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Royal Typewriter

My Royal Quiet DeLuxe

This experiment arose from a Craft Note post I published last week, titled How Things Begin, in which I described how my work arises from a single line, to which I append more lines. To demonstrate the process, and as something of a challenge to myself, I’m attempting to write a story “in public.” What follows are my results to date.

To see the previous posts related to this experiment, please visit https://maximumfiction.wordpress.com/category/experiment-in-public-writing/.

New lines added today:

A bum approached as Koestler waited out the light at the corner of 5th and Brian. “Street person,” Koestler self-corrected, marking the velvet wrap applied to certain nouns now out of favor. Already smoking what Koestler adjudged a cheap cigar–the plastic tip gave it away–the bum (why sugarcoat it?) accosted Koestler and begged a cigarette. At last, for the first time that morning, Koestler felt awake. Recalling a scene from one of his morning commutes, Koestler said nothing, raised his right index finger to mime “wait a moment,” then reached into the plastic grocery sack he used for his lunch. From the bag Koestler plucked a Macintosh–waxed, appetizing, and autumn gaudy in daisy and asparagus. Without words, Koestler offered it.

“No, man. No,” said the bum. He made a dismissive wave with the cigar. “Cigarette! You no speaky the Eeeenglish?”

Hoping he hadn’t bitten off more than he could chew with this guy, Koestler pulled his face into an exaggerated frown. He pointed to the cigar and twirled his finger around a bit, a gesture he hoped would say, “But you’ve already got one.” Again he held out the apple, eyes wide to indicate “Look. It’s good.” Koestler read the confusion in the fellow’s eyes. Does he think I’m a mute? A visitor from another land? A mime on busman’s holiday? I suppose he’s harmless, though that hand would make a mighty fist.

This time, the bum person took the apple, rocking his head on his shoulders in what Koestler understood as exasperated resignation. Nodding to some custom whose origins likely eluded him, the bum smirked and began to shine the apple on his grimy wool jacket as Koestler moved away to cross 5th. The light had changed. Four lanes of 5th Avenue traffic sat obedient, if impatient and revving, as Koestler and the other pedestrians took their turn. He hadn’t reached the center stripe before the bum person flipped the apple onto the small, patchy lawn siding the cathedral on Brian.

The entire work so far:

Koestler plodded along, uncomfortably seated in the rank cockpit of middle age, face contorted by the odor of his own crisis. And such an odor, a stench, something beyond metaphor: the manganese reek of an aluminum casting works–for him, electrical wire casing scorched with a butane cigar lighter–that drained down through the sinus and into the back of his throat. Koestler dubbed that the “high note.” It rode atop a yeasty, cloying base of aging brewery, boiling malt, sensed as much in queasy gut as weary nose. Strange, he thought, he should be so overcome. After all, by this stage of the game the senses have begun to dull, which might explain the Tobasco Koestler added to nearly every dish, anything to conjure a sensation–if only a tongue-pricking heat stripped of the vinegar and pepper.

It occurred to him the sophisticated code on top of which everything runs included a randomizer and so the possibility of orderly, predictable ascent and descent was just as unlikely as any other possible sequence. Just as evolution has its leaps, devolution has its plummets. And all the various contributing components play out according to their own spastic algorithm. Nothing comes entirely as expected. Which is why some mornings the walk from parking garage to office induces–out of nowhere–a pain in his left knee so biting he’s forced to a self-conscious limp. Other mornings he feels fit enough to jog the two blocks in his khakis and street shoes–and has. On this morning, a headache attacked his temples at a point he located just about where the spine meets the skull. And the odor, the now-familiar stench that persisted despite his lathering, scrubbing, spraying, daubing, that, too, assaulted him.

Mind perturbed and so still alive, Koestler continued to make his way down Brian Street (when frisky he called it “Brain”) and began to speculate about the effect of chemical imbalance, or change, on body odor. “Maybe,” he thought, “this is the ‘old man smell’ you hear the TV talking about.” Monday morning zombie faces passed him on the sidewalk. He took notice enough to avoid an awkward collision. And the domesticated minefield of dog turds, castoff pieces of fried chicken, clammy sputum, empty bottles, and apparent vomit (Castlebury canned beef stew?) all failed to stain his shoes. At 5th Avenue, the 87 bus showered him with black diesel exhaust as it pulled away from the stop and rerouted Koestler into a new thought: Which was worse: the sooty black chemical cocktail flowing so freely from the ugly, growling city buses or the benzine seasoning the general atmosphere of the capital of Appalachia?

A bum approached as Koestler waited out the light at the corner of 5th and Brian. “Street person,” Koestler self-corrected, marking the velvet wrap applied to certain nouns now out of favor. Already smoking what Koestler adjudged a cheap cigar–the plastic tip gave it away–the bum (why sugarcoat it?) accosted Koestler and begged a cigarette. At last, for the first time that morning, Koestler felt awake. Recalling a scene from one of his morning commutes, Koestler said nothing, raised his right index finger to mime “wait a moment,” then reached into the plastic grocery sack he used for his lunch. From the bag Koestler plucked a Macintosh–waxed, appetizing, and autumn gaudy in daisy and asparagus. Without words, Koestler offered it.

“No, man. No,” said the bum. He made a dismissive wave with the cigar. “Cigarette! You no speaky the Eeeenglish?”

Hoping he hadn’t bitten off more than he could chew with this guy, Koestler pulled his face into an exaggerated frown. He pointed to the cigar and twirled his finger around a bit, a gesture he hoped would say, “But you’ve already got one.” Again he held out the apple, eyes wide to indicate “Look. It’s good.” Koestler read the confusion in the fellow’s eyes. Does he think I’m a mute? A visitor from another land? A mime on busman’s holiday? I suppose he’s harmless, though that hand would make a mighty fist.

This time, the bum person took the apple, rocking his head on his shoulders in what Koestler understood as exasperated resignation. Nodding to some custom whose origins likely eluded him, the bum smirked and began to shine the apple on his grimy wool jacket as Koestler moved away to cross 5th. The light had changed. Four lanes of 5th Avenue traffic sat obedient, if impatient and revving, as Koestler and the other pedestrians took their turn. He hadn’t reached the center stripe before the bum person flipped the apple onto the small, patchy lawn siding the cathedral on Brian.

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