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Writing DaysZ 9

It is amazing how many activities, rituals and products are credited with accomplishing something they have no effect on. The nostrums and quackery of the medical, diet and belief industries are well documented. But the social and political rain dances continue as if no one recognizes the sham.

Bob Vs The Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Rain Dancing

+++They rode through the Alabama night, subdued by the latest attempt on their lives. Old Spice sat up front, his short alien legs dangling safely over the edge of the railcar. Only Lizbeth seemed perky. Spice had set the ventriloquist dummy on his lap from where she pointed out sights no one except he could see in the dark. “There’s two more at it. A lot of humans wrestle after going to bed.”
+++“Huh?” asked Bob.
+++“It helps us to sleep better,” Piper giggled.
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who nodded and asked them, “You have only one, right?”
+++“One what?” Bob asked.
+++“Sex organ.”
+++“Yes?”
+++“There’s your problem. You have to share.”
+++“My Earth-adapted body has both required organs,” Spice explained, “We didn’t want to offend any of you people. So, when we want to, we just -”
+++“OKAY,” Bob finally got it. “I get it. What about that GPS chip?”
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who answered, “He disabled it. Stene can’t use it to track our rail car anymore. But, he does know we’re on a rail car and despite our hats -” her head abruptly swiveled up to Spice’s wide brimmed hat. “I didn’t get a Smuggler’s Hat! I’m not wearing a hat that reflects whatever is below with me edited out. I’m exposed!” She kicked him.
+++“I doubt that satellite cameras have ventriloquist dummy recognition software.” Bob wondered why he bothered to point out the obvious to a ventriloquist dummy. “The real problem, Spice, is that the rail car itself is no longer safe.”
+++Spice pulled the doll closer to him and leaned forward to cover her under the brim of his Smuggler’s hat. She hugged him. “I know,” he said. “But, we’ll be safe there for the night,” he pointed ahead to where the lights from Birmingham unmistakably lit the sky. “Too many people around for a missile strike.”
+++“That didn’t stop Stene from blowing up a busload of Doctoral grads.” Piper sounded unassured. “And that group of businessmen back there. Or, keep a helicopter SWAT Team from rappelling down on us.”
+++“Those attacks were in secluded places, Piper. Stene doesn’t want publicity. If his employers learned he killed me, they’d cancel his contract.” Spice paused. “He’d lose his back pay. I’m still researching, but I think Stene’s been on Earth quite a long time. He must have a fortune coming.”
+++“How is it,” Bob asked, “That you didn’t know two other Aliens were already on Earth? You guys obviously prepared. You speak our languages. You altered your bodies to appear human – kinda,” he trailed off, watching the ventriloquist doll reach around the spherical Alien to scratch his nose.
+++“I missed most of the mission training. I was a last-minute addition to the group.” Spice’s voice lowered contemptuously, “At my father’s request.”
+++“Your father must be important,” Piper prompted.
+++“Important!? He’s the Emperor!”
+++Piper’s mouth opened. Before words could form, Bob asked, “Of what?”
+++“The galaxy, of course. My father’s the Galactic Emperor of the Milky Way. And that’s pretty good in the grand scheme of things.”
+++Piper exhaled. “Yes.” She sounded numb. Before she said anything else, Spice changed the subject.
+++“I need to check Ty’s website.” He turned both eyes inward. “Hopefully, those guys found a safe place for us to spend the night.” They rode quietly until his eyes reemerged. “Ty’s website is saying we should stay there,” he pointed ahead at a building. “It’s full of people coming and going all night.”
+++They stopped the rail car at the tracks’ closest approach behind a run-down motel and picked their way across a trashed lot to a back door marked “Exit Only” where Bob suggested, “We wait here and let Piper book us a room?”
+++“Me?” She looked around, clearly unhappy. “I once did a piece on a drug-infested neighborhood that looked like this place.”
+++“Don’t worry,” Bob lifted his shirt to show the butt of the revolver he’d picked up at the way station outside of Gay Camellia, Alabama. “Just tell the desk clerk you’re a liberal newspaper reporter in the company of a funeral circuit speaker and an Alien with a ventriloquist dummy. And that we’re running from people trying to kill us but we’re protected by the Foreign Policy/Industrial complex.” She regarded him as if the elevator door had opened on the wrong floor.
+++The desk clerk watched Bob watching Piper from the entrance and the room was booked without fuss. “I ordered Pizza,” she told them as they walked to the room. “But now, I’m out of cash. Credit cards don’t work anymore, you know.”
+++That evening, there was much talk about their chances of reaching Colorado but no more of Spice’s family. “I can’t say more.” In the morning, the website told them to take the rail car into the city to meet a large group of people going to Memphis. “Safety in larger numbers?” Spice wondered hopefully. The breakfast buffet in the lobby of the little motel was surprisingly well stocked and quite enjoyable until Piper noted the staff returning food left on the tables to the buffet bar. Still, Spice made them pocket some as they left. “It’s not going to get any better, you know. Soon, nobody will be leaving food on the table.”
+++Heavy traffic now a thing of the past, the rail car entered Birmingham unobstructed, crossing deserted streets in the chilly morning air until, on the north side, they spotted a bonfire. “Must be them.” As the car approached, Bob considered the people gathered in a dirt field beneath Interstate 65, some of whom stood on the tracks waving signs at them. Despite the variety of signs, the groups seemed organized. At the last moment, the wheels locked up and the car screeched to a stop, helping them off. “It’s designed to not run over things,” Spice explained to Lizbeth, who repeated the explanation to Bob and Piper. “Hola!” Spice waved to a bald woman in a pink dress. “Radiation?”
+++She smiled hesitantly, “Yes.” Then her smile brightened with purpose, “But, that is why I am here.” She waved her sign which read, “Stop Cancer.”
+++Spice leaned forward and grinned widely at her, saying warmly, “I wish you all the intended results of your brave endeavors.”
+++“That’s very sweet of you, Spice,” said Piper, placing her hand on his rounded shoulder and pulling him upright as the woman backed away. “But when conveying warm wishes, it’s more appropriate to smile, not grin.”
+++Spice looked rejected but Lizbeth spoke up, “Who’s that?” She pointed to a procession of people carrying lighted candles and flat white boxes winding towards the bonfire.
+++“Oh, they’re back! That’s the candlelight vigil for The Unknown Dead Person,” answered the woman. She tapped a man next to her and pointed, “Hey! Look.”
+++“Pizza’s here!” the man yelled. Others took up the cry and converged on the procession.
+++A woman, maybe in her fifties and dressed like a society matron from a 1950’s movie, sat on the rail car with them and shared her pizza. “My late husband’s money is doing good here.”
+++“You paid for this?” Lizbeth questioned.
+++“Just to be around all these wonderful people!” the woman nodded. “So many deserving people supporting so many useful causes. It makes me feel involved,” she confided. “And,” the woman looked directly into Lizbeth’s eyes, her tone and her face overflowing with love and hope, “We are saving the world.”
+++Lizbeth’s head swiveled to look directly into Spice’s eyes. “It’s hormonal.”
+++“Well,” said the woman. Rising, she handed Lizbeth a business card. “You can read all about us on our website.”
+++“LEM. Love, Empathy, Meaningfulness,” Lizbeth read, “See our website at LEMings.org.”
+++“Come.” Spice slid off the rail car and walked into the crowd. Bob and Piper stood, shrugged at each other and followed him. “We have to find the right group. Unless you want to walk to Memphis.”
+++Apparently, the Topless Women for Gender Equality was not the right group, although Bob seriously considered them until he caught Piper glaring at him. All the groups were eye-catching. A handful of people dressed in lady bug suits carried signs protesting the slaughter of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “It’s not their fault! Love Don’t Kill! Save a Species!” The largest group, POP or, People Opposed to Potus, just hated the American President although a couple of questions from Piper revealed that not all of them cared who that was at the moment. The woman paying for all this appeared briefly to hand a newspaper clipping to Lizbeth. “See! Lots of important people care!” Then she was whisked away by MOB, Moms Outing Bullies, wearing blood-stained black and blue sashes that read, “Bruise the Bullies!” Someone had converted a Port-a-Potty on wheels into a vendor stand. Spice stopped there. “What is that news story about?” he asked Lizbeth.
+++“It’s about that earthquake in Chili last month. Their President tweeted her support to the earthquake victims. She cared.” Lizbeth deadpanned.
+++“Buy a wristband?” the man standing in the door of the Port-a-Potty addressed them. “It’s for a good cause.”
+++“What cause?” Piper, ever polite, smiled at the man.
+++“I left that blank. See?” He showed her a magnetic clip-on wrist band with a smooth space on top. “I can engrave your favorite cause there. Mine’s plastic bags. They’re choking our environment.”
+++“What are the reusable bags made of?” Spice wanted to know, “And how does one dispose of them?”
+++“What?” The vendor turned his attention back to Piper, holding up a display board of wristbands in shades of red, yellow, black, white and brown. “They come in all race colors.”
+++“Hear that?” Spice’s ears perked up.
+++“How’d you do that?” the vendor stared at Spice’s ears. They had elongated noticeably and the tops quivered.
+++“Who knows, he’s an Alien. Hear what, Spice?”
+++“That roar, Bob.” He beamed and beckoned at Bob and Piper. “Come, there’s our ride to Memphis.” He led them towards the sound of Bikers For Peace revving up their motorcycles at the entry ramp to the highway.

Stegodyphus is a spider species whose young eat their mother. They liquefy her insides and drink them. It’s good to eat. It’s good to take what you need. Some behavior is too basic to be understood as human or even animal; it is life. Death creates new opportunities for survivors.

Arachnids of Happiness
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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25 thoughts on “Writing DaysZ 9

  1. mimispeike says:

    I am still loving this, GD. This is very promising:

    “My Earth-adapted body has both required organs,” Spice explained, “We didn’t want to offend any of you people.

    My God! You can go anywhere with this! Genius!

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Thanks Mimi. Your comments always help me to better understand the story. For example, Old Spice is now the son of an emperor because of your earlier comments that you expected great things from that character. It is good to have a friend and fellow writer take the time to help. Thank you, very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. @GD: The saga continues. Lotta quotable lines in this one, eh?

    1. “There’s two more at it. A lot of humans wrestle after going to bed.”

    2. “That didn’t stop Stene from blowing up a busload of Doctoral grads,” (Should be a period here: quibbling Carl)

    3. “My father’s the Galactic Emperor of the Milky Way. And that’s pretty good in the grand scheme of things.” (I should think so! What’s better? Grand Archon of the Multi-verse?)

    4. “But, when conveying warm wishes, it’s more appropriate to smile, not grin.” (Eliminate two unnecessary commas: after “but” and “wishes”. Sorry, but I see unnecessary commas all over in this piece. & BTW: Would this line be stronger, funnier if you used a simile here? “. . . not grin like a _____.”)

    Re: “LEM. Love, Empathy, Meaningfulness,” Lizbeth read, “See our website at LEMings.org.”

    I know we’re supposed to laugh at this—to admire the cuteness and cleverness of the acronym—but it caused a real empathy break for me, the reader; with you, the writer. I found myself wincing instead of chuckling. Why, I wondered, should the qualities of love, empathy and meaningfulness be highlighted as characteristics of LEMings [lemmings: we get it] instead of any number of totalitarian-mindset characteristics more reflective of actual lemming-like behavior such as: unquestioning obedience to authority, argumentum ad populum, contempt for intellectualism qua intellectualism, an adversarial free press, etc.?

    We’ve always been honest in our feedback and criticism. I’ve tried to be constructive here: telling you which lines stood out for me, pointing out opportunities for increased/sharpened humor in the text, highlighting the “plethora-of-random-commas” problem, challenging some of the more regrettable swing-and-a-miss (IMHO, of course: Mimi loved it as written) attempts at what I imagine you imagine to be social satire.

    I know this must feel like an attack but I swear by all that’s holy (or unholy!) that I’m simply telling you what I think. I apologize if I’ve injured any feelings here. I do not apologize for being an honest and direct and thoughtful (or so one hopes, anyway) critic of your work.

    Onward!

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Thanks, Carl. Yours is exactly the kind of criticism I need to turn this turkey into a manuscript. Right now, it’s a first draft broken into blogs. But when I rewrite it for publication, I’ll pull out a file where I’m keeping criticisms and consider every one. In the years I’ve been writing, I’ve had only one piece of criticism I refused to consider & that only because the guy was factually incorrect. I’ve been very fortunate to have writers like you take the time to help me. Thanks again, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, if the intention here is to alternate stinging slaps against the shibboleths, inane sanctities and sometimes outright insane articles of faith of both the left and the right I would wish you to land hard and telling blows against both camps (again, invoking the editor of The Sun) by inveighing against right-wing duplicitousness and left-wing sanctimoniousness. And as many have noted: satire works best when aimed at the powerful, not the weak: the well-connected, the smug, the arrogant, the filthy rich, etc. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how best to do that.

        Liked by 2 people

        • GD Deckard says:

          NP 🙂 Carl,

          My characters are not groupies, that is, they are not defined as part of a group. They are not wingers, right or left, powerful, well-connected, arrogant or filthy rich. They are nothing that others should hate. They are not victims needing a handout. They are neither part of a minority nor of a majority. They are individuals in a collapsing civilization and therein lies their value. How they see and talk about things is not filtered through lenses defined by any of our civilization’s groups because all groups are ceasing to exist. This is a story told through the eyes of a space alien and an Earth couple who are witnessing our collapse from the outside looking in. Think of them as kinda like Huck & Tom & Jim drifting through a changing world.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Understood. I was making a general comment about satire: It works best when aimed upward, not downward.

            Re: everything else: I can only respond to what’s there on the page in front of me.

            Only you can decide if my critical comments have merit. I always and ever critique the writing, not the writer.

            Feel free to question me further on specific points.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. mimispeike says:

    Carl, I look to you to school me on commas (I’m totally serious) in my chapter one of Rogue Decamps. I am so bad with all that stuff. When I read now, I pay close attention, but I sometimes see the same situation handled in two different ways. In the same piece, even.

    Love, empathy and meaningfulness, I take that as an echo of 1984. It doesn’t bother me a bit. But I think the website should be LEM.org. Leave it to the public to turn it into LEMings.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    GD, on a scale of one to ten for saying something important about the world we find ourselves in, I give this a ten. I’ll say no more. I would take it one way, you may have an even better direction in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

        • GD Deckard says:

          Hi Mimi,
          Please scroll up 2-3 screens and see my reply to Carl?
          (MARCH 1, 2017 AT 8:42 PM)

          It’s from my original vision of the story of Bob Vs The Aliens.
          What do you think?

          Liked by 1 person

          • mimispeike says:

            The loopy-ness of it is delightful, I am enjoying it as it is. It’s up to you to push it this way or that. I won’t have a firm opinion until I read the whole, all at once. How many more installments do you expect? And do you have a resolution in mind?

            Actually, I’m a fine one to tell you you should have a message. What message do I have? Except, I just want to have fun.

            We may look for a message in a post-apocalyptic story but that doesn’t mean there has to be one.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. GD Deckard says:

    We may look for a message in a post-apocalyptic story but that doesn’t mean there has to be one. – Mimi Spieke

    I am sure there is a message in an apocalypse. Whether I can find it and express it through the characters of Bob Vs The Aliens, well, that is the question now, ain’t it?

    Maybe Mimi or Carl or another writer has some thoughts on the matter?

    Liked by 2 people

    • A mssg in a tale of the apocalypse? That’s entirely up to the writer. Though I suspect certain themes will emerge organically, eh? All a reader can do is say: these words affected me thusly; these words confused me; these words stayed with me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • GD Deckard says:

        You will know this better than me. When writers wrote about truth or the need to write “true,” what did they mean? Did they mean that writing can bring the author and the reader to an understanding that neither had to begin with? Can we know truth in ways other than scientific, does it exist in art, can a writer find it through writing?

        In researching Bob Vs The Aliens, I researched many past civilizations to see what the experts thought might have been the reason for their collapse. Some were obvious reasons, invasion, climate change, a plague of some sort, etc. Others collapsed for less obvious reasons but rational theories were offered. But in some, there were only conflicting theories or no one had a clue. The one truth is that all civilizations collapse and I wonder, is there a message here, some human truth that we’re missing? It’d make a great story.

        Liked by 2 people

          • GD Deckard says:

            Since civilization & barbarism alternate, one is always triumph. I’d just like to know what flips them. For all I know, civilizations fall and are rebuilt for the same evolutionary reasons a snake sheds its skin.

            Like

  6. mimispeike says:

    A message is not the right way to put it.

    In our storytelling we create possibilities that may be expanded on, or not. I always want to run with them, to see where they take me. I may revert to the original, but first I have to see what other (in my case, humorous) damage I can do. I see this happening with Sly all the time. As a matter of fact, an intriguing new take on an old idea just came to me this morning.

    I’m not hoping for a message, exactly. I look more for a fuller exploration of the story presented, which will be more important in a novel-length piece.

    Well, maybe not. I have to get on with my read of Don Quixote, which has been shoved aside.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not necessarily a message, though I’m sure a lot of post-apocalypse writers do that. But for me that would come across as heavy-handed (unless it was done casually, as an aside). What I like about Bob vs The Aliens is that it doesn’t call for any rational (or at least plausible) explanation, indeed explicitly goes the other way. Reminds me of Voltaire’s Micromegas – visitors from Sirius discovering the strange ways of mankind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Thanks, Curtis. The short story you suggested is an eye-opener. I didn’t know that sci-fi satire has a 265 year tradition.

      Micromagas is fun reading. I even learned what meaning there is in an apocalypse:
      He promised to make them a beautiful philosophical book, written very small for their usage, and said that in this book they would see the point of everything. Indeed, he gave them this book before leaving. It was taken to the academy of science in Paris, but when the ancient secretary opened it, he saw nothing but blank pages. “Ah!” he said, “I suspected as much.”

      No wonder Voltaire tended to live in exile when he was not imprisoned. I salute his memory.

      Liked by 1 person

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