Friday, July 07, 2006
Friday again. I'd like very much to break out a new "Movies I Have No Intention of Seeing" this week, but that new Pirates of the Caribbean flick is kind of sucking all the air out of the weekend. Since it's one of those big-ass movies that I normally manage to eventually see, I'm not going to bother with it. Needless to say, Keira Knightley... too skinny. There. Now I'm in line with what every other blog in the whole wide world has said about that film.
Instead of reviewing movies I have not seen, this week I've decided to grace the Bucket with something special. As a Failed Writer, I've got lots of projects started and abandoned in various stages of completion, all dropped as I realized a) they sucked, b) I'd painted myself into a narrative corner from which there is no escape by, say for example, killing off the protagonist less than half way through or c) I remembered, OH YES! Only talentless hacks get published and make money at this. Real artists suffer in obscurity only to have their genius recognized after their death because life is so ha ha funny that way.
In order for me to be recognized after I'm dead, I have to have something out there for people to posthumously appreciate, so I share with you and with all posterity today, an excerpt. A sample. An amuse bouche if you will of the cornucopia of the Pops Oeuvre: a staggering half-cooked seven-course meal, the squishy aroma of which evinces the potent, combined power of ADD, personal laziness and crippling self-doubt.
I have started and abandoned several projects. As an historian by training, many of them have an historical sort of bent to them. Today's excerpt is from one of my less ambitious projects, a happy meeting of my triple passions of history, sailing and pastry. It is the fictionalized version of an old wives' tale that might have been a true story.
I give you now a glimpse of the inside of my head. Not literally, but if I run out of stuff to say next week, look for that too.
What follows is taken from the intricately researched yet unfinished historical novel:
The Nautical Doughnut
by Korvath Ganymede Macleish Horrington III
Chapter the First: Rum, Sodomy, Snack-food and the Lash
The North Sea. Summer, 1807.
It was a dark night and also stormy. The sky was rumbly and dark, covered with clouds that were so dark and ink-like that one might call them inky. The sea also was dark and not unlike ink. Although had one dipped a pen equipped for ink writing into either, nothing could be written with that pen because the sky and water are not actually ink, even though they could be described as not unlike that substance. Ink, I mean. Because they were dark which ink is also. On that night, however, one could sit down with a pen and write legibly in pure fear. There was a lot of fear.
The Danish royal ship-of-the-line, KMD Hlrvgrnbjørngë, pitched and rolled across the dark and wavy water that was both dark and full of waves because of the storminess. Her massive hull creaked as it strained to hold together against the battering it received from the angry, angry sea.
On the deck of the ship was one of those steering wheel thingies with the handles on them that controlled the way the ship went. Behind that wheel, straining to impose his will on both vessel and the god of waters, Captain Hanson Gregory stood uneasily. He blinked his wooden eye, adjusted the patch on his shoulder and steadied himself on his one good leg. The other he had lost in battle with the British and was replaced by a parrot. The part below the knee anyway.
"Brace us, Polly, brace us! The sea is angry tonight and also inky!" Captain Gregory shouted at his parrot leg above the din of exploding water.
"Ja," said Polly, for he was a Danish parrot after all. Also: "Sqwak!" Some words are universally parrot.
Captain Gregory let go of the wheel with one hand for as long as he dared so that he might ring the bell next to him. The bell rang all the time anyway what with the wind and all the storm-type movement, but somehow the crew always knew when it was the captain ringing.
A door slammed open behind the captain. Out into the rainy darkness vomited Lieutenant Fourth-Class Grfbjörn Kjörtlnuñez, a scrawny admiral's son with vertigo and a chronic inner-ear infection.
The injury that had left Captain Gregory with a wooden eye had also damaged the part of his brain that remembered people's names. He tended to call everyone "Stinky."
"Stinky!" shouted the captain. Lt. Kjörtlnuñez hung in the doorway, clutching the frame, unable to move, praying the wind wouldn't blow the door shut with any force and crush his fingers. Again. Also, he vomited.
"Any sight of British ships, lad?" the Captain shouted.
"None as yet, sir!" the lieutenant answered between dry heaves. "But nobody's really watching, to be honest."
"Sqwak!" Polly rebuked as his tiny bird skull dug into the floorboards of the deck to steady the captain.
"Very good, very good!" the Captain shouted. "And the state of the ship?"
Lt. Kjörtlnuñez had to catch himself as he slipped on a slick of rain, seawater and his own vomit. "Seems to be floating still, sir. Except..."
"Yes? Except what?"
"They're out of mai-tais on the Lido deck, sir. Something of a mutiny brewing."
"Well, that is a puzzle," the Captain said, scratching the patch on his shoulder. It was ornately decorated, sown directly into the flesh and read "BUGGERY" in flowing script. "Start handing out piña coladas on the house. See if that doesn't hold them over until the juggling troupe is slated to perform."
"Yes sir!" Kjörtlnuñez vomited.
"And bring me something to eat!"
Anyway, that's the excerpt. It's still a work in progress. I'm only about 20-odd drafts in, so it's still got a ways to go. Just to continue the story for you, allegedly the donut was invented by impaling a fried cake over one of the knobs of the ship's wheel so the captain could steer with his hands-free. Think of all the lives we could save if we only had similar knobs on car steering wheels.
OK, just so I don't leave you hanging, here's a little taste of a later chapter. This takes place below decks after a battle as the sailors are recovering with some well-deserved rest. It is from Chapter the Thirty-Seventh: The Inky Sea:
The rows of rope hammocks swayed with the rhythm of the ocean as the ship lumbered on, wounded but by no means dead. The bunks hung three-high on either side of the deck, creaking with the weight of exhausted men.
On the top row, about half way down, Seaman Johnson reached into his overcoat and ogled his prize: a perfect, round, fluffy pastry glazed with sugar and punctured with a single hole in the middle. It looked delicious. But before he ate it, another thought occurred to him. He remembered Becky Sue back home, the smell of her hair, the curve of her back, the soft touch of her hand she would give in exchange for the right amount of money.
The doughnut never made it to Seaman Johnson's mouth. In the row of hammocks, his swayed a little faster and out of time with the others. It would be another difficult evening for Seaman Smith and Seaman Jones below him.
The end, for now. I know Johnson, Smith and Jones aren't really Danish-sounding names, but all those funny letters are hard to reproduce. So we'll pretend they were POWs pressed into service or something, right? Great.
Happy reading, future admirers!