Writing

Fast Fiction: Memos from the Corporation in Control of Arnold’s Life

Subject Name: Arnold Zimmerman
Age: 38
Height: 5’6″
Weight: 160 lbs
Project Objectives: To keep suspect in continuous state of dread and unease. To convince subject that the world is out to get him, but to provide no solid proof. To counterbalance small victories with major defeats.

Memo: May 25

Bonuses were handed out to all members of the Committee for Housing Insecurity this morning after a subject A signed the lease on a particularly ill-advised studio apartment in a bad part of town.

Subcommittee members gleefully report that building is plagued by terrible smells, criminal individuals, and a general lack of respect for personal space and privacy. Tentative plans call for smoking, shouting and drinking go on at all hours of the night, and numerous attempts will be made to break in to subject’s apartment through the rear windows.

Memo: July 1

This is the fourth straight day of temperatures in the mid-90s and subject appears to be maintaining sanity.

The excess heat has caused him to sweat through his shirts at work, leaving unsightly wet patches, and it has made him feel nauseous and winded when walking outside. However, the anticipated suffering does not meet our second quarter expectations.

The Subcommittee on Climate Inconvenience believes it may be time to up the pressure by short-circuiting subject’s air conditioner or hiding rotten food somewhere in his apartment.

Also, subliminal whispering will be employed at night to encourage subject to worry constantly about global warming, and to believe that his apartment is likely to catch on fire while he is at work.

Memo: August 23

The Subcommittee on Career Control reported in today that subject A has accepted a new position that is going to pay him substantially more than his previous job.

The subcommittee chairman has alerted the executive committee about a troubling new sense of peace and well being in subject A, as subject now believes that his financial worries have been resolved.

Accordingly the subcommittee will begin cost inflation adjustment accordingly to restore subject to state of constant worry.

Other financial adjustment tactics will include forcing subject to pay several hundred dollars to repair timing belt in car, sending subject on a series of expensive but ultimately unproductive dates with women who are too attractive for him, and increasing the finance charges on subject’s credit card without any notice.

Memo: September 5

The Subcommittee on Sexual Response reported in today that Subject A has taken tentative steps toward starting a new sexual relationship, which has him feeling pretty good about his appearance and desirability.

Initiating Tactical Response Plan 1B, in which subject will suddenly be seized by a crippling fear of unplanned pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted disease.

Memo: November 13

General status report meeting of all subcommittees and stakeholders involved in Project A indicates that subject A has reached generally desirable levels of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and self-doubt.

High fives were exchanged all around the boardroom, and plans for the company party were discussed.

Just a reminder that frozen turkeys will be distributed next Friday following the weekly ice cream social.

Memo: December 9

Annual performance reviews are due at the end of the week.

Anyone who has been implicated in any of Subject A’s goal achievements over the past year (the new job, decision to seek therapy, the attempt to maintain a more positive life outlook) will be expected to present a full accounting of their failures.

Those with two or more lapses in oversight on their work record will be asked to report to corporate headquarters for additional “re-training.”

Memo: December 20

The final touches on next year’s strategic plan were approved by the Board of Trustees prior to the long holiday break.

Among the initiatives for the coming fiscal year will be to have have subject’s car stolen just as he has accumulated enough money for a down payment on a house, and to have subject believe that friends and family secretly dislike him.

Other long term strategic plans include an increase in male pattern baldness and early onset erectile dysfunction.

Have a great holiday season everyone!

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Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Fast Fiction: The Coffee Cup Collateral Damage Incident

{After yesterday’s disastrous attempt at the Penguin story, your Monkey wanted to get back on the fiction train by writing fast and loose and not overthinking things. It’s not much, but it kind of has a beginning, middle and end, right?}

To the untrained eye, Eddie didn’t look like a retired boxer.

He was tall and skinny, stood with a slight hunch, and seemed older than his 60 years.

To the trained eye, however, all the signs were there. The rubbery ears. The crooked nose. The flattened, scarred knuckles.

The way he rolled his head from side to side while he read the newspaper.

The way he walked on the balls of his feet, as graceful and lithe as a cat despite his advancing age.

To the patrons of Rosie’s Diner on Main Street, however, Eddie was just a old guy having a late night coffee. Maybe he was a truck driver. Maybe he worked the overnight shift at the factory down the street. Maybe he was retired. Maybe he just liked coffee.

The truth was that Eddie didn’t sleep that well anymore. He usually stayed up half the night, and rather than trying to chase sleep with a parade of beers, he had started coming to the diner.

Sitting at counter near the cash register. Drinking a coffee, reading the paper and listening to the conversations swirling around him. Taking sidelong looks at the waitresses, who were too old for most of the customers who came in that late at night, but maybe still too young for him.

Tonight was a Saturday, and it was a typical late night crowd for the diner. Some dedicated students swigging coffee and studying for midterms. Drunks coming staggering out of the bars, looking for waffles and bacon to sober them up before heading home. The occasional solitary creep hoping for an easy pickup.

Eddie liked the constant buzz and hum of the place. He liked the battered old jukebox that lurched to life and spit out a song or two before shorting out and leaving some hapless customer pounding the side and demanding his or her dollars back. He had thought about playing the jukebox once or twice, but it was too intimidating to think about playing DJ for a group of young kids.

All had been going according to plan until just before midnight.

A group of thick-necked frat boys came swaggering in from the cold, their eyes glazed from too many draft beers and too few girls to hit on. They took the booth behind Eddie and proceeded to make the typical drunk guy scene, yelling and cursing and pushing and punching each other.

To say that Eddie was pleased with their company would have been a stretch. But he had been around. He had been drunk. He had struck out with women. He knew the game.

Everything was fine until they got up to pay. Standing in line in front of the register, they began pushing and punching and wrestling like drunk guys always do.  Things got out of control. One guy pushed someone else, and someone smacked into the counter, sending a shudder through the Formica top and spilling coffee out of Eddie’s cup.

Eddie picked the cup up and dabbed the spilled coffee with a napkin, then set it down again. But as soon as the cup was returned to its saucer, someone smacked the table again. The coffee spilled some more.

Eddie turned his head toward the frat boys. Years of fighting had taught him not to rise to the bait of an opponent. He had received one too many counterpunches that were the result of him swinging too hard the first time in.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Would you mind not bumping the counter?”

One of the boys, a thick-necked blond with a reddish face, leered over at him. “What’s that?”

Eddie nodded towards his coffee. “The counter. You’re spilling my cup.”

Blondie smiled. “Oh yeah? Sorry about that old man.” He turned towards the rest of the group. “Guys, we’re spilling his coffee.”

A chorus of false apologies came as a reply.

“Sorry!”

“Terribly sorry!”

“Hey, stop spilling the old guy’s drink.”

“All apologies, grandpa!”

Blondie took another look over at Eddie. “Guys,” he said. “You heard the man. Watch it. Whatever you do, just make sure, you don’t do this…” He slammed his thick hand down on the table, and everything jumped. Coffee spilled out of the cup but Eddie did not react. He just stared at the pool of brown coffee.

Blondie grinned. “And definitely don’t do this.” He slammed both fists down on the counter, causing the cup to shake and rattle so bad that it toppled over, sending streams of coffee in every direction.

Eddie stood up fast.

He and Blondie were face to face before anyone had time to think about it.

To the untrained eye, it looked like an unfair fight. Blondie was big and thick and young. He towered over Eddie.

But there was a smile on Eddie’s face and a gleam in his eye.

Blondie snarled. “You want a fight, old man? I don’t care how old you are. I will put you down.” The veins in Blondie’s neck seemed to dance, and his big hands curled into jackhammer fists.

Eddie raised his  left hand and made an awkward, arthritic-looking fist. He let it dance in front of him.

To those who might have pegged Eddie as a boxer, this would have come as a surprise.

The fist looked weak. The arm tired. Eddie’s balance seemed all wrong.

The grin on Blondie’s face grew bigger.  “You going to hit me with that twig? I’ll snap it off and stick it up your ass.”

It was just what Eddie had hoped for. With Blondie’s eyes locked on his wavering left fist, Eddie’s right foot planted and his right hand shot out like a coiled snake, colliding with Blondie’s chin and pushing his jaw up and in.

Snap! Snap! Snap!

Before Blondie could process the first punch, Eddie followed it up with two more jabs, and the big man dropped.

And just like that, the fight was over.

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Grumpy Monkey Fiction: A 10 Minute Story of Art, Soda and Revenge

{Originally written very fast, this story has now been subjected to a round 2 revision. Cleared up a few typos, made a few more connections, and hopefully added some value. Thanks as always for your consideration. Yours truly in bananas, TGM.}

Art class was always a challenge for me.

Drawing, I had decided, was like shooting pool.

Sometimes, I was really good at it. On those days, the angles and positions and shapes of objects would leap out at me and present themselves for quick translation to the page. The artistic equivalent of running the table and sinking the eight ball.

On other days, I was all thumbs, unable to manage even the simplest angles and crudest representations of shapes and objects. The artistic equivalent of scratching on the break.

That’s why I was particularly pleased with how today’s still life was going.

Sure, the subject matter wasn’t particularly interesting– a vase, some wilted flowers and an orange, but I felt like I was in an artistic groove.

Looking down at my sketch, I noted with pride that I seemed to have captured the subtle convex curve of the vase, and that my orange was decidedly circular without looking too perfect.

“You know,” I said to Bob, who was scribbling furiously at the easel next to me. “This could be my first ‘A’ picture.”

Bob stopped scribbling and glanced over at my easel. I saw one eyebrow involuntarily raise in silent appreciation, but his face soon clouded over with anger.

“That ain’t so hot,” he muttered, and turned back to his work.

But as he resumed, I could hear his pencil digging a little harder into his paper.

I looked over at Bob’s drawing and could see why he was upset. The angle on his vase was all wrong. The curve started too soon and ended to early, and the orange was looking more like a lumpy pear than my sublimely dimpled sphere.

Bob had always been the standout art student in the class, always the one to get his work displayed in the glass cases in the front of the school. But on this simple project, this inconsequential still life, I might have finally beat him.

Returning my attention to my own easel, I made a couple of quick touch up strokes and then decided to call it quits. Sometimes you can ruin a good drawing by working on it for too long. Like Kenny Rogers said in that song about folding or riding trains or something,  “You’ve got to know when to fold them.”

I wiped my hands on my pants, took a big step back and drank in the majesty of my still life.

It really was my best work to date.

A drawing like this deserved a Coke. “I’m hitting the Coke machine,” I told Bob. “Want anything?”

Bob shook his head. He was trying to round his orange into shape, but it just wasn’t happening for him. And it looked like the pencil outline on the edge of his vase had started to smudge.

I whistled as I headed into the hall in search of the nearest vending machine. Found it around the corner, pulled out a crisp dollar bill, and listened to the pleasant “thunk ca-chunk” sound that the Coke can made as it tumbled down the machine and into my gifted artistic hands.

I cracked the can open, took a long sip of that sweet brown nectar, and headed back into class.

What I saw when I walked in the door made me spit Coke all over the floor.

There were two huge slashes right through the center of my drawing, turning my pristine sketch into fringe.

“What the fuck?” I started. Then it hit me — Bob.

“You fucker,” I dropped the Coke can on the ground, snarled like a wolf and sprinted like a jackrabit across the room towards his easel.

Bob was pretending to study his painting, but I knew by the way he reacted with lightning quick reflexes that he had been waiting for me.

He ducked around a desk, through a juke move to get past me and headed out the door of the art room, sprinting down the corridor at full speed.

I was hot on his heels. My shoes made slapping sounds as I pounded the linoleum in pursuit. I could think of only one thing — murder. Sweet, glorious redemptive murder.

But Bob was on the track team and he was faster than me. He made it to the end of the hall and ducked into a stairwell. By the time I got there I didn’t know if he had gone up or down.

My breath was short and my anger was cooling.

It had been a pretty damn good picture. But maybe not worth a manslaughter charge.

I trudged back to the art room in defeat.

Back inside, I was surprised to see a sea of sympathetic faces smiling at me.

There was a new unopened Coke can on my desk. My drawing had been taped back together. And someone had even penciled in a charcoal “A” in the top corner.

I couldn’t help but smile. “So everybody here hates Bob, too?”

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

10 Minutes of Grumpiest Monkey Fiction: Prey to Misfortune, Utopian, Supermarket

 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Jed thought as he shielded his face from the blows of yet another enraged UtopiaMart shopper.

In fact, Jed’s idea for the world’s first utopian supermarket wasn’t turning out at all like he thought it would.

Sure, he had started the store with the highest of ideals. Farm-fresh, locally-grown ingredients.

Animal products from livestock that were well cared for and fed a balanced, well-rounded diet.

A staff of committed culinary enthusiasts who wanted to encourage people to eat better foods.

And, most important of all, a pricing structure that was unique for any supermarket– pay what you think the food is worth.

It was this last part of the business plan that made UtopiaMart such a big hit with the news media when Jed had first announced plans for the store.

He had made the rounds of all the local and national talk shows, talking about “a new era of price responsibility,” the “dignity of price choice” and his “undying faith in the American consumer.”

These buzzwords had made for good copy, but the “pay as you go” concept was proving disastrous to his business.

From the first day that people filed through the aisles at UtopiaMart, Jed had began hemorrhaging money like crazy.

Lobsters were being bought for $5 a pound. Prime rib for a $1.50. One man even took an entire turkey home for three dirty dimes and a Canadian nickel.

When day two of the UtopiaMart experiment began, Jed had calmly suggested to the store’s staff that they engage the customers in a “healthy, respectful debate about the value of food and personal awareness.”

That was when the arguments and the cursing began.

“How dare you!” one man snarled as he grabbed three bottles of extra virgin olive oil and slammed a quarter down next to the register.

“Fuck off,” another woman said as she shoveled shrimp into her mouth at the seafood bar, and then washed it down with a bottle of a fine Argentinian Malbec that she had apparently opened in the middle of aisle four.

“Suck my balls” said a third man as he wheeled 10 cases of bottled Perrier out to his car. This man had paid with a garbage bag filled with socks.

On day three of the UtopiaMart disaster, Jed stood outside the store with a stack of yellow fliers that had suggested pricing for all items.

Customers did everything they good to avoid taking a flier as they rushed into the store, ducking and dodging as if Jed was trying to serve them with a subpoena. Those who did take a flier usually crumpled it into a ball and threw it back at him.

No one paid attention to suggested pricing.

Finally, on day four, after the store had been open for only 20 minutes or so and Jed already watched his entire stock of ground beef disappear for a paltry $2.25, he decided to cut his losses.

“Attention ladies and gentlemen,” he said over the store’s intercom. “UtopiaMart is now closed.”

And that’s when the beatings began.

Fists pummeled him from all sides. An old woman kicked at his shins. “You stay open,” she hissed. “I have a coupon for 5 soups for a dollar.”

Jed looked up at her pleadingly. “But we don’t even have coupons.”