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Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Book Creeps Closer

Like a horrific, million year-old abomination from an H.P. Lovecraft story, the book version of The Curse of Future Tom is slouching toward the gateway to our reality, cackling maniacally and waving its tentacles around.

It’s taking its time – there was a shocking lag between sending the manuscript and getting recognized in the system and assigned a design crew, but they are working on it now, and it’s not a particularly complicated book.  There are no pictures except the cover, which seriously I don’t want to alarm you, but in my opinion it’s a pretty hilarious cover.

In the meantime, traffic on the site is steady and the vast majority of the people reading are folks who have found their way here through some other means, as opposed to the chunk of supportive friends and family members who have been here for nearly six months, and that’s a good thing.  Eventually, people I don’t know would have to start reading otherwise the same hundred people would have to buy a book every single week – Bill Vaughn might do it, who knows?

Also, I’m tending toward some strange new categories, so I’m going to tell you again what’s going on with them so you know what I’m doing and so you can avoid the posts that don’t interest you and read the ones that do.

The Opposite of Homeless – I can imagine as Rebecah said that this is a fairly frustrating story, since I have only a vague idea where it is going and I’m writing it eight hundred words or so at a time.  That’s not normally the way I would go about something like that – I’m an outline kind of fellow.

But what can I say, three kids, wife, bills to pay, work to do and I can’t post an outline of Future Tom, so I thought that’d be a nice, experimental way to keep writing fiction when I’m having trouble finding the time to really concentrate on it.  Fiction is something I enjoy considerably more than angry rants or television shows.

So eventually, I suspect The Opposite of Homeless will turn into Chapter One of a longer work I’ve been kicking around for a while, so we’ll just see how it goes. 

The Paperback Project – This is similar, though not much of the actual writing will appear here since this is a science fiction paperback novel I’m writing, which I will then push for publication in the relatively easy Scf-Fi market.

When you’re writing a total fantasy novel like that, something that is essential is worldbuilding.  I started with a planet for the novel to be set on, put some humans on it, and then thought up a decent reason for them to be there and a fairly original method for covering the distance from Earth.

I’m having an absolute dorktacular blast with it, by the way.  It’s exactly like sitting around on the floor playing Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of weird dice and a stack of books, and it’s also exactly like an epiphany – holy Christmas I said to myself, I never had to stop doing that at all.

People still get paid for sitting around thinking up stories on other planets. 

So anyway, the way worldbuilding works is I have to figure out everything about my planet.  For example, how long is a day?  It’s not 24 hours, that’s how long it takes for Earth to go around the Sun, not this planet to go around its Sun, while being towed and bobbled around in its orbit by a much, much small sun.  So you have to figure out how long a day is, and how you’re going to talk about time without saying “TEN OF YOUR EARTH HOURS!” or anything like that.

Same thing for years.  For all lengths of time.  Then speaking of that, what are the seasons like on this world?  How cold does it get?  How hot?  What kind of life?  What kind of terrain?

Then of course there have to be civilizations and life forms on the planet – so I need to figure out the history of it.  The more detail I can come up with the better.

And the reason for all that craziness is consistency, the same thing I’m always complaining about in movies.  You figure all this stuff in advance even if some of it or most of it is never going to come into play.  Because down the road, there’s an army of little Future Toms who are going to be reasy and willing to point out how things don’t line up.  You figure all that out so that the descriptions and settings and conversations and characters are all consistent.

So when you see that title, expect to read about some worldbuilding.  I’ll be doing that right up to the point I actually start writing it, which may not be until next April, when this Write For The Blog Every Day thing has passed and I can issue a new challenge to Future Tom – that paperback novel will probably be it. 

Also, more television shows – I like writing about television shows because it’s easy.  All I have to do is watch television.  But also because that’s been the most successful method I’ve come across of connecting with new readers, so that’s that. 

Anybody out there have any suggestions?  Complaints?  Comments?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Future Tom To Ground Control

 

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Things They Can Stop Saying In Movies

“I want the truth!” 

I don’t feel like I need to defend that one – aren’t you tired of hearing that?  Anyone ever said that to you in real life?  Don’t you kind of assume when you’re talking to people that they want the truth and that they know you’re also looking for the truth?

Another big one is “Secure the perimeter!”

Usually they scream it to a bunch of SWAT guys or Marines or something – were they just sitting there going gee what should we do about this perimeter, Sarge?  Seems like someone called some SWAT guys and/or Marines over here, these guys probably know what a perimeter is.  That’s really something you need to start barking at the air right when you get out of your car?

Even so, how do they know who’s in charge?  If I pull up and scream “Secure the perimeter!” Will they do it?  How do they know Ashley Judd is in charge? 

It just doesn’t have the dramatic effect it used to. 

Also, in movies about space and in particular movies in which warp speed or time travel comes into play – I’ve had about enough of the map-folding analogy.  We all know it came from Stephen King’s fantastic short story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” and in that case it was magical realism, not science fiction.

So when you’re explaining wormholes to me, and I tell you I don’t understand them, and you tell me that the shortest distance between two points on a map is a straight line, and then you get a raised-eyebrow surprise party expression on your face and add “unless you fold the map!” – that doesn’t help.

I already knew what folding meant.  I just don’t know how to do it to space. 

Sometimes the characters even get out a piece of paper and fold it, to show me what they mean, looking at everyone like they just ran a rack of nine ball.   I already knew how to fold a piece of paper for the love of God – just don’t explain it if you don’t want to explain it, that’s all I’m asking.

Also, no more Chosen Ones.  That’s just enough of that – too convenient.  “The Legend says that a Chosen One will show up and star in a movie about this Legend!”  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Also when a government official tells a character that information is Need to Know, I would formally like to ask all screenwriters to stop having the character respond, “Oh yeah?  Well I need to know.”

That seriously is so lazy it makes me rock back and forth weeping.  Stop it.

Does anyone ever add the phrase “Do it now” to instructions they’re giving you?  For some reason, people do that in movies all the time.  That’s usually the second bookend to the phrase “I want you to listen to me very carefully.”

So it goes like this, coming from either the Hero or the Villain:  “I want you to listen to me very carefully So and So, You need to XYZ and then ABC.  Do it now.”

Hardly anyone every specifies that they want me to listen to them carefully – most people who are talking to me actually expect that of me already.   And usually they tell me when they want something done if it’s not right now.  If it’s right now, they just tell me what it is and look surprised that I’m not hopping to it.

Teenagers and children – I’m really tempted to just ask them in general to keep quiet altogether in movies.  They so often talk like poorly acted Bill and Ted ripoffs, or snarky, thirty year-old screenwriters with Masters degrees. 

But if they’re going to talk, I need them to A) Stop announcing their ages, especially to their parents, B) Stop rolling their eyes or glaring or otherwise behaving in a manner that anyone except a snarky, thirty year-old screenwriter with a Masters degree would deal with fairly quickly instead sighing and shrugging and asking the Ghost Whisperer, “What can you do?”

You can go and get that kid’s car keys and his shoes, and tell him he’s going to sit in his room like a toddler until he can keep his eyes from rolling around, that’s what you can do there, Movie Mom.

Also, I’d like professors to stop opening college level classes with a vague, general philosophical question that a bunch of stoners or drunks might ponder around two AM, instead of following a syllabus or consulting a reading, and it’d be great if the the bell didn’t ring again after a three minute discussion of it.

That goes for restaurants, too – why do people always sit down and talk for three minutes and then get up and leave?

Or, alternatively, I suppose I could stop feeding a nonstop barrage of television and movies into my head, in which case I might not be so tired of practically everything they are saying to me.  That would probably solve it, too.

 
 

The Event: The Second Half Of A Decent Pilot

That’s the main thing that seems to have happened here.  This should have been a two-hour pilot episode, and the second half is pretty good.

There was a lot about the first episode I didn’t like, but most of it was kind of picky.  Forgivable if they keep the story moving along.  And it wasn’t at all clear that they were going to do that at first. 

You can read all about the picky stuff I didn’t like right here.  And you should know that there are going to be spoilers ahead, so if knowing that I like the second episode is enough to get you to go watch it, then go do that and come back.

Spoilers ahead.

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Okay.  So one of the first things they show us is what happens to the plane – I like that.  I was really afraid I was supposed to sit around for two or three years waiting on the plane to show up again.

The crash again smacks of LOST – just about anybody ought to be able to admit that LOST owns plane crashes on television for a while, and for a moment or two, it threatens to get too comfortable with it.  There’s a fire in the plane, an evacuation, some heroics, etc. 

And I was thinking, okay they’re in some parallel dimension or something and they’ll have to survive here – again, too much like LOST – and ended up genuinely surprised by who turned out to have been flying the plane and why.

So I got some answers and they were surprising – a good sign.

More good news:  head of the CIA tells the President that the Alaskan prisoners are aliens.

Right when aliens show up, I develop superpowers when it comes to lightening up about other things.  And indeed, there are still some distractingly bad, cliche’ lines coming out of the President still – “I want the truth!”   And the weirdly long swimming pool scene which I just failed to find cute or charming.  And stereotypically long trips to have face-to-face conversations which could have easily happened over the phone.

Not nearly so much of all that, however, and a lot of improvement as well.  For example, those one-sided conversations they were having last week changed into regular conversations.  Instead of saying vague, general things about a mysterious Event, the exchanges were meaningful and informative – the way they ought to be if they warranted a place in the script.

In fact, my favorite question of the night came out of the President’s mouth – “Why are we holding them?”

Almost too good a question.  I kind of have a hard time believing that it would take so long for someone to ask that question.  Anyway, it was a non-frustrating exchange.  The show has an X-Files feel to it, and so they’re going to want to refrain from relying on mysterious conversations with mysterious strangers in mysterious parking garages.  They’re going to want to refrain from cliche’ and aimless teasing.  And right now, they’re refraining from it just fine.

I think the problem really was the pilot was meant to be two hours long, and so they kind of tried to stretch it out.  This second episode really balances it out.

Some further evidence of a compelling season:

 The creepy swinger couple was exactly one half a red herring.  I assumed they were both behind the kidnapping, then got a little annoyed when the male half of the creepy swinger couple got killed, clearly knowing nothing about it.  I thought, that was too weird and unbelievable to be there as a throwaway.   Then on the second viewing I (think) I picked up that the girl was a part of the kidnapping, her dude just didn’t know it.  That’s clever and I like clever.

The fate of the other passengers including the pilot – that’s hard ball.  I am weirdly impressed that they went that dark, especially since it makes sense.  That’s how the super bad guys would handle that situation, that’s how they are.  Some kinds of shows would find a way to let everyone go, maybe the old memory erase pill or something.  I’m impressed by villains who do horrible things when it makes horrible sense, not just for the sake of horrible.  It’s somehow more realistic and therefore scarier.

Also the brief scene where the agent gets blood drawn using the Waterbeds and Stuff-type supply of human blood under the skin of his arm in a fake vein – that was kind of inspired.  They didn’t have to think it through that much and a lot of shows wouldn’t have.

The nurse in the hospital who is told Sean is a murder suspect, insteading of falling in love with him and helping him, turns him in the very first moment she gets – he’s about twenty steps away from her.

Similarly, he does not elude the federal marshalls, and is instead apprehended.  A bit of a happy coincidence that they then have to drive through the desert exactly where Sean recognizes himself as having crashed, but I’ll take it.

There are human-form aliens walking among us, a government conspiracy to cover it up, and some kind of teleportation technology at work.  An X-Files kind of show that feels more like  24 when you’re watching it.  As long as they understand that I don’t expect to finish the story on my extra special own with my imagination and a stack of books, then this show and I might get along just fine.

Official prediction:  The survivors are not aliens.  They are time travelers.  The alien story is the watered-down version designed to give out to the President if they ever had to.  The truth is they are time travelers – superevolved humans from our own future.  You heard it here first.
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Earlier: The Event Shows Promise And Cause For Alarm
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And: The Event: First Impressions
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And: Time Travelers Among Us

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2010 in Television/Movies, The Event

 

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The Opposite Of Homeless (IV)

(Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first three parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three.)

James shows her the phone again and now the screen displays a street map with a small icon marking a spot on it.  He says, “See?  She’s sitting right there at work.”

Rose shakes her head, grinning.  “That’s crazy!  What about the kids?”

“Both teenagers,” James replies, pressing some more buttons and then showing it to her again.  “They’re on Facebook, foursquare, all these social networking sites.  I friended them both under a fake teenybopper ID and now they tell me where they are every fifteen minutes, practically, without even asking.  They just tell everybody for no reason – going to the library, eating a sandwich, doing homework at Bob’s house.  It’s nuts.”

“I don’t know much about those things,” Rose replies, and gets a strange look from James but he drops it pretty quickly.

He stands and leans against the computer desk, peering around the little office with a troubled expression looking odd on his smooth face.  His cheeks have a little bit of a pudge and a hue to them that Rose isn’t used to seeing on her peers.

Her hands move to her forearms, rubbing them absently as if cold, though the sunlight hitting the blinds emanates dull heat.  She leans against the wall, liking the rough feel of the painted drywall, and keeps her mouth shut, still watching him.

James says, “You must have left home pretty young.”

In the two days they’ve known each other, they’ve very rarely asked questions.  All personal information tends to be volunteered among their brethren – so many of them have people looking for them, parents and cops and drug dealers and pimps and worse.  Much, much worse.

Rose bobs away from the wall and wanders further into the room, peeking out the blinds for no reason in particular and then dropping into a large wicker chair that is meant to be more decorative than functional.  It offers a few creaky complaints beneath her whispery weight, and she runs the back of her nails up and down along the slats of a vented closet door beside her.

She folds her arms and offers no eye contact, a conspicuous thing in the small room, and says, “I was fourteen.  Just barely.  I’d been fourteen for three days when I left.”

No time to really learn about the things other girls learn about.  No carefree trips to the mall with her pals, no piling into Coldstone Creamery for candy bar ice cream sprinkles.  Rose knows what she’s missed, knows it all too well and she doesn’t want pity or understanding or empathy or even any attention at all.

All of those things come with a price, she knows, for a girl on her own.

James says, “You don’t have to tell me anything, Rose.  I’m just talking about these networking sites.”

She tilts her chin down, hiding her eyes behind her dark hair, a girl who has cried so much she can almost sniff the tears back into her eyes like snot.  Almost.  After a moment she has to somewhat angrily wipe a tear away, and then she looks up at him, moist and defiant. 

“I know,” she tells him.

James only nods, looking down like a funeral director speaking to the bereaved. 

Here is a moment when they typically try something, she thinks.  Right when they have you in tears, right when you’re tired and shaking, right when they’ve shown you that they’re strong and you’re weak.  I know what you need, they’ll tell you, and then start humping your leg like a dog.

Except it isn’t funny.  It’s just as disgusting, but without being funny. 

James shrugs and says, “Foursquare is a site that tracks your phone for you, posts on your profile when you walk into your favorite hotspots – certain restaurants, coffee shops, malls, that kind of thing.  Ashley is the daughter here – she likes to go to Starbucks after school.  And Colin is the boy – he’s thirteen, so he’s here when the bus drops him off at ten to four, like clockwork.”

“Wait, I thought you said something about Lindsey.”

“No, that was the first house I ever infiltrated.”  James gestures at the house around them.  “This is probably the twenty-fifth.”

“How old are you?”  Rose blurts out.

“Eighteen in three weeks,” James replies.  “I’ll probably get my own – SHIT!”

The last word drops to a hissing whisper and Rose’s blood freezes as a the square of slatted sunlight on the opposite wall darkens with the shifting shadows of a pair of figures walking past the windows behind her.  The sound of male voices, speaking in low private tones, drifts through the glass.

A set of keys rattles, clear as day.  The office is directly off the entryway, just eight or nine feet from the front door.

James moves quickly and decisively, yanking open the slatted closet door and tugging Rose out of the wicker chair, twirling her against his body like a dancer and collapsing into the cluttered darkness.  Their ankles twist as they try to find level ground among the shoes and barbells and stacks of books on the closet floor.

The keys make jingling and thumping noises as they turn in the lock and then the front door creaks open.  James takes advantage of the noise to pull the closet door closed behind them, shifting his shoulders so the coats and jackets on hangars settle around them, and Rose starts panicking, his body pressed against her.

“Hold still!” He whispers – an expert, homeless whisper just barely audible – as he half sits and half leans against the back wall of the closet, holding her as tightly to him as she can.  “Hold still, damn it!  Hold still!  Shhhhhhh.”

Rose retreats into her own head, the way she has learned to when the world at large, one way or another, has its way with her.  She lets the cold, soothing blankness spread through her body, noting that James keeps his hands on her forearms and nowhere else.  Noting that yes, he’s a little aroused, but he probably can’t help it.

And she is calm by the time the stillness reaches her feet, and she realizes she’s barefoot. 

Her whisper is every bit as focused as his was as she tilts her head back and tells James, “My sandals are by the table, and the back door is open.”

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(Continued here…)

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 27, 2010 in Fiction

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (III)

(Note: This is a continuing work of fiction which began at this link, then continued at this link.)

Rose cleans her plate with her toast and says, “People don’t call out with their home phones.  Half the time they take out their cell phones out and use them just because they’re closer.”

“Yeah, I was worried about that too,” James agrees.  “But I was a little panicky from the night at the library.  The wrong crowd of guys finds you in a place like that, three o’clock in the morning…”

“So what’d you do?” 

“Well, I decided to make another key.  But just in case someone came home while I was off doing that, in case the whole thing came unravelled, I gave myself ten minutes to round up a little survival kit.”

Rose nods – all the housebreakers and burglars she knows are emphatic that you never want to spend more than ten minutes in a house.  It doesn’t matter what the outgoing call logs say – people mix up their schedules all the time.

“It wasn’t hard,” James goes on.  “They had a boy my age, and Lindsey in college – lots of food in the place.  I grabbed an old backpack out of the back of the hall closet, and filled it up with a little bit of everything – a sleeve of crackers, a couple cans of soup, couple of bananas, couple of apples, a can of cocktail peanuts.”

“So were you thinking you’d come back if they’re going to come home and find half their food gone?

“Well, that’s the thing.  They had Lindsey to blame and also a basketball player.  If they notice all the peanuts are gone, what are they going to do imagine a sneaky homeless burglar or imagine one of their kids scarfing them down and refusing to admit it?”

Rose cocks her head, thinking about it.  She says, “I’ll bet they had arguments about things like that long before you ever showed up.”

“Got that right.  Same thing with clothes.  I went up and helped myself to a pair of jeans and socks and a nice sweatshirt and two tee shirts.  Again, the kid might wonder where they went, but kids are always missing a sweatshirt or something.  He might stomp around looking for it, but it’s not going to occur to anyone that someone broke in and stole a single set of his clothes.”

“So you gave yourself ten minutes to grab enough food and clothes to survive a couple days if you had to.”

“Right.  Then I figured I should get to the Meiier’s out on the main drag and get a copy of the key made.  Get it back under the rock before anyone got home and noticed it was missing.  By then it was getting close to one thirty.  I made it back within an hour, walked right in again and yelled and no one answered, and so I went out and put the key back where it went.”

“Then what?  You left?”

James clears the plates and starts doing the dishes, stacking them carefulling in the dish rack as he’s finished.  Rose starts realizing, he doesn’t even have to put them back where he found them.  As long as several people live in a house, each of them will assume one of the others moved stuff around, if they notice changes. 

No one will come home and demand to know who dirtied two plates and two skillets, and then washed them.  He could probably leave them in the sink – nothing would be strange at all about both the teenagers swearing they didn’t do it.

“No, I didn’t leave,” James says, looking very proud of himself, a little mischevious.  “I spent the night.”

“What?”

“Come here and take a look at this.  These big houses, they’re a lot alike.”

He finishes wiping off the counter and the stove, and tosses the dishcloth in the sink, and opens the basement door but Rose says, “Hold on.”

“What?”

She gestures around at the kitchen, the open back door.  “I know you’ve been at this a while, and I’m not wanting to second guess you, but how can you be so sure no one’s going to walk in here while we’re in the basement, looking at whatever it is you want to show me?”

“Ah.”  James consults the cell phone again, and then hands it to her.  “Check this out.”

Rose looks at the cell phone and it’s gibberish to her – she hasn’t had a cell phone in a solid year.  “Check out what?”

James trots down a hall toward the front door and points into a small office at the front of the house.  He says, “Look.”

Rose follows him into it, and he gets on his knees by a computer desk and pulls up a cord from the back with a small plastic ring clipped to it like a key ring.  “These are passwords,” he tells her.  “These are passwords to all of Julie’s accounts – Julie’s the mom here, divorced one year, taking it pretty hard.  A lot of people keep their passwords written down and attached to the cord like this so they can get to them easy but hackers can’t, and then if the system ever crashes, they’ll still have them.”

“What good does that do you?”

James holds up the phone again.  “I’m tracking Julie’s cell phone with her GPS chip.  When she leaves work, this phone will tell me.  Takes five minutes to set up, if you have access to the phone number and the cell company’s password and login ID.  Some people use it to keep tabs on the teenagers or their employees or just their spouses, if that’s how it is.  But most people have no idea you can do it at all.”

(Continued at this link…)

 
11 Comments

Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Way Of McCheese

The blank screen flashes in an instant to Manhattan at night, a bird’s eye view lit up in all its gargantuan majesty, and we get to glide through the peaks of the skyscrapers for a moment, closing in on a rooftop terrace where a lone figure surveys the city.  He wears a yellow silk bathrobe with a fuzzy, red lining and it matches his curly, windblown hair.

The camera swirls and dive bombs him until he’s right in the foreground, the door to his apartment behind him filled with the silhouette of a skulking man in a wide-brimmed hat.  The focus shifts and it’s Al Pacino in the bathrobe – no makeup but wearing a bright red clown wig, his eyes tired and hollow, a glass of scotch in his hand.

He cracks a mirthless smile before the figure behind him speaks.  “McDonald.”

Pacino says, “You got to be kidding me.  The hell took you so long?”

A pistol cocks.  Pacino’s face does some superacting.  The figure says, “You know what they say about servin’ it cold.”

By now Pacino is Ronald McDonald, burdened by many years and terrible secrets.  He takes a long drink and finishes with his lip in a snarl and demands, “Well you came all the way up here.   What are you waiting for you pansy motherfu…”

Three gunshots, then a fourth and then a long pause before a fifth.  The screen goes blank again for a dark moment, then the bass drops on that half techno/half Gregorian chant kind of thing, where it’s like monks and a mixing board. 

Cut to a street scene, flashing cop cars and a crowd of gawkers, and a yellow Hummer pulls up with them, a police strobe on top of it.  A hulking figure in a long tan coat starts to get out of it, but we can’t see who it is.

Voiceover:  “In a world where jesters are kings…”

A shot of the bathrobe-clad body from above, a chalk outline around it, crime scene technicians milling about.  Cut to a briefcase on a desk, swinging open – it’s full of cash.

Brooklyn Voice off screen:  “Guess we can rule out robbery, hey Sarge?”

Cut to a shadowy corridor across the room, taken up by a bulky figure in a long coat, turning toward the camera. 

Back to another tech at a kitchen counter.  He holds up an empty McDonald’s bag, peering into it and then turning his head up to the camera really slowly.

Voiceover:  “…And the mighty, have fallen…”

Cut to a dingy bar, where a man with a great big cheeseburger for a head slouches over a rocks glass while a burly man in an apron lectures him.  “You ain’t the Mayor no more, McCheese, so I’ll tell you when you had enough.  And I’m looking at your tab and you had enough!”

Close up of McCheese his eyelids heavy, a pickle sticking out of his lips like a big, green tongue.  His voice slurs.   “At least I was something once.  The hell you ever done?  Huh, tough guy?  The hell you ever done?”

Voiceover:  “…One man must face a nemesis from his own disgraced past…”

Cut back to crime scene, the lab techs poking through several more bags of McDonalds scattered across a table.  The tech’s voice is offscreen:  “French fries, Chicken McNuggets, Apple pies.  Even some Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, chief.  Doubles.”

Cut to the corridor where the bulky figure turns and it’s Grimace in a long tan coat, played by Eminem in what Rolling Stone Magazine calls “a brilliant, groundbreaking performance.” 

“Everything but the hamburgers,” Grimace says, his eyes narrow and gleaming in the shadows.  “If I didn’t know better…”

Voiceover:  “…And another will test the boundaries of honor…”

Cut to a twenty year-old newspaper with the headline “Hamburglar Killed In Factory Explosion, Witnesses Say.”

Cut to a five foot bird opening her front door, her smile freezing as the same raspy voice from the terrace hisses, “Hello, Birdie.”

Cut to Grimace standing over her body in his tan coat, his hands in his pockets, more crime scene guys moving around behind him.  He bends and unfolds a piece of paper stabbed to the yellow body with a letter opener – it says, COME OUT AND PLAY.

Grimace stands and points at someone off camera.  “You.  Find out what rock that son of a bitch McCheese crawled under, and kick it over.”

Voiceover:  “…Together they will learn if the glory of the past…”

McCheese walking down the street at night.  A voiceover of phone conversation snippets. 

“It’s Birdie.  I need you to come in.”

“So you’re saying the two killings are connected?”

“They say lightning don’t strike twice, Hoss.”

Cut to Grimace in a parking garage.  He blasts a forty ounce bottle against the concrete wall and gets in McCheese’s face.  “Yo, it ain’t never gonna be the same again, Dawg!  This ain’t no merry-go-round!  The years don’t come back around, yo?  This is it, this is where we’re at!”

Voiceover:  “…is enough to fight the demons of the future.”

A woman’s voice off camera:  “No!  No it can’t be!  You’re dead!”

Grimace and McCheese running through a cemetery with flashlights at night.  A quick scene in a strip bar.  Grimace firing a gun on a shooting range.

Then McCheese from above, slumped over Birdie’s corpse, raising his arms as he lifts his head and screams “Hamburglar!”

Then it turns out the techno monk music was really the prelude to an actual Eminem song from the soundtrack, the rough kind about stepping up to fools and being broke and kicking ass, not the ones about his kids.  It really kicks in and plays over the following series of quick scenes:

Voiceover:  “This summer.”

A speeding ambulance drives up a handy ramp and crashes into a ferris wheel, exploding in a clowd of sparks.

Grimace and McCheese with their shirts off, brawling in an alley.  McCheese gets punched in slow motion and ketchup slops out of his mouth like spit.

Heather Graham poses in profile in front of a sofa, where McCheese sits watching her with a drink in his hand and really wide shades.  Her dress drops to the floor.

The Fry Guys mixin’ and scratchin’ with their ball caps sideways while Grimace busts some rhymes at the House of Blues, the crowd dancing and waving in perfect sync with the soundtrack.

Voiceover:  “Johnny Depp.

McCheese getting out of the shower, appearing curious about the camera but not alarmed or shy.

The Hamburglar curled around a ceiling fixture over a security guard’s head as he opens a warehouse door and flicks on the lights, frowning around.  “Is anybody here?”

McCheese leaping through a cloud of shattering glass with two pistols, firing them both and going, “Aaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhh!”

Michael Caine dressed as Colonel Sanders, grabbing McCheese by the collar in a darkened parking lot and whispering, “You have no idea how deep this thing goes!”

McCheese and Grimace diving off a yacht just before it explodes.

Heather Graham slapping Grimace in a restaurant, and then he swings his head back to her, leering.

Voiceover:  “Eminem.

Grimace and McCheese fistbumping each other on the steps of the Courthouse.

Grimace doing chin ups.

McCheese swordfighting with the Hamburglar on the Statue of Liberty’s torch.

A close up of the Hamburglar, who turns out to be played by Kevin Spacey:  “We could have ruled McDonaldland, McCheese!”

A close-up of a timer at eight seconds, then seven, then six.

McCheese and Grimace skiing down a mountain with machine gun fire peppering the snow behind them.

Voiceover:  “Al Pacino.”

Ronald McDonald wear salmon-tinted shades in some kind of flashback scene,  playing cards with Grimace.  He slaps down a full house and smiles big.

McCheese clearing off a bar top with a pool cue and screaming, “Someone’s whacking Mickey D’s characters and I want to know who it is!”

Voiceover:  “And Michael Caine.”

Colonel Sanders standing at the trunk of a canary yellow Cadillac, loading a shotgun, pumping in a round.

The screen goes blank and the music stops.  Nothing happens for three full seconds.  Then Hamburglar’s voice whispers, “What’s it gonna be, McCheese?”

Then the screen is filled with a .44 Magnum pointing at us.  The focus shifts to McCheese behind it, holding the gun in three point position with his finger curled around the trigger.  He says, “You want fries with that?”

Three gunshots, the screen goes blank and almost quiet except for a low, static hum. 

Then the Eminem song kicks back in, and turns out to work the name “McCheese” into the title.

 

 

 The Way of McCheese

June 2011

 
 

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The Opposite Of Homeless (II)

(This is a continuous work of fiction continued from this link, posted previously)

James selects an omelette pan and a hard rubber spatula, then pauses to admire the label of a bottle of extra virgin olive oil before pouring a little into the pan. 

He pokes at the sausage links in the other skillet and says, “I went back to the library that night, and slept in the mulch again behind some shrubs along the wall.  That time I heard people hanging around, sounded like crackheads, and then a cop ran them off.  I stayed hidden and he went away, but I was in bad shape the next morning.  Kind of starting to lose it all ready.”

Rose knows how the walls and the ceiling – any walls and ceiling – can seem like the walls of her skull when they’re gone.  Out there in the cold without them, sanity scatters like mist in a hard wind. 

“I know,” she says quietly, still hugging her knees.

He takes a few moments to collect himself, so she watches him with her dark eyes, as he cracks eggs and moves the onions around.  He gets out the orange juice and the milk and pours two small glasses of each, and finally says, “I went to the same house at about the same time the next day, and there was the same Dodge Charger in the driveway with the state university parking stickers.  I walked around for a half hour and when I got back, it was gone.  It was about one o’clock in the afternoon.”

“So I said to myself, screw it, and I went inside.  I walked right up the walk, and bent down like she did and picked up a few rocks, and there it was.  A shiny key to the front door.”

The scent draws Rose from her chair, and she glances out the back door before stepping out of her sandals again and trotting up to the counter.  James is making toast now, a single slice each.

“So you just went inside?”

“Walked in like I owned the place.  There was some mail on a table by the front door, so I grabbed some of it and saw the last name and yelled ‘Mrs. Anderson!’ a couple of times.  Whatever the name was, I can’t remember.  Nobody answered, so I closed the door behind me.”

Rose wrinkles her nose but it’s hard to keep it that way, with the breakfast shaping up in front of her.  She says, “I don’t like trying to sell the stuff.  Stolen stuff.  I guess I don’t mind taking it.  It’s just that then you have to walk around with it and later at the pawn shops, the first thing they think is that you stole the stuff.”

“That’s true.”

“You have to switch shops, and carry this stolen crap all over town.”

“I know but Rose, that’s not what I’m saying.  You have to think more like a fox and a hen house.  Sure you can run in there and kill all the chickens, get chased all over the countryside by farmers with rifles.”

“Mmmm.  That looks good.”

He puts a plate in front of her with sausage and onions and green peppers on it, then pushes some scrambled eggs on top of it right out of the omelette pan.  “Or you sneak into the hen house every couple of nights, and just take a few eggs.  Give yourself a fish or teach yourself to fish.”

“This looks amazing.  Didn’t the Andersons have a security system?”

“I’m getting good at it making breakfast.  Yes, they did, it just wasn’t on.  I’ve found that at least half of people with security systems routinely do not turn them on.  You know what else they do?  They write the code on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge or something.  That’s where I found this one – it was too funny.”

“They wrote it on the refrigerator?”

“I guess the college daughter was always leaving without turning it on, like she did that day.  So there was a big note on the white board attached to the fridge, said, ‘Lindsey – be sure and turn on the security system!  7718!  Erase this board!'”

“No way.”

“Oh, yes.  So I stood there looking at it and I realized that as long as no one saw me here, I could come back anytime I wanted to.”

Rose starts making faces as she chews, muttering, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.  This is so good.”  She taps his plate with her fork, making him jump a little and says, “As long as they keep leaving that key out.”

“Well, I started wondering how long I had before they’d be back, so I thought about it for a minute and then I went and found the phone lying on the arm of a couch in the living room.  I picked it up and scrolled through the menu until I pulled up a list of outgoing calls.”

“What would that tell you?”

“No outgoing calls between one and five for the last week – as far back as the outgoing call log went.  Some pictures on the mantle showed a high school kid maybe a year younger than me in a basketball jersey, so he was probably at practice after school.  And the mom and dad were both so white and serious and normal-looking – it made sense that they wouldn’t walk in the door before five or six.”

(To be continued…)

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Fiction

 

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