Die Writing

A breath of whiskey – Jenny Dollar

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 23, 2015

Aside

This time I rolled a couple suggestions into one – a Johnny Dollar episode, and a gender-swapped noir piece. As with writing similar pieces, DJ Food provided the perfect working music. The result is an attempt at a short radio play.

The Sam Slacone Matter

Characters:

JENNY DOLLAR, insurance investigator
ALEX McCRACKEN, compliance officer with Continental Assurance and Liability
SAM SLACONE, proprietor of The Chrome Jet

NARRATION VOICEOVER
From Hollywood, it’s time now for…

(Background sounds of a public lounge – people’s voices, glasses and dishes clanking.)

ALEX McCRACKEN
Jenny Dollar, there is barely a breath of whiskey in this glass. What’s the big idea here?

JENNY DOLLAR
Well, Mr. McCracken, I thought I’d give you a bit of a show-and-tell. This is Mr. Slacone’s newest and biggest – the prime digs right on the Waterfront. But take a bit of a closer look, and the place feels just paper-thin.

(Intro trumpet flair)

NARRATION VOICEOVER
Tonight, and every weekday night, Betty Bailey and the transcribed adventures of the woman with the action-packed expense account, America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator…

JENNY DOLLAR VOICEOVER
Yours truly, Jenny Dollar.

The following is the accounting of expenditures during my investigation of the Sam Slacone matter. Expense account continued, item number 8, twenty-five dollars and thirty-six cents, fare to an incidental expenses at The Chrome Jet, and establishment owned and operated by one Sam Slacone.

I found Alex McCracken alone at the bar, swirling a tumbler with a serving of sub-par whiskey too skinny for the supposed luxury of this newly opened hotel-lounge. Like most insurance compliance officers, he wore a square dark suit, looking a bit too bland to be a cop.

JENNY DOLLAR
I would have loved at least a couple of breaths in this glass.

ALEX McCRACKEN
Now Miss Dollar, Continental Assurance holds the policy for this hotel, but we can hardly bother Mr. Slacone over a whiskey-pinching bartender.

JENNY DOLLAR
Of course not. But the show-and-tell ain’t quite over. If Mr. Slacone holds to his habits, we may snatch an introduction shortly. Ah and there he is, I believe.

(Distant sounds of a car coming to a halt, its break squealing a bit. A rumbling engine idles. Doors opening and closing. Sam Slacone’s voice is heard, first distant, then slowly approaching, greeting people along the way.)

SAM SLACONE
I can hardly believe my eyes – the famous Miss Jenny Dollar under my own roof! Do what I do owe the exquisite fortune? May I have that you are here for pleasure and not business?

JENNY DOLLAR
It is always a pleasure to do business, Mr. Slacone. May I introduce my kind acquaintance, Mr. McCracken.

ALEX McCRACKEN
How do you do, Mr. Slacone.

SAM SLACONE
Grand, just as yourself, I hope.

JENNY DOLLAR
Mr. McCracken here is with Continental Assurance, and at the moment, I am in his employ.

SAM SLACONE
Is that so, Mr. McCracken?

ALEX McCRACKEN
Indeed.

SAM SLACONE
Well, lucky you, Mr. McCracken. I hear Miss Dollar is a crack shot investigator. I am sure she can help you with whatever trouble you are pursuing. I’m afraid I’ll have to take my leave – urgent matters that need attending. Good day!

ALEX McCRACKEN
Good bye, Mr. Slacone.

JENNY DOLLAR
Ciao!

(Diminishing footsteps)

(A paper being unfolded and straightened out)

ALEX McCRACKEN
What is this? This paper is from a month ago.

JENNY DOLLAR
That is a story about The High-Flying Wing Resort, another one of Mr. Slacone’s, going into bankruptcy. Story is, the creditors foreclosed on the place, only to find it completely cleaned out, down to the last chair and piece of china. The court matter is ongoing and entirely unpleasant. Oh, and the chrome rod in which Mr. Slacone just arrived is a Maserati 3500GT. Factory-fresh.

ALEX McCRACKEN
What’s the story here, Jenny Dollar? How does this concern me and Continental Assurance?

JENNY DOLLAR
The District inspector who signed off on the plans for this building has taken an extended vacation in the Florida Keys, and in a hurry, too. Never been much of a maritime enthusiast, if you ask his friends. But the move seems permanent – been gone for two weeks and no one’s been able to get a hold of him. They’ve got phones in Florida alright, but apparently they don’t go to the place where Mr. Carmack now resides.

Alright, Mr. McCracken, it’s just a one, two three.

(Closing trumpet flourish)

NARRATOR VOICEOVER
Now here’s our to star to tell you about tomorrow’s episode of this week’s intriguing story.

JENNY DOLLAR VOICEOVER
Tomorrow, the trap is ready and baited, and you won’t believe who springs it.

Yours truly, Jenny Dollar.

THE END

A breath of whiskey – space rock opera

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 19, 2015

Aside

Continuing the re-write exercise, this time with a haiku and a space rock opera. The latter was largely inspired by listening to David Bowie inimitable Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity on repeat for a few days. The words have been arranged to follow (roughly) Space Oddity in the beginning, and then Suffragette City for the final sequence.

The haiku mostly came from riding the metro a lot to and from work.

Haiku

Two musicians sit
Minds, voice, and strings all entwined,
Yet alone within.


Galactically fabulous

Location: starship’s command deck

Loud, discordant music plays. The only illumination is a dim, pulsing red light, projecting bottom up. Two figures appear, outlined by the red light coming from behind them. They crawl and stumble forward, over debris.

A small light comes up down stage left, revealing a Silicon Sam. He is prone, draped over the piano. His coat is torn, and a few sparks are sputtering out of the opening. He comes to, dusts himself off, begins to play, the discordant music begins to die down. Only his right arm works.

Lights come up center stage, revealing Alex Shadow and Jen Star.

ALEX SHADOW

Here it is, oh brave Jen Star,
The few last breaths of air
With the oxygen from Earth.
Now it’s time to play the journey through
If we dare.

JEN STAR
Rummaging through and kicking over the wreckage

The blast of cosmic dust
Has blinded us,
A comet’s wrath –
It scorched the ship.
Now we are lost,
Adrift a million miles away…

SILICON SAM
A single, twinkling blue light comes up on the ceiling. Sam sees it. As the scene goes on, more and more twinkling blue lights come on.

Andromeda is blue…
I can see it just a bit.
Only one engine is left,
And the ship can’t fly the way.

(Expires)

Jen Star finds her guitar and throws on the strap. The guitar comes alive, alarm lights blinking along its length.

ALEX SHADOW

Though one hundred thousand miles away,
I know we can come through
On the rocket packs across the void of space.
Jen, I love you very much!

JEN STAR
Strums her guitar, rough rock music plays, the stage shakes, and lights grow brighter.

I know.

Listen, Alex,
Controls are dead
And Sam is gone.
Strap your helmet on,
Arm the rocket pack
And blast away…

Rocket packs descend from the ceiling. Jen Star and Alex Shadow receive them and buckle in. Jen Star continues to play.

BOTH ALEX SHADOW AND JEN STAR

JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: On the jet fuel of my voice
JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: We will burst into reentry
JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: We have gone through the Vortex Star,
Hey Andromeda Blue,
We are coming for you!
(Rocket packs begin to emit multi-colored sparks)
BOTH: Five!
BOTH: Oh, all the friends we’ve left behind.
BOTH: Four!
BOTH: Schoolhouse we escaped like wayward satellites.
BOTH: Three!
ALEX: When I knew that I could sing.
BOTH: Two!
JEN: When I touched that first guitar.
BOTH: ONE!

(Rocket packs ignite in full. Jen Star and Alex Shadow begin their ascent.)

ALEX SHADOW
Go up the neon stairway to stars
Don’t look back
The neon stairway to stars
‘Cause you ain’t got time to be afraid
This Andromeda Star
Is outta sight, it’s alright.

(Both exit up)

THE END

A breath of whiskey – Charles Dickens

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 13, 2015

Aside

This is an iteration of a writing exercise, based on a short story I wrote earlier. The suggestions – including Charles Dickens for this one – were given by my kind and enthusiastic friends.

I endeavor with this ghostly little story to exercise the ghost of an idea, and pray it shall not put my readers out of humor with myself, themselves, or the time they have given so generously. May my literary attempts haunt them briefly and pleasurably.

Blow off the dust

Part I

“Jen, would you like the rest of this posset? There’s just a breath of warmth left in it, if you’d like,” said Alex.

Jen and Alex, each no older than a tender thirteen years of age were confined to the unlit vestibule, ordered there in no uncertain words by that most unsparing of all overlords – their orphanage mistress, Mrs. Tawdridge. A wintry draft has slipped through the full-length glass double doors, chilling both children to their frail bones and robbing the posset mug of almost all of its heat. Neither of them was actually able to drink much of the milky concoction – the vile, malodorous rum dumped into it by an equally vile and malodorous cook turned their stomachs more cruelly than the hunger.

A fire had been lit for the guests occupying the distant, opulent dining room, separated from the entryway by the dim and sparse waiting room. The distance dissipated any and all heat born by the flames, and the only impression that reached Jen and Alex were the faint, shifting flickers of illumination. Just as the jovial and cordial company only reached them as an unintelligible cacophony of hearty voices, and the nourishing feast merely as tantalizing scents.

“No, you hold on to it, dear Alex,” she said. The poor boy was trembling sick, pale as the fresh snow outside.

Part II

“Where are these blasted knaves!” Mr Samuel Reedy boomed as he propelled his overflowing figure into the waiting room, and squinted while his eyes adjusted for the dim entryway.

“There now, you wee scoundrels,” he grabbed Jen by her shoulder. With the other hand, he relieved Alex of the cup of untouched posset. “Let’s just set this over here, lest it fall into someone’s pocket by some preposterous accident.” He lowered himself slightly, his eyes bulging and the folds of his neck battling the stiff starched collar. As he spoke, his voice effused with a palpably false sweetness, he squeezed little Jen’s shoulder ever harder.

“Now, children, these are good Christians in here, and they wish to hear nothing but good Christian music. I don’t wish to hear any of those shanties you ruffians may have picked up from the other villainous rascals. There is a warm meal in it for you, and if you perform as well as you have been trained, perhaps some good may yet come of the two of you. And remember, it is only by good graces of my humble self, and the good and kindly Mrs. Tawdridge that you are here, in the company of proper men and ladies, and that you may, one day, turn out something worthy of yourselves.”

Part III

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Reedy spoke in the most saccharine voice, “we have with us tonight two lovely angels, two poor souls aggrieved by cruel fate, and whose only happiness now comes from the gentle care afforded them by the ever-saintly Mrs. Tawdridge, who is also with us tonight.”

As Mr. Reedy went on, the children gingerly arranged themselves. Alex stood on the granite slab at the foot of the fireplace, took off his cap and held it tightly in his hands, crushing its woolen rim. He would occasionally dare a glance at Jen, but otherwise kept his eyes affixed firmly on the extravagant rug covering most of the floor. When Mr. Reedy ushered the children into the room, he was careful to guide them around its edges.

Jen unclasped a worn leather case, its hinged stiff with rust and age, and retrieved a violin. And what a beauteous instrument it was! It possessed a varnished body the color of deep amber, a dark and slender neck, its form elegant and light. The case was marked with a simple brass nameplate, bearing the letters C. E. A. The violin seemed much too large for young girl, yet she handled it with confident dexterity.

Their moment finally upon them, Jen and Alex exchanged anxious glances. Jen managed a radiant smile, and it reflected in Alex’s gaunt face.

“Alright, Alex,” she said, and softly tapped off a one-two-three on the violin.

Part IV

Their performance complete – to an exuberant satisfaction of Mr. Reedy’s guests – Jen and Alex once again found them in the frigid vestibule, with Mr. Reedy himself towering over them, and the warm meal never materialized. He held Jen’s violin in his hands, inspecting it as one would inspect a prize ham. Candlelight condensed and smoldered in the rich golden amber of its grain.

“Jen, my sweet darling, that was a lovely performance, but anyone with even a grain of musical appreciation – such a man as myself – can see that this instrument is much too advanced for someone as young as yourself. Its voice much too powerful. It is even the wrong size for someone as minute as yourself! It is plain as day. I shall, of course, preserve and safekeep this extraordinary article, until the day you are ready to play more advantageously. In the mean time, Mrs. Tawdridge will provide you with a temporary instrument, better for you to practice with. Now, off with the both of you.”

Alex, exhausted nearly to the point of incapacitation half-turned toward the door, still Jen remained rooted where she stood, her eyes on the violin. She had neither words nor deeds to protest the unjust circumstance. However, letting it out of her sight felt like a complete impossibility, an action as violent as severing a limb.

At the very moment, the doors burst open, and a man clad in a naval uniform hurried in. Two others, dressed similarly but of lower rank, stood statue-like beside. Behind them, a dark carriage with gleaming headlamps rested in the street. The man examined the faces of those before him – Mr. Reedy and the two children – and when his eyes affixed on those of Jen, in an instant his countenance was illuminated with joy. He knelt before the child and embraced her.

“Who in the nine hells are you that you may invade a private home in such manner!” Mr Reedy demanded, suffocating with outrage.

“Captain Charles Edgar Avery, of Her Majesty’s Naval Service. This young lady is Jennifer Murrow, my niece found at last, and I am here to retrieve her, so that she may be reunited with her family and kin.”

As Captain Avery led Jen outside, she clasped Alex’s hand with every intention of never letting go and pulled him along into the carriage, where a pile of thick woolen blankets awaited them.

Pausing by the door, Captain Avery addressed the stunned Mr. Reedy once more,

“The violin you are holding, Mr. Reedy, I am certain, is the one I have gifted to my young sister, Miss Murrow’s mother, many years ago. It belongs to Miss Murrow, and shall remain with her.”

A breath of whiskey – blank verse

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 10, 2015

Aside

My friends have kindly and enthusiastically submitted suggests for rewrite formats for the original “A breath of whiskey” piece. The first, written in rough blank verse, is below.

Blank verse

“A breath of whiskey, just for you,”
He said, mock courage on his lips.
“Alright, you glutton, I’ll take whatever’s left.”
She swung the bottle, knocked it dead,
Sweet smoke consumed but in a blink.
Parched with the strangling heat
Of throngs of savage guests pressed close,
They spied the outside door,
Its siren call of crisp and vacant night.
Alas, the daring plan cut short –
His voice a booming cannonade,
Their princely host has called them forth.
“You’ve traveled far – we’ve waited long,
And now we thirst for trill and verse you bring!”
Her gaze downturned,
The specter of her smile obscured,
She drew her gleaming mandolin
As deftly as an ancient knight.
And he – a tankard for a sword –
Ascended marble stairs, longing
To plumb sweet solitude of song.
With their host’s blessing and affection,
All eyes and ears obedient and waiting,
She whispered,
“Go on, you villain,” and thumbed a rhythm hence.

A breath of whiskey

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 9, 2015

Aside

This piece is largely brought to you by listening to Aldous Harding on repeat. Also, this is part of an exercise for me, in which I will rewrite this piece in different styles and genres. If you’d like to contribute, make a suggestion in the comments.

Strum

“There’s just a breath of whiskey left in that bottle. Finish it off,” said Alex.

Jen hooked the bottle with her boot, scooted it within reach, then grabbed it off the coffee table. They both had their feet up on it, sitting on opposite sides. Alex was sinking into a broken old couch. Jen leaning dangerously far in a bentwood chair.

“You weren’t kidding,” she said, looking at Alex through the curved glass. Green and smudged Alex pulled out a cigarette, tapped it against his knee, and looked anxiously toward the door. The room was hot with people, beer, and pizza boxes. It sure would have been nice to sneak outside for a minute.

“I really could have gone for a couple breaths.” She muttered, uncorked and swished the bottle. The stuff was smoky and sweet and Jen knocked it back. It stung a bit and she smiled. Alex smiled, too.

“You ready to go then? I think people are gonna start coming back in.”

“Sure,” she said and flicked a pick between her fingers.

“You need a tuneup?”

“I’d love a tuneup, but you already drank it all,” she waived the empty bottle at Alex. They both grinned.

“I barely touched the stuff.” He leaned forward, trying to extract himself from the couch. Sam was making his way toward them, bumping people’s knees and shoulders. This meant they’d be up in a minute. “Not that I didn’t want to – you try keeping it away from the rest of these savages.” The guy sitting next to Alex half-cocked his head in hazy alarm. Alex grabbed Sam’s hand and escaped.

Sam raised his arms and boomed for the room to shut the fuck up. Everyone got a polite notch quieter, and began re-arranging themselves to give Jen and Alex some space at one end of the room. While Sam was introducing them, Alex grabbed a can of beer, climbed a couple steps, and leaned against a wall. The can was cold, which was nice, and it was reassuring to hold on to something. It gave his hands something to do.

Jen dragged her chair to the bottom of the stairs, took the guitar out of the case and started polishing the chrome with a handkerchief, pick in her teeth. Her jeans were ripped and ragged, there were oil stains on her shirt and hands – but that guitar was spit-clean. She didn’t look up at all while Sam talked. She tucked the handkerchief into her back pocket and absentmindedly fingered a small tin cross through the fabric of her shirt.

Alex wished he had an instrument. But he was rubbish on a guitar, and she was a crackshot with it. And singing made him feel wonderfully alone, so maybe this was alright. Sam wrapped up, there was a smattering of applause, and the room fell more or less quiet. Alex looked at Jen, and she looked at him.

“Alright asshole,” she said, and began to count off by tapping her thumb on the guitar.

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