In memory of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
(No semicolons were abused during this production; in fact, the one to your immediate left is the only one employed by the author in this piece, and its necessity is a matter of debate.)
(No one said anything about the omission of colons: *Try producing shit without one.)
(*Use of the oldest scatalogical punctuation mark joke in the English language is protected by the false concept called “Free Speech.”)
Listen, little fucker:
According to my Writers’ Calendar it was November 11, Kurt Vonnegut’s Birthday. It’s also called Veterans or Armistice or Remembrance Day. At this side of reality, which is inhabited by Pen Names, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (or “Pens,” “Iffies” and “FC’s”), we do our best to observe the traditions of your so called real world, even when we do not understand them. Especially when we don’t understand them.
There are two problems that I (a Pen) have with the observation of Vonnegut’s Birthday. First, I must abstain from use of the semicolon. Mr. Vonnegut referred to it as a “hermaphrodite.” I am a semicolon junkie. Whenever I push three-hundred words without using one, I get the shakes and need to lie down for a while and read Edgar Allen Poe, from whom I get a semicolon contact high. Second, Vonnegut smoked Pall Malls for more than seventy years. Yeah yeah yeah, I am a smoker, and I’m certain that my habit as well as stuff like my dislike of jazz make me a bad person, but I can’t handle Pall Malls. They are the jazz of cigarettes. Still, since Mr. V has been successfully deceased since ‘07, he doesn’t know that I continue to smoke my brand on his birthday, while waving an unlit Pall Mall around like a light sabre. I guess “unlighted” sabre is closer to the truth.
I must lie down for a while. Nevermore, Lenore.
Things could be worse. It could be Marquis de Sade’s birthday. I don’t observe it. Many do.
The Marquis de Sade was French. Buck dich is German for “bend over.”
There’s supposed to be an umlaut over the u in buck dich. My cheap Chromebook is as likely to serve an omelette as to give up an umlaut. Samsung says “Buck dich.”
“The Huns” wanted France to buck dich with or without an umlaut during The Great War, which ended on November 11th, 1918. November 11th is now Veterans or Armistice or Remembrance Day. Since 1922 it has been Kurt Vonnegut’s Birthday.
Se pencher en avant is French for buck dich.
Alas, sometimes the only good news is that things can always get worse, but are unlikely to hit bottom before you die. It was on Vonnegut’s Birthday when Boots the Impaler wandered into my office and proved that sentiment true.
“Who let you in, little fucker?” I asked, pointing my unlighted Pall Mall at him.
Boots the Impaler ignored my question and leapt gracefully onto my desk. Boots the Impaler is an FC in my employ. He’s a chocolate-point, “snow-shoe” Siamese cat. All his feet appear to have been dipped in white paint, as well the tip of his tail. His eyes are sky blue and he wears a collar from which a tag hangs. The tag says “HI, I’M BOOTS THE IMPALER.”
Boots the Impaler “speaks” with what used to be commonly referred to as a “mid-Atlantic” accent. FC cats (mine, at least) have voice boxes. It’s the accent that was used by the actors and actresses of yore. No corporate actor or actress alive speaks that way anymore. To get the gist of the mid-Atlantic accent I suggest that you think of an upper-crust British accent in which the word “whom” is as elongated as Booberella’s pronunciation of “Boooooob.”
Booberella appears in The Simpsons. She’s a one-joke Fictional Character. But it’s a funny joke. Slays me everytime I hear it. (I have no shortage of *’s. Unlike umlauts, my cheap Chromebook spits them out.)
“Do you know how long nineteen months is to a Siamese cat, Miss Allison?” Boots the Impaler asked.
“Oh, about ten years,” I said, for I am an expert in the field of feline to human timeline conversion. “Then again,” I added, “since you guys demand everything right the hell now, I’d say that the question is irrelevant.”
Boots the Impaler began to pace around the top of my desk in circles. He did stop long enough to hook a pen out of my pen cup and bat it onto the floor because he is a cat, and that’s what cats do.
“You still haven’t told me who let you in, little fucker,” I said. I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my desk, and my chin in my hands in effort to meet the little fucker eye to eye.
Boots the Impaler completed his last circle, pranced over and pressed his wet nose against my own.
“Miss Renfield tells me that ‘little fucker’ isn’t the term of endearment you say it is.”
“She let you in, little fucker? Figures,” I said, then I reached up and scratched him on that spot on the chin. “In the human sense calling someone a little fucker sometimes leads to Fist City,” I added. “But in the context of our friendship it is meant with affection.”
I leaned back in my chair, and at the same time my hand found that other spot between his ears.
The application of “scratchies” always buys time when you are dealing with a cat, real or imagined. But you can’t hold it forever, and the cat knows it.
“When are you going to resume shooting my picture?” Boots the Impaler asked through a mouth full of purrs and slobbers (he’s a drooler).
I sighed. All Hail Boots the Impaler has been in production for the nineteen months that have passed like a decade for the star of that show. It is to be my magnum opus, a great work of literature to be studied and puzzled over by scholars of me for centuries to come. When sober, I consider it a book that maybe five people who specialize in rejection notices will glance at, when otherwise I think of it as the greatest novel since the Bible*. I can just see the Talking Heads of the future speaking into the camera, telling everyone who will listen just how much All Hail Boots the Impaler has meant and continues to mean to them. And how they will gush and even overlook my toxic love affair with “just” as an adverb. They will see my use of just as endearing as I find calling Boots the Impaler a “little fucker.” I imagine all this and even greater glories when I am otherwise.
I’m also addicted to italics. If anything appeals to my sloth, I’m for it. Buck dich.
*You are allowed to ridicule the Bible at little risk. Try it with the Koran and you will sleep with the fishes.
“Are you otherwise?” Boots the Impaler asked. It was a fair question. Like most Pens, I get otherwise on a daily basis.
“Not yet, little fucker.”
Long ago, while otherwise, I thought that it might be fun to endow my FC cats with the gift of extreme hypnosis. I recall intending to give myself immunity to the gift, but I had reached the point in the otherwise process where I blow off intentions and cold call old pals in the middle of the night.
Boots the Impaler’s eyes are as beguilingly blue as those of Farrah Fawcett, circa whatever year that cheesecake poster of her in the red bathing suit came out. Blue..blue…blue…so limitless…so narcotically otherwise-like…
And so it goes.
“Oh, all right, have it your way, little fucker,” I said, finally coming out of it. “Get the main characters together and meet me in the studio in an hour–seven, according to your way of seeing things.”
Unlike dogs, cats don’t smile, but that doesn’t prevent a Mona Lisa grin of sorts to gleam within the triangles of their faces. Satisfied, Boots the Impaler leapt off my desk and headed out the door.
“And you better not have given me an embarrassing post hypnotic suggestion, little fucker,” I called after him. Then it felt right for me to strut and cluck around my office like a chicken.
Fortunately, the barnyard act wore off before we assembled in the studio. On my way in I glared at Boots the Impaler, the little fucker grinned back at me from the triangles of his face.
I stood at the head of a long rectangular table. The table and “studio” in general look a lot like the way things were set up in The Sopranos strip club backroom, where T., Silvio, Paulie Walnuts and the boys all busted one another’s balls.
Ballbusting happens in buck dich.
The primary actors slated to appear in All Hail Boots the Impaler were assembled at the table. Even those who, by gender, lacked balls to bust, were yukking it up at someone’s expense, until I walked in. Then it got quiet. Then everyone exchanged winks and held back snuffling little giggles as though it were a grammar school classroom. Then someone muttered: “Buh-wuck-cluck-cluck.”
“I see you’re all here,” I said. “I’d thank you for that, but that would show insensitivity to the saloons, padded cells, gambling dens, brothels and VD clinics currently deprived of their core clientele.”
Then it got real quiet. Buck dich.
There are five major characters in All Hail Boots the Impaler. The story unfolds over the curse* of forty-three years, so there’s plenty of extra work available. (*Ah hah! Just reread the previous sentence and found a “Freudian typo.” I asterisked the hell out of it, but let it be.) The characters are Boots the Impaler, Holly More, Probe, Traveller and Mimi the Buckdichian scientist. Boots the Impaler and Holly are earthlings. Probe and Traveller are non-biological aliens who represent planet Goor, while Mimi the Buckdichian scientist hails from planet Qyddice IV, but self identifies as Buckdichian. The fate of my sanity is tethered to my yet to be displayed ability to describe Mimi.
The label “A.I.” will not be used in All Hail Boots the Impaler. The Goor consider it racist.
Sudden Tourette’s-like divergences from the story and repetitions of a single phrase are to Vonnegut’s Birthday what getting busted for public intoxication and/or urination are to St. Patrick’s Day.
The Union of Pen-names. Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (UPIFFC) is as buck dich an organization as any ever conceived. They require Pens to offer roles in new productions to FC’s created by the Pen before a Pen may make up new characters. This rule slithered in about three years back, when the Union expanded and took in the FC’s as full members. Ever since, the stories I write have been shot like movies, with my previously extant FC’s appearing as new FC’s, like actors moving from one role to another. This explains why I was forced to cast my oldest FC, Renfield (a twenty-six-year-old half Japanese half Irish woman–a person I’ve previously described “as distinctly American as a baseball to the head”), in the role of Mimi the Buckdichian scientist. Although Mimi’s appearance has yet to be decided on, she isn’t remotely human, so it is unlikely that she should look anything like Renfield. But rules are rules.
All together now: Buck dich.
In fact, other than “that special case” Holly More and Boots the Impaler, no person or animal or thing in All Hail Boots the Impaler is who or what I say they are. This, I guess, wouldn’t be a problem if my entitled FC’s weren’t a bunch of pricks and prickcesses.
Especially “that special case” Holly More.
“All right, Leila,” Renfield said, “Bootsy tells me that you’re finally getting around to laying this egg.”
The fiends all broke out in a combined snicker. Even Boots the Impaler snickered at me from the triangles of his face. It’s a hell of a thing to see a cat snicker at your expense. It’s hard on your serenity.
“Keep on smiling, you guys, juuuust keep on smiling,” I said. When sober I say “Keep on smiling” when in need of a cutting quip and find the cutting quip cupboard bare. When I am otherwise, and find the cutting quip cupboard bare, stuff like “Shut your fucking hole” exits my mouth. But I wasn’t otherwise. Yet.
I lit one of my own cigarettes, still holding the unlit Pall Mall in my other hand. The unlit Pall Mall was getting grimy and droopy.
“The trouble with this story starts toward the end of the beginning,” I said, pacing about the room, ignoring the facetious assembly of lunkheads seated at the table. “It starts when I need to describe Mimi the Buckdichian scientist.”
Renfield, who portrays Mimi the Buckdichian scientist, smiled and fluffed her hair as though she were Rita-fucking-Hayworth in Gilda or Marlo Thomas in That-fucking-Girl. “I’ve always been indescribable,” she said.
“No, no,” I said. “All I have to write to get you across is something like ‘She’s a five-foot three-inch stack of various pains in the ass’ and let it ride.” Although I had my back turned to her at the time, I knew she gave me the finger. It was in the script.
“You see,” I said, “Mimi is an alien being and I want her to be an arrangement of atoms never before seen by a human being–and–more importantly, she cannot be like anything that any other writer has taken a stab at. She cannot be described via slippery similes or vagaries like, say, ‘she is strangeness given life.’ I’ll pull the goddam pin on this project altogether if I can’t find a way to get her across without having to resort to cobbling together a creature whose parts owe much to creepy bugs and other less than cuddly life forms. Nor can she be invisible because her atoms lie at a point beyond the reach of the human eye–I’ve already played that card with Traveller,” I finished with a nod at the “empty” chair in which an FC ghost of mine was presumed to be seated.
“Why not make her something that floods your brain with images you have seen only once in your life?” “that special case” Holly More asked. “Maybe looking at her causes a short circuit in your brain, which–allowing you a brain– immediately runs to the memory vault and sifts through its oddest contents in an effort to find something to compare her to.”
Whenever one of my FC’s makes a suggestion, I usually shoot it down on general principle. But “that special case,” Mr. More, in the technical sense, isn’t one of my FC’s. He and I arose at the same time in “Prime”’s (the writer to whom I am Chief Pen) brain. More and I broke in as FC’s and mutual antagonists inside a horrible novel written by Prime. Only More and I survived the debacle, and we were the finalists for the position of Pen name when it became apparent even to dimwitted Prime that a virtual-meat shield nom de plume could do a better job of production. Upon my selection, Prime insisted that I use Holly as a leading FC at least once a year. I’ve done as asked even though the working relationship between Holly and I has been less than congenial.
“How so, spiteful inheritance?” I asked, all poetic-like. “Maybe she looks like you. I could write ‘Mimi resembled the end result of a forty-year trainwreck.’”
“‘She was that transient who took a shit on the street–and the blood on the dick of Molly’s rapist.’” said Holly. “‘She was the miracle fog of my first October–and the way people are when they laugh at the funny things I say.’ ‘She was the profanely sterile room in which Mom died, yellow-eyed, with filthy nails–and the shooting star I once saw explode into a million pieces after I had wished upon it.’”
I considered all that for a moment. Since Holly would be the only character in the story new to the sight of Mimi, I figured that his description, or something like it, should be the way to go. But before I gave him credit for the assist, I found it necessary to bust his balls.
“All right,” I said. “That might work, after it’s spruced up into coherency by the hand of the chosen Pen, that is. You remember the chosen Pen’s name, don’t you, reptile? Does Irene Allison ring any bells?”
“Still mad about my perceived role in your name change, I see,” Holly said with a smile.
“Name change?” I had Renfield pipe up, because during break she had threatened to go to the Union and complain about her lack of lines in this piece.
“Remember how bent out of shape Ms. Allison got after Prime told her that she had to switch from Irene to Leila Allison on account of a request made to Prime by a real author named Irene Allison?” Holly said, rolling his eyes.
“Jeez Louise,” Renfleld said. “Maaaan, that’s so twenty-fifteen, yet she still gripes about it.”
“I’m confused. I don’t know what’s going on,” interjected the FC assigned to the role of Probe (a space-faring, pulsating dot of blue light). “I know it’s my line, but none of this makes sense.”
“Don’t worry, dude,” Renfield said. “Your confusion proves that you’re not sick in the head.”
“Cut! cut cut cut…” I said.
“About time, Chosen One,” said Holly. “We’re fewer than a hundred words away from the limit and here we are lost in the wilderness.”
I was tired of More being right all the time. My pique showed in my attitude toward him. But the FC in the role of Probe had yet to do anything that I found overly annoying. Then I realized that I was in a jam. The 3-K word limit loomed ahead. For whatever reason Editors of short fiction frown on stuff that blows past that sum. It was a dreadful situation until I had a brilliant idea. I went to the liquor cabinet and quickly consumed three shots of Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7. That got me otherwise in a hurry.
The assembled FC’s didn’t wait to be given permission. They hit the liquor cabinet like chimps at a free Vegas buffet. Even Boots the Impaler. Ever see a Siamese cat drink a Manhattan? It’s the sort of thing your mind digs up when you look at Mimi the Buckdichian scientist.
I proposed a toast: “Buck dich, word limit.”
As always the consumption of the good stuff gave me a Big buck dich Idea.
Kurt Vonnegut often (and with unabashed purpose) went to the good ol’ deus ex machina in his novels. He often showed up in his stories (slightly in Slaughterhouse Five, plenty in Breakfast of Champions) to move the action toward denouement. With this in mind I pulled out my iphone and wrote the following and inserted it between here and the finish of this little production (which, incidentally, is over limit. In my defense, that’s what happens when I am denied use of the semicolon):
Suddenly, the disembodied voice of the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. filled the studio and quelled (or increased) Probe’s confusion.
“Hark!” said the ghost of Vonnegut. “Little Probe, have you ever heard of a ‘play in a play’? That is as close as anyone can come to explaining what’s going on in here. You and the others are slated to appear in All Hail Boots the Impaler, but currently are in a mess called God Bless You, Boots the Impaler. So it goes.
“Ms. Allison knows that Mr. More had nothing to do with her name change. That little nowhere- going gag was something that popped into her head. So it goes. Think of it all like this: You, Probe, are a FC playing another FC while appearing as an altogether different FC in this production. So it goes.
“None of this is meant to do anything other than take up space and perhaps provide a smile to those two or three persons who might read this thing. So it goes.”
“I suggest that Miss Allison wonk-up what’s called a ‘tag ending’ like those used in old-fashioned television shows. A little gag that snatches something from the preceding pile of manure, thus giving the audience the false belief that the writer had been in control of the piece all along. So it…”
“‘Goes,’” I said, terminating the deus ex machina. Then I smiled at Holly More, who was nursing a Fresca. As admitted to in a previous story, I have only one kind of smile: maniacal.
“Tell me, Holly,” I said, “do you know why Boots the Impaler got his name?”
I was all set to inform Holly that Boots the Impaler is based on a real world cat named Dudley. And that when Dudley was young, some dude took him to the vet to get neutered. Dudley, no dope, later examined the event and concluded that he should take vengeance on human dudes for the insult to his honor. Ever since Dudley has gone to special pains to leap into the laps of men and unerringly land all four feet “you know where.” This gives my FC Boots the Impaler’s name a double-meaning of sorts. And I was all set to instruct Boots the Impaler to give Holly a personal demonstration of such, until Vonnegut’s ghost spoke up in my mind.
“Be nice, Leila,” he said. “Be kind. Do you really want to do that to a sixty-something-year-old recovering alcoholic nursing a Fresca while his friends are free to imbibe?”
“Never mind,” I said. And then I felt bad about myself. So I lit the limp, grimy Pall Mall in an effort to punish myself. It tasted like jazz.
“Buck dich,” said Vonnegut’s ghost.
“So it goes,” said I.