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Author Topic: The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck  (Read 5747 times)
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« on: February 17, 2010, 11:32:29 PM »

I don't really consider this a horror novel, but there are zombies, mutants, conspiracies, dark humor, and violence. Here is the first chapter. I tried to get the paragraph breaks in there properly, but please excuse me if I missed a couple. I look forward to the day that you will be able to paste something into a window like this without having to redo the formatting.



 It was shit morning. The sky had been turned a hideous plaid of greens and browns to alert the public of the day’s heightened possibility of a terrorist threat. The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky chill and even the zombies shuffling past the window seemed slightly despondent. This was the kind of morning one should expect after being fed a few Placydil by an overly friendly transvestite at a youth revival seminar.

Max shifted his attention from the window to the walls and noticed that the condensation from the ice in his bathtub was making the wallpaper sweat and squirm like fat boy on a blind date. He reached back and scratched the stitches where his kidneys used to be and thought, “Ha ha, Jokes on you. I’m an alcoholic.”

Indeed most of his internal organs had the work ethic of a sedated sloth. To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead. Not so dead as the living dead which had become such a problem of late, and certainly not so dead as the many actual dead which were deteriorating in stacks and rows and ditches all over the world. He was as much himself as he had ever been, only now he managed without the crutches of functioning internal organs.

He may have been an evolutionary leap, a miracle, or a monster. That was one point that the doctors could never agree on. Though there were many others who found themselves in similar predicaments, no one seemed able to explain how he was able to function in this remarkable way. Extensive zombie studies had been done, but they only served to stimy the world’s greatest minds. It was obvious that they were both connected to the Diving Happening since all of the biological anomalies had started about that time. All the rules changed that day and left mankind floundering in a new and spooky reality tunnel. Max, however, could not have cared less.   

“God, I feel like shit,” he said, turning away in disgust.

He opened the refrigerator and quickly guzzled the last of the herbally fortified wake up juice. It was only 3:00 P.M. and he knew there would be nothing on TV but soap operas and reruns of public executions, so he dressed himself and commenced his daily search for something to speed the arrival of bedtime. Max had been vocationally challenged for several weeks now, ever since the misunderstanding which had lead to the death and or zombification of three turtles, two penguins, one debutante, and a small group of Czechoslovakian perverts. Or was it months? In either case his day was wide open and it seemed that all of his liquid time machines had been drained of their vitality by the same paunchy fruitcake that had made off with his urinary jowls.

“Hmm, this place smells like rotten meat. I gotta get out of here for a minute. I need more juice anyway,” he said to himself. Years of living alone and friendless had cultivated a habit of saying everything that crossed his mind while there was no one else around. 

He donned his furry purple coat and confirmed that his keys, wallet, and hammer were all in their proper places. Max had also developed the habit of carrying a little red hammer with him everywhere he went due to a brief but unpleasant encounter with a particularly unfriendly undead lady while on the way to his mailbox. Though most zombies were content to mope the streets looking confused, it was not entirely uncommon to find one trying to eat your face. 
Cracking the door, he scanned the hallway for crackheads. Seeing none, he quickly locked the door behind him and made his way to the street.
“The zombies sure do look depressed today. I wonder what’s up.”

Max blushed with embarrassment as a passing woman mistook his words for a quasi-friendly salutation. He was immediately relieved when in an obvious attempt to avoid any further contact, she forced a weak smile, shrugged, and quickened her pace. He couldn’t stand it when strangers tried to start up inane conversations with him. He never knew what to do or say in those situations. All too frequently, he would mistake rhetorical questions for real ones and answer them in ways which made both parties uncomfortable. He made a mental note that he was no longer at home and cast his eyes to the ground as he walked brusquely towards the supermarket.         

He noticed an unusual movement out of the corner of his eye as he was entering the business district. His eyes darted reflexively after it, and were just in time to catch a glimpse of something pink and lumpy slithering behind a large cardboard box full of out of date snack cakes. At first glance it looked almost as though a fat amputee had dragged a boneless stump out of view, but that wasn’t it. There was no room for a person behind the box, amputee or otherwise. He glanced up and forced a smile for the barrel-chested merchant who’s wry smile tugged at him from beneath a fat walrus mustache.

“Can I help you with anything sir? We have a special on porcupine kabobs, only $7.99 a pound,” asked the man in a thick Sylvanian accent.

“Nah, I’m just browsing at the moment. I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

The merchant eyed Max with a look of amusement as he tried to sneak around the box for a closer look. Just as he was able to see a sliver of something moving behind the box, the thing shot out in the direction of the merchant. Before a warning could form on his lips the thing had clambering up the merchant’s leg and came to rest curled around the man’s throat and right arm.

It all happened too fast for him to make any sense of it. Surely the man was being attacked, but Max was at a loss. He didn’t have a heroic bone in his body. There was no way in hell he was going to run over there and try to rip the thing away, so instead he grabbed a handful of stale snack cakes and hurled them at the creature hoping to confuse it and allow himself sufficient time to escape. Another second and he would have been running for dear life, but he suddenly became aware of the man’s ever widening smile and the conspicuous absence of blood and screaming. The creature had actually caught one of the snack cakes with one of its little nubby underthingies and was now unwrapping it. It was actually kind of adorable as it nibbled away the end of the red velvet bar.

“No need to be frightened sir. This is just my cheekworm, Cat. I named him that because I had a cat named Cat when I was a child. It may seem strange, but I named every pet that came after in honor of him. My name, incidentally, is Cecil.”

Max blinked a few times as his brain shifted out of fight or flight mode and he took another look at the unusual creature. It was a little thicker than a grown man’s arm and covered in what looked like baby cheeks which had been pinched repeatedly, amputated, and sewn on to some kind of short, fat snake. Its underside was covered in little circles which appeared to be its mode of transportation. With its big black eyes near the top of its face and a mouth and nose like a cartoon kitten, Cat was simultaneously the cutest and most nauseating creature that he had ever laid eyes on.

“What the hell is a cheekworm?”

“They’re something new. In fact it was my own brother who discovered them only a week and a half ago on an expedition to a sunken city off the coast of Glisbenfar. The whole area was crawling with them. He found them to be cute and smart, so he brought some back for his friends and families to keep as pets.”
Like most things, Max thought this sounded like a load of shit, but as usual he didn’t care. He reached a hand out to pet it and Cat dropped the snack revealing at least six rows of sharp teeth died ominously red with food coloring. A loud guttural howl swelled in its throat then slowly subsided as Max withdrew.
The merchant hummed what sounded like polka music and soon had Cat’s attention. He looked the pissed off little creature in the eye and blinked rapidly until it was smiling and licking his face. He wiped a smear of icing drool from his right cheek and explained, “Unfortunately, in addition to being highly intelligent they do tend to be a bit territorial. They tend to bond instantly with the first person they see and protect them from anything which they view as dangerous. My brother learned this the hard way. When he brought the first few back to his ship they immediately became hostile towards the other passengers. Imagine his surprise when one of these cute little guys twisted his first mate’s head of like a cheap plastic doll.

“Mind you, they only attack defensively. The first mate wanted to pick one up and, feeling threatened, it did what was natural. It neutralized the threat. I think we have learned enough about them now to handle them without further incidents. Eventually they may be as common as cats or dogs. In many ways they are superior to both. They are sweeter, smarter, and more intelligent than either. They are a hundred times more effective than guard dogs. They don’t claw the furniture and they eat whatever you give them. This little guy even keeps zombies away from the shop. Also, you don’t even have to worry about having them fixed because they reproduce in a very unusual manner. Watch this,” he said as he uncoiled the creature from his body and placed it on the table before him.
He removed a long butcher’s knife from his apron and placed it about a foot from its tail. With smooth even strokes he began sawing through the creature which coiled in ecstasy and began to trill and coo as though in the throws of passion. When the segment was completely removed the merchant picked it up with a piece of butcher paper and tossed it to him.

Max was too shocked to do anything but catch it. As soon as the drippy lump touched his fingers he was flushed with a kind of tingly warmth and overall sense of wellbeing, however the yellow custard-like ooze which was dripping through his fingers and the manner in which it squirmed churned his stomach like an Amish porn star. He tried to drop it, but the lump had latched on with all six of its powerful suckers making him feel like a victim in a cheap vampire novel. 
The squirmy hunk was growing in his hands at a rate of a centimeter per second and each new sucker gripped him firmly no matter how hard he tried to pull them off. The growth proceeded exponentially and soon he held a fully grown cheekworm which opened its eyes for the first time and began to coo. Max’s revulsion melted away and he soon found himself cooing back.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” the merchant asked proudly. His mind dallied momentarily on the possible repercussions when this customer returned home to discover that he had been aged a few years by his gift of life. “You now have a friend who would kill or die for you. He’s quite literally a part of you. As far as we can tell the cheekworms reform themselves by tapping into the life force of the first person they touch and using their DNA to rebuild themselves. That’s why he looks a little bit like you. He is essentially your son.”

“Dude, that’s some fucked up shit. Let me guess. Now’s the part where you tell me how much I owe you for him.”

“Oh, no, I’ll do nothing of the sort. I couldn’t take him away from you now even if I wanted to. He is yours for life. Of course, you could show your gratitude by purchasing something from my store. They love snack cakes, would you like to buy your new friend a treat?”

The creature slithered up his arm and gently rested its head on top of his.

“Yeah, why not? Do you carry Juicetastic XXX by any chance?”

“What flavor?”

“Do you have Orange, mango, banana colada?”

“I’ll just go get it for you.” The merchant waddled through the doorway to his shop with the already reformed Cat at his heals.

Max grabbed a few snack cakes and put them on the counter then called after him, “Two gallons, if you’ve got it. I drink a lot of that shit.”

The merchant returned a minute later and rang him up. “What do you think you’ll call him?”

“I donno. They really seem to like these cake things. I guess I’ll call him Cakey.”

Cecil’s eyes flashed with robust bewilderment, but he quickly got them back under control. “That’s just adorable. Be good to the little guy and he’ll be good to you. Now, if his feathers get ruffled and you need to calm him down, just do as I did earlier. They seem to enjoy polka music the most. Blinking at them repeatedly conveys love and trust and puts them at ease. If you have any problems or questions feel free to come by any time. Have a nice day.”
The merchant handed him his bags with a big smile that let him know that their business was concluded and he was free to fuck off. Max smiled politely, not quite sure what had just transpired, and quickly returned home before anything else could mate with him.
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2010, 06:30:18 PM »

The story line itself reads quite nicely, but the language is quite loose, needlessly passive in places, and sometimes over told. I'll make a few suggestions, and you're free to take what you want from them or ignore them completely.

Quote
It was shit morning. The sky had been turned a hideous plaid of greens and browns to alert the public of the day’s heightened possibility of a terrorist threat. The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky chill and even the zombies shuffling past the window seemed slightly despondent. This was the kind of morning one should expect after being fed a few Placydil by an overly friendly transvestite at a youth revival seminar.


The words 'it was' and 'had been' are passive constructs, the latter being 'past perfect' (also called 'pluperfect'), which is best reserved for describing a time before simple past tense. You can use it at other times, but be aware it slows pace, so the last place you'd generally want it is at the beginning of a story when you're trying to draw in a reader and fire them with enthusiasm for reading the rest of the story.

You write, 'The sky had been turned a hideous plaid of greens and browns'. A better sentence would tell us who did it, to make a more engaging sentence, like - The governor had turned the sky a hideous plaid of greens and browns to alert the public of [to] the day’s heightened possibility of a terrorist threat. (a threat is essentially a possibility)

Quote
The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky chill and even the zombies shuffling past the window seemed slightly despondent.

If you were going to keep this paragraph in the opening, I would have liked to see the protagonist featured in this sentence. The word 'slightly' weakens the voice, as does 'seemed'. I'd rather see:

The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky chill and even [. Even] the zombies shuffling past the [Max's] window seemed slightly [looked more] despondent [than usual].

Quote
This was the kind of morning one should expect after being fed a few Placydil by an overly friendly transvestite at a youth revival seminar.

'This was' would probably be better broken up with a nice verb or two, but I haven't thought of one that reads better than what you've already got there. Swapping the subject with the object makes more active constructs:

Quote
This was the kind of morning one should expect after an overly friendly transvestite feeds you Placydil at a youth revival seminar.

Together, the edits make this:

Quote
The governor had turned the sky a hideous plaid of greens and browns to alert the public to the day's heightened terrorist threat. The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky chill. Even the zombies shuffling past Max's window looked more despondent than usual. This was the kind of morning one should expect after an overly friendly transvestite feeds you Placydil at a youth revival seminar.

But I'd put the first paragraph later in the opening if it was me.

Quote
Max shifted his attention from the window to the walls and noticed that the condensation from the ice in his bathtub was making the wallpaper sweat and squirm like fat boy on a blind date. He reached back and scratched the stitches where his kidneys used to be and thought, “Ha ha, Jokes on you. I’m an alcoholic.”

I like the humour of the simile, but it's a 'darling' that I think needs killing, because I don't see how wallpaper can squirm, and ice doesn't give off any kind of vapour that can condense. Cold surfaces act as a catalyst for water vapour, but water vapour usually comes from hot water, so the sentence doesn't actually make sense. Likewise, the last sentence - the kidneys aren't adversely affected by excess alcohol consumption - it's the liver that suffers.

My personal preference is to get rid of quoted thoughts - I prefer to integrate them into the narrative, so:

Quote
He reached back and scratched the stitches where his kidneys used to be and thought, “Ha ha, Jokes on you. I’m an alcoholic.”

Would become something like:

Quote
He felt a tickle on his back, and chuckled as he reached to scratch the stitches where his liver used to be. The joke was on the organ thieves - they had stolen an alcoholic's liver.

Quote
Indeed[,] most of his internal organs had [had] the work ethic of a sedated sloth. To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead. Not so dead as the living dead which had become such a problem of late, and certainly not so dead as the many actual dead which were deteriorating in stacks and rows and ditches all over the world. He was as much himself as he had ever been, only now he managed without the crutches of functioning internal organs.


I like the humour. With a bit of tidying up, I think this could be quite an entertaining read.
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2010, 11:07:54 PM »

Thanks. That was a lot more than I expected, bu it was exactly what I was hoping for. Normally I have a few friends proofread my stuff before I show it to strangers, but this is actually the first feedback that I've gotten on it. I would love to join the writing group if there is room for me. 
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2010, 04:22:33 PM »

I remember the frustration that comes with not being able to get good feedback. It's pretty thin on the ground. I'll send you a PM about the crit group later tonight, when I've got more time afro
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2010, 06:45:23 AM »

Awesome. Thanks. I can't wait to get started. I wish that I had started this a long time ago instead of letting my editor put me five months behind. I've been playing with this chapter a lot tonight and I think it's improved. I'm going to give it another run through over the weekend and post the changes. I do have one question though. I was unsure about this line, "To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead." I can't tell if it's too much. You didn't say anything, so I assume that it works. I just want to double check.

Just out of curiosity, how many members are there in the critique group at the moment? 
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2010, 10:01:32 AM »

There are about twenty members of the group at the moment, but many are not active from month to month. Some months we have to cancel through lack of participation - we need at least four stories and authors to make the session worthwhile each time.

I do have one question though. I was unsure about this line, "To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead." I can't tell if it's too much. You didn't say anything, so I assume that it works. I just want to double check.

Do you mean the old 'show/tell' dichotomy? If so, it's an often misunderstood concept. Some people will say it's 'telling', but the true definition of 'tell' in this context is something that leaves the mind nowhere to go. For instance, when you start out with the line, "It was a shit morning," strictly speaking, that is 'tell', because you've summed up at the beginning what you subsequently go on to show. Some readers might find that insulting to their intelligence. Many will not notice. Also, different rules apply to the opening of a story than the rest - you're allowed a lot more exposition at the start in order to set the scene and bed your reader into the story. It's also infinitely preferable to read a couple lines of 'tell' if the alternative is a couple pages of boring 'show', especially if it's a minor detail that's only there to add colour. Just to complicate matters further, you can get away with more 'tell' in a first person narrative than you can in third person. In omniscient (which this is) all bets are off.

If anything, the line, "To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead," could do with expanding upon and clarifying. Perhaps change 'was dead' to 'should have been dead'. It's a key point of the character. If all his internal organs are missing, heart and lungs included, then it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to have brain function, let alone for his body to remain intact without the tissues necrotising - without oxygenated blood being pumped around the body, it would die and begin to rot. If this is what we're talking about, then the reader needs to know. They don't need to know why just yet, but you'll (IMO) have to explain it somewhere along the line in the later story.

I didn't mention it before because I wasn't sure how you would receive the criticism - some people get annoyed and defensive, at which point I wish I hadn't bothered saying anything, so I generally stop after a few paragraphs and wait for a reaction, to see whether I'm wasting my time or not. Also, there's so much that could be said about the first page of this text that we could write a dozen pages about the various issues that it raises, both good and bad. afro
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2010, 04:01:57 PM »

I do have one question though. I was unsure about this line, "To be absolutely truthful, for all intents and purposes Max was dead." I can't tell if it's too much. You didn't say anything, so I assume that it works. I just want to double check.  

Just for another perspective, I stopped reading shortly after I got to this line. I thought it was too much and the phrase "for all intents and purposes" is cliche--not to mention inaccurate. Max goes on to do things that no dead person could. If Max was alive but behaving like a dead person (immobile, unable to speak, etc.), THEN you might get away with "for all intents and purposes..." Here I think the word that works better is "technically," as in "technically Max was dead." But Max isn't concerned with technicalities like not having vital internal organs: he just goes on acting like a "normal" person.
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2010, 06:45:21 PM »


I didn't mention it before because I wasn't sure how you would receive the criticism - some people get annoyed and defensive, at which point I wish I hadn't bothered saying anything
[/quote]


You don't worry about that with me. I'm way past getting offended by what people say concerning my work. I want all the criticism I can get. Despite the relative success of my first novel, I'm embarrassed every time I read it because of how much better it could have been if people had been honest.


Thanks, for the input. I'm changing some of the wording and I think it's coming out a lot better.   
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 01:03:32 AM »

Just a single observation from the Womble.

The beginning is where you hook your audience. It's where the person you've submitted your work to either gets sucked in or discards it. So the opening must be as perfect as possible.

Therefore, I'm wondering why your first sentence says, 'It was shit morning' instead of 'It was a shit morning'.

Quite honestly, many (maybe even most) editors would stop reading at this point.

So my advice is to go over that opening paragraph periodically, again and again.

Good luck with this piece.

DW Cheesy
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2010, 04:13:14 AM »

I got as far as the explanation of him talking to himself and then stopped reading. My guess is by that time the MS would be in the reject pile of 99% of slush readers/editors. It's scary to think that you get that little a chance, but you'd probably find an average reader wouldn't give much more time before putting the book down.
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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2010, 06:15:36 AM »


The beginning is where you hook your audience. It's where the person you've submitted your work to either gets sucked in or discards it. So the opening must be as perfect as possible.

Therefore, I'm wondering why your first sentence says, 'It was shit morning' instead of 'It was a shit morning'.


I don't know how i didn't notice that when I pasted it in. That's the problem with typos. Your brain sometimes fills in the blanks with what is supposed to be there.

I made a lot of changes. Let me know what you think.







   There was a time before when things were simpler; before the zombies, before God moved into Times Square, before the mutations, even before the governments of the world imploded in the vacuum of their own greed and society came apart in the hands of the people like overcooked salmon. Despite the fact that his knowledge of those times was vague and largely anecdotal, Max could almost see them peeking out from behind the clusters of dead brain cells that were the bricks in the wall between his conscious mind and the things that made it hurt. But Max wasn't much of a thinker. These facts were less perceived than endured. They were just the scum that had boiled out of the broccoli in his head to drift atop the ethereal Jacuzzi until a chemical colander could be employed to drain away the churning antagonist which dripped in each night as he slept.

All that registered in Max’s mind was that he was being squeezed in the hammy fist of yet another shitty morning. The sky had been turned a hideous plaid of greens and browns to alert the public to the day’s heightened level of terrorist threat. The air hung like green gray mold, couching everything in a sticky film. Even the zombies shuffling past Max’s window seemed slightly more despondent than normal. He winced as a sad tickle of I told you so forced him to acknowledge that this was exactly the kind of morning one should expect after being fed a few Placydil by an overly friendly transvestite at a youth revival seminar.

Max shifted his attention from the window to the walls and noticed that the war between the seeping humidity and the melting ice in his bathtub was making the wallpaper sweat and squirm like a fat boy on a blind date. He reached back and scratched the stitches where his kidneys used to be, “Ha ha, Jokes on you, fucker! That shit hasn’t worked in years.”

Indeed, most of his internal organs had the work ethic of a sedated sloth.  In fact, Max was more or less dead. Not so dead as the living dead which had become such a problem of late, and certainly not so dead as the many actual dead which lay deteriorating in stacks and rows and ditches all over the world. He was as much himself as he had ever been; only now he managed without the crutch of functioning internal organs.

He may have been an evolutionary leap, a miracle, or a monster. That was one point that the doctors could never agree on. Though there were many others who found themselves in similar predicaments, no one seemed able to explain how it was possible that they continued to function in this remarkable way. Extensive zombie studies had been done, but they only served to stimy the world’s greatest minds. It was obvious that they were both connected to the Divine Disturbance since all of the biological anomalies had started about that time. All the rules changed that day and left mankind floundering in a new and spooky reality tunnel. Max, however, could not have cared less.   

“God, I feel like shit,” he said, turning away in disgust.

He opened the refrigerator and quickly guzzled the last of the herbally fortified wake up juice. It was only 3:00 P.M. and he knew there would be nothing on TV but soap operas and reruns of public executions, so he dressed himself and began his daily search for something to speed the arrival of bedtime. Max had been vocationally challenged for several weeks now, ever since the misunderstanding which had lead to the death and or zombification of three turtles, two penguins, one debutante, and a small group of Czechoslovakian perverts. Or was it months? In either case his day was wide open and it seemed that all of his liquid time machines had been drained of their vitality by the same paunchy fruitcake that had made off with his urinary jowels.

“Hmm, this place smells like rotten meat. I gotta get out of here for a minute. I need more juice anyway,” he said to himself. Years of solitude had eroded the barrier between his mind and his lips. Max had many habits; most of them bad. But unlike most of them, he tried to keep this one in check. He did his best to confine his vocalizations to times when there was no one else around which was made easy by the fact that he passed the majority of the time in that fashion.     

He donned his furry purple coat and confirmed that his keys, wallet, and hammer were all in their proper places. One of Max’s few good habits was to carry a little red hammer with him everywhere he went. This was due to a brief but unpleasant encounter with a particularly unfriendly undead lady while on the way to his mailbox. Though most zombies were content to mope the streets looking confused, it was not entirely uncommon to find one trying to eat his face. 

Cracking the door, he scanned the hallway for crackheads. Seeing none, he quickly locked the door behind him and made his way to the street.

“The zombies sure do look depressed today. I wonder what’s up.”

Max blushed with embarrassment as a passing woman mistook his words for a quasi-friendly salutation. He was immediately relieved when in an obvious attempt to avoid any further contact, she forced a weak smile, shrugged, and quickened her pace. He couldn’t stand it when strangers tried to start up inane conversations with him. He never knew what to say or do in those situations. All too frequently, he would mistake rhetorical questions for real ones and answer them in ways which made both parties uncomfortable. He made a mental note that he was no longer at home and cast his eyes to the ground as he walked brusquely towards the supermarket.         

As he was entering the business district, he noticed an unusual movement out of the corner of his eye. Darting reflexively after it, his perspicacious peepers were just in time to catch a glimpse of something pink and lumpy slithering behind a large cardboard box full of out of date snack cakes. At first it looked as though a fat amputee had dragged a boneless stump out of view, but that wasn’t it. There was no room for a person behind the box, amputee or otherwise. He glanced up and forced a smile for the barrel-chested merchant whose wry smirk tugged at him from beneath his fat walrus moustache.

“Can I help you with anything sir?" asked the man in a thick Sylvanian accent. "We have a special on porcupine kabobs, only $7.99 a pound.”

Max didn’t care for Sylvanians. They spoke like W.C. Fields and did business like used car salesmen. “Nah, I’m just browsing at the moment. I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

The merchant eyed Max with a look of amusement as he tried to sneak around the box for a closer look. Just as he was able to see a sliver of something fleshy behind the box, the thing shot out in the direction of the merchant. Before a warning could form on his lips the thing had clambered up the merchant’s leg and come to rest curled around his throat and right arm.

He was at a loss. Surely the man was being attacked by some sort of giant alien annelid and the proper thing to do would be to lend a hand. Unfortunately, Max didn’t have a heroic bone in his body. There was no way in hell he was going near that thing away, so instead he grabbed a handful of stale snack cakes and hurled them at the creature, hoping that the distraction would allow sufficient time to escape. Another second and he would have been running for dear life, but he suddenly became aware of the man’s ever widening smile and the conspicuous absence of blood and screaming. The creature had caught one of the snack cakes and was now unwrapping it with one of its little nubby underthingies. It was kind of cute the way it nibbled the spongy red bar like a contented toddler.

“No need to be frightened sir. This is just my cheekworm, Cat. I named him Cat because I had a cat named Cat when I was a kid. It may seem strange, but I named every pet that came after in honor of him. My name, incidentally, is Cecil.”

“What the hell is a cheekworm?” Max asked with twitching eyelids. When his brain finally shifted out of fight or flight mode, he took a few steps forward and examined the unusual creature. It was a little thicker than a grown man’s arm and covered in what looked like baby cheeks that had been pinched repeatedly, amputated, and sewn on to some sort of short, fat snake. Its underside was lined with little plungers which could protrude on stalks like fingers or contract to nearly unnoticeable ridges according to the creature’s needs. With its big black eyes near the top of its face and the mouth and nose of a cartoon kitten, Cat was simultaneously the cutest and most nauseating creature that he had ever laid eyes upon.

“They’re something new. In fact it was my own brother who discovered them only a few short weeks ago. He was on an expedition to a sunken city off the coast of Glisbenfar. He went under and they came up. The whole area was crawling with them, so he brought some back to brighten the lives of his friends and families.”

Like most things, Max thought this sounded like a load of shit, but as usual he didn’t care. He reached a hand out, but immediately took it back as Cat dropped the snack revealing at least six rows of sharp teeth dyed an ominous red by cheap food coloring. A loud guttural howl swelled within the creature’s throat which only subsided when Max withdrew.

The merchant gained Cat’s attention by humming what sounded like polka music. He looked the pissed off little creature in the eye and blinked rapidly until it was smiling and licking his face. He wiped a smear of icing drool from his right cheek and went on to explain.

“Unfortunately, in addition to being highly intelligent they do tend to be a bit territorial. They bond instantly with the first person they see and protect them from anything which they view as dangerous. My brother learned that the hard way. When he brought the first few back to his ship they immediately became hostile towards the other passengers. Imagine his surprise when one of these cute little guys twisted his first mate’s head off like a cheap plastic doll. Mind you, they only attack defensively. The first mate tried to pick one up that had already bonded and the little guy felt threatened, so it did what was natural and neutralized the threat.

“I believe we’ve learned enough about them now to avoid further incidents. Eventually they may even be as common as cats or dogs. In many ways they’re superior to both. One hundred times more effective than guard dogs; they are sweeter, smarter, and more loyal than any other household pet. They don’t claw the furniture. They eat almost anything, but nothing they’re not supposed to and you don’t even have to worry about having them fixed. Watch this,” he said as he uncoiled the creature from his body and placed it on the table before him.

He removed a long butcher’s knife from his apron and placed it about a foot from its tail. With smooth even strokes he began to saw his way through the creature which coiled in ecstasy; trilling and cooing as though in the throws of passion. Once removed, the merchant picked the segment up with a piece of butcher paper and tossed it to him.

Max was too shocked to do anything but catch it. He was flushed with tingly warmth and an overall sense of well-being as soon as the drippy lump touched his fingers, but when it came to life in his hands his stomach began to churn like an Amish porn star. Taking hold with all its suckers, the peppy nugget squirmed and oozed a yellow custard-like substance which dripped through his fingers and onto his shoes. He tried to free himself from the lump’s overly firm handshake, but its six powerful suckers were all but fused to his flesh.

The squirmy hunk grew in his hands at a rate of a centimeter per second, with each new sucker gripping as tightly as the first. The growth wound its way slowly up his arm and soon he held a fully grown cheekworm. Its head bloomed on Max’s shoulder and began to coo as it opened its big black eyes for the first time. The new father’s revulsion instantly melted away and it wasn’t long before he was cooing back.

“Amazing, isn’t it? Notice the resemblance?” the merchant asked proudly, his mind dallying momentarily on the possible repercussions of this customer returning home to find that his gift of life had aged him several years. “You now have a friend who would kill or die for you. He’s literally a part of you, built from your own DNA. It’s how they reproduce. That’s why he looks like you. He is your son.”

“Dude, that’s some fucked up shit. Let me guess, here comes the part where you tell me how much I owe you for him.”

“Oh, no, I’ll do nothing of the sort. I couldn’t take him away from you now if I wanted to. He’s yours for life. If you’d like to show your gratitude by purchasing something from my store that’s totally up to you. They do love snack cakes. How about a little treat for your new friend?”

The creature slithered up his arm and rested its head gently on top of his.

“Sure, why not? Do you carry Juicetastic XXX by any chance?”

“What flavor?”

“Do you have Orange, mango, banana colada?”

“I’ll just go get it for you.” The merchant waddled through the doorway of his shop with the already reformed Cat at his heals.
Max tossed a few snack cakes on the counter and called after him, “Two gallons, if you’ve got it. I drink a lot of that shit.”

The merchant returned a minute later and rang him up. “What do you think you’ll call him?”

“I dunno. They really seem to like these cake things. I guess I’ll call him Cakey.”

Cecil’s eyes flashed with robust bewilderment, but he quickly got them back under control. “That’s just adorable. Be good to the little guy and he’ll be good to you. Now, if his feathers get ruffled and you need to calm him down, just do as I did earlier. They seem to enjoy polka music the most. Blinking at them repeatedly conveys love and trust and puts them at ease. If you have any problems or questions feel free to come by any time. You have a nice day now.”

The merchant handed him his bags with a big smile that let him know that their business was concluded and he was free to fuck off. Max smiled politely, not quite sure what had just transpired, and quickly returned home before anything else could mate with him.
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« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2010, 11:02:48 AM »

fnord, this version is MUCH better!   cheers

I was able to read through the whole thing easily. This would make a good case study for how to rewrite a piece.

You still have some typos to deal with, though:

    "...made off with his urinary jowels" -- I have no idea what "jowels" are. Is it supposed to be jewels? jowls? bowels? None of those make sense, so I'm at a loss.

    "...with the already reformed Cat at his heals" -- that should be heels

    "...cooing as though in the throws of passion" -- that should be throes
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2010, 03:40:02 PM »

fnord, this version is MUCH better!   cheers

I was able to read through the whole thing easily. This would make a good case study for how to rewrite a piece.

You still have some typos to deal with, though:

    "...made off with his urinary jowls" -- I have no idea what "jowls" are. Is it supposed to be jewels? jowls? bowels? None of those make sense, so I'm at a loss.

 

Thanks. I've only been here a couple of weeks and I've already learned a lot. I have had a lot of typos lately.  The root canal/painkillers aren't helping my writing too much. 

You are at least the second person that didn't get the jowls joke. Jowl is another word for cheek, most commonly used when referring to pigs ie. hog jowls. the picture in my head of fat pig cheeks and kidneys are kind of similar and I liked the sound of the word in relation to kidneys. It was probably all in my head though. Sometimes I can use too much artistic license.
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2010, 08:15:17 PM »

Um, fnord, when you "quote" someone's text, you're not supposed to change what he or she wrote--unless you're doing as Ed does when he's demonstrating how to re-word something. I most definitely knew what "jowls" were. What I didn't know was what "jowels" were. In another post you say you like to use made-up words, and I didn't know if this was one of those or a typo.

Also, I thought I missed one earlier, but didn't have time to find it. Here it is:

    "...served to stimy the world’s greatest minds" -- that should be stymie
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« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2010, 09:15:51 PM »

Sorry, I just fixed it because it was a typo. I only recently figured out how to quote. I don't get on forums very much, so please forgive the breach of etiquette. I'll pick it up eventually.

I've had an embarrassing amount of typos lately. I'm kind of confused as to how jowels happened. I could swear that I checked the spelling when I first wrote it. Apparently not.

Thanks for all the observations. I never catch stuff like that in my own work.

Interestingly, according to dictionary.com stimy, stymie, and stymy are all proper spellings that mean the same thing. I hate words like that. Your spelling is the only one recognized by this spell check, so it's probably the best choice.

Thanks again.   
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