Monday, November 29, 2010

Securely Yours,

Phone: The FBI reports that there is an attempted burglary in the US every 17 seconds. You can help protect your family and belongings by purchasing a security system. If you take advantage of this offer and place our sign in your yard, we will waive the installation fee.

Dude: Hello.

Me: Hey.

Dude: Can I help you?

Me: So, there’s a burglary every 17 seconds?

Dude: According to the FBI, there’s an attempted burglary every 17 seconds.

Me: Are you saying that you don’t believe that information yourself, or just like can’t confirm or deny, or…?

Dude: Yes. I can neither confirm nor deny.

Me: Ha. Nice – neither confirm nor deny.

Dude: So, are you interested in a securing your home?

Me: Well, but, how recent is that information? Which report is it actually stated in? Do you have a name, or…?

Dude: It’s pretty recent.

Me: OK, pretty recent. OK.

Dude: So, are you interested in a security system.

Me: Yeah, sure. I mean, every 17 seconds, right? I’d like to learn more.

Dude: OK, so, do you own a home?

Me: I do not own a home.

Dude: …

Me: But my parents do. I could talk to them. I bet they’d like to secure their home.

Dude: OK. And what state do your parents live in?

Me: Well, now that you know their home isn’t secure, I’m not sure I should be telling you that. How can I be sure you won’t try to exploit them using this information?

Dude: Well, it’s up to you, if you want to take advantage of this offer…

Me: OK, well, I can tell you which state, but I can’t tell you more than that. It’s not a state, actually. It’s a Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Dude: OK. We offer installation only in the continental United States.

Me: Does that include Alaska?

Dude: No. Only in the continental United States.

Me: Well, but, do you mean the contiguous United States? Because Alaska’s still in the same continent - North America – right?

Dude: Well…

Me: I mean, I think. I think

Dude: OK.

Me: So, can you give me some details about what’s being offered?

Dude: We’ll provide wireless transmitters on all of the external doors and pet-friendly motion detectors. We’ll install three panic buttons. We’ll provide you with a crest and window stickers to prevent a break-in altogether. And, since this is a special promotional offer, we’ll waive the installation fee in the hope you’ll tell your friends about it.

Me: OK.

Dude: You’ll have a connection to us that is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If any alarms are tripped, we’ll be notified and can have the police on their way within 36 seconds. Since you won’t be charged any installation fee, you’ll only have to pay for the maintenance and monitoring contract, which is about $1 a day. And, if you move, we’ll move the system with you for free.

Me: OK.

Dude: …

Me: Hello?

Dude: …

Me: Hi?

Dude: Yes. Sorry.

Me: OK, so…

Dude: Do you think your parents might be interested?

Me: Yeah. I’d have to go over it with them, though.

Dude: OK.

Me: So, do you have a number, or…

Dude: Yeah…866…

Me: 866…

Beep beep beep

“Signal faded.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Pink Oasis

Upon entering the Pink Katalyst head offices in Mumbai Central, seated, as they are, at the head of the hallway and behind their glass door, the vibrant pink letters championing the company’s name, and its preeminent product,, visible from one side of the seventh floor to the other, a visitor can expect to be soothed by the smooth, gurgling sounds of a miniwaterfall. A new acoustic addition to enhance the aural aesthetic? Perhaps a natural counterpoise to the columnar concrete honeycombs that rise unnaturally straight from the paved earth, batting the music of the metropolis - the battling braying of horns - between their walls like unholy, unyielding badminton champions?


The origin of this particular sound is, however, and however prosaically, the temperamental toilet that lies just inside the entrance to the home of those brothers who love you never more than when you play the singer in you. A simple jiggling of the handle can render the device mute—but, I ask you, especially in such a temple where daily gather adherents of the ancient art of soul-healing through the medicine that is melody-making, "At what cost, brother? Oh, at what cost?"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Harvest/24-Hour Short-Story Contest

I wrote this for the Fall 2010 24-Hour Short-Story Contest and was mentioned as having lost with honour. I used the prompt that was given as the first two paragraphs of my story. The story had to relate to it, though not necessarily include it. And the story had to be 900 words or fewer, and finished within 24 hours of the prompt having been sent out. The rather original title is my work, and wasn't included in the word count, which, for mine, was 896.

The Harvest

He stood on his tiptoes at the small cabin's rear window, staring out at the deepening dusk, sensing the excitement in the town's air. The cold wind seeped through an old crack, tickling his chubby cheek, and a whirlwind of red and orange leaves made him laugh. The corn stalks rustled in the brisk breeze, waving to him. He waved back.

Behind him, Mommy was busy in the small kitchen and delicious smells wafted his way, making his tiny tummy grumble with glee. She was making lots of treats to tempt the town's children. After all, she'd promised him a new brother or sister.

That promise inspired in Johnny glee of perhaps an-even-more-intense strain than the aroma. After all, he’d been bugging Mommy for a new brother or sister since, in fact, his very first words to her: “Do I have a little brother or little sister?”

Of course, such may seem an unusual inaugural verbalization to one’s mother, but, then again, it was the unusual child who met his mother at the age of three. She encouraged him not to see himself as “adopted.” She always used the word “chosen.”

“You’ve been chosen,” Marcus had told him on that day Johnny initially discovered he’d be staying. Marcus was his first brother—first sibling of any kind. An older brother he’d acquired at the age of three—that was another unusual piece of Johnny’s family history.

That day, the harvest festival attendees had flooded the yard and first floor of Mommy’s cabin, with the pond of people lapping at the edges of the corn field, squealing young children and whispering young lovers trickling in and out of the stalks, families and neighbors concentrated at the wooden picnic tables and large picnic blankets that had condensed into a communal hive, where, by dusk, the jagged grass footpaths in between had atrophied to mere memory and a trek through them become an act of contrition.

From this, it was difficult to notice a subtraction of one. Certainly one like Johnny.

Thus it was that Marcus, eight years his senior, had easily corralled him into a corner of the cabin and down a minimalist flight of stairs half-hidden behind a large wooden trunk.

Down there, Johnny had encountered a heaping basket of candy apples, an artful arrangement of circus-sized lollipops, and various toy vehicles, balls, and blocks.

Marcus almost found words superfluous in convincing Johnny that that would be his new home.

Not that he was likely to be missed. His father had a problem with sobriety that consequently caused him no end of difficulty with work, relationships, and child-rearing. The last sighting of the man had been weeks before. Johnny had been subsisting on scraps of food and kindness from a neighbor who already had too many children of her own.

The light transitioned from the dusk that decreasingly permeated the darkening air to that of the sulfur-yellow bulbs that hung at regular intervals and irregular locations from the line strung over tree branches, around fence posts, and off of roof corners. The scene could have almost undetectably been swapped with the one two years earlier, when
Johnny had been ushered into the house and down the stairs.

Though he hadn’t eaten one since, nor even desired to, a sudden craving for lollipops seized Johnny. From his position on the porch, he ventured to the head of the stairs, pulling aside the curtain that now obscured the descent, and saw the boxes and plywood that, most of the year, barricaded the way were cleared to the side. Fitting easily on the half of the stairs that remained, Johnny followed the map still so clear, though not once refreshed, in his memory—down the stairs, to the left, down a short hallway, and right, into a room.

As he approached, he heard voices. As he paused just outside the ajar door, they were clear.

Johnny’s heart leapt as he listened.

“You heard me, Marcus—I promised him a new brother or sister!”

“But Mommy,” Johnny heard Marcus say, his voice disconcertingly supplicatory, “she was the youngest I could find. They guard the little ones so closely!”

“It’s taken me months to prepare this, Marcus. Last year, nothing. And this year, with so many new parents, all you can find me is this antique?”

Johnny peeked through the opening between door and jamb to see a girl a little older than he sitting in the corner, chewing on something and combing the blonde hair of a doll.

“Maybe this is a clear sign you’re ready to go from acquirer to producer, Marcus. If you can’t find Mommy a little one, you’ll soon be old enough to make her one.”

Johnny pictured Marcus assembling a baby, snapping together arms and torso, as he’d had to do to dolls such as the one the girl now played with on some occasions when he’d been less gentle than intended.

“Mommy, no!” said Marcus. “I’ll find you one! I promise! I just need more time! I’ll go out looking! Just give me until winter!”

“Fine. Take this dinosaur away,” she said, and Marcus swiftly approached the girl. Johnny moved to the dark corner of the hallway as Mommy turned to leave the room.

“But remember—until the first snow, Marcus—that’s how long you have.” She laughed. “You’d better pray for an Indian summer.”
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