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Flash Fiction Friday: Dotting the Is

by Cornell R. Nichols

I’m not quite sure how it happened but, at the age of thirty, I found myself stuck in a dead-end job, with virtually no prospects for my dead-end life.

I guess my ideas were to blame. I have foolishly dared to dream of becoming a journalist, and so I went to college and started to get accustomed to writing daily. I would roll a sheet of paper onto the platen, push the buttons of my typewriter, slide the carriage return with a satisfying ding and then, orthpen in hand, correct my own paragraphs with zero tolerance. I repeated this ritual tirelessly, producing article after article on the most mundane topics:

Mischievous Laundry Escapes Yard!
Neighbor’s Zombie Breaks Off Leash, Eats Mailbox
or
Snail Farmers Complain: Economy Is Slug-Slow.

Write, revise, correct, write, revise, correct…

In the end, the corrector’s mind was all that I was left with while journeying to Job Land. I was hired by the local printing company at the lowest position possible.

The Boss said to me from the very start: “Mr. Pointe, this company is all about cost-cutting. At this point, we regularly print pamphlets, political manifestos for the Order of the Grammar Neo-Nazis, several books of ill-circulation; but nothing that would bring us humongous heaps of hay. Am I making myself clear?”

I took a look at his nose prosthesis, very crude, just a snowman-style carrot, and I realized that he wasn’t lying. At least his nose didn’t grow or anything.

“Got it, Boss.”

“And because of this financial predicament our main printing press has been bought at, shall we say, a bargain price. It is a tad retarded and forgets to dot. Your job, Mr. Pointe, will be to place said dots, or tittles if you like, wherever they are missing from the text. Here’s your desk, sit down and tittle away!”

And so I became the company tittler. The pay was irrational, and as such could be represented by the irrational number pi—$3.14 an hour. But I didn’t complain. I did not dare to. After all, it isn’t easy finding a job after college. I was glad I was getting any pay at all. So day after day I would dot and tittle like a human dot-and-tittle machine, searching out every lonesome “i” and “j” with the blade of the orthpen, taking particular care of the Order’s orders. I once saw a Grammar Neo-Nazi slice a man in half with a claymore just for using “who” instead of “whom”. I even wrote an article about it: For Whom The Bell Tolls.

But now, knee-deep in work-mud, I had no time for writing light news. Dot, dot, dot, dot—eight hours, dot, per day not counting, dot, the overtime. And ending several hours late became, dot, something of a regular thing. Especially when the printing company managed to keep its head above the water and more and more orders started to come like an ink tsunami. Dot.

And so one day, almost a year after I was hired, the Boss paid me another visit. By then he was already wearing a diamond-encrusted ivory nose, very pointy and chic.

“Mr. Pointe,” he said, “we’re expanding rapidly. It’s still a tightrope walk, so no chance for a raise, don’t even ask. But you will receive a bit more work, I’m afraid.”

“How big a bit are we talking?” I dared ask.

“Not a big one, not big at all,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “We just bought a few more fonts for our dear special Printy, that’s all.”

The new fonts were for publications in German. They were dot-less and tittle-less, of course, meaning they had no umlaut diacritics. Not only did I have to double-dot those foreign vowels, twice the work, but I also had to know where they actually go. I spoke German only so lala, so I had to constantly ask the typesetter guy which of the signs were plus-umlaut and which ones I should just leave as they were.

Such a long time did I have to spend at work, that my eight-hour day became the twelve-hour one, no breaks. Not a single moment was left to polish my newspaper articles.

And meanwhile, the Boss Man concocted a new entertainment for my delight: math textbooks.

Now I would tittle dawn to dusk. I sweated over the symbols and hieroglyphics: “multiplied by”, “divided by”, “therefore”, “such that”. I stabbed at the paper imagining it to be the noseless face of my Boss. Every pi in every circle reminded me of the pitiful pay, of the lack of life outside of work; of my long-forgotten articles. What was I thinking, for Dot’s sake, wanting to become a journalist? I should have majored in tittling! Maybe they would teach me how to avoid writer’s cramp? Maybe with the master’s degree in Advanced Dot-Making I would get paid a bit more than $3.14 (tax not included)? I started asking around if anyone’s heard of any decent tittling courses but people just took me for a wacko.

I was alone. Misunderstood. The only tittler in the whole wide world, breaking his back over another dot-less publication: dot, dot, dot, dot…

Until one day he appeared at my desk again, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. The Tyrant, the Belze-Boss. The stingy bastard with a nose of priceless antimatter.

“My dear Mr. Pointe, I just had the most brilliant idea ever, period!” he declared with his usual amount of modesty. His voice resonated inside the magnetic trap that was holding the prosthesis together. “Have you ever heard of a French painter, one Georges Seurat?”

I shook my head. The only painter I knew well enough was Albrecht Dürer, and that’s only because I was in the process of tittling his three-volume zombiography. The wretched thing was written entirely in third person—Dürer this, Dürer that—as if to spite me. I punctured the pages over the undead scribbler’s name picturing nails being hammered to his coffin.

“Who’s this Seurat, Boss?” Dot. Dot.

“Well, he was this genius pointillist, which basically means he created paintings… yes, you guessed it, out of dots only! I was just visiting the National Gallery with my wife and I thought to myself: ‘What is a text if not just a collection of close-knit dots?’ Why, every shape in the universe is made out of a finite number of points! You know what this means, right? Illustrations, we can dot them out as well! Isn’t this absolutely marvelous? A revolution! The entire work of a printing company in the hands of a single worker. No need for some half-retarded machine. Think how much money I can save thanks to that!” he exclaimed, delighted.

The mention of money sprung me into action, as if I were stabbed with the tip of my own orthpen.

“And how big of a raise are we talking about here, Boss? To go along with this promotion?” I asked, fingers twitching with hope. “After all, I will be responsible for the entire company, no?”

The Boss smiled apologetically and explained to me, point by point, that, unfortunately, blah, blah, blah, the savings need to be, blah, blah. Only due to the patience acquired at work, did I manage not to get arrested that day for the assault with a deadly three-volume Grammar Neo-Nazi nightmare and for gory orthpen-rape.

The next morning I tittled out my letter of resignation. It was short, straight to the point and featured a pointillist caricature of the Boss as a noseless goblin, with carrots sticking out of his ass.

Then I found a job at the local tattoo parlor. Here, for an entire day of dot-dot-dotting butterflies and hearts, they pay me hundred times more.

——

Cornell R. Nichols usually writes in his native tongue but words like “chrząszcz” and “gżegżółka” are slightly too extreme even for the bizarro crowd. Due to the miracle of translation, his real name can mean “Horny Santa’s Little Helper”. He supports the cause of the snail farmers.


Show Me Your Shelves: Chris Kelso

Chris Kelso is one of those dudes who’s simultaneously likable and hard to love. Sure, he’s easy to get along with and always has a smile on his face, but then you read his books and you go “Fuck this guy, I wish I’d written this.” Oh, and he’s also ridiculously prolific and has a presence here in the US despite living in some faraway land known as Glasgow. In any case, he has a new book out, so I thought it was time to ask him some questions and get him to me me his shelves. Here’s what he had to say.

GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

CK: I’m Chris Kelso, a dress-wearing polyglot savant who lives in the Highlands. Books play a crucial part in my life and have done since I was about 14. You can imagine how difficult it was for a remarkably unpopular teenager in parochial Ayrshire to find happiness and contentment. I started throwing myself into books – comics at first then I progressed to distinguished works of fiction soon after. It provided me with, and continues to provide me with, an extreme form of escapism – although my relationship with books, the role they play and the act of reading itself has changed slightly since I embarked upon a ‘writing career’ because recently I feel like I only read to learn my craft, to take notes and to develop as a writer. When I think about it, maybe I don’t read for just so much for escapism these days, which might be quite sad (not that I don’t still take some pleasure from reading).

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GI: You’ve published a lot so far and you’re still a young cat. Are there any other hungry youngsters out there who you’d recommend to folks who dig your work?

CK: There are a lot. Most of the writers I know are young cats, I mean Max Booth III is 21 or something! I mean Jesus Christ! I think Preston Grassman, Jason Wayne Allen, Grant Wamack and Michael Allen Rose are all great, Rob Harris is great, Gabino – you’re great. In the other European countries Konstantine Paradias and Michael Faun are both young and hungry and brilliant. Love Kolle can spin a cool yarn too. They write smart transgressive fiction and will, without a doubt, forge long, prestigious careers for themselves.

GI: Is it hard selling books to folks in the US when you’re all the way in Glasgow? How’s the beer over there?

CK: It’s hard selling books anywhere to be honest. People in the US are actually a lot more responsive to my style of nihilistic nonsense than folks in Scotland. I really don’t sell a lot – fortunately the beer over here is radioactive horse piss that gets you good and lousy drunk.

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GI: Best stuff you’re read so far in 2014, go!

CK: I’m enjoying Matt Bialer’s epic poem “Ascent” right now, but there are a dozen others I loved. “Time Pimp” by Garrett Cook is up there amongst my favourites with all the golden oldies I raced through this year, like Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” and Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.” I also picked up Leopold Von Sacher Masoch’s classic “Venus in Furs” which I really related to. Actually, I had the pleasure of reading an early proof of Seb Doubinsky’s “WHITE CITY” which is coming out next year…but it’s a cracker!

GI: What’s in this new collection of yours and why should everyone go buy it the second they’re done with this interview?

CK: “Terence, Mephisto and Viscera Eyes is a collection of stories set within the Slave State. This is a much more measured and mature effort from me (at least I think so anyway!). There’s a story called ‘Baptizm of Fire’ in there that deals with a dystopian Lagos and the Slave State’s silent puppeteering of the Nigerian University confraternities. It’s much more melancholy than my usual stuff, it has much more heart – which was completely my intention. People should by it because I need to sell books…and I’m a real nice guy…

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author ofGutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias


Bizarro Field Trip with Eric Hendrixson: Pt II

Missed Part One? Never fear! Click HERE to catch up!

by Eric Hendrixson

The House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly, a spectacle, an autobiography in clutter, and a museum of hoarding. It holds vast, unrelated collections of of artifacts, some of them authentic. It is said to be the most popular tourist destination in Wisconsin.

As you enter, there is a small museum dedicated to the man who made this happen: Alex Jordan, Jr. A college dropout, Mr. Jordan enjoyed picnicking on Deer Shelter Rock, a towering rock formation near Spring Green, taking a hibachi and a gallon of Tom Collins with him on each trip. When challenged by the land owner, he leased the area for his picnics, eventually purchasing the rock.

After building a platform on the rock, he decided to build a Japanese-style house on it. He decided this having never been to Japan, probably never having seen a Japanese house. The first section of the self-guided tour is through the home he built without a blueprint or any architectural experience. The house is like something a Frank Loyd Wright impersonator would have designed during a drunken weekend, the floor plan resembling a cavern more than a house. While Johnson was well over six feet tall, the ceilings would be low for hobbit hole. The building resembles a stone treehouse that has grown wild. Live trees grow through the walls. It is decorated with dolls, oriental artifacts, kitchenware, stained glass, and self-playing instruments, including a banjo, tambourines, and a player piano that plays Aerosmith’s Dream On slightly out of tune.

The house climaxes with the Infinity Room, a tapering, unsupported structure that hangs over the valley like a wood and glass diving board in a creaking, vertigo-triggering homage to insane design. The house is only the first section of the tour. The second and third sections are larger buildings dedicated to this local eccentric’s collections.

The second section starts with a mill house, complete with a working waterwheel that turns only itself. The visitor then sees a number of glass cases, showcasing a collection of completely unconnected items, including a flintlock rifle with three locks but only one barrel, massive stores of colored glassware, locally-produced medieval armor and weapons, self-playing musical instruments, and animatronic displays. Because the exhibits are not labeled, identified, justified, or explained, they resemble a bunch of stuff more than a curated museum.

The tour continues through a replica old-timey Main Street—complete with ridiculously complete collections of the kinds of items each business on the street would have, coin operated nickelodeons, and animatronic fortune tellers. The dim lighting gives a twilight effect throughout the tour.

(more…)


Bizarro Field Trip with Eric Hendrixson: Pt I

by Eric Hendrixson

As midnight approached, we were far from the highway, on the kind of country road that starts a third of the horror films made in the ’80s. That’s when the GPS signal dropped out. My wife hadn’t told me where we were going. When we decided to take a trip, I’d hopped into the car like a Labrador who doesn’t know whether he’s going to the park or the vet. We drove through Dodgeville, up a hill, and past a tractor dealership. Near the top of the hill, I saw a Boeing C-97 parked next to the road. We had reached our destination.

Don Q Inn advertises its rooms as Fantasuites. The website claims that these suites will “spice up your stay.” We walked through the heavy wood doors into the lobby, where barber and dentist chairs were arranged around a huge, circular fireplace. On the counter, there was a lending library of VHS tapes and Stephen King books. According to a sign in the lobby, the hotel does not permit children, only consenting adults over 21. That was fine. Apart from a few business trips, I have never rented a hotel room without my consent. When the clerk woke up and came to the desk, we asked her what restaurants might still be open. She yelled the question back to another clerk. “McDonald’s,” she said. “And Walmart.” She gave us keys and directions to our room.

Our room was at the end of the hall, next to an emergency exit that led directly into a cornfield, making it useless in the event of a corn-related emergency. When I opened the door, I saw a spaceman suspended above the room’s only window, which was draped with black curtains. The walls were covered in a wallpaper mural of the moon’s surface and black space, accented with comets, stars, and planets. A Formica moon rover served as a coffee table. There was a rock formation on the left side of the room, from which a moon rock waterfall fed the tile-lined tub in the crater. Above it all was a Gemini space capsule, accessible by a spiral staircase built into the rock. In the space capsule, there was a circular bed, complete with a TV/VCR, a car radio, and switches that controlled the lights and ceiling fan. It was the bedroom I would have wanted when I was five, twenty-five, or thirty-five. It’s the bedroom I will want when I’m ninety-five.

Each of these fantasy suites is its own work of art. The subjects include a ’50s theme with a pink Cadillac, an igloo, a hot air balloon, and a medieval dungeon, complete with shackles. Is it good art? Well, probably not. The rooms are like a plastic Halloween costume of Spider Man that says “Spider Man” on the front. It’s not so much a moon landing as a collection of the signifiers of a moon landing.

As for the business model of catering to sexual fantasies, I’m a believer in Rules 34 and 36. I’m sure there are people out there with a moon landing fetish, but there can’t be that many of them in Wisconsin. They must have all moved to Florida by now. The fantasy aspect is beside the point. As a bizarro, former dinner theater worker, and B movie fan, the diligent, sincere, overdone, and wrong-headed manner in which this fantasy was constructed and presented pleased me immensely.

The hotel has a tunnel between the rooms and the restaurant, decorated like a carnival spookhouse with spiderwebs, portraits that change to skulls as you walk past them, and body parts stuffed into corners. Finding the restaurant closed, we crossed the road toward a roadside bar with a motorcycle and a few pickup trucks parked outside. There, we had local beer, cheese curds (the staple of the Wisconsinite diet), a couple games of pool (free ever since someone broke the sliding coin acceptor), cookies (because someone brought cookies), and conversation with the locals, mostly about how many shots Thor, the designated driver, should get in exchange for driving the others back to town. In the morning, we drove to our real destination: The House on the Rock.


Check back soon for PART TWO  of Eric Hendrixson’s Bizarro Field Trip featuring The House on the Rock with creepy-cool photos! 

 

_________________
Eric Hendrixson was born a military brat overseas. He has lived in England, Texas, Spain, Texas, Iowa, Texas, and Virginia. Attending two kindergartens, two elementary schools, five junior high schools (one twice), two high schools, and two colleges, he learned that most realities are hypothetical and are merely intended as suggestions. His first job, in musical theater, confirmed that lesson.


Flash Fiction Friday: This Page Is Intentionally Left Blank

That’s right. No FFF this week. We here at Bizarro Central are in dire need of content!

If you have a bizarro story, 2000 words or less, attach it as a .doc or .rtf and send it to garthurbrown@hotmail.com. Please include a brief, single paragraph bio.

Here’s a fun gif:

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Leprechaun in the Hood: The Musical: A Novel

leppyleppyleppyOut now from Broken River Books: LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD: THE MUSICAL: A NOVEL by Cameron Pierce, Adam Cesare, and Shane McKenzie

Thirty, jobless, and going prematurely bald, amateur director Simon has dumped every last dime into his pet project: a musical adaptation of the cult film LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD. With a week til curtains up, the production is a disaster. His actors can’t act, his crew hates his guts, and his set has a tendency to go up in flames. And all that is before the actual leprechaun, a mythological beast with a penchant for limericks and grisly murder, catches wind of the whole operation. Gathering as many four-leaf-clovers and wrought-iron spears as they can, the surviving cast and crew must band together to kill the creature and ensure that the musical goes ahead as planned. But with an army of undead strippers at his side, the leprechaun is determined to disembowel, behead, and battle rap his way toward reclaiming his gold…and his intellectual property.

Click here to buy the paperback.

Click here to buy the Kindle edition.


Fantastic Earth Destroyer Ultra Plus by Cameron Pierce & Jim Agpalza

frontcover-194x300An apocalyptic nightmare in the tradition of UzumakiThe Epic of Gilgamesh, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
In the mining town of Itchy Zoo lives a boy with pumpkin flesh. His name is Tetsuo, and he’d like to tell you about the terrible things that brought ruin to his town. How he shot his brother, how the people of Itchy Zoo became puppets, how he fell in love for the first and last time, and how Satan watched it all go down.
Written by Wonderland Book Award-winning author Cameron Piece and fully illustrated by Jim Agpalza, Fantastic Earth Destroyer Ultra Plus is a bizarro epic that’s as beautiful as it is bleak.
CLICK HERE to get yours today!

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