Monday, November 9, 2009

Few Things More Depressing

There are few things more depressing than a white LCD wasteland, its only denizen a lonely cursor blinking away in the upper left corner. If one were to stare at it long enough, one might imagine it blinking out Morse code; B-L-O-C-K.

"Hey, whatcha writin' on that thar scribblepad o' yourn, Dreyfus? S'more a yer girl poetries? Hurr hurr haw!"

"Why don't you go keep an eye on the cattle, Bart. They look lonely." Dreyfus snapped the lid of his notebook computer shut. He set it down on a barrel cactus and glared up at Bart. Bart was a little weedy guy in denim and chaps and a giant belt buckle that looked like a gold-plated tin of Altoids. He had guns on his hips and tattoos of guns on both biceps. Gun guns.

Only two more days, if the weather held, and Dreyfus could be done with this. Just another two days.

"Yew want me to show you a trick?"

"No, I don't."

Bart rolled up the sleeves of his gingham shirt and flexed his biceps anyway.

"Lookee thar. Kinda looks like the barrels is revolvin', don't it?"


"Aww, you don't know what neat is, pardner," Bart spat, returning his sleeves. "So, you writin' some kinda novel? You gonna be a rich famous scribe, you thinks?"

"Look. Bart. I know you're taking this gig pretty seriously, but this is 2009. Nobody says 'scribe' anymore. Not even cowboys."

"Cowpokes," Bart corrected, spitting again.

"Why don't you leave him alone, Bart?" The booming voice came from a PortaJohn® in the back of a pickup truck. It glowed a majestic shade of beige in the late evening Colorado sun and contained a big man in great discomfort.

"Why don't YOU come outta that thar portapiddle, Chuck? You been in there all day, and you ain't even took yer turn out fronta the herd."

There was a brief silence in the camp. A cattle lowed. A tumbleweed tumbleweeded. Chuck made some horrible gastrointestinal noises.

"Hold on now," he boomed from his fiberglass cubicle, "it was that...that...whatever it was you cooked for breakfast this morning that did this to me. You have no right to complain."

Bart kicked at the dust, sending a plume toward Dreyfus' laptop. "Aww, it'll man ya up. You two could use a little mannin' up. Coupla city boys whut ain't never kicked no horses nor slapped a mongoose. A faller goes soft on that kinda life. Ain't whut the Good Lord intended."

Dreyfus snatched his laptop from the cactus and tucked it into his vest before the cloud of dust blew over him. "Said the fearless suburbanite, with a garbage disposal in every sink in his house."

"Shet yer yap, Dreyfus. At least I drive a truck."

"Yeah. An extended cab with bug guards, reclining bucket seats and a DVD player. Real hard core there, Bart," added Chuck.

"It's an automatic, too," added Dreyfus. "At least my Fusion is a stick."

"Oh, God. I think I'm gonna be in here all night," grunted Chuck. "What the hell did you put in that pot?"

"Aw, don't be such a limp tortoise. It was just beans and some other stuff from a can. Yew two are both setch old ladies, I tellya."

"Is Scooter still back in town, you think?" Chuck said through gritted teeth.

"Naw, Chief. I'm afeard ol' Scooter took buttsick and we had ta set him to dancin' with the laughin' bats. Damn pity, too."

Dreyfus sighed. He tugged his laptop free of his vest and set it down on a flat rock. "What our colleague is trying to say, I think, is that Scooter is indeed still out. Probably at Wal-Mart. Did you want me to give his cell a call?"

"Would you? Ask him to bring me some Pepto or something. Lordy, here it comes again."

"That guy's so fulla theatrics. You know whut? I'mma go rassle the dawgs. You kin go back to writin' yer fruity novella. Good luck with your work too, big guy," he said, slapping the side of the PortaJohn as he passed. Bart faced the setting sun, squinting intrepidly into the firey distance, and unholstered his cap pistols. He spun them around his index fingers by their trigger guards and dropped them both in the dust.

Dreyfus brought the laptop out of sleep mode.

There are few things more depressing than a man out of his element, except possibly one who does not realize it. A man who attempts to answer a primeval yearning in our age does so clumsily, as if he were trying to breathe through vestigial gills. All he does is make a total doofus out of himself.


  1. Sounds like something got unblocked. Your characters have such great voices.

  2. Thanks Sheila!

    Isn't it weird how sometimes you can overlook connections in your writing that you never intended to make?

    Writer's block. Ol' Chuck has no problems with blockage--quite the opposite in fact.

    Of course, the human mind is very eager to draw connections. In fact, I'm drawing a connection from your "sounds like something got unblocked" to Chuck's predicament.

    And maybe you didn't intend that at all!

    Either way, when I notice it, (or, more often, have it pointed out to me) I'm very proud of myself for it.

  3. Connections you never *consciously* intended to make. Thing is, your conscious mind can't write, but your adaptive unconscious can, and that's where all those connections are. Is it any wonder so many writers were and are heavy drinkers?

  4. I really like the way this one rumbles along, pausing only to nod at the late Don Barthelme's story "Daumier" and do a quick pinch of the hatbrim at Garrison K's Dusty and Lefty. I especially liked the prologue-epilogue device.

  5. Oh, this was great, Paul! Very funny, but yet... oddly profound. And I've herded cattle... Bart's a poser if ever I saw one. Just like a guy to try and feel important by giving everybody else the runs.

  6. Cattle Drive to Doofusdom. I like it.


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