Archive for May, 2009

Storytime: A Sword and its Story.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I’m not very good with math. My own, pet theory on this is that people start by learning to count on their fingers, and I don’t have any. Regardless, I’m not any good with dates sort of by association, and thus you’re going to have to forgive me some vagueness.

I was initially forged back in the Good Old Days, when killing was up close and personal – unless you were some persnickity little fuck with a longbow; luckily, they weren’t everywhere yet.

My creator, a thorough and passionate admirer of this stirring feature of his time, proclaimed me his masterwork, and gifted me to his lord in lieu of rent, or tribute, or whatever they called it in those days. His Lordship (I think his name was something that started with “s”… Stewart? Sven? Sam?) was highly pleased with me, but, clumsy-though-well-muscled sod that he was, managed to snap me in two with a misaimed practice stroke that smashed me into a wall. Livid, he flung me at my creator’s feet and proclaimed him a worthless toady, then forced him to pay double.

My creator, though a remarkably skilled and cunning man, was quite human (thank goodness I’m not like that) and took this hurt as a matter of pride. He promptly took himself into seclusion for several months, turning away all business, during which time he re-forged me in a cauldron of boiling blood obtained from his brother-in-law (he was a butcher and sold him some cattle blood. What were you thinking?).

When I came out, gleaming fresh and bloody, he used me to sacrifice a lamb to something with far too many consonants in its name and declared me alive, at which point I woke up quite suddenly. Very shocking, really. You people get a nice slow start to sentience, transforming from screaming feces machines to illogical, self-centred brats to semi-logical, self-centred jerks gradually over many years. I got a fully developed and working intellect in a split second, with a handful of memories from being a metallic implement. It shocked me dreadfully, and I’m very thankful for the many weeks I spent hidden away in a locked trunk in my creator’s cabin. It gave me some time to sort things out: a few tricky existential questions that most people don’t think about when they’re young and never recall when they’re old, and many, many, many hours of elaborate speculation upon the nature of knots in pine wood, and on what sort of noises cockroaches made depending upon their relevant health (my hypothesis on limping roaches hissing more was never confirmed or debunked to my satisfaction).

Anyways, after quite a long period of trunkishness, I was unearthed by my creator and used once more as tribute to the lord. My creator explained, with a twinkle in his marvellously canny little eyes, that I had been specially re-forged to be tougher so that none of his Lordship’s little high-spirited moments would split or sunder me. Being the oaf his Lordship was, he proceeded to test this by ramming me into the floor. I was the most surprised person there when I not only didn’t snap, but clove almost full-length into it (through a stone block, might I add).

Needless to say, his Lordship was most impressed. My creator was given full room and board in his castle, a dingy little thing that was nevertheless the height of luxury compared to his squalid shack. He moved on to smithing many intricate and clever things, like torture implements and other weapons. I was never possessive towards him or jealous about them; they were mere instruments with no minds of their own. It would be like a human becoming envious of a beloved’s dog. Also, my creator had virtually no redeeming values, something I was aware of from the start. He was greedy, petty, vengeful, and unappreciative of his own gifts. I was incapable by design of many of those flaws, but I was determined to avoid those that I could.

His Lordship eventually used me in actual battle, an exhilarating experience for him and me both. My incredible cutting edge allowed him to stand against almost anyone, and I must admit, there is something seriously thrilling about being the only reason an otherwise average schlup is capable of performing any of his deeds. He himself didn’t see it that way, of course, but he still boasted long and loud of his “miraculous magic sword.” Of course, it was only a matter of a few more weeks before a hired cutthroat performed the duty of his name upon his Lordship whilst he slept and absconded with me, which was pretty much what my creator had planned for in the first place. I never heard of him again, but I like to imagine that he died in a painful and undignified manner, which, given the era, was probably betting with the odds.

The cutthroat gave me to another petty tyrant (possibly a baron?) who’d decided that one of his immediate underlings possessing an undefeatable blade was poor planning. He promptly paid the cutthroat by lodging me in his chest cavity. I’m not sure why he didn’t expect that.

My new wielder was a far craftier man, one who reminded me uncomfortably of my creator, only of higher birth. Being crafty, he wasn’t dumb enough to fight anyone unless he absolutely had to, which meant that I didn’t see use past ending the life of my burglar for several years. Than one day one of my wielder’s rivals set the peasants to rebelling, using the cunning argument that his unjust rule was preferable to my wielder’s capricious regime. My wielder’s guards were swarmed on the ramparts by angered peasants, and I was soon being used inside the keep’s walls in a truly exciting melee. It was magnificently entertaining after such a lengthy period of boredom, and I daresay I was the deciding factor in the baron’s victory, allowing him to smite down brawny foes and those better-skilled than he with ease. He was so pleased by his snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat that he promptly led a counterattack against his rival’s keep, which sadly doomed him to, well, doom. He’d forgotten in the heat of the moment that his nemesis had sent only a few of his henchmen out to whip up the mobs, and that he still possessed a sizable stable of thugs as opposed to the baron’s scanty and much-depleted band of brutes. I still performed more-than-adequately, but the baron, alas, did not. I can’t say I mourned him that much; he’d been an odiously boring schemer and then a hot-headed fool, exchanging one vice for another in a most silly and carefree manner. I believed I might’ve had something to do with it, but I didn’t care at all. Still don’t.

Well, after that things got sort of hectic. I moved from hand to hand like the world’s most temperature-enhanced potato, my speed of ownership-changing hastened by greased palms. The preferred grease was blood. Most of my owners were unmemorable, violent scum, and by the time I realized that the amount of fascination I commanded couldn’t simply be the result of my more-than-impressive capabilities, I was quite happy to learn that I cursed almost all of my carriers to violent deaths. Quite frankly, the sort of person who seeks out an object of pure violence and then revels in using it for its intended purpose should scarcely be surprised when he dies violently, don’t you agree?
Now and then, given the fullness and abundant lengthiness of time, I ended up being used by someone halfway decent. I couldn’t really prevent my curse from functioning, however, and more than often I didn’t want to. Most of the nicer ones weren’t as prone to using me, which I must admit I found quite annoying. Being picked up by some maniacal hacker was almost refreshing after spending a year or two hanging on a wall. The most egregious example led to a truly startling revelation on my part.

My current wielder was a truly bloodthirsty man, a skilled combatant, a warlord on the rise, who had the bad luck to try to charge a man with a longbow. Guess who won that one. I was looted from the battlefield and spent a few months being traded, sold, and resold, with occasional murderous theft, before ending up in a monastery under the possession of the abbot, a renowned scholar. I was placed back into wall-hanger status for twelve years, during which time I was meticulously scrutinized by the man so many times that to this day the very sight of anyone with any of his facial features (beaky nose, square jaw), makes me feel ill.

The one blessing out of the whole incident was that it gave me a very long time to think, and even that was offset by the depressing truth that there wasn’t much for me to think on. I don’t have existential questions. For me, it all boils down to “I’m a sword.” I was made to hurt people, I do my best to keep my function going, and the fact that I inevitably lead violence to my owner is a mere side-dish on the dinner-for-one table arrangement of my existence.

At any rate, I found myself witness to all the comings and goings of the monastery’s important business, due to my wall-hanging position within the abbot’s chambers. Quite a lot of this business was done through the abbot’s right-hand man (his name eludes me, as does that of the abbot), who was much more savvy in real-world matters, although he wasn’t as well-educated. He was whole-heartedly devoted to the well-being of the monastery, but he held a very small spark of resentment quite close to his soul, that he, the man who held the place together as much as its mortar, was put beneath the man who was at best a vague overseer, and who, despite the best efforts of his advisor, would occasionally ignore his advice.

One day, this overlooked and underappreciated man was leaving the abbot to his contemplations after a somewhat fruitless attempt at persuading him to take a certain diplomatic tack. As he walked beneath my place of hangment, I could almost smell the pent-up frustration and anger streaming off him (I have no nose, but you will, of course, allow me figures of speech). In what seemed the most simple and natural thing in the world to do, I reached and suddenly he realized that all of his problems would be solved if he simply became abbot. Then the monastery would be led properly. He shook off this disturbing turn of thoughts immediately, of course, but it remained in his head as he departed.

I was left with spinning thoughts of my own. No longer would I have to suffer through months or years of inactivity! Now I would control my own fate, wielding my owner as he did me, choosing the next in line for my use! The exclamation points of triumph roiled through the paragraphs of my imagined future in an epic of joy!

From then on, every visit planted seeds of annoyance, peevishness, and general furiousness in his head at the tremendous ineffectuality of his superior. Eventually, I had him musing that the only method of promotion sure to work would be murder. But how to murder a fit and tough man, certainly stronger than he was? He knew little of poisoning, and hiring cutthroats would leave a trail. Of course, immediately after that he couldn’t help but remember the marvellous antique sword mounted upon the abbot’s wall, upon which the man himself had frequently and earnestly expounded, lingering upon its incredible cutting capabilities…

It was a bit messier than he thought it’d be, and he was caught trying to clean up after himself. I’d planned that too… a lack of turmoil meant I was doomed to wallhangingdom. I was used to hack through the nearby witnesses (a moment of mental nudging was required there), and then I was in the possession of a newly-minted and aged-soul’d outlaw, where I remained for several exciting years of hack-and-slash robbery before he committed suicide for me, a new and bothersome event. Luckily, he had the good grace to kill himself within snooping distance of a fairly well-traveled road (he was a highwayman, after all), and so I only had to endure a few days of being stuck through the ribcage of a rapidly-putrefying corpse.

The owners came on, and the times moved on. Once gunpowder weapons began to really proliferate, I began to change wielders much more frequently, an event that was not without risk. On the other hand, the black powder of death wasn’t the only step forwards… I began to see more and more of the world as humanity became more well-travelled, and some of it even before the metallic sceptre of the gun overshadowed all; I saw the crusades firsthand, for instance, and flipped from side to side almost every battle.

I made it to the new world at the side of a conquistador, and eventually found myself slipped between the ribs of Montezuma the second, although as to who my wielder was I will remain silent. What’s the romance of history worth when all its secrets are laid bare?

I ended up in the Caribbean, and was used with admirable effect by someone named something like Edmond (Edwin?) Torch, one of the few of my owners I deign to even attempt to remember properly, for, despite his vulgar vices, he was exceedingly deadly. He died headless, and I was claimed by a British sailor in the confusion after his death. This led to a somewhat perilous existence for many decades, being used by naval men of all nationalities and stripes, constantly in fear of being lost overboard, a fate which very nearly occurred more than once.

Eventually I came to the great wars of Europe, and I found a world that had left me behind quite badly. Guns were everywhere, but there was still a place for me in the brutality of close-up combat, where still nothing could match a good cutting edge, and my cutting edge made “good” appear as dull as the louts I was slicing. It was interesting for me to find, as the lead-spitting dragons gained prominence, that here was the time in which I acquired the greatest body count, this special era before the utter predominance of the ranged weapon, when the ability to carve your enemy’s face off was still more than merely useful in some situations. Several times I came within spitting (well, sighting anyways) distance of Napoleon himself, on various sides. Despite the enormous pileups of corpses that were frequent, I never was left on a body long enough to be missed – even if no one’s eye was caught and dragged to me (as often happened, and easily), I would snag their interest by force.

The times moved on, and the wars did too, going ever-farther away from the age of the blade. I saw some action in colonial Africa, but alas, that was the last of the big battles for me. There was no place for me in the War To End All Wars, nor its hate-fuelled successor, and at last I saw that the guns had won. What did I do then, you ask? Why, the obvious: crime! As I was no longer the weapon of choice for official slaughter, I would humble myself enough to engage in outside-the-box stabbing. Although somewhat archaic-looking compared to the switchblades and shivs of the modern thug, my effect was unquestionable. The only major downside was that I was immeasurably harder to conceal – a two-and-a-half-foot blade as opposed to a five-or-six-inch one. In retrospect, my eventual confiscation by the authorities seems inevitable, but at the time I was too busy cursing my luck to think about that.

I was taken to several different experts of medieval arms, who were able to date me and half-guess at my place of origin (I think they were correct, but I’d forgotten both by then). After all this, I was hauled off to a museum, where I remain to this day. The ultimate wall-hanging.

The security around here is too intense for me to try and tempt any passer-bys to taking me, and those who could disable the alarms and remove me without incident too rarely pass by. I’ve been here for twenty years or more, and it may be my fate forever.

The time of swords is over. There is no place for me now except as a wallhanging, and while I used to dread that fate, it is what is expected of me now, and so I accept it gladly. This situation is by no means permanent, anyways. I hear bits and pieces of the world as it walks by my display case, and who knows? In ten years, twenty years, thirty years, a hundred years, there could be a time when the blade will be needed once more. Whether because the black powder dragons have had their day and died in the pyres of a fading civilization, or because one of the old horrors you no longer believe has awoken from a great sleep.

Oh? You don’t know of them? Ha! You’ll believe in a sword with a mind of its own, but not in dragons, trolls, giants? Don’t be so devastatingly grounded in the present – it very well could end badly. You can fight fire with fire, blade with blade, gun with gun, and achieve stalemate, but to seize victory you must bring other tools to bear. Fight fire with water, blade with bow, bow with gun… and beast with blade.

I had a place in this world. Now I have another, and likely not the last.

“A sword and its story,” copyright 2008 Jamie Proctor.

Storytime: On the Environment.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Air is funny. It moves around when it’s warmed and it slows down when it’s chilled. This results in all sorts of odd things happening, which most of the things that live on earth, surrounded by air, call “weather.” It includes all sorts of water (frozen solid and kept liquid) falling out of the sky via big clumps of vaporized water hanging about miles up in the air, swooshing and swooping sheets of air frisking about as they sweep from one bit of sky to another, and all manner of other things.

Most things that live on top of the earth spend their lives surrounded by air. Almost all of them need to breathe it to stay alive. It’s quite a bit like water then, except you can’t make snowballs out of it once it’s frozen. Also, the only things that can move around through air itself are the ones that have wings, and it’s a lot trickier to go about than moving through water, mostly because air is much thinner, and if you aren’t careful about flapping through it, you just fall and go thud, thwack, or thunk, depending on what you land on.

A really interesting thing about air is how thin it gets the higher up you go. Things can get dizzy and pass out and need oxygen tanks, and the boiling point of water drops, which makes it very difficult to hard-boil an egg on Mount Everest. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, the thing boiling the egg becomes very annoyed. Imagine if you’d dreamed all your life of having a boiled egg with toast on Mount Everest, but were too lazy to look up the troubles of boiling eggs at high altitudes, and then your dreams were crushed right at their very end. Actually, you’d probably deserve it; if you didn’t care enough to learn about it, it was probably just an idle whim that you obsessed over, most likely irritating everyone around you while identifying you as shallow and thoughtless. Shame on you. Unless you haven’t had this particular dream, in which case said shame is undeserved and may be ignored.

Air can be compressed, you know. You squeeze it until it’s under pressure, and then you can keep it in small containers. The one problem with this is that if the container gets punctured it sort of sprays everywhere very fast, which can be quite dangerous. Air isn’t the only gas that can be compressed, of course. Oxygen is often compressed, for use in scuba gear tanks, but not usually all by itself, for safety reasons. You can use air in a scuba tank too, of course, but if you go too deep you’ll suffer from nitrogen narcosis, act drunk, and possibly die, usually from acting drunk more than one hundred feet underwater, which most things think is fairly stupid.

Anyways, air is awfully important because it forms our planet’s atmosphere, and without that nothing would be alive at all, which would be pretty depressing, to say nothing of boring. There’d still be lots of interesting things around, but there’d be no one to talk about how interesting they are. If that isn’t boring, what is?

Water is like air: a thing to move through, a thing to live in. The things living in air dispute this sometimes. Water, they say, is plainly something, while air is more like nothing. Therefore, they say, when you live in water you’re living in the middle of something, while to live in air you’re living in nothing. What’s interesting is that these things often don’t realize that if they were right, they would be living a most empty and disjointed existence, with no connections whatsoever to one another. It’s thankful that air is something, then, even if it does mean that fish can choke on it. That’s another proof right there: how can you choke on nothing?

Anyways, water is something to live in, and it’s deliciously, fragrantly good at it. It supports and comforts, coddles and nourishes, and is much more exciting to splash around than air, which doesn’t really splosh well, or earth, which can take someone’s eye out. Also, if you live in water, a much more sizeable slice of the planet is open to you – not only is far more of the world water than land, but water has the great advantage of containing far more up-and-down-ish-ness, which makes it even roomier. On the downside of this is that most things prefer to stay within certain areas, but that’s the way life is anyways. It doesn’t like change, even if it spends its life looping from the north pole to the south pole all year. That’s not change, that’s habit.

Things that don’t live in water are pretty varied in how they treat it. Some of them don’t like it for any sort of reason (it makes their fur wet and damp, it’s full of things that think they taste nice, it’s hard to get around), and others like it quite a lot (it’s full of tasty things, it’s good for bathing in, it’s fun to splash at people). A lot of them could take it or leave it. However, they all need it to stay alive, so they all love it very much in at least one way.

Most of the water on the planet is saltwater, or seawater, which isn’t very good to drink, mostly because of its distressing tendency to kill things that try to get nourishment from it. Stick to freshwater. It’s much, much, much rarer, but it doesn’t kill you unless it’s contaminated, or boiling, or freezing, or you’re dropped into it from somewhere very high.

Water has quite a lot of ways to kill things, actually. If it’s too warm, you’re cooked by it, if it’s too cold, you freeze from it, and if it’s too full of things that find you toothsome, you’re eaten in it. That last one isn’t really water’s fault, though.

You can float some things on water, like most wood. Most rocks just sink, though – but not all rocks. Pumice floats in a most buoyantly exuberant manner.

Most of the things that live in the water have to stick to a certain shape, to allow them to move around properly. This happens because water’s much more solid than air, which of course makes most things think it’s nothing, as opposed to water being something. We already went over how silly this was, so I’m not going to do so again.

It’s widely agreed that all life on our planet started out in the water, as tiny little things and bits that lived only to produce more of themselves. That’s sort of like now, except scaled-down a little bit, for things.

Earth is a few things: a kind of soil, the planet we’re standing on, and what we’re going to call the ground, for the sake of simplicity. Actually, that’s just making a word with a complicated bunch of meanings more complicated, so it isn’t simple at all.
If it weren’t for earth, we wouldn’t have anything for water or air to cling to, which would mean we wouldn’t exist. Well, our atoms and molecules would, but they wouldn’t have much to do with us, unless you’ve always fancied yourself to have a strong resemblance to an interstellar dust cloud or asteroid. Most things don’t look like either of those, although there are always exceptions. A snapping turtle has a very bumpy shell that might look a bit like an asteroid to some things.

Nothing breathes earth, which makes it a little different from air or water. On the other hand, plenty of things live in it, and it gives vital nourishment to life, just like air and water. So it’s really pretty similar there.

Earth contains all sorts of interesting things, like metals. A certain kind of thing uses metals to make many objects, particularly ones to kill their fellow things. It’s all a bit strange, but they assure us that there’s a good reason.

One of the odder things about earth is that if you go down far enough, it’s revealed to be sitting on molten rock. It’s divided into huge, crusty, curmudgeonly plates that slide around whacking into one another, like very big and very old bumper cars, except not at all. Most things didn’t believe this at first when someone thought of it, but then they decided it was all right. Some of them still think it’s wrong, but they’re the same ones who think that the planet is only a tiny, tiny fraction of its actual age just because they said so, so we can ignore them. It’s good for us, and good for them too, so everyone comes out ahead if we do that.

Quite a lot of things live inside earth. Many of them have lots of legs, or no legs, or are microscopic. Actually, given the population of things on the planet, you’re unusual if you don’t have a lot of legs, but not nearly as unusual as if you aren’t microscopic. If you didn’t notice this, it’s probably because you aren’t microscopic, since things that aren’t like that have a bit of trouble seeing things that are.

Another important thing about earth is that most plants grow in it. Since plants take the gases things exhale, and turn them back into the gases they inhale, this is pretty important. This is also why chopping down enormous forests of plants is a little silly, because then we won’t have anything to breathe. This is quite related to air, when you think about it. Really, air, earth, and water are so tangled up that it’s amazing, but that’s how the planet works.

An important thing to note about earth is that although it has lots of nifty things in it (like metals and fossil fuels), it doesn’t have endless amounts of them. That would mean we would have an endless supply of earth, which would be quite stupid.

Well, that’s about it. If you thought I was going to put fire in here, you were wrong. The sun’s a big ball of fire that keeps us all alive, and the earth’s core is made of magma, but nothing lives on them, or in them. So it’s not here.

Did you notice how all the bits were connected to each other? It sort of happened that way, and it’s complicated. Sorry.

“On the Environment” copyright 2008, Jamie Proctor.

Storytime: Concert

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

“So, what happened to the finger?”

“GAH! Easy on the poking!”

“I’ve got to figure out where it broke.”

“I thought doctors were supposed to PREVENT pain…”

“Nasty break – and you’re going to need stitches, too. What caused this?”

“It’s sort of complicated. You know that big concert the symphony orchestra was doing tonight?”
“Yeah. You’re one of the musicians, aren’t you.”

“The tuxedo tip you off?”

“A little. Anyways, how’d this happen?”
“Like I said, it’s complicated. You see, everyone was a little tense throughout pretty much every rehearsal, and it kind of came to a head right at the concert.”

“Difficult music?”

“No, no, the music was fine. But the principal trombonist was sleeping with the second violinist’s wife. OW!”

“Sorry, caught me a bit by surprise there. Go on.”

“Jeez… anyways, everyone sort of knew about it – except for Jeff.”

“The violinist?”


“I used to play the violin.”

“Good for you. Anyways, he was really suspicious, but he felt like he needed to be one-hundred-per-cent-sure before calling either of them on it. I have no goddamn idea why, Matt –“

“…the trombonist?”

“Yeah. Matt was practically smirking every time he looked at Jeff, and they kept sniping at each other on and off pretty much whenever they saw each other.”

“Got it. And?”

“Well, there’s always a bit of tension right before a concert, and it sort of mingled with the arguing, and they almost got into a fistfight offstage during intermission. The tuba guy pulled them apart though.”

“My son plays the tuba.”

“Really? This guy doesn’t – he plays harp.”

“Then why did you call him…“

“We all call him that; he’s shaped like one. Anyways –”

“He’s shaped like a tuba player?”
“No, like a tuba. Can I finish this story?”

“Go ahead.”

“Good. Right, well, we got into position, the conductor – Perkins, a terrifying man with a world-ending moustache – came onstage, and then just as he raised his baton, Matt leaned over and sort-of whispered to Jeff – it was loud from clapping, right, so he had to speak up a bit, and the rest of the orchestra sort of had to overhear: “You’re a violinist, all right. You need a lot of little sticky products to get up and running, and you get all high-pitched and whiny at a climax just before you break a string and go flat.” And then he made a pumping gesture with his trombone and said “burn, bitch!””
“My niece plays the trombone.”

“That’s nice. Well, Jeff’s face went from white to red to post-apocalyptic sundown and then he made a sound like a man being neutered in the woman’s washroom and chucked his music sheet at him. It sort of spun sideways, like a shuriken.”

“I had an aunt that used to know ninjitsu.”

“Really? What happened to her?”

“A rival clan sent three of its finest warriors to kill her. She felled them all in honourable combat but was mortally wounded by a clever ninjaken strike just as she dispatched the last of her foes.”

“Ah. You know, you don’t look Japanese.”

“I’m adopted.”

“Ah. Anyways, the music sheet sort of sliced into Matt’s nose and gave him an enormous papercut from cheek to cheek. He fell over backwards and almost decapitated the guy on third French horn with his trombone.”

“My grandfather decapitated a man once.”


“Yes. Or rather, he had him decapitated. He would not listen to his generous business offer and remained stubbornly convinced of his need for financial independence, and so he was offered a separation agreement.”

“Ah. The separation of his head from his body?”

“Grandpapa was a thorough man.”

“Ah. Anyways, the whole hall sort of froze, and then Jeff launched himself at Matt with his bow in one hand and violin in the other. He crossed the stage in two big bounds with a warlike yodel and if the tuba guy hadn’t snatched up Matt’s music stand and blocked his bow-blow, I don’t like to think what would’ve happened to Matt’s face. He was aiming for the nostrils.”

“Spectacularly cruel.”

“Yes. It was pretty unsporting, but then again, so was what Matt had said. Then Jeff smashed his violin into the tuba guy’s head, but he had a pretty thick skull and he just grabbed Jeff in one hand and his instrument in the other, and shoved him right into it.”

“Gracious. That must’ve been hard on the poor harp.”

“What? No, it was a tuba.”

“But you said –”

“No, no, no that was the tuba guy, THIS is the tuba guy. Different people.”

“I… see. Did I mention my son plays the tuba?”

“Yes. Well, Jeff was a pretty well-liked guy in the string section, and they’d been pissed as hell at Matt for acting the way he did, and that was all the excuse they needed to mount a charge. A pretty fearsome sight it was, too – a solid wedge of violins, tipped by a heavy force of cellos, with double bass backup.”

“My cousin used to play the double bass.”

“Good for him. Why’d he stop?”

“He played a song grandpapa didn’t like.”

“Ah. Anyways, I was one of the flutists, and we were sort of caught between the hammer of the onrushing strings and the anvil of the hurriedly fortifying brass god DAMNIT that hurts!”

“Stitches do that. Go on.”

“Well, the woodwinds looked to be in trouble, and I confess, we reacted poorly – not a shred of the discipline of the opposing sections that threatened us. Half of us ducked for cover, the other half tried to form a sort of defensive formation. I was in the formation, and I can tell you, it was no picnic. Ever tried to perform a coordinated life-or-death defence with a three-hundred pound, five-foot-five double bass player bearing down on you at full speed with bass set to ramming position?”
“No, thank goodness.”

“Well, that’s what was coming at me, and I looked down and all I’ve got is this little flute, and so I did the only thing I could.”

“You ran?”

“No, I stepped smartly to one side and let him ram the guy behind me. It was a pity – I always liked Phil – but he was a piss-lousy clarinettist, so no great loss. Besides, I dispatched the fat bastard with my flute while he was trying to shake Phil off his bass.”

“How did you do that?”

“Sharp blow to the forehead. Dropped him like a load of tubby, Twinkie-eating bricks.”

“My mother ate Twinkies.”

“You don’t say. Regardless, when I looked up –”

“And sucked on them, too, as well as putting them down her shirt. They weren’t real ones though; they were props made from gelatine and pre-chewed liquorice. She didn’t really like it, but it was specified in the movie contract, and father wouldn’t let her wriggle out of it; or the leather straps, for that matter. He did, however, allow her to opt out of the clause that stated that scene five had to be performed with a monkey and a big bowl of marijuana jell-o. She said afterwards that it might’ve been better with a monkey and that the jell-o would’ve at least let her pretend she was in a happier world rather than the exhausted hell-life she found herself in on that dastardly shoot. From that day onwards, she cried whenever she saw liquorice, and so I was never allowed in a candy store again. Father’s laughter echoed around the house every Halloween.”

“Ah. Fascinating.”

“Sorry, I do tend to go on. Continue, please.”

“Right. Well. Anyways, I found myself to be in the rubble of the woodwinds. The strings had simply ploughed through us and were even then hurling themselves against the shining metal of the brass section. An ugly business – both sides were evenly matched. I saw a trumpet player fencing with a violist before taking him down with a thrust to the beer gut, only to fall beneath the merciless garrotte of a thin, delicate-fingered cellist called Jim-Bob. The tuba guy was trading dim-witted blows with the tuba guy, and Matt and Jeff were fighting literally tooth and nail. It was madness.”

“It sounds terrifying indeed. Last stitch, then on to splinting.”

“Excellent. Well, old Perkins was hellish mad at seeing his orchestra tearing itself apart, and he banged his baton on his podium and roared for order as loud as he could. One of the oboe players was so panicked that he just threw his music stand at him, like a spear. I never saw anything so eerie in my life as how Perkins handled that; he just sort of swayed his upper torso to one side and caught the thing with one hand, then hurled it straight back at him. It ran him right through.”

“I used to run through malls when I was younger, looking for my friends. They would always hide from me and whisper dark hints as to their location directly into my tiny little prepubescent brain. They always hid in the ladies changeroom, and I always got in trouble when I tried to find them. One time, I had to cut the manager to get away in time. I didn’t mean to do it, but my friends made me. I never found them again, but sometimes I hear them whispering whenever I pick up something with a sharp edge.”

“Ah. Perkins pretty much leapt off his platform and landed in a duelling stance besides three of the violinists and a trumpet player. The man was a whirlwind with that baton; they all just sort of flopped to the ground, screaming in agony at their ruptured nerve pressure points, alive but in really terrible pain.”

“Your conductor reminds me of my uncle Gary. He made a study of human endurance under extreme conditions, with careful hypotheses supported by extravagant amounts of testing. Why, he sent no less than eighteen experimental subjects into a single booby-trapped hallway in order to determine the exact point, down to the decimal, at which a blast of super-intense heat can literally melt flesh from bones, yet preserve the subject’s psyche long enough for them to emit a shriek of spine-shredding pain.”

“Ah, fascinating. Well, Jeff and Matt were on their feet again, though both had lost their instruments and resorted to wrenching off their ties and using them as lasso-nooses, each seeking to strangle the other. They both managed to get one around the other’s neck at the same time, and when they each tried to deliver the killing yank they both were too weak from oxygen loss to manage it. Total stalemate, and the rest of their sections were too busy with their own fights – including Perkins, who, by the way, was indiscriminately laying about with aim to incapacitate.”

“Well, it’s better to rough up the employee that steps out of line than to do away with him entirely. Rule by fear is more effective when you allow second chances. But only second chances – infinity leniency is foolish. Don’t go out of your way to make examples, but if you must, make it a good one. My staff around here smartened right up after they got to work one day and all that was at my secretary’s desk was her fingernails. Good ol’ grandpapa always knows where to find the best guys to get stuff done.”

“Right. Well, the woodwinds sort of got together and decided that we were going to give ol’ Perkins a hand, seeing as he was taking on the sections that had just handed our asses to us on a platter. We charged the strings from behind and just zipped past them and into the brass; it’s much easier to penetrate a heavy defensive line when you’re carrying a piccolo than a cello.”

“I’d imagine so. I think one of my nephews plays the piccolo.”

“Yes, and the lighter instruments are much better for close quarters. I took out the tuba guy and two trombonists without breaking a sweat before I ran into a violinist. That was tougher. He had enough elbow room to use bow and instrument in combination, and he nearly got my eye.”

“Was that how you sustained this injury?”
“Eh? No, no. A French horn player clobbered him from behind, and I got off narrowly. All in all, the brawl was sort of winding down by then, especially since Perkins had reached Matt and Jeff and bashed their heads together several times. Within four minutes, it had ceased entirely.”

“Really? Then how did you get this injury?”
“Thanks for the fix by the way, the splint looks really nice. Well, it’s sort of embarrassing. We were all starting to remove the dead and wounded under Perkin’s direction, and then the audience started to clap. Apparently they thought it was some sort of performance art.”

“This relates to your finger how…?”

“You see, the adrenaline had worn off by now and a lot of us, myself included, were sort of shell-shocked. One little old lady in the front row stood up and started yelling “encore,” and I was so pissed off that she appreciated the hell we just went through that I leaned over the edge of the stage, face to face with her tiny, wrinkly eyeballs, and gave her the finger.”

“This finger?”
“Yes. Do you know that the little hag actually had fanged dentures?”

“What a coincidence, you’ve just perfectly described my great-aunt. You’re lucky all you got was a mangled finger. She simply can’t abide rudeness. I crafted those dentures myself, you know. They’re made from the finest illegal elephant ivory, tipped with the black sorrow diamonds that are hewn by slave-child-miners in the hell-pits of Yar-Cuchcha.

“Did you just make that up?”
“Not more than anything else I’ve said to you.”

“You’re a real kidder, doc. Those lines you cracked were better than morphine.”

“Thank you. By the way, since you’ve been such a good patient, why don’t you take this with you.”

“A handgun?”

“It has some incriminating fingerprints on it, but don’t worry; the investigation has just been thrown into confusion, so there shouldn’t be any further pursuit.”

“‘Further’ pursuit?”

“Yes, the gentleman that came in just before you was the head detective on that particular case. Would you like his shoes too? Size twelve, and in fine condition.”

“Concert” Copyright 2007, Jamie Proctor.


Monday, May 4th, 2009

I’d like to note that I’ve passed a personal goal of mine, outlined under post number one – that of making more than ten posts before breaking down into a useless heap of apathy and cardboard. Technically, I equalled ten two weeks ago and passed it last week – but hey, close enough. It’s not necessarily better late than never, and the early bird eats worms. It takes fewer brain cells to smile than to frown. While I’m debunking random things, do is not a deer, a female deer, it is a notey musicish thingy, saving for a rainy day is stupid when you could save for a house somewhere eternally sunny, and laughter is only medicine insofar as it makes you feel better, possibly lowering your blood pressure. You still shouldn’t cry over spilt milk, though. I mean really, if you’re that attached to your beverages I’d seek help. Spilt ice cream, however, is worth weeping for.

To commemorate this occasion, here, in hopes of redeeming the past few pictures of selachians that have appeared on this webby thingy, is a picture of a shark that knows no lulz.

Most certainly not a lolshark.

Most certainly not a lolshark.

Ain’t he cute? Now, because moderation in all things is an admirable goal, here’s a contrast:

Show this to those that claim that dolphins are cute.  SHOW THEM.

Show this to those that claim that dolphins are cute. SHOW THEM.

And finally, because moderation in all things also applies to moderation, enjoy a soulless monstrosity.

There is no God.  There is only the lolshark.

There is no God. There is only the lolshark.

Picture Credits