This new Current Story is called Join the Chorus. I was somewhat startled, when I had it out for comment, to hear that it was full of Christian imagery– this is probably a result of having grown up in a country which has a majority of its population derived from European immigrants (or at least had– I think they’re still the biggest group, even if they no longer outnumber all others put together), and certainly wasn’t the intention. Possibly, since this wasn’t a universal response from the readers, those who made the comment were acting upon their own programming.
While I’m professing my secular inclinations, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Fountain Pen Day. May the first Friday in November find you with ink in your pen and a song in your heart!
Tomorrow being what it is, I have a small bit of more or less seasonal whimsy to offer for the new Current Story. We hear a lot of fatigue with one sub-genre of Horror or another; The Inconvenient Weekend of the Dead is my response to my own manifestation along those lines.
No, I promise I’m not doing any fan fiction on this site. At least, not Star Trek fan fiction. There’s plenty of that in the world.
The new Current Story was prompted by my brother mentioning Chekhov’s old maxim at just the right moment, when some valves of my imagination were properly set. Thus, after a certain amount of effort, I arrive at The Third Act, which if we stretch a little can be wedged into the horror genre– you certainly would not want to be in the protagonist’s shoes.
This is the sort of thing I more usually do in my other, non-fiction, existence, and indeed did do not too long ago when I commented about how much we can infer about the inward state of people from their outward appearance… if they’re dressed like freaks who can’t get hep to the times.
If I were a very superstitious person, I’m make a connection between that post and a recent terrifying manifestation in my driveway. It is “terrifying manifestation” which makes this post grist for the mill of this particular blog, of course, since that’s what I’m all about over here. Anyway, imagine my alarm at suddenly discovering this:
You will have to continue imagining my alarm, though, as I’m the one who put it there. Another stage of the downsizing of my parents is the banishing of this beauty from the garage in which it has been avoiding the notice of the Norns since about 1994. It was bought about seven years before that, from the original owner, who did very little driving with it herself. Actually… I should have said “the original owner’s widow”. It’s one of those deals.
It is, undeniably, an elegant object from what some would call a more civilized age. I got to drive it from the shop where it was rendered capable of locomotion after its decades on blocks (the original (!) tires were replaced last spring) to my house, where it was slightly better off on my driveway than parked on a curb while my brother made room in his garage. I had driven it a few times before its long dormancy, so this was a return to my salad days.
As the plate indicates, it’s a 1961 model, making it a half-decade older than me, and almost a half-century older than the vehicle I currently get about in. This little plate inside the engine compartment gives an excellent feeling for the state of the world at the time of its creation:
The interior is as plush as you could like too. It still smells of leather conditioners that haven’t been used on the upholstery since it came into the family. It is comfy, and the ride is smooth.
It scares the living crap out of me. It disillusions me, in fact, on the subject of vintage cars and their purported charms. It’s not just the entire lack of seatbelts, although the sensation of drifting along the seat when passing through a mild curve is disconcerting enough. I am, after my years of writing with vintage pens and cooking in vintage pots and wearing clothes that are at least reminiscent of vintage fashions, used to the idea of stewardship. The stuff I have is mine for but the current moment, to be handed on to future generations in as functional a state as I can manage (socks excluded– there’s some ephemera in every life).
Driving this car, with its manual choke and its stupid/clever transmission, with a cutting-edge-in-1961 vacuum-operated clutch that engages when you take hold of the gear selector, requires all four limbs and both tails. The steering is not powered, of course, and neither are the brakes. The former is only an issue at low speeds, but the latter is a big one. We are used to linear rewards for braking effort in our modern cars, with the amount of deceleration linked to the amount of pressure on the pedal. In this car, most of the brake’s travel is merely to get the tail-lights to warn people that you’re about to do something. Actual braking only begins as your foot nearly gets to the floor, and then there’s about five millimeters of travel between sort of slowing and just about locked. While working the transmission and keeping the choke happy so you don’t stall.
Stewardship. I don’t want to get into an accident in a new car. In one this old, with 18,850 miles on the odometer, it would feel like a war crime. Every moment of driving is like carrying a baby while walking on stilts through the wreckage of a roller-skate factory. I can’t imagine having it as a constant companion. I’m very glad that it’s in its new enclosure, and I’m sort of delighted that my father is entertaining a couple of offers he’s had on it. We’re not the right care-takers for it. That return to the salad days I mentioned came with a realization; I wasn’t scared driving this thing in the late 1980s because I was a kid out in daddy’s car, or at least not entirely. I was appropriately terrified by a terrifying activity.
I’m frankly amazed at how many people encumber themselves with old cars like this. I’m even more amazed that humanity as a whole got through to the point where cars were so accommodating that people could entertain the notion of texting behind the wheel– deeply stupid, selfish people, of course, but there’s no way you could do anything but drive a car like this and there’s still a huge window of disastrous possibility available. An end to civilization through pile-up seems as narrowly avoided as the nuclear exchange that didn’t quite top off the Cuban Missile Crisis when this car was only a year old. I may choose to adopt some aspects of the past into my life, but in automotives I’ll stick to the now.
I love you, old car, but I can’t stand to be with you.
I don’t really have a good genesis to share in the introductory blurb for the new Current Story. As is so often the case, “where do your ideas come from?” is no more than a koan to induce despair in the writer’s heart, and this is particularly the case for “Wish Away” because I really have no idea where it sprang from. I suppose if I wanted a clearer notion, I’d contact a psychologist.
I know most people get headaches now and again, but I’m one of those lucky folks who enjoy the migraine. The fact that mine are brief and not too severe, as these things go, is balanced out by the fact that once it’s running there’s no medication that helps. I have a friend who says of these events, “Oh, yeah, all I can do is go to bed and sleep through it,” to which I boggle– you can sleep through these things?
That’s the inspiration for the new Current Story, “Migraine“. Write what you know, yes?
The new Current Story is “Old 237“, which has its seeds in my son’s nearly life-long fascination with Thomas the Tank Engine (he wasn’t really hooked until he was two). I don’t think, though, that anyone will confuse it with one of Reverend Awdry’s charming little tales.
This exercise should not be as intimidating as I’m letting it be. I have, after all, been keeping a blog long enough to run out of original thoughts.
Wait. That may not be the right tone. Pressing onward!
This is a somewhat different prospect than my long-standing effort to increase the amount of stream-of-consciousness nonsense cluttering up the servers of the world. This is an effort to present myself as an author, someone who doesn’t just tip words out of his head, but who puts some time and effort into lining up what pitches out of that hole in his head, arranging it into pleasing, amusing, and even possibly-effective shapes.
Since the aforementioned running-out, I’ve been keeping the followers of my thoughts on the strange and arresting world of fountain pens and other outdated concepts up to date on my efforts to create short stories. I have also, a couple of times, mentioned submitting these stories to publishers. Thus far, no success, and I am informed that a part of my failure to impress is that I don’t already have a presence as an author in the world. There is that blog, which is as fine an un-revised heap of mis-spelled words and poorly-braced sentences as one could hope to find. It’s not, for want of a better word, polished. There’s also the informational website I keep and intermittently add to, but that’s non-fiction (mostly).
A very little of my writing, the fun, carefully-handled fictional stuff I actually dignify with that term, has shown up on that earlier blog, placed as an penance offering to the followers there (I am mindful of your patience, folks). That same material is, initially, what will show up here. This is by way of priming the pump– once I have this thing’s engine running smoothly, the original material will start to flow. Expect fresh things to appear by the end of this week, in fact.
Before presenting any of that writing, I’ll add an admission familiar to followers of my other blog: I am terrible at self-promotion. The quivering mentioned above is not just from the prospect of dragging my tender tales out into the searing light of public scrutiny, but at the audacity of hoping people might actually pay to look at them. Not just “some people”, the nebulous personification of editors and a greater reading public, but actual, discrete people– I’ve gone and set myself up on Patreon, hoping that some small bonuses for becoming a patron will move folks who enjoy the kind of writing I do to encourage me to keep at it. If you’re that kind of people, pop on down that link. The very least you will get out of it is an expression of gratitude.
Enough of that, though. You’re not here for this, you’re here for stories. The current story is “The Notes of Erich Zann,” which I chose as the inaugural entry here for a couple of reasons. First, it is very nearly a fan-fiction, to the point that I wouldn’t think of submitting it to any publisher who wasn’t specifically calling for works picking up where something H.P. Lovecraft had done left off. Second, it’s relatively big, and if I’m not putting something brand new out to test this new forum of mine, I should at least offer something meaty.
You will also find a few things in The Back Files, a few previously submitted or presented objects to keep it from being a yawning void while this enterprise if getting up to steam. Because I do want to get off to a bang, “The Notes of Erich Zann” will be rotating into The Back Files in about a week, and a story never publicly presented before will take over the place of prominence.
I hope you’re as excited as I am, if not quite as nervous.