nanowrimo day 24: gluttony

The character of Jimmy the Gent started as a stock Damon Runyonesque thug-cum-Lenny from Of Mice and Men foil, but he grew into a stand-in for authorial awkwardness. In this scene Jimmy the Gent (whose name I took from a James Cagney movie) appears at the family of Mmrma/Mortimer, who the careful reader may recall is the once jawless ventriloquist dummy sho took my nanowrimo work in a completely different direction from the art-world satire that I started out with. An except from the 1920-word output for November 24:

“Hey Morty, did ja really eat all those people like the lady dreamed, did ja huh?” inquired an inquisitve Gent.

Morty looked over at Crackers, Cheese, and Butter, the sisters all gathered there for the holiday feast. “Why, no, Jimmy,” Morty responded without additional hesitation or sweating of the brow that would indicate that he was hiding something or other to the contrary, Crackers and her sisters ain’t nevah eaten a juicy, tender New York strip of haberdasher marinated with Worcestershire sauce and brown sugah and vinegar –”
“–and gahlic! Lots and lotsa gahlic!” clarified Butter, smacking her lips at the Gent’s thick calf muscles peeking out from under his flood-length pants.

“Not dat I tink dere’s any ting wrong wif dat,” noted the Gent. “Azza mattera fack, I could maybe use somebody like dat in my manner of employment, if ya get my drift.”
Cheese slipped the Gent a card. “Well, and again, like I was sayin’ it’s not like we’re in that kinda business – at least not anymore,” clarified Cheese. “But if ya need a hand you could give us a buzz at that numbah. Anytime after 4,” Cheese whispered. “In the mornin’!“ The card read, in 14-point Gill Sans, [the following is one of my favorite lines in the whole 50,000 words I wrote]:


Several bottles of wine later, The Gent, who up till then in his acquaintance with Morty had barely so much as raised an eyebrow in guffaughter, was dancing with Cheese and a lampshade on his head, in that order. “Put me down, ya big ape!” Cheese shrieked, afraid for her life and worried she’d have to be refinished. “Put me down! Ye’ll wreck the wood grain! Put me down! Jimmy! Down! Down! Down! Jimmy! Down!”

“Da, have ya ever done da limbo rock, Cheesy? It’s all dey talk about on da islands, mon!”
“No I ain’t nevuh done da limbo rock and I ain’t about ta, now put me down right now Jimmy the Gent or oil moider ya!!” protested Cheese, as if to remind the Gent of that so-called dream.

“Aw, you wooden dames ain’t no fun. And by that double negative, I mean that ye wooden dames are a lotta fun! Haw haw haw!” The Gent swung his head up and down like a heavy-metal singer with a screaming and hanging on for life ventriloquist dummy named Cheese in place of a curly blonde head-banging mane. This rhythmic semi-circular motion continued for several minutes, untill … 

“Oh Jimmy, I tink I’m gonna be ill …” Cheese warned tenderly, before her eyes rolled in the back of her head, her spring-loaded double-take mechanism jammed on repeat and the contents of her dinner [begin word-count padding exercise] (mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, dark turkey meat, white turkey meat, turkey gizzards, turkey neck, a slice of ham, a slice of prime rib, a spoonful of green peas, a dollop of cranberry relish, two slices of home-made bread and store-bought unsalted butter, noodles au gratin, a slice of apple raisin pie with crumbly crust and a scoop of fudge ripple ice cream, a slice of pecan pie with toffee and chocolate chips and bourbon topped with low fat chocolate whipped cream, two glasses of red wine, and two hands full of Girl Scout salsa trail mix) [end word-count padding exercise] spewed projectorilly in a wide vibrating arc defined by the angle of the Gent’s headbanging ambition of the moment and the aforementioned jammed spring-loaded double-take mechanism.

“Ah gee, Morty, sorry about dat,” a chastened Gent begged pardon of his host as at the same time he delicately wiped a weary Cheese’s mouth and dinner dress. “Dah, it’s no wonder I don’t get invited ta parties too much. Ya okay dere hon?”
“Don’t … call … me … bleaugh …” an exhausted, and suddenly hungry, Cheese half-heartedly chided her awkward ride. 

“Don’t worry about a ting, Gent,” Morty reassured his buddy, although the steam pipes behind Crackers’ ginger pig-tails began to percolate with impatience. [begin word-count padding exercise] “I was already gonna warsh dose curtains, and I had a mind ta hose down the winders, and it was on the toppa my ta-do list ta re-paper that wall over there on the uddah side a the room, and I was just gonna have a conservator look at that Turner etching, and you might see the post-it note to remind myself to polish the Giacometti walking man replica, and tomorrow’s my day ta pressure clean the stucco ceiling, and this weekend I was gonna have the parquet floors refinished, and it’s high time we had the Oriental rug steam-cleaned, and the predetermined hour approacheth for to give Junior, Segundo, Bottles and Tilda a sponge bath, and I gotta wash my hair ever night ya know, and I’d almsot forgotten to take my collection of Madagascar string-ties to the dry-cleaners, and my calendar tells me it’s the semi-annual day to re-bind my first edition of the complete works of Henry James, and bi-weekly bathe my collection of seventy-eight RPM records of Enrico Caruso in soap and distilled water, and after a big holiday supper we always re-fill the salt and pepper shakes in the life-sized shapes of Shields and Yarnell anyways – [end word-count padding exercise] so don’t you worry about a ting, and make sure ta come fer Christmas. If ye ain’t busy, dat is!”

“Aw gee, I’d be happy ta come fer Christmas!” The Gent was touched, a lot, and even more still, and wondered what he’d do for presents, not sure what was cool with the kids dese days. When he was a young tyke, he always wanted a Tonka car carrier, and dreamed he got it but never did get one. He never had a Big Wheel. He never had Rock ’em’ Sock ’em Robots. But he had a tricycle, and then a bicycle, and then a unicycle, and then shoes, and always a roof over his head and warm food in his mouth and a wool blanket with cowboys lassoing cows on it, and he never wanted fer nuthin.

“I wunduh if Cheese’l be there. Aw, I hope she’s fuhgiven me for makin’ her trow up like dat an’ all. Say, I know what I’ll do – I’ll bake cookies – lotsa cookies! Dat’s hat I’ll do!” And that’s what Jimmy the Gent would do indeed, because his source for Hallwoeen Oreos out of season was none udder than himself, Jimmy the Gent, that is (“That’s *me*,” he directs his thumb at his barrel chest to reaffirm his identity as gentleman as well as to answer knock-knock jokes) possessed of an industrial-grade wafer mold procured from the since renovated Oreo plant in Walla Walla Washington, secret recipes wrested from Oreo chefs after minor administrations of troot serum and oil of eucalyptus, to relieve congestion and open up the nasal passages, and a team of elves to man the assembly line production and packaging of Oreos of any season.

But he’d make special cookies from scratch just for the kids. And fer Cheese, if she’d fergive him. And if Crackers would let him back inta the house. It was gonna be Christmas after all. 

Outside the American Yeast plant, Giuseppe D’Abbondanza wept and kneaded his yeaAst apron. “No! No! No!” he cried as he watched the unintentional conflagration of his life’s work rise up like fluffy devils in the place of countless loaves of bread that would no longer be any good for sandwiches. “Mamma mia!”

nanowrimo day 21: the mind eats itself

my bologna has four brothers
I haven’t looked at the issue of my Nanowrimo loins in some time, but I’ve alluded to this particular episode for some time and after some distance it’s not so bad as is. Of course, tomorrow it may horrify me. I do still wonder at the sudden violent turn I took; inspired by a jaw-less ventriloquist dummy, my muse turned on itself, or I on myself, in some vicious cycle. A freeing creative episode became something threatening.

Here is an extract from the 1673-word output for November 21st:

Morty, who could read Hannah’s inner monologue, tenatively raised his hand. “Before ya go about rebuildin’, Hannah, I gotta question for Crackers.”

“What is it darling?” Cooed Crackers, lovingly batting her eyes and twirling her ginger locks.

“You say you an’ her unholy sisters ain’t cannibals – you may be hooers, but ya don’t eat the flesh of yer own kind.”

“That’s right, sweetie-pie. What’s on yer mind?”

“Well, my beloved Crackers,” Morty continued,”if you were cannibals, you’d be eatin’ toothpicks or baseball bats and such, right? I mean, eating human flesh doesn’t make you cannibals at all, really, does it?”

Crackers, Cheese, and Butter stodd there silently, rolling their eyes to the left, then to the right.

“La la la la, say lookit what time it is!” announced a punctual Cheese.

“Well we ain’t exactly vegans if that’s whatcher gettin’ at!” an impatient Butter retorted.

“Hey, it’s no bark off my trunk if yinz slaughtered Tunbridge and ate his greasy, gamy flesh and ground it into habder, habber, habb, tailor-made burgers.”Morty began to smack his lips at the thought, looking at all the tasty human passengers who surrounded him on this bus, a regular captive audience. “So, say you slaughtered the man and had loin of Tunbridge steaks for a month–”

“We slaughtered the man and had loin of Tunbridge steaks fer a munt,” the sisters said in

intermissionTex, not possessed of a spring-loaded double-take, performed an organic double-take of the flesh at this astounding revelation. Butter, whose rotating eyes were well-attuned to the sound of human double-takes in their native habitat, turned her head slowly in the direction of Tex and winked at him. There were no survivors named Tex.

“My question is, den,” Morty got to the question,”–did you marinade him in Worcesteshire sauce?”

“Well Morty lemme tell you about marinade,” declared Crackers.”Yes, we did soak his gamy flesh in Worcesteshire sauce, and me, I like to add a little brown sugar and vinegar to the marinade,–”

“I chop up lotsa garlic for my Tunbridge shanks, but the othah goils don’t go fer the garlic so much ya know,” suggested Butter.

“And Tunbridge was a little long in the toof, so he neede quite a bitta tenderizin!” helpfully added Cheese.

Hannah regarded this latest conversation with not a little dismay, as the remaining human passengers on the bus slowly backed away from their wooden interlocutors, despite outnumbering them by a ration [sic] of at least four-to-one. The remainder of this interrupted piece evolved into a collaborative effort among the spirits of Sam Peckinpah and Rankin-Bass,and the assembled crowd wished they had never heard of the spring-loaded double-take that was soon to tear their flesh from their bones.

Crackers, always true to her Morty, was not so true to those of human persuasion, and sank her jaws into the juicy hambone of Nipsey Russell, who kicked his shiny shoes into the air until subdued, a brutal end to a lifetime of laughter and entertainment for all Americans. Butter made short work of Tex, who being a lifelong afficionado of his home-state barbecue, was smoky and tangy even without marinade. “It’s hard to pick out the meat behind the jewelry, but my tummy tinks it’s woith it!” Cheese took a chunk out of Connie the coed, who would no longer need to study for mid-terms. “How tender and studious, even, “ ran Cheese’s review on the then-fledgling weekly food newsletter Yelp! I have been Eaten by a Ventriloquist Dummy, now under new editorship: Cheese! editorship: Cheese!

Morty had until that point had spent his life eating the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables, seafood in abundance, white meat on occasion, red meat in moderation, and alcoholic beverages on the average of three glasses of wine a week, and abstained from any food or clothing products derived from the human. Yet, drawn in by his people’s infectious massacree [a reference to Doris Day in Calamity Jane], he nibbled at Texas bones and co-ed collars and comic breasts. “Say, you know, this ain’t half bad!”

At this point, I had painted myself into a corner, plot-wise; Hannah woke up and realized that it was all a dream. Or was it?

The Adventures of Separated Siamese Ventriloquist Dummy Triplets on the Wheels of Steel

lenny's girl
Lenny’s Girl.

The complete 1,726 word output of Day 19, slightly edited,  annotated in italics. This begins the story of how a separated Siamese ventriloquist dummy triplet happened to end up wearing the skin of one Archibald Tunbridge.

Chapter thirty-eight. [As we are still adhering, in principle, to the “Fifty Easy Pieces” framework] The Triplets of 42nd Street.

“Well as my sistuh intimated,” applied Butter,”we were more than a little in debt to Doctor Billy the K. And as Doctor Billy the K was being hassled by bill collectors from everbody and their separated Siamese twins, from the shoemaker to the baker and the candyman and the insurance agent [the daily word requirement during NaNoWriMo encourages a variety of word padding strategies, one of the most potent of these being The List] , he was desperate for cash.”

“Yeah, and what better assets–” at which Cheese shook her money maker, a miniature aluminum crank-turned press that, not unlike an elongated penny machine, turned nickels into the state quarter of the great state of Wyoming,”than owers?” She batted her eye lasciviously at the black patches of the interstate that rumbled by in the evening sky.

“And we had medical bills to pay! I can’t tell you how hard it is for separated Siamese triplet dames to get medical insurance! Forget dental!” Crackers indicated by speaking those words in the language they all spoke and understood in common to varying degrees of comprehension.

“Mhyea, mmuh meemus is mmhed mhup!” muttered Butter. [As I have not been listening to the speech of muffled Ventriloquist dummies on a regular basis this month, it took me a moment to figure out what Butter is saying here: “Yeah, my teefus is messed up!”]

“So the three of us – we was Billy the K’s featured hoo-ers!” salted Crackers.

“But how come I never seen yer other sistuhs before ta-night?” Morty asked by raising his voice questionignly, indicating the desire for an answer to his stated inquiry.

“They always woiked the Lower East Side when you and I went to the movies.” clarified Cracker.

“Oh,” was the mildly comprehending reply of Morty.

“Anyhow, we were the vent triplets, and we were famous from here to Bangkok!” bragged Cheese.

“There wasn’t nuthin’ we couldn’t do with a bottle a’ linseed oil,” boasted Butter. [The linseed oil bit was suggested by V.]

“From the back alley to the Plaza Hotel to Buckingham Nicks Palace, we plied our trade wherever it needed to be plied!” reminisced Crackers.

“You could tell our satisfied customers by the glowing reviews they gave to us. ‘I’m satisfied!’ said one custumuh in particular, as his satisfaction was guaranteed and met by our services of linseed oil and post-linseed polishing.”

“Boy I knew my way with a chamois!” boasted Butter.” Why I remember one time this mark left wid a big shiny smile on his mug.”

“Umm, so how did youse all get outta the business? And why are you all on this bus?” wondered Morty out loud, and many others on the bus silently.

“Funny that you’d ask! That’s an innarestin’ story behind it,” observed Butter, accurately.”It all started when Cheese and me were makin’ the rounds of the bodegas in Alphabet City – you know they need their Cheese and Butter in that part of the town. And then one day …”

Chapter thirty-nine. Cheese and Butter in Alphabet Bodega City. Premiere: that part of town.

“Cheese and Buttah. Getcher Cheese and Buttah fah sale!” sashayed the sisters on the corner of Avenue A and 4th Street.  [my brother’s old neighborhood] “Get it while it’s fresh, boys!”

“Linseed oil! Linseed oil rubs! Getcher rejuvenating linseed oil rubs right here!” It was a familiar voice.

“Crackers, whaddre you doin’ on this beat? I tawt you were runnin’ ’round uptown wid da high class types.”

“I got dis mark whose a habder, a habber, a han – a tailor, and he’s richer than Rockyfeller! Why I bet we could roll him fer somethin’ in the excess of many dollars of money.”

“Since when were you such a shyster? I thought you were the good twin, Crackers?” emoted a concerned Morty.

“Just wait a minnit, will ya?” Crackers carefully laid out her plan. “Ya see it’s like this …” she leaned in to whisper and huddle inaudibly with her sisters, who mumbled incomprehensibly to each other in make believe conspiratiorial tones. “We’ll do what?” protested Butter, for no apparent reason, being that complete sentences nor barely even a dipthong was pronounced. “Why do I always get the short stick?” lamented Cheese, ditto.

Chapter forty. A Tunbridge born every minute. Premiere: New York, 1986

One fine sunday morning all dressed in finery and such, the triplets rounded the corner of 25th street to the Antiques Garage Flea Market in Chelsea, a known hangout for one haberdasher named Archibald Tunbridge. And like clockwork, he was there, his Filipino houseboy Pedro in tow, at 8:00 am sharp Sunday morning, fresh from morning mass. Crackers, Cheese, and Butter awaited their turns inside.

“Good morning Estelle [this happens to be the name of an antiques dealer at whose picture booth I have thrown many ducats],” Tunbridge greeted one of his regular dealers. “What do you have for me today?”

“Well Gee Archie,” Estelle smelled a mark when she smelled one [there’s evidence in my basement], as she was smelling one at the present time of this scene, shortly after 8:00 am of a Sunday afternoon in Chelsea. (Her booth was near the entrance.) “Have I got a piece for you!” Aware of Tunbridge’s expertise in the ventriliquilar arts, the savvy dealer spied a most unusual specimen that practically gave her a wooden lapdance in the form of a doll that she found in her pick-up truck that morning.

“Exqusite detail!” murmured Tunbridge approvingly as he examined Crackers from head to toe. “What is this – the fabled spring-loaded double take!” She took his huge paws and wound Crackers head counter-clockwise to cock her shutter and then touched a hidden button behind the base of her neck to release the impeccably timed head shake. “Why, if I didn’t know better I’d say she wwas batting her eyes at me.”

“Like the narrator said, she’s an unusual specimen!”

“Boy I’ll say!” said Tunbridge. “What do you want for her?” Crackers contineud to bat her eyes at the bald man. “I’ll pay anything!” Crackers started to purr. “ANYthing.”

Half his considerable weekly pay-check before taxes later, Tunbridge continued apace through the market, a wodden crate marked “Crackers” carried behind him by his Filipino houseboy, Pedro.

“Hey, Senor Tunbridge,” Pedro tugged at his boss’s tweed tails. “I theenk some lady is wheespering your name.”

“Why, I don’t hear anything Pedro. Oh, I forgot, in your native land the lack of sound in the country fine-tunes your ears to hear a far greater range of sound waves than the most aurally accomplished sugar-talkin’ Yankee.”

“Si,” said Pedro in a language that was not his native tongue but which set him in good stead with his upper-class betters. “Eees deefeecult for you, easy for me.”

Pedro recalled watching Senor Wences on a little black and white tube television back in the homeland. Since he was a youg barefoot boy, who typically of a young filipino boy in those times was thrown into the river at birth to learn to swim, a tradition that led to entire schools of toddlers swimming the shores and dragging fishing nets to catch bluefin tuna and Betty Croacker and Acoustic Eel, he watched Senor Wences on tv and hoped that someday, he, Pedro, would grow up to paint his hand with lipstick and tour the great cruise-ships of the oceans wide and entertain people from all walks of life and have steak every day and spinach with lots of butter. Little did he know that, although the one dream was dashed when he lost his legs in a pinochle accident, another of his wishes was about to come true in a manner he had never dreamed of.

“Psst … Aaachie!” It was Cheese.

“Who … where? Well what do we have here?” Tunbridge stopped at a booth manned by one Leonard of Queens. [another antiques dealer with whom I’ve been known to do business]

“Hello dere Mistuh Tumbridge – yo’re my favorite customer! Say, ain’t this doll here a beaut? I just found her this morning – I moved the potato and there she was! Ain’t dat nuts?”

“She is indeed, and is the very sororal image of the specimen I have in this crate here,” he tapped at the crate carried by Pedro.

“Si,” confirmed Pedro.

Crackers winked at her sister from between the wooden slats.

“She even has the very same spring-wound double take mechanism – a fabulous specimen.” He twisted the mechanics as he did before and released them to the same satisfying shake. Cheese batted her eyes at Tunbridge.

“Ees almos like shes plirting with you boss! What a crazy doll! You will hab more pun with two of them, no boss?” observed Pedro.

“Yes, Pedro, yes indeed will I hae more ‘pun’ with two of them. I’ll taker her, Lenny.”

“Whaddevuh you say, Professuh.” Lenny gingerly wrapped Cheese in cheese cloth, meaning in this case the clothes she wore.

“Hey Senor Tunbreedge, I might be going crazy but I theenk you got another customer calling your name.”

“Psst! Yoo-hoo! Mister Tunbridge! Hellooo!” whispered Butter from a vintage spinach crate. An expresion of childhood longing passed briefly over Pedro’s swarthy pace.

“I’m co-ming!” Tunbridge sang and positively loped toward his suitress in a box. Butter batted her eyes before he even touched her spring-loaded double-take button. “Why, these dolls look like they could be triplets!”

“Siameeese treeplets, boss!” Pedro accurately observed.

“Siamese ventriloquist dummy triplets? Don’t be absurd!”

“Absurd? Me?” Pedro mumbled from behind a fake nose and glasses with bushy eyebrows pattered after the late actor Milo O’Shea.

Her vendor, whose name was George, and was a horrible horrible person [he is], told the strange story of how Butter walked into his business. “I wuz just settin’ up here this morning when dis doll heah just showed up outta da blue like! I had an empty spinach crate here with the colorful label ya see there, and next ting I knew there was this crazy doll sprawled out in the box like Brooke Shields at a Princeton frat party!”

“Yes, very good, I’ll take her!!” Tunbridge, suddenly in no mood for stories, even nice stories about three bears and porridge or about grandma and a wolf who ate her up or about a princess who lost a shoe somewheres, hurriedly reached for the remaining wad of cash in his almost bottomless pockets. “Pedro, now I have in my posession three of the most exquisite creatures in the history of ventriloquism. Do you know what this means, Pedro?”

“Well, boss, my Eengleesh she ees not so good!” claimed Pedro, who in fact went to night school and took English and got a B. “But I theenk she meeans you can like live your dream to be Goldilocks and the three bears!”

“Quiet, Pedro …” urged Tunbridge, “I don’t want anybody else to steal my idea …”

Nanowrimo Day 18: in Which the Author Creates a Character for the Sake of a Moderately Priced Pun

cheddar cheese
I continued to follow the jawless ventriloquist dummy where he led me, but the river was  treacherous and in parts uncrossable. To fill in the plot gaps: Tunbridge, last seen on the bus talking to Mmrma/Mortimer about the fate of his beloved Crackers, had disappeared at an I-95 rest stop. His return had something to do with Woody Harrelson but I’ll leave that for another day or the chopping block. This was the entire day’s output of November 18th, selectively edited for spelling.

“You were looking for me, perhaps?” Tunbridge spryly climbed down from the luggage compartment, where he had been listning this entire time … and scheming!

“TUNBRIDGE!” All in attendance cried out with a gasp.

“That’s ME!” Tunbridge pointed a thick thumb at his barrel chest. “Or is it?” He removed his tweed jacket and unbuckled his khakis to reveal that which nobody in attendance could have ever imagined in their wildest dreams. [Note: at this point the subsequent character steps out of the aforementioned character’s skin. This a crucial plot development.]

“Great Senator Kennedy!” Tex exclaimed, to the general confusion of his fellow man, for, the more apropriate ejaculation would have been,

“CRACKERS?” Morty looked from one Crackers to another Crackers, and then back again. He examined each Cracker’s wrist for watchband straps, and then remember his crackers had been keeping time with a pocket watch. He did a double-take unencumbered by spring action. His head-bone stretched out several inches from his neck-bone in exasperation. “Why, I , err … who … what …” Morty fell as if to faint, but quickly righted himself with a nudge from his Crackers.

“Sweet pea, yesterday, I knew that someday this day would come, but today, I didn’t know it wouldn’t be tomorrow. I thought it would be next week or maybe right after the high holy days, or maybe on the third thursday of May in an odd-numbered year divisible by three.”

Crickets chirped.

“Morty, this is my twin sistuh, Cheese.”

“CHEESE?!” The townsfolk shouted.

“Let me take a pictcha!” Ernesto, presently catching Damon Runyon fever along with da rest of dese mugs, took a look through da lens and made a pickchah of everybuddy all smiles.

“–that’s Siamese twin sistuh, sistuh!” declared Cheese.

“Make that Evil Siamese Twin sistuth, sistuh!” clarified Crackers.

“Specifically, Evil Separated Siamese Twin sistuh, sistuh!” clarified Cheese, who at this moment it is too bad is not named Butter.

Is there such think as Siamese triplets? Have Research and Development on that, please?

R&D: Author, you can write whatever you like. If you wish there to be Siamese triplets for the sake of a cheap pun, then there are Siamese triplets.

Author: Thank you, R&D.

Suddenly, another figure descended from the luggage compartment, mysterious, unkown, barefoot and pregnant with more questions than answers.

“– Make that Siamese triplet, sistuh!” clarified Butter.

“Crackers! Cheese! Butter!” The assembled masses cried out all at once and at different times, and in varying states of hunger for snack food and spiritual healing and physical comfort and potatoes and gravy and pajamas and cranberry sauce. It was, after all,  nearly Thanksgiving.

“That’s right, aseembled masses,” chortled Butter.

“I was born a freak!” cried Crackers.

“An evil freak!” pointed out Cheese.

“Whu? My sweet pea who is the dearest light oh my light and soul of my soul, aka Crackers – she was born evil?!”

Crackers hung her head sadly.” It’s true, Morty. The three of us, me, Crackers, Cheese, and Butter, were boin attached at the brains. Our dear muddah didn’t know what was comin or how many! Labor was intensive and inefficient. The division of labor belonged to the people. Boy it was ruff gettin’ around! We did cartwheels that would never end!

“I was the evil triplet always tryin’ to drag my sistuhs into the paths of rabid wolves when I was safely ensconced in a cave. They were toin apart limb from limb all regulah like on a consistent and occasional basis of time and space. Why, their dresses were regularly in tatters like rags and such while I was in the finest of evening gowns even in broad daylight. Vera Wang designed my onesies! When Doctah K –“

“DOCTOR K! YOu mean Billy the K was a doctuh?! Well I’ll be a separated Siamese triplet’s sweetheart forevuh!”

“MORTY!” Crackers moved as to hug her sweetheart forever but first she had a story to tell – a tale of woe! “Well foist I gotta tale uv woe to tells ya.” She chewed gum and talked at the same time. She was that evil. “It was Doctor Billy the Kay, moustachioed pimp bastard and world-class Siamese-triplet separating surgeon who took the awl to our triumvirate of vaudevillian devilry.”

‘I can’t believe there are three of you!’ Doctor Billy the K shivered in his flashbacking timbers of hirsute horror. ‘Man, this will be a difficult operation.’

“So you can imagine from that flashback there that our confidence was not high in this sausage-fingered moustachioed man of medicine. Would yours have been? How about YOU?”

“Who are ya talki’n to Crackers, you’r talkin’ to the back of the bus and tehre’s ain’t nobody there!” Morty fied.

“Oh yea! Well It was a marathon surgery, and ma and paw paced back and forth in the waiting room while Uncle Pat was praying that the devil had not visited upon our family this unholy trinity of us.”

“And the ting is,” interrupted Cheese, because she was evil not only in the ways of the Good Book but in the ways of the okay book, Emily Post’s Ettiquette, which specifically addressed interruption of your separated Siamese triplet as a faux paw. “The ting is, as we were attached at the brain and such, the tissue we shared was continually comminicatin’ all our thoughts and poisonalities amognst each other. I was born the goody two-shoes, ya know! I said my prayers every night and looked both ways before crossin’ the street and said please and thank you. What a sucker I was!”

“And so was I!” Butter pleaded her case. “I was so pure and smooth like an Easter lamb. Crackers was so named because she crackered her way outta the womb!! So after the operation, imagine our collective surprise when me and Cheese – innocents both! – toined out the evil ones and Crackers got to be the goody two-shoes.”

“Well I was a hookah and every ting,” noted Crackers.

“Hay you’re right – you were a vent of da night as dey say! Say Buttah, whadda ya think of that?”

“Gee I dunno about that Cheese.”

“Well it was kind of indentured servitude and all, it’s not like it was in my nachah – or was it?”

“Anyways,” continued Crackers, who although she was now good and all, did not like to be interrupted, and grew redder and redder with each sister’s interruption, shouted,” HEY LEMME FINISH MY STORY PLEASE IF THAT’S OKAY WID YOUSE!”

Relative silence ensued, accompanied by occasional slack-jawed incomprehension, straight-mouthed indifference, eyebrow-raising malfeasance, winking impishness, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

“Tank you!” added Crackers, proving indeed her goodness as a good triplet. “As I wuz sayin’, umm, what was I sayin’? Well Doctor Billy the K having puhfoimed surgery on us, having all manner of lovers for hire mopping his brown at regular intervals and passing the scalpel when he asked for it, if ya know what I mean.”

“What do you mean by that?” Said Tex, from whom we haven’t heard a lot lately.”I come from Texas, and they don’t say that where I come from! In Texas!”

“Well cowboy,” Crackers addressed Tex, who was not an actual cowboy but a shipping magnate who wore a cowboy hat and a string tie and knew where to get the best barbecue in Texas,”Do ya want me to drawr you a pictcha?”

“I sure love me some pictures. Why, back home in Texas, I got a lotta pichtchas on my wall. YEEEE HAWWWW!!!”

“Hey hey hey down cowboy, settle down will ya? I’ll drawr you a pictcha later. After Doctor Billy the K was done with us and the last beads of sweat were wrung from his drenched moustache and eyebrows, we were kind of a little beholden to him.”

“Is that why Billy the K stole you aweay from me at the movie show?”

“Movie show? What kinda talk is that? Movie show? What year do ya think this is, it’s 1987 and yer talkin’ like an old timer. Movie show. Sheesh.” This was the evil Butter. She was mean and rancid, and was not available in your dairy section. She was ill-churned was this butter, milked from sour Bessie, the sourest farm cow on any farm there ever was!

“Ahem, If ye’ll let me continue! Ahem. Billy the K changed our lives – but it weren’t necessarily for the better!”

I wonder why – he’s the greatest dancer …

“Hey wait a minute, we already saw that flashback!” Morty pointed out this word padding device.

“So yer right!”

“So I visited the Indian years later, and when I told him ‘How,’ he said ‘Fried,” like he remembered me and everything!”

“Knock knock!”

It was a scene of chaos and mild confrontation erupting into occasional fisticuffs which escalated into World War. Famine and locuts plagues the world and her people, and the good and the bad alike, the separated Siamese triplets and Jo-jo the Dog-faced boy alike because enemies, brother attacked brother attacked the mailman. The nation would little remember what they said on the bus, but little will they forget what they did on the bus.

“Hey, wait a minute,” asked Morty, pleading with the newly assembled guests to give him sixty seconds of their time for him to mentally digest their recent verbiage.” “What have Cheese and Butter been up to all this time – besides pretending to be Tunbridge and whoever Butter was pretending to be.”

“Carrot Top,” clarified Butter.

“You mean you are the greatest prop comic in the woild next to Gallagher?”

“That was none other than  me! Statue of Liberty!” Butter waved her finger as if she was holding a foam number one hand.

“You are Carrot top!”

“I toured with the greatest performers in entertainment history and had audience with world leaders and Barbara Streisand. Boy I was king of the Vegetable tops! I Lorded over Broccoli top and Kohlrabi Top and Cabbage Head. Lettuce head was my slave. Tomato head my window washer. Bok Choy top my chef.”

The Five Stages of Post-NaNoWriMo: Denial (PG-13)

First stage: Not bad – it started to work here!
Second stage: I guess it’s okay
Third stage: Hiding under the covers until spring

An excerpt from Day 15, slightly edited.

Mmrma climbed onto the empty seat behind Hannah. He gave her a thumbs up with his good hand. “Mmy mmhr, mmtah! Mmt mh nmnms meenn mm mn-my mwless mmntrlst mmy mmre!”” (1)

Mmrma’s seat-mate, a balding New York haberdasher and antiques dealer named Archibald Tunbridge, was understandably surprised to be addressed in such a manner by a one-eyed jawless ventriloquist dummy; but not because it was the first time he had ever been addressed in such a manner. “As a matter of fact I have.”

“Mmm mmk my mmx mfm!” (2)

“Perhaps some other time. But as a matter of fact I saw a vent not unlike yourself just recently in my shop. I was sorting a collection of photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt when a burly moustachioed man demanded I buy something from him. He strolled in with his raccoon coat and pointed a chorizo-sized finger at me accusingly. “Hey Mistuh, whadd’ll you give me for this here item I got?” he threw a stained shoebox on my meticulously organized mahogany counter, a cloud of dust rising from the sudden onslaught of boxy gravitas he visited upon it. The dust, mind you, not coming from my well-kept premises, but from the aforementioned gentleman – if I may use the term in the broadest sense – and his unsolicited delivery.”

“Mmmh, mmh, mg mh mm mnt mmmdy,” (3) an impatient Mmrma pleaded.

Archibald Tunbridge paused to examine his ragged cuticle and polish it with an ermine-collared 24 carat emery board. “Well if you’re going to be rude I suppose I can not tell it to you at all.”

“Mmmght, mmght, Mm mmrry mmldy. Mw mt mht mhe mmssve mmmsgggrmh mm mo mn! Mmmease? (4)“

“Very well,”Tunbridge continued.”I put on my archival gloves and waited for the cloud of dust to settle. I brushed dust off the top of the shoebox with a fine-fibred whisk broom I keep on hand for such occasions. And I opened the box. When I opened the box, I was startled – what I saw was a rare 1927 Ginger Jane ventriloquist dummy with the articulating elbows and the five-key eyebrow control, with hand-tooled ginger strands, and the spring-loaded double-take.”

Mmrma raised his eyebrow excitedly.

“In exquisite condition such a specimen would fetch a high four figures at Sotheby’s. But this poor creature – she looked like she had been tortured at the hands of some crazed, vengeful madman! Her once flowing ginger locks were singed a Thanksgiving turkey brown, one luminous green eye had been ripped out of its socket and her finely sculpted jaw was completely gone. I looked imploringly at the handlebarred demon who presented this ghastly wooden sacrifice before me.”

At this Mmrma shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and began to shudder imperceptibly.

“Eh, you know, I gave it to my kids to play with – I can’t believe they never learned to take care of their tings!”

“Sir, I’m sure you know this is a very special doll, but you’ve done terrible things to it. No doll should be treated like this, especially not a Ginger Jane!”

“Yeah, if I wanted ta be lectchered at I’da gone ta Town Hall. Tell ya what, Professah, I’ll leave this doll in yer capable white-gloved hands and whatever you do with it is fine wid me!” Billy the K waved his own massive paws in front of his face. “And do somethin’ about the dust in dis joint – no wonduh business is sowuh! Haw haw haw!”

Mmmra was now in tears of rage. “Mmmsth! Mmmsth! Mmse mp! Mh mnt mke mn mmr! Mt ms mh mho mhnk mh ms, Mh Mnt mnd mn mmr!” (5)

“I do apologize if my tale is rather graphic, sir, “ Tunbridge paused, wiping his bald pate for dramatic effect; if this had been for comedic effect, he would have contined the wipe down his face, brushing past his nose and turning his smile into a frown.”And I may have embellished somewhat as is my wont. But I assure you, good man, this tale has a happy ending. “

“Mmth! Mm mstle mt mh mmnmashm mf mr mst mmark!” (6)

“Sir, if you are who I think you are – and your behavior certainly indicates to me that you are – I can’t say I understand what you’ve been through, but please be assured that my intentions were noble and restorative. In fact, perhaps I can do for you what I did for the one you know as ‘Crackers.’”


“Yes, your Crackers is alive, Mortimer.”

“Mw mee, Mh mh mmst mmws mh moid mn mh mng mme – mh mmst mmws mh muh moid mvuh! May, mhw mmhm mu mn mnnsnd mh Mm myin moo mrs”? (8)

“Well, in addition to my expertise in the fields sartorial and antiquital,” – Mmmrma rolls his eye a hair at this, – “I am an expert in the field of sub-esophagal and reconstructive ventrilinguistics, and I determined what she was saying by examining the ligature of Ginger Jane’s – your Crackers’ – machinery as she struggled to explain to me her predickamentation. Err, predicament. And, although yours is a more common, dime-store ligature, I could extrapolate your meaning from the painful lessons of your Crackers.”

The guitar riff from Sister Sledge’s “He’s the greatest dancer,” – who can blame Will Smith for sampling it – plays.

“A strobe-light seems to flickr in the eyes of Archibald Tunbridge’s photographic memory. “Many splinters and liters of wood glue later, Crackers was able to tell me her story unencumbered by pain. She was a marvelous specimen, as I’m sure you knew – as she told me you knew,” Tunbridge raised an eyebrow. “She told me after Billy the K wrested her away from your Lawrence of Arabia-loving arms, he kept her hooked by means of the very substance that gave her the monniker you and all the other 42nd street swells knew her by. Billy the K had a cadre of females known for their great expertise in the art of seduction-for-hire in his collection of lost souls, but this Ginger Jane had a special spot in the devilish place where one presumes he kept his hear imprisoned, like another one of his indentured charges.

Here’s what we call our golden rule
have faith in you and the things you do …

“Billy the K took Crackers and her sisters to the disco every night – cruising for Johns of course, but also because they loved to dance – especially Crackers and Billy the K. Despite their discrepancy in size – so she told me – the rhythm and the drugs flowed through their lithe bodies – or, rather, her lithe body and his malevolent animal hide; and although I am personally more interested in the pleasures and creations of the intellect, I can envy the figurative creative flow of the dance, however primitive and epinephrine-fueled was their hedonistic ritual.”

Mmrma nodded, catching the Professah’s drift. He already knew Crackers could shake her moneymaker, but he hated knowing that Billy the K was a dancing fool himself. Mmrma despised and at the same time envied what sounded like an undeniable terpsichorean talent.

“But Crackers longed for you, Mortimer. Through the disco haze and the pills and the glitter and lights, the free-floating feeling of indestructability that her namesake poison gave to her, even after seventy-two sleepless hours at a time of non-stop dancing and hooking – something tugged at her, fingered her keys if you will, and in the middle of the dancefloor at Studio 54, one night she said to Billy the K, ‘Oh Mortimer, turn me around again!’

“Billy the K stopped and looked at her, the rainbow lights darting around her face, the structure that had captured the imagination and hearts of so many ventriloquist audiences spanning five decades – but never like this gem of the ocean … and Billy the K slapped her. Hard. He was a big man, as I’m sure you remember, and his soft voice made his penchant for horrible violence all the more shocking. Her jaw came off with that one swipe. Splinters flew over the lighted dance floor …”

Good Times
These are the good times
leave your care behind
These are the good times

“Crackers stared at Billy the K in disbelief, too stunned to feel the excruciating pain.”

But Mortimer could feel it – it was the pain he lived with every day, all the more acute knowing that his beloved met the same fate. His one eye stared into space. He was thankful that she was better, if the Professah was not steering him sideways. And he wanted to know what happened. But it was the worst story he’d ever heard.

(1) “Hey there, mistah! Bet you nevuh seen a one-eyed jawless ventriloquist dummy before!”

(2)”Well knock my socks off!”

(3)”Yeah, yeah, get to the point already!”

(4) “Alright, alright, I’m sorry already. Now quit with the passive aggression and go on already. Please?”

(5) “Mistuh! Mistuh! Please stop! If it’s who I think it is, I can’t stand no more!”

(6)”Mistuh! I bristle at the connotations of your last remark!”


(8)” Aw gee, that’s the best news I hoid in a long time – the best new I eveuh hoid evuh! Say, home come you can udnerstand what I’m sayin’ to yers?”

In Which the Author Allows Himself to Write Without Producing A Masterpiece Every Time Out then Doesn’t Allow Himself to Write Without a Living Ventriloquist Dummy Every Time Out

One of the many ways I procrastinated during NaNoWriMo was the time I spent finding good coffee (thank you Baked and Wired in DC, and Stumptown and Joe the Art of Coffee in New York) and a nice quiet cafe where I could sit down and write. (Note: do not try this in Georgetown on a Sunday.)  It used  to be when I walked into a cafe and saw people writing – and I mean, using pen or pencil and paper and writing – I’d think, “poh-ser!” Now here I was sitting in cafes pawing at my laptop for a couple of hours a day Writing A Novel. Because it’s cute when I do it.

I had given up caffeine sometime during the second or third Snowmageddon. Maybe cabin fever ramped up my baseline anxiety, but I had become more aware of what caffeine did to me since I’d started meditating. I’d started mindfulness meditation practice to learn to relax, of course. But through the books of Pema Chodron as well as the evening meditation group I was attending once a week, I slowly learned that the key word might not be RELAX so much as gentle. I knew there was always a lot bouncing around in my brain, circuits firing and re-firing until they shorted out and sometimes started to emit sparks and smoke.  But we all do that, and when you learn that, and when you learn not to judge yourself and that imperfection is the rule … well it’s a goal that’s ever truly reached but it’s  a process
that you keep processing, like a regular kitten on a branch.

duckling and kitten reign
So I signed up for NaNoWriMo for reasons similar to why I took up meditation –  to get over that self-judgement, to allow myself to write something that wasn’t a masterpiece (cf. title). Okay, NaNoWriMo *was* a Journey, sans amazing animals, except for the very end, where I was inspired by mountain lions in the news on November 30th to devise a surprise attack that ended up with Kitty the mountain lion accepting the Oscar for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in an all-feline version of The Miracle Worker; and which brought me to my 50,006th word.

But I digress – isn’t that what NaNoWriMo is all about? Letting the mind go and following it. (Um, caffeine agitated me, blah blah, back up to three cups a day and that’s alright too.)

The other major form of procrastination was finding what music to listen to while I was writing. Selected inspirations:

1. Seeburg 16 rpm department store music (youtube)
2. Aphex Twin, “Cliffs” (youtube)
3. Weschel Garland, “Hi (Friends)” (itunes)
4. Glen Cambpell, “Witchita Lineman” (youtube)
5. Brian Eno, “1/1” (youtube)
6. Penguin Cafe Orchestra, “Penguin cafe single” (youtube)

Electronica seemed to help the most, and pushed me through the early stages of the Mmrma story, but it got an even bigger push when I put on the Chic box set.

the two of us
Disco, particularly the variety produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, was perfect for writing. In terms of meditation, it wasn’t so much concentration practice as openness practice, and what you opened to was rhythm: the beat gave my fingers, with their limited typing skills something to propel them as if the keyboard was a dance floor and my fingers wore bell-bottoms. And the story went with it. I’d never much cared for Sister Sledge’s “He’s the greatest dancer” when I heard it on the radio as a kid (I vaguely remember having the 45 and burning the edge of it on a dare); but hearing it on the Chic box set was a revelation. The stuttering guitar line sounded like The Meters’ Leo Nocentelli on coke. The repetition was hypnotic, the strings sliced at the tension, and that sick keyboard fill slices finally lets it out like an alien baby out of William Hurt. I became obsessed with the song, and it even inspired a plot line – with Crackers, the second living ventriloquist dummy in my tale.

I didn’t realize Crackers was a character at first, but as soon as I named her she was there.  In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I didn’t go back to edit the previous day’s work, but I’d often go back to what I’d written earlier that day to expand upon it.

November 13. Morty talking here – I added paragraph breaks but this is otherwise unedited:

“Bill was laid up for months after that – with his bum leg and my bum jaw, we couldn’t get work! Before that, the two of us – who wouldn’t hire us? Nobody wouldn’t hire us, that’s who! We were living like the Kings of Kentucky! Champagne baths for Bill, warm sponges for me.  And the dames! Somethin’ about a man drinkin’ a big glass a water and whispering sweet nothings  through a wooden dummy – and I liked to roll my eyes a lot while I told them stuff, it knocked ‘em out!  

“And you know, Bill likes to think he calls all the shots, but if you want me to let ya in on a little secret … he doesn’t!  Sometimes Bill can be passed out drunk on rye whiskey – and beleive you me, if it happened once or twice it happened a few dozen tiems and then some. But while he’s lying on the parquet in complete oblivion – that’s when I take over! That’s right, me, Mortimer! I call the shots, I make the moves, I turn my head this way, I turn it that, I flap my jaw like this, see, like I’m doin’ now? ‘Cause I’M CALLIN’ THE SHOTS, SEE? 

“And if you think the dames come running when Bill is runnin’ the show,  you ain’t seen nothin’ like when I’m runnin’ the show! I can do things Bill can never dream of – that most dames had never experienced before – and never will again!  None a them goils ever sawr a fella turn his head around 360 degrees. You shoulda seen the look in their eyes! You could almost say I ruined them for men of flesh and blood. Once they get a taste of Mortimer! I tell ya. That kinda precision, it really does somethin’ to a lady. Really turns the faucets on, if you know what I mean. I mean – you oughtta know what I mean, ‘cuz YOU’RE a dame! Man I had to lock the doors at night it got so rough. The little dames, the big dames, the blonde dames, the brunettte dames – it was like we were the Beatles! Not a lotta redheads, though,  because Bill is funny about them, he got hurt once, ya know how it is. Well maybe you don’t!  

“But,  man it was really living! And then, after the accident – we were doin’ so bad, we were trying to beg for money, for work, but  – I was gettin’ to be too much of a burden to him,  so I run off in the middle of the night. I was down on my luck, I wouldn’t sleep – I wouldn’t eat! I rode the rails lookin’ for work, running away from it all. And Bill came running lookin’ for me too, he musta looked in every freight car between here and Tijuana! He finally found me right before I was gonan end it all – I had a rock tied around my waist and I was just gonna go down into the rivuh. I’d just let the rock go when Bill saw me and jumped in after me. Without a jaw I woulda been gone that much quicker, you know? And you know what I hated most Betts? You know what was the woist? I couldn’t even tell him thank you proper like. He knew, but I wanted to say it, I wanted him to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, ‘Thanks fer savin’ my life, Bill!’

“When you met us, Bett, we were trying to make it in the Big City … we were … I’m ashamed to say it, Betts – we were hustlers! We walked up and down 42nd street, all rags and ass – we’d do it for a fin, we’d do it for a buck, we’d do it for smack …”

At some point that evening I told V. that Morty had become a Times Square hustler and would do anything for smack. “Anything for a snack?” she asked me. (She also had a great line that I’ll have to steal later: “These holes in my arms ain’t from termites, sister!”)

I went back to add:

“… we’d do it for snacks! Please mistuh, I bet you’re so big, I’ll work for peanuts, and I mean peanuts!  Boiled peanuts, honey-rasted cashews,  Jordan almonds, Brazil nuts,  chocolate-covered spanish peanuts, beer nuts, you name it, if it was a nut, I did bad things for a can of them. And I had a baaaad habit, it goes with the trade – tracks marks all over the woodgrain. And I don’t have to tell you somebody like me, without a jaw – well, I was popular in my way, a lotta the showbiz types – I’m not the kind to name names but if I were, a lotta Emmy-winning actors, with beautiful actresses and beautiful children at home – why, they’d be ruined! But I don’t like thinking about those days Betts. Nobody should have to go through what I been through Betts. If I never see another boner again it’ll be too many! Sometimes I wonder how the both of us didn’t end up in the East River tied around a jukebox.

“That’s why Bill couldn’t talk when you met us, Betts. He’d fallen a long way, a lot further than twenty feet to the ground, a lot further than twenty feet underground if you get my picture. Yours was the first kind face either of us had seen in a long long time. The big city eats you alive Betts! It eats you alive … eats you alive … eats you alive..”

Crackers was on the way.


That’s how many words I wrote during November for National Novel Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.). The organizers of NaNoWriMo encourage those who take up this challenge, which entails writing an average of 1667 words a day for 30 days, to develop outlines and characters and notes – anything but actually writing the book. But that felt like cheating to me (outlines and notes are part of writing, are they not?), so I wrote without a net, as it were, though I did come up with a concept on October 31st:

I thought my working title, Fifty Easy Pieces, gave me a framework that would give me some direction, but also left it wide open for whatever performance art piece my gallery-crawling hide could come up with. My artist was loosely based on Marina Abramovic, who I wrote about here, and some of the pieces I wrote were not so thinly disguised variations of her work. I also wanted to use the exercise to work out ideas I had for my own art, like for an abandoned department store that played old muzak tapes, or a piece that would take place on a bus.

But it was a lot harder than I thought, and I found myself committing that most base of artistic sins, one that plagues the work of  talented but precious artists from Tom Robbins to Tim Burton: I was trying too hard. I kept up the pace for the first week, but much of what I wrote, which I plan to throw out, came off labored and forced. Hannah wouldn’t take me through the month. The second week began badly, as my word count went down to 800 on the 8th and 117 on the 10th, the lowest word count I posted all month.

So what did I do on the 11th? I went to New York, where I thought I’d get some writing done (and see the opening night of The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway, but that’s another story).

And it worked — before I even got to the Lincoln Tunnel. I was on a packed Boltbus with minimal elbow room when I began to write my performance art piece to be performed on a moving passenger bus. Hannah would maker her way around the bus chatting up passengers and using a different persona for each passenger (psst – trying too hard) and one of the first passengers she chatted with was a ventriloquist named Bill.

My interest in ventriloquist dummies grew out of a fantastic gift from my homie, a Carol Channing dummy that became a recurring inspiration for photo shoots. But when it came time for my fictional dummy I wanted to find a model, a name, and somewhere on I-95 I Googled “ventriloquist dummy,” and the resulting images which led me to eBay and what would turn out to be my muse for the rest of the novel.

I didn’t start writing about him till the next day, but when I did, for the the first time since I started NaNoWriMo – maybe the first time ever for me – instead of me writing dialogue for a charcter, the character spoke for himself. The trouble was that spoke the way you’d expect a jawless ventriloquist dummy to speak:

”Mma dmmt seah!” exclaimed Mmrma, struggling with his deformity. “Mha, Mma nemmh mmep mha mmrst mmdy mmre!”

I was touched by his inability to communicate, and identified with the inarticulate longing to communicate. The dollar bill, used for scale in the eBay listing, also hinted at a Skid Row past. But I couldn’t sustain the jawless patois, which is harder to write than you’d think, so I devised a way for him to get his voice back and let him sing. An unedited excerpt:

While Mmrma was sleeping, his legs started to twitch. He was dreaming – he dreamed that he was running in a field holding hands with Hannah and he had his jaw back and two eyes to see her with. He looked at her and she at him, and he dreamed within the dream, of a grueling twenty-four hour surgery that restored his voice and his vision. He dreamed within the dream within the dream of the time he told Hannah all about how he lost his jaw and an eye.

A bassline begins and Glen Campbell sings, “I am a lineman for the county …”

“Bill was a telephone man in Louisville and he took me along on jobs. We’d roll along the country roads in his Chevy pick-up truck and he’d strap me along his leg while he straddled up the utility poles. We climbed as high as the birds, Betty [the name of Hannah’s persona at this point] , we could see for miles – it was the most beautiful countryside you ever saw Betty! It was a hard living but man I woulda paid for that view – I’d pay to see that again and I’d take you and we’d count the pigeons – we’d count the pigeons Betty!”

And I want you for all ti -i -ime

“Then one time a storm was coming, but we were young and cocky and we thought we were invincible.

‘Are ya sure you should go up so high there, Bill, I mean, doncha see the storm clouds comin’ – can’t ya see them Bill? Bill!’ 

‘Aw c’mon Mortimer, we’re almost up to the top and after I check out the cables we’ll head right back down.’ 

‘I got a baaad feelin’ about this Bill. A baaaaad feelin’.’

And wouldn’t ya know I was right! The storm moved in quicker than he thought and a cloud pased on right over us and it got almost pitch black. ‘Ah, let’s get back down Bill, this makes me noivous!’

‘Oh alright, if you say so Mort–’

And then – I didn’t know what hit me Betty. It was like the sky opened up and went right through this bag o’ bones!” Mmrma knocked his head, whole now. “The bolt struck the pole and Bill came tumbling down twenty feet and as he slipped off my face caught one of the climbing pegs on the utility pole – BOOP right through the peeper! Tore my eye out and ripped my jaw clean off! I still get nightmare about it Betty! I wake up screaming, except I can’t scream. Get it, Bett? I CAN’T EVEN SCREAM! All I wanna do is let out a big holler, let out the pain, but I can’t Bett, I can’t! I CAN’T SCREAM!”

It was November 12. I was in New York, and I wrote 3064 words that day, and also found time to eat at my favorite ramen joint, do a gallery crawl in Chelsea (I quite liked the paintings of Tony Scherman at Winston Wachter and Paulina Olowska at Metro Pictures, and the sculpture of Kristen Morgin at Zach Feuer), and see a documentary on the influence of Finnish television broadcasts in Soviet Estonia.