Saturday, April 24, 2004

But I Digress...

I remember when I was 10 years old, and I spent hours upon hours making potholders out of sock loops. I would hook the loops onto this special plastic frame that had all these little pegs on it, and then I would weave the little sock loops in and out, in and out, in and out, until I had filled up the entire frame. And when it was done, I would take the little plastic hook and go around the edges, hooking each loop through the previous loop, until I had finally formed a beautiful, colorful potholder.

One night, my mother and sister and I were just sitting there, making potholders and watching Quincy. It was this really interesting episode where Quincy was investigating some guy that had died, but what I remember most of all was this commercial for Grape Nuts cereal.

The commercial sticks in my mind because there was this old man in the ad who was feeding Grape Nuts to his grandson, just like my grandfather used to do to me. I would often ask him, "Grandpa? How come they call them Grape Nuts? They don't have grapes or nuts in them?" And my grandfather would just laugh softly and tell me to shut the hell up before he sliced my freakin’ throat with a bayonet.

My grandfather was a little high strung because he spent 3 years in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. He finally escaped one night when he broke the neck of one of the guards with his bare hands, dressed the guard in his rags, and left him in his cell. He then donned the guard's uniform and made his way into the streets. Some Philippine rebels took pity on him and helped smuggle him to Hawaii in a gigantic halibut. Grandpa returned home a hero, but was never the same.

My grandmother, in the meantime, had believed my grandfather to be dead and had been so stricken with grief that she was unable to cope. At last, she found that killing drifters abated the pain somewhat. Even when Grandpa returned, she found herself unable to stop. She would spend her evenings cruising the highway in her green Ford LTD and picking up hitchhikers.

One of these hitchhikers, surprisingly enough, was Jim Morrison himself! Turns out he had faked his death in Paris to get away from the fans and surreptitiously made his way back into the country. He was on his way to Memphis to visit the grave of the recently departed Elvis when my grandmother picked him up and plunged a ceremonial dagger into the back of his neck.

The dagger had been a gift to her from Grumar Daemonicus, the crazy old satanic high priest that lived in the boarding house. My grandmother had once hidden Grumar in her basement when the local church came looking for him, hoping to burn him at the stake for practicing witchcraft. In return, he had given my grandmother the dagger that, according to legend, had been carved from the bones of a long dead god.

This god, Viseroghagoth, was said to be so horrifying that anyone glimpsing its true form would be driven instantly insane. Such was the case of Galgamor, a Sumerian priest who received such horrifying visions that he finally tore his own eyes from his head and drowned himself in the Euphrates River.

Galgamor's remains were discovered in a clay pot by Dr. Reginald Reese, noted archeologist and expert on ancient cultures. Dr. Reese uncovered the urn while on a routine dig, but was devoured by a ravenous swarm of scorpions as he was attempting to decipher the strange cuneiform text.

When word of her husband's grisly death reached her in Salt Lake City, Emily Reese could scarcely contain her joy. For years, she had been suffering in silence, secretly in love with their maid Marie, yet she dared not speak of her forbidden passions. But now, with her husband out of the way, Emily and Marie were at last free to love. Their lingering embrace became a passionate kiss, and before they knew what had happened, they were lost in a white flash of hot, blinding lust. Their naked bodies entwined, their pale and sweaty flesh pressed together as, wordlessly but in unison, they brought each other to the sheer pinnacle of ecstasy. And Emily wept, because she had never known love could be so primal.

When they had finished, Marie left Emily sleeping so she could go downstairs and start dinner. While she was waiting for the water to boil, her mind drifted to her brother Maurice, whom she hadn't seen since he had been dispatched to Iraq to assassinate Saddam Hussein. It had been six years, and she hadn't heard a word from him. She was remembering his sad eyes and his kind smile when she reached for the boiling pot and burned her fingers. Gasping, she jerked away and accidentally knocked over a mason jar full of grease.

The grease spread across the stove and immediately burst into flames. Foolishly, Marie tried to extinguish the fire by pouring water on it, which only caused it to spread further. Before she knew it, the curtains were on fire. Marie tried desperately to make it upstairs to where Emily was sleeping, but was quickly overcome by the smoke. She passed out on the stairs, and never made it out alive.

"What a senseless waste of human life," said Bill Sadler, a local fire fighter and deacon, as he presided over Marie's funeral. The entire congregation wept, but none more bitterly than Emily, who had been miraculously spared in the raging inferno. "But for me," Bill went on, his voice quavering with poignancy, "the most tragic thing is that this whole horrible incident could have been avoided if only Marie had used a potholder."


I submitted this short story to a literary magazine called "Axe Factory Review" last November, because they said they were looking for "quirky, off-center, offensive and annoying" stories. The manuscript was returned to me with a Post-It note attached. And written on the Post-It note was:

"You need to weave this a little better to get it past the maws of Axe Factory's guardian spirits. Send $8 for a sample."

Yeah. Cute. But pretty much par for the course. Most of these literary magazines like to hawk their subscriptions even while they're telling you how much your writing fucking sucks. But the funniest part was that, written on the manuscript itself (right around the 7th paragraph), was a single comment. And it read:

"What boarding house?"

So apparently, Mr. Axe Factory Guardian Spirit Wrangler was okay with the story up to that point. I can just see him reading it and making his notations. "Hmmmm... sock loops... right... right... uh huh... bayonet... right... giant halibut... got it... killing drifters... hmmmm... Jim Morrison... I see... uh huh... ceremonial dagger... uh huh... WAIT! WHAT FUCKING BOARDING HOUSE?"

I imagine he was so upset by this point that he dropped the skull from which he'd been drinking port and began frantically waving his silk lace handkerchief to ward off "the vapors." And as the naked serving boys scrambled to fetch his briar pipe and his fur-lined cape, he cried out in an effeminate voice, "By the flaming tits of Percy Bysshe Shelley!" Then, I'm pretty sure he crapped his pants.

"You need to weave this a little better to get it past the maws of Axe Factory's guardian spirits." Christ. How much pretension can you fit on one fucking Post-It note?

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