Posts Tagged ‘blog: fiction’.

Fiction: A Few Words From Leonard Ramirez, First Co-President of the United States

The latest from my ongoing interminable series “Rejected by McSweeney’s.”

Good afternoon, Mr. President; Madam Secretary; members of the press corps; ladies and gentlemen.

When I first received a call from the election commission informing me that, due to an obscure and little-understood bylaw in our nation’s founding documents, the Supreme Court was, for the first time ever, Constitutionally obligated to name a Co-President of the United States, I was, to say the least, surprised.

When the gentleman on the phone went on to say that, due to the ratio between the popular vote total in the Northern states and the balance of party power in the Senate, divided by the number of property owners in the state of Virginia, this rare and never-before-executed provision had mathematically selected me, Leonard Ramirez, assistant general manager of Penn Hills Radio Shack in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to serve as co-president alongside Barack Obama, I was extremely surprised.

We need not review the curious and protracted process by which I came to actually assume this office. I urge us to put the partisan rancor of the last several months behind us. The many slanderous statements and incredulous, stammering protests uttered in the Supreme Court challenge that I survived will forever remain a part of that Court’s permanent record; let us keep our high spirits by not repeating them here.

I did not ask for this unprecedented position; I did not expect it; but I see no option but to rise to it. And so, as co-president, I would like to offer my assistance to President Obama in any way that I can.

Mr. President, please let me know if there’s anything I can do. My desk, just on the other side of the hastily-erected cubicle wall in the Oval Office that you have no doubt noticed, is very close to yours, so you should be able to just speak loudly, or come over and ask whatever you like. If you’re out of the office, or on Air Force One or in another country, I’m told that you have been given a special walkie-talkie that can connect you to me at any time. It looks like this one. Do you have it? Okay. It’s okay if you don’t have it with you. I’ve got mine, so, whenever you need, just hit the Talk button. Mine’s set on Channel Two, but if you prefer a different channel, just let me know. I’m happy to accommodate.

I’ve been asked if I plan to sit in on Cabinet meetings, or visit foreign dignitaries, or address Congress. My answer to these, and every similar query, is the same: if I can be of help, then I am happy to. Mr. President, if you are busy with your family, and you’d prefer me to go visit troops in Afghanistan or have a meeting with Hugo Chavez, all you have to do is ask. I am no longer married, and I only have my daughter on alternate weekends, so I have a lot of free time. I’ve also been in touch with my general manager over at Penn Hills Radio Shack, Nancy Ranmuller. She has agreed to allow me as much time off as I need. So, again, I am at your disposal for that.

I do speak a little bit of Spanish, but not very much. Mainly just greetings, curse words, and the names of foods. If Hugo Chavez wants to talk to me about brunch, I won’t even need an interpreter! Just a little joke. I would in actuality be happy to avail myself of the services of an official White House interpreter. It would probably be for the best. I should also say that I am fair to decent at taking notes. I could meet with you after the meeting and we could go over what was said, sort of talk it out and make sure we’re both on the same page. I will try my best to keep any random doodles “president-friendly.”

Mr. President, I also know that it must be very difficult for you to split your attention among the many pressing issues facing this nation, including the economy, concerns about jobs and unemployment, health care reform, and rising tensions overseas. Again, I want to put myself at your disposal. If you want to think just about unemployment for a while, I’m here to run interference for you. I can hold a press conference, or conduct an interview with 60 Minutes. Or, I can discuss one issue with the Cabinet, while you meet with leaders in Congress about something else. Later, we can compare notes, and that way in case the other person has to go to the other meeting the next day, we’re both up to speed on everything that’s been discussed.

The last election was among the most divisive in our nation’s history. Mr. President, I feel I should come clean and admit that did I not vote for you. I did not vote for anyone, because I forgot what time the polls closed, and also I did not have a ride. Nancy Ranmuller was supposed to take me after work, but she had to go pick up her kids, because of some mix-up with her husband that I do not know the details of. As co-president I am willing to be flexible about things like that, because I do not have a family of my own, except for alternate weekends when my daughter and I read books in silence. I almost got remarried once, but it did not work out for reasons too complicated to explain. I do get Secret Service protection, though, right? In case she shows up at the White House?

Just another little joke. I think she is unlikely to show up at the White House. Even I had to take a cab because I could not find it at first. Anyway, because of my family situation I can always stay late at the office, or run to pick something up if you and Michelle are busy or need an extra hand. I am not much of a cook but I can do simple things like rice and eggs pretty well. I also don’t snore and usually have clean towels on hand in case you need to crash at my place for any reason, or if I have to stay overnight at the White House I’ll try not to be a bother. I do sometimes like to watch television in the evenings, but if you would rather go to bed early, it’s okay if I miss an episode of something. It’s really not a big deal; I can always read a recap the next day. Although I think you would agree that it’s not the same.

I would just like to conclude by saying that I am really very excited for this opportunity. There has never been a co-president in our nation’s history. But our Founders must have written it into the Constitution for a reason.

Mr. President, I know this is an awkward situation for the both of us. Believe me, I’m as nervous as you are. And since we have to work together, I hope we can make the best of it. I’ll try to remember to bring headphones to the Oval Office and if my music is ever too loud, please just let me know. I’ve already labeled all my food in the fridge so there should be no confusion. I will now take questions.

My Sherlock Holmes fanfiction

Last week I was invited to write and read a piece of original self-insert fanfiction as part of Mike Betette’s “Fan Friction” show at M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater!


Fiction: Totally Plausible Ways I Could Talk To The Girl Who Lives In My Building

I present the latest in my irregular series “Rejected by McSweeney’s.” A work of fiction.

Totally Plausible Ways I Could Talk To The Girl Who Lives In My Building

1. She is coming in from walking her dog, the leash in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other. I hold the door open for her. She says “thanks.” A conversation starts, perhaps about the dog, perhaps about the groceries (“just out buying dog food?”, etc).

2. The water is off in the building while some sort of repair is being done. While in the courtyard tending to my herb garden, through her apartment’s open window I hear her mutter to herself that she is thirsty. I stand up so that she notices me through the window, then jokingly hold up my watering can and indicate that I have water left in there, if she really wants some. I indicate that this is a joke, but add that I have bottles of water in my apartment.

3. I am checking my car’s oil in the parking garage. She sees me under the hood and, figuring me for the mechanical type, asks a question about a “kind of intermittent rattle or squeak” emanating from near the front left wheel of her 1997 Honda Prelude. I have noticed this squeak before, so I have previously consulted Wikipedia and several auto forums, and can confidently recommend that she get her control arm bushings checked out, or it could be a wheel bearing.

4. I see her at the farmers’ market. She makes eye contact without recognizing who I am, so I freeze and say nothing. She buys some rhubarb and chard, and I buy the same without knowing what either tastes like or what I would use it for. I casually mention to the seller how convenient the market is, considering that I live just down the street in the white building. At this, the girl turns and recognizes me. I pretend to recognize her for the first time as well, and we both laugh.

5. Across the street, a car catches fire. Neighbors gather on the sidewalk to watch the fire trucks arrive. She comes out onto her patio, asks what happened, and I explain. I then ask if she would like to review video of the fire that I captured on my phone, and walk over to her patio. Once there, I comment on her barbecue grill. I mention that I have an extra propane tank that I will never get around to using, and ask if she wants it. From here we discuss the merits of propane vs. charcoal grilling. She doesn’t seem too interested, but I have read about it on Wikipedia beforehand so I have lots of factoids that keep the conversation moving.

6. A drive-by shooting occurs in our neighborhood. I see her walking down the sidewalk with her dog, see the gangbangers’ car approaching with its headlights off, see their intended target, do mental geometry, and realize that she is likely to be struck by stray shots. I vault over my patio railing and knock her to the ground, just as bullets rip through the air where she just was. She drops the dog’s leash, but I quickly snag it with my free hand to prevent the dog from running into traffic. She is scared and thankful, but I am simply grateful that she is all right. The gangbangers speed off, so unnerved by my sudden action that they also missed their intended target.

7. The national economy collapses, and riots break out nationwide. I have stockpiled weapons and provisions in my apartment. I invite her to stay with me until it all calms down. Faced with the prospect of otherwise having to eat her dog, she moves in and I teach her how to shoot a Sig Sauer P226.

8. She becomes President of the United States. Reporters eager to dig up dirt on her past knock on my door. I lie to get onto television, but once the cameras roll I say only nice things. Impressed with my bold stand, she appoints me her Chief of Staff, and from then on we speak practically daily.

9. I get into a revert war with another Wikipedian regarding the prose style of the article on Railway Stations of New Jersey. During heated discussion on the talk page, the other editor uses the term “cockadilly nonsense,” which I have only ever heard before with my ear pressed against my apartment wall, attempting to overhear her telephone conversations. I immediately rush outside, knock on her door, and when she answers, dressed like me in animal-spangled pajama pants, I whisper “This is a stupid thing to fight about.” After we make love, she concedes that I was correct that the article suffered from a critical lack of encyclopedic tone.

More Surprising Etymologies

Flickr photo by Tom Hynds

Comic #829 involves a false etymology for the words “pep” and “pepper”. Here are some more surprising etymologies, of various degrees of plausibility.

• Tea gets its name from the abbreviation on tungsten tellurium lanterns (atomic symbol Te), which were used by British soldiers in the Crimea to heat teakettles in the field. The beverage was previously colloquially known as rattle, short for “rattle and clink,” Cockney rhyming slang for “leaf drink.”

• The word sultan comes from the same Latin root as the word consult — in the same way that a president is one who presides, a sultan is one consulted. The title sultan was first assumed by Turkish ruler Fazzad bin Rahib during the thirteenth century in an attempt to emphasize rulership based on the classical qualities of reason and logic.

• The Old French mer is the root for many of our words relating to water, such as marine, maritime and marsupial. But mer was also used more generally as a metaphor for “truth” — the clarity and cleanliness of water representing honesty and sincerity. Thus we get camera, the “capturer of truth”, and mirror, the “twisted truth”. The -or suffix is often found in this context: terror means “the twisted earth”, or something unsettling and otherworldly; horror (using hor- as in horizon) means “twisted boundaries,” or something unreal made real.

• Speaking of fear, the bogeyman feared by children everywhere has its roots in the legend of John Bogieman, a poor farmer said to have given his children away as payment when he couldn’t make the mortgage on his farm. He kept his farm, but his vegetables turned up rotten evermore and he starved to death. Now, he wanders the earth searching for his lost children, and many say his ghostly form cannot tell innocent children from his own, whom he wants to take back with him to the underworld.

• The verbs punch and fart are both onomotopoeias.

Leave your own in the comments!

Happy Imaginary Day!

(Drawing by RDCarneiro, from here)

As you know, this week we had Imaginary Day on February 30th! It’s a new holiday, so obviously our traditions and observations will be different, but as it’s a day that didn’t exist at all, who’s to say what did or didn’t happen?

What did you do on Imaginary Day? Leave a comment and let us know!

Here’s what happened on my Imaginary Day:

I woke up early, before the alarm even went off. I was perfectly rested, not tired even a little bit! I leapt out of bed and had a nutritious breakfast. I was pleased because my kitchen contained exactly the right food for me to assemble a perfect breakfast! There was one English muffin left and two eggs and just a bit of cheese and some breakfast sausage. This was satisfying, because all the packages of food were totally used up all at the same time!

Then I got a phone call from a friend. “Hello, friend,” said the friend! “I know we used to hang out for no reason, and have fun, because that is what friends do sometimes, but ever since we Grew Up and Got Jobs, we never hang out just for fun. We feel like our time is too valuable, or something. But screw that, let’s hang out!” So we did!

Me and my friend went for a walk and got some coffee and chatted, then curled up and read books. Neither of us felt like we had anything else to do today. In fact, the internet had some sort of Imaginary-Day-related Y2K problem and there were no emails to answer, nothing distracting going on, no projects calling out to be worked on. For one day — Imaginary Day — just sitting and reading was all there was to do!

After we read for a while, I went to go get a snack, but my refrigerator had become a doorway to another dimension. I opened the door, and bugs came pouring out! They filled my kitchen, seething, swarming out like a fluid, a chittering crawling wave, but I had to get through them, I had to find something on the other side. I dove into the wave, keeping my eyes firmly shut, and I swam, and kicked, and felt with my outstretched hands for anything I could use to pull myself through the tide.

It was horrifying, but it was only imaginary!

My fingers brushed something firm, and after a few seconds of straining, I was able to grasp it. It was round, like a pole, but with bumps and contours — and when I pulled against it, it moved. It bent in the center. It was the leg of a horse, and it started running. The sea of bugs was still washing over me, but I knew that wherever this horse was going to go, I had to stay with it.

I hung onto its leg as it kicked and ran and galloped away, and soon the bugs dropped off. The horse was red. It was running on a baked, featureless desert. The bugs gone, the hot desert sun hit me directly. My skin began to blister.

A crevasse opened beneath the horse, and it bucked and whinnied and tried to flee, but the crevasse had a gravity all its own. The horse was pulled in, but I let go and dropped to the ground. The heat of the desert floor wrapped around me, encasing me in a sphere that I realized, as I began to choke, was made of sand. It pressed me, stifled me, solidified around me, kept pressing and squeezing until I could feel each grain of the sand crystallize and harden into glass. I could not move, could not breathe. It became dark.

I do not know how long I sat there, silent and void, trapped in that glassy prison.

The next sound I heard was something like a chisel against stone. It was far away, a million miles perhaps, but then a bit of light came through, and I felt the glass separating, cracking like an egg. It fell away from me, and I fell to the ground, but what had been harsh desert before was my own carpet, my living room, its familiar shape a soft fielder’s glove slipped on once more after years away from the game. “I’m ready,” the real life reminded me. “I’m here.”

It was a minute after midnight, and Imaginary Day was over. My friend was no longer here. I went to get some ice cream, but I hesitated, my hand an inch from the freezer door handle.

After far too long, I wrenched it open, and in there was ice, and frozen peas, and Hot Pockets, and meat, but no ice cream. The bugs had taken it all with them.