Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Do you feel loquacious, punk?

Here is the runner-up entry in an annual bad-literature contest held at San Jose State:
"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' — and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' — well do you, punk?"

My friend Shake (his name's Scott, but his friends call him "Shake-" he winks and does a funny "male model" expression when I explain this to women in bars) could win the annual the Bulwer-Lytton "bad writing" literary prize. (Read the article here in the Arizona Daily Star.)

You just have to write the open lines of a shitty book, and you can make as many entries as you want.

This year's winning entry:
"Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean."
Ha! What a riot! Here is, in its entirity is Shake's "Plymouth Furey: Private Investigator"
The days passed by like heavy traffic in a bad neighborhood,
and brother I knew, I'd seen a lot of both.
As I walked down the dark, dank alley
towards my low-rent office,
I felt the night clinging to the cold brick building walls
like a wet rabid cat on the back of a fleeing Doberman.
I had that cheesy, itchy feeling that something was up-maybe the fact that I
hadn't showered in two days had something to do with it.

I stopped, looked over my shoulder, lit a cig and walked on.
My worn heels echoed on the concrete like rocks falling down an abandoned well.
I've been told that Baltimore used to be an ugly city,
I saw tangible proof that parts of it still were.
A rat the size of a groundhog scurried behind an overstuffed trashcan.
I flicked a butt in its general direction and walked in to the tall, quasi-art deco brownstone
where I kept my office.
I didn't usually visit my office that late, but I didn't usually forget
to take my rotgut with me either,
and besides; I'd left the window open.
As usual the stairs were filthy with grime,
and dammit, I had just waxed my wingtips.
As I climbed the five flights I loosened my tie
and wondered how I'd ever gotten into such a state of affairs.

See, I had once heard that private detectives slept well at night. That they
had so much dirt on other people that it let them wink right off into that
thing they call sleep. Me, I guess I was an exception, because I was on a
first name basis with every crack in my hotel room ceiling. But hell, that
was yesterdays news blowing down the boulevard.

Finally, I reached the tired brown door to my office, the one with the
frosted white glass that stated my name and occupation. I turned the key in
the tin plated doorknob-Christ, why bother, you could open that lock with a
toothpick. It was unlocked! I sensed almost immediately that I had company,
and this time it wasn't just mice. I flicked on the lights. "Hey, they still
work!" I thought with surprise. I was a little behind on the bill.

She was sitting in the ugly, green overstuffed chair, facing my desk.
Staring straight ahead, looking like a beautiful little girl, awaiting the
news of some glorious, yet tragic event. A dusty light bulb hung from a
tangled cord, unshielded, dangling over her head.

"How did you get in here?" I demanded (God I was so quick with words). "I
used a toothpick to pick the lock," she shyly responded.

I couldn't help but notice she was a looker. A classy, sharp, pretty face,
dark eyes, long auburn hair-neatly tied back, a charcoal jacket and skirt,
white blouse, soft red lipstick, and sheer stocking legs that would've
stopped Hitler's army outside Warsaw. "There are laws against breaking and
entering," I said coolly, as I walked towards my desk and then tripped over
an empty box that once contained legal size envelopes. I did a quick dance
as I careened into my filing cabinet.

"I only broke a toothpick," she said, as I stood up and righted the cabinet.
She was quick, I liked that. "Are you a drinker?" I inquired, squinting and
trying to look cool at the same time.

"Did you forget your glasses Mr. Furey?" she asked. I poured myself a drink.
Suddenly, and very loudly, the phone rang, like an act of God. A teenager's
voice was on the line, "Uh, I'm looking for some Plymouth parts and uh."
"Lookit, slim jim," I cut him off, the name's F-U-R-E-Y, Private
Investigator!" I let the ensuing silence tell the punk the rest of the
story, as I dropped the phone into the large metal, empty, bottom desk

like an unwanted pair of old shoes, into an hollow Dumpster.

I lit a cig. "I need help," she said. "That's my job" I responded. She had
beautiful brown eyes that pierced my brain and flashed movies of the good
life on my mind. God, I was a sucker. "It's my husband," she told me,
absently fingering her gold wedding band.

"He's." She began to cry. It was the kind of weeping that took practice,
like driving a hearse. I reached out and offered my handkerchief, but like
most things I offered, it went unnoticed. She calmed herself. "I think I
know where he's been," she said softly. Off in the distance, through the
open window, I could hear a dog barking. "Where?" I asked- this was my job.
"Can you go there for me?" she asked in earnest. "I don't know, money
talks.uh." "Bullshit walks," she added. "Yes, that's it" I said. She
carefully laid down a pile of U.S. Grants onto the top of my desk. "That'll
do for starts," I said, as I thought gleefully about getting a used car, and
finding a better hotel.

"I believe that you'll find him in a sport's bar, C. J. Fooldoons, about
three blocks from here. He's got some kind of sports addiction or
something." From deep within my desk the phone suddenly rang, like a long
distance call from a dead relative in Iowa. I ignored it- but I resented its
potential. I was sick of calls for auto parts. If my father was still
kicking we might talk it over- my name that is. But if's and but's are like
chasing taxis in rush hour. And besides, tombstones don't talk.

I poured myself another shot. "Wanna hit?" I asked her. "What?" she
distractedly responded. "Nothin'" I said. "All right, I'll find him" I told
her. "I'll find him, and then what? Crowbar massage? Nose job? Sorry, I don't
pull the rough stuff. I'm a peaceful man," I said, and with that I kicked
back, my feet almost coming to a rest on my desk blotter as I recoiled
backwards over into a large, dead potted plant. "I don't want violence," she
said over my prone form. "Just tell him, tell him that I hired you, that I'm
worried and I want him home." She then abruptly stood up, as if something
dirty had fallen into her lap. "Losin' don't cost much" I said as I stood
up, dusting myself off. "You sure you want him back?" She looked down at the
floor as if the answers were written on it. If they were, it was too dirty
to read them. "Yes, I do want him back" she said. There was a certain tone of finality in her voice- and a certain stack of fifties on my desk. I had a
job to do. "So he's there now ma'am?" I questioned. "I believe so," she said
wearily. "His name is Adrian, Adrian Largo." She produced a tired, color
snapshot of him from her purse and handed it to me. She had beautiful hands,
like small sculptures that extended from her sleeves. He however, had the
usual early thirties white male look: toothy grin, trendy ring beard and a
beach-weekend tan. God sometimes love was ugly- like a painted rock doorstop.
"I'll do what I can Mrs. Largo" I told her, grasping her upper arm in my
outstretched hand. "Thank you, Mr. Furey. Thank you very much. My phone
number's on the back of the photo," she replied. She turned slowly,
hesitated, and then walked quickly out of the office. Her former presence
was like a ghost of class haunting the dime store dust of my barren, gray
room. From within the desk the phone rang again. I ignored it and opened
another drawer and took out a small bottle of green cough medicine. I took a
swig, put it back and then lit a cig. "I, have a job to do," I thought, as
the phone continued ringing like an empty phone booth in the Taj Mahal.

I locked up my office and walked the map a few blocks up to the sports bar.
I slid in the front door like a lizard with a cause. It was not my kind of
place. No class, no charm, neon and stucco. Don't get me wrong, I like
sports as much as the next guy, but I didn't like the flat brain wave types
who inhabit these dungeons of machismo. The bar was padded brassy and fat. I
hated that. Television monitors were everywhere. Typically, the place was
packed. The bartender was a glandular case who looked as if he had seen one
sports "event" too many. I didn't look around too much- eye contact made me
nervous. I lit a cig and walked back out into the foyer to the pay phone. I'll
go cellular when Jesus does, I thought to myself. I called information
and then called the bar. "Hello C.J.'s," growled the steroid-fueled voice.
"Could you please page Adrian Largo, it's a dire emergency," I asked. "Hold
on, please." Commotion ensued and then I was suddenly voice to voice with
one Adrian Largo. "Yo, Adrian my man! This is (my hand on the phone) mumble,
mumble, I got that bet money I owe you! I'll meet you by the pool table in
the back room in five minutes! See ya!" God what a cheese.

I lit up a butt and strolled outside. I fired it up into the air with an
expert flick of the finger, pretending it was launch time at the Cape. I
walked back in to C.J.'s house of intellect, feeling like a Christmas song in
July. There he was, in the back room near the pool table. Looking like a
teenager whose prom date had been in the bathroom too long.

He stared at a TV monitor as a Hockey fight raged. He wore expensive
clothes, was good looking (In a mail-order fashion catalog sense), and had a
demeanor that seemed to say, "I don't do favors."

I cautiously walked over and then quickly went eyeball to eyeball (I had a
job to do). "Your wife sent me, my name's Furey" I said, flashing him my
weathered State Of Maryland Private Investigators license (which had expired
three months earlier). His face changed directions like it was ready to
refuse magazine subscriptions over the phone.
"Fuck you, pal!" he spat.
"Lookit, sports boy, we need to talk," I told him in my best stern voice. I
flashed open my JC Penny suit to give him a glance at my holstered Mr. Smith
& Wesson (but, hell, I went unloaded). "What can I do for you, sir?" he
responded. My guess was that he was in sales.

"Your wife sent me to tell you that she loves you and she wants you to come
home. That's all." He looked around to see if anyone else knew how stupid I
suddenly was. "Christ, not again!" he said. "She's just a neurotic, that's
all! A neurotic bitch with some weird, romantic idea of love. Like
something in an old fucking movie she saw." He said the word love as if it
were a foreign language- to him I believe it was. All I could do was look at
him, and he was looking at me as if I had just delivered a pizza to his
Mother's funeral. I don't have many words for the unwise: "Grow a real
beard," I told him. "And get some training wheels for your life!" I
departed, expertly flicking an unlit butt in his general direction.

Outside the night was cool and good, like a preview of fall in the late
summer. I walked slowly back to my office, I'd left the lights on again and
I could not afford such extravagance. My wing tips cursed the climb as I
struggled to remember the last time the elevator worked. The lights in my
office were off. I opened the unlocked door and immediately sensed that once
again, I was not alone. I flicked on the lights like some small town chump
summoning the check in an expensive French restaurant.

She was sitting, rigid, in the chair in front of my desk, staring straight
ahead. But this time her face read like the worn out inscription on an old
Civil War statue. All was quiet.

I stood behind her, my hands in my pockets. "Was he there?" she asked. "Yes,
he was," I answered, surprised at the kindness in my voice. "He's still
there," I added. She turned and I avoided her glance. "What did he say?" she
asked. I thought hard, but my mind seemed to be downtown at the street
corner, waiting for the light to change. "He didn't say nothin' ma'am," I
finally said.

She looked down at her feet, and looking down, I knew she'd look up again. I
seated myself, lit a cig and poured myself a drink. "Would you like a
drink?" The words wandered out of my mouth like children unexpectantly
leaving early from school. "Yes" she said, "I'd like that very much."
Suddenly the lights went out. "Damn utilities" I thought. A moment later,
with explosive abruptness, the local freight train stormed by, offering
through the windows a surreal collection of lights and colors that flashed
on the wall behind my desk, and on the large, grimy, framed portrait of
Richard Nixon that hung at its center.

The train faded into the night, leaving us in silent, near darkness. What
little light there was, shone in her eyes as she watched me pour her drink.
From deep within my desk the phone suddenly rang, but I kept on looking
straight ahead at her, and we both pretended not to notice as I reached into
the drawer and took it off the hook.

More about the loquacious Shake here.

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