Tuesday, August 03, 2004

found: Arrival

This afternoon I found someone's manuscript scattered along the alley behind my apartment building. A few dozen pages lay on the ground, having peeled off from a ream of paper sticking out of a dumpster. The first one I noticed also happened to be the first page of the first chapter, engagingly titled "Arrival". After scanning the text I decided against collecting the rest of the manuscript, but I did pick up the first page and bring it home. Here it is.

Our hero came from over a hill in the east, just a small shadow rimmed in golden sunlight. The wind howled in his face and dust devils danced to and fro, blowing gritty, orange sand all about and whipping countless tumbleweeds across the vast desert floor. The old motorbike he pushed looked beaten and broken, the tires worn almost flat to the rims and the paint all but faded to a sickly rust-color. On the side of the tank the weathered imprint of an old insignia could be seen; beside it, a faded eagle-motif. The eagle was screaming, it's talons stretched out in front as if it were about to slice into the side of it's prey (sics on all the "it's").

Okay, that's our first paragraph. What have we gathered so far? The author certainly hasn't wasted time identifying the protagonist: some heroic biker with a (presumably) broken bike. Given the amount of space the author's devoting to the bike, I'm wondering if the damn thing isn't more important than the hero. Let's see: one sentence there with the hero as the subject, three sentences with multiple clauses fixated on the bike. We also know that the eagle depicted on the tank is highly unusual, in that it doesn't grab its prey with its talons so much as come in from the side and give the unsuspecting prey (gopher, rabbit, &c.) a good gash to the flank. Plus it screams on approach, which is counterproductive. When you consider that this hero is pushing a broken-looking bike through a windy desert with an endless supply of tumbleweeds and he doesn't even get more than one sentence, it's not surprising that he be represented by a screaming ill-angled eagle. Oh, we also find out that he's from the east, which always spells Christ-figure in big buzzing neon to me. Onward:

The machine matched his sandy brown leather jacket, it's left pocket bulging conspicuously where that huge revolver was holstered. How many long, lonely miles had the bike carried the man, and how many lives had the big gun ended so violently? He'd lost the answers to both questions many miles ago.

We know from the first paragraph that the bike figures prominently in the story, but it appears that the bike also has a left pocket with a "huge revolver/big gun" in it. I'd keep it in a holster on my body and not in a pocket on my motorcycle, but I'm not a hero with a jacket so cool it deserves three adjectives. The more I read this story, the more I'm thinking that it's a Western-biker Nutcracker Suite or Velveteen Rabbit, with bikes and jackets and huge revolvers/big guns as characters. Maybe the bike wants to be a real horse. Maybe the jacket wants some mink oil. Maybe the huge revolver/big gun wants to get holstered in a holster instead of a pocket. Let's see if the next paragraph tells us.

He doggedly rolled it across the desert clinging to a vague thread of hope that he would soon meet someone with the knowledge and parts to make it run again. But he hadn't seen a soul in almost three months.

What? Three months? No wonder the author's taken so long to focus on the main character. It's embarrassing, holding up some three-month's-lost loser as the hero of your piece. On the other hand, I have to hand it to the guy for his tenacity. And his jacket, which was probably stitched with threads that were not vague at all, but very specific.

He stopped on the hard shoulder and pegged up the bike. He untied the old drawstring satchel from the front. From that he pulled a silver thermos with a screw top. Inside were the few remaining drops of water he had so carefully rationed; they were minimal and unquenching, but they'd last him another day or so. The man tipped up his hat and let the few measly, unsatisfying beads land on his tongue. It would have to do.

If there were one lesson to be drawn from this paragraph, it's that water sucks. Minimal, unquenching, measly, unsatisying beads that will just have to do, that's what water is. We also learn that the hero has been pushing the bike along a road, and that he enjoys pegging his bike. Pegging is defined as the act of sodomy with a strap-on dildo. So even if the bike wanted to become a real horse it wouldn't make much difference. Also of interest: silver thermoses with screw tops may, under the correct circumstances, turn into hats.

His dark, upturned face baked in the ever-smiling sunlight. His dry, cracking leathery skin still ached from the wind storm the night before. He just shuddered to think about it Thinking about it made him shudder. The Great Desert was famous for it's horrendous tornados of dust and suffocating heat, and he'd narrowly escaped with his life,

Page two was not readily available. But how do you think that interrupted sentence ends? My best guesses:

futilely shooting his big gun at a furious tornado and wasting his precious deadly bullets.

desperately pegging his battered, weathered bike in a fond final farewell to the cruel world, only to find that the vicious killer storm had luckily passed him by.

doing everything possible except turning around and not bothering to cross the Great Desert in the first place, because with a name like that you pretty much know what to expect.

building himself a shelter out of adjectives and taking shelter inside from the whirling, screaming, suffocating, choking, inconsiderate tornado outside that almost seemed to wait for him personally for three harrowing scary days.

Tomorrow I'm going to see if the second page is hanging around somewhere. In the meantime I invite your best guesses on the ending of the last sentence.


Anonymous said...

Hey palinode, it's ajcornelius aka Miss A. Here's my take:

The Great Desert was famous for it's horrendous tornados of dust and suffocating heat, and he'd narrowly escaped with his life, wanly clinging to his old motorbike and burying his leathery brown face into his trusted jacket, much as he had buried his face in the snowy white bosom of the girl he had left behind just three treacherous months prior, how many times had he caressed her generous mounds and how many times had she promised to fix his bike? The answer was lost on him now, violently sucked into the raging orange tunnel behind him, now seemingly bulging with sand and malevolence.

luvabeans said...

... narrowly escaped with his life, by resuming his true, cactile form, which had come in so handy not only because as a cactus, Protagonist Motocowboy could avoid getting treacherous, invasive, bastard sand in his innocent-yet-worldly, young-yet-aged eyes, but also because, as a dry, untouchable, durable cactus, Protagonist Motocowboy could easily survive three long, lonely months on his stringent three-sucky-beads-per-diem (or so) water ration.

Protagonist Motocowboy then said, just to warm up the vocal chords which had slept so dormantly within his parched and aching throat for nigh on three moons, or thereabouts, "First the Great Desert, then Big Sur!" Overhearing this arrogant and uncharacteristically optimistic proclamation, Big Gun replied "Ain't no Sur big enough for the both of us."

Protagonist Motocowboy contemplated apologizing to Big Gun, who had been his only companion since the unfortunate demise of his motorbike (Tan Leather Jacket not being much of a talker), but decided against it, knowing full well it would just result in yet another petty, bickering, power struggle. Protagonist Cowboy took a deep, rattling breath, and continued on his sojourn.

palinode said...

Big talking guns and generous mounds... it's not much of a stretch to turn that one page into some polymorphous perversion. I wish I knew the author. Or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

... narrowly escaped with his life, unlike the previous dust storm that he had dodged by rolling down a sand dune only to discover he'd left his life behind in the arms of a strong-limbed tumbleweed, forcing him to plunge back into the squealing teeth of the sand devil to retrieve his life, which was now as tattered and distressed as his leather coat and as vaguely threaded as his sense of direction.

Anonymous said...

Because I know you're all reading that previous posting and thinking, "Wow, that's so clever and funny, I wonder who wrote it!" -- it was me, Helvetica.

palinode said...

So far you've all submitted better conclusions than I could have come up with.

Helvetica: although the phrase "squealing teeth" is my favourite misapplied metaphor so far, I would like to see more pointless adjectives and adverbs. What about that sand dune he rolled down? Is it not a lucky, steep, fortuitously placed and perhaps even sandy sand dune? What colour is it? Orange? Yellow? Leather-jacket tan? Sand colour? Also, I would bet that his life is not only tattered and distressed - it is also precious and tenacious.

Luva: Big Sur has become a summer hideout for the nouveau riche. Our hero, Big Gun, and Broke Bike would never find welcome there. In fact, Big Gun would probably end lives so violently there. From now on, let us mourn Broke Bike and pay more attention to Big Gun.

Fraulein A: Damn, a girlfriend with generous mounds and motorcycle repair skills. Why did he ditch her and head out into the Great Desert? Maybe he thought it was the Great Dessert.

Anonymous said...

Schmutzie says: So strange. I found a manuscript as well today. It was entitled "Alternative Bob" by a guy named Bob. I also found a photograph in a city bus stop shelter that was taken of the inside of a long distance, between cities bus. *And* I also found a paper-dry, flattened gopher. He looked like he had been pressed between the pages of a book.

luvabeans said...

i'm laughing so hard that i'm crying. tears of water. watery water. and laughter of laughy laughs. um. and, schmutzie? you should check out http://foundmagazine.com/ because you always seem to be finding stuff.

Friday said...

I'm a little late, but here's my contribution. Feel free to use it, much reviled and anonymous author:

The Great Desert was famous for it's horrendous tornados of dust and suffocating heat, and he'd narrowly escaped with his life, his achey breaky life. I just don't think you understand. A little known fact: The Great Desert is also famous for it's sauteed, hotter-than-the-smiling-sun, light tan beef hoggies. Come to think of it, his trusty, rusty Eaglette (for that is what he called his bepegged sidekick) has been known to make a mean, lean beef burger on the rare occasion that he places juicy, red squiggles of raw, pocket-warm meat onto the shuddering, steamy engine block. Man, he could taste that rust-coloured engine burger right now. That, and a pint of cruel, oh-so-fruitless-why-don't-you-just-kill-me-now-and-get-it-over-with-vengefull-desert-god juice of our life-force [water ;)].

palinode said...

That's the first time that anyone's mentioned our hero's nutritional needs. Even heroes gotta eat. I had assumed that he was slowly consuming his jacket.

Anonymous said...

Helvetica here! Descriptors aside for a moment, I noticed in your writeup/stats page at the bottom there's a chart with the category Team Members. You have none. Does this sadden you?

palinode said...

Team members? Ooh... ugh... crappy sports/business speak invading my weblog. Not saddened but sickened.