Wednesday, September 30, 2009

tell me a story, appendix a: johnny's tale

to begin at the beginning, click here

words by genghis , pictures by rhoda

"boss, do you remember johnny?"
"no. i can't say that i do"
"you know, johnny, that used to hang out with jackie and joey."
"oh yeah, that guy, i remember him, what about him?"
"he came around this morning, looking for a job."
"is he here now?"
"he might have come back, let me take a look."

clade was the boss of the north side. he didn't have much on his desk that morning. there were only seven or eight people waiting outside.
dumus came back into the office with johnny.
johnny stood stiffly in front of clade's desk, holding his hat against his leg. there were a couple of chairs against the wall but dumus didn't make a move towards them.

clade looked johnny in the eye. 'so johnny, where you been? keep in mind, i like a good story. you been in alcatraz, maybe in prison in argentina or someplace like that?"
"no sir, but i have been in captivity. i was kidnapped by a bunch of high school economics teachers and held prisoner in the desert for four years."

clade's eyebrows twitched. "that's the best i've heard all morning. it's not much but it's the best i've heard." he nodded at johnny. "keep going."
"well, " said johnny. 'it all began on a summer may morning - "
"may's not in summer," dumus interrupted.
"it is where i come from," johnny answered.
"where's that? i thought you were from around here."
"no, i originally came from somewhere else."

"and that was?"
johnny thought for a few seconds. "saskatchewan."
"i bet it gets cold in sasketchewan."
"it does."
"even in may, when it's summer."
"no in may it's really summer. the flowers bloom, the bird's sing - "
clade interrupted. "and you were walking along - and then what?"

"i wasn't walking. i was riding. i was hitchhiking, and i got a ride from a paper cup salesman."

dumus shook his head. "a nice summer day with the flowers blooming and the birds singing, and you didn't want to go for a walk? i would have gone for a walk, got some good fresh air."

"i had a long way to go,"
"and where was that?"
johnny thought again. "chicago"
"it's still pretty cold in chicago in may," said clade.
"how far from sasketchewan to chicago?" asked dumus.
"it depends."
"it depends on what? on whether it's a nice summer day?"

"no, on what part of saskatchewan you're coming from. saskatchewan is big. you could be coming from regina, the capital, or from saskatoon, or from la ronge in the center of the province, or even from fond du lac in the north. it all depends."
"how far from regina?"

"one thousand, one hundred and fifty-four miles."
"well i guess we can let you hitch a ride then. how far from la ronge?"
"one thousand, five hundred and fifty-one miles."
"that's to chicago, right, not to here?"
"what does la ronge mean?" dumus asked.
"what ?"
"it's a french word, it's not english. what does it mean in english?"
"oh. it means food thats been chewed by an animal."

"there's no word in english for food that's been chewed by an animal."

"i don't know what to tell you. maybe people in the english speaking countries aren't as concerned with such matters."
"this is all well and good," said clade. "but can we move on? "
"wait," dumus told him. "i have one more question. how far from fond du lac ?"
"you mean to chicago?"
"two thousand, two hundred and five miles."

"i'm glad we got that settled," said clade.
"but it doesn't compute," dumus insisted. "if regina is one thousand, one hundred and fifty-four miles, and la ronge is in the center of the province is one thousand, five hundred and fifty-one miles, how can fond du lac be two thousand, two hundred and five miles? its only three hundred and ninety-seven miles from la ronge to to regina, but six hundred and fifty four miles from fond du lac to la ronge, how can la ronge be in the center? something is very wrong here."

"actually," johnny said. "it's one thousand and eighty miles from fond du lac to la ronge."
"what! now i'm totally confused."
"it's driving miles."
"you have to drive west to alberta province and get on the trans-canada highway and drive south and east again. otherwise you're driving through ice floes and grizzly bears and stuff."

"of course!" dumus shook his head. "i should have known that."
"they must be some ugly grizzly bears," said clade. "to make you drive so far out of your way."
"they are. we're talking canadian grizzly bears here. these aren't your american grizzly bears, licking the cheese off mcdonalds wrappers in yellowstone park. they crave heartier fare."

"i should have known," dumus repeated. "i really dropped the ball on that one. sorry, boss."
"so, " clade said," you were picked up by the paper cup salesman on the trans-canada highway on a bright summer day - "
'in the morning, right?" put in dumus.
"yes, it was at 9:53 on may 14."

"what kind of paper cups was he selling?" dumus asked. "the old fashioned kind that are just paper or the new laminated kind?"

"i'm not sure that 'lamination' is the correct term for the coating on paper cups," johnny answered.
"you know what i mean. i don't like the new kind, they probably give you cancer."
"are there any studies confirming that?" clade asked.
"no, it's just a gut feeling on my part. did he have the new kind or not?"
"probably. you don't see the old type much any more"

"i thought a place overrun with grizzly bears might have the old kind."
"so you didn't actually see the paper cups?"
"no, i just took his word for it that he was selling paper cups."
"you see why i keep this guy around," clade said to johnny. "he gets to the bottom of things and doesn't let anybody get away with anything."

"can i go on now?" johnny asked.
"actually, no. i got a guy coming in, i've blown him off too many times already. i'm sorry you didn't have time to finish your story."
"maybe i could come back -"

"that won't be necessary."
"i was really cranked up to tell my tale."
"if you have a real need to finish your story," dumus told johnny, "you might try the park. it's probably filled to overflowing with people who would like to hear a good story."
"maybe, but it's a little chilly today."
"give it a try. you might be pleasantly surprised."

part 3

Thursday, September 17, 2009


what am i doing here, billy wondered, when the countess told choffo to stop at the crossroads. had he heard too much?
"get out. walk in any direction," the countess told him. "you'll get there." billy had nodded. like a lot of her cryptic utterances, it wasn't that mysterious. the house he was going to would be on a circle or a square toward which all four roads led. he couldn't miss it.

choffo gunned the pierce arrow and the countess disappeared into the night. it was dark. the road was dark.

there was an abandoned looking general store with a gas pump on one of the four corners. it was dark too. billy was in no hurry to get to the house so he walked over to it.

he took off the scarf the count and countess had given him when he was more in their favor. he wrapped it around his left hand and smashed the glass on the front door and reached in and opened the door.

he didn't expect to find anything worth taking. if he found something, good. if he didn't, he would just smash things up. billy was filled with rage - always, through good times and bad. he liked to smash things up.

there was more on the shelves than he expected. a lot of clothes and blankets. but no food that he could see. there was a big old fashioned cracker barrel, but it was empty and he tipped it over.

at the back of the store he found several shelves filled with toy soldiers and animals. he took a gold cigarette lighter out of his pocket and flipped it open to look at the toys. he found a little bulldog that he liked. maybe he would bring it to life later. he put it in his pocket and closed the lighter.

but there was still some light, coming from under a door behind him.
the door opened and a little blond girl, wearing a nightgown and rubbing her eyes, stepped out. she didn't seem surprised or scared by billy's presence.

"can i help you?" she asked in a whiskey and cigarette voice. she came out of the shadows and billy saw she was about fifty years old - her hair was white, not blond.
"i was helping myself to some stuff."
like what?"
he took the dog out of his pocket and showed it to her.
"good choice. you know how to bring it to life?"
"i know how. "
"that's a good dog. when he barks, you'll know something is up. here, take some more stuff," the little woman took some toy soldiers off the shelf and stuffed them in billy's pocket. 'these will stand you on good stead."
"they're just sitting there." she looked around. "how come you tipped the cracker barrel over?"
she nodded. "my name is liona - liona, with an "i".
"i don't care how things are spelled."

"why not?"
"i can't read."
she looked him in the eye. "i wish i couldn't read. you headed up to the house?"
"know how to get there?"
"just keeping walking in any direction."
liona laughed. "i'll show you a faster way. wait here while get my coat."
billy looked around the store. "i was thinking of busting this place up."
"you can do that when you get back. wait here." she went back into the room she had emerged from.

billy looked back at the shelves while she was gone. he took a cat, a monkey and a napoleonic hussar and put them in his other pocket.
liona came back wearing a yellow raincoat and yellow oilskin hat.
"it's not raining."
"this is my favorite coat."
they went out through the front door. liona kicked the broken glass out of her way unconcernedly.

she started walking up the road heading north and billy followed her.
"i would have gone the other way," he told her.
"you got a good sense of direction?"
"the best."
"that's what not reading will do for you. but this part of the woods will mess up the best of them. you'll see."

they walked in silence for a while. it was very dark, even though there weren't that many trees.
"these people at the house." billy finally asked. "what are they up to?"
"no good."
'i figured that."
they kept going straight north. there were no curves in the road or any other roads. billy didn't ask how far away they were because he didn't care.
"the countess bring you here?"
"and the count."
"bad people."

"i guess."
"i used to have rage myself."
billy considered this. "but no more, huh?"
"nothing lasts forever. even these people in the house, they won't last forever."
billy didn't answer.
"or everything lasts forever. take your pick."
"that's my pick. everything lasts forever."

they came to a t intersection and liona turned left. they came to the house almost immediately. it wasn't as big or as far back from the road as billy expected. but it was dark. two rooms on the third and top floor were lit, the rest was dark. it was hard to make out the front door.

liona didn't go up to the front porch. instead she led billy around to the stables.

the stables were dark and quiet - no horses?- and as they approached a tall thin personage emerged from their shadows. he was dressed in blue coveralls and a raggedy black stetson hat. his black boots looked clean.

billy looked at the clean boots. "no horses in these stables?" he asked the man.
the man looked down at billy for a long time before answering. he had a thin yellow face with big freckles. "no horses, just duesenbergs and rolls royces and such."

"'this boy might be hard to stare down, stack," said liona. "can't you feel his power?'
'no. i can't say that i particularly do."
"are you the stable hand?" billy asked the man.

"he's the lord of the mansion," said liona. "this is mean old stagger lee."
'is that your name," billy asked. "mean old stagger stagger lee?"
"it's the name on all my deeds," the yellow man answered. "my friends call me stack, or stag. you don't even have to be my friend. you can call me anything you like." he smiled, showing big teeth.
"as long as we don't call you late for dinner," liona added.
"that's right. especially if we have roast duck."

"are we having roast duck tonight?" billy asked.
"no, it's the cook's night off. so we have cucumber sandwiches."
"i'll take a cucumber sandwich," liona told him.
stack looked at her but made no move toward the house.
"this must be the young man the countess sent over."
"he is."
"so what are you doing here?"
"i'm taking him under my wing."
"really? why?"
he laughed. "bored down at the crossroads, are you? a store with no customers. a gas pump with no cars."
"exactly," liona answered.
"but it's better than the lake of fire."

"maybe! well, i'll let that be known." he laughed and his laugh echoed against the stable and the house. "i'll surely let that be known." he moved toward the dark house and liona and billy followed him.

to be continued

Sunday, September 6, 2009

tell me a story, part 2

to begin at the beginning, click here

words by genghis , pictures by rhoda

"have you completed your assignment. jughead?" asked miss stanton, or maybe she was catherine de medici or anne bonney or emma goldman.
"aw gee, miss de medici, i forgot," jughead, or maybe he was gilgamesh or agammemnon or ishmael, slapped his forehead.

"this is the second time this week, gilgamesh," miss bonney looked at him sternly. "i'm afraid you can't go home without finishing it. complete it in home room and pass it in to me before you leave."

"aw miss goldman," ag moaned. "i have ping pong practice. coach will be mad at me!"
"be that as it may," miss stanton insisted, 'i want that completed science fiction novel on my desk before five o'clock."

"aw, can't i at least make it a fantasy novel?"

"no, ishmael, you may not. fantasy novel was last week. as i recall, yours was more than acceptable, with a particularly exciting climax. i see no reason why your science fiction novel should be as just as good."
jughead sighed.
beside him betty, or maybe she was helen of troy or sappho or clara bow, whispered. "i'll help you, gil."
"gee thanks, helen," agammemnon whispered.

"no need to whisper," miss bonney told them. "i don't care how it gets done, as long as it gets done.

"we went through this last week with the fantasy novel, " sappho told ishmael as they strolled down the corridor to home room. "it's simple - you just take a novel that's already written, copy it and then change every word. what could be easier?"

"i guess," jughead agreed reluctantly. "do you have a scence fiction novel i can copy?"
"i sure do," clara told him. "i happen to have a copy of "dreadful sanctuary" by eric frank russell here with me. you are welcome to it."
"gee thanks betty, you're a pal. the world would be a good place if there were more people like you in it."

"if you get stuck, give me a holler. but you'll be ok. just remember, copy it and change every word." helen opened the door of home room and she entered, with agammemnon right behind her.

sappho took a seat in the middle of the room after waving hello to everyone already seated. ishmael sat down three seats to her left.
archie, or maybe he was beowulf or robin hood or john smith, was so intent on his own science fiction novel that he didn't notice when clara sat down beside him.

betty dropped one of her notebooks on the floor and beowulf picked it up and handed it to her without looking up from his own notebook.

"you look really serious," helen whispered to robin hood.

"what are you copying? something you memorized?" john smith didn't have an open book in front of him.
"i'm doing this from scratch," archie told her.
"ooh, impressive!" sappho gave a low whistle.
miss anthony the home room teacher, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ch'ing or ethel rosenberg. rapped on her desk with a ruler. "lower your volume please! some students are actually working."

clara rolled her eyes at beowulf.
"i'm using a pretty basic template," he whispered.
"you mean - ?"
"it is the year x, the universe is divided between the y's and the z's."

betty leaned back in her seat. "now i am not so impressed. but you know," helen went on. "maybe i should have told jughead about that." she twisted around to look at gilgamesh but he was absorbed, head down, in his own notebook.
"sappho, if you don't have anything to do here, maybe you could go outside and run a few miles." agrippina announced from the front of the room.
clara turned her head down and opened her notebook. she took out a copy of the city and the stars by arthur c clarke and began copying it, changing every word.

endless termination, by jughead

the qualitative failure of the ninetieth world supercongress validated in one fell swoop the predictions of earl duje as to the basic incompatability of humans with other life forms, even those they had created themselves.
ultimately the openness of the totality beyond the chicken coop which was jealous of the terrible earthquakes had to be evaluated by twenty million bad guys released from the galactic dungeons on the seventh day of the celebration of thomas edison's birthday - so they said.

but the origins of the green fog were hidden by the nuclear contraction and destroyed the tunnels beneath the universe.

"you've done it again, earl, " guinea pig johnson, the ace reporter for the galactic gazette, expounded admiringly in the corridor of the supercongress as he was sending in his story. "i don't know why anyone goes up against you any more."
earl was holding court outside the main chamber where he had just demolished his opponents. as they had all slunk away, it was left to earl to talk to the reporters.
"earl, earl, over here, earl!" they vied with each other for his attention.
"yes, connie.'

connie columbus, the glamorous ace reporter for the intergalactic inquirer, pushed forward. "earl, what do think the chances are for a ninety-first supercongress?"
"i wish i could answer that question, connie. i would to think that this nonsense is behind us and that we can get on with serious business, but - what can i say, delusions die hard, and, unfortunately, plans for a ninety-first congress may be in the works even as we speak."
more excited clamoring from the reporters.
earl pointed to a fat man in the middle of the pack. "yes, rick."

rick jemadar,from the patriot, asked, "does this mean war?"
"i sincerely hope so. but again, we will have to wait and see."
the questions continued. earl answered them patiently. earl was the master of the universe. he had won the last war, and had spent all his time since then lobbying for and insisting on the need for another one. every human male in the universe wanted to be just like him, although an increasingly small number tried to pretend they didn't. and how did earl do with the chicks? you tell me.

"any more questions?"
for a moment it appeared that there were none, but then a voice came from the rear. "i have one question."
earl looked over the other reporters to a tall thin man in the last row.
"flint - i am surprised you are here. i would have thought you would have gone with ambassador adams to hold his handkerchief." most of the reporters laughed.

flint frabshaw, the ace - and only - reporter for the peacekeeper, looked down at his notepad. "i just have one question."
"let's hear it."

appendix a