"One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion."


Let's all be good thieves together.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Guest Post: A Chance Meeting at Fossil Lake

Today I have a special treat for all of you, if you've been good little girls and boys?

I'll take the silence and baleful stares as a yes. So that means today we have a guest post by one of my online friends and a fellow budding writer, the marvellous Robin E.! A talented woman whose inner fire exceeds even this blasted heatwave that has stymied me, still the forecaster predicts a brief break in the next couple of days, hopefully it will be a productive one for me if not I'll see if I can cadge another guest post from someone else to keep you entertained. So without further ado allow me to present this sad tale of warped paternal love and delusions of grandeur.

A Chance Meeting At Fossil Lake
By Robin E

Notice of Disclaimer: All characters and events in this story--even those based on real people--are entirely fictional. I the author of the content can assure you that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my mind interprets a particular situation and or concept for the purpose of parody. I would like to expressly convey to you (the reader) that were I to accidentally defame, purge, humiliate and or hurt someone's person or feelings as a result of them reading this story, it is entirely unintentional of me to do so.

The odds that the strange man would ever see his son again seemed almost impossible, but he still held hope that he would be blessed with a miracle. In order to facilitate the event in case God should ever smile down upon him, the man created a map of sorts, written within the pages of his various self published books.

It was a dark and stormy night that Michael was born, and it was an equally dark and stormy night when Michael was removed from the man's life. Many years had passed but he never forgot the child he lost.

"Someday I will see you again." The strange man mumbled to himself as he posted clues to his location in the body of his stories. "Someday we will meet again, and you'll be proud of my accomplishments!"

The man was quite insane of course, but there was a method to his madness. He hoped that his insanity would translate to the written word, and he would be lauded as the next H.P. Lovecraft or Richard Matheson. His goal was to become as famous as the authors that the strange man admired, by any means necessary. Unfortunately for the man his writing skills were nonexistent, so he was forced to self publish his work because legitimate publishers wanted nothing to do with him. Self publishing was the means to getting his work in print, and while the goal of becoming famous was never realized, the strange man became infamous for lashing out at successful writers because they could do what he never could, in every single facet of his life.

The strange man hadn't been able to do anything right in his life; he was an utter failure at everything he tried. He barely finished High School, but thanks to the 504 Program pushing him through he at least had that. It was a different story when he went to college and then realized that he was in over his head. The man was totally unprepared to be an adult, thanks to his own mother abandoning him to his grandmother's care. But you can't exactly fault her for doing that, after all she had caught him peeking at his own little sister while she bathed.

When the man failed at college he tried to join the Navy, but he didn't even make it out of Basic Training before they kicked him out for being a little too playful around the sailors. Upon returning home he attempted to get a job flipping burgers, but he couldn't even keep up with that simple task and was fired. It was then that he decided to go on the government dole under the diagnosis of mental illness. A monthly check kept him somewhat financially stable, even if he had to leech off from others in order to make it work for him.

This eventually led him to the mother of his child. She was a sweet girl, but unprepared to deal with the insanity the strange man brought to her existence. Whether the man's mental illness was the cause or he was just an asshole, or both, he began abusing her and the baby boy they created. It didn't take long before the child was separated from his father. Steps were taken to ensure that there would be no contact, and the child's whereabouts and identity were hidden so that the poor kid could have a normal, happy life. 

Ever since then the strange man crashed in his grandmother's basement, writing books that he hoped would support him, as well as help lead his son back to him. The man's mother moved completely across country in order to protect her young teen daughter from him, knowing what her own son was capable of after his arrest for beating his child, knowing in her heart of hearts what he was when she caught him spying on his sister. The whole family knew and avoided being around him, although they still felt obligated to care for him because of his mental deficiency. Besides, whenever he was out on his own and got into trouble, the police contacted them in order for them to come pick him up. Society expected them to be responsible for him, since he was incapable of taking care of himself and thus their hands were tied.

How many times had the man exposed himself for the deviant he truly was? He was always trying to get his family members to purchase a new computer for him when it crashed due to all of the porn he downloaded. And they were tired of the phone calls threatening to contact lawyers because of him stalking young girls on such websites as Vampire Friends, and Model Maybe. As it was the man had got into some trouble online, and had his grandparent's internet privileges revoked. Yet they continued to support him, because they had no choice. He didn't even pay rent half the time, because he overspent his monthly dole on beer and buying expensive Goth dresses for underage models to wear under the pretense of a "photo shoot". Everyone knew this was code for him to ogle little girls some more.

Everything the man did was a failure, and it bothered him a great deal, but what bothered him the most was the fact that he never got to see his son Michael grow up. So he created the maps hidden within his books in order for his son to find him. The man considered himself quite the genius.

"Someday I will see you again." The strange man mumbled to himself as he posted clues to his location in the body of his stories. "Someday we will meet again, and you'll be proud of my accomplishments!"

Although there were no accomplishments to speak of, the man comforted himself with his delusions of grandeur.

One of the locations on his map was a nearby body of water known as Fossil Lake. The name of the lake was derived from the many different fossils that were found along its shores. It was also a popular destination for Cryptozoologists, because of a local legend about a monster that lived in the lake similar to the creatures spotted in Loch Ness, Scotland, and Lake Champlain, Vermont, here in the United States.

It was at Fossil Lake that the strange man met his destiny. Although he didn't know it at the time, Fate was about to bestow its blessings upon him. Although the man had deliberately been making pilgrimages to the lake, hoping his dream would someday come true he had no inkling of what was to befall him.
So it happened that fine bright day when the strange man stumbled upon a younger man busily setting up his photography equipment. The camera and various lenses appeared quite expensive. The strange man fancied himself a bit of a photographer, although his equipment consisted of a cheap digital camera from Wally World, an old,  hand-me-down Camcorder with a broken microphone, and his computer's webcam. He couldn't resist wandering up to the kid and bragging about his own foray into the world of fine art.
The younger man was good natured, and friendly. He'd made his way there hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious creature that supposedly dwelled in the lake. In fact, he informed the strange man that he was there on assignment for National Geostatic Magazine.

"A magazine? National Geostatic Magazine?" The strange man sputtered.

The young man smiled and offered his hand, "My name's Michael Porcine, and I'm a writer. I've been working on this new story about the monster in the lake."

The strange man's body went cold when he heard the name. It was all he could do to stem the flow of tears that streamed down his face. Michael Porcine! That was his son's name! And he was a writer too like himself? The older man's heart filled with pride as he gazed upon his son standing in front of him.

He watched the kid as he set up the camera. He was amazed that the day had finally arrived, his son was right there, just as he'd planned.

The older man couldn't gather his thoughts he was so overwhelmed, but he stuttered something out in hopes of impressing his son. His words were garbled because he had a fast accent, but the younger man was kind, and he took the time to decipher what the strange man was saying.

"What was that? The cover of Storms and Earthquakes? The kid replied, vaguely remembering some controversy about it. "Wasn't that the cover that the publisher stole a photo from the magazine I work for?"

The strange man grumbled something under his breath and changed the subject. Already he'd started off poorly, and needed to save face. Forget about photography, he steered the topic toward writing.

"You know, it seems we have something else in common." The older one tossed out, hoping to pique his son's curiosity.

"Yeah? What's that?"

"Have you ever read Tabloid Intentions?" He asked.

"Never heard of it."

"The Eyes in Shadow Out of Time?" The older man offered.

"Nope. But it sounds a bit Lovecraftian." The kid offered, trying to be nice.

The strange man beamed a yellow-toothed smile. "I was compared to Lovecraft by the late April Derleth!" He announced.

The younger man shrugged his shoulders. "Ms. Derleth, from what I understand, was a very nice lady. She was always trying to say uplifting things to encourage others. But to tell the truth, I'm not really a fan of H.P. Lovecraft because he wasn't a very good writer, and a racist too!"

The strange man felt deflated. He tried again. "What do you think about Poe?"

The kid scratched his chin and pondered his words. He didn't want to insult the strange man, but he wasn't really into Gothic horror.

Before he could reply, the older man proudly declared that he had a book in the Poe Museum.

"I bet you're really proud of that." The young man soothed the older man's ego. "So you're a writer too, I take it?"

"Yes, those books I mentioned? Those are my books. The namesake came from the inspiration that came from a dream within the waking nightmare that resides in this lake." The strange man rambled. The namesake is inspired by the tales of something that which cannot be described that haunt this place."

"I don't know what you're talking about." The kid didn't know anything about some namesake, and thought the older man was trying too hard to sound spooky. He shielded a smirk as he bent to pick up the lens he had chosen for his camera.

"The books were a map for you to find me..." The strange man stated as he stared into his son's eyes.

The young man felt a little uneasy. He didn't know who this person was, but things were starting to feel a little weird. This strange man had approached him and started talking to him about random things he didn't care about, but still, he was raised to have good manners so he indulged the old guy.

"Heh heh, good one!" he chuckled. "I see what you did there, you're trying to yank my chain a bit. You're trying to scare me, but really, I'm not into that sort of thing, but I did like...what was it...Dorian Gray?"

"What? Why would you like that faggot story with the homo dead at the end wearing an evening gown? I don't allow erotic content in my submissions, especially faggot content like that where one would love to anally rape another of the same sex!" The stranger seethed. "Or suck each other off while fingering their stinkholes! Or reaching around and jerking the other off while they get sperm injected into their Hershey Highway!"

The young man just stood there, still trying to remain patient with the now obviously insane man. Evening gown... had the old man latched onto the term "evening dress" in the book and confuse it for an actual dress?

"Didn't you mean evening dress, and not evening gown? And did you know that Oscar Wilde wasn't referring to a dress at all, but instead describing a type of semi-formal suit that gentlemen wore in those days?" He laughed at the man.

"So, it wasn't a dress, but a suit?" The strange man asked.

"No, it wasn't a dress. You completely misunderstood the entire scene!" The kid rolled his eyes. At this point he tried to busy himself with his equipment hoping the stranger would get the hint and move on. He did have work to do, and the old man was distracting him from it.

"Michael," the strange man spoke again, "my books were a map for you to find me. And now you've come back home."

Now things were really getting creepy, and the young man glanced around him, looking for his partner who was setting up other equipment meant to detect the creature in the lake, if it truly existed. He should be coming along any time now, he thought to himself.

In order to keep the stranger talking while he hoped his partner returned soon, the young man repeated that he knew nothing about the older man's books, nor had he even heard of them.

"You mean you don't know who I am?" The strange man asked.

"Actually, no." Came the rather blunt reply. His eyes spotting the familiar sandy blonde hair of his partner as he climbed along the bank, approaching them.

A sigh of relief escaped from Michael as his partner walked out of the tall grass. The strange man took in the other man's attire. He immediately prickled at the length of the man's cut-offs, although he couldn't take his eyes off the impressive bulge in the crotch region. While still staring at the other man's package and feeling a sense of confusion mixed with repulsion, the strange man blurted out, "Michael, I am your father!"

The two younger men's eyes flashed toward one another. Could this be? Michael had always known he was adopted, and even though he had been in contact with his mother, his father remained a mystery. Or at least his identity was a secret, Michael's mother had explained the rest and now the one person who had been missing from his life, and for good reason, stood before him.

Michael had matured to be a successful artist and a respected journalist. The family he grew up with were Christians who had taught him mercy and compassion for others. They didn't judge lest they be judged. With that in mind the young man reached his hand out to his partner's, signaling for him to join Michael by his side.

"Well father," he began, "seeing as though we may have a few things in common I figure now is a good time to introduce you to a special person in my life. We have a lot of catching up to do, and I'm willing to forgive your sins if you can accept my relationship. Dad? I'd like you to meet my partner, Lloyd Philip Campbell." 

With that Michael leant in and received a kiss from his lover.

Everything around the old man went black as a strange mist billowed up from their surroundings. A long, gray, elephantine column rose from the inky depths of the lake. A loud screech echoed from what sounded like far away, or was it from far above? Suddenly ruby eyes and sharp fangs were all the old man saw before everything went dark.
Michael Porcine got his evidence. He was lauded for the discovery of a previously unknown species and headed up his own team of extreme cryptozoologists that circled the globe in search of things that cannot be described for National Geostatic Magazine. His articles are well respected in all the writing, scientific, and gay communities. Michael wrote a suitably appropriate dedication to his father for his famous Fossil Lake article, it read: "To my father, in death you did far more for me than you ever managed in life" posthumously giving him the fame he had always longed for.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Fifteen Minutes Before the Eleventh Hour

In all honesty I'm not that happy with this one I wrote about a year and a half ago, the only thing I've completed in the last couple of years. Still I figure I'll post it for now while I try to get back into the habit of writing again and maybe I'll come back to it later for a rewrite.

Fifteen Minutes Before the Eleventh Hour

Do you see that man sitting in the corner booth? Yes, the little balding, rabbit like man in the ill fitting suit, whose watery eyes are constantly twitching behind those horn-rimmed glasses. His name is Jason Trotter and in fifteen minutes he will cross his own personal Rubicon, two minutes after that he will be dead. However if I choose to intervene he will live -- if I choose to.

But why should I? I've never met the man nor spoken to him, in fact three days ago I had no idea he even existed. Of course that changed the moment the vision hit me as I was making breakfast, the crippling migraine followed by hazy, fragmented black and white images:  this diner; Jason holding a gun to a young mans head; a young cop, coming in for his lunch, drawing his sidearm; garbled words; three shots fired; Jason dying on the floor a surprised look on his face as his red lifeblood, the only colour in the vision, stained the floor. I came to, sweating and shivering in a puddle of my own vomit. My delicious French breakfast was unceremoniously scattered across the floor by my convulsions while burning in my brain was Jason's face, this place, his name, a time and the words I needed to save his life.

Twelve minutes left.

Now I know just about everything there is to know about Jason Trotter, his life unfolded in my dreams as I made my way from New York to this backwater town in Illinois and its rundown little diner. I'll give them this much though, their scrambled eggs are good, still I can't imagine anyone would want to spend the last minutes of their life here.

I wonder if Jason is thinking the same thing, look at him. He's barely touched his food, aimlessly prodding it with his fork while trying to work up the courage to do what he came here for. Jason doesn't think he's going to die of course: he has someone else in mind for that onerous chore.

Eleven minutes to go.

So who is Jason Trotter then? The simple answer is an unremarkable little man. Born forty-three years ago to ordinary parents he's lived an ordinary inconsequential life. He graduated from high school with average grades; he went to a midlist college; he married his highschool sweetheart and they had one ordinary child, who is currently attending college himself. For the past 20 odd years since graduating he has worked at the same bank, been promoted twice and none of his colleagues has a bad word to say about him. Of course they don't really have a nice word to say about him either. He is in short the perfect average Joe. Neither good nor evil, he is simply another face in the crowd going along with the flow.

Of course that changed this morning when he realised his wife was having an affair.

Now he's sitting in that corner booth, plotting to murder the man who cuckolded him. Notice how his left hand is clutching his briefcase handle so tightly that his knuckles are white? You would think he had the Crown Jewels of England inside it or the most classified of documents the way he's holding that handle and you'd be wrong. Inside that case is some inconsequential work related papers and a loaded revolver. A snub nose .38 calibre Smith & Wesson he bought 20 years ago during a spate of local burglaries to protect his family. It's never been fired and despite his intentions it won't be fired today whether or not I intervene.

Nine minutes left now.

I call the waiter over to refill my coffee and request the cheque. He's a gangly young man, all legs and arms, tanned brown from working outdoors in this scorching summer heat with a tousled mop of black hair. He flashes me a warm, pearly toothed smile as he asks me if I enjoyed my meal and I find myself noticing his sparkling blue irises flecked with grey as I tell him the scrambled eggs were lovely. Not many women (and no few men) would fail to feel their heart beat faster at a smile and eyes like that. Least of all Patricia Trotter, Jason's wife.

Yes, our young waiter, Vito according to his name badge, is the lovely Mrs Trotter's lover. It's a timeless story repeated all across the world, a bored housewife neglected by her workaholic husband. She feels alone, a little unloved and sexually frustrated in a house that's felt so empty since her children have flown the nest. Is it any wonder she notices the appreciative glances of the young man she pays to so the garden, the teasing flirty banter goes from innocent to deadly serious without either really noticing and then almost inevitably they begin sleeping with each other.

As for Vito, he's a young man getting ready to go to college himself. Of course he's going to respond to the advances of an attractive older woman with the typical thoughtlessness of youth. There's nothing malicious in this, neither of them wants to hurt Jason. Patricia still loves him: she just needs the spice and thrill of this illicit affair to feel alive again. As for Vito, he knows and respects that, for him this is just one of many summer dalliances that he'll remember fondly in years to come.

Jason of course feels otherwise, and so here we are with 6 minutes left to save Jason's life.

But why should I? Why does God want me to save this particular man? I ponder this as I reach into my pocket, pull out a silver coin and start to roll it backwards and forwards over my knuckles. It's a very old coin, over two thousand years old to be precise and should probably be in a museum. But I keep it and its brothers with me, a physical reminder of the sin that ultimately brought me here.

I know Jason Trotter now, thanks to my dreams. I know that if I save him here he will go on living his dull little life with no real changes and will die having made the world neither a better nor worse place. What raises him above all the hundreds if not thousands of people who die every day of unnatural causes all around the world?

In the paper today I read of a young child mown down in a drive by shooting gone wrong, he could have grown up to become a doctor, a politician or any of a thousand professions making people's lives better. The other week in Uganda a local politician was assassinated in the middle of his crusade to expose political corruption. Before I left the motel I saw on the News that a Nobel Prize winning physicist was killed in a hit and run accident, who knows what insights into the universe he might have provided if he had lived. Why didn't God send me to save one of them instead of this sad little man?

Three minutes, it's now or never.

I slip a twenty under my plate with the cheque and a tip for Vito: a piece of paper with “Don't screw other men's wives” written on it. It's a good tip. As I get up out of the corner of my eye I can see him flirting with the pretty girl sitting at the counter. So can Jason.

It's the last straw for him, before now he was uncertain but now seeing Vito apparently trampling over the feelings of his wife like that is too much for him. It's written in the sudden grim look on his face. How dare he, how dare he flirt with her when he has my wife! Such a silly sentiment but then humanity has never been the most logical of species.

As I come up to his booth on the way to the door I can see Jason's shoulders tighten with determination. His right hand is fiddling with the clasps on his briefcase, while his left begins to rise to call Vito over. Just a few more steps and I'll be gone, out the door and Jason will be left to his fate. I don't know him, I don't care for him. What is it to me if he or anyone in this little diner lives or dies?

Then a piece of scripture floats to the front of my head, quoted by a warm smooth voice in the original Aramaic, Matthew 25:45: Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. At the same time the smell of those tasty eggs hits my nose and with a sigh I make my decision.

I lean down into the booth, and place my hand on Jason's shoulder. I can feel him flinching in shock as his face looks up to me the sweat glistening in his brow. “Your wife still loves you, she has always loved you. Don't make a stupid mistake, go to her now.” I say to him in a low voice.

His face cycles through guilt, fear, and finally relief when I release his shoulder and make my way out the diner. As I cross the parking lot I can see the patrol car pulling up, the young cop from the vision climbing out. I sit in my own car for a minute or two. There are no gunshots, all is well.

I start the engine and begin my journey home to New York. In saving this unremarkable little man in this unremarkable little town have I learned whatever lesson it was Heaven aimed to teach me? No, I don't think I have. I'm not even sure why I saved him. It might have been for that scrap of scripture and the memories it held or hell, it could have been because a diner that makes eggs that good doesn't deserve to have a shooting.

As the strains of Mozart filter out from the radio the only thing I know for sure is that my penance is not over. I can feel the years stretching out before me, the lives I will affect as I struggle towards redemption and the moment when I will finally be able to beg the forgiveness of the one I betrayed.