Monthly Archives: November 2016

Writer

Another prompted writing that I don’t seem to be able to post on Writer’s Digest.


I’m thankful I’m a writer because, otherwise, these cocktail parties would be horrifyingly dull. When Jim and I walk in, and someone introduces me as, “This is Nolan; he’s a writer,” the room suddenly lights up, and all these dull business executives and their dull spouses have something quite a bit less dull to talk about. Jim is a writer, too, of course, but he writes things like reports, executive summaries, and research notes. He is quite good at it, and so are many of his fellow MBAs. But, I’m a bona fide published novelist, and that’s a lot more interesting than annual reports.

The truth is, so many of the MBAs are married to aspiring writers, and so many of the MBAs themselves have at one point in their lives been aspiring writers, their dreams dashed by life circumstances, parental pressure, and unfortunate lack of talent.

The truth is, I have an MBA, too.

“So, a novelist, eh?” said the new guy, whose name I’d already forgotten.

“Not just a novelist. An up-and-coming gay novelist,” said someone’s wife.

I’d rather think that I’ve already arrived, but whatever. “Except I only write about straight people.”

That always baffles them for a moment.

“Their lives are so much more interesting, you see,” I quipped for the hundredth time. Usually, people respond with something like, “What makes you say that?” or, “Surely, that can’t be true!” or, “I have a gay sister.”

This time, the new guy said something new, “Well, it’s because our lives are so dull, that we have to spice it up with things. Don’t you think so, honey?”

His wife didn’t nod. The other wife nodded. Actually, I think she is the colleague, and her husband is the wife. Whatever. He nodded, too. The new guy’s wife’s lips were tightly sealed, and they quivered a little.

The new guy continued, “I have a sister who is gay, and she has this all-gay all-fabulous life with her all-gay friends, and they look like they are doing all sorts of interesting all-gay things, but it’s actually quite boring and predictable, you know, deep down. It’s us seemingly straitlaced people who are into…” Finally catching the expression on his wife’s face, he stopped himself. “… Interesting… things… that novelists write about.”

I decided to help him out. “That’s what keeps me employed,” I said with a thick “gay accent”, which didn’t quite come out right. It was not my native language.

“We’re happy to be of service,” said the new guy with a sinister smile, back to his drunken, inconsiderate self.

The truth is, I only write books about gender-less alien races. If any of these dull people would bother to read my book… Actually, no, I’d rather they didn’t, because then I wouldn’t be able to joke about what I write. It’s not like the royalty check’s gonna be any bigger because an MBA buys a book.

Remembrance of Me

This was written for the Plotto contest week 3 at TinHouse.com. I haven’t written one for week 4, yet…

I’ve also posted an entry for the Writer’s Digest prompts. This week’s topic is “Mystery Cookie.”


“There’s your appointment… OK. All checked in… So… have you seen Remembrance of Me?”

Jonah sneered at the receptionist. Remembrance of Me was a new movie based on a novella that Jonah had written two decades ago. It had been optioned soon after publication, but a successful lawsuit by someone claiming to be the subject of the story—which was complete nonsense—had killed the project and plunged Jonah into heroin addiction, and, here he was, checking in at the methadone clinic for his weekly appointment. The movie concept somehow had been resurrected, but Jonah had absolutely no rights to it anymore.

The receptionist was still waiting for his answer, but, not getting one, gave up. “She’ll be right with you.”


The campaign volunteer was more than happy to give him a button. “Are you registered to vote?”

“Yup,” Jonah lied, contemplating where on his vest to put the button. There were already dozens of buttons there, and Jonah took care not to let any of them overlap. He decided to take off the button for John Edwards, and put the new button in its place. He handed over the old button. “You guys recycle?”

She took it cheerfully. “Sure! And, are you registered in Marion County?”

“No…” His mind clouded over for a second. “I mean… yes.”

“We have some petitions…” She reached for the clipboards behind her.

Jonah left.


The water pipes at the shelter had burst, which meant everyone was turned away. Jonah hated the shelter crowd, and doubly hated walking with the crowd.

“Hey, look! You saw Remembrance of Me, right?” someone asked.

“No!” said Jonah emphatically, but then realized that the question was not directed at him. The snicker that followed, he was sure, was directed at him, but then that’s what his heroin addiction told him; wasn’t that what his counselor would say?

So, he obeyed his heroin addiction that night.


The man who was leaving the restroom as Jonah entered almost pointed at him. That was for sure. But, some vague sense of decorum made him realize that it was best not to do that. Or to say what he was going to say.

Jonah growled at him anyway.

As usual, he did his best not to look at his own reflection behind the sink. Unfortunately, the mirror was very big, very bright, and very enticing. Jonah did his best to resist, and focused on washing the grime off his glasses, but, the act of putting the glasses back on made him look.

And there he was. He thus realized why everyone kept mentioning the new movie, without knowing who he was. The meticulously arranged buttons on his vest, his beard, his glasses, his baldness… he looked exactly the way he had described the main character in his book. Somehow, over the last several homeless years, he had subconsciously made himself over to look like that character.

Jonah scoffed, walked out, and never gave it any more thought.

The Hut

This was written for the Plotto contest week 2 at TinHouse.com. It takes place in a setting for a planned-but-not-yet-written book.


Kshtet surveyed the interior of the hut yet again. After the massacre, the village had been burned down, but many of the huts had survived, some standing alone, some in clumps of several or dozens, by the miracle of Gods…

No, by the miracle of One-God. Despite years of devotion to the words of One-Prophet, old linguistic habits died hard.

And despite years of that burning, heart-felt emotion… Emissary had called this feeling ‘Faith’, but Kshtet knew a better name: ‘Love’. The heart was not the only place where Kshtet had felt this feeling. Love for One-God, for sure. Love for One-Prophet, for sure. But, really, Love for Emissary.

The hut was quite well provisioned. All the food that spoil had spoiled, but there was plenty that do not and so had not. All the necessary tools of cooking, hunting, and cultivating were still there, too primitive for Forces to pillage. Even present were some weapons, primitive and rudimentary, but still capable of killing. Kshtet felt the weight of the peasant-claw in both hands. Just the right weight and just the right length. Sharpened with care.

The battle hadn’t been lost because the peasant-claws had not been sharpened with care. Neither had Believers of One-God been not faithful enough. Even if Kshtet’s faith, personally, might have been misplaced, Forces were not nearly as devoted… and were even more misplaced in their faith, of course. The battle had been lost, instead, because there were to be many more battles, and in the struggle was Faith, and Salvation.

Kshtet felt that heart-felt longing again. The only worthwhile Salvation would entail a reunion with Emissary, in life or in death. And reunion was one promise that Emissary had made. Kshtet just had to wait, and Emissary would arrive.


After rummaging around the other huts, and confirming that there were no other occupants in the village, Kshtet returned with some prize finds. Four unripe melons, and another one that was just about perfectly ripe. Dried meats. Lard-cheese. Fresh pelent leaves still growing in the ground. Some spices, including sep, putii, and knn, the spices of Three Gods, which the devotees of One-God used mixed together, for the three gods were all One-God.

Kshtet set the table for two, and prepared a Petap meal, the way that Parent had taught Kshtet over many years. Another act of defiance, since today was not Petap, and Forces forbade Petap meals on any other day. With the spices defiantly mixed together.

Perhaps Emissary would find this hut, by some miracle, or drawn by the scent of the spices, the scent that said ‘home for the holidays’ to all weary travelers. And there would be a feast. And reunion.

Kshtet smiled.