart their conversations, a server came up with the check. “We haven’t received our pizza yet”, Amrita protested, but the server insisted. The pizza was brought out in a to-go box a few moments later. The message was clear: get out, you’re scaring the patrons. Mike apologized to the server, and we shuffled our way out the door, pizza in hand, back into the cooling spring night.

Hours later, while I was doing my laundry downstairs, Mike walked in with his own basket of clothes. He looked kind of haggard and pale, and his stomach growled as he loaded his clothes into the machine.

I started the dryer and leaned against it. “Hey Mike, you doing okay?”

He laughed, but it sounded tired. “Yeah, I just really cannot stand it when people boast about stuff like that. You have a 100% summit rate, great, how many of them made it back to base camp to tell the tale? If you’re flogging people up the mountain when their bodies can’t handle it, that’s not leading an expedition, that’s leading a death march. I know about that guy, I got drunk in a bar last month with a Sherpa that worked for him. Anytime someone had to drop for medical reasons, he left them behind, ghosted them, and erased every mention of them from his blogs and site. He won’t take responsibility for dragging people from almost sea level to one of the highest altitudes achievable without flight, putting their lives in danger, then abandoning them. It's so hosed up and I couldn't stay quiet and longer. Sorry I got us kicked out of the pizzeria."

"Hey, it's totally okay, I would've done the same thing. He sounds terrible and you were right to call him out. I hope his team quits on him." Harsh, I know, but fair. "Frankly, no one should be climbing it except for scientific or religious purposes."

Mike nodded. "Yeah… yeah. This commercial poo poo should be outlawed. It brings Nepal money, but it's just rich people paying for the chance to die here."

We sat in commiseration until my dryer buzzed, and I took my clothes and headed upstairs. On my way, I saw the weird guy from check-in who kept trying to intimidate the manager. He was in only his button-down dress shirt and briefs, skulking up and down one of the halls, listening to doors. Then he looked at his phone, swore, and went to the elevators. Everyone has something they're going through, I suppose.

If only they didn't make it my problem at 3:45 am, I would've forgotten about him altogether, but a bloodcurdling scream above woke me from sound sleep, followed by running, a loud thump, something breaking, and a woman screaming. I stared at the ceiling, wondering if I should call for help, when I could make out what the woman was screaming.

"You (smack) brought (smack) me (smack) to Kathmandu (smack) so you (smack) could hook up (smack) with my videographer!? (smack) Is that why you insisted she have the next room? (crash) So you could gently caress her while I was in the bathroom? (thump) Did Gary know about this? GARY!! (SLAM)". I could hear heavy footsteps out of the room and down the hall towards the elevators. A woman upstairs, I assume the videographer, was bawling loudly. I covered my head with one of the pillows and tried to go back to sleep.

After a few hours of light, fitful sleep, I met the rest of the team downstairs for breakfast. They didn't look much better than I did. Picking this hotel had been a terrible idea, not worth the entertainment. Or so I thought until more people trickled into the dining area. The rich guy who wanted everyone to know who he was had bright red, inflamed cheeks and seemed contrite. One of the girls in his expedition party looked pissed off and had a bruised hand; one of the other girls was no longer in their group. Honestly, the girl who got away was probably the smartest one of them all, because the rest looked like they were checking out and headed for Lukla. Expedition leaders had money to make after all, and if they had to drive their plows over the bones of the ambitious dead, I didn't have to have sympathy for it.

Julia sat down next to me. "What are you reading? You've had that book in your hand every time I've seen you since checking in."

"Oh, yeah, it's a few years old and by a Polish author…"

Mar 17, 2010


:doh: minutes late and way over the word count. I totally understand if that disqualifies me, at least it's finished.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
Well I passed out early without closing subs, so the late entry is in, and subs are now closed

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
:siren: RESULTS :siren:

I enjoyed the stories this week! Even if I hadn't stated up front that there were no negative mentions this week, I really wouldn't have wanted to give any. Nice work all around, but there were of course some that rose above the rest:

HMS go to: February Azure by slightly lions for making me think 'ah, yes, bernhard' and also giving me a lovely piece of artwork to look up, to 1966 by Fat Jesus a very entertaining story that was extra entertaining for me imagining those characters doing those things, and to Dear Sir..... by Green Wing because although it was blasted out last minute it really pleased one of the judges

The winner,
however, goes to the story both judges agreed was at the top - Collisional Cascading by the cut of your jib - I gave you a favorite book by a favorite author as inspiration, and you captured the vibe and style of that book, while making it absolutely your own -- amazing job!

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Transit by beeb beeb car is go:

A woman travels back in time, but accidentally goes back too far. An interesting concept, and nice descriptions of the surroundings and characters, I also liked the reactions between the characters that showed differences of culture and ways of thinking. However, for me this story was missing a lot of important factors.
1: I don’t know why she is going back in time. She needs to fix things, but what things? There is no idea of what the stakes might be. Is she trying to save someone’s life, or undo some wrong she herself caused, or is it something selfish like trying to win a bet? If I had some idea of what she was trying to do, this would tell me something about her character.
2. There are no consequences for her mistake. As soon as she lands back in the past, the first and only person she talks to is someone who can help her and who knows exactly what is going on. There is no time for me to worry or wonder about her being stuck in the past and being unable to fix whatever she needs fixing.
3. The final outcome, when she learns she made a spelling mistake, has no weight, because I know nothing about Ella or her situation. If she was a spelling champion, or someone who was extremely precise and organized, it may be ironic, or if she was someone who was a rushed and lazy kind of person always jumping into things without planning, that may also be a fitting end, but I know nothing about her so I don’t know what it means to her, or how it will affect her.
Overall the concept is interesting, and the world is well drawn, but I need to care about the characters and what they are trying to do, or else its just a tour through a train station in a past that doesn’t exist.

Collisional Cascading by the cut of your jib

This, I thought as I read your story, is someone who is either a fan of Sebald and knows his style, or else someone who put the effort into reading excerpts and getting an idea for the vibe of the book. Either way, it was a success. There were so many good lines in here, and so much that recalled to me Sebald and even specifically this book, that I would find it hard to believe you are not a fan. The general sense of unease, the constant flitting between subjects that, though seeming unrelated, are all connected, the subtle and disconnected disgust and sadness at the world and its people, even the black and white picture stuck in mid-sentence, as is Sebald’s style, it all was just great. And not just great as far as evoking Sebald, but great in it’s own right, I legit enjoyed reading this and was thinking about it for some time after. The only suggestion I could offer would be that I found it a bit too disjointed, and felt that each subject could use some more time before moving on. given the wordcount limit and the effect you were going for, it makes sense to do it how you did it, but with the freedom of more post contest words you could add a few more sentences to each of the many subjects. Really well done.

1966 by Fat Jesus

In which characters with the same names as the critics in 2666 are torturing and murdering people in order to pursue Archimboldi. imagining the characters I know from the book doing these things was, actually, very entertaining. The story was fast paced, and for me a little confusing, I was not entirely sure of Eliza’s motives and reasons for the betrayal, though that didn’t matter much in the end, since it did capture the violence and filth, the nonstop crime and violence that was portrayed in the reference book. I keep laughing when thinking about those characters I know from the book doing those things, but that’s not a bad thing, I really like that you put effort into taking elements of the prompt book’s plot and working them into your own plot, and in the end it was an enjoyable adventure/spy story with a real grimey vibe. Nice.

Fashionably late by Toaster Beef

A weird and unsettling story about a hit and run, and the person who may or may not have committed the crime. I really enjoyed the prose in this one, and also the structure, the mirroring of certain phrases and descriptions in the confession with the opening part of the story was very well done. The vibe of being caught in a loop which is not actually really a loop did recall the vibe I got from the prompt book. Well written and well constructed, but I do think a bit too many words were spent in the beginning on phone scrolling and doing nothing, I think that some of the beginning could be trimmed, or changed, to really amp up the weirdness. Enjoyed this one a lot.

Dear Sir... by Green Wing

Well, you submitted something! I applaud you. But seriously, this is not bad, I think if you cut out the meta parts referencing the contest and the book, then this becomes a decent flash piece about someone wishing they could travel to Porto and fantasizing about what they’d do there. Cut everything before ‘I’ve been to Porto often...’ and cut the snippets about having to get up for work in the morning, and I think it becomes identifiable to many people who are wishing to travel and peering through google maps and making plans they know they can’t really keep. I mean, really not bad. Next time start the word vomit earlier in the week and you’ll have something great.

A proof that Mr Hermann was not crazy, by kuiperdolin

A cute story about an eccentric hotel guest who may or may not be an immortal highlander type figure. I enjoyed this story once it got going, I thought you captured the behavior of the hotel patrons well, and you left Mr Hermann enigmatic enough that I was always wondering where the story was going. I did appreciate that you left it somewhat unanswered at the end as well. The main problem I had with this story is that it takes too long to start. The first 4 paragraphs can almost be cut entirely and still the story works. More likely you can shrink them down to one paragraph, just enough for us to get the idea that the narrator is a hotel critic/reviewer of some kind. A fun read, cool.

February Azure by slightly lions

Ah a wall of text rant by a bitter narrator who is obsessed with art, this is definitely bernhard. Good job capturing bernhard’s style (random italics included) and I loved the detailed and beautiful description of that painting, which I had to look up and am now a fan of. The narrator’s love of art and disgust with the fascist encroachment is well captured, and makes his willingness to die in the end absolutely believable. I only had one issue with the end: it was not clear what he did with the artworks. I was expecting him to try to flee with them, but if he was going to stay there and defend them then it seems pointless to take them down. If he was hiding them somewhere, that was not clear to me. I really enjoyed the voice of the narrator. Nice work.

Uprooted by Chernobyl princess

A breakup story with some nice root/flower metaphors. Short, and packed full of rage. Would have liked more descriptions of the gardens, but probably that wouldn’t have fit in considering the mental state of the POV character. The paragraph beginning with ‘what would it be like to be rooted’ is great. This does somewhat feel like the end of a story, instead of a full package, and being there to witness the scene with the other woman, which is only described looking back at it, could have been nice. As it is though, I enjoyed it, especially the parts after she sits in the garden.

Gull at pikes by Ouzo maki

A slice of life of a seagull stealing food from people in pike’s place. I was unsure at first about the clipped and simplified style, but after a couple paragraphs it flowed, and made the gull seem childish and cute. I did enjoy this but I felt it was over too quickly to really say anything or paint a clear picture. Would like to have seen a lot more of these snippets, so that a pattern could be established, or a point of view that the gull may have could be hinted at, or any number of things. I did enjoy what you put down, though.

Squaring the circle by sebmojo

A man who feels trapped in time considers throwing himself to his death. In just a few words you manage to make me believe this guy really, truly wants to end it. I know nothing about his life or his troubles, and I only have your description of his experience of ‘the linear progression of time’ and yet I fully get it and believe it. The description of being right on the edge of doing something momentous and final, but being unable to, is also very identifiable and well drawn. Very good.

Climbing season by cat_herder

Some researchers people-watch a group of hopeful Everest climbers in a hotel. The scene is captured well, and I found myself liking the geologists for not being a part of the group of climbers. This story brings to mind the incredibly depressing picture of a hundred people lined up waiting in line to summit Everest. I wanted more of the geologists thoughts on things from their own pov, not just being anti-climbers (which anyone could be) but some kind of geologist related thoughts on the situation. though we do get a line or two about what the geologists are there for, things don’t really seem to be framed through their eyes, which I think would have added to the story.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 - Eine Kleine

I read and write at night. I want to feel the past-midnight vibe. There's a lot that goes on after the lights are out, if you want to be a bit erotic, go for it. I don't necessarily want explicit descriptions, but if the language is charged, then yes. Don't feel constrained by that, tho, crime and fun and vampires and normal things also happen after sundown. I worked graveyard in an office for many years so you can touch on that. It's decidedly different but the same as a 9-5. Gimme the night.

If you want a flash, I'll give you a cliché trip-hop or post-rock song that I listen to as I write.
Triple edit: 1750 words, but if you're on a tear, then keep going. Don't feel like you have to edit yourself down to meet an arbitrary constraint. If you need the number then that's what it is.

E: Loser is not guaranteed and there may not be one. If everybody writes good, then I'm pleased

No signup cut off. Deadline is Sunday, August 27, at Midnight ET. The usual. I'll update with Kiwi and Europe time once I figure it out
06:59AM August 27 Greenwich mean time
05:59PM on Monday, August 28, 2023 in Melbourne
7:59PM on Monday, August 28, 2023 in Wellington

(note: I think I bungled the times comparisons, so there will be a little flex in the deadline)
thanks/blame rohan for the time calculator
time zone comparison calculator

Toaster Beef - a choice cut of Mogwai

derp - an unexpected Mazzy Star (or not)
[not requested, but accidentally delivered]

Thranguy - definitely not an abandoned Radiohead b-side

Chairchucker - a teardrop is not always cum but sometimes
fight me if ? ain't a trippy band

Fat Jesus - Sour is only one of the five taste buds

Vinny Possum - is anybody out there?

TheMackening - doggos [freebie, not requested]

Chernobyl Princess - a descending staircase still leads to heaven

Antivehicular - lucky ducky

Green Wing - [not requested freeb] - Under the Bridge recontextualized

My Shark Waifu - [freeb] - moons over my hammy
e: some strobing lights at the end of this video

Tyrannosaurus - shhh

curlingiron :toxx: - hello neighbours - it aint trip nor post but i respect the commitment and if any one else wants to flip the bird, more power to them
i dunno, it was an inscrutable joke just for me, so this is the vid

Slightly Lions - under the wire?

BaldDwarfOnPCP - entering the gauntlet

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 14:12 on Aug 27, 2023

Toaster Beef
Jan 23, 2007

that's not nature's way
In, and I'll take a flash. Thanks!

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Toaster Beef posted:

In, and I'll take a flash. Thanks!

e: if you want Jamiroquai I'll allow it.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 09:32 on Aug 22, 2023

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

whoops, you are not to be inspired by this song that I love

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 06:07 on Aug 22, 2023

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In and flash

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Thranguy posted:

In and flash

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome




The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

go on then

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