Thursday, March 6, 2014

Choose the novel: Women, Weed and Weather

So, yeah. Still stuck with a bunch of stories that at least mildly intrigue me, and only enough time to really focus on one. Hence, crowd-sourcing. Whichever of the six or seven novel openings I post racks up the most comments will be written in full on this here web log here. Of Hidden Shadows is a high fantasy evil-is-coming and only one slightly less-than-believable orphan can stop the end of the world. In Times of Cold Rain is noir crime-lit, with a curmudgeonly lead and enough cliches to start a store. Women, Weed and Weather is so-called "literary" fiction. It's the story of three guys and their journey west, populated with plenty of pop culture-laden bromides and a healthy dollop of, wait a second, this book has three first-person narrators, wtf?

Women, Weed and Weather

First off, I'm sorry.  This wasn't supposed to be like this.  I tried really fucking hard to write a simple god-damn love story, and it kept turning into a crazy science fiction adventure involving orangutans and James Franco for some reason. 

Mostly, I think I wanted to explain how I ended up staring at a wall the color of file folders, sitting on a borrowed chair, sleeping on a borrowed bed, fucking a stripper I've known since she was eight years old.  It all had to do with the screenplay I couldn't finish about a life I thought it would be pretty kick-ass to live.  

Maybe if I had finished it, she and I would be together and I would never had woken up in a crack house, bleeding from the knee and with the growing sense that I was about to get shot.

But, we aren't, and I did, and since I no longer know what the hell is going to happen, this story is going to get told the way it wants to be told.  Apparently, that involves a lot of digression and more than a little magical realism. 

Speaking of which, I was always impressed by the blurbs my erstwhile agent had secured for the screen version of the script I hadn't finished.

"Taut, the plot ripples like a whip while [his] dialogue snaps in the background, a brazen rapport built effortlessly by the power of the words."

"You leave the building thinking you just got face-fucked by Sasha Grey wearing a steel dildo, but, damn if it wasn't the best sex you've ever had."

"When [Alan Tudyk] read the script, he called me and told me I needed to find room for it sight unseen.  When Wash tells you it's Whedonesque, you fucking believe him, so I did. What were you asking about again?"

"A steel dildo is just mean, I wouldn't do that.  But I would watch this movie again, and again, and again.  If you know what I mean.  It's supposed to sound sexual.  Keep that in."

"I'll never trust anyone from a state with less than five letters in the name.  I learned the hard way once, with a girl from Indiana.  That's what she told me, anyway, but it turned out she was from Ohio.  Which isn't the same at all.  Not at all.  So when I received my review copy, I threw it away.  But I thought I would talk to you about the movie anyway.  It just needs more, explosions.  Yeah.  Explosions.  And fewer characters from Iowa."

The most interesting thing about any of the supposedly non-fabricated quotes is that absolutely no one had seen the movie; no one could have seen the movie since it had not only not been shot, it hadn't even been written.

I was living in some southern state when I first got a call from the person who pretends to be my agent, more to the West Coast than the East Coast, with a lot of sand.  The call started off rather boring, a brief overview of the residual checks I would not be receiving from either of my published anthology contributions that were no longer in print.  Then, as the sound of desperation in my agent's voice hit a fever pitch, he suddenly announced that a new studio was accepting spec scripts with payment for reading.

The only trick, he assured me, was that I had to write a romance comedy designed for an ensemble cast mailing it in for a giant paycheck.  And I had three months to write it.  I got off the phone with him and headed into the living room to find my girlfriend.  She lay back on the couch, looking sexy in that librarian sort of way, but also in the slutty club girl way, too.  I could tell she had no interest in having sex at the moment, which made her devilish display even more infernal.

"You forgot to buy toilet paper, didn't you?" she said.  It wasn't much of a question.

"Yes?" I asked back. "No? Is there a right answer to this question, or is this a wife beating thing?"

I eventually used that line in the screenplay.  One of the characters, a closeted lawyer with body odor, asks someone when they stopped, and it's funny for some reason that I can't remember any more.

"Are you going to go get some?" she folded her legs under her thighs and sat up, looking for all the world like a peacock. 

I was already prepared for this question.  "No," I said. "I just got a contract to write a spec script for a new movie.  I have to start."

"You have to start writing, before you buy toilet paper? What if you have to use the bathroom?" she huffed at me.

I pout right back at her, a strangely effective strategy that usually causes her to break down laughing and pointing and to take pictures with her phone to post on Facebook later. In this case, though, she apparently really needed to piss, because she stormed out of the apartment without pants on, right into our neighbor's living room.


It’s a paradox.  I can’t help it.  You’re not supposed to acknowledge it.  Like the t-rex in Jurassic Park, if you don’t move then it won’t get you.  Never mind that that didn’t make sense to me back then.  Eventually I broke down and started running.  Most towns have at least five bars, and I’m talking about really small towns even.  No post office, but five bars run by five guys who all drink at each other’s place on the nights that they let their one employee tend the joint.  I bring it up because if you play it right, you can usually get one free drink at any small bar.  Even some of the bigger ones as long as you don’t smell too bad or look too dangerous.  And there’s always a short stack of quarters near the pool table.  If you practice enough, you can tell a story and get ten bucks for gas.  That gets me almost seventy miles in my car.  Seventy miles is a lot further than you think.  Like I said, there’s always at least five bars.

Paradox is a good word.  I don’t know how many people know what it means, but most of them are willing to nod their head and loan you a buck.  Don’t waste time on beer, either.  Straight hard liquor.  You get maybe five drinks a night, so no sense wasting time or free booze on watered-down cat piss.  Don’t ask for top-shelf, take what they pour you.  You don’t want to look or sound like a bum, just a guy whose ATM card isn’t working and who didn’t remember to get cash at the bank on Friday.

I keep a picture of me and an old girlfriend in my wallet.  The one of the two of us with her kid.  Poor bastard has died at least a hundred times, been sick a few times less.  Sometimes he runs away from home twice a week, even if he looks three in the picture.

I was lucky enough to be born with one of those ageless faces.  I keep an i.d. that I scratched the fourth digit off.  Looks like it’s been through the wash a few times.  Whatever reason, Arizona driver’s licenses don’t expire until ten years after I assume I’ll be dead.  The first three numbers are one, nine, and eight.  I could be thirty-one or twenty-two, makes no difference, it’s all legal.  I look the same in the picture with the little guy.

I don’t lie to people.  This is paradox.  If it seems to you that my life is kind of a lie, you’ll know what I mean.  When I tell a story, it’s always more or less true.  Maybe it’s not a true story about me, but it happened to someone who told it to me.  Think about it, when you tell a story about yourself you never say something like “First of all, this happened to me.”  You just start talking and hope someone is listening.  So that’s how I do it.

A girl I met outside of Albuquerque told me I was some kind of harmless.  There are a lot of people that aren’t.  I was staying at an apartment once.  Some people get the impression I don’t like to be anywhere for long.  But if someone lets you, you do it.  The place was one of those big complexes.  A hundred, maybe a thousand apartments boxed up like jail cells.  The place was even nice enough to provide black iron bars.  Staying in a place like that makes you wonder if prisons protect us or if maybe the guys on the inside have the right idea.

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