End of February Monologues

The theme this time is the letter “P”, in honor of President’s Day.  Here are some new words for monologue writers out there.  The past few entries have been spectacular, so why not try one of your own?

Palace, Precipitous, Palpable, Prominent, Perfunctory

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The Train

I’ll apologize in advance; I know this isn’t the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard, and I’m sorry, but we’re being truthful, right? Before I say anything though you should know that I do love you, I really do. I love how we laugh together, I love the ways we complement each other. I appreciate that you put up with me and love me despite how I act, what I do sometimes. How you love me even when I say stupid stuff.

And this might be stupid. I know it’s clichéd. As much a cliche as buying a red sports car when you turn forty or reading about Che Guevara and wanting a motorcycle. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It is true.

At night my body might be lying beside you, but I’ve left you. When the train rolls by and our little house vibrates with its passing I go with it. I leave behind your warmth and smooth skin, leave behind the wool blankets and down comforter, and I’m riding that train. I’m shivering on some flatcar and the lights of this town are just another unnamed and unknown constellation, whipping by in the night and the wind. I look out over it all and I don’t know that you are there, in the darkness, sleeping. I ride by as a stranger, unaware when my gaze slides across the spot of black between the streetlights where you sleep, curled around yourself in bed.

The engineer, remote and unreal, half asleep in his engine, plays the long, cold note, the wailing song of the train that means nothing but says much. It tells me I’m a soul in transit from place to another, from this time to the future. It says that all shall pass and that I’d better taste every food quickly, just a bite and don’t waste time; to live a transient life try everything once except stability. Experience every love and leave sorrowfully in the early morning, saying “I’ll see you again” and meaning not “you” but the flavor of you and it’s a lie anyway.

You sigh in your sleep and roll over in bed and I don’t; there’s a chasm between us then; still half in my dream I don’t know you. The throbbing of the steel wheels fades to a murmur of distance and I come back to roll against you. In the morning you’ll ask what my dreams were and I obliquely hide obscure thoughts, obfuscating the truth with funny stories and little lies.

This is no heinous crime, I know. Just a little peccadillo. It won’t worry you because you know the dream is only good because I can return to comfort and home, warmth and you. But I still think guiltily of how, every night when the train rolls by, I leave you a little.

~Haakon K. lives in Montana at the moment, five hundred yards from the tracks.

Five New Words!

February brings us a change in the Five Word format, with two adjectives and a verb replacing three nouns and making their debut in the five word set for the next two weeks.  Happy monologuing!

motorcycle, wool, transient, heinous, obfuscate

What Goes Around…

I swear to god, every single thing Jimmy Morgan ever touched turned to shit.  Not literally turned to shit, but, you know, like, fell apart.  Went south.  Turned rotten.  Figuratively speaking.  We were best friends for years, me and Jimmy, back when we were kids, so I feel like I’m qualified to say a thing or two about the guy, you know, for background, on account of what’s been going on.  But I’ll get to the now part later.   For now I’m gonna talk about before.  You follow?  Anyway, as I was saying, Jimmy had the inverse Midas touch, no joke.   Absolutely and instantly awful, everything he put a finger on, ever since I knew him.

Just as a for instance, when we were kids, we once tried to play a game of Cat’s Cradle.  You know the game?  The one you play with a loop of string.  So Jimmy’s lacing the string around his fingers, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and when he gets done, he holds up his hands, and I kid you not, it looked like a frowny face, over top of an enormous turd.  All drawn out in a crisscross of string.  God’s honest truth.  There were even little squiggles of the string curling up to make steam coming off from the turd – fresh and hot right from Jimmy’s hands.  Ain’t that some shit.  Yeah, yeah, literally, I know.

And then, get this: Jimmy’s first girlfriend, he once gave her a backrub and she straightaway got a case of shingles, right from her shoulders to her butt.  For real.  I didn’t even see it, and I still almost gagged when Jimmy told me about it.

It eventually ruined our friendship, Jimmy’s and mine, that touch-of-crap.  I just couldn’t deal anymore.  He once picked up my Ricky Henderson rookie card, and it caught on fire.  He once handed in a term paper for me, and I got it back with an F at the top, and all of the pages completely blank.  He petted my dog, Shelby, and she died.  She fucking died.  That was the breaking point.  That was when I said, “No more.”  I haven’t even talked to him for years now.

But, even after all that time, when I heard about this car scandal business (the thing that’s going on now, that I was getting at before), I suspected what was up right away.  I did a little asking around, and I figured it all out pretty quick.

See, it was a few months ago now that I heard that Jimmy had got a job at the Honda dealership in town.  Jimmy’s uncle Lou is the sales manager, and Lou was doing his luckless nephew (who he probably felt sorry for) a favor by hiring him on.

So there was Jimmy, in his shirt-and-tie and nametag, selling these brand-new, fresh-minted Civics and CR-Vs, and when as soon as the new owners drove off the lot, the shit just fell apart.  Like, one time, an Accord went over the curb to leave the lot, hit a pothole, and the engine literally fell out of the car.  Right onto the road.  Like you never seen before.  And shit like that was happening every time Jimmy sold a car, sometimes a couple times a day.

So, naturally, word got out.  People started telling stories about how supposedly Jimmy’d been pawning off some shitty used cars as new ones.  Do you believe that?  How anybody would even try to do that is beyond me.  But that’s what people were saying.  They started calling him Jimmy the Greengrocer because all he sold was lemons and bad apples.  It made the news, even, which is how I heard about it.

So, of course, Jimmy got the can, and quick.  I’m sure his uncle was sorry, but what was he going to do?  People had started speculating that the dealership was behind it, that they were surface-refurbishing junker cars, putting on new paneling, reupholstering, the whole works, right down to the new car smell even, and selling them as new.  Now, I think that’s just a ridiculous idea.  Plus, it was only the cars that Jimmy was selling that were falling apart.  What did they make of that, huh?

Anyway, now that Jimmy’s been fired, the whole mess’ll blow over, I’m sure.  But, poor Jimmy.  Tell you the truth – and don’t spread this around – I believe he’s cursed.  I do, really.  I don’t consider myself superstitious, even, but Jimmy told me this story once, and, well, d’you want to hear it?  OK.  It’s like this:

When Jimmy was just a toddler, some old lady came to the door of his house.  The lady rang the bell and asked Jimmy’s mother to help her fix a flat tire on her car.  Well, Jimmy’s mother was a real lady’s lady, you know, and she was wearing a nice dress, and probably some like white elbow-length gloves or some shit, and she just sort of rolled her eyes at the old lady and told her she should go to the mechanic shop in town, which was, like, ten miles away.  Ten miles.  That’s a long walk for anybody, and this lady was old.  So Jimmy’s mother had just basically scoffed at this old lady, and the lady was angry, but she was getting ready to walk away, maybe go to the next house, who knows?  But then, Jimmy, he was playing on the floor at his mother’s feet, and he looked up, and the lady was old and haggard, and Jimmy, he’s always told it like he’s seen it, and he said to her, “Ugly lady!”  And he like twisted up his nose at her.   Well, to hear Jimmy tell it, this demonic look came over the lady’s face, and she started hissing and spitting and making these weird gurgling noises, snarling like some beast, like some real fierce carnivore, like a tiger or some shit.  And at the same time, the lady was muttering under her breath and then the last thing she did was she made some hand gesture at Jimmy then she hobbled away.  And that’s the whole story.

Well, I think, from that story, it’s pretty obvious that the old lady put a curse on Jimmy.  Don’t you think?  And it was all – or, anyway, partly – on account of a flat tire, you know?  A broken-down car.  Which of course makes the whole thing with Jimmy selling the fall-apart cars pretty ironic.  Or, maybe it’s not ironic really, but, I don’t know, poetic or something.  Poetic?  Ironic?  Whatever.  I’m just saying.

I was even thinking, too, maybe now that Jimmy’s been fired and the whole car thing is pretty much over, maybe it’ll break the curse.  You know?  A car problem brought on the curse, so maybe a car problem will end it.  Who knows?  All I’m saying is, maybe the curse will be retired.  Re-tired.  Get it?  I know, it’s a bad joke.  But seriously, maybe Jimmy’s bad karma is all worn out now, some shit like that.  Karma.  Carma.  Huh.  Car-ma.  Man, the puns just keep coming.  Anyway, I hope so, for his sake.  I hope he can shake the whole thing off and start fresh.  He deserves it.  Dude’s had a bum deal, no shit.  He could really use a break.  A brake?  What?  Oh, you’re right, another car pun.  They keep popping up everywhere.  I’ll try to steer clear of them.  Ha ha.  Yeah.  OK.  Well, then.

~Matt Tompkins likes to write.

Criss

The switch came at night.  It went quickly and felt nearly seamless. This was not a test or some kind of social experiment that would be taped for reality television.  This was a permanent, real, switch; James would become Peter, and Peter would become James, and no one would find out if they kept to the plan.

For years, they had been neighbors.  James lived in the house he inherited from his parents and Peter moved in shortly after he was promoted to Senior Vice President at the town’s Credit Union.  They both lived with their wives and kids—James had a boy and a girl, aged 9 and 13.  Peter had twin 7-year-old girls.  Both men were 49 years old.

The envy began soon after Peter moved in.  James coveted Peter’s car, a ’74 Thunderbird.  He thought Peter’s wife was stunning and he appreciated her blunt and brutal honesty that did not discriminate.  She had a demonic laugh, too, that James found irresistibly sexy.   James thought his own wife as meek and passive aggressive.  He wished she’d talk to him more, and tell him things and just communicate.  But, she had a crippling fear of disappointing James, a fear of which James remained unaware.  And, so, the invisible wall of tension between the two grew thicker by the day.   James often stayed late at work, creating tasks for himself, to avoid the dread of crossing the front-door threshold.  He was a carpenter and had his own shop a few miles from his home.

Peter saw James’s daughters as the model for proper behavior.  They always said please and thank you and yes sir and yes ma’am.  They dressed alike and held hands.  Their smiles melted Peter’s heart when they all gathered in James’s backyard for bar-b-ques.  Peter loved their house–from the crimson-colored doors and window-treatments, to the odd, ovular shape of each shingle on the rotting roof.  He thought of it as a house with personality, one that was worn in and loved.  His own house, meanwhile, was a constant source of problems:  a faulty criss-cross of electrical wiring causing constant outages, cracks and upturned nails in the hardwood floor, and a seemingly endless stream of leaks.  In turn, these problems caused screaming matches between Peter and his wife.

One evening, Peter was shutting his computer down at the credit union.  As he turned off the lights and locked his office door, he saw someone in the lobby and began to say “Sorry, Sir, we’re closed for the night,” but he then realized it was James.  He looked distraught.  He was rubbing his hands and swaying, standing next to the couch, next to the table of magazines.

“Oh, James,” Peter said.  “What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry to bother you at work, but,” James said.  “Can we get a beer?”

“Sure,” Peter said. “I’ll follow you?”

They pulled out of the parking lot in tandem.  James drove slowly down I-16 and pulled off at an exit one town away from their homes.  At the end of the ramp he made a right, and turned into a place called Hungry Charlie’s Tavern.

Inside, they sat together at the end of the bar, avoiding the tables and booths inhabited by families and middle-aged men and women on dates.  James apologized once again, and launched into a monologue about his current state of affairs.  He was unhappy with everything: his marriage, his job, and his home.  He was seeing everything as if it was starting to fade away.  He even remarked on the over-the-top formality his daughters exuded.

Peter sat, and listened patiently.  He squeezed the remains of a lemon wedge into his drink.  James apologized several times.  He told Peter he hadn’t many friends and that his own wife wasn’t ever much help.  He told Peter he wished his life weren’t so awful, that it seemed like things were so much better at his neighbor’s place: that strong, confident wife, a high-paying job and two rascal children.

After a moment and a few breaths of contemplation, Peter said “You know, I’ve been reading about this new technology, where you can essentially become someone else.  It’s an intensive process, but basically, you go to a specialist who begins measuring out all your parameters: body size, hair color, vocal inflections, etcetera.  They even do a genetic analysis, so when you do switch lives with someone else, things like hair patterns and general decay stay intact.

“Huh,” James said.  He sipped his drink.  The bartender came by and asked if they wanted another, and both men nodded.

“I don’t want to be too presumptuous here, but,” Peter said.  “I’ve been thinking that things in my life aren’t so hot either.  I know it seems like it, you know, the grass is always greener, but I’m a bit stuck myself, a bit fed up and tired.  I’ve been aching for something new.  I’ve always liked your house, the freedom your job allows you, the ability to work with your hands, even.  I don’t want to force you into anything you don’t want, but—“

“We could switch lives,” James said with widened eyes.

“We could switch lives,” Peter said.

After much more discussion, much more drinking and laughing and yelling and the verge of tears, the two men got into their separate cars and drove home.  The next week, they would secretly see a specialist and begin the process.  They did their best to hide the informational pamphlets from their families.  They acted casually around one another.  In fact, they seemed to talk even less, to the point where Peter’s wife remarked on it.  In reality, they both met up every night after to work and discussed the particulars.  They began to train each other on how to be a carpenter and how to be a VP at a credit union.  They told their wives that they were swamped with additional, unexpected projects at work.

“I wonder why we haven’t seen James lately,” she said one night at dinner to no one in particular.  She did not receive, nor did she want a response.  Her son belched and stuck his finger in mashed potatoes.

“Eat your food, Tommy,” Peter said.

Tommy jumped up and stood in his seat.  He pulled his arms close to his chest and began growling.

“Rarr!” he screeched.  “I’m a T-rex! I don’t eat vegetables.  I’m a carnivore!”  He jumped down and chased his sister around the dining room.  Peter’s wife slowly chewed her food, ignoring the scene.

Just a few months more, Peter thought to himself.

****

The preparations were extensive.  Measurements were taken for every possible aspect.  Each man recorded nearly 30,000 words into a synthetic voice box that would be placed in their throats during surgery.  As homework, each man was to write his personal history down, to ensure neither would be caught in a lie.

Both James and Peter grew excited reading these histories, as it was a brief preview of what was to come.  Here were there new lives, splattered onto a page, waiting to be soaked up.  It was like preparing for a role in a movie.

As a means of creating alibis for the surgery day, the pair planned a fake fishing trip at a lake some 400 miles away.  The surgery and information upload would take the better part of a day, and recovery would take two more.

Their wives, happy to have a house to themselves for a few days sent them off with sandwiches and coolers of beer.

The surgeries went well.  The facial and body shaping took the longest.  It was difficult to mold Peter’s flabby pectorals into the stone-like chest James sported.  Likewise for the reshaping of James’s face, which needed to be stretched and pulled in several directions.

After the surgery was complete, the two bandaged men were placed in a room and slept side-by-side for the better part of a day.  The next morning, the surgical team entered to remove the bandages.  They had the men speak to one another and get used to their newly minted voices.

When the bandages came off, there was applause.  Each man looked at one another and cried.  They stood up and hugged.  They laughed, looking at their former selves.  There was no remorse, no regrets.  They were told they needed to stay one day longer to heal.  Since the added skin was synthetic, it wouldn’t take much longer.  They spoke quickly to each other; positively ecstatic about the new directions they were headed in.  The resemblances were uncanny, almost frightening.  These doctors were good.

When they left the hospital, Peter, now James, made the mistake of getting in the driver’s seat.  They shared a laugh and exchanged keys.  James, now Peter, got into the driver’s seat and lingered a moment.  He fingered the crisp, white steering wheel.  He laughed, and New James patted New Peter on the back.  The ride back was filled with classic rock on the radio and off-key singing.  Every few minutes, they burst into laughter at the thought of their new voices, lives and wives.  New Peter pulled into his new driveway, and New James tromped across the lawn to his new home.

In the hospital, after the surgery, they made sure the summaries of their fishing trip matched.  Corroboration would be key in many things now.

That night, when they both slipped into bed with their new wives, they each immediately reached over touched their women.

The women responded in kind, giving complicit touches on shoulders and necks.

“You feel different,” Peter’s wife said.

“You feel different,” James’s wife said.

Each man pulled away, and rested on his side.

“Goodnight,” Peter’s wife said.

“Goodnight,” James’s wife said.

That night, neither man slept well.  It would be quite some time before they would.