Badly Written Stories Are Your Friend & More —- The Writing Life!

Greetings, and welcome to The Writing Life! In this week’s article, we’ll be discussing the importance of believing in one’s self, the latest updates in my personal rejections & submissions, as well as finding value in badly written stories . . .

THE WRITING LIFE (issue #3)

It has been said that if you want to make it in the arts, you have to be mad. Whether you want to be a writer, a painter, a musician, a cartoonist, or whatever, you have to be mad.

And being mad means this: you have full confidence in your talent and abilities as a creative person and, above all else, you will turn it into a career. There isn’t any doubt in your heart that it will happen. You have complete faith in yourself and the understanding that through extreme devotion to your craft and plenty of endurance, it will only be a matter of time before the world recognizes and values your good work.

That’s what being mad means in the arts. It also means throwing aside pragmatism, throwing aside the dire warnings from family and friends about the economic fallibility of living off one’s creations, AND, ultimately, it means not listening to anybody but your own true self.

Think of the arrogance of such an attitude!

It is, nonetheless, the attitude one must cultive if one desires to make it in the arts. This is not just my opinion. It’s also the opinion of such legendary artists as Ray Bradbury and Gayon Wilson. Both men have spoken eloquently about the necessity of this outlook in lectures and interviews.

In addition to fostering one’s skills and abilities and believing in one’s self, a good bit of leg work in the way of making a career out of art is often done by sheer luck.

So, dear friends, fellow writers and artists, may you be good to the muse (that means show up and do the work, every day, relentlessly) and may the muse be good to you (that means may you get damn lucky and everything works out).

There’s plenty of room in this world for artists of all kinds and stripes, in my opinion. It isn’t a competition, or a battle for first place. There’s no need to fight over who’s the best writer or painter or dancer or singer. There’s room for all of us.

The muse is wonderously vast.

***

I GOT THEM REJECTION BLUES (My favorite segment of The Writing Life!)

It’s time for me to share the latest rejections of my stories. Every once in a great while, they can get me down, but most of the time, they make me smile. Whenever I read a rejection slip, I just say ‘Ok!’ And send out another submission straight away.

In the hope of inspiring fellow writers with the notion that rejections CAN be fun, here’s the latest:

Cast of Wonders rejects my story, Love From Another Place, a supernatural tale of love and loss. This tale is almost ashamedly adolescent in nature, BUT, hey, some people dig that. Teenage girls, for one.

87 Bedford rejects Love From Another Place as well (double your money!).

The Forge Literary Magazine rejects The Hating Game, a flash-fiction piece commenting on such contemporary topics “online trolling” and “cyber-bullying”.

The Future Fire rejects ‘Til Death Do Us Never Part, a story about a bickering married couple whose problems follow them even when they’re both six feet under! This is a comedic, philosophical horror tale, which I’ve recently adapted for the stage. There’s a good chance it may be performed live before an audience in 2020, along with two other strange tales of mine.

SUBMISSION NEWS

On the other hand, I’ve sent out:

Fish Out of Water, a strange fiction tale which merges pulp-style writing with Kafkaeque horror, to Automata Review.

I’m really proud of this tale, and I hope someone picks it up.

The Hating Game to After Dinner Conversation and Confingo Magazine.

Blue Christmas, the shortest story I’ve ever written, to 50-Word Stories! Read this one if you want to cry on Christmas.

Crash Landing, a lost-genre science-fiction story, to Planet Scumm.

LOVE the name of that last one, don’t you?

***

IN OTHER NEWS/WRITING ADVICE

I’ve had a great time tonight writing a zombie tale entitled, No Way Out. It’s got a hell of a lot of descriptive, gory passages and, what I hope are, some sympathetic characters.

First draft adds up to a little over 6,000 words. Tomorrow night I’ll be editing, re-writing and generally making it look like I knew what the hell I was doing the first time around.

NOW, time for this week’s edition of UNSOLICITED WRITING ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS— advice you never asked for, and which may or may not damage your writing career.

Today’s advice is more to do with one’s attitude than it does with the craft of writing, although it is nonetheless vital:

One ought to greatly value every lousy, bad, terrible story they’ve ever written. You know you’ve done it. Admit it! You’ve written a lousy tale or two; a story that might have germinated from a good idea, but couldn’t quite stand on its own? Even the best writers in the business have done it.

It’s not a bad thing, and here’s why: By completing a lousy, no-good story, you learn things. What you learn, especially, is what not to do the next time around. So for every lousy story you write, you are paving the way for all the good ones. You are gaining experience, and likewise, knowledge about your craft.

And that’s where I leave you: pestered and possessed by the muse. Until next time,

Your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

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Write What You DON’T Know: This Week in . . . The Writing Life!

Greetings, friends.

It’s getting cold outside, so come on in, get cozy, and welcome, to another edition of the The Writing Life. 

Life. It is to be lived, of course, but for a writer, it is also to be written. One cannot help but write about what one goes through. It’s a part of that old cliche, vomited from the mouths of countless authors and instructors: “Write what you know.”

I agree, and I disagree.

On the one hand, if we write only about what we know, how are writers ever to branch out and create something vast and new? If we are to write only what we know, how is one to write a story about extra-terrestrials on a far away planet? Surely we know nothing about that. Or how is one to write about an alternate dimension poulated by tiny humanoids? Or a history that never happened? It is, I think, to live inside an oppressive box — writing about only what one knows.

On the other hand, as I’ve stated, one cannot help but write what one knows. What one knows seeps through the spaces between the words we write. It lingers upon every thought, like a strange odor one is never able to get rid of.

We write, ultimately, about ourselves and what we think and feel about the world. What we know. As Henry Miller so aptly said, “The writer writes in order to discover himself.”

And so it is. For example, this evening I’ve written 1700 word short story about an old, world-famous playwright. He’s terribly and morosely addicted to coffee and he obsesses over his work to the point of fatality. When I took a step back from the story, I realized I was writing about myself, and my addiction to caffeine, and my obssession with words and the work I put into my writing.

And so, although we are not always conscious of doing it, we are writing about what we know all the time. We must.

***

THEM REJECTIONS BLUES

(My Personal Favorite Segment of The Writing Life!)

Oh, boy, folks! We’ve got some exciting news in rejection emails today! Believe me — I’m not being factitious, I’m being thrilled. Here’s the low-down, for the record:

Metaphorosis (magazine) rejects my science-fiction story, Crash Landing, and my strange-pulp tale, Fish Out of Water. A nice thing about Metaphorosis is this: the editor has a quick response time, and will leave feedback, if you so select that option in your submission.

Möbius Books rejects my debut horror novel, They Dwell Beneath. This is only my second rejection of this novel, and am waiting on plenty more. I look forward to each rejection like a bite of delicious pie. The right attitude is the only way to survive in this game.

Writers Resist rejects my story, The Hating Game, a flash-fiction piece which comments on the contemporary phenomena of “online trolling”.

Asimov’s Science Fiction & Fantasy rejects Crash Landing. The editor politely advised that I submit using the standard manuscript format. I thought I’d been doing that, but, as it turns out — I haven’t! I am learning things every day, and this, ladies and gents and fellow pronouns, is a biggie. In the immortal word of Homer Simpson, “Doh!”

Not One of Us rejects my story, Johnny Bad Apple, a story I’d written in 2018, about the vicissitudes of fame and fortune in the life of a rock star.

In submission news, I’ve sent out at least ten to fifteen submissions to various magazines as of this week. Wish me luck, fellow readers and writers, as I wish all of you luck.

Yet, a quick addendum to that — as writers, we make our own luck, don’t we? With much practice and endurance — yes, that will be our luck!

***

WRITING ADVICE 

To conclude this week’s fine edition of The Writing Life, I shall disperse the usual allotment of unsolicited advice. It is this:

Write what you know AND, if you can manage it, attempt to write what you don’t know. By this I mean, quite simply, write about your loves and hates and passions (what you know), but try not to “stay safe” by not taking chances with your writing.

When you take chances, you may end up with thousands of words that fail to capture a compelling story. But, those thousands of failed words will teach you things. And the things you learn, as long as you keep reaching for the ungraspable, will lead you to bigger and better stories. And it will lead you, not least of all, to a bigger and better future. 

“Man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” — Robert Browning, English poet and playwright (1812-1889).

Until next week,

your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

 

The Life of a Writer — Dec. 1st (STANGE FISH, LOWSY LUDDITES, & ENDURANCE)

Greetings, friends. It’s just another day in . . . The Life of a Writer. 

Lots of good stories underway, let me tell you.

STORY NEWS

I’ve got a science-fiction story, Crash Landing, about a man who crash lands on an unknown alien planet. It’s your typical “lost world” genre story — except this particular yarn explores the absurdity of being a total luddite in a technological world.

Note: I was not aware of the word “luddite” until earlier this year. I came across it in a Kurt Vonnegut story. For those readers whom might not know, it means: a person opposed to new technology or ways of working. 

Imagine being a luddite AND a member of a planetary exploration crew AND your space ship crashes AND you have no understanding or meaningful relation to the technology that could potentially save your life — should you know how to use it.

Crash Landing is in its second draft stage at the moment, but will be a third and final draft next week and ready for submission to the magazines.

Then there’s Fish Out of Water, even better! It’s about a gang member who gets dropped in the lake wearing cement shoes because he’s killed somebody he shouldn’t have and pissed off a lot of dangerous people. He drowns, then awakens at the bottom of the lake with slimy gills on either sides of his neck. He’s grown webbing between his fingers. He’s got scales growing on his body. And he’s hatching a plan for revenge.

Fish Out of Water is a cross-genre piece, mixing hard-boiled pulp style prose with Kafkaesque twists of fate and, oddly enough, some mysterious Christian imagery having to do with the ressurrection of Christ.

Strange fiction? You bet.

I also got a poem out last night (Ode to Caffeine), a love song written for piano (dedicated to my fiance, Tessandra), plus some blog stuff.

As for today? I’ll be focusing on some editing and re-writing. And after that, if I feel up to it, writing some new stuff.

***

REJECTED!

DOWN-TURNED STORY NEWS (oh, boy, oh, boy, my favorite segment of The Writing Life!)

Silver Pen rejects my story, “Love From Another Place”, a ghost tale of love and loss. The editor, however, was so very kind in her rejection. I always appreciate when I am not handed the standard rejection form.

Crone Girls Press rejects my story, “The Voice”, about a man who commits hit-and-run on a trick-or-treater on Halloween night. The story was intended for an upcoming horror anthology. This is my second story I’ve submitted for this anthology, and so far no luck. Perhaps you, dear reader, if you dabble in dark fiction, will give them a try and have better luck.

STAY TUNED for future rejections. They are always upcoming.

***

ACCEPTED

My first professional publication is my story, The Typewriter. It was accepted by Jolly Horror Press two months ago and will be released in a marvelous book entitled, ACCURSED: A Horror Anthology, to be released this December 10th! JHP editor Jonathan Lambert is a wonderful guy to work with, and I highly recommend fellow writers to consider submitting to JHP for future anthologies.

***

In Other News

I work in a haunted factory these days. It’s an abandoned facility located in a snowy mid-west town where the people are cracked with an abundance of alcohol, opioids, and social gaucherie. But the facility (formerly a cheese factory) is relatively quiet, except for the clanging of the overhead pipes, the pterodactyl-whine of the boiler and the rattle of the radiator.

I sit in a break room with two security monitors. I glance at them from time to time, but mostly I write. And read. And look at what deranged things my fellow bloggers are up to.

This concludes today’s edition of The Writing Life. Questions? Comments? Hurled prejoratives? Please post them in the comments section below.

Lastly, a bit of advice for fellow writers seeking to master their craft:

The key to your success as a writer is endurance. And practice, of course.

The amount of effort you put in, and how long you can keep it up. These simple things largely determine what sort of writer you will become. To keep on top of practice, some folks aim to hit a particular word count every day, or every week.

As for me? I subscribe to the Ray Bradbury Regimen. That means, simply, focus on writing ONE short story a week. After fifty two weeks, you’ll have fifty-two stories, and hell, they can’t all be bad, can they?

As the colloquial saying goes, “Hold my beer . . .”

 

Until next time,

Your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

100 Subscribers – A Thank You Note. PLUS, a relaunch of my blog: “WELCOME TO MY WRITING LIFE”!

While perusing my blog stats the other day, I noticed I’ve gained exactly one hundred subscribers. Thank you to all who follow this blog, to all who read, like and comment on my posts! I hope you’ll stick around awhile, because I’ve got some exciting plans ahead.

I don’t post often, but this habit, as of this moment, is over. From now on, expect to be hearing from me on a frequent basis.

I’ve been writing like a madman this year (nearly 300,000 words written, last time I checked), and yet I’ve been posting only once in awhile. The reason is this:

I want to earn a living by writing stories (be kind, for god-sakes, and at least attempt to stiffle your giggles!), but I can’t earn an income from my stories if I post them here. Magazines will not accept work that has appeared online. And so, I must hide them away, and submit them in private.

Writing, as they say, can be a solitary gig.

This year, so far, I’ve written one novel and forty short stories — ranging from  horror to science-fiction to western to pulp to weird/uncategorizable fiction. And it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.

Are all of my stories masterpieces? Nah. But I’ve learned a lot, and out of those thousands of words, I believe I’ve spun some pretty fantastic yarns.

So, this is the plan: Although I cannot share with my subscribers my stories, I can still share with you my life. I can share with you the labors of my daily grind, the pounding of the keys, the churning of the words, the sending out of submissions tethered with eager hopes like messages in a bottle tossed to sea . . .

I can share the gargantuan amount of rejection emails I receive from editors of little- known indie magazines and famous magazines alike. I can share with you what’s it’s like to be me. My inspirations, my struggles, my hopes, my dreams, and my failures.

I know, deep down (and forgive me if this sounds the least bit arrogant) that I am a unique, special man. And I don’t want to pass from this earth being the only one who knows that.

I believe my subscribers are unique and special as well. And I want to share with you. So, please, do stick around. Get to know me, and if you comment and share your thoughts, perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to get to know you.

Stay tuned, and welcome, to My Writing Life!

Your kind and constant scribbler,

Tylor James.

 

 

 

 

A Human Condition (Poem)

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

To shimmy one’s mind

Down a cozy chimney.

To turn soul into soot.

To be blackened into

The substance of the bricks.

To not be conscious of anything

Except the solidity of stone.

The scattered ash of cleansing fires.

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

To jump in the river

And drown.

(Goodnight, Irene.

Goodnight).

When we want to hop on a boxcar

And head to God’s land — No Where Land.

When we want to feel only

the immaculate fullness of nothing.

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

Because being human,

is to know the suffering

Of mortality drenched in the famine of hope.

Of the flesh’s submission to the conveyor belt of time.

Of real, painful strings attached to illusory things.

Things which will fade, like the rose or the sun

Or this withering page, drenched in a light not yet cold.

Yes, we all have days. You are not alone.

 

COPYRIGHT 2019. Tylor James.

Featured image artwork by Edward Foster: http://www.edwardfosterart.co.uk/art-work/the-human-conditions/

It Will Be Winter Soon (A Poem For the Darker Half of the Year)

It will be winter soon.

The cold has arrived, and

ominous white flakes

float the breeze,

like ash on the wind

in Pompeii.

It will be winter soon.

So suffocate your houses

with plastic sheets,

and tack on the lath.

Wrap your windows like Christmas

presents for the dead.

It will be winter soon.

It may come tomorrow,

or it may arrive in

the dead of night.

But when comes, it will be

ivory as bleached bones.

It will be winter soon.

The roads will be choked

with barrels of salt.

Better put chains on those tires.

Better keep some blankets in the back.

Lest you want to curl up with old man Winter . . .

It will be winter soon.

The barren branches stretch

and grasp at the dead white sky.

Tiny flakes drift down like

perfect feathers tickling the ground.

A snowflake is a still drop in an frozen sea.

It will be winter soon.

And the rust never sleeps.

It will eat through your cars.

It will eat through your flesh.

It will sink teeth in your lily white ankle

in December and not let go ’til Spring.

It will be winter soon.

Some of the old shall be snapped,

like a frozen-through pine.

It will put a stop to the young

with a sudden glare of black ice

shining ‘neath a frozen sun.

It will be winter soon.

Haul out the shovels,

and prepare your back for breaking.

Put up a Christmas tree, dazzle your wits

with electric lights and exclaim that they

are better than the sun.

It will be winter soon.

The stars shall shine beautiful,

yet indifferent. People will stay

in their beds and make babies.

Because if it is death outside,

We strive for life inside.

It will be winter soon.

Time for holly jolly.

Time for good cheer.

Because the weatherman says,

all clocks stop now —

Old Man Winter is here.

 

 

Copyright 2019. Tylor James.

Spiders (poem)

It takes a lot of writing

To get the spiders out of my brain.

They are crawling around inside

the twenty-four inch

Circumference

Of my cranium.

 

I don’t even know it,

half the time.

Not until their eight legs

Land, trembling upon the paper

In a black spatter of ink.

 

There are spiders

Crawling up my water spout.

I wash them down my drain,

But they just keep coming.

 

There are spiders, creeping

Over the face of my lover as she sleeps

Peacefully.

Crawling over my face

As I snore, and twitch, dreaming of spiders.

 

They can clog my throat,

If I keep my mouth open.

Just as they can clog my mind,

If I don’t wash them out

With sweat, ink and soul.

 

Spiders in my brain. Spiders in my attic.

Spiders in my automobile, coach and train.

Spiders in my basement, silent and static.

 

There is a cacophony of wet silk,

vibrating inside my ears,

All the time.

 

I am a willing fly,

Forever caught and wriggling within the net

Of decadent creation.

 

 

Copyright 2019. Tylor James. 

Dealing for Mr. B (Short story, pulp style)

The boys were running late and that was dangerous. Mr. B expected them to be there at a certain time and they were running late because of Eddie. They’d gotten halfway across town before Eddie turned out his pockets, showing they hadn’t brought the money. Jim called him an airhead and a slacker, always too high to know what he was doing.

“Mr. Bilgewater expected us to be there at 6:30 p.m., SHARP!” Jim shouted. “Now it’s 6: 33, and it’ll take us at least 20 minutes to get there!”

“Relax, dude,” Eddie replied. “We’ll get there.”

“Of course we’ll get there you idiot!” he screamed. “Problem is he’s going to kill us!”

Eddie waved his hand at him, blubbered his lips. No big deal.

“We were going to be famous in this town,” Jim said. “Everybody at school was finally going to respect us. Now we’re going to be what we’ve always been, Eddie. Nuthin’!”

Eddie rolled a joint, lit it, inhaled.

“Put that shit away!” he scolded.

“Huh?”

“I said put it away, you slacker! We’re on a professional run, not some half-baked road cruise, you lousy—”

“Jeezus, alright!” Eddie cut him off, stabbing out the joint. “You need to take a chill pill, man.”

Sweat stung Jim’s forehead as they approached the toll bridge that led to the Bilgewater mansion. The dirt flung from beneath their tires as they drove down the gravel road, over the bridge, screeching to a hault in the smoothly paved drive. They sat in the cab.

“Give me the dough,” Jim snarled.

Eddie shrugged, handing him the envelope. They jumped out of the truck, sprinted up to the large front porch, and rung the doorbell. Eddie gazed up nonchalantly, spotting the security cam zooming in on them from one high corner. He waved.

“Knock that off!” Jim grunted, slapping his hand down.

Dude,” Eddie said. “That hurt!”

“Shut up.”

The oak double-doors opened to a grim faced butler with piercing blue eyes and a pale, wrinkled complexion. “You’re late, boys. Master Bilgewater is most disappointed,” he said.

Jim gulped and let out a high-pitch giggle.

“Sorry, dude,” Eddie shrugged. “It wasn’t our fault. We got caught in traffic. Right, Jim?”

Jim smiled wide.

“This way, please.”

The butler turned and walked into the entryway, then up the large, red carpeted staircase. They followed, glancing at one another with expressions of apprehension. Eddie reached into his pocket, pulled out a roach. Jim slapped his hand again. He put the roach back in his pocket.

The staircase led them to a long, wide hallway. Doors flanked each wall. If they had numbers on them, Jim would have thought the Bilgewater Mansion nothing more than an upscale motel. Eddie glanced at the doors and wondered what may lay behind them. They both stopped in their tracks when they heard a scream behind one of the doors. It came from behind. They turned, looked.

“No cause for concern, boys,” the butler said. “Merely one of Mr. B’s partners. They love to scream. It’s what we pay them for.”

He continued down the hall. Jim and Eddie started at each other dumb founded as the woman let out another scream. Was it a scream of agony, or pleasure? It was impossible to tell. Eddie began to tremble.

“I’m freaking out, man” Eddie whispered.

“Me too,” Jim whispered back.

They followed the butler up a second flight of stairs, then a third, until they reached yet another hallway, and at the end of it, a metal door with an EXIT sign above it. The butler held the door open for them, nodding once. Jim and Eddie walked out into the blinding sun on the roof of the Bilgewater mansion. The sun was beginning to set, shedding piercing rays from the horizon.

Then their eyes fixed on the swimming pool; a long, wide rectangle with half-naked women jumping in and out of it. Jim gasped. Both of the boys’ mouths hung slack.

“Whoaaaa,” stated Eddie.

A short man, balding, wearing a black and red robe with dragons on it stood to one side, each arm around a supermodel waist. The women were much taller than the man. They towered like giant goddesses. The man’s fingers delicately slipped in and out of their bikini bottoms, occasionally reaching around and pinching their behinds. The girls giggled. The man laughed.

“Master Bilgewater. Our company has arrived, Sir.”

He turned and eyed the boys through a pair of aviators.

“So they have. Thank you, Hanson,” he said. He turned to the girls. “Feel free to go for another dip girls. I’ve got some business to attend to.” Both of them leaned down, kissed his cheeks. Then they stripped, unclasping their tops and shimmying out of their bikini bottoms. They jumped into the pool with a dozen others, making a great splash! Bilgewater laughed, ambled over to a poolside table and sat beneath the shade of a large green umbrella. He motioned to the boys with his index finger. Come hither.

They came hither, sitting in the shaded chairs opposite of Bilgewater. The pool girls screamed and giggled. Jim’s eyes kept returning to the pool, feeling something stirring in his shorts. Hanson glided over with a silver tray. Another Guinness, Sir?

“Thanks, Hanson,” Bilgewater nodded.

“My pleasure, Sir,” the butler replied, setting the tall, sweating glass in front of him. Hanson disappeared as Bilgewater looked at his watch.

“I told you boys to be here, 6:30 sharp,” he said. “It’s 6:54 according to my watch. Not very professional.”

“We’re so sorry, Mr. Bilgewater, Sir,” Jim blurted. “We were halfway to your place when—”

Bilgewater held up a hand and lifted his glass with the other, gulping down the beer.

“No excuses,” he said, wiping froth from his lips. “If I say be here at a certain time, then you’d better be here. Normally I’d be very upset. But today, boys, be grateful I’m in a generous mood. Besides, what can I expect with a couple of lousy high school kids? Now. The money.”

Jim fumbled around his right jean pocket. At last, he pulled out the envelope, handing it to Bilgewater. He immediately began counting the bills.  After a few minutes, he dropped the envelope onto the table, looking up at the boys, grim-faced.

“A grand short, kids,” he said.

Jim and Eddie looked at one another, wide eyed. Eddie turned pale.

“B-b-but, we were s-s-sure it was all there!” Jim started.

Bilgewater leaned back in his chair and laughed.

“Just messing, boys,” he said, grinning ear to ear. “It’s all accounted for.”

Jim let out a sigh of relief.

“Oh, man! Thank Christ,” Eddie said, shaking his head. “I thought we were dead meat for sure.”

Bilgewater let out a cackle. “Hey,” he said. “You boys are alright. Wanna beer?”

“Sure, Mr. Bilgewater. We’d love one,” Jim smiled.

“Mind if I toke up instead?” Eddie said, bringing out the roach from his pocket.

Jim face-palmed.

Bilgewater smirked. “Whatever, kid.”

“Thanks Mr. B,” Eddie said, lighting the spliff.

“Hanson! Another pint of Guinness!”

Hanson was old, but swift on his feet. He nearly levitated over, silver tray over one arm, the tall delicious pint beading wet. Hanson set down the glass, bowed, floated away. Jim took a sip and grinned. He’d never had a Guinness before, but it was a hell of a lot better than the Budweiser and PBR his dad kept in the fridge.

“Aside from being late, you two did fine,” Bilgewater smiled. “Here’s your cut for selling the cocaine.”

From out of the pockets of his robe, he pulled out a thick roll of bills. He handed $200 to Jim, and $200 to Eddie. “Don’t spend it all in one place, boys,” he said. They grinned at each other. Two hundred a piece! What would they do with it all? As his spliff burned down to the nub, Eddie already had a pretty good idea what he’d buy with his cut.

“Now,” said Mr. B. “How are the prospective clients looking?”

“Pretty damn good,” Jim replied, feeling relaxed. “Ronny and Stew in my biology class are already asking for another gram. Half of the jocks on the football and wrestling teams love the stuff.”

“I’ll bet,” Bilgewater chortled. “Eddie? Prospects?”

“Yeah, Mr. B. Sold some to Mr. Kieps down at the Gentleman’s Lounge. Said he’d be interested in buying more than a couple grams.”

“Just what I wanted to hear. Now what I’m going to need for you boys is a list of names, numbers and addresses of clients. This list, along with everything else we ever do, is to be kept very secret and private. Got that?”

They nodded.

“I want you to bring this list along with you next Saturday, along with the money.” The Bilgewater gazed up and shouted, “Yo, Hanson! The bag!”

Hanson brought over a paper bag, with the “Rubin’s Café & Bakery” logo printed on its side and set it before Jim, who peeked in at its contents.

“This is a little more than last time,” Jim observed.

“That’s how we do business,” Bilgewater said. “You show me you can be responsible, I give you more product to sell, which means a bigger cut for you both.

“Now, boys,” he cautioned. “I want you back here next Saturday at exactly 6:30 p.m. Tardy slips will no longer be acceptable. I ain’t your god damned school principal. Got it?

“Yes, Sir,” Jim nodded.

“You’ve got it, Mr. B,” Eddie said.

“Finish up that pint, Jim, and I’ll see y’all this time next week. If you don’t mind, boys, I’ve got some other business to attend to.”

Bilgewater got up from his chair. He walked over to the poolside and stretched out his arms. The women surrounded him, wet bodies shimmering in the setting sun, breasts brushing his robe as they tittered and kissed his lips.

“Man,” Eddie shook his head. “If only we could be that lucky.”

“We will be,” Jim smiled. “As long as we keep dealing for Mr. B, we’re going to end up just as filthy rich, with just as many girls.”

“Really?” Eddie asked.

“Really,” Jim confirmed, drowning the rest of the beer.

Hanson led them back inside, past the strange hallways of doors emanating screams and sighs and then down, down, down the crimson flights of stairs, to the front door. Jim gripped the paper bag in his hand, delighted that Bilgewater hadn’t sentenced the both of them to the iron maiden after all.

He split the product down the middle with Eddie in the cab. Eddie would spend the week selling his half, and Jim the other. It was going to be another great week, building report with customers, thereby gaining cash in their pockets and fame among their peers. Jim started the rusty Chevy pickup and grinned.

***

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Tylor J. Mintz 2019.

 Using James Scott Bell’s random plot generator, I construct eda story with a swimming pool for a setting, a slacker for a minor character, drug dealing for a villainous act, and fame as the motive for that act. There is also to be a twist of “bridge is out”, which I’ve yet to write. This story is, therefore, a work in progress. 

A Short Walk with Randolph Metzger (SHORT STORY)

They hauled him, black bag over his head, through the jeering crowd, toward the gallows. He endured the wild curses, demands, and insults as one does with a cold wind. He accepted, and shivered. But what hurt him, what affected him, was hearing them shout his name…

My own name, he thought. Why does it make me cringe? What is it about a title I’ve had since birth that brings these shivers up my spine? Makes my hair stand on end? Gives me gooseflesh?

Randolph Metzger.

A name given to me by my mother, not without a lofty pride. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather – a heritage of honor, a noble Captain of a ship. My grandfather the courageous explorer, loving husband to my Grandmother Rosemary, and lifelong giver of alms to the poor. By all accounts, my grandfather was a great man.

By all accounts, I am not.

Hence, up ahead. The gallows. I see only black. But I know that noose is there all the same. It’s almost as if I can smell it…swinging to and fro, in the wind. It smells of an odd mixture of pine, sweat, and desperation…

A shiver ran up his spine. His spine was like a long fuse, burning up into explosions of fear inside his brain. His temples throbbed. His knees began to tremble.

So this is how my life ends, thought Randolph Metzger. As a short, nightmare walk toward grim fate. With blackened sight. With hatred, stuffed into my ears. With cold, hard prods from the guards, and sharp jabs and gobs of spit from this stupid, undulating mass of serfs.

Ah, but there is a brighter side. There is, there is.

Just think! I could be spending the remainder of my days like these fools. Sweating away the years, giving all, having nothing, starving, suffering, proffering sins, aching for a better life after death. Ha!

And there lies the rub. Life after Death, the only thing – the only delusion! – that makes this life the least bit tolerable.

As any wise man knows, if he is wiser than St. Thomas Aquinas, there is no such thing. These poor fools! These lousy, damned Idiots! What do they know with their shouts and damnations? They know only hatred and stupidity and work – that is their lot in service to the King. That is their life.

Why in hell would I ever want a part in that?

Yet even if there is some paradisiacal after-life, it won’t be for me. Not with the things I’ve done.

Indeed. If there be a Pearly Gates, they are open to some, closed to others, and yet barricaded with chains, locks, and hexes for those rare wicked, debauched souls like Randolph Metzger.

For Randolph Metzger the sign slapped across those golden Gates reads loud and clear:

KEEP OUT!

The guard on his left rammed an elbow into his gut.

“HAULT!” he screamed.

“What, god damn you? What?!”

“The stairs! Step UP!”

Randolph stepped up, then up again, and up, up. A new pain radiated up his left leg, following the track of his spine, exploding ghastly fireworks inside his brain again.

My head, oh my head, he thought. Wouldn’t it be a beauty if it just exploded, right here upon the gallow steps?

Randolph imagined his pink, fleshy brains littering the imbecile crowd all ‘round him in one great BLAST! — a cranium ignited by pain and fear and set to fracture, split, and fly all in one breath!

Oh, how they would scream!

The crowd cheered madly as Randolph shambled onto the stage. It was one hell of a great show and – by god! – he was the star of it. The closest he’d ever gotten to the gallows was as a child, when forced by parents and instructors to act in those cute little theater plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes.

Look at me now, ma! He thought, laughing wildly beneath black cloth.

The guards looked at each other and scowled. One of them struck a blow to his stomach. Randolph doubled over in agony. They jerked his shoulders back, forcing him straight again.

“What!” Randolph hissed. “Pray tell, a man cannot have a bit of fun at his own funeral?”

“Funeral?” shouted a guard. “There is no funeral for you, Randolph Metzger! The world should never provide you such fortune – You do not deserve it. No. For you, there is only execution. Justice!”

The guards dragged him to center stage. He now stood upon the trap door, which felt no different to his feet than the rest of the stage. He knew he was standing on it all the same. That cold wind blew again, carrying the sea of shouts and voices even closer to his ears. He drowned in that sea, but did not shiver, did not twitch. They put the noose around Randolph Metzger’s neck, snugging it tight.

Why fear what is deserved? He thought. Why fear at all? What is there at the end of this rope other than the inevitable? I am to be swallowed up by black nothingness. The void. The thing that exists for all mankind before birth…so what?

The shouts from the crowd grew ever more excited. Damnations, condemnations, or insults, it was no matter. He was becoming used to it.

So I never followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. I’ve ever had any desire to! I was never a kind man, compassionate man, a loving man…this is perhaps the most loving I’ve ever been. Here on the gallows, wind shivering my body, enduring the hatred of my country…this! I love all of this! I have walked a short life…yet I have walked in steps true to me and only me. This, I love. This, where I belong.

A voice, novel and foreign, shouted from the stage.

“QUIET! QUIET!” demanded the voice.

The crowd simmered to a low boil, leaving the air heavy, thick. The wind blew. The shivers on Randolph’s spine were pleasurable now, almost sensuous.

My god! he thought. I’ve never felt so alive!

“Randolph A. Metzger,” the voice boomed. “You have lived a life of thievery, decadence and murder. You have cheated and exploited every living soul you’ve ever known. Therefore, you have been condemned to execution by your King and country. You are hereby sentenced to be hung from the neck until you are dead. Have you any last words?”

“Yes,” Randolph replied without pause. “My last words are for my children. I know not their names, nor their homes, nor do I care. Yet if they ever become curious of their old man, and inquire to their mothers about my existence, they ought to know this:

“I, Randolph Metzger, am by all accounts a great man. My children shall know I am honorable heritage, for I am captain of my life. I am honest to my own Self, for one must always be honest if they are to live outside the law. I am a lover of widows and wenches, of money and of fools – murdered. I am a lifelong thief of the rich and poor alike, for all men and ladies are equal before my eyes. For all of them, as good as rats! Thus it is with great happiness that I be condemned – for it means I shall rest, at last, free and dreamless, of the stupid, mindless torrents of this plagued world!”

The crowd grew ever angrier. They threw stones, soiled fruit, whatever they could get their hands on. None of these flew high enough to strike their desired target – the man in the noose whom laughs.

“May the Lord have mercy on your soul!”

A guard pulled the creaking lever. The trapdoor swung open with a clatter, and Randolph dropped through.

SNAP!

The body came to a sudden mid-air hang as the neck broke. Somehow, the black bag around his head had dropped, leaving the face exposed. He appeared handsome, peaceful.

Randolph Metzger swung to and fro, a lifeless pendulum in a cold wind that no longer brought cold, nor shivers, nor wind.

 

 

© April 2019. Tylor J. Mintz. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This, the Written Page (poem)

Sometimes that is the last refuge.

That, the blank page.

I scribble and it is a linguistic sigh, a relief.

I write long and hard

And I am on the moon, beyond myself.

I write steady and true

And I am not a writer, but

I am being written, I am writing.

When I am insufferable to the world,

Thinking the world is insufferable,

I turn, one hand armed with the dagger pen,

And I scribble, scrawl, scrutinize.

Or fingers poised above the granite keyboard

I crack, click, clack

The cool, easy hours away.

 

It is like when lovers

Cease their sensuous tumble.

The breath returns at last,

my soul unsold!

Writing is a glorious, beautiful, happy affair.

(Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)

It is an addiction to Self-transcendence.

When I am not a writer, I am being written.

I am writing, and sometimes,

I arise like a hero, head emptied, stomach starved,

Ready (and willing!) to rejoin society.

Because in my hands I wave

This, the written page.