I’m Late, But As Of The Last Time I Checked, I Remain 100% Non-Rabbit

February 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yes, I know the title of this blog is Published Just in Time and not Published Whenever The Hell I Feel Like It, but sometimes, when the stars are right, those two are the same thing.

In any case, Week 7: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

This book is one of those rare books that have poetry woven into the everyday ho-hum work of writing. Just reading him describe a mountain, a mountain which has no significance to the plot other than being beautiful to you and the protagonist, makes me sigh. Not only will it take me a long time to get that good, it’s also not the style I seem to be developing. I really enjoy the poetry of his words, but I don’t think it’s a style that I’m going to develop without a lot of specific, and directed, effort.

I.E. – copying.

Now, let it not be said that I am against copying styles. There’s nothing about a style you can trademark, and so long as you stay away from copying it to a “T” (obviously I am against plagiarism. And Plantagenets), and it helps you grow yourself as a writer. I’m going to post something that I wrote on a whim. It’s what I call a story seed, something that itself is not a complete story (or even close to it), but something that could grow into one.

Before you read it, know that I was re-reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the same time as I was writing this bit down.

1.

Henry McAllister was a perfectly normal man. He was sort of tall, his hair was sort of brown, and he was sort of manly. He had an apartment that he shared with a roommate, a potted plant that he did his best to try and kill through inattention, and a perfectly respectable job as lead researcher as MoroDyne Biotechnical Conglomerate. He liked to refer to himself as a “scientist”, although what with the biomedical field these days, he spent most of his time writing grant proposals and answering emails.

He liked to think that writing grants was a worthwhile exercise despite the fact that history had proven him wrong repeatedly. See, that was the problem with science as it is today, and especially science as it is at MoroDyne Biotechnical Conglomerate. The costs associated with creating the sorts of products that made MoroDyne a leader in the field of Anaerobic Cow-pasture Management and Isotechnicromin-7b production (that lovely smelly compound in most air fresheners that is one free radical away from being banned by the Geneva Convention) meant that significant grants and investment were required in order to even contemplate beginning new research projects, which in turn meant that significant grant proposals and investor coddling were required.

Henry, as a lead researcher without any projects that were actually being researched, much less needing to be lead, was often charged with writing and overseeing those grant proposals. MoroDyne believed strongly in efficiency in all aspects of their business. For example, seeing as grants and investments were pulling in far more money than all their actual laboratory work combined, the marketing, advertising, and grant-writing departments were expanded at the cost of research, development, and manufacturing. Currently, all products manufactured under the “MoroDyne” label were actually made by other biotechnical companies, for the lowest bid, and amusingly, many of which also produced compounds that were banned under the Geneva Convention. The only person still employed by the Manufacturing division of MoroDyne was Miguel Hernandez, the janitor responsible for keeping the vast and empty factories clean. In keeping with MoroDyne’s principles of efficiency, much of the responsibilities involved in Manufacturing devolved to him, meaning he was President, Vice-President, Vice-Chancellor, Factotum, and Grand Vizier of Manufacturing, in addition to his responsibilities as Sanitation Engineer.

Miguel loved his job.

Henry, however, did not. In keeping with his perfectly normal veneer, he had to have the mid-life crisis that was inevitable amongst all Ph. D recipients in Biomedical Pharmatoxicology; namely, that they hate their jobs. Professors have the excuse that they have to deal with the lowest form of life day in and day out, namely, Ph. D students, while professionals in the business side of Pharmatoxicology often have the excuse that they simply aren’t making enough money. Life can be hard when you could only afford three BM’s, while all the folks from Marketing had a different car for every day. And how they gossiped!

Henry could not afford even one sports car. Instead, due to budget cutbacks, he could only afford a mostly-shiny car that was certainly not as old as he was (thirty-eight and counting). It was, however, damn close. He had spent a weekend with his friend and lab-mate, David Linwood, putting seat-belts inside the Car, as he referred to it. It ran well enough, despite the fact that instead of airbags it contained an emergency coal boiler and smelled suspiciously of cabbage.

He sat in said car, in his parking spot, at the beginning of yet another drab Monday morning. It was always drab at 6:30 AM in Toronto, but it was the kind of drab that Monday reserves for the start of a particularly bad week. “Oh ho,” it says, “and I’m preempting Wild House Hunters tonight for a Parliamentary debate that no-one’s going to watch!” Sometimes, Monday felt bad about itself. But then it remembered who and what it was, and it decided to rain on Henry’s car.

“God damn it.” Henry said. It was his Monday morning prayer. “God damn it all, Henry McAllister. You’re nearing the half-way point of your life and you’ve got nothing to show for it but a crappy car and a dead-end job pretending to be a scientist.” The Car grumbled in sympathy. And then the bumper fell off.

Henry rolled his eyes and stepped out of the car, duct-tape in hand. “Just my damn luck,” he moaned, as he tried to figure out how the corroded iron melded together, “and when I’m already late!”

Miguel honked his horn as he rolled by in his new, lemon-yellow Ferrari Roadster. Henry waved and tried to re-attach Car’s bumper. Miguel rolled to a halt.

“Mr. McAllister, can I help you with that?” Miguel’s beard was perfectly trimmed and his Prada sunglasses cost more than Henry’s rent, but he was never anything but earnest.

“Sure, Miguel. The damn thing keeps falling off whenever, well, anything happens to it.”

Miguel was wearing his best crocodile-skin shoes, his fancy Tissot Bridgeport watch, and his stained and worn janitorial overalls. He hefted the bumper and took the duct tape from Henry.

“You go on, Mr. McAllister. I’ve got a meeting with the President, but he can wait five minutes. The Grand Vizier is a bit of a vaca but he will wait if I tell him so.”

Henry was wearing his best Shoe Warehouse shoes, his fancy Timex watch with a Velcro strap, and his least-rumpled grey suit, checked his watch.

“Oh, that would be grand, Miguel. I’m late as it is. But you don’t have to do that!”

“Is no problem, Mr. McAllister,” Miguel said in his smooth baritone as he lit a cubano, “my uncle taught me how to work with cars when I was a boy. Call it a favour from me.”

Henry ran off, his briefcase flapping about behind him. “Thanks a million, Miguel! I owe you!”

As Henry disappeared into the shiny glass building that was MoroDyne Biotechnical’s home office, Miguel stared at the bumper in his hands and the back of the car. There was a perfectly good bumper-shaped hole in the back of Car, and the bumper he held in his hands was 99% duct tape. He shook it and a small rain of iron dust fell out, thus purifying the duct tape. Shrugging, Miguel ordered the Vice-President to sing Somos Novios while he got the Factotum to re-attach the bumper. The rain, of course, had stopped once Miguel stepped out of his car.

He always had been a lucky boy.

2.

Henry dashed into Laboratory B-2, barely clearing the door while he got his lab coat on.

“Did I miss it? Am I late?” He asked, breathlessly.

David was hunched over the mice cages, his attention absorbed by the scurrying of little rodent feet.

“You just missed Plinko.”

“Damn it!” Henry swore. The Price is Right played on a small TV, and it was just Henry’s luck to miss Plinko, which aside from Cliff Hangers, was the best that show offered. Henry collapsed at his desk to sulk. And mentally bid on the lovely travel set they were offering to the next contestant.

“How was your weekend, Dave?” Henry asked.

“It was good.” David responded, and looked over to Henry. If Henry was a normal man, David was so close to normal that most people just gave him a pass. On the great Test of Life, he got a 49 and the kindly Prof in the Sky just decided to bell-curve it a little for him. He was too tall and kind of gangly, but too fat to be properly gangly. When he ran, he looked like an Orangutan that forgot they were supposed to waddle. His eyes were big and watery, but neither big enough to be cute nor small enough to be completely nonthreatening. Genetics had given him stellar cheekbones and a startling intelligence, but also every sort of depression under the sun. He was prescribed Xanax, Vicodin, Ritalin, Chlorophyll, Viagra, Clorox, Anthrax, and Chili Pepper, which he dutifully filled every weekend at the pharmacy. However, knowing that his depression was so deep as to be untreatable, he dutifully chucked the medicine in the nearest bin on the way out. The local birds might be born with a second set of wings instead of legs, and every second pigeon might have had a third eye, but they were the most mentally well-adjusted avian population in the world. David would have been proud, if he could feel pride.

Am I copying Richard Adams? I wouldn’t say so, but I wouldn’t have even considered that style without his influence. This doesn’t bother me, but it’s always worth pointing out. If I want to sound like Guy Gavriel Kay, I need to write like Guy Gavriel Kay. And while it’s easy to say that I’ll neverbehim, I also don’t want to be mistaken for him. That would just be awkward.

Sorry for the short, rambling post, but I’m half-dead and all-tired. Check again at the same John-Time, same John-Channel for some (hopefully) more coherent material.

 

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