Greener Fields

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Hi guys.  Welcome back!

I had a Twitter conversation with @TonyNoland and @LauraEno earlier this week about not posting #FridayFlash’s exactly on Friday.  I looked over my computer and, wouldn’t ya know it, I found like 13 flash fictions that I didn’t save properly in the auto-recover section.  Baby, I’ve hit a gold mine.  I can be lazy again!

This story is based almost exclusively around smoking marijuana.  For those of you who have never, shall we say, “partaken,” let me say that pot doesn’t exactly work like this.  For those of you asking how I know this, I’ll say…that I…did a lot of…READING on…the effects of…uhh…

And here’s this week’s #FridayFlash, “Greener Fields.”

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Powered By: J.M. STROTHER!

Powered by J.M. Stother!

GREENER FIELDS

Mark Reynolds had one final thought before he died and it had made him smile.

Mark thought of his college days that had been—what—fifty years past?  Fifty-five?  It didn’t matter.  What did matter to that Mark Reynolds who had just turned twenty-one, was, in alphabetical order: Ass (as in “to get some”), Booze, Partying and Pot.  There was the minor, irritating necessity of attending class, which Mark had done from time to time.

This particular day was a Friday, a day that Mark only had one class: English.  Showing up to class was bad enough, but for it to be English?  And on a Friday?  Preposterous.  And so, as to “gird up his loins for battle” as the pretentious TA that taught his class might have said, Mark Reynolds smoked pot before he went to class.  Mark Reynolds smoked a lot of pot before class.

It had been an afterthought, a standard case of pre-class jitters, and what better to calm him down than hitting his bong?  He filled the bowl to the brim and made short work of it.  After his third prolonged exhale, it occurred to him, only briefly, that maybe that wasn’t the best idea.  With no time to think about it (or the fully functioning capacities to do so), he made his way to class, thoroughly enjoying the walk.

The stuff that he had been smoking had the peculiar quality of gradual, paralyzing paranoia and then instant euphoria.  This usually wasn’t a problem because he usually smoked with his friends.  There would be a tense fifteen or twenty minutes in his apartment where everyone eyed everyone else suspiciously and then the levee would break and there would be nothing but warm fuzziness.  It was fun after a while, once you knew what was going to happen, but Mark started feeling the paranoia set in just before he got to the class room.

“Oh God,” he thought, with his hand on the door knob, “This is going to be bad.”

To his surprise, there was a different person standing in front of the class today.  This different person, whose name Mark had instantly forgotten because he was somewhere in the stratosphere, told the class that their regular instructor was sick and that he would be filling in today.  Mark’s first thought was that this was pretty good news.  Then, paranoia gripped him so tightly it was hard for him to breathe.  This had to be some kind of trick.

The sub told the class that they should work on their projects and, again, this had to be a trick.  It was too easy, wasn’t it?  Project? Mark thought morosely, what project? This guy is clearly some sort undercover…narc, or whatever you call it.  A spy or something.  Look at him up there.  Shoes up on the desk.  Pretending to read that magazine.  I don’t think so.  You’re not fooling me.

Mark stared at the sub as clandestinely as possible, trying to pick up anything from his behavior.  The sub sat, still reading his magazine.  Mark thought about his blindside and realized that maybe some of his classmates might be in cahoots with the sub.  Mark glanced around him as casually as he could.  Everyone else was working quietly.  That’s what it looked like anyway.

Mark glanced up to the front of the class to find the sub suddenly on his feet with his hands on his hips and staring at Mark.  Mark’s eyes went wide and terror froze him.  This was it.  He was done for.  He had a brief vision of some torch-lit, rat infested dungeon and how he’d never get out.  Then the sub looked away at another student.  Then another.  He nodded to himself.  He clapped a single time and Mark jumped.

“Okay, guys,” the sub said.  “Look, it’s Friday, I got nothing for you.  This is seriously a big waste of our collective time.  Would anyone object to cutting you guys loose early?”  He held up his hand and looked over the room.  The other students looked around to see no one raising their hands.

“Good.  You guys are free to go.  Same Bat-time.  Same bat-channel.”

The combination of incredibly good news and odd Batman reference brought what machinery still operating in Mark’s head to a grinding halt.  Students around him shuffled, packing their back packs and making a move to leave.  Mark didn’t believe what was actually happening until he saw four people leaving the class without some violent act performed on them.  Before you could say, “Pass the dutchie on the left hand side,” Mark was out and free.

He walked slowly back to his apartment, taking occasional glances over his shoulder.  Then, like the sun rising after a black night of storms, Mark had a realization.  It was four simple words: “No Class Till Monday.”  He had the whole weekend.  It was just past noon and he was done until Monday.  The THC that had taken its time meandering through the parts of his brain that caused fear, finally came to their destination.  The wave that had been building for the past half hour finally broke and Mark’s face was slack with gratefulness and joy.  He pounded a fist in the air and gave a little squeal.

There were moments in his life that were better than this.  The day that he met his wife for example.  That was a good day.  The day that his son was born was another.  And then his grandson.  And so many more.

But this memory of his wilder college days was different.  It was a depthless sort of joy but it was simple and that made it almost as good.  He never experienced a feeling that was so pure and carried no weight to it—no nervousness or threat of responsibility.  That was definitely a good day.

At the age of seventy-eight, Mark Reynolds died surrounded by his family.  They all saw the smile and they all wondered.

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The Grocery Run

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Hi guys.

I work at a grocery store doing fairly menial work.  This gives me plenty of time to do what writers do and ask “What if” questions.  What follows is one of those questions.

On a side note, I’ll be attending my first college class this coming Wednesday.  For some reason, I’ve decided to take Latin.  Pretty masochistic, huh?  Wish me luck!

Here it is, this week’s #FridayFlash, “The Grocery Run.”

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Powered By: J.M. STROTHER!

Powered by J.M. Stother!

THE GROCERY RUN

Jerry’s palms were sweating.  That was to be expected.  He was pushing a shopping cart that had maybe three hundred dollars worth of groceries inside and he had maybe thirty-two cents in his pockets.  The only other thing of any value on his person was his driver’s license but that was technically property of the state.  Jerry was nervous.

This was the Val-U-Mart’s peak hour of the day and he went more or less unnoticed by everyone there.  Of course, they were watching him.  Those black half-globes on the ceiling, surely they were watching him.  He tried not to look up because if he looked up then they’d know that he was looking at them and they’d look at him even harder.  He knew they were watching him.

They weren’t actually.

He passed by the stockboys and people with Val-U-Mart name tags.  He smiled at them—not too much, because then they’d know, just smile Jerry, just smile—but most of the employees passed him by with not much more than head nod and a perfunctory greeting.  He might actually get away with it.  Then again, this could be a sham.  This could be trick to lure him into a false sense of security.

“That’s crazy,” he thought.  And then thought, “That’s…basically crazy.  Sorta crazy.  Kinda…crazy?”

He got an urge to shake his head as if that would clear it and resisted.  Doing something like that would attract attention.  Instead, he walked slowly down the frozen food aisle, looking at chicken potpies, microwaveable dinners and, eventually, ice cream.

“It’s not too late to back out,” he told himself as he opened a cooler door and plucked out a box.  “It’s not too late to just…just…park this cart somewhere and walk away.”

But then, what happens when they find it?  Full of all of this stuff.  They’d be angry, wouldn’t they?  They’d want to make sure whoever did this wouldn’t do it again, right?  And how would they do that?  They play back the video tape.  And then they’d have him for sure.

“It’s too late, I’ve committed,” he told the anthropomorphic chicken that was printed on the box of chicken nuggets he held in his hand.  “I can do this.  I can do this.  Right?”  The chicken didn’t respond.  He just smiled back at him, one wing presenting the picture of chicken nuggets to him like a model on a game show.  Jerry nodded as if this were an answer.  He tossed the box into the cart, took a deep breath, let it out and started pushing his cart with confidence.  He was headed for the front door.

His eyes were hardened. His jaw was set.  His palms, though damp, gripped the shopping cart firmly.  He passed the occasional Val-U-Mart employee but paid them no mind.  He also ignored the ceiling cameras.

“You just have to be confident,” he told himself.  “If you look like you’re up to something then they’ll get you.  But if you look like this is all perfectly normal, you’ll get away with it.  If you look like you’re stealing, that’s what they’ll think.  Just be cool Jerry. Be cool.”

Of the many things that Jerry didn’t think of that day was the fact that, when people buy groceries, there is usually someone who bags them.  Groceries, in other words, leave the store in bags.  This, however, wouldn’t have been a problem, being that the store was so busy and no one noticed.

Twenty feet now.  “Be cool Jerry.”

Fifteen feet.  “You can do this.  Don’t lock up.  Be cool.”

At ten feet, the song “Eye of the Tiger” started playing in his head.  He hummed it lightly under his breath at what was probably twice its normal speed.

As he was at the door, everything went wrong .  There was a Val-U-Mart employee standing there, greeting people as they went in and out.  The man’s name was Stan.  Stan was in his seventies and had silver hair, rosy cheeks and all the brooding, intensely threatening qualities of a marshmallow.  Stan gave his standard, “Have a good day, sir,” and that was all it took for Jerry to start running, screaming and jabbering nonsense as he went.

The plan (what precious little Jerry had worked out) was to simply throw everything in the backseat of his car and leave.  He had to abandon this part and simply run like hell, pushing the cart in front of him.  Where would he go?  It didn’t matter, he’d figure that out later.  What mattered now the getaway.

He weaved in and out of people, between cars and looked up to see the yellow line that marked the parking lot’s exit.  Hard, sick determined will overcame him and he ran the cart toward it, body leaning forward, head down, his salvation somewhere just on the other side of the line.

As the front wheels cleared the yellow line, he had just enough time to feel a pang of triumph.  Then, the shopping cart’s wheels locked, his sweaty hands betrayed him and he ran head first into the now immobile cart.

Lying sprawled on the ground, everything spinning and going black, he said, “Fuckin chicken lied to me.”  He passed out.

***

The Val-U-Mart’s manager would later explain to the police that the shopping carts have a device akin to an electronic dog collar.  Once the cart passes a certain point (that point being the yellow line surrounding the parking lot), the wheels lock up.

The responding officers took quite a long time before they stopped laughing.  Once they did, they got back to business.

“So how much booze was he trying to make off with?” the older cop said.

“We don’t carry liquor,” the manager said.

“Beer then.”

“No beer.”

“Cough syrup?  Antihistamines?”

The manager shrugged.  “Five or six loaves of bread.  Rice, instant potatoes, toilet paper.  Pretty standard stuff.”

The cops exchanged a glance.

The manager shrugged again.  “Guess he’s got a family to feed.”

No one laughed at this.

This Bar Is Full Of Douchebags

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The following was written in a bar on my cell phone, drunk and unhappy.  For those of you in Lexington, “The Tin Roof” on S. Limestone is a good place to go on Wednesday nights to see exactly what I’m talking about.  Maybe it should read: “good.”

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THIS BAR IS FULL OF DOUCHEBAGS

Where there’s not pastel polos, there’s button up longsleaves. Collars
popped, egos out and daddy’s money taking care of the tab.

There are three blondes for every brunette and those latter look about
them knowing–or thinking–they came ill-prepared.  They shriek like
injured animals as they recognize those of their kind.

They drink domestic drafts from plastic cups and savor each drop
as if the golden color was indicative of the value therein. One says
something to another, they laugh and clap hands as if in celebration
of their futility.

And I sit witnessing it all at the bar.

My head shakes quite often.

Do they know that they’re clones? Perhaps thinking something like this
is against their programming, and to suggest that they aren’t
programmed in some way is nothing short of laughable. The word
“bra” as in “Sup, bra?” can just be heard along with “dude” over the
music that only barely has more substance than those listening. Every
now and then one can hear “ohmagawd” from the females, but their
loudest output is their feral cries of recognition. By far.

Occasionally, I’ll receive a curious glance as if I’m one of the more
intelligent animals that has been put in one of the common cages by
mistake. Maybe that sounds unfair. Maybe it would be fair if they
weren’t so stupidly drunk and I weren’t miserably so. But looking
around, seeing one that came out of a mold identical to the mold of
the one next to them and so on, I’d be doing myself a disservice not
to consider myself above them in some way. You would too.

It becomes too much and I stand. It’s as if this place has filled me
with so much loathing that I need to relive the pressure. But really,
I’ve drank too much and I just need to go to the bathroom. But
nevermind. There’s something bitterly satisfying about the idea of my
outrage solidifying into something tangible and that it needs to pass
through the tip of my dick.  Douchebags.

There’s a young man at the urinal in front of me talking on his cell
phone as he takes care of business. He’s wearing sandals. I consider
this. That’s the thing about proper footware: location, location,
location.

I step up to make my contribution and notice that the same bit of
doggerel has been written on the wall several times. It goes, “Why are
you looking up here? The joke’s in your hand.” Once and it might have
been funny. Six times? Tiresome.

There is group after group between me and my barstool. All of them
amazed and astonished by the exploits of those around them. They rock
and reel, gyrating into me and not apologizing for their antics. This
is, after all, their domain. If it weren’t for the bathrooms, they
might be marking their territory. Good thing for the bathrooms.

I sigh.

I’ve seen where my barstool is. And who’s in the vicinity.

Near my stool is one of those blonde clones. Pretty? Yes, but pretty
just like all the rest of them. Pretty like a sunset on any other day
of the week. Pretty like a painting you’ve passed by on a daily basis for
the last ten years. Meh.

And next to her, sitting in my stool, is one of the spiked haired Ralph
Lauren doppelgangers, drunk on his drink and drunk on himself.

Fuck it. I’m going home.

The Hater’s Guide to Twilight: A Book Review

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When I first heard the premise for Stephanie Meyer’s book, Twilight, I knew immediately that it wasn’t for me.  Not too surprising since I’m not a teenage girl.  In passing, I’d hear annoying things about the books—vampires that sparkle when exposed to sunlight instead of bursting into flames, Edward the vampire is actually over one hundred years old and that makes his relationship with the seventeen year old protagonist technically pedophilia, the writing is absolutely terrible, and so on—but I left it alone for the most part.

However, one of my FaceBook friends posted a link to a blog stating that the Twilight series encourages young girls to be totally dependent on men. One of my eyebrows rose.  I don’t condone dependency in any fashion for anyone.  I asked one of my seventeen year old sisters who had read the series and wanted to know what she thought about that idea.  I didn’t get answers that satisfied me and my eyebrow rose further.  I wanted to come back with specifics, but I hadn’t read the book.

This left me with no choices.

I had to read it.

All five hundred, god-awful pages of it.

This is my extremely biased review and your guide to hating all things Twilight.

Note

Before I start, please do me the favor of not pulling the “genitalia card.”  I think we all know that I’m not female and that this book was not written with me in mind.  I won’t suggest that this book is bad because I don’t care for the subject matter, so long as you don’t suggest that I don’t understand it because I’m just a dumb ole icky boy and that I have cooties.  Deal?  Deal.

A Biased Summary

Bella (the protagonist and narrator) moves from Phoenix to nowheresville to live with dad while mom and new boyfriend travel about pursuing new boyfriend’s minor league baseball career.  Bella hates it, feels alone and dislikes being the new high school it-girl.  She is pursued romantically by three male students for reasons that are not fully explained, but she shuns them all.  Why they should pursue her at all is a mystery since she doesn’t seem to be good at anything, totally lacking anything close to charm, not particularly attractive and seems to have no positive qualities whatsoever (aside from, interestingly enough, her abilities in the kitchen).

Bella meets Edward Cullen, an antisocial Adonis who is simply and almost exclusively described as “perfect” and they get along poorly.  Bella is nearly killed in a parking lot mishap but is saved by Edward who seems to appear out of nowhere.  Bella is suspicious of how he did it and also suspicious of the hand-sized imprints in the hood of the van that would have killed her.  He refuses to answer her questions and things remain chilly between them.  Bella goes on a beach trip and meets local boy Jacob who clues her in to local tribal folklore about vampires and specifically about the Cullen family.

Edward saves her again, this time from possible rape in a nearby town she is visiting with friends (again, why Bella?).  Edward swoops in to save her so promptly because he has been following her (or stalking her, whichever you prefer).  From here, not surprisingly, their relationship quickly takes off.  Soon enough, he confirms what Jacob told her about his being a vampire, but the good kind that feed on animals instead of humans.  After this point, lots of mushy pillow talk ensues and they are, of course, in love.  Edward admits to watching her as she sleeps, a point that Bella doesn’t mind, supposedly leaving the reader to be creeped out for her.  Edward states that his initial interest spawned from how “irresistible” she smells and from the fact that he can’t read her mind (oh yeah, Edward can read minds).  In other words, he likes her because he finds her smelly and can’t tell what, if anything, she’s thinking.

Bella meets the whole happy Cullen vampire family and they all go play a game of baseball (sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?).  A traveling band of “bad” vampires (you know, the ones that feed on humans) comes upon them and they talk for a bit and wonder why they brought along a “snack,” a reference to Bella.  They get Bella away from them safely but, due to Edward’s telepathy, he knows that the head vamp is a “hunter” and that he is following Bella as they speed away.  A plan is concocted by Bella to elude the hunter, a plan that’s described as “brilliant” in the book but has all the slyness of a seven year old’s battle plan to assault a set of playground equipment that he is currently imagining as an enemy castle.

Her plan leads her and her good vampire entourage back to Phoenix and the hunter followers her there.  The hunter calls her to say that he’s holding her mother hostage and to come alone if she doesn’t want him to yadda yadda yadda.  In an unbelievable show of ineptitude on her part, she opts to run from her vampire protectors and let the hunter kill her to save Edward from harm…despite, you know, the fact that he’s immortal and nearly impossible to kill.

She confronts the hunter to find that the vamp used a home video of her mother saying “Bella! Bella!” to sell the ruse (this is the only remotely clever plot point in the whole damn book).  The vamp gives a prolonged and tiresome speech that would make a Bond villain cringe before he decides to chow down.  And, just when everything is darkest, she’s saved by Edward.  Yet again.  She sustained some serious injuries but will pull through just in time for the second book in the series, much to this blogger’s disappointment.

The Good

The truly surprising thing about this book was that there were actually some parts that I found somewhat entertaining.  Eddie and Bella’s initial awkward banter rang true to me as did some of Bella’s friends.  There were some fine descriptive paragraphs, namely the setup for the beach scene where Jacob is introduced and some of her walks in the forest.  I should note that when I say “fine,” I mean it the same way that restaurant survey cards mean it: Bad—Poor—Fine—Good—Great.  But we’re talking about, what, twenty pages tops that wasn’t filled with garbage?  Now to move on to the rest of it.

Pass the Thesaurus, Please

The language is awkward and inconsistent.  The prose (if you can even call it that) will roll along in a simple, “see dick run” kind of way for a while, until there’s a smattering of larger, “ten dollar” words.  It’s bizarre.  The vocabulary will barely rise above the multisyllabic and then you’re assaulted by the type of words that you’d see in the SAT’s.  Now that’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?  Wouldn’t that be a clever, if not shameless, marketing ploy?  Here’s a book aimed at teenage girls that is not only a romance but is also filled with the kind of words that they’ll see come test time.  “It’s a win-win situation, ladies!  Romance and higher test scores all in one shebang!  Get em while they’re hot!”  I seriously doubt this is what’s going on—a writer would have to have a criminal lack of scruples to engineer a book around this ploy—but it’s just about the only way that I can explain what’s going on.  In any case, I have no doubt that the Thesaurus was wide open on the second draft.

If you want a good idea of what it’s like reading this book, imagine someone with a deeply southern American accent trying to pull off a posh English accent and failing miserably.

“Fancy a spot’a tea, y’all?”

Yeah, that’s what reading this book is like.

Boring Characters

The problem that towers over all other problems that I have with this book is that at no point did I care—not even a bit—about Bella.  Let me say that in a different way, if the protagonist/narrator had been hit by a bus, I would have been happy with this book being a cautionary tale about looking both ways before crossing the street.   Bella is melancholy, depressed and not endearing in the slightest.  She might be intelligent but it’s hard to tell since that never comes up, aside from her asinine plan to elude the hunter.  She is bland and priggish and intolerably boring.  There is no way that a girl with so little going for her would have three boys and a super-hot vampire chasing after her.  Her only redeeming quality is that she cooks.  I’ll say it again.  The only thing that this boring-as-bathwater female protagonist has going for her is her culinary skills.  I found this to be outrageous.

If Bella were real, she’d be the most useless human being on the planet.  There are a grand total of two times that Bella does something completely on her own.  The first time is when she’s trying to get information from Jacob about the Cullens.  She does so by flirting with him, leading him on and making him think that she likes him more than she actually does.  The second time is when she is trying to get away from her father while eluding the hunter.  She shakes her father off by intentionally dredging up painful memories about his ex-wife that is nothing short of cruel and manipulative.  Bravo, Bella.  You are one classy lady.  *slow sarcastic clap*

Edward is a fairly flat character as well mainly because of the way he’s described.  If Meyer described him as any other way than simply “perfect” or “an Adonis” or “beautiful” it might be different.  One could argue that when you’re in love, as the narrator is, then the only thing that comes to your mind are vague thoughts like this.  But that only really works in real life.  It doesn’t work in books, or at least it shouldn’t.  I don’t know how you can make a vampire boring, but Stephanie Meyer has pulled it off in spades.

The Twilight Zone

So here’s the situation: one male vampire that could very easily make a living as an underwear model and has had over a century to develop his own unique personality falls in love with a girl that has all the flavor of filtered water.  The question that should spring to mind is: why?  There were times while reading that looking for the answer to this question was the only thing that kept me going.  Bella actually asks this question a few times, as if she’s somehow dimly aware of the fact that her personality is as featureless as a sheet of drywall.  The answer basically came down to the same each time: because Bella is Bella.

I found the title of the book to be particularly apt.  Why Edward would even be remotely interested in Bella is so strange, that I can see Rod Serling writing a teleplay about it for “The Twilight Zone.”

Submitted for your approval: one vampire Adonis smitten by an ordinary girl.   Or perhaps ordinary is too kind.  Her name is Bella.  She is a girl who’s very being rings with mundanity and resounds in boring tones of the bland and uninteresting.  Why this creature of the night should be so taken with her is a mystery that not even he can sink his teeth into.  All he knows is that he has a thirst, not for blood, but for Bella.  A thirst that can only be quenched here…in the Twilight Zone.

A couple of times when he answered her, I wanted Edward to say it.  Just say it, Eddie.

Say: “I love you, Bella my dear, because you are the main character.  You see, this book is targeted at young women who will imagine themselves as you for a while and the less personality we give you, the easier it is for them to fill in the very obvious gap that you now occupy in the story.  I suppose we could make you more like a real person, giving you at least rudimentary personality traits, but that would be missing the point.  I am here, obviously, to fill the role of the perfect man…or vampire, as it were.  And you, my beloved, are here as these young women’s placeholder.  You are here to take up a space just large enough for them to fit into.  You are here to be a vacuum and, baby, when it comes to vacuity, you take the cake.  That is why I love you.  Now, will you please not ask me for another fifty pages or so?  It’s getting harder for me to just shrug off.”

The story, perhaps a bit like a young lover, climaxes earlier than it should.  The story basically ends a hundred or so pages before the back cover when Bella and Edward find they truly love each other.  It’s as if Meyer typed “THE END” at page 400, then realized that the story as it stood sucked (vampire pun).  The sudden appearance of the hunter seems tacked on and obligatory and serves to show that, yet again, Bella is helpless and doomed without her man to save her.

What The Hell Is This?

When evaluating any piece of writing, you should compare what it is, to what it is trying to do; its execution to its intent.   It wouldn’t make much sense to complain about a forklift’s inability to get to 110 on the freeway, just like it wouldn’t make much sense to criticize a Lamborghini for its inability to effectively move and lift pallets.  So, this leaves me with trying to figure what this book is and it isn’t.

Is it good story?  No.  There are far too many plot holes and far too much sloppy storytelling for it to even be within throwing distance of good.

Is it well written?  Absolutely not.  Meyer relies too heavily on adverbs in her dialog attribution.  By that I mean, she writes:

“I don’t believe you,” she said incredulously.

&

“Please tell me,” I crooned.

Rarely does she let her characters simply “say” something, which is an indication that her character’s intent was not made clear in the prose.  This isn’t a failing fault, Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” is riddled with this and that’s a fine novel.  What’s so damning about this piece is Meyer’s awkward analogies and downright stupid sentences.  For example:

She ends a paragraph that describes how afraid she was to confront Edward about his standoffishness with the following:  “I made the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator.”  I laughed for quite a long time after reading this.

Later on during one of Bella’s many, many bouts of crying (she often cries and most of the time for no apparent reason): “I quickly rubbed my hand across my cheek, and sure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.

Traitor tears betraying you?  That’s like saying, “I ate the nourishing food which fueled my body, gave me sustenance and provided the adequate material necessary for metabolic processes to take place within me that would keep me healthy.”

In fact, the writing is so bad that this would almost be genius if it were written tongue-in-cheek.  It’s so bad that it could be sold to aspiring writers as case example of consistently horrible writing.  In “On Writing” by Stephen King, he says that reading a bad novel can act a vaccine against bad writing, preventing you from making similar mistakes yourself.  Well, Twilight is pretty bad and like the aftermath of most vaccines, I’m left feeling a little ill.

So if it’s not a good story and it’s not well written, what is it?  It is a sexual fantasy for young women.  More than that, it’s pornography without the sex aimed at teenage girls.  That’s not a definition of a Romance novel, that’s what this abortion of a novel is and it’s a shame that so many young women are drawn to something so poorly executed.  Here’s what Stephen King had to say about this in an interview:

“…A lot of the physical side of [Twilight] is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”

Think for a minute what a male version of Twilight would be—a sexually charged fantasy for teenage boys.  Say, for instance, I wrote about a book about—oh, I don’t know—a superhuman woman that falls in love with a boy that has no personality and she happens to have massive breasts.  I mean bigger than your head.  Instead of drawing powers from the sun like Superman, she draws her power from the male protagonist’s fondling of her jugs.

“Gary…quickly…I’m losing strength…you must…motorboat me…”

“If I must…brrrmrbmbrbrm!

Crude?  Sure, but essentially no different in its goals than Twilight.  If this idea comes across as offensive or base, good.  It should.  This is what Meyer intended this book to be—a base fantasy with almost no artistic merit—and in this respect, she has hit the mark dead center.

Twilight’s Proper Place

When you think about it, it’s not too surprising that people like me are so hostile towards the Twilight fad.  My first experience with teenage vampires was “The Lost Boys.”  At the time I thought it was just about the coolest movie ever (after Star Wars, of course).  Now that I’m older I can see how corny it is, but come on, it’s still pretty badass.  Long before Keifer Southerland was Jack Bauer, he was David the motorcycle riding, surf Nazi killing, all around juvenile delinquent vampire.  That’s what teenage vampires were when I was growing up.  Where are teenage vampires these days?  On posters hanging next to boy bands and looking over Barbie dolls or whatever else little girls play with.

Of course we’re pissed!  Meyer turned vampires into sissies!

But I digress…

I wouldn’t normally criticize a book this harshly, but when a book this poorly executed sells this many copies, I have to.  In fact, when a book is this popular and simultaneously this bad, the author almost deserves ridicule.  Would I want to be criticized this unmercifully if I squeezed out something as putrid as Twilight?  Oh yes.  If I ever drop a deuce on the page that’s as commercially successful as this, I want to know how bad it smells.  This is because I actually care about becoming a better writer.  From the interviews I’ve read, Meyer seems pretty pleased with herself and I can’t imagine why.  Then again, there have been times that I’ve looked down into the toilet bowl and felt a spark of pride, thinking, “I made that. Good for me.”  But then I flush.

Conclusion

Kurt Vonagut said that to hate a book is “preposterous” and one that does so is like one…”who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.”  I agree, as I do with just about everything else the man said, so it goes.  This book should not be hated.  It doesn’t make sense to hate a book.  It deserves to be kept in the bathroom for purposes other than reading (think about it) but it shouldn’t be hated.   Neither should the fans be hated.  They’re just, well, confused.  One day, if they’re interested enough, these young women will read “Pride and Prejudice” or “Wuthering Heights,” find out what a well written Romance novel should be and toss the Twilight series in the recycle bin.  For the time being though, they’re stuck thinking this horrifically told and woefully constructed abomination of a novel is actually good.  I weep for them.

When you see a Twilight fan fiercely defending the series, you have to recognize what they’re actually defending.  They’re not defending the literary merits of these books.  They’re defending their fantasy.  I have no problem with that.  Have your fantasies, I’ll certainly have mine (brrrmrbmbrbrm!), but be honest with yourself.  Call a spade a spade.  Your fantasies may not suck, but Twilight certainly does.

So what are we, those strongly against the Twilight fad, to do?  The same thing we’ve done in the past.  Someday, Twilight will go the way of “The New Kids on the Block.”  Someday, perhaps, it might even be ironic to wear a Twilight t-shirt or to read the book in public.  Someday, you might say to a friend, “Remember Twilight?” and they’ll say, “Yeah!  God, that was awful, wasn’t it?  It’s almost as bad as (insert future brainless fad).”  But until then, we can only hope.

And flame like crazy on forums.

And ridicule people wearing Twilight merchandise.

And post pictures of Edward photoshopped into gay porn.

And hope.

Day One

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Howdy, yall!

Writer’s block is an ugly thing and I’ve been as blocked as a cheese lover at an Imodium A-D convention.  Luckily, I found that writing about things that have actually happened to me was a good way to get the juices flowing again, as it were.  After enough clickety-clacking on my laptop, I found that I had a good 5k or so of not too shabby creative non-fiction.

And so, I started a new blog that’s all about my enlistment in the Army.  I’ve called it Chow Sling so check it out if you’re interested.  I have to warn you that I don’t shy away from the occasional dirty word or risque phrase, so read with caution.

Anyway, here it is, my #fridayflash of the week, “Day One.”

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Powered by J.M. Stother!

DAY: ONE

Steve had a brief but vivid memory of the dog he had as a child.  He couldn’t remember the mutt’s name but that didn’t matter.  What mattered was the clear memory of the poor dog pawing the sliding glass door of the back porch, tongue wagging obscenely and looking in longingly.  He had let the dog in but not before thinking about how horrible it would be to be locked outside in the sweltering summer heat.  Steve wasn’t pawing at a door to be let inside, but he was leaning over his bike panting and red-faced.  He thought the dog got off light.

Steve was out of shape, soggy in the middle and as soft feather mattress.  That didn’t matter though, not really.  He didn’t care so much about being fit; he cared about feeling good.  That made all the difference in the world.  There were people in the world that might actually enjoy being fat, but he was not one of them.  He didn’t like constantly pulling his t-shirt away from his midsection to obscure the shape of his flab.  He didn’t like buying pants knowing that there was only so far he could bend over in them without the possibility of ripping.  He didn’t like feeling unattractive even to himself.

He decided it was time for change.  This was what all the panting was about.

“God,” he said to himself in between labored breaths, “Why today?  Why today?  Why did I pick—today? It’s really—really—really fucking hot—today.  Why Steve?  Why?”

This vague buzzing of red thoughts swarmed in his mind for a moment until he became acutely aware of a cluster of sweat forming between his eyebrows.  He let the sweat accumulate without disturbing it, tiny drops rolling down the curvature of his forehead as he continued panting.  Gravity overcame what little friction his slick forehead provided and the sweat finally rolled down the bridge of his nose and seemed to fire itself toward the ground like a skier launching from an Olympic jump.  He wiped his face.  The sweat wasn’t gone for long.

He knew why he had set out today despite what the weather people said about the probable heat.  He knew that if he went out today on his bike and the next day and the day after that, he would have no excuse when fall approached.  If he could tough it out in the worst days of the year, he knew he could do it any other day.  He wasn’t sure if keeled over his bike and panting technically counted as “toughing it out,” but at least he was out here.  That had to count for something.

Cars drove past him at just the right frequency to be surprising.  Two or three would roll past on the baking blacktop at a time and then there would be nothing for a minute or two.  Then would come another group.  Then a single car.  The cars were just random enough, in other words, to be annoying and distracting.  He knew deep down in that place where a twelve year old version of himself still existed that it was only a matter of time before people would start shouting at him again.  The younger version of Steve, who remembered all the taunts and jeers from the more popular and slimmer classmates, knew that at any moment someone would drive by and start up the familiar insults.  The adult Steve had more faith in humanity than this, but it was still there, just below the surface of his mind.

“This is too much,” he thought.  “Yes, you need to get in shape and yes, you need to start it up soon.  You need to get out and get it started, but not today.  What is it?  95?  100 degrees?  Save it for a another day man.  You don’t have to do it all at once.  Take it one day at a—”

“Back on your bike, fatass!”

Steve looked up just in time to see a Mustang convertible drive by with two kids in the front and two in the back seat.  He could hear their outburst of laughing just over the sound of the engine and loud stereo.  One in the backseat turned back to him and yelled something else, but it was drowned out over the Mustang’s eight cylinders.

He stood upright and watched the car drive down the road, taking the soft curve of the street with speed.  His breathing had slowed even if the heartbeat in his head still pounded like the bass speaker in the ever retreating convertible.

That was it.  That was the thing he had been waiting for.  Those were almost exactly the words that the twelve year old Steve told him someone would say eventually.  This was too much.  The best idea would be to walk home.  Why fight it?

“But he’s right,” Steve heard himself say.  “He’s…right.”

Steve brought his teeth together firmly for a moment.  He exhaled like a great steam engine.  He threw one of his legs over the seat of the bike and sat on its uncomfortable narrowness.  He brought the left pedal around in the opposite direction with his foot, bringing it to the position where he got the most leverage.  He exhaled again.

“Back to it, fatass.  Let’s see how far you can go without stopping this time.”

He started pedaling.

Ten months later, feeling better than he ever felt in his whole life, he thought again about those assholes that rolled past him in the Mustang.  He wished he knew where they lived.  He wanted to thank them.

Self-serving Blog Entry #2

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Here’s a few things that I’ve been up to…

So I’ve taken the last two months off of writing in any sort of serious manner, which not something that I had planned on doing.  It’s funny, I feel like I’ve lost touch with Brad and Joe.  When you you write as much about two fictional characters as I have with them, they start to become real people in a way.  I’m going to have to give them a call and see what they’re up to, so to speak.

I’ve been thinking about this story for a while and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind running it by you.  No problem, you say?  Good, what do you think about this:

A young guy, let’s say 27 or so, has a government job.  Ultimate job security, some of the best benefits around, well paying and so on.  I mean, this job is so good that he could see himself spending the rest of his life doing it and retiring with a 30 year pension check from the government.  But here’s the problem: he’s fairly miserable at work and this isn’t what he wants to do with his life.  So, he decides to quit his job and go to college to pursue a career in writing, something he actually loves doing.

But my main character has a bit of a problem.  You see, despite his eagerness and apparent commitment to higher education, he can’t get past the fact that he was a fairly poor high school student.  In fact, he almost didn’t graduate on time due to a failing grade–in English of all subjects.  Not to mention the fact that it’s been a solid decade since he’s been in a classroom environment.  It’s a big step and he’s nervous about going, but he’s already quit his job for college.  There is basically no turning back for him.

If you haven’t guessed, this is exactly what I’m up against.

So, next fall I plan on attending the University of Kentucky…with kids ten years younger than me.  Since I did my time in the Army, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill basically gives me a free ride and money for rent while I’m in school.  It’s a good deal and there’s really no reason for me not to have a degree. But still…but still…

*deep breath*

*long exhale*

Big step for me.  I hope this works out. for me.

Anyway, aside from that, I’ve got some changes coming up for my little blog.  My good friend and brother-from-another-mother Justin Brown is going to be my code monkey for some layout changes here at Mostly Pointless.  Also, I plan on doing a few entries about my home town Lexington Kentucky and a few ways it kicks ass.  I’m going to call it “My Hometown Kicks Ass”.  Apt, huh?

With any luck, Brad and Joe will be back, if not this Friday, then soon (for those of you who have been reading about them, I recently got “Whip It” as my cell phone’s ring tone).  I don’t think I’ll ever really be back in the groove unless I carve out an entirely new one from scratch.  I guess I should get on that…

Rearview

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Hi ya #FridayFlash crew!

I’ve been, shall we say, indisposed in the last month.  Major changes due to what some would say are dangerous life choices have occupied my time since we last talked.  Should I get the chance (and dare say, motivation), I’ll tell you about them.  Interestingly enough, they have been related to writing and higher education.

Nevertheless, I’m back to the weekly thousand word grind again and it feels pretty good.  I thought I’d give present tense a stab this time as well as a different kind of style for this week.  That and I’ve been bugging lots of taxi drivers lately and I thought I’d incorporate that into a story.

So here you go, my #FridayFlash this week, “Rearview”.

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Powered By: J.M. STROTHER!

REARVIEW

Jerry is a taxi driver.  He doesn’t like his job but it is, as any animalistic appliance from the Flintstones would tell you, a living.  He had to admit that there was a certain gritty appeal to his work, but found more grit in his daily grind than he did appeal.  He would have the occasional good fare and would have to occasionally clean the unmentionable leavings of his customers out of the backseat.   On the whole, the job is a hassle.

Jerry works mostly at night, picking up people from the airport early in the evening and the drunken slobs later on.  The perks of the job are almost nonexistent unless you are the type of person that enjoys seeing people do foolish things while they were pissed out of their heads.  Two divorces, continuing financial hardships and general misanthropy has led Jerry to be exactly this kind of person.

If you piled into his cab late one night and asked him what the worst thing he had ever seen while the meter was running, he might tell you something like this:

“Well, one night I picked up this couple from a bar,” Jerry says, with the bar you were in shrinking in the back window.  “You could tell that they had met that night.  Couples aren’t usually as—enthusiastic—as those two were.  I mean they were hot and bothered and ready to go.  Anyway, they started really getting into each other, feeling each other up and all that, which, you know, I don’t mind.  I keep an eye on people like that and I stop it before they get a chance to make a mess in my cab, if you know what I mean.”

Jerry pauses long enough to take a sip from his coffee at a red light.  “And don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not some kind of pervert or anything, I don’t get off watching what people do in my back seat.  It’s just that they usually don’t stick around to clean up when they’re done, you know?  Anyway…

“So these two kids (young kids, maybe their late twenties) are going at it, really tearing into each other and they stop only long enough for the guy to tell me his address and they get back to it.  So they’re in the back moaning and everything and she’s all like, “Oh Brad! Oh Brad!” and I’m about to stop them when the guy’s phone starts ringing.

“Then he gets this super guilty look on his face like it’s his wife on the phone or something and he tells the chick he’s with (who was smokin hot, by the way) that he has to take this call.  He answers it and right off the bat I know it’s another woman.  I don’t know who was on the phone, but I doubt it was his wife.”

At this point, you ask him how he knows.

“Well, first off, he wasn’t wearing a ring.  I know that don’t mean much, he could have taken it off, but still, he wasn’t wearing one.  Besides, some women don’t mind sleeping with a married man even if they know that the guy’s married.  But more than anything, it was the way he acted, you know?  He didn’t seem like a cheater and if he was, he was either new at it or really bad at it.  And, more than anything I guess, he looked like he was a fairly descent kind of guy.  He was probably just really into the girl that called him, you know?” Jerry says, taking another sip from his coffee.

“Anyway…the chick he was with meanwhile is singing along to the music from the radio, looking out the window.  I mean she was gone…way gone.  Drunk and sloppy and fading fast, you know what I mean?  Well, eventually, she puts her head against the window and I don’t hear another peep out of her.  So the guy is still talking to some chick on his cell and he tells me to take him to some club on the other side of town.  I tell him that I’m not gonna be left with babysitting this girl who’s dead to the world in the back seat.   Then he finds her purse, finds her address and we head out to drop her off.  He walks her into her apartment and—here’s the really terrible part—he comes back out.”

Jerry takes another sip from his coffee.  “Look, I don’t know about you, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (sorry about all the bad puns…you know, bird?  Bush?  Never mind.).  He should have just paid me the fare and gone with the chick he picked up.  But no, the dumbass comes back out.  I’m not saying that he should have done anything with her when she was all passed out, but he should have stayed until morning.  He might have gotten a little somethin-somethin for his trouble.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Jerry says, looking at you in his rearview mirror.  “You’re wondering how that’s the worst thing I’ve ever saw, right?”  You shrug and take the bait.  “Thing is, that’s the end of the story.  After he dropped the girl off, he went to the other bar to meet Courtney or whatever he said her name was.  I mean, I’ve seen people have sex in my backseat, shoot up, smoke up, throw up and worse.  That Brad guy had a shot at something that night and threw it away for some other woman.  I think that’s probably the worst.”

Silence overtakes the cab as you let Jerry’s story set in.  “Maybe I’m just jaded.  I’ve been married twice and I just don’t have time for messing around with what could-be anymore.  I just hope that Courtney girl was worth it.  It wouldn’t be for me.”

“Anyway, we’re here.  That’ll be nine eighty-five.”

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