Short Story: Mr. Green (Part 2)

The Man in the bowler hat, 1964 L’Homme au Chapeau Melon, 1964

(This Story is 4,500 words long, reading time is approximately 18 minutes. For Part 1 of the Mr. Green series, click here.)

Mr. Green

(Part 2)

Charles Benson leaned forward at his desk and ran both of his hands through his thinning hair. It was much more grey than black these days. His top two advisors sat in black leather chairs on the other side of the office.

All three of them stared at the flat screen TV that hung on the wall. The 10 o’clock morning news segment had just begun. A young woman with the back posture of a flagpole took her seat behind the news desk, arranged a stack of papers, and began in a somber tone:

“Investigators have yet to ascertain any serious leads in the collapse of a major intersection in downtown Singapore over the weekend. A subway tunnel collapsed, causing the streets aboveground to cave in. Whole sections of roads, sidewalks, and even buildings were pulled into the hole caused by the tunnel collapse. The death count is currently at 92 and still rising. The number of injured is over 300.”

A video in the top right corner showed a helicopter’s view of the disaster. The intersection was barricaded off on all sides by police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. It looked like a black hole had opened up beneath the city and swallowed everything in it’s reach. Whole sections of nearby buildings had been broken off and pulled into the gaping hole, like a flooding river pulling off chunks of the river bank.

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The Intrepid Flamingo: Tuesday, August 11th

Through the heart of a South African Jungle runs a mighty river, the likes of which you and I can hardly imagine.

Two million fresh gallons of rainwater fell down from heaven and across the land, just the day before. And even if that rain didn’t fall directly into the river, it all found it’s way there eventually, by many a varied route.

And now this river has become the color of mud. It is not a river of family picnics or children’s books. It’s a murderous river, and as it rushes by, it scoops up chunks of land, even trees, even the occasional neglected fisherman’s cottage. It is a hungry river; the tips of it’s frothy waves are sharp like razor canines. It is much too old to have a name. A mysterious, furious energy carries it all the way from it’s conception in the center of the earth, to it’s inevitable death at the narrow edge of the sea.

On the middle of that river floats a raft. At least some would call it a raft, but at a closer glance, it’s merely a few logs lashed together with twigs and vines. The little raft is performing beyond all expectation, doing it’s best to stay above water, riding that river like a mosquito who clings to the windshield of an 18-wheeler lumber truck.

And on the center of that raft stands a lone flamingo. She looks so exotic, so rare and precious standing there. In a violent world of greens and browns, winds and rains, her rosy feathers are still vibrant. They look like they would be softer than the richest of velvets.

Her body is an intricately crafted survival machine. She’s been walking through lagoons for ages, and therefore she has no fear of water, even for the mightiest of rivers. Her eyes are pearls. Her neck is nimble. Her legs are stilts, and she is the earth’s politest creature, capable of wading through the muck of life without spoiling a single feather.

The raft takes a lurch and a leap. It has smashed through yet another wave and still refuses to fall apart. The flamingo places her second foot on the raft for purchase, but only for a second. As soon as the trouble is past, she bends and draws her free leg back underneath her body.

The flamingo opens and closes her beak. Up ahead she spies a waterfall. She judges that her raft will overtake the waterfall in a matter of minutes.

But she is not afraid, as a creature of a lower nature might be, she is only knowing.

The mighty river roars! It churns and breaks and roils in torment! The rains begin again. The wind grabs the trees and bends them double.

The flamingo is beset on all sides. She flexes her wings.

Any minute now she’ll go launching out over that edge. The water will drop out below her. Every wild sound will die, all mix together and fade into a low, faraway hum. The river will slow. The raindrops will fall lightly like watery ballons. And the world will grow quiet, if only for a moment.

My Problem Is: Friday, July 10th

So here’s my problem.

I spend approximately 10 hours / week writing these blogs. Maybe 15 hours if I’m enjoying myself. Never less than 5.

But that’s not the problem. The problem is that I’m not writing as much “story” content as I’d like. I’m getting at least one short story finished each month. But I think that I could do more. And I want to write novels at the same time.

I want to be writing stories, every damn day, because that’s the only way to write better stories.

Every minute of every day counts. So when I think about 10 hours per week of blogging, or 40 hours per month, well that’s a lot of valuable hours. And maybe more of those should be spent writing stories instead of writing about writing stories.

Now I’ve been going 4 months of blogging 5 days a week. I’ve never missed a day and I’m proud of that. But what are goals worth if they’re not steering you in the right direction.

But I can’t just quit blogging. I can’t even just say, “OK, now I’ll cut back to two days a week.”

Because I’m afraid that, if I did that, it wouldn’t actually lead to more story writing. Maybe it would just lead to more Youtube Watching, or more Bike Riding, or more Sleeping in on Sundays.

So here’s my brilliant solution / compromise.

I’m going to keep posting 5 days a week. Only some of those posts will not be “nonfiction blogs”, they’ll be some kind of story, some kind of serial or ongoing fiction plot-line.

That way, I’ll keep the daily posting, which I like because it kicks my ass into producing every day whether I like it or not, but I’ll turn more of those hours into “story producing hours.”

***

Now that I’ve had the idea. I know this needs to happen. But I’m scared to do it. Because it will probably mean even more weekly work. It will mean I need to plot a full story arc (or two) before I can begin the first installment. And it will mean publishing more stories at a faster rate, which for me feels more high stakes than just a nonfiction blogpost.

So because I’m scared to start this, I’m gonna go ahead and say, “to begin at an undetermined date.”

So, hopefully in the next month of so… (that’s the anxiety talking again)

I’ll jump into a slightly different routine of… 1 short story per month. 2 blog posts per week about writing. And 3 installments of a short story series per week. Or something along those lines.

Obviously I’ve got a lot to figure out. But right now the idea feels right. More to come.

***

Have a fluffy, feathery weekend everyone!!

The Distance of the Moon: Thursday, May 14th.

Writers are too serious. I’m certainly guilty of this. Especially when we are young and impressionable, we think that we have something important to say. We think we are going to change the world.

Lately I’ve been appreciating the value of good entertainment. Life is hard enough. People don’t necessarily need to be reminded of pain and suffering during their Books and TV Shows and Movies.

Entertainment is important. If you want to change the world, make somebody laugh. Ease their mind for a while. Life is serious enough.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Why, when I have the freedom to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon, or turn myself invisible and walk unimpeded into the White House, or play hockey on the moon with a team of Blue Wizards – why would I want to write about my desk job, on a Monday morning, when I’m late for work and the car is low on gas?

A blank page is a treasure trove of untold possibilities. I’m thankful for all the fun stories I read when I was a kid. I’m thankful for those writers who stuck a helium nozzle in my ear and blew up my imagination like a latex glove until it took on the shape of a cow’s udder.

***

The Distance of the Moon is a short story by Italo Calvino. It was published in 1965 as part of a collection called the “Cosmicomics.”

I listened to it on audio this week, and it inspired me to think of all the fun possibilities in the writing universe.

Here is a sample…

[…] “the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full – nights as bright as day, but with the butter-coloured light – it looked as if she were going to crush us […] Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath it, prop a ladder against her and scramble up. […] This is how we did the job: in the boat we had a ladder: one of us held it, another climbed to the top, and a third, at the oars, rowed until we were right under the Moon; […] The man at the top of the ladder, as the boat approached the Moon, would become scared and start shouting: ‘Stop! Stop! I’m going to bang my head!’”

***

Don’t you want to know what happens next? Don’t you want to hang out in that universe for a little while, if only to poke around and see what you can see? Go ahead and  try it out. Nobody is watching.