|Chap 1.4 - Page 3||frangles: Skip book 1: Writer's Bricks|..
Frank the bartender glanced over at Skip and his vaguely humanoid
water-composed friend. Skip still wasn't quite clear on what
constituted proper social etiquette in Flutonia, but from the look on
Frank's face, randomly yelling out in the hopes your body will explode
into a mass of fire at a wooden bar table near a storehouse of
flammable liquids wasn't included. A plush chinchilla and octopus
broke their attention from their menus with a curious worry.
Kilo frowned at his failure, then began snapping his liquidy
fingers to create a spark. While this seemed equally unlikely to
ignite him, it provoked a stronger objection from Frank. He shot
a closing fist toward Kilo's hand, but scrunched his face in surprise
as it just splished the water harmlessly, although the motion did
succeed in the respect that Kilo's fingers were now temporarily
missing. Kilo looked up in a rebellious annoyance, but the
barkeep simply shook his head implying something about what he'd just
done was taboo. Then he paused as if having an idea, and slid
some free matches on the table over to him and resumed mixing the plush
"What was all that about?"
Skip lowered his voice to a whisper. "If I remember
clearly, I think the bartender is very particular about copyright
infringement and has strict rules about mimicking or alluding to
copyrighted frwoa material. If I remember right, he's so anal
about it that he'll get ticked off even if you had no intention of
violating anything. Given your quest for fire, my guess is you
came too close to mimicking some scene in Marvel's big screen rendition
of the Fantastic--" Four people in Frank's Bar halted as Frank
slammed his fist on the bar table, causing absolutely nothing to happen
except exactly what he'd intended to do: demonstrate his low anger
management skills regarding copyrighted references in a threatening
manner but not cause a mess.
Frank simultaneously beamed like Peter in the Chronicles of
Narnia when knighted after his first wolf kill, Lonestar in Mel Brook's
Spaceballs when he lifts the Yogurt statue with a schwartz ring for the
first time, Luke Skywalker shooing down his first X-wing, Wesley
Crusher after saving the Enterprise in any given episode of Star Trek,
Ms. Palmroy in Donnie Darko in that romantic shot as she stares down
symbolically at Cherrita for particular reason after cursing loudly in
anger, Grandma Death in the same film now twice alluded to as she gazes
off her porch into the vast and wondrous world of her front yard, and
SquishToGo in his prideful Fair Use YouTube videos founded on his
impressive education of looking up 'fair use' on Wikipedia.org.
"But why'd he slip me the matches?"
"Maybe he thinks they won't work for you any more than snapping
your fingers will, and would rather you get those wet than your feet in
an infringement lawsuit."
"But--" Kilo frused and glanced back at Frank who'd resumed
his bar cleaning with a subtly lifted mood. Kilo looked about to
ask him something but Frank just slid them both a few complimentary
beers. Kilo reached for his I.D. but realized he hadn't been
asked for one, didn't have one anyway if he had had, and was
probably too young to drink even if he had had much of a lower body to
hold up jeans and a wallet.
"Isn't he going to ask to see--"
and drink up, I think he's in a good mood, and we'd better not ruin
it. I'll take responsibility if we discover you're under age and
he comes to his senses." Frank, apparently oblivious, pulled out
some sort of thick reference manual and began flipping through it with
a careful, devious focus. Kilo's attention jerked back to Skip as
he asked the most unoriginal question one can ask a teenager not
particularly preoccupied with future ambitions.
"So, any idea what you want to be when you grow up?"
The indecipherable expression on Kilo's watery face said the
expression itself couldn't even decide what it wanted to be when it
turned into something. Perhaps it was calculating the precise
ratios that Skip was being genuinely curious, versus satirically ironic
and/or blatantly sarcastic.
"I dunno... a tsunami?"
"I thought you didn't want to be a murderous instigator of mass destruction."
"Right. So maybe something important like a tsunami but not the death and destruction part."
"How about a kiddie pool?"
"Well, children have astounding imaginations, right? I mean
a child's imagination probably peaks right as he pops out of the
womb. So by kiddie-pool age, it should still be pretty
fresh. Even a 3-foot radius pool of tap water could be a vast
ocean of life's possibilities to a 2-year old."
"What if he pees in me?"
"His youthful epiphanies bound to one day change the world for the better should make up for it."
"What if his epiphanies land the world in a fiery apocalypse?"
"Then they're going to need the tsunami."
Kilo had failed to light half the matches and was still fumbling
for a technique that would work. While increasingly hyperfocused
on the task, he could still afford the attention to converse, as if
rambling about the meaning of life was seventh nature.
"Ever get the feeling you're supposed to start something big? Like really
big? Like Flutonia's just some vifa training facility, and some
day you're gonna find out there's a whole universe of tangible matter
out there and you alone are going to have the brains to think up the
ideas that'll save existence from a bunch of green slimy aliens from
another universe? Or that you're some kid Einstein growing up in
some sort of dream-like sandbox in a remote corner of hyperspace, and
as soon as you figure out what the hell energy is and what it equals,
you'll be ready to use your equations to build the wormholes that will
let everyone travel around everywhere they need to go? And that
they built this whole place just so you could get a grade school
history lesson on what life was like before it got all real and
stuff? Or that life already evolved so much that everyone just
got bored again and re-created the dawn of the universe just to watch
it grow from the comfort of some matter-energy living room? And
that they've made you really important with genes to change the world
and stuff because just watching normal people go to work every day is
just dead ass boring? Or it's all a super computer program and
you're only purpose in life is to get to the last boss so someone can
get back to their boring cubicle job? Y'know?"
To Skip, Kilo's train of thought had transitioned like a maze of
free-flowing forest streams, their regular paths likely known to the
forest and frequent travelers, but unmapped and alien to Skip. Or
perhaps it rode the river water like stray nomadic leaves.
Or, they could be running on the water like a wooden track star with feet that always float.
Maybe the forest streams were part of a great liquid silicon
operating system and Kilo's thoughts ran on them like a stray
subroutine might run on a philosopher's water-resistant outback
laptop. Or perhaps the thoughts ran the water,
if indeed all physical being runs on the universal O/S of pure
thought. Or more simply, ran it like a new hiking track, running
and running until it finally runs its course. Did mind run on
matter, or did matter run on mind? Was Kilo's soul simply
water-powered by his body, or was his form a product of his
sentience? Was Skip's while swimming? Was Frank's while
drunk? What about a drowning plush toy?
Whether Kilo's thoughts ran with the water, ran on
the water, ran the water, or were just water-powered in general, they
certainly seemed key to many issues of character and theme going on and
perhaps to who Kilo was intrinsically as a humanoid being, much unlike
your ordinary non sequitur tangent.
...Not that a non sequitur tangent was always irrelevant--or even ever so--but Skip felt this was in fact inversely
tangential, in that spilling a seemingly sudden stream of thought out
over a drink at Frank's bar could perhaps be the most appropriate time
to ever do so. Hence Skip discarded labeling Kilo's rant as a
tangent in favor of a slightly more favorable alternate label; for some
reason, he instinctively decided to classify Kilo's style of ramble a
As to this particular run-on, Skip found it just as baffling as
every other stream of ideas he'd ever had the obligation of
co-pondering. Skip had just barely started to come to terms with
his setting; just barely begun to grasp the careful patterns in which
the nonsense of Flutonia continuously re-baffled itself into more and
more confusing nonsense. That a bored teen who seemed less
grounded than even Skip could start thinking about possibilities beyond
Flutonia entirely was
dizzily disconcerting. (Of course, there was the scant relief
that Flutonia's increasing habit of topping it's own bafflingness
continued to become exponentially worse at a very steady rate, but this
What did it mean; was Kilo even more prolific a prodigy than
everyone said Skip was? Perhaps Kilo was important to all the
universe in the way that Skip was important to the universe's obscure
little corner of Flutonia. Only an infinitesimal spec of jealousy
prevented Skip's relief at being less important than he previously
thought from dominating the moment in utter totality.
I can honestly say that considering my role in all the universe has
definitely been off my to-do list for the day. Save any previous
internal frwoa consistencies contradicting that claim, of course."
"Yah. Same here."
"Same with me."
"Oh, I wasn't talking about me.
I just had a thought that maybe someone somewhere was that important,
and I was hoping it might be you so I could tag along and do something
more exciting than sit in a nameless bar and drink this skanky horse
piss." Kilo took a long, ironic swig of his beer. Frank was
still absorbed in the book he'd pulled out and didn't take any apparent
offense. The plush chinchilla and octopus at the diner booth were
getting antsy for their now-ready but abandoned drinks waiting up on
the bar. They were carefully gauging the distance while
collaborating on how they might reach them.
Kilo failed with his last match and another book of them was
instantly slid in front of him. He frused, as he still didn't
know why Frank was now bent on aiding his goal to explode into fire,
but didn't pursue the issue, and resumed his attempts with a diligent
commitment. He didn't seem sure what else he could do to get one
lit, or even how he could light himself on fire being a whole body of
water and all, but perhaps he figured it would work if he just got
enough alcohol in his system.
"Well, we could always think up some place important to explore. I mean we thought up the bar, didn't we?"
"Oh come on, we just walked around 'til we found one. Who
says we actually thought it up?" Kilo managed to get a match
half-lit, but his finger just extinguished it when he tried to burn
"Self-fulfilling prophecy, you think?"
"Self-full-what? No, I'm nowhere near full at all. I
think I have to be like half alcohol or something for this to
work. D--Dammit!" Kilo chugged the rest of his beer and
stuck out his hand behind him for another one. Frank simply slid
him one of the dozen he had lined up without raising his eyes from the
"What in the--? Something's up with Frank. I think
he's too absorbed in that book to realize he's dishing out alcohol to a
minor. That's enough beer, Kilo."
"I have a high tolerance." Skip shrugged off Kilo's
shrugging off of his advice only out of a morbid curiosity of finding
out what Frank's strange behavior was all about, and because of a
really fuzzy sense on to what extent he had the right to tell Kilo what
to do. Was Skip like his older sibling? His
His fraternity brother? His AA sponsor?
Babysitter? Math tutor? Maybe Kyle played a role in a
film Skip was writing a script for, or maybe Kyle was his
connection into the high school drug scene because he didn't have much
of a social life to procure them from. Skip shook his head at
the strange issue, then paused for a moment as he noticed the forgotten
chinchilla and octopus trying to help each other up on a barstool.
"Either way it should work. If we set out to think up adventure and we really can't, then maybe we'll just bump into it anyway like we found the bar.
Kilo got another match lit in vain.
"What we need is a catalyst."
"A whuh, Skip?"
"Something to start with. A nucleus, a focus, a nexus, a... spark,
I suppose... around which everything we do will rotate and grow
from. For the only half hour of life I've known, life has been a
whole bunch of random sh!@. Someone told me it might all start to
make sense at some point, but I can't wait for it to do it
itself. I need to write the greatest Flutonian story ever told by
the end of the day stat,
and you want to become the first Flutonian puddle of water to adventure
through the universe, so if we could just pick some place to start and
hurl ourselves into an instant story, maybe we can both get what we
want if we team up.
"I have a decent sense of worldly writing skills, and you seem to
have some odd potential to ripple out into the vastness of existence,
if only for lack of anything better to do than drink beer and whine
about friter narration. We've already thought up a bar
together--or at least found one--so who knows what we're capable of
when we're even more drunk and ambitious. I'd say this one's a no
"Oh, boy, batman, this sounds fun... Not."
Skip paused to decide whether Kilo's ungrammatical negation of his
sarcasm canceled it out or augmented it; or perhaps it just watered it
down by rhetorically modifying a comment that was already mock-true by
implication. Skip took a guess that Kilo's frusion meant he was
debating whether logical sarcasm negation was "in" or not, and whether
he should add another "not" if it wasn't. "Anyway, your plan
would still require that starting point thing, and I'm fresh out
of deers for a catalog."
"You mean 'ideas for a catalyst'?"
"Yah, isn't that what I just drunk?"
"Kilo, are you drunk?"
"Yah, isn't that what I just drunk?"
"Kilo, you're drunk."
"Best state for deers, yeh?... Matches still aren't
working. Need more booze." Frank slid him two more beers
without blinking and Kilo tried chugging both at once.
"Alright. Alright." Kilo acutely concentrated.
"Katalogs... Katalogs... alright ok,ok,ok... somethiiiinng.. simple. Wind? so been there... already
sick of waaater... Fire? Ice? A bolt of deers?
Beers? Nah, sounds like !@#$ing nerd RPG spells.
Okayyy... got it, I got it.....earth. We'll start with earth. A huge big ball of earth. Yeh?"
"Hunmm... that's not bad, kid. That's great,
actually. A huge mass of solid, corporeal ground. Yeah,
that should work. But what then? Where is the ball of earth? What's it like? How will we get there?"
"Dunno Squip. I ideered it up, didn't I? 's your
turn." Kilo effortlessly struck another match, and smiled that
the ability seemed to come easier when he didn't have to work
at it. Since it still didn't help light him on
fire, clearly more alcohol was required to progress on both
fronts. (A shame, since Skip had already moved Kilo's beers
out of reach and given Frank a warning look.)
"How about we stick the ball of earth in a big black void
indefinitely until we figure out what else to do with it. Then
we'll fill the whole void up later, or just procrastinate it
indefinitely or until it implodes in a big crunch of a lack of
"Freckle the void. Some light dandruff or flavor
crystals or somethin'. Jus' so people know it's there and don't
fall into it or whatever."
"Hunh. A total vacuum of matter that itself is
a pseudo-graspable thing that can fit into a physical environment!
And that's just real enough to mark with some decorative warning
lights to point out its presence; something the earth ball could stare
out at to contemplate the poetic beauty of near-nothingness. This
is great! We'll call it... space."
"Uh, sure." Kilo stared out into the space between him and the guarded beer.
"Should there just be one ball of earth, or should there be many?"
"I mean, how about a whole bunch of balls of earth. Like a pool table."
"Isn't that a little much to start with?"
"Well, you know, we'll just throw in a number of them real quick
just so we know how many there are, and go deal with those later if you
and my career survive that long."
"How about 3?" Kilo lit an ambivolent match as if the
suggestion was a light bulb-like idea of no special wattage.
"Too 'Three's Company'-esque." The match went out. Frank blinked a few extra times.
"Too Fantastic Fourish. Remember?" Out.
Frank half-subconsciously lowered his eyebrows a tad.
"Five?" Light. Flicker.
"Right out of Monty Python." Out.
Frank's eyebrows lowered another tad as he turned a page.
"Too Battlestar." Out like an airlock.
" 'Eight? What happened to seven?' "
Frank's grip started to tighten in conjunction with his
expression, though perhaps a little less so than if Skip had hit the
Spaceballs line verbatim.
"11? 12? 13?"
"Oceans Eleven, Oceans Twelve, Oceans Thirteen."
"Geeziz. Alright, let's jump ahead to some random
unused number. How about 37?" Light like
a clerk's store lights.
"37!?" Flick off. Tighter grip.
"The Forty Year Old Virgin." Out.
" 'You do have
some numbers, don't you?' " Frank missed this paraphrased
allusion entirely, as did every Monty Python fan freer within a forty
universe radius who didn't have every line of every skit committed to heart. Skip and Kilo sighed and drank in deep
thought for a bit.
"Come on, think, what kind of number could be fundamental to an
adventure story but not already used?"
"Well any number's prob'ly been used for something; we
can't take into account every single obscure freer cult we might
never even come across anyway. Let's just aim a little higher and
screw it. How about forty ttttt--" Frank shot his hand
under the bar as if for a cleaning towel with some strange urge to do
"Forty-ten? Is that a number?"
"(I was going to say 42 but then I got this strange vibe from--)"
The towel yanked and whipipped
toward Kilo with unfathomable speed. He managed to dodge it, but
it had the indirect effect of slapping Kilo's wrist and lighting the
current match as it flew from Kilo's hand and fell in a napkin
dispenser, which of course ignited. Kilo reached to put it out,
but the flame only ignited his arm. It fwooshed
through Kilo's whole body and for about a half a second he was the
exact fire-person he'd been trying to become. It only lasted a
moment as the alcohol he'd absorbed burned off. Kilo frowned, but
at least could now splash out the napkin fire.
Frank's favorite towel, however, wasn't so lucky. As Frank
yanked it backward from the flame, it burst into a full torch of light
as it had recently been used to wipe up a spilled drink. But
instead of stomping on it, dosing it with water, or handing it to Kilo,
he instinctively tossed it away avoid getting burnt.
Unfortunately, he tossed it on top of an open bottle of tequila, which
ignited, as did six other bottles in turn.
Skip tried to pick up Kilo and hurl him at the fire like a bucket
of water, but the attempt landed him on the floor as if he'd tried to
climb a waterfall. Finally, as Kilo was about to leap over the
bar table instead, a final splash of water extinguished the flames, and
everyone turned toward the ominously flammable plush octopus and
chinchilla who had somehow been motivated enough to procure a bucket of
water and chuck it over the bar. They'd even managed to avoid
hitting their drinks, still sitting there waiting for Frank to serve
The fire out, everyone progressed back to their previous
positions in an awkward silence: the toys to their foodless booth,
Frank to his slightly-singed reference book, and Skip and Kilo back to
their dialogue-friendly seats.
"7 giant pool balls it is."
As Skip and Kilo brainstormed their
idea of the great pool ball-ish ball of earth named
"Earth", Skip noticed the bar seemed to shift and morph around
them as they spoke. He couldn't tell if their very ideas were
molding the fabric of the vifa space around them, or his subconscious
had hidden what was there all along in order to pawn the place off as
his own idea. Or maybe it was a loose-knit dream, shifting one
setting to another as the feel of the dream changed.
As Skip and Kilo talked on, the vifa diner booths formalized into
totally solid, visible entities. They became upholstered in
bark-brown leather next to lightly draped windows as if a ghostly
interior decorator was working on them on some askew plane of
existence. They finally became complete with a salt and pepper
shaker, napkins, and a bottle of A1 at each table, and the floor became
a thin, dark carpet in a Celtic-esque pattern. The walls were
painted in subtle earth tones; the ceiling in a butch gray.
By the time Skip and Kilo's Earth idea was as fleshed out as it
was going to be for the moment, the place had achieved a net feel of a
uniform cafe/bar. Nothing clashed. Their talk was of space
and matter ad form, but somehow everything immediate right around them
had shifted along with their metaphysical ideas. The bar around
them stood tall with Earthling patriotism, a regal ambassador to
The place was nothing spectacular, but perhaps its very token
average nature was something special in itself. They hadn't
expected their idea to have such instant results, yet here they were in
a vifa Earth bar without having to have invented rockets or space ships
or transdimensional transporters to get there. The end result was
as a short scene of someone sitting at a table eating a bowl of salad
while the background changes from a barnyard picnic to a modern city
park bench, via a Ranch dressing commercial stressing its manufacturing
Skip looked up at the clock as Kilo took the last swig of the
chocolate milk Skip had switched him to quite awhile ago, but the clock
was different, too. Before it had had seven divisions labeled 1
through 7. Now it had 12, with five little marks breaking up each
twelfth-slice. Something was wrong. Even with all the
shifting, it seemed out of place for time itself to have changed form.
"What the hell is wrong with the time?"
"Bases." It was Frank who'd spoken. Skip didn't have
even the faintest memory of any bartender ever doing so. His
voice was as deep and introspective as any character who rarely speaks
and then moves mountains the rare moments they break silence. Of
course, the epiphany-deep tone had little or nothing to do with the
fact that Frank's words seemed as mundane and useless as possible.
"New clock." It was a conclusive statement, as if the
meaning of "bases; new clock" was very clear, and any clarification or
elaboration for anyone clueless enough to not know what they meant--or
dense enough not to accept them as an exciting mystery if they had
genuine reason to be unfamiliar with them--was completely out of the
"But what does it say? It's supposed to be 1:43."
"It is," Kilo countered. Somehow he found it easier to read the new clock.
"Good, then we should hurry. We still have time to catch 1:44."
"What's special about 1:44?"
"It's the precise half-way mark of
the hour. I get the feeling something really pivotal is about to
happen, especially having thought up our sudden nucleus. All the
vifa nonsense around here already seems to line up in some bizarre
numerial pattern, and now that we have a starting non-nonsense idea, its sure to collide with the half-nonsense
in a way that can only spark adventure! Maybe time stops, or
implodes, or just skips to the chase. Come on, kid, I think our
plot's about to pique."
Kilo frused at the clock. 1:44 didn't seem like the middle
of the hour at all. "What plot? We don't even have a plot."
"Trust me, around here, a void of plot is as good a plot as any!
Just come on, I think I know where to head."
"Shouldn't we stick around and finish helping Frank with his
whole fire scam thing?" Skip glanced curiously toward Frank.
His vifa reference manual had finally polished itself off
into a bright neon how-to book that he'd lost interest in and slid
aside. Skip could finally read its official title:
Burning Down Your Bar for Profit: Fire Insurance Fraud for Dummies
||< (last) (next) ||>