Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 401: A Dirty Slate; Welcome to YES-vember and What’s On Your Wonderwall?

Tableau de rasa is Latin for “a clean slate.” In philosophy it describes the unmuddled mind of infancy, which is soon spoiled by life. I was once one of those overly polite people who’d write “As you know…” or something equally cagey before sneakily defining a term that I figured maybe only half the readers already know. This of course presents an unwinnable situation for the polite person. I have always seen condescending people as jerks while patronizing types are smiling jerks. In my mind you cannot patronize without being condescending but you can condescend without being patronizing. So, if anyone out there smells either on my breath I apologize, but it might be an aid to know that I consider condescension slightly less rotten than patronization.

Well, that’s one paragraph down and maybe five to go before I can jump ship and deftly segue to the week’s stories. Then again, leading this paragraph off with that sort of sentence might detract from the seamlessness of the deft segue. You see, tableau de rasa effectively describes the contents of my mind this morning. There aren’t any. But not having anything relevant to say has not prevented me from speaking in the past.

I’ve discovered that the best way to fill in the empty spaces is to ask banal questions of the readers. To get them talking, thus taking the pressure off Yours Truly. For instance what is on the wall of the place you write at (provided there are walls)? What do you gaze into when your mind is tableau de rasa? I’ve got tons of stuff hanging in my room. But when I lean back my eyes are inevitably attracted to a Salvador Dali print, Swans Reflecting Elephants. There’s also an HR Giger poster in which the innards of a rifle are displayed. It’s called Birth Machine. There are four little identical helmeted little gray demon types in the rifle. One is in the chamber, three in the clip. Each one has a rifle. I believe that in each rifle there are four more identical rifle toting demons as well as an infinite line of larger identical images. Forever in both directions. MC Escher type of stuff. Sort of reminds me of a televised image of a person watching TV and seeing him/herself on TV and another and another and another to the vanishing point. But it is a one way forever, not as good as the gun poster. What’s on your wall?

(Ha! Now that I got them distracted, time to fashion the deft segue and get the hell out of this mess! And this counts as a paragraph!)

Years ago, while hungover from a Halloween party and attending a Monday morning work meeting on the type of cruel November first that motivates one to nothing higher than adding names to the obituary section, a manager (who was perpetually gacked on phen-fen) said, and I quoth: “Welcome to YES-vember people!!!” Somehow we let her leave the room alive, but I know for a fact that several two-week notices were composed before lunch, but none were ever submitted, mine included.

The best motivational speech I ever read is King Hal exhorting his brothers on the day of the big battle at Agincourt. Hell, I would have partaken even though I bear no grudge against the French. But hearing “Yes-vember” placed a scowl on my face that has yet to completely fade, though it has been at least five years since that morning.

Fortunately, the transition from Halloween to All Saints Day (I shudder to think what she would have done to that) this week on the site was painless. In fact it contained the final good work of the late Rocktober and seamlessly flowed into the first four good works of a non-paradoxical November.

One long time friend made his twenty-first appearance, another returned for her second go round, and we had the site debuts of three–one of whom already has some follow ups scheduled to appear as the weeks continue to roll by. A fine and well balanced week, not at all overly hungover or gacked on phen-fen.

For those who came to the castle moat and yelled “Trick or Treat” on Monday, we tossed, Under Threat of Salvation, by Marco Etheridge in their bags. Which was a hell of a lot better than a carrot stick and celery platter. In his twenty-one stories, Marco has displayed a wide view as well as a range of emotions that are just as varied. You might not agree with everything he says, but you have to admit that he says the hell out of it and is a top flight talent.

The new month began fittingly with our first new author. A Better Bargain is an irresistible thing that shows the eloquence of its creator, Matthew Ross. I recall reading it and wondering “How in hell will he get out of this?” Well, he obviously did, for it would not be here if Matthew had failed. The sustained charm of the monologue is impressive. It never loses energy or humour.

The only thing wrong with Wednesday’s contributor, Joy Florentine, is that we do not see enough of her. A situation underscored by her brilliant second LS outing, Liza, As in Lizard. We see and eject plenty that are situated in a similar setting because they don’t have the spark of magic that’s present in Joy’s work. The attitude and realism presented are first rate.

And what is a week without a surreal mind ride in it? Lewis Brahm certainly provided such with his wild and funny and even a bit moving The Eternal Bob on Thursday. It sweeps you along and yet tries to shake you off. Simply a debut not to be missed. “My name is Mary, you prick!”

P O’Connor made his site debut on Friday with The Sea. His situation is rare because he already has built up a small pile of acceptances that will appear in the rolling weeks to come. Mr. O’Connor is new to publishing, and when you read him you wonder why he waited, but will be glad he has come forward.

Before I go, I want to sympathize with the readers out there who must contend with rude, curt replies to perfectly, if not innocent, at least certainly unintended to cause offense questions, in cyberspace. There are many downsides to social media, and the decline of the social graces continues to be a casualty, who’s constantly getting patched up and returned to the breach. 

I was commiserating with Hugh and Diane the other day about such, and I recalled an event from my childhood that I fear doesn’t happen enough anymore. When I was eight or nine, and knew better, but really didn’t care, I was being an intolerable bratty snot at a public gathering. Mom, with a small smile fixed to her face, knelt and whispered the following in my ear: “Start behaving the way I know you can or I’ll make you a star in front of everyone.” She had made my older brother the “star” of a trip to the A&P earlier that week. The please and thank you got back into my attitude right away. Good old Mom. You usually got fair warning. So, to those who feel the same, you are not alone.

Anyway, instead of a list, please let us know what is on your wonderwall? I’ve added a couple Van Gough prints to mine this week, Starry Night and Lights on the Seine. Beats gazing at my still scowling face reflected in the monitor.


14 thoughts on “Week 401: A Dirty Slate; Welcome to YES-vember and What’s On Your Wonderwall?”

  1. Another entertaining Saturday post and good roundup of the week’s stories. My go-to writing place is a sunroom. So the walls are windows with views of trees and a bird feeder. You can watch Dali on some of the old late night talk shows, either Dick Cavett or Merv Griffin, I think. He seemed as strange as his art, and I don’t think it was an act.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, David

      Looking back on the old talk shows Dali made people like Truman Capote and annoying Zsa Zsa Gabor look pedestrian. I recall one in which a bemused Groucho Marx studied Dali out of the corner of his eye. George Orwell hated him. Said he was a great artist but terrible human being for doing nothing for no one during WWII

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Another superb round up – thank you. My desk used to sit in front of an office window which looked into a meadow with a beautiful old oak tree in the centre. It really was lovely. New neighbours moved in and though there are now a couple of donkeys, four goats, some chickens, ducks and geese there are also heaps of old wooden pallets, broken concrete, sand piles, scrap metal etc it is very unattractive. So, the desk has moved into the corner – I have my whiteboard on one side with notes such as – check how long before blood turns black,. when does rigor wear off and a couple of sheets of police procedural notes. On the other wall are two prints of our children in their caps and gowns from when they graduated from university. and that’s it. No Dali, no Van Gogh just magnolia paint I’m afraid. Oh there is a large print of a garden scene with a table holding a sun hat – it’s been there so long I don’t even notice it anymore. I really must improve things around these parts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Diane
      Too bad about the slovenly neighbors. I would love to see animals out the window. But then I would be more interested in their little lives than my own.
      Having the white board for research items is a top notch idea. Better to have pictures of the kids than of Swans who are strangers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to say the critturs are nice and the donkeys particularly are lovely – I do find myself now and then thinkin’ ‘the tattered outlaws of the earth with ancient crroked will’ ‘ but they’re not really they are actually rather lovely.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Leila,
    Your usual excellence.
    The Yes-vember person – Whit a walloper.
    I’d ask:
    – Can I have a hundred percent raise?
    – Can I have another five months holidays?
    – Will you resign after you have sanctioned my raise and holidays?
    Where I write at the moment, I am staring at blank walls as I have stripped the whole living room and kitchen. I do have a glass cabinet with some of the books that mean the most to me, so I suppose that is all good.
    In my old house, where I began writing, my box room was covered in drawings. I had Mad Pierre, Beau and Denis, The Fat Slags, King Louis, Phsycho Derrick, Dick Dastardly & Mutley, The Pink Panther, The Vultures, A dominatrix lady, Garfield, A Man called Horace and god having a wank.
    Maybe that last one is why I have had no luck in life!!!

    Oh and sadly I agree, there are a lot of aspects of common courtesy now missing

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Hugh
      I often clip funny cartoons and tape them to the wall until the cigarette smokes does them in. I mainly cover the walls because the landlord is too cheap to paint them. I should just bring in one of the Raccoons out in the courtyard in, for those guys seem to be everywhere lately.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Leila,
        The drawings were all mine. I can copy, even extend in proportion but I can’t draw off the cuff so to speak.
        But the funny thing was, when we went to sell that house, I was taking folks into a room where a four foot picture of masturbating god was the centre-piece.
        I know that I should have painted over them, but they took me hours and I couldn’t bring myself to do that!
        The woman that bought the house changed that room into a shower room and also ripped out my fireplace!!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Greetings and Salutations Leila, to inject an overdose of uncommon courtesy into an online comment. I stare with my ears instead of my eyes when I’m writing. Or not writing I guess. Lately it has been Tool’s Fear Inoculum album.

    Liked by 1 person

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