Sunday, March 21, 2010

tell me a story, part 4: valentine's day

to begin at the beginning, click here

words by genghis , pictures by rhoda

"since today is st valentine's day, or maybe it's confucius' birthday, or lenin's birthday, or the feast of lupercal, the assignment will be a simple one."
miss susan b anthony, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ching or ethel rosenberg, adressed the class.

"the assignment is to write a story so simple that no originality could be claimed for it, and therefore, could not be copyrighted. are there any questions? there shouldn't be."

jughead, or maybe he was gilgamesh or agammemnon or ishmael, started to raise his hand, but put it down and began writing his story.

valentine's day, by gilgamesh

joey liked shirley

he really liked her.
he thought about her all the time
it was the day of the big game.
joey was on the team.

when coach and the guys came by in the bus to pick him up, he had forgotten all about the game. he got in the bus and sat in the back. he was thinking about shirley so much he forgot to say goodbye to his mom or ask her for some cookies to give to the guys.
danny was the leader of the pack. what he said, went. where he went, the other guys followed. all the girls wanted to run away to hollywood or a desert island with him. all the guys wanted to follow him to hell and back. coach loved him. coach's wife, when she made cookies and brownies, always gave danny the best ones.

so when danny looked over at joey and laughed, naturally all the other guys and coach laughed too, even though danny hadn't let on yet what he was laughing about.
danny just kept laughing at joey, until finally reese asked him what was so funny. reese was danny's best friend, and laughed at all his jokes. well obviously everybody laughed at danny's jokes. but only the ones they heard. reese was danny's best friend and so he heard them all. so because reese was danny's best friend and also because the bus was almost at the opposing teams field, reese finally asked danny what was so funny.

and danny just said, " ah, he just looks like such a goof." and that set off a fresh round of laughter that lasted until the bus stopped.
joey was actually relieved. he had been afraid danny was going to say something about shirley.

joey started thinking about shirley again as soon as they got of the bus. he was the last guy to finish getting into his uniform. he stood for minutes at a time in front of the locker just staring into space and thinking about shirley.

joey really liked shirley.

agrippina picked the composition book out from under gilgamesh's ball point pen

and began reading it, with an increasing look of bewilderment and disgust on her face.
"what is this garbage, agammemnon?" madame ching asked.
"it's - it's what you said you wanted,' ishmael stammered. "i'm just writing the first stuff that comes into my head. how original can it be?"

"yes, that's all very well," ethel rosenberg snapped. "but that's no excuse for writing such slobbering nonsense as this. please try to tighten up your brain a little." she slapped the composition book back down on the desk.
chastened and bewildered, jughead continued:

"hey, goof," danny called to joey, "let's go!" this brought more laughter, especially from coach. joey finished pulling his jersey over his left shoulder pad, picked up his helmet and ran out on to the field behind the other guys, still thinking about shirley.

wade hampton high won the toss and elected to receive the ball from home town john brown high.
the john brown kicker sailed the ball over the end zone - to the cheers of the home crowd.

the wade hampton team. in their road white uniforms with confederate flags on the back above their numbers, lined up on the 20 yard line.
coach was an avid devotee of the single wing formation. danny of course was the tailback. joey lined up at right end. he would be the most frequent target of danny's passes.
herman goering, the fattest boy in wade hampton high and a regular recipient of coach's and danny's barbs, was the center. he snapped the ball accurately to danny, who started to run to the left behind the quarterback, blackie mcgurk, then pulled up and passed to joey, whose defender had moved a little to his right.

danny's passes were accurate enough but tended to be a little high, making for long afternoons for the receivers who had to take their licks going up to get them.
miss susan b anthony picked the composition book on gilgamesh's desk up again and scanned it. "can you please tell me how any sane civilized human being is supposed to make sense out of this imbecilic drivel?"

she glared at him. " single wing formation - does that mean something or did you make it up? and why does the pedestaled shirley not have a face or a voice?"
agammemnon hung his head. at least, he thought, she is using up her supply of invectives. "i'm sorry," he mumbled, 'i'll try to do better."

reggie, or maybe he was mark antony or sir henry morgan or frank james, spoke up from the seat on ishmael's right, spoke up. "the single wing formation is actually quite interesting, miss agrippina , when you consider that it dominated football for decades but is now -"
madame ching silenced poor mark with a withering glare.
veronica, or maybe she was salambo or morgan le fay or valeska suratt, was seated behind jughead.
ethel picked up agammemnon's composition book and handed it to salambo.

"perhaps you could point out to this hapless creature exactly what his problem is."
morgan le fay quickly scanned the book and handed it back to miss anthony. "actually i think it is developing quite nicely," she fluttered her eyelashes at agrippina.

"a little slow perhaps, but i think you should give it a chance. i think it plays quite nicely on some classic themes. and i am sure" - she smiled again - "we will hear most interestingly from shirley, whose delayed entrance only adds to the subtle tension of the narrative."

the teacher was not proof against the young woman's charms and handed the composition book back.
reprieved, gilgamesh picked his pen back up and continued:

danny's first pass of the day proved no exception. joey had to go up as high as he could to get it on his fingertips and he had just got it between his hands when he took a picture book hit from john brown's best player - john brown, the quarterback and left outside linebacker.

it was whispered that john brown the player had negro blood in him - that he was the love child of jack johnson and greta garbo.
joey managed to hold on to the ball. he got up slowly after john brown got up slowly off him. somewhat to joey's surprise, john brown said nothing to him.
joey had made nine yards on the play. it was second and one. he went back to the huddle.

"nice catch, goof," danny greeted him. the other guys (except blackie mcgurk) were awed by danny's generous response.
"he could have got the one extra yard," reese, who played left end, muttered.
"sure he could," blackie said, "if the ball had been put in his hands so he could run with it."
danny clapped his hands together. "guys, come on. it's just one yard. play 31, right up the middle."

danny took the snap from herman goering. he headed to herman's left behind blackie but the two guards, the siamese twins bucky and bunky o'banion, were stopped cold by the opposing john brown linemen. blackie, with danny close behind, cut right, but john brown the player had gone right around danny, blasted through the feeble efforts of the wingback and fullback, and pushed blackie back into danny. danny tried to veer left but was tackled for a loss by the john brown right cornerback . it was obvious that john brown the player was going to be a problem.

"what are we going to do?," reese asked in the huddle. "the goof is no match for the negro."
danny was upbeat. "coach will figure something out."
"right," said jeff davis the left tackle and class clown, "he'll get some negroes of our own. " blackie mcgurk laughed at this but nobody else did.
"what we are going to do right now," said danny, "is go to reese, play 43. let's go!"

but danny's pass to reese cutting across the middle was a little high, and poor reese was almost cut in half by the john brown middle linebacker when he got his fingertips on it.
now it was fourth and four, and danny dropped back to punt.

on the sidelines coach remained calm and smiling.
danny's girl friend magnolia carlson, the head cheerleader, stood with her hand and megaphone on her hip. "what a bunch of sissies - can't any of them play except danny?"

standing beside her, shirley nodded.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


poem by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda penmarq

you look so fine, baby, coming down the stairs
with your eccentric millionaires
a mellon and a dupont on each arm
how could you ever come to harm?

down in the shadows, behind the band
that's me with a tray in my hand
but you need not be impressed
i'm serving the chauffeurs, not the guests

i know your new friends would never believe
that you could ever plot to deceive
with your baby eyes and perfect smile
but i have walked with you many a mile

on feet of dreams down a highway of lies
under burning, black and rainy skies
but why speak in symbols, why talk in riddles
your hell is real and i'm in the middle

remember the gray nevada sand
when we walked into vegas hand in hand
the bus blasted by with its black exhaust
but we never stopped to count the cost

vegas - the american vampire night
lit by money's undying light
24 hours of non-stop cancer
the tunnel of love for two cons without an answer

third time unlucky, you always said
the third mark we rolled turned up righteously dead
you took one look at the sucker's i d
your eyes got wide and you said to me

this guy's the boss of the whole east coast
but, baby, i still love you the most
no need to be scared of this dead mother
as long as we are true to each other

and remember the cafe in laramie
when i became you, and you became me
and the world was buried in cold and snow
it was not so very long ago

now that i think of it - yes, whenever
i'd wake up from a dream of love forever
your eyes were always clear and bright
checking out everything, everything in sight

when we held up the liquor store in ukiah
i thought i heard the heavenly choir
but it was the deputy's turn to die
you saved me then - now i wonder why

and what would mrs purvington-smith
say if she knew who you hung out with
and the things you did and the things you knew
and the jokers and johns you conned - the whole crew

and mr and mrs burford jones
would shiver in their upholstered bones
and cry for their mamas if you ever admitted
to all the murders you've committed

remember the time on 34th street
when you got blisters on both feet
we went into larry's sandwich shop
the rain began falling, drop by drop

and there was that pink cigar smoking god
callahan from the vice squad
but he just nodded and stirred his tea
stirred his tea, so wearily

larry's was kind of declasse
the american sub was his forte
you liked yours so much you ordered two more
the rain began to really pour

a guy at the counter with a purple face
told a sad story about the seventh race
the hustlers and losers and shoppers outside
went by in a single watery tide

at times like that it seemed to me
they were all slaves, and only i was free
the world wasn't old, the world wasn't new
the world wasn't anything, but i had you

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

tell me a story, part 3

to begin at the beginning, click here

words by genghis , pictures by rhoda

nathaniel hawthorne, or maybe he was ned buntline or theodore dostoevsky or a j liebling, was waiting patiently in the reception area of all-american studios. he had been waiting patiently for days to see the studio head, mr zanuck or maybe it was the emperor alexander iii or william howard taft or the emperor napoleon iii.

ned looked up and saw alexander iii glowering at him.

"he's still here?" he asked the receptionist, louise brooks or maybe she was irene adler or mata hari or eve arden.

"he won't go away," irene shrugged. "but he's not making any commotion. i didn't think you wanted me to call the authorities. "
mr taft considered this. "no. mata, you did right. perhaps it's time we hired our own police - what an expense! but as you know, the movie business is growing by leaps and bounds."

he stared at theodore. "how about it , young man, how would you like to be the first in house policeman at all-american studios? you are looking for a job, are you not?"
a j shook his head. "i am sorry sir, i appreciate your offer but i am determined to use the movie business,

which as you rightly state is growing by leaps and bounds, to bring my message of hope and love to tens of millions of my fellow humans, and nothing will dissuade me from my path."

the emperor napoleon iii stroked his moustache and looked down at nat. "messages of hope and love aren't exactly our program, young man. "
"let me guess," said ned. "making money is your program."
"exactly." mr zanuck nodded. "you are a quick study, young man."

'you two are boring me," said eve. "you can only listen to a conversation so many times. do you mind if i make a suggestion?"
"no," alexander answered. "go right ahead."
"why don't you and this young man enroll in the new writing class over in building 17?

that way he would stop bothering me, and you might develop a little imagination and not be so boring."

mr taft smiled at louise tolerantly. "that might not be a bad idea. my wife is always telling me to get out and exercise more.

come along, young man, " he said to theodore. "this is your chance, your chance to break into the booming new movie business."
a j hesitated.

nat and the emperor napoleon iii entered the rear door of the classroom.

class was already in session. nobody looked at them as they took seats in the back of the room. miss susan b anthony, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ching or ethel rosenberg, was standing at a lectern in front of an audience of about thirty students.

agripina pointed to tom sawyer, or maybe he was paul verlaine or nero or babe ruth.

"paul, why don't you summarize for the class what we have learned today?"
nero stood up. "um, um, that all stories are completely bogus."

"excellent. accurate and pithy. class is dismissed until tomorrow. all students report tomorrow with two new completed novels. that is all."
madame ching looked up and saw ned and mr zanuck still sitting in their seats in the back.

"ah," she intoned gravely, "a couple of new students. are you clear on your assignments for the new class?"

"i'm a little shaky on it, " ted smiled at ethel.
"me too," added the emperor alexander.
"it couldn't be simpler. you just take a book, copy it, but change every word. do you need a couple of books?"
"please," a j and william answered together.

"very well." miss anthony told them. "take these."

nat and the emperor napoleon moved up to the desk and agrippina handed nat a copy of "manon lescaut" by the abbe prevost and nap a copy of "the glass key" by dashiell hammett.

"these should be good enough to get you going," madame ching told ned and mr zanuck. "unless you want to add something more challenging to begin with." she picked up copies of "sir charles grandison" by samuel richardson and "the wanderer" by fanny burney.
"i'll take that," ned pointed to the copy of "sir charles grandison".
"and you sir?" ethel looked at alexander.
"i think i'm good." william clutched his copy of "the glass key."

"very well. just remember, words, words, words. it's all just words."
"what about pictures?" nap asked.
"what about them?" miss anthony replied.

"well i am in the picture industry."

nezda markova, by william howard taft

although she never insisted on the justice of her claims to any but those she considered her equals, it seemed to nezda markova that the whole of the glittering world knew the most intimate details of her tempestuous romance with joachim, the handsome young coachman - or was he a postboy? - of the duc de q-----.

from nezda markova to cecile, countess of d-------, novembre 3, 17----:

my dearest cecile,
the wolves are at my window! all have i have ever wanted is to be free - and to be free for one purpose only - to love! i have searched all of europe for love - and the shores of arcadia, asia and africa - only to be thwarted at every turn - by angels with flaming swords, by demons with sharp sticks, by bishops with crucifixes and by pointy-nosed little men in black suits.
and now, my dear, i learn that the duc de q------ himself, whom i have long considered one of my dearest friends, has agreed to hand me over to the holy inquisition - or whatever the official busybodies call themselves in this forsaken village. i should add that the term "wolves at my window" is no mere figure of speech here.

here in this country - whose name eludes me - i am in such haste to pen this lines to you, my dearest friend, that i dare not hesitate to consult the all purpose almanac and dictionary that hahmid ali - hahmid, how i loved him, and how he pales beside joachim - gave me when we parted on the shore of tripoli. i am not even sure that i am writing from a country at all. hark! what is that i hear - " (lines blotted)

"this isn't half bad, alexander," agrippina told him. "derivative to be sure, but showing a little life. not a lot, but some."
"thank you, madam"

from nezda markova to cecile, countess of d-------, novembre 3, 17----: (continued)

oh, i must flee! i must flee! at least joachim, whom, the gods of love forgive me, i doubted for a fleeting instant, will accompany me - hopefully to the shores of final and total love! until then, my dear i remain ever,

your tragic persecuted


madame ching looked quizzically at nat. "are you sure you are following instructions."
"indeed, madam, i have simply replaced every word of mr dashiell hammett's excellent "the glass key". hopefully the underlying harmonies shine through."
"and you are unfamiliar with the novels of shelley, and with "the red notebook" of m constant, and madame de stael's "corinne"?
"well," mr zanuck admitted sheepishly, "they were the favorites of my nursemaid, and she read me to sleep with them on many a snowy evening."

"ah. no matter, no matter." ethel nodded judiciously.