Learning with Words

A Twitter conversation I had the other day with Ann Leckie (@ann_leckie)  and Bee Sriduangkaew (@bees_ja) got me thinking. We were discussing the merits of writing short stories and how some writers seem to treat them as a training ground for writing novels. The problem with that, is many of the authors trying to write short fiction to break out in publication, don’t actually read short stories.

I mentioned that I used short stories as a training ground for my novel writing, but without any real hopes of making money from them. They taught me things about story mechanics and dialogue that could be condensed and critiqued without slamming out a whole novel.

I decided that the best thing I could do with these quirky tales, is to share them here. I’m probably not the right person to judge, but I think they all have a few things that might make them tough to sell. I think they’re fun though, and I hope you do too.

So here goes, story 1 of 3. I guess you could call it fantasy humor, or just weird.

 

A Guy in My Yard

I stood in front of my kitchen sink, eating Cheese Whiz with a spoon from the jar, trying to pretend I hadn’t sunk so low.

The supreme being of the universe sat in my backyard. Of course I didn’t know it at the time. To me he looked like a teenager with a missed-a-spot mustache and floppy sneakers.

I looked at the calendar on my fridge. November 28th. I assumed it was another Movember experiment gone bad.

He was lounging on my plastic Adirondack chair, sipping a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Half vodka I assumed.

I stepped onto the back porch. “Who are you and what in tarnation are you doing in my yard?”

“I’ve had it.,” he replied. “It’s 2014 and the Earth has really gone for a nose dive. There’s war and melting ice caps and I’ve got a bit of popcorn stuck in my teeth.” He sounded pouty, petulant, and obviously deranged.

Okay, I thought, maybe more than vodka in the Dr. Pepper. “I’m calling the cops.”

“Just wait one minute, Peppy.” He waggled a finger at me.

“Peppy?”

“I’m the supreme being of the universe. I could blink you out of existence with a sneeze.”

I shook my head. Kids these days. “Definitely calling the cops now.” I reached for my cell phone.

“Don’t believe me, eh?” He pressed his finger to the inside of his mouth and made that popping sound babies really like.

The whole earth shook like someone had reached out and slapped it’s rump. Inside the house my collection of ceramic pig figurines crashed to the floor.

“See,” he said as I tried to pry myself up off the deck. “That was a victory for good taste too. Seriously? Pig figurines?”

Damn, this guy seemed like the real deal. How long had it been since I’d said confession. Damn. I’d never said confession.

“So I think I’ve decided that this planet has to go.” He raised his hand and it looked like he was just about to snap his fingers.

“Wait!” I cried. “What about all the people? You can’t snuff out a whole planet.”

“You mean the same people who canceled Firefly?”

I stared at him while my brain jogged to catch up. I thought he was going to need to be convinced of the inherent goodness of mankind. I was going to need a different approach. “They made Serenity.”

“Not the same.”

“What about music? The world is filled with beautiful music. Bach…Chopin… that other guy with the hair?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Obviously you care as much about classical music as I do.”

I was desperate. “Beyonce?”

His face reddened. “Okay, yeah, sure. But Bieber?”

Destruction seemed imminent. “Wait! What about all the innocent little critters? Bambi and Thumper?”

“I got stung by a wasp the other day. I still have a welt.” He pushed up the sleeve of his hoody and showed me a little red bump on his forearm.

It was looking bad. I grabbed my cell phone and got onto the AWW sub-reddit.

“Don’t do it. Don’t you dare,” he shouted.

I punched in “Shar-Pei puppies” and swung the screen around so he could see it.

“Nooooo.” He tried, not very hard, to cover his eyes. Finally, he shifted in his seat and took another swig of his soda. It was a sign that he wasn’t convinced but was willing to give me another shot.

“Literature?”I asked. “Twain, Longfellow, Kerouac?”

“Pompous, pompous, baked.”

I was seeing a real pattern form. “Twilight?”

He tried to remain expressionless but I could see him struggling.

“Team Edward or team Jacob?” I asked.

His facade cracked. “That flea infested hound doesn’t hold a candle to my alabaster skinned beefcake.”

I was starting to get under his skin. “Marvel movies?”

“Well sure but…”

“Halo?”

“I could totally pwn you. Ummm, no wait.”

“Cool Ranch Doritos?”

“Okay, but…”

“Dr. Who?”

“They got rid of David Tennant.” He gripped his Dr. Pepper so hard it started to froth up.

“Sean Connery as Bond?”

“Stop it.” He began to rise from the chair. “One more word and I’ll vaporize you with my pinky finger.” His words were harsh but he’d slipped into a bad Scottish brogue.

I weighed my options. It seemed likely that he would incinerate the planet no matter what I did. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and waited for the end to come.

“Friends?” I said from between tight lips.

“Oh fine!” There was a loud thunderclap and a faint whiff of sulfur.

He was gone when I opened my eyes and an empty bottle of Dr. Pepper lay in the grass.

I never did find out if I’d convinced him of the enduring power of friendship or if he just couldn’t live without Rachel and Chandler.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Learning with Words

  1. Mike Schultz says:

    Nicely done Patrick. Amusing story. Kind of a modern version of Abraham bargaining with God.

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