Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flared Up

Looks like I nearly missed my own Guest Post over at Pygmy Giant.

If you hurry, you can almost miss it too...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Pre-Morph Squisheroo

Several half-formed blog posts currently lollop at my feet like larvae. Their thin skins glisten like pearls as they wiggle on the tiled floor below me with the squeak of rubber gloves dragged over glass.

None are sufficiently developed to spread their wings or do that weird bobbidy-bobbidy thing with their antennae and it would be wrong of me to take snaps of their embryonic nudity — particularly on a Tuesday. I know pregnant mothers go on to keep the scans of the babies in their wombs (in fact, the woman across the road has had hers blown up and framed*) but I’m no pregnant mother.

* over her front door

So until the chitin has formed around their blubbery exteriors, I’ve chosen to sit lightly upon the largest and squeeze a little juice out of the spiracles.

It isn’t proper blogging, I know, but it beats recycling an old post. There’s quite a gurgle to it when I wiggle my bum around, and a line of miniature prismatic fountains ebbs and flows from their sides as I bounce up and down.

I’m tempted to press on and squeeze this one flat as a cr√™pe , but whatever these fluids are, they would almost certainly be followed by bona fide innards — assuming I didn’t pop the thing first.

So maybe I’d better dismount and change my trousers...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Astral Travels As My Hair Unravels

According to my Time Line of Inevitable Rot and Decay, by now I should be sprouting tufts of hair from each ear sufficient to repopulate the barren scalp of a Rooney, a John, or an “of Cambridge”.

Quite why appendages aurodynamically designed to guide sound waves down funnels to the brain suddenly invite upon themselves these swathes of fluff at the exact same time the mechanisms of the inner ear begin to falter, I have no idea — I didn’t make up any of the rules governing evolution, genetics or the need to repeat things over and over to people with twinned rugs strapped to the sides of their heads.

Me? I’m just the Single Wispy Ear Hair Guy. I don’t tend to flag this up by wearing either a monogrammed T shirt or name badge, but that’s nonetheless who I am.

Most of the time it’s almost impossible to distinguish my ears from those of a new-born baby. All that softness, that freshness, you’ve never known before: that’s the loving touch of my folliculoure.

Catch me later on in the hair cycle and, if you look very closely, you’ll see a tiny filament sprouting from the cusp of my lobe like an invisible miniature piglet had become stuck inside my lughole looking for truffles, leaving only its coily tail exposed to the atmosphere.

If it weren’t for Girly of Whirly and her miracle tweezers, there’s every possibility I might forget about it completely — for months, years, decades — only to discover it trailing along behind me like a pulled thread on a Shakespearean arras.

Later today, she’ll lay me down on the Plucking Couch — probably between peeling the potatoes for tea and incinerating some hapless door-to-door salesman with the ferocity of her dragon breath — and gently prise my near-invisible strand of hair from me till the Plucking Suite echoes with a microwave-style ping.

Maybe I should collect them all and mount them, or knot them into a small winter hat for the Whirl Towers Blackbird. After all, people have framed their navel hair and hung pictures from coiled toenails before (I remember: there was a pull-out supplement once with the News of the World).

Over the course of five or ten years, maybe I’d have enough fine silvery hairs for a pair of false eyelashes or a moth brush.

I could weave a rope so the homonculus inside my head could get out and use the toilet from time to time.

Hmmm, not sure.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Heat

In the absence of Evil Editor’s writing exercises, I find myself making up titles for books and then trying to write them. What kind of a waste of time is that?

To stimulate the squirty bits of my creativity glands, I’ve signed up to an Indie Ink writing challenge. The idea is a simple one: lots of writers swap ideas for stories with each other then go away and write them. Everyone has a different prompt, which means that when all the stories are written, no-one has to trawl through 101 versions of My Favourite Dog or The Day I Contracted Vaginal Herpes.*

* or The Day I Contracted Vaginal Herpes From My Favourite Dog...
My partner on this fledgling escapade is Brad MacDonald, whose rendering of my suggestion of “The Glistening Arc” appears here.

Me? I got...

c/o dishwaterdreams

July is here in England again, and with it, a sub-zero Alaskan chill to freeze toads fast inside their ponds and flocks of birds onto horizons like they’d been nailed there.

I walk to the pump house in my tri-layer whale blubber boiler suit with the gait of a female wrestler with fat thighs, cursing myself for sleeping through winter. Every February, I’m charged with painstakingly setting the temperature for the coming summer’s bloom, guided in my hundredths of a degree calibrations by insider information about the proposed swanky hot pant designs from Jean Paul Gaultier— only this year, I messed up, and now look at the place! There are almost as many icicles dangling from branches as curious whiskers poking round corners on the Planet of Cats. As for the snow, I expect the citizens of some distant Tundra world are already filing a complaint for climate theft.

The temperature valve is much as I left it last September, poised to usher in Icelandic dust clouds and a frosty reception for news about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s extra-marital shenanigans. Its mechanism is stuck fast with a combination of ice and rust and it’s clear I’m going to need some help. Summer is for dying of skin cancer, not hypothermia, and if I don’t get this valve fixed, people will start to complain.

I poke my head out of the pump house door and whistle for Dexter, my cartoon badger accomplice. When I got the job as temperature guy, I requested something exotic like a dragon or a humungous spider, but the God of Literary Tropes said no. Personally, I think there must have been a job lot of badgers left over from The Wind In The Willows. Either that, or Dexter is one of A. A. Milne’s editing casualties, cut from Pooh’s adventures to make way for Eeyore.

Whatever the truth of his factotumic existence, Dexter emerges from under a pile of newspapers by the hedge and stomps across the snow with a couple of Rafael Nadal signature model tennis racquets strapped to his back feet. It’s a perfect strategy for a cartoon badger able to walk on two legs, but since Dexter is a quadruped-style cartoon badger, his front legs slip about all over the place like the snow had been sprayed with engine oil, and he struggles not to skeeter headlong into the hedge.

He squares up to me in his workman’s cap and pyjamas. “Is it the pump again, boss?”

I sigh, recalling the washout summer of 1991. “Indeed. Fetch the tools.”

Dexter looks back at me disapprovingly, as if to say, “whaaaaaat? You beckon me over here through this wasteland of frost only to send me back again? If you knew there was a problem with the pump why didn’t you call me over with my tools and save me the trip?” I’m so glad Dexter isn’t a cartoon badger telepath.

Suitably tooled up, we toil together for half an hour, the heat of our labour stemming the combined frostbite count to a single toe (which Dexter snaps from my foot and tosses into the Let’s Make A Golem bin), but in spite of our efforts, nothing shifts the last scales of rust from the valve — not even the Coldplay CD we hung on a scarecrow several summers ago to strike terror into the hearts of marauding starlings.

I set down my dual wield machete and pickaxe combo, resigned to glance back over my shoulder to the pump house’s shadows — shadows in which lurks the mightiest weapon ever to threaten to blight the cosmos: the pan-Galacticaar Uber Super Whopper Plasma “Destroy All” (tm) Mega Ultra Cannon. Had I not won it in a Help The Aged tombola, no doubt some intergalactic despot would have destroyed the universe with it by now.

Dexter’s badgery eyebrows prick up, snagging on cobwebs overhead. “You realise merely thinking of pressing the ON switch on that thing could risk fracturing the time-space continuum?”

I grin. “As we’re already two goes in on that count sans evident Armageddon, what say we plug her in?”

With odds like these, my accomplice needs no persuading: he clearly wants to go back to bed whatever the cost, one hundred and ten per cent.

I stand the galaxy-destroying artifact against my Black & Decker workmate to peruse its vast array of knobs and dials while Dexter zig zags erratically back toward the house, unravelling the flex.

“I’m about a foot away from the socket in the kitchen,” calls Dexter. “Can you move the cannon a little my way?”

The flex tugs, whipping a line of snow into the air from the frozen lawn outside. “Technically, yes — but then the nozzle will be too far away from the pump to wreak the precise kind of havoc upon it we require.”

Neither of us requested background Conundrum Music, but it nonetheless sounds from a hollow in a tree trunk between us as if cued by a wicked minor deity with a penchant for irony.

Dexter grins uneasily. “We could always argue it was never destined to be a ‘barbecue summer’...”

“Or we could grab the extension lead from the scullery.”

It’s a Eureka moment on a par with the day I stopped using meringues as paperweights — only problem is, I followed up said brainwave with a subsequent flash of brilliance which saw off all ten of my extension leads in a charity bunjee jump.

Dexter grins uneasily once again, his demeanour morphing from perplexed badger to manically enthusiastic chewed rat. “Maybe if we switch the cannon to STANDBY we could eke out a bit of warmth...”

I nod, flipping back the dial from Total Destruction Of All Known Things Past Present And Future, through Oceans Boil But Selected Androids And Reptiles Survive and on past Your Granny May Fall Ill For A Week With A Stomach Bug But Don’t Hold Out Too Much Hope For That Pet Guinea Pig till the light next to the nozzle dims to a pale amber.

I’m expecting lightning bolts or arcs of pure inferno hellfire to come bursting from the cannon’s nozzle, but instead, a gold-coloured liquid drips from a hidden funnel, and unfolds slowly across the snow like a drizzle of honey, revealing green sprays of grass steam cloud by steam cloud. Butterflies flitter from its undulating gloop, the beat of their wings prompting flowers to erupt from the snow-laden hedgerow and blue streaks to race across the sky. Before we know it, there’s some idiot in Hawaiian shorts on a pushbike chasing a girl in a bikini and a dozen Morris Men snorting the pollen-fuelled snot of their allergies into handkerchiefs as gnats buzz about their hats and bells.

Dexter glances at his newspaper bed. “Shall I break out the sun loungers?”

I reply with a nod of my head that shakes nary half a pint of sweat from my tanned brow. “The loungers, the sound system — and The Beach Boys...

Monday, July 4, 2011

On The Couch With Sock Monkey — And Kiersten White

SM: Whaaaat? Where’s Big Nose?

KW: Is that a metaphor? Or are we being literal? Am I supposed to analyze the question? Or are you just supposed to analyze the answer? So, if I answer in a cosmic sense, like, “Where are any of us, really?” will that make me a better patient than if I answer in a very literal sense, like, “Buying a new package of socks to replace you should you displease me,”? Because I want to establish something right now. I don’t wear socks. Ever. So whatever psychological pull you might have on Big Nose because of subconscious associations with comfort and warmth don’t exist here.

SM: Okay, forget my regular client. You’re clearly where the Couch Dollars are at...

KW: I think we should set some boundaries. First of all, you’re my therapist, not my shrink. Heaven knows I can’t afford to lose any inches off my height. Second of all, only I am allowed to make short jokes.

SM: Fine. As long as I can play my soothing dolphin medley CD you can make as many short jokes as you like — though it would help if you didn’t insist on kneeling. Why not recline? On my couch? It’s 100% vinyl.

KW: I’m not kneeling, I’m practicing yoga. I’ve heard it is great for relaxing, so I’m determined to become THE BEST RELAXER EVER and practice in every free moment I have. Ever. So far I’m not feeling very relaxed.

SM: Despite the flip flops? Maybe we should skip the dolphins and move straight on to the Beluga...

KW: Vetoed. Bad lullaby associations. Aren’t you supposed to be asking me questions? Other than about my footwear choice? Or are you analyzing my choice of flip-flops and deciding that it indicates I’m clearly hostile to you (and all socks) and therefore an uncooperative patient so you’re just eating up the time before you can move on to some sap who adores your wooly, sweat-inducing constriction? I was right about this from the very beginning, wasn’t I. You just want patients who secretly worship you or at the very least see you as a necessity. How long have you had this raging inferiority complex?

SM: (ahem) In my own modest way I was merely seeking to address your relaxation issues without recourse to an aromatherapy massage sponge glued to a road drill. What’s wrong with whales anyhow? Were you raised by a cabal of aquatic shibboleths? As an overly worshipped simian with a raging inferiority complex who you’ve nonetheless burst in to see without an appointment, I’d be giddily intrigued to find out.

KW: I’m curious about your need to bring other animals into this session. Isn’t one enough? Do we really have to run the full scale of mammalian life? Because whale trumps monkey in pretty much every aspect other than opposable thumbs, and you don’t have a corner on the market in that one. Actually, you, being made of socks, don’t have opposable thumbs at all. Do you secretly wish you were a sock whale, instead, because then your glaring lack of prestidigitation skills would be camouflaged by your impressive girth?

SM: Whale trumps monkey? What kind of Scissors Paper Stone logic is that? If you'd ever scuba dived off the coast of Costa Rica with a dozen of your psychoanalyst monkey guru pals, you'd know what havoc a bunch of primates can wreak on even the fiercest of humpbacks — and that's on their home soil, lady. As for my lack of opposable thumbs, blame Son of Whirl. He tore one of my arms off! Anyhow — what are you here for?

KW: Scissors Paper Stone? What kind of games do you play?? Everyone knows it’s called Rock Paper Scissors. But honestly? I had no idea this was supposed to be therapy. I just wanted to show off my flip-flop tanline. If I’d known you were a package deal with the tootsie pictures, I’d never have shown up in the first place. If I want to be analyzed, I’ll just read my own books and be horrified by my massive, massive issues being played out in print for an international audience. But, since I’m here, how about a game of Rock Paper Scissors, or the updated version, Monkey Whale Parasite. Oh, I forgot—you just have the one hand. I’m off then. These sandal tanlines don’t make themselves, you know. Until next time!

For those of you who don’t already know, Kiersten White is the NYT bestselling author of the Paranormalcy book series whose hair is almost as silky smooth as the skin on her feet. Her uncannily brilliant blog, Kiersten Writes, can be found here (so be good, and follow both links).