Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Would Jesus Do For A Klondike Bar? (My Storytellers Unplugged column for February 2010.)

What Would Jesus Do...For A Klondike Bar?
Wayne Allen Sallee
28 February 2010

I don’t have an answer to that question. But one of the guys at the printing plant used that line a lot, more often than not to keep from beating the crap out of whichever bargain basement press we were running. Hey, whatever works. When my oldest niece was at my home every workday until she was seven, so I had to adapt the way I cussed, an example being if I broke a shoelace as she was watching Barney–damn his eyes–what came out of my mouth was Fuuranklin Delano Roosevelt! But I thought Bart had the right idea with his catch-phrase.

See, I’ve been letting my hair grow since October, so I have a Peter Boyle thing going on, and I use the WWJDFAKB? line since I now have actual hair that I can yank at. I was contracted to write a story for CTHULHU 2012, and I had the idea that Lovecraft’s old pal wasn’t on an island, rather she (in my story) is a gloppy bubble around the Earth, slowly squeezing down and after decades of being kept at bay by the stories by the Arkham House crew. I always try and describe to new writers that, when I’m near the end of a story, I visualize a runway. Sometimes it’s short, in other instances I know I can almost glide to a stop. With this tale, I saw the runway way off in the distance, and I did one of the things I rarely do, more because I am mentally and not physically incapable of doing. I typed the last two thousand words without stopping. Not even pausing to think about the Klondike bar, or how many of them I would eat then and there. The editor loved the story, and told me the last few pages reminded him of an old jalopy rolling down a hill, pieces falling off until there was nothing left. In my head, it was more like skidding along with no landing gear. It is always a wonderful feeling knowing I was in synch with an editor, like we both walked away from the wreck none the worse for wear.

I have embarked on a new project, a novel. An actual novel. My agent read a ghost story I had published in the Tribune last October and he was angry for whatever reason my body wouldn’t let me accomplish much in the way of creativity. One of his other clients, exasperated, wrote me and told me I should just print the words out in an over-sized Moleskin commonplace book and he would find the time to type the pages out. Well, I have had other people type for me in the past, the best example being while I was bedridden after the car accident. Yvonne Navarro listened to me yelp out paragraphs until the Demerol kicked in and I started humming the theme to L. A. LAW.

Its like being in a wheelchair and someone offering to push you, and with this, it was a similar feeling. But as this miserable and idiotic winter continued, I had an epiphany. I could write the novel in real time, my writer friend might get a stack of pages in one envelope, but there would be the logical gaps one would find in my actual life. Explained by me, and because my agent wants a decent hook, I have no moral compass for any of the actions I describe. The guy getting the pages looks up some of the incidents, most seem made up, others horribly real. In the way back times, I had a character called The American Dream, the guy had a heating pad for a cape, wrist braces and Ace bandages. A utility belt that consisted of Baggies filled with Tylenol and Excedrin. He was a complete screw up, and blamed his mistakes on his invisible sidekick, Blind Justice. But he was a product of the Reagan era, and in my book “I” will find his journals and have my friends type them, separating the fictional from the real, with me narrating what it is like to be broke and not having money to buy my meds (I’m really fine, this is for the book only. Don’t cry for me, Al Pacino!) If there is no moral compass in the world, why should I have one? Face it, half the people walking the streets are mentally ill, if judged on certain beliefs or stances, so what is one more lunatic. Maybe I’m mailing the pages to myself, now wouldn’t that be insane? Maybe I should get a little ball and write Wilson on it. I’ve ordered a WWJD For a Klondike Bar from T-Shirts From Hell, so there’s part of my uniform right there. Capes are out this decade, heating pads or otherwise. The book is called REAL TIME WITH THE LAST AMERICAN DREAM. It’s a memoir, an autobiography, a biography, a psychotropic journey with a bunch of dead bodies thrown in at proper moments. Oh, and most important, it’s a slam at our public health system. Too bad the suits in the offices in Springfield won’t die horribly. Or maybe they will. Because I haven’t written it yet.

I haven’t written it in real time.