Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #74: Drama

Kacy’s left-wing radical sister Kerrie told her three months ago “Trump doesn’t give a shit if you die from coronavirus.”  Things went south from there.  The sisters haven’t spoken to each other since, not that Kacy minds.  She has enough drama in her life, starting with her eight-year-old son Austin’s pathetic performance in school.  The teachers think he has a learning disability, though he’s certainly learned how to avoid work, and how to hit people up (including even his father, her asshole ex-husband number two) for money.  Perhaps Austin has a bright future with the Democrat Party.  Suck it, Kerrie.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Zooping

During the height of the COVID-19 quarantine, when the economy had shut down, causing my directing gigs to evaporate, I spent hours sitting at my laptop, watching something called Zooping, or Zoom pooping.  One of my Facebook friends, Tod Perrin, a professional listicle writer living in Brooklyn, had created Zooping, basing it (according to his Vice interview) upon “The Suffering Channel,” a novella from a writer I’ve never read, bandana boy himself, the hipster god (except among the hashtag MeToo crowd—more power to them), David Foster Wallace.  (I haven’t even pretended to read any fiction since that Foundations of American Literature class my sophomore year of college, the less said about that pretentious, brain-numbing class, the better.)

Anyway, Zooping involved people worldwide, sheltering in place in their houses or apartments or trailer homes, competing against each other on that video-conferencing app Zoom, trying within a five-minute time limit to create the largest and most artistic bowel movements on the porch, in the cat’s litter box, in a breadcrumb-style trail around the house—anywhere except in the toilet, even a transparent one.  We viewers had to see the finished product emerge unobstructed (as in Wallace’s novella, apparently); then we would vote on-line for our favorite dumps (firmness counted—no diarrhea, please), the winners moving on to the next round.  No prizes of any sort—just fourteen minutes and fifty-nine seconds of Internet fame.  The wimps running this competition (wimps relatively speaking, considering the biological function shown) forbade political content, meaning, as their Facebook page put it, you couldn’t “let loose” onto, say, the American flag or the Confederate flag, the latter flag specifically banned anyway under the “no hate speech or hate symbols” stipulation, which must have disappointed certain of the trailer-home residents.  You couldn’t indulge in sacrilege, either, goddammit.  Nor could you give yourself, or let someone else give you, an enema on- or off-screen.  You could use laxatives, though many viewers (including me) considered those the equivalent of performance-enhancing drugs and thus a form of cheating.  Even stuffed full of Ex-Lax (or not), some Zoopers would choke during those five minutes, resulting in, at best, a few rabbit droppings.  But the very best Zoopers—oh, the wondrous sculptures they would bring forth unto the world, modern-art delights more accessible than the (metaphorical) crap you see in museums.

The championship game, Zooper Bowl I, pitted Russ Fenley, thirty-two, a self-described “metalhead for life, yeeeahhh” from Newark, versus Samantha Bates, twenty-nine, a Kansas City native who called herself “the girl next door—to the nuthouse, hee hee hee.”  Russ, after his trademark grunts and groans, accompanied by his trademark contorted facial expressions that I thought made him look more intelligent or at least slightly less vacant, produced something he titled Soft Serve Mountain, right onto the floor, in the middle of his somewhat barren living room.  (You could see tumbleweed-sized dustballs in one corner, not that my domicile, an apartment on the outskirts of the outskirts, would win any interior-design awards.)  By contrast, crouching above the pink-to-the-nth-degree rug in her bathroom, Samantha looked almost peaceful as she silently crafted an untitled piece, beige and thin, about a foot-and-a-half long, resembling a spiral, speckled with corn (as befitted her Midwestern status).

She won in a close vote, 14,697-14,612.  Russ could have demanded a recount but didn’t; even he must have recognized the aesthetic brilliance of her creation.  “I’d like to thank my butthole, without which I wouldn’t have come this far,” she remarked on Zoom afterwards.  “You can say ‘butthole,’ right?  Well, I just did.”

Weeks later, most Net-heads have no doubt long forgotten her, and Russ, and Zooping in general.  But not I.  Now that I’ve started directing again, I’ve vowed to keep the irreverence of the Zoopers in mind, having fun, appealing to the non-snobbish, not that all this will eradicate racism or sexism or economic injustice, of course.  Nothing can eradicate anything, I guess, though I would think that, considering my snobbish and reasonably comfortable background.  Hashtag FauxPoor.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Mattthews

June 25, 2020 (revised July 11-12, 2020)

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #73: The Personified Impersonal

Feature Presentations Magazine #6, June 1950.  Cover by Wally Wood.

My supervisor, Hank Bromley, considered himself an intellectual.  An actual wooden plaque on his desk said the following, which I still remember after seven decades:

In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.—Moby-Dick

I just knew he’d never read that novel (but then, I’d never read it either and still haven’t).  As with most of the other men there (few women worked in that office, except as secretaries-slash-playthings), he preferred talking about sports and cars and cracking jokes about what everyone (including me) called “colored people.”  The life of the mind interfered with life, I guess.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #72: The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (May 20, 1978)

My Portuguese-American mom loved the British monarchy due to what she called its “glamour.”

The day before the special, she told me it was the four hundred and forty-second anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution by beheading.

“How fucking glamorous,” I said.

Mom just sighed, having given up long ago on disciplining me, unlike Aunt Inez, who really wasn’t too violent by our family’s standards.

Anyway, I almost watched the special, since it featured the cranky old guy from M*A*S*H, one of the few TV actors I could tolerate.  But Lynde sucked.  I just knew it.  Why start watching him now?

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #71: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas (December 7, 1977)

In this special, which of course I never saw, Paul Lynde plays an 1890s family man whose house gets invaded by wacky relatives on Christmas Eve.  The special aired only once.  According to more culturally-literate friends who have seen this on YouTube, Lynde delivers the campiest version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” ever.  My thirteen-year-old self in 1977—a wannabe straight boy who air-guitared to sexist crap on the radio—would’ve hated this version, and so would’ve my Aunt Inez, with whom my family still lived, and who hated what she called “silliness.”  Sometimes, I can see her point.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words Exactly) #70: Club Foote

In high school during the 2010s, Stewie Pringle played an on-line, open-world videogame called Club Foote, in which one could dance, drink, use drugs, have sex, or simply wander around aimlessly at the titular establishment. His avatar, Gadwin, resembled a tall, buff Sonic the Hedgehog. After a while, Pringle used a code he’d found in some chatroom to transform the sex scenes from ugh (nothing explicit) to hell yeah. Now as Gadwin banged an endless succession of guys hardcore-style, Pringle felt transgressive (but not transgender, no sirree, as he likes telling his fellow semi-closeted Trump Administration staffers with a laugh).

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #69: Christmas in April

Jenkins Winthrop, from Caldune Petroleum, joined other fossil-fuel company CEOs for a meeting with the president in the Oval Office. That night, over dinner at his mansion, Winthrop told his lover—the Energy Department’s social-media representative, Stewart “Stewie” Pringle—that under Trump, the coronavirus pandemic means “fuckin’ Christmas in April” for Big Oil: gigantic tax breaks, gigantic grants, suspended EPA rules, and nothing for renewables. “What a surprise, ha ha,” Winthrop said.

“Did you practice social distancing at that meeting, ha ha?” Pringle asked.

“Yeah, and I hoarded fuckin’ toilet paper too, ha ha.”

Face masks. Sanitizer. Endless days off.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews

No Mo’ MoDo (I Mean It This Time)

Considering I have several Everests of unread books to tackle (someday, Christina Stead), perhaps I shouldn’t spend time hate-ish reading Maureen Dowd’s column every week.  By “hate-ish,” I mean perhaps I revere MoDo for the success she’s enjoyed despite—or more likely because of—her snarky insubstantiality.

And if you want snarky insubstantiality to the extreme, dudes and dudettes, check out her latest, Dowdier-than-usual column, “A Meme Girl Mash-Up,” in today’s New York Times.  The very first sentence, which mentions Tina Fey and Mean Girls, gives us Dowd’s trademark celebrity name-dropping and pop-cultural referencing.  Two sentences later, Dowd opines “Politics has never been filled with so many mean girls[,]” thus displaying her misogyny; she always depicts non-masculine traits as unfavorable.  However, her “bitchyyy lunch table” comprising Mitch McConnell, Rudy Guiliani, and other nasty, male and female Republicans who worship Trump the “Queen Bee” did surprise me, since she almost always disparagingly feminizes Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who behaves either unwomanly or too womanly.  Not to worry, though—Dowd soon enough designates the Democrat Mike Bloomberg as a wanna-bee.

And also not to worry, Dowd then hates on Hillary, criticizing her for, during that presidential debate, not calling out the Donald for his stalking-esque behavior (though if Hillary had called him out, do you think Dowd would have reacted favorably?).  By the time Dowd notes that “Trump…is now scratching Bloomy’s eyes out[,]” the retrograde gender attitudes will make you feel like chasing a blonde, busty secretary around a desk.

Copyright © 2020 by David V. Matthews