Different Rules, Same Game

fiction by Jason Edwards

Gary Allweather, number 9, forward for the Gila County Rattlers, Arizona Outdoor Basketball League (AOBL), dribbles, sets, shoots. The ball disappears into the blazing sunlight, blinding anyone foolish enough to track it. On instinct, Bert Fourtrees jumps up for the rebound, but the ball goes swish, and it’s 87-85, Rattlers. Gary hustles back on D.

The Graham County Scorpions play the ball in-bounds, barely past some good D from Bert, then move up the court, quickly. There’s only 10 seconds left on the clock. A quick pass, Gary tries to dive and intercept but misses. Number 7 is on the outside, sets a pick, moves past the Rattlers defense, fakes a jumper and passes it outside to number 83, who sets himself for a three. Bert appears out of nowhere to try and swat at the shot, but he misses, and the ball rises and falls. Swish. Scorpions by one, and there’s three seconds left on the clock.

Three Scorpions at the base line, waving their arms in front of Bert, who fakes an overhead pass, a pass from his hip, then takes a step back and simply tosses the ball over their hands to Gary. Gary catches the ball, dribbles, spins around some sloppy D, dribbles, brings the ball up for an impossible shot. He’s barely at half court, he needs to hurl it. He throws it up high. The ball’s off his fingertips and disappearing into the sun as the buzzer sounds.

The buzzer wails as the ball goes up, and continues to wail. The old men in the stands rise to their feet, picking up their shotguns. Their eyes are fixed on the scoreboards, which is propped on the scorer’s table at half-court. Mickey Torrance, 47, has his finger on the red button to smash it down if the ball goes in. His own eyes are glued to the basketball rim.

None of the players are moving. Sometimes, once the buzzer goes, a few cowards start to run for the hills, but the old men are excellent shots, and usually cut them down before they get too far away. This time everyone’s frozen. Watching that rim. A few idiots are squinting up at the sun, looking for the ball, blinding themselves.

Gary’s frozen too, because he doesn’t want to get caught in the crossfire. As soon as that ball left his fingertips, he knew. He just knew. That ball is going through that basket, will go through with a swish. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. There isn’t a lick of breeze. It’s a sweltering August Tuesday in Cochise County, Arizona, this is the championship game, the losers get their heads blown off by the old men with the shotguns, and the winners get to go home with the losers’ wives. Gary is going to go find number 7’s wife and show her what winners do in the sack, and he doesn’t give a good god damn if she is fat and ugly. Serves number 7 right, throwing elbows the entire game.

The game should have been a slam dunk, no pun intended (slam dunks are not allowed in the AOBL). Should have been an easy win for the Rattlers. But there was chicanery. Gary knew there was going to be chicanery from the start, because none of the Scorpions wives bothered to stay home with their doors locked. They were all at the game, sitting in the fan stands, behind the bullet-proof plexiglass. None of them were even wearing black. They should have been afraid of the Rattlers, been afraid of Gary, and especially afraid of Bert Fourtrees, who’d already won three championships and had four wives and sixteen kids to prove it.

But the Scorpions were out for blood, threw elbows, travelled, stepped on the line and didn’t get called for it. The damn refs. Gary knows better than to blame the refs for a bad game, but this was absurd. Foul? You call that a foul? A lumbering number 7 plowed into Gary who’s standing flat-footed two feet off the free-throw line, and you called that a foul? Are you looking to have a man sneak into your house later tonight and open you up with a serrated bowie knife, ref?

But it doesn’t matter. That ball is going in. Gary knows it like he knew his first was going to be a boy and his second a girl. Knows it like he knows where Bert was at all times, without looking, and could feed him a pass with his eyes shut. Knows it like he knows that Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross so that poor sumbitches likes the Scorpions had a shot at heaven after the old men get done mowing them down in the next minute. Just as soon as Mickey presses that red button and the scoreboard reads 90-88. Just as soon as that damn ball comes out of the sky and through that rim.

A buzzard flies across the court, lazily, sensing the incoming carnage. The ball drops out of the sky, hits the buzzard, hard, knocking it to the ground. The buzzard makes a squawking sound, loud in the sudden silence of the buzzer going quiet. The ball misses the basket by three feet. The buzzard flies away. Mickey dives under the scorer’s table, and the old men open up with their shotguns.

Later, the buzzard comes back, with friends, and they dine on Rattlers for most of the night.

Forces of Nature Equal the Masses times Acerbic Opinion

Have you ever been angry at the wind? I have. I was out for a bike ride, or maybe I was trying to get somewhere on my bike, or maybe I was lost or something. I just remember at one point making a turn into a strong headwind, and finding it frustrating, and actually jerking my front wheel up and down a few times in anger.

I was young, full of hormones, took everything personally, et cetera. It’s silly, of course, to be angry at the wind. To think that the wind was blowing just to slow me down, just to keep me from my destination, to sap my enjoyment.

Been feeling that way about the internet, lately. And by “lately,” I mean for a long time now. So many vicious people on the internet, writing awful things about, well, everything. And while such viciousness is not necessarily a core definition of what the internet is, the ubiquity of it is almost too readily accepted by all.

I just read an article about how wrong it was for Shailene Woodley to wear Vibrams to a Golden Globes after party. I’m not sure if the writer was being serious or not, or purposefully hyperbolic as a kind of sardonic parody of other fashion criticism. Doesn’t matter, though, because the comments that followed where obviously not written tongue-in-cheek. Back and forth they went, calling the shoes ugly, calling anyone who didn’t recognize how good they were for you stupid, calling people who like wearing them sheep, calling people who called them sheep idiots, and so on.

I have friends who tell me I’m an idiot for reading internet comments at all. But I’m looking for more than one opinion. If I read an article about, say, Newt Gingrich’s equating food-stamps with laziness with African-American culture, I don’t trust that the article told me the whole story. So I read the comments to see if anyone can give me more information. It’s like an instant fact-check. I know I come to stories like that pre-biased, I know I’m the choir being preached to, and I want to make sure, at least, I’m not being fed dogma-food.

But instead of getting a different perspective, I end up with a brick-ton of mean-spirited perspectives. And I find it frustrating. I find myself wanting to make my own pithy comments to put all those jerk-holes in check. I want to say something brilliant and to the point, so that they’d all be forced to reply “Oh my goodness, I was a fool, you are so very right. Thank you for humbling me.”

I might as well shout at the wind for blowing. I need to remember that, for the most part, anonymity is a force of nature, and I can’t take personally anything said by someone I don’t know. (Not even if an anonymous person is directing his or her comments at me, personally.) Without being able to contextualize what’s being said with the personality of the speaker, comments like that are just a lot of hot wind.

What I really need to do is stop reading the comments on anything that’s ultimately just an opinion piece. Hoping for a fact-check on regular reporting is fine. I was an idiot to think I’d find anything useful or good in the commentary on article about footwear of the star of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

Assumption– review on Goodreads

AssumptionAssumption by Percival Everett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Assumption is three short stories featuring the same setting and characters, and the ending of the third story casts enough of a shadow over the main character as to make you rethink what happened in the first two stories. This last feature, I guess, is what makes this a novel. If you like. Or just call it three stories. Or look to the title and realize Percival Everett is messing with you.

Percival Everett likes to mess with you. Go read Erasure, or American Desert. I normally don’t approve of that kind of extra-textual criticism, but I’ll be honest, Assumption left me scratching my head. So I’m looking at Everett’s other characters to try and figure out what’s going on. He likes to write about Invisible Men (the Ellison kind) and while I apologize for lumping together two writers who are both black, I can at least tell you that for Everett it’s not just a matter of race. It might be a matter of class, or profession, or even location. And race, too. People who are pigeonholed just as soon as they’re regarded, and everything they do contextualized by that label.

For what it’s worth, Thomas Berger does that too in the aptly titled Being Invisible, but in Assumption, the main character does not, in the end, play to type. It’s an abrupt revelation, and like I said, it forces the reader to reconsider everything that’s been read up to that point.

And it’s told in Everett’s easy style. The prose is plain, almost sparse, and it flows without any apparent effort, matching Assumption‘s setting in the New Mexico countryside and the (alleged) simple way of life out there. This, too, is part of Everett’s oeuvre, these tales told in a place we city folk would call out in the middle of nowhere. Horses and pick-up trucks, shotguns and rattlesnakes. What westerns would be if no one bothered to label books with genres at all.

The thing is, I read a book by Percival Everett by random chance a long time ago, and since then I’ve been hooked. As soon as I saw Assumption on the shelves, I picked it up without question. And once again he’s satisfied. I’d like to encourage you to read Assumption, but I’m only doing so because I think you should try all of what Everett’s written. Even if you’re not into any kind of meta-textual analysis, I think you’ll enjoy his stuff.

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We Accidentally Found a Trillion Dollars

fiction by Jason Edwards

We knew it was going to be expensive but once we came up with the idea we knew we had to do it. We started by collecting DNA from John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Out of all of them, who do you think was the toughest to dig up? Turns out it was Ringo, who’s got some pretty weird fans. We had back-up samples of DNA taken from museum artifacts, which were easy enough to get a hold of. But Ringo’s DNA was always too damaged, which is not an indictment of his lifestyle, just the truth about the way DNA decays on various objects. And digging him up proved very difficult, in large part because of a cult that sits at his grave side twenty-four seven. But we managed to trick them abandoning the place for a day, by infiltrating their organization, getting into their upper-level management, adjusting a few of their corporate tax holdings, and announcing a fake tribute concert half-way around the globe. They all went in protest, leaving behind what they thought were loyal members to guard the grave. But it was us, and we got the DNA samples we needed, and then some. In fact, we took a whole foot. We had planned on taking a hand, but then it was pointed out that Ringo was a drummer, and his hands were probably the most important– and thus worshiped– part of his body. Also, we deduced that the DNA in Ringo’s hand might be too damaged, itself, owing to all the blisters he regularly got in the recording studio. So we left the hands, and took a foot. However, even this caused some controversy amongst us, as the foot is itself used for the hi-hat pedal and the bass pedal. We argued for hours, with some of us insisting it didn’t matter, since he was going to be buried again and no one would be the wiser, and still others suggesting that this cult could one day, conceivably, dig up Ringo’s body and find the foot missing. Of course they’d never trace it back to us. Indeed, if our plans came to fruition, one of the side effects would the dissolution of this cult altogether (a minor side effect, and not a guaranteed one, but highly probable, and accounting for only about thirty or forty lines of code in our prediction engine). But if things did not go as predicted, there was a chance this cult could dig up Ringo, find the foot missing, assume it had something to do with something spiritual, lop off their own feet, and embark on a globe-sweeping journey to remove the bass-pedal track from every Beatles record, tape, cd, and mp3 in existence. We had at least 15 chaos mathematicians working with us that that time, and they all agreed (!) that since nothing can be predicted with 100% accuracy, the only sure thing was that things would go exactly as we thought they would, which had an exact 0% chance of happening. So, in the end, we decided to take the foot, and leave behind a fake. Several of us volunteered to sacrifice their own foot for the fake, and that’s when we realized our group had been infiltrated by members of the Ringo Graveside cult, who had joined us to avoid a schism which was burgeoning thanks to some members wanting to dig the poor man up. Other did not want him to be dug up, but recognized that there might be other organizations that did want to dig him up. The ones in the cult who wanted to dig up Ringo put forward the idea to infiltrate our group, ostensibly to stop us from digging him up, but really to partake in the exhumation. A careful check of our minutes from the graveside event show that these were the same people who had argued vehemently against taking one of his hands, but were just as vehement about taking one of his feet and leaving a decoy in its place. Turns out the cult members who wanted to create a pro-exhumation faction had themselves suffered a schism, with one side wanting to dig up Ringo, and the other side wanting to swap one of his body parts for their own. But they couldn’t decide who’s body part amongst them should be swapped, so they decided to let fate determine it, by infiltrating our group and volunteering for the foot swap. Why not a hand swap? They all had identity tattoos on their hands– three, actually: one from the grave side protection cult, one from the dig-him-up faction, and one from the body-part-swap schism. We asked them why they used tattoos on their hands to identify themselves, and they said it was to avoid anyone sneaking into their cult. When we pointed out that we had snuck into their cult, they pointed out that they had allowed us to do so to support the factionalism and the schism. We felt very stupid at the point. But we got the DNA, and that was what was important.

The rest was cloning the Beatles, cloning the audience at their Ed Sullivan show performance, and raising the clones in environments identical to what they’d each grown up in, then setting up a reenactment of the show. It went pretty well. We got the whole thing on video, but this time in color. Worth it.

The Meaning of Night- review on Goodreads

The Meaning of NightThe Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to read The Meaning of Night via the recommendation of a friend, someone I respect but would not have guessed liked this sort of thing. Which just goes to show you how shallow I am. The guy’s a Harvard MBA, and yet I would not have picked a modern novel set in and written in the style of mid-nineteenth century England. And on that same tack, I would not have otherwise chosen this book to read on my own. That I earned a degree in English only goes to show you nothing can be taken for granted; I just don’t much care for books of that era. They’re readable, in their way, but usually drawn out and dull. If there’s going to be several chapters in a row of people sitting in gardens worrying about how someone’s whispering will sully their name, I need the prose style to be a little bit better than readable. At least chuck in a murder or something.

Which is where Michael Cox is an improvement, in my opinion, on the books he’s emulating. He starts us off, first sentence, with a murder, and then spends the rest of the book justifying the murder. And it’s not what you think. I used the word “justify,” but truth be told, there’s no justice in it, and the narrator is well aware of this. As anguish goes, this murder’s got more for a reader to sink his or her teeth into than the anguish of wondering if Miss so-and-so is going to marry beneath her station

Folks who like bibliographical novels (I abuse the term) such as Shadow of the Wind and Ex Libris will enjoy a tale steeped in book love– and I do mean “book,” not just stories and literature, but paper and cardboard and leather. I tend to read into things too much, and I couldn’t help identifying with the narrator, the murder he commits, in that I read this book on an e-reader and so confounded pretty much everything the narrator held dear. Which is as much a note to myself as it is fit for this review, so forgive me this additional digression.

I mentioned “readable” prose stlyes, and Cox’s writing is exactly that. Nothing too scintillating or evocative here. I don’t know if he could have written this otherwise, however, in as much as the book is very immersive, and dazzling the reader with a brilliant prose style might have been a little too removed from the heart of the text. So it sounds like I am making excuses, but I’d like to give credit to author for sticking true to the voice of the middle nineteenth century.

There were bits of the novel I could do without, and I’m sort of ambivalent towards any explanation that these, too, were true to late Victorian novels. Dream sequences, opium-induced and otherwise, which are always so tiresome, in my opinion. Can’t stand them, really, but at least they were few and far between, and not overlong. Maybe Cox hid some symbols in there, but at least he didn’t hinge the plot on them, some sort of “aha!” moment that helps solve the mystery.

Because this does read, in parts, like a mystery novel, with the narrator chasing down clues, conducting interviews, and finding secrets hidden in the tombs. This is also, as I said, one of those “great expectations” type novels, borrowing the phrase from Dickens to name stories about humble, hard-working young men brought into a higher station in life to see what they can accomplish. It’s also partly a romance, which I could have otherwise done without, except this time the romance does hinge the plot, so I muddled through.

And it’s also, as befits the murder at the beginning, a revenge novel, and while I don’t want to give anything away, I can at least tell you I was glancing down at the page numbers every once in a while, knowing the narrator needed to get on with it, wondering when he would, and then, desperately, wondering if he would. He was a bit of a Hamlet in that sense, and, again, don’t know if Cox meant it to be so, but I was on pins and needles through certain passages.

My understanding is that Cox took a long time to compile notes and outlines for The Meaning of Night, and only under the influence of disease-fighting drugs did he get a sudden burst of energy and finish the darn thing off. There are some parts where intrigue is high, only to have it all explained away at the end, which makes me wonder how much if this was “invented” as he wrote and how much was planned. But I’m going to give Cox the benefit of the doubt again, and let it be explained that he was emulating the serial novels of the time, drawing things out as much as he could and then stitching them up at the end to the best of his abilities. After all, who reads a novel just for the plot?

Then again, when the first sentence describes a murder, sometimes, that’s plot is the only reason to read it. And so, finally, this is why I’m rounding the 3.5 stars down to 3. But really, this is a 7 out of 10.

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Buzzard Beater

Well, crap, I’ve lost control. I got my days mixed up. Here I am, trying to get a fresh start on this blogging thing, trying to find my rhythm, and already I’m a mess. I’m posting things days late and back-dating them, posting them out of order. Chaos. Why bother. Ask Camus. I’m going to write a story tomorrow and call the main character Kamiss.

I posted a slam-style poem yesterday, thinking today was the day for one of those newspaper-column type posts. But now here I am doing more of a personal whinging kind of thing. I tried, I really did, I went to Huffington post to see if there was something there that might inspire me. Just a bunch of nonsense about Mitt Romney, and then I scrolled to an article about Olivia Munn getting naked for a PETA ad. Yeesh.

But I will prevail! I have not plated WoW in months! I’ve been flossing my teeth every day and doing crunches on the exercise ball! Today, I was only supposed to do 8 pull-ups, and I did NINE. Do you hear me? I will smell what the Rock is cooking!

I swear to god I’m not drunk right now as I write this. But I did have a LOT of fried chicken for dinner. Text for a future tweet: “I have a love-hate relationship with fried chicken. I love to eat it, and I hate when it’s all gone.” Folks can steal that one, use it for anything they like. I don’t mind.

Okay, sorry about this horrible blog folks, folks. And by “folks” I mean the two of you who read my claptrap. I’m going to write-me-up a cheat sheet and a post it and stick it on my monitor. And I’ll try to get some things written in advance. And drink lots of water, because we all know what that fried chicken’s doing to my innards. Meanwhile, here’s a random picture of a bird.

We Are We Are, Apethetic

faux-slam by Jason Edwards

I know this girl named Anne. Her last name is Alice. And Ann Alice’s analysis of our present political situation is that there’s too much consternation over the alleged conflagration from the perturbation of right versus left, paciderm v. mule, old fart versus fool, shit versus stool, tool versus mess, the eight years of republican theft and our third year running now of what little hope we have, bereft of choice cause the freedom of choosing’s bruising anyone cruising to a school of thinking that if we’re all sinking it’s because the boat’s floating on the bloated corpses of corporation-floor killing. Miss Ann is no misanthrope, knows we no longer linger in an Eden of cooperation, a nation as guided by Kardashian flashing as the cash passing haphazardly and ever faster between slick-suited bastards richer for bitching at politicians itching to get re-elected at the cost of respect from the incorrect left. Miss Alice strokes her toes in the sand and understands better than any woman or man we stopped living in Wonderland in a time long long ago and so far far away you might as well say it was all a load of fiction from the start anyway. Ann Alice insists she doesn’t know much about politics except it’s full of Dicks and Chaneys chained to their rage and claiming we need to hate a man just because he loves another man, or hate a woman who’s a lesbian, or hate woman who’s forced to get an abortion, or a family that needs to go on welfare again, hate all of them, while at the same time it’s no crime for a corporation to drop a dime and steal a man’s pension, perfectly fine to ship his job to another land. Ann knows all of this. But that’s not the point, she says. You’re the point, she says. You point and you rail and say we need to raise hell but if there’s a devil in madness why do you all stay sane? Complacency’s not laziness it’s just a tight leash on craziness and you can make fun of the 99 sittin in streets slapping white-boy beats on drums paid for from sheets of sleeping with the enemy from new-born wail to age twenty three, but Alice told me she doesn’t see your op-ed pieces and your talk-radio pleadings doing anything except singing to choirs themselves made of liars carrying hymnals where every song’s the same: the other’s side’s to blame. Your masters are baiting you and creating pollution masked as solutions but there’s no execution in the excruciating sameness of every-day hollering at white collared bothering while retro kids eat collard greens cause it’s ironic and not because it’s the only thing. And don’t bother asking Ann Alice to ponder a preferred course of action, there’s no satisfaction in traction if the hill you end up climbing still sublime with the slime of just another set of elites replete with the sod of the defeated on their cleats, no matter what message they’re bleating. Short of retreating, Ann Alice’s analysis of the present political situation is that we’re shit out of luck, because we can either keep beating our feet on streets of stupidity, or just not give a fuck.

A Publishing Glut

Rife With TyposBeen meaning to get some of these “published” over at Rife With Typos for a while now, from last year… I got lazy around July or so, and while I did write a few things, I entered a heavy meh stage. I don’t know of meh is a Yiddish word, but I bet they got a word for it.

Then there’s the daily stories I’ve been writing over at 750words.com. This, you see, is the examined life, for I examined mine and determined that I’d been wasting too much time with mindless internet surfing and meme chasing. The new trivia, memes, and being up-to-date on the latest just means I haven’t been doing anything remotely productive. For crying out loud, I’m 40, and I know where “Jelly?” comes from. (And no, damnit, I’m not hyperlinking that.) The point is, I figure if I write at least 750 words every day, that’s better than the nuthin’ I was doin’ before.

So here’s the fruit of other labors. I’m not saying this is any better, in the long run, for the world, than me just sitting there clicking on pictures of cats. But if you want ‘em, come and get em.

Gratuitous Violence (1741 words) is a silly dialogue written with no regard to factual history, contains some 24 footnotes, and is on the subject of predestination. Sort of.

One Vagina in Particular (2068 words) was written for no other reason than the last sentence.

The Fattest Zombie in the World (1802 words) is yet another zombie story (I’m trying to write enough to get a whole book of ‘em together) and is almost nearly in a more traditional vein than my usual zombie nonsense.

On the Day of My Mother’s Funeral I Woke Up a Changed Man (3368 words) is written with no apologies or even regard for Franz Kafka, and didn’t get put up on the website sooner because it’s so darn (for me) long (that’s what she said!).

Max is a Total Retard (663 words) was written back in 2004, an “assignment” from a little writing club we were trying to get started. I don’t recall what the assignment was.

The Way of the Hummingbird (951 words) was written in 2006 and I don’t know why I wrote it, but it’s got a stinger at the end, where I get all sanctimonious on your ass.

And the following ten were written one on each day this year, in more or less one sitting, and with no real purpose in mind. If you want, send me an email and I’ll print them in booklet form and you can give it to your friends and they will say “Gosh, I never met anyone before who really does know an actual megalomaniacal lunatic.”

Being Mila Kunis (posted on this blog January 1st) | Fate for Dummies | Death by Laundry | Suicide Note | The Most Important Person in the Restaurant | Lester Waiting (posted on this blog January 7th) | Your Name Was Albert | Step On A Crack | Twins | There Is No I in Assume


Goldfinger- review on Goodreads

GoldfingerGoldfinger by Ian Fleming

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Took me a long time to get through this, much much longer than needed. You decide if that’s good or bad– I was able to put it down for long periods of time, but always able to come back to it. All things considered, a pretty straight-forward read.

This is the only Fleming I’ve read, so I can’t compare this one with other Bond novels. I can compare it with the films, I suppose, though I’ve never seen the film version of Goldfinger (although I have seen A View to a Kill, which was based on Goldfinger). To say the book Bond is different from the film Bond is a huge understatement. The book Bond goes in for the finer things, cars, wines, delicacies, exotic women. But otherwise he’s nowhere near as slick. Full of doubt, not nearly as cocksure and confident. Less of a McGyver, and not at all equipped with cool gadgets.

The book includes unabashed sexism, which we might claim to see in the films. But the racism is almost reason to not read the book at all. Other than that, the plot itself is simply ridiculous. And Bond doesn’t really do much at all except follow Goldfinger around Europe. There are a few “spy” scenes with the sneaking around and the intel-gathering, but they’re meager– or, at least, not at all what I expected. Sort of boring, really, which is the opposite of what spy-work should be, in my opinion.

That said, I’m sure Fleming fans are just as satisfied with Godlfinger as they are with other Bond novels. This is not a book that’s going to change one’s status as a reader or non-reader of Ian Fleming. I only started it myself because I wanted to write a spy novel myself and I felt I should look at the archetype. Turns out what I wanted to write was the book version of the movie versions, not the original books themselves. Lesson learned.

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