As roughly none of you may have noticed, I've been less than active on this website of late. The reasons for my absence were manifold and many, but after a month or two of literary solitude, I began to feel something. The thing that I felt is something that I believe a lot of you here have felt, if not at one time, then perhaps at another. The thing that I felt is that thing that makes you want to write something unique, the thing that would make you want to write even if you knew that no one else would ever read the words.
The result is not something I want to put in the review room, because it seems to be somewhat rambling and pointless (not unlike this introduction). It's my first serious attempt at writing with humour. Forgive it, readers, for it knows not what it does.
Look to the Shadow
Far away from the big cities, far away from the places where more ordinary things tend to happen, on the border between a country that spoke English and another country that mostly didn’t, lay a town known only as El Doderitita. To be precise, it was known by some as “Old Doddery Titter,” but this was due to a phonetic misunderstanding and was not officially recognized by any governing body.
El Doderitita was the sort of town where it would be a waste of energy to look for someone to complain to if a bus failed to turn up on time, or if the driver’s ability to navigate or even control the vehicle somehow came into question. It was that very peculiar sort of town where things like power and water seemed to keep running out of habit more than anything else. It was also exactly the sort of town where a man named Leland Lonely was pulling a tray of nachos out of an oven at the precise moment this story begins, although that is such a specific descriptor that it hardly invites comparison.
Leland pulled the tray of nachos out of the oven. Leland’s nachos were the talk of the town every January 3rd, where an old town statute decreed that locally-prepared food be the topic of every conversation. He was a bit disappointed that the townsfolk seemed to never speak of his nachos any other day of the year, but he was also relieved that their curiosity was kept at bay by their thoughtfulness and tact. If anyone ever actually asked him how he prepared the salsa, they might realize it was actually just the canned stuff from the store. Then he wouldn’t be the talk of the town on January 3rd or any other day.
“Soup’s on!” he declared as he entered the dining room where his three friends sat at the table, with the tray of nachos on his safely mittened hands and a cheerful grin on his face. Soup? On a tray? How absurd. That was why his three friends always agreed to hold the poker nights at his house. Because he was funny.
“You’re not funny, Leland,” whined Whiney Whine-Whine, Leland’s oldest and dearest friend. “You make that same stupid joke every time, it’s so annooooyiiiing.”
Whiney had a way of packing a huge amount of force into a whine. The nachos trembled in place for a moment.
“Are we putting in a pot for this game or not?” Chris Chrisonephston, Leland’s second friend asked. “Only because I gave all my money to this dealer on the way here. Look what I got. They’re like shrooms, only they look exactly like regular supermarket mushrooms so the cops can’t get you.”
“Oh Chris, your self-destructive, crippling addiction will be the death of you,” Leland joked hilariously, putting down the nachos and taking his seat. “But why, if I may change the topic entirely, is the seat opposite from me unoccupied? Where is our fourth friend?”
“Look to the shadow, for that where I be,” said an unnecessarily ominous voice in the shadowy corner of the room.
“That’s a grammatical nightmare, Marita,” Whiney Whine-Whine insisted on saying.
“True, though,” replied Ninja Assassin Senorita Marita as she leapt from the shadow. “Ninja-Assassin-Triple-Spring-Leap!” she cried as she landed neatly in her seat, somehow already holding nachos on a plate Leland had not even provided.
“Was the corner shadowy enough for you, Marita?” Leland asked helpfully.
“Not at first, Leland, though I appreciate your concern. However, in the two days I spent here in preparation for our get-together I managed to perform a Ninja-Assassin-Ultra-Oneness Meditation Ritual, and created a microscopic black hole that sucked out some of the light.”
“Oh, really?” Leland tried to make a joke but found he knew absolutely nothing about astrophysics.
“A black hole, here?!” Whiney screamed, spitting out chips. “Shouldn’t we flee?”
“It’s small enough that it won’t pose any real threat until shortly before the heat death of the universe,” Marita replied. “I will deal with it then.”
“Yeah, great,” Chris said, slowly grabbing and releasing his own nose over and over. “But about the money…”
“I collected twenty dollars from Leland and Whiney when I came out from the corner just then,” Marita said. “The money is in a safe place. However, Chris, your wallet was empty, and I found nothing of equal value in your house.”
“I’ve got my watch,” Chris replied, pawing clumsily at his wrist. “That’s got to be worth a bit.”
“But… that’s a garden sprinkler tied to your arm with string, isn’t it?” Leland asked awkwardly.
“Yeah, it was all the rage in the ‘80s. Charlton Heston wore one in Planet of the Apes.”
“He absolutely did not,” Whiney petulated petulantly.
“He did so, my dad told me. It was his last words before he died. He loved science fiction. I don’t think he was even mad when he was crushed under debris from a satellite whose orbit decayed over our front yard.”
“Wow, what are the chances of a satellite falling from space onto your house?” Leland asked.
“No no, it fell from our roof. Dad was always building satellites. He figured if the NASA scientists could build satellites that orbited the whole planet, it should be easy to build one that could orbit one little house.”
“Oh… really?” Leland was again stumped by his unfamiliarity with the topic, but he had a strong feeling that something was wrong with this theory anyway.
“So his last words were ‘never forget, son, Charlton Heston wore a stupid sprinkler around his wrist in a stupid movie that wasn’t even really set on another planet,’” Whiney scoffed scoffingly.
“Oh, wait a sec, no, that’s not what he said,” Chris laughed, smacking his forehead a little harder than he’d intended to. “His last words were ‘turn off that sprinkler, son, before I backhand you.’ So I became an obsessive science fiction fan, just like him, and wore the sprinkler on the back of my hand ever since to remember him. Funny how things get mixed up in your head for no reason, isn’t it?”
“Not for no reason, I think,” Whiney muttered mutteringly, eyeing the bag of mushrooms.
The evening sauntered on, with very little to recommend it. The progress of the poker game was slow and largely uninteresting, with Whiney eventually the only one paying attention. He collected his winnings and left, muttering under his breath about a mysterious twenty five percent shortfall in the pot. Marita left shortly after with Chris hanging off one arm.
Before going to bed Leland wandered over to the shadowy corner where Marita had been in hiding. Surely she hadn’t been telling the truth about that black hole nonsense. He certainly couldn’t feel any black hole. He didn’t know what a black hole would feel like, but he assumed it would be noticeable. All the same, it seemed like the light from the bulb over the table just wasn’t quite reaching the wall.
“Nonsense,” Leland said aloud for no particular reason, and went to sleep in his racecar bed.
(I should point out that more will follow. How much more, and where it will lead, I don't precisely know, but if I haven't entirely scared you off then watch this blog.)
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