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Thread: Auntie's Anti-fiction

  1. #16
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    Teach Your Parrot to Talk

    [Author’s Note: A primary characteristic of post-modern literature is that it is chockablock with “references,” not only to itself, in that it breaks down the so-called “fourth wall” between the work and the audience, but to other “pre-existing” works through parody and/or allusion. In this way, the post-modern story, novel, or play pays homage to the classics of the past. The following story owes much to two masterpieces of the mid-twentieth century: the extraordinarily moving yet hysterical short story, “The Jewbird” by Bernard Malamud and “One Froggy Evening,” the award-winning animated short film by the immortal Chuck Jones. Another acknowledgment is to a radio program which flourished long before most of us were born, though audio excerpts are available via the Web--the brilliantly written comedy series, The Bickersons, portrayed with impeccable timing by Frances Langford and Don Ameche.]

    Teach Your Parrot to Talk

    Outside the large window above the kitchen sink, empty branches swayed in the merciless wind as almost imperceptible flecks of white floated through the air. Inside, it was no tropical paradise, although the heat had been cranked all the way up to 78.

    “Turn that thing down!” John’s demand had come from way out in the attached garage, where he was still unpacking his golf clubs and garden tools. He wasn't referring to the thermostat this time but to the volume of the video from a combination TV/DVD player going full blast on the counter.

    “Hel-lo, folks! Hel-lo, folks!” the audio chanted behind a picture of an exotic pet, a bird that had gone Hollywood in that it had been all groomed and glammed up to meet the unforgiving challenge of high def. The bird on the screen rocked its head back and forth and then, as if on cue, gave a piercing whistle and said, “Hello, folks!”

    Blanche craned her neck and peered into the face of the real bird who was more-or-less perched in front of the portable tv. “Come on, baby. You can do it. Say ‘hell-o folks.’ “ The parrot moved its chicken feet across the counter, raised his hooked beak and gave the screen a quick, half-hearted peck. When the on-screen bird responded –“Hel-lo, folks!” the live-action bird sprang backwards in alarm, and flapped his wings, before returning to a neutral corner of the counter.

    Although his first language lesson wasn't yet successful, Blanche could not believe her good luck in having acquired him, especially since John had never allowed her to have a pet. It had been sheer serendipity, in that the parrot literally came with the house; he'd been left here by the previous occupants. Oddly enough, Blanche felt more pleased by the parrot than the property itself, which they'd purchased dirt cheap, shortly after the real estate bubble had burst. The deal had gone down through a most unfortunate foreclosure upon the former owners, who'd been caught by the “adjustable percentage rate” bombshell. Blanche’s husband had been savvy enough to insist upon a fixed mortgage rate. John did not like surprises.

    “Want a cracker? Want a cracker?” came Lesson 2 from the DVD, another item left behind by the family forced to make the quick exit.

    The kitchen door swung open hard, and Blanche felt a chill from the blast of air from the unheated garage. She hoped that the parrot hadn't caught the draft. “Where’s my tool chest?” John wanted to know.

    “I don't know, John. Didn't it get loaded on to the van?”

    “It’s not here. Where is it?”

    “Why don't you look upstairs, John? Maybe it got mixed up with the bedroom stuff. By the way, did the cable company call when I was at the store?”

    “How the hell should I know?” he said.

    “They said they'd hook us up today sometime between 9 and 5. Oh, I wish they'd get here! The Petrified Forest is on tonight. ”

    “Yeah, well. Right now I'm looking for my tools.”

    Cable service was one of the sore spots between them. It wasn't all that expensive, and John could well afford it, but he kept telling Blanche that he didn't watch television enough to justify the expense. Blanche, however, lived for cable television, even if it meant she had no one to stay up and watch it with her. Her favorite channels showed old movies that had been made decades before either one of them had been born. She would stay up at night and watch them by herself. Blanche enjoyed everything: love stories, gangster movies, even westerns. She wasn't crazy about John Wayne, but she loved Gary Cooper and Alan Ladd, even though he was a little on the short side. This was a weakness of which Blanche would still blush to admit– there was something irresistible about the strong, silent type.

    “And where are my keys?” John searched through his pockets while simultaneously putting on his parka.

    “Going somewhere?”

    “What're ya, writing a book? I'm heading over to the old place to see if somebody forgot to pack them on the van.” The sentence sounded like an accusation. “Maybe that crate of dishes could be put away while I'm gone.”

    Quoth the DVD: “Pret-TEE bird! Pret-TEE bird!” Blanche thought she heard something else as well: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

    With furrowed brow, she opened the kitchen door. The car wasn't in the garage; John had already left. Then she heard it again. She put her ear right next to the tv, but in addition to the DVD, someone else was talking. Blanche quickly hit the mute button on the remote.

    “Jeez, Blanche, I don't know why you put up with that guy.” Like a sudden pain striking deep in her gut, absolute terror took hold. Someone was in the house! Blanche ran from room to room, opening and closing closet doors, looking behind the futon, and up the fireplace. Finding nothing, no invasive stranger, she was shaking and sweating when she returned to the kitchen. “I hope you don't mind my telling you this, but you're too good for him. Seriously.”

    With her eyes growing nearly as wide as the dinnerware she still hadn't put in the cabinets, she turned around and looked at the parrot. She slowly raised her index finger and pointed at the bird. “You?”

    The parrot bobbed his head. “Who else? Who else would be talking to you?” Then in a DeNiro impression that rivaled that of any Vegas opening act, added “There’s nobody else here.”

    Blanche’s gaze froze upon the bird. She stepped back woozily, as if she were about to faint, and just by chance landed on one of the two, high-legged stools lined up by the kitchen counter. The creature could talk, no doubt about it. But unlike the popular conception of cartoon parrots, it didn't sound like a pirate. Nor did it whistle between phrases. The voice was both classy and raspy, a mix between Ronald Colman and George Burns. Of course, the remarkable, miraculous thing was that the bird was so articulate. A talking bird is a rara avis indeed, for, aside from chirping, most birds sound like Marcel Marceau.

    “This is so wild! You sound so, so human! I can't believe it! You must've been a person in a previous life.”

    “Reincarnation, you mean?” Except for the fact that he had no cigar nor twitching eyebrows, the parrot nonetheless transformed himself into full Groucho mode: “That’s ridiculous! Now they're recycling everything! ” Then back in his “normal” voice: “Nah. I've always been a proud member of the order of Psittaciformes. Besides, what parrot in his right mind would ever want to be a human being? Seriously.”

    “But, but you're so smart and–“

    “Uh, uh, uh! Careful, darling. You don't want to be guilty of species-ism.”

    With her face-filling smile, Blanche looked as if she hadn't been guilty of anything in her entire life. “Forgive me, but I've just got to ask. How on earth did you ever learn how to talk?”

    “Same way everybody learns. From my parents. They didn't tell me about the birds and bees, though. I learned all about that on the street corner.”

    Suddenly Blanche slapped her forehead. “Gosh! Where are my manners? I never asked your name.”

    “It’s Newton.”

    “Newton? Like the cookie, as in fig –?“

    “No, as in Robert, the man who played Long John Silver in Treasure Island. Hey, I'm surprised you didn't catch that, Blanche. I thought you were a movie fan! Actually my former keepers named me after the first modern physicist because they thought my. . .uh, digestive habits defied gravity.” Newton rolled his beady eyes and looked vaguely in the direction of the ceiling. “Nah. I'm just tugging your feathers.”

    “Your owners, were they nice? How did they treat you?”

    “Like a cockamamie artifact from the Pottery Barn. Pah! Those folks were no different from the exhibitionist walking down the street with an 8-foot python coiled around his neck. When the novelty wears off, they just throw it down the sewers with the rest of the discarded reptiles.”

    “Oh, that’s not true, Newton. Those snakes are really big around, aren't they? They'd probably just clog up the toilet.”

    “Well, who said I was an expert on plumbing?” Newton’s eyes briefly went ceiling-ward again. “Enough of this– time for a song! How about a little ditty from Good News? Back on your heels/up your toes. . .”

    Blanche nearly fell on the floor! “Oh my God, you sing too?”

    “On second thought –Newton’s “normal” speaking voice switched to a deep baritone.“We are poor little lambs/who have lost our way/Bah! Bah! Bah!”

    “I know, I know! Don't tell me–The Nincompoop Song, right?”

    “Actually, dear, it’s ‘The Whiffenpoof Song.’ A whiffenpoof is somebody who has to stay in New Haven rather than going the remaining hundred miles up to Harvard.”

    “See? Not only can you talk, you're nice, even when you're correcting me. Imagine if John heard me make a goof like that. When he finally finished laughing his head off, he'd go on for half an hour telling me how stupid I am. But you-- you're not like that, Newton.”

    “You're right. I don't judge. I may poop all over your ceiling, but I don't judge. But Blanche, honey, why don't you leave him? I mean, it’s not like you'll miss his scintillating personality.”

    “Where would I go? How could I take care of myself? I don't have any skills. No self-esteem. None! I haven't had a job in twenty years!”

    “No? What kind of work was it that you used to do?”

    “Oh, I was a motivational speaker.” A mischievous grin spread across Blanche’s face. “Nah! I'm just yanking your –‘tugging your feathers’!”

    With that, Newton broke into another number. This time he strutted back and forth on the counter, with a little fancy footwork, a little buck-and-wing.“Mention my name in Sheboygan/ But don't tell ‘em where I–“ As the door swung open, Newton suddenly clammed up tighter than a hostile witness in front of the RICO committee in Congress.

    John, red-faced and fuming, marched around the kitchen. “They're gone! Somebody stole ‘em. When I find out who took my tools, I'll –and those crooks running the moving vans, I'll sue those bastards!” He stopped, turned around, and glared at Newton. “Why is this. . this animal still here? I don't have my tool box, but we have that!” John tried grabbing Newton by the neck. With a choking squawk the parrot shook its head from side to side and managed to break free. He flew into the living room and up the chimney, over the roof, and through the still-open garage door back into the kitchen. Blanche could hear John stomping around every room of the house in furious pursuit of a creature who'd never done him harm.

    Blanche only had a split-second to make her urgent plea. “Newton, save yourself! Say something to him!”

    “What am I supposed to say? ‘My oatmeal’s cold?’ ”

    “Anything! I don't know, Newton. Please!”

    Newton looked Blanche straight in the eye. There was something chilling about his gaze, showing an emotion that would be frightening even if it had emanated from a human. Right before John returned to the kitchen, Newton finally said something: “I don't want your god-damned cracker.”

    In one hand John held the cage which the former owners had left behind; with the other hand he grabbed Newton, successfully this time. Carelessly he put him in the cage and carefully he locked it. Without even covering it with a warm blanket –even a dishtowel would have been better than nothing – he toted out the cage as if it were a bag of trash.

    “Where are you taking him? A shelter? Why are you doing this, John?” She started to cry, and the tears surprised her at first, but soon she just let them flow. “Please, John, let me keep him. You don't understand, he —“ She followed Newton and John out the garage door, down the driveway, to the sidewalk, where she remained standing as the car zoomed away. “He talks, you lousy species-ist!” The snow had started falling for real by then, but Blanche stood there in the strong wind and in the silence.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 12-07-2009 at 02:40 PM.

  2. #17
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    Oh Auntie. How funny. Newton finally said something: “I don't want your god-damned cracker.”

    But I'm not sure about the ending. It doesn't seem like the type of story the villain should win.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    {Author's Note: This particular story appeared once before as an entry in the LitNet's Short Story Competition.
    It must have been quite some time ago, as the typeface in the original file typeface was different from the font I've been using for the past year or two. In any event, I'm re-posting this thing in the fond hope it might generate some replies. If there are any replies, there are two issues or problems I have with the story which I'll 'fess up to if anyone posts a comment. Then maybe you and I can fix 'em. In any event, here 'tis --}


    The Myth of Generations

    It was risky for the boys to be in the alleyway behind Krause’s Butcher Shop. For all they knew, at that very moment their mother could have been inside the store buying a “nice piece of meat” for the sauerbraten she'd occasionally prepare according to her late mother-in-law’s recipe. Were she to spot her sons in a place they weren't supposed to be, first she'd chew them out and then command them to do some silly chore. As far as Fred could tell, no one had seen them. So far.

    With anticipation and disgust, Fred lifted the lids of Krause’s garbage cans and rifled through their contents that “stunk to high heaven”-- despite the blessing of the crisp air of March rather than the blood-thick miasma of July. At last, an earthy grail: a good-sized mutton bone with a promising portion of fat, gristle, and even a vestigial scrap of flesh. He hoisted the greasy spear like spoils plundered by a Greek warrior on the vanquished plains of Troy.

    Thus armed, the duo began its quest. Fred stalwartly led the mission, as his little brother Karl, like a devoted Myrmidon, tagged along. From the alley down two blocks, a quick climb down a hill, a hop-skip-and-jump over the shallow creek, and they'd reached their destination: the City Dump -- their quest: to seek and maybe find.

    Previous experience had taught Fred that a certain mutt guarded the entrance. The dog knew its job and did it in no-nonsense way. Kids did not attribute the terrifying reputation of this modern-day Cerberus to its bite; the bark of this particular working dog rivaled the legendary wail of the three-headed cur. Any trespasser foolish enough to venture anywhere near the dump would hear the ungodly howl and believe that he had stumbled down to the dark outskirts of Hades. That’s where the mutton bone came in.

    A quick over-the-shoulder toss of the bribe made the monster turn his head just long enough for the boys to slip by. Fred mentally dismissed the other potential deterrent, the policeman assigned to the relatively-easy beat of guarding the city’s trash. That cop was no Charybdis, for even the rock assigned to hide that sea-monster would harbor a more conscientious attitude toward its assignment. Some choppiness, alas, still lurked in Fred’s secret sea. He was in that time of a young man’s life when it seemed crucial to steer his sails far away from the whirlpool of neighborhood gossip. Although most people in his parent’s social stratum were no better off than his own parents in terms of wealth and prestige, the chance of being spotted and subsequently teased as a “rag picker” was a possibility painful to contemplate. To avoid such a peril, he took Karl by the shoulders and gave the order: “Don't you dare let anyone see us!”

    Soon the critical focus shifted, for it seemed as if they'd go home empty-handed. The fat piles of junk offered few gems: slim pickings indeed. The boys wandered across the still-frozen ground, the icy wind a mocking reprimand, each bursting gust a warning. Here and there were scattered the discarded relics of the relatively-recent past: a skeleton of a unicycle, a dented washboard, a couple of Victrola records which looked nearly new, except for fatal cracks that cut clear through the grooved sides to the smooth ones. Karl cheered at the sight of a rusted length of pipe which to an impressionable kid could be the spittin’ image of a weapon one of our dough boys deployed against some stooge from Kaiser Bill’s army. Karl picked up the narrow cylinder of hollow metal, its oxidized flakes crumbling in his hand, aimed it skyward, and made a sound approximating a report: “Pa-shew! Pa-shew!’

    The unnecessary noise which Karl created with his makeshift toy irked Fred, also vaguely bothered by the trivializing effect of make-believe combat. Underneath this irritation he was vaguely aware that the all-too-real conflict so cavalierly evoked was relatively fresh in his country’s mind. Although Fred himself had suffered no direct effects of the Great War, folks around his father’s ethnic sphere divided their silent mourning between the heroes of their beloved -- albeit adopted -- country and the sons of their original homeland -- all in a way, buried side-by-side, enemies and allies, one and the same. Naturally, nobody ever talked about it.

    The amorphous angst completely vanished when an object caught Fred’s eye. Atop an unimposing molehill of rubble sat a shoe box which looked like a recent acquisition to the dump. The oblong container proclaimed itself as a vessel for the classy merchandise sold at an exclusive leather goods store downtown. The glossy cardboard, whose colorful patina and fancy lettering had somehow escaped the ravages of the elements and the contamination of its decaying neighbors, looked – miraculous to say – brand new. Here be pirate’s treasure blatantly deposited on a beach! No siren singing sweetly on some shore could have been as alluring as the mysterious contents of the box, tantalizing beyond the resistance of any mortal man.

    But why would anyone throw away a new pair of shoes? Fred's heart leapt at the thought that perhaps the purchaser of these golden slippers had been such a spendthrift that upon discovering that the shoes were the wrong size, had simply thrown them away rather than take the time and trouble to return them. The spendthrift’s extravagance could be redeemed by Fred’s dump-combing diligence. By a mere whim of Fortune, Fred could be a hero with the discovery of him a new pair of footwear that could conceivably fit his father or Karl or even -- were the gods to be smiling in his own particular direction – Fred himself.

    He raced the few yards to the hillock and knelt down. He picked up the box and shook it, like a gift left under the Tannenbaum by St. Nicholas, but in the act of shaking it, Fred experienced a touch of queasiness. The unknown contents didn't “feel” like shoes, not two halves of a pair, but something singular.

    With more trepidation than hope Fred gingerly lifted the lid. At first glance, it looked like an extremely dilapidated doll wrapped in a piece of pill-flecked, white flannel. But with a closer look came an instant shock, initially brief but indescribable, a little like the way his cheek would wink at the first taste of sour cream atop his mother’s potato pancakes, or like the zzzst-zzzst buzzing his fingers the time he tried to plug in that old lamp with its frayed, wool-sheathed cord . A catalogue of similar startling experiences raced through Fred’s relatively-sparse memories.

    Something was wrong. The thing in the box was once a living thing, had at one time drawn breath, had briefly inhabited the same world as Fred and Karl. But the color of the tiny cheeks was not the pink of his little sister nor the light tan of Karl or himself nor the nut-brown of his schoolmates who lived on the other part of First Street. Instead it was a somber gray, like the soot from the coal in the furnace, the refuse of which it was Fred’s responsibility to go down cellar and scoop up and leave in the cans for the ash man to retrieve.

    Fred’s first instinct was to look for Karl, who, in a matter of seconds that seemed to take hours, appeared behind him. Never before had anyone heard the brave voice that gave Karl the order: “Go get that cop.”


    “What? You must be crazy, Fritz! What d’ya wanna him for? He'll get us really in Dutch –“

    ”Go get him. Now.”

    Fred was still shaking by the time the constable arrived. Despite the neighborhood scuttlebutt about his laziness, the officer in his double-breasted uniform and blue serge hat looked at least physically imposing. As he chomped on the knockwurst sandwich in his hand, he looked like a Cyclops swallowing some legendary mariner who'd fatally lost his way.

    Wordlessly, Fred pointed to the shoe box. The cop heaved a exasperated sigh, but when he lifted the lid, he shrank back as if a multi-headed hydra were lurking inside. “You punks oughta know better than to be hanging around the dump. Now get home the both o’ ya before I run yas in for trespassin’.”

    Quickly the boys dispersed. Unlike a too-curious Orpheus, Fred never looked back.

    The Fred in that tale was my father, and I am his son, Fred Reinhardt, Junior, also called Fritz. I dropped the Junior decades ago when Fred Senior, aka “Fritz” died. I know the story only by the fragments of its bare bones, with the embellishing flesh grafted on by my imagination.

    Rare are the times I recall that incident from my father’s childhood, but occasionally it shows up like an uninvited guest, such as now, as I hold my newborn grand-daughter for the first time. I wonder if the tale also periodically returned to my dad himself with the births of each of his own children.

    Whenever he wanted to snap a photo of “all of us” with his Brownie Instamatic, he would line us all up like descending notes in a scale or steps in a staircase, youngest to oldest, tallest to shortest–Fred Junior, Karl, Thomas, John, and Gretchen. Years later I'd look at those black- and-white photos showing five pairs of eyes suspended in mid-blink by the startling flash of the bulb and think that we looked like targets in an amusement park shooting gallery.

    A chronic sadness often befalls me, and it’s not only the sorrow for long-lost parents or the two sets of grandparents we'd never met. My siblings and I miss a precious legacy, bereft of family folklore, a body of myths never passed down through the generations. For reasons unknown to me, my parents zealously said virtually nothing about the past. They dug a moat and built an impenetrable wall around their castles, the bridges between years irreparably burnt.

    My paternal grandfather could have been a latter-day Achilles, my maternal grandma a modern Deirdre, but no oral epics, no traditional tunes survive to ensure my ancestors’ immortality. I would give the world for an excerpt of our family’s Das Marchen, for one line of an Irish lyric, a fragment of a Dead Sea scroll unveiling a scrap of history about my father and mother. We grown-up children are left wondering: how is that a Fritz could grow up to marry a Celtic demi-goddess, who, for all we knew, had one day suddenly surfaced out of a swirl of sea-foam? To this day none of us knows for certain whether she came from County Cork or Kilkenny.

    In terms of their respective autobiographies, compared to my mother, my dad was a little less stingy. For instance, he'd tell us that as a little boy he once “got in Dutch” with the principal of P. S. #21 for having decided to raise the school’s flag at half-mast because a fireman from the First Street station had died. Or he'd try to hide his pride whenever he told us about working in the local munitions factory during World War II, when the plant’s supervisor personally went down to the draft board to plead “Do not take this man! He’s too valuable here.” Those twin tales were among only a handful of anecdotes that my father deigned to share with us. He compensated for their lack of quantity and quality with a predictable frequency. Rather than bestowing on us a rich legacy of lore, he told the same couple of anecdotes, over and over again.

    But that story about the dump – the time he found the baby in a box - he told us only once.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 02-01-2010 at 02:15 PM. Reason: line breaks in the author's note

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    Hi Auntie,

    This story contains some beautifully thought provoking moments and atmospheric description.

    There are, though, a couple of things about it which trouble me.
    It is not until two thirds of the way through the story that the reader realises that he is reading reminiscence. Although the reference to the Great War indicates that it is set in the 20’s or 30’s, the narrative appears real-time. The transition from this to the revelation that we are reading a second-hand memory is rather abrupt, and jars, at least with me. I feel that an opening paragraph setting the scene would be beneficial.

    I also feel that the classical references are slightly over-used. The Cerberus one was good but Charybdis I feel is superfluous.

    Oh and by the way, Hades was the God of the underworld, not the place itself. It was he who was married to Persephone. It is a common misconception though. People say Hades or Tartarus, (who was also a personality) although they both became synonymous with the deepest level of the underworld, probably due to a Homeric reference in the Iliad. You may be a grammar geek, but I’m a classical one.)

    Over all though, I like what this piece has to say and enjoyed reading it.

    H

  6. #21
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    Re Teach your parrot to talk.

    This was quite definately brilliant, a great story, deftly handled and witty and amusing to boot. (I just wish the parrot had won)

    Only one thing though, Parrots shouldn't be described as having 'chicken feet.' They are zygodactyl with the first and fourth toes pointing backwards with the 2nd and 3rd pointing forwards. Chickens have three forward pointing toes with the 4th pointing backwards. Still, there can't be much wrong with a story when someone can only complain about one word!

    Thanks for sharing it.

    H

  7. #22
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    Thank you, Hawkman, for your observations concerning"The Myth of Generations." I hope you believe me when I tell you that much of that haziness in the time frame references were deliberate, in order to establish the son as an unreliable narrator. This stems from the absolute point of the story--or my intention for it, at least-- in which the narrator tries to piece together a family history from the paltry snips and fragments his parents left him.

    And thank you especially for reading the parrot story which few people bothered reading and which, in addition to you, only one LitNutter commented upon. I'm glad you told me about the avian feet. I searched all over for an answer on the Web, and as is customary on Internet sites, the information was sketchy, if not specious.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 03-15-2010 at 05:06 PM.

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    Hi Auntie,

    I guess my familiarity with birds put me ahead of the game with this, We used to keep chickens, when I was a kid. I was also required to make a short film about poultry farming a few years ago. Wickipedia has a good entry on parrots and you could google zygodactyl and find diagrams of avian foot configurations.

    H

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    "I Don't Care If I Never Get Back"

    “I Don't Care If I Never Get Back”

    The grounds crew was taking its sweet time rolling up the tarp. They must be paid by the hour, Ernbacher thought, since the cause of the 92-minute “rain” delay had been nothing more than a wimpy sprinkle to begin with. Now the mid-afternoon sun was in full-blaze in a spotless sky to lock in the proverbial “beautiful day for a ball game.”

    Kratchlow didn't know what he was missing. With a self-satisfied grin, Ernbacher pictured his partner scrounging around to fill a foursome on a course undoubtedly much wetter than center field. The only downside had been being shut out of the corporate skybox after that bizarre lightning strike coming from out of nowhere knock out the AC. But, even though he had to sit in the stands (albeit the front row), the ballpark was still a damn good place to be.

    “Guess we lucked out with these seats, huh?” The voice came from the ill-kempt occupant of the seat next to him.

    Ernbacher shrugged. “Season tickets.”

    His neighbor pursed his lips and let out a low whistle as well as an unidentifiable odor. “Whoa! Too rich for my blood! But you can't get too much of a good thing, right, Pal?”

    Aggh! The bad luck in having to sit next to a scruffy fan brought Ernbacher back to his pre-Lear days when he flew commercial. How many times had he been bumped from first-class to business and got stuck next to some loquacious simpleton. The seating capacity for Viagra MegaStadium was at least 85,000 with plenty of unoccupied seats, so why did this joker have to sit here? Scanning the venue’s vast expanse, Ernlacher noticed that even though it was a family-friendly Saturday, there wasn't one fan younger than middle-aged. Very odd.

    Meanwhile the visiting New England Glaciers had suffered a strike-out, a pop-up, and a can of corn dented by a one-handed catch in left field. Bottom of the first, the World Champion Mid-Atlantic Oceanics had a lead-off walk, a strike-out by the third baseman, and with the star player grounding out to second, an inning-ending double-play.

    “No score,” announced Ernbacher’s new pal. The status remained unchanged throughout the next five innings, during which time the devoted fan regaled Ernbacher with his entire repertoire of opinions regarding the state of the grand old game. To wit, the ever-evolving compression plan of the majors had reversed the expansion of the previous decades and merged the smaller markets into the more profitable larger ones. From an all-time high of 30 teams, the two leagues were down to 19. There were still two leagues, both each only with two divisions; take your pick, Chicago – East or West, with the venues transplanted into megalithic stadiums whose capacity rivaled the populations of medium-sized cities. Good pitchers yet commanded high salaries, so to protect the investments, the National League had been more or less “persuaded” to adopt the position of the Designated Hitter. Smiley here thought this was a “great” idea. “More hits, more HRs, Buddy!”

    The fan’s heart’s desire wasn't yet forthcoming, as there was still no score in the bottom of the sixth. “How about our guy Todman there?”

    Ernbacher couldn't argue. “Looks like he’s got a no-hitter going.”

    The fan looked as if he'd been beaned with a foul ball. “Bite your tongue! Don't you know it’s bad luck to mention –“

    “Well, then I'll mention Casagrandi. Nobody’s hit off him so far as well.” Ernbacher was working up a powerful thirst. Once again Ernbacher hated the fact that his skybox was inaccessible; there the libations flowed like inexhaustible fountains. Here slaking one’s thirst necessitated purchasing a beer from the inattentive vendors, and custom required that if he bought a brew for himself, he'd have to buy one for his neighbor. That’s just common courtesy. Aw, what the hell. Maybe he wouldn't talk with a mouthful of beer.

    Top of the seventh, two outs, nobody on, Todman was taking an eternity between pitches, finally letting go with a fastball, which McTeague crushed. The Glaciers’ third baseman, savoring his home-run trot, didn't rush. Ernbacher’s buddy looked as if he was going to cry into his free beer. So much for the no-no. To make matters worse for the Oceanics, Casagrandi continued to hold the lead.

    By the bottom of the Ninth, the Glaciers’ manager still hadn't gone to the bullpen. It seemed as if Ernbacher and companion would be witnessing sports history–a complete game no-hitter. Smiley looked ill. “This stinks! Why can't we get a hit, a walk, at least a base runner!” Relatively speaking, the sun had made better progress as the late-day shadows had begun to darken the field.

    Two outs, last chance for the Oceanics with LeMange up, 301 lifetime batting average, .237 lately. The count, of course, was 3 and 2. Casagrandi reared back and released a horizontal meteor which headed right over the middle of the plate. LeMange’s eyes looked shut, but his bat was a blur as it sliced through the air –and made contact
    with that incomparable sound, as the little white sphere scaled over the mountain-high stadium wall and, presumably, into orbit. The crowd sat in stunned silence for a parsec, then erupted into pandemonium. LeMange took his trip around the bases as slowly as a amateur marathon runner struggling to finish Mile Number 25.

    Ernbacher’s neighbor jumped up and down and attempted a clumsy, elated embrace. “Tie score! Extra innings!” With as much dignity as he could muster, Ernbacher extricated himself from the fan’s exuberant hug. Turning his back, he punched a key on his cellphone. Nothing. Dead.“No signal?” Ernbacher’s partner asked. “Must be sun spots.” Regardless of the cause, the dinner at Shannon’s would have to wait. She'd be livid for his not calling, though, and have one of her scenes again, threatening to “tell” Nancy on him, her lawyer, Nancy’s lawyer, Page Six, the whole ball of wax. She was a good kid, though, reminding Ernbacher of Wife Number One – he had to think a minute to remember her name. ( Man, was he ever glad that the pre-nup had been iron-clad.) Still, Ernbacher hoped that there would be only one “extra inning”, two at the most.

    Still 1-1 top of the 13th. By now the stadium lights were all on, joining forces with the city’s ambient luminescence to block out the stars. Ernbacher thought that his neighbor would've run out of topics by now, but he continued to drone on with his thoughts on steroids and performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals. “More power to ‘em, I say! “ The fan opined. “Hey, anything that makes a player more. . .more better, bring it on. But I'd sure like to get my hands on that little rat Ainsberg for spilling the beans.”

    For reasons not immediately known to Ernbacher, he was bothered by a memory he couldn't shake. There was that middle-manager in accounting, what was his name, who'd been bitten with civic spirit to become a whistle-blower to the SEC. It took an army of exorbitantly-paid attorneys to spring the Firm out of that one. Wonder what he’s doing now, the little twerp. Not using his MBA at all, that’s for sure. Ernbacher had taken care of that.

    It was edging toward midnight when the game reached the top of the 21st inning. Or maybe it was the 22nd. Ernbacher and company had lost count. The score remained 1-1. “Can you believe this?” Smiley remarked, part in disbelief, part in awe. “Botshawk’s changing pitchers again!” True, it was a bit incredible. Where were all the Oceanics’ relievers coming from? With the Great Compression, team rosters had expanded to 45 players for regular season, but still. Maybe behind the clubhouse the Oceanics grew them like tomatoes, a row for right-handers, a row for lefties. Back in his youth Ernbacher had seen a Ray Harryhausen movie in which a Greek warrior was battling an army of skeletons; as soon as he slew one bony figure, another one sprang up. That was the Oceanics bullpen.

    Despite the occasional switch, the players, understandably, were looking exhausted. They struggled to go through the motions. At one point the Glaciers’ right field collapsed, but it took at least twenty minutes for trainers to get a stretcher and remove him from
    the diamond; another forty for the game to resume. “Well,” Ernbacher yawned, “I don't know about you, but I've had enough.”

    At the exit two uniformed men with folded arms guarded the door. “Sorry, Sir,” one them announced. “New security rules. No unauthorized personnel may leave until the final out.”

    “The final out? And when, pray tell, will that be?”

    “Why, it could be any time now, Sir.”

    “Absolutely!” The other guard said, half-sarcastically. “Lopendi might hit us a homer.”

    “Now, see here! You have to let me leave. Don't you know I am?”

    The less-friendly guard grabbed Ernbacher’s necktie and yanked it hard. “I don't give a damn who you are. Nobody leaves until the final out.”

    Ernbacher tried escaping through five more exits. Same story. Finally he returned to his seat and hung his head. “Hey! Look who’s back! Want me to tell you what you missed?”

    Ernbacher shrugged. “Not really. But I'm sure you'll tell me anyway. Did I miss anything?”

    “Not really.”

    Top of the 40th, maybe it was the 41st, score still 1-1. Every drop of beer in the entire megastadium had been gone by the 33rd inning, and already the vendors had had run out of coffee. The sky was beginning to lighten, if a dark gray could be described thus. Could those be clouds, rain clouds? Maybe they would bring real precipitation now, real rain, calling for not a mere delay but a suspension! A downpour would allow them all to leave wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? Alas, already the sun was making its climb and re-firing its furnace. It was going to be a rainless day, and by every indication, a hot one.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 04-27-2010 at 06:35 PM.

  10. #25
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    That first sentence kills the story-- too long.

    Hypotactic too.

    Hypotaxis thwarts the narrative by dependence upon the
    subordinate clause.

    Shouldn't be that way.

    HH

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hayseed Huck View Post
    That first sentence kills the story-- too long.

    Hypotactic too.

    Hypotaxis thwarts the narrative by dependence upon the
    subordinate clause.

    Shouldn't be that way.

    HH

    No comprende. Could you show me the subordinate clause in this. It looks like a simple declarative sentence to me:
    The grounds crew was taking its sweet time rolling up the tarp.

  12. #27
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    This story ...

    I didn't mean to say a subordinate clause can be
    found in this paragraph.

    I failed to write clearly.

    In fact this pragraph is more paratactic than hypo-
    tactic.

    But there is a stall.

    The relative functions as a subordinate without the forn
    of a subordinate. It certainly is a confused construction.

    Other notes--

    'various amounts' is a pleonasm. 'Amounts' is sufficient.

    'containers of various amounts.-- containers are not
    'of' amounts. Not scattered about, but sitting upon
    a counter or table.

    Scattered about the tiny office were containers of various amounts of liquid, which at one time could be called “coffee,” stacks of print-outs describing incident reports from the wild and inter-department memos from the Commissioner’s office, as well as spoor samples encased in plastic sandwich bags and fragments of diverse specimens of flora and fauna from nearly every region in the state which should have never been removed from the lab in the first place.

    The last 'which' placed late.

    'the lab' no reference of a lab. Can't write 'the' lab.

    'diverse specimens' is also a pleonasm.

    'diverse' is one of those elegant but meaningless words.

    HH

    HH
    Last edited by Hayseed Huck; 04-21-2010 at 07:45 PM.

  13. #28
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    I thought you were writing about the latest story in the thread,"I Don't Care If I Never Get Back." That's why I was thoroughly perplexed by your reply.

    In any event please read the reply immediately following this one.

  14. #29
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    "Taxed" to death!

    The following posting would be an appropriate topic for my "A Word With You" blog, but a previous reply in this thread has endowed me with what the media loves to call a "teachable moment."

    If you heard "hypotaxis" spoken aloud you might think it has something to do with excessive levies. Maybe a Yellow Cab on steroids? Actually hypotaxis and its adjective, hypotactic, is a rhetorical device. According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms by Chris Baldick, it refers to the "use of connecting words between clauses or sentences explicitly showing the logical or other relationships between them: 'I am tired because it is hot." My trusty American Heritage Dictionary also includes "if" clauses (a dependent clause) with its example: "I shall despair if you don't come."

    Nowhere is it written that it's verboten to begin a work with a hypotaxis expression. In fact, Virginia Woolf's revered novel To The Lighthouse begins: " 'Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow,' said Mrs. Ramsay."

    The opposite of hypotaxis is parataxis, which is, according to Baldick again, "the juxtaposition of clauses or sentences without the use of connecting words: 'I'll go; you stay here.' A paratactic style has the effect of abruptness, because the relationship between one statement and the next is not made explicit." Baldick cites another example from such distinguished a writer as Thoreau, who was kind enough to his readers' intelligence by using subtlety and allowing us to "connect the dots," to use the media's buzzphrase du jour.

    Generally speaking the literary device that involves "verbal compression" is called asyndeton. Asyndeton omits all connecting words which are substituted with a comma. The classic asyndeton is Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vinci." Another example courtesy of the Oxford Concise Dictionary is from Conrad's Heart of Darkness: "An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was thick, warm, heavy, sluggish."

    And after randomly opening Ms Woolf's To The Lighthouse, I found this on page 96: "There was freedom, there was peace, there was, most welcome of all, a summoning together, a resting on a platform of stability."

    The opposite of asyndeton is polysyndeton, the repeated use of conjunctions to link together a series of words, clauses, or sentences As an example, Baldick cites Endymion, the 1818 poem by Keats: "And soon it lightly dipped, and rose, and sank,/And dipped again." The second stanza of "Christ Climbed Down" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is my choice for an effective use of polysyndeton. And if you happen to have a copy of Ulysses hanging around the house, pick it up and look at Molly's section, entirely free of paragraph breaks or punctuation. Yet look at all the "ands" sprinkled throughout the concluding nine lines of the book.

    So we can see that there are numerous sterling examples of these literary tools employed by some of the finest writers of western civilization. This concludes our lesson on hypotaxis and its cousins.

    (You're welcome.)
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 04-22-2010 at 01:38 PM. Reason: couple of line breaks in the text

  15. #30
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    Well, I was as much bewildered as you may have been by the replies to what I supposed was "I Don't Care If I Never Get Back," but I found I had trouble with the meaning (pardon the expression) of the story, wasn't at all sure how I ought to feel about Ernbacher or that epic ball-game, although the story flowed as easily as yours always do.

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