28 November 2008


It seemed appropriate to write a story about food this week. Hope you had a nice meal yesterday!

The original germ for this week's 512 Words didn't make it into the final piece, but I'm including that text here to give insight into my process:
Nobody calls him by his name. It just feels wrong, you know? He's too important to have such a dumb-ass name.

Some people call him The Clown. But that feels disrespectful, too. And you don't want to disrespect him. For a while, a few called him The Redhead. But then that girl showed up, and things got confusing. When most men say "redhead," they're talking about a woman--usually someone they'd like to screw. And he is as far from sex as anything can get.

Most people these days call him Shoes. It used to be Big Shoes, because that's what you were probably staring at when you were in his presence, if you were lucky enough to be granted an audience. You don't look at his face. And you really don't look into his eyes. It's not that he cares. But there's something there, something in his soul, it's overpowering. Some are said to have gone mad from a mere glance.

Anyway, Shoes. That's what people say when they talk about him. You heard about Shoes' new dollar menu? Hey, want to grab a Shoes milkshake?

Never call him by name. The name is dangerous.

And here is the video that inspired the final draft:

When I was in high school, my friend Gavin and I rented and watched Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I promise you, we were not under the influence of any controlled substances at the time, but we found the line "They're dead. Everybody's dead" hilarious in late-night context.

That's not really relevant, except to point out that sometimes things seem funny that really aren't. Like clowns. And nobody knows why.


Audio: "American McGod"


Music: "In the Waiting Room (during Cancer Surgery)" by Gurdonark, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

That's right, it's another monologue. You're welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving!


"American McGod"

By Curtis C. Chen

Pay attention, son. This is important.

You call him "Shoes." Do you even know his real name? That's right, you don't say it out loud. Fear or respect or something. I can't blame you. There is something terrible about him, that bright red hair, that dead white skin. Those eyes that look like crucifixes. They say people have gone mad just from looking at his face for too long.

I'm old. I remember the way the world used to be, when we knew what was real and what wasn't. You don't understand that. It's all real to you, isn't you? You can't see the edges. That's okay. I'll be gone soon, and it won't bother me anymore.

This is what I wanted to show you. Here. Looks like nothing special, right? Crappy old beat-up plastic cafeteria tray? Watch this.

"Quarter Pounder With Cheese."

Yeah, it's real. As real as anything is these days. Go ahead, eat it while it's hot. What? You don't trust your old man? Fine, I'll split it with you. There you go.

Jesus, now I remember why I don't eat this crap.

I know what you're thinking. What's a geezer like me doing with an amazing thing like this? Where did it come from?

Here's the funny thing about making unreal things into reality. The fictions that humans create are inconsistent. We forget what story we're telling halfway through and make up something that contradicts what we said at the beginning. But when it all has to be real, the universe will twist itself around to prevent a paradox.

Nobody remembers television commercials. But the university preserved a whole bunch, and transferred them from tape to digital a few years ago. Guess who got to update the catalog for the archives? Let me show you what I found.

Isn't that a hoot? "Hamburger-eating-est clown." Doesn't even look like Shoes. And that ridiculous hat! But it's all there, recorded, watchable, so it's got to be real. Even the magic tray.

Yeah, finding it was a royal bitch. But that's another story.

Now you know why we didn't starve during the war. And you know why we kept this a secret. It'll only give you stuff from the menu, only things with names. We had to take the food apart, separate the ingredients and cook them into other things. We couldn't be greedy, couldn't ever ask for too much, in case people got suspicious. But we kept our family alive.

Do you understand? Do you know what it means, this tray, what it can do? The magic isn't in him. It's not Shoes. He's just a conduit. Same as this piece of plastic. The magic is outside of him. And if an object can channel it, maybe a human can, too.

This is yours now. Go on, take it. You've got your whole life to figure it out. You've got years. I trust you to do what's right. So does your mother, God rest her soul.

Oh, wait. One more thing.

"You Deserve A Break Today."