Category Archives: Trench Gristle

Tales that Publishers Find Hard to Chew

Trench Gristle 08: The Rhythm Man

Keeping it smooth since the 17th Century

Keeping it smooth since the 17th Century

I can tell by looking at you that you hear a lot of stories from guys like me saying things hard to believe until novel ideas you hear have veered from keen to boring and only if you could get to those destinations known to you yet unknown to me without the sales pitches then you’d be that much more contented in that world you’ve created but wait because our meeting was preordained, the Fates had us slated, so I could tell you that world you labored to create is breaking, that world ending taper, something  I can say because I’m the Rhythm Man, rhythm as in that spring in my step put there by me listening, ears to the ground, through the ground, to the bowels of our Mother listening, to the wind and the din of waves crashing on distant shores kind of listening, in tune with land and sea instead of glued to the TV listening, the kind that we all used to have before we started killing trees for a different type of currency that we all don’t have but all blindly pursue even if those trees have had their vocal cords cut so there’s nothing to listen to, but I’m fortunate enough to be the Rhythm Man but for now, know now our time is short because the Mother’s good Nature is about to break from all our bends, something I know you feel in bitty drips, seas upend in the roil of your gut, weeps the wind in the sighs of your discontent, to the verge where I see you longing, ever longing, to be in tune, so forget trees forever muted and come, yes come, and I’ll set your body to move in time with mine where you can hear thunder in my voice’s low rumble, feel mountains ache through the arch of your spine until your body trembles like earthquake tremors which is why I must ask it plain as the sunshine kissing your face, a place I aspire, will you let me show you, most beautifully, how our worlds end?

The story behind the story: A while back, a few writer peers of mine started playing with one sentence stories, which grew into a contest to make that sentence as long as possible.  Naturally, I wanted to try my hand at this.  Since half the fun for me is thinking on the context of why a story would be only one sentence yet an extremely long sentence, I thought of someone who needed to talk fast and convincingly.  That’s the Rhythm Man, shooting game in what amounts to the longest one-sided pick up line I’ve ever seen in print.  It could’ve gone longer, as is the nature of rhythm, but the contest specified a maximum length!  I hope you all enjoy.

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Trench Gristle 07: The Testament of Breaking Bread

Turks-and-CaicosI’m checking out of Afghanistan in less than a week, and all I can really think about is the vacation.  Unless some news of epic proportions hits my doorstep, you guys won’t hear much from me until the last days of February.  Wife, son, surf, sun… it’s all going down in the Carribbean!  Since I’m in no shape to write about anything other than how excited I am, I’m going to leave you all with some gristle to chew on.

The Testament of Breaking Bread

by James Beamon

Ain’t nothing bigger than the Almighty.  So right from square, God Almighty and the Almighty Dollar had a problem.

This was epic, cause neither one was a stranger to raining down carnage.  God took ultra-violence to biblical proportions.  And bigger than all other crashes combined—party crashes, plane crashes, heck, errant meteors–when the Dollar crashed grown men the world over peed their pants.

God knew the Dollar, not in the biblical sense, and He knew that if there was anything in the world that needed a good smiting, the Dollar was due.  God rained down His righteous fire.  Not that pansy fire that don’t even burn bushes, no, that doomsday apocalypse type fire that brings weeping and gnashing of teeth.  That fire burned and consumed the Dollar.

The Dollar had many faces, all of them dead folks, and all them little faces had little sneers on them.  Maybe God didn’t know it (He probably did), but this ain’t the first time the Dollar’s been burned.  It was like the Dollar was made to be consumed.  Even though there wasn’t enough of the Dollar to go around, the Dollar just grew more powerful.  The Dollar, or more like lack of the Dollar, struck back by causing shortages throughout the land.

Yes, even the Promised Land.

It was called the Promised Land cause God promised them milk and honey.  But dropping gallons of milk and jars of honey from heaven can be lethal to mortals, and it wasn’t too kind on the honey jars and the milk cartons either, so instead God rained down manna.  The people had want for nothing, except milk and honey, but God promised them some later.  Right now, God was in smite mode.

All of the Dollar’s little faces were looking in the same direction.  That direction led from the Federal Reserve to the Capitol.  The Dollar had key politicians in Its pockets, or maybe it was the other way around, and them politicians said that while manna was indeed delicious, it wasn’t FDA approved.  Backed by the Dollar, the government created an agency that rounded up the manna.  They said they’d release it after a thorough inspection of its alleged enriched, unleavened goodness.

Free manna from heaven was the best thing since sliced bread.  So no one was keen about it when the men in black came for it in their black bread trucks.  Except the sliced bread companies.

God’s super-hearing heard the lamentations of the people.  So He hardened their hearts, the pharaoh let-my-people-go way not the cholesterol way, and they marched on that manna stealing government and overthrew it.  Those hard heart people got rid of the old government and the Dollar they swore by.

But that was just the Dollar they swore by.  The Dollar had a name for regime changes; It called them facelifts.  Sure enough, once the new government got settled in it brought back the Dollar, they just didn’t call It that.  Now the Dollar was less green, maybe because now It was a more experienced Dollar, and now the faces had smiles… sly, little smiles.

The Dollar taunted God.  What’s next, flood?  A flood was like laundry, and the Dollar was always keen for a good laundering.

God considered flooding the new government with its sly smiling Dollars.  He saw that it wasn’t good.  Besides, God had made a promise about that and He wasn’t the type to go breaking promises.

God could have just blew the world up and the Dollar with it.  But you don’t go breaking your favorite things just to prove a point.  God was fond of judges; He had dedicated a whole book to them.  Dollar was also fond of judges.  So They decided to argue the matter before officials.

God brought in the clergy.  Dollar brought in the accountants.

The face of God looked over His people.  See who they pray to!

The Dollar’s face also circulated among the people.  See what they pray for.

There wasn’t much debate.  The men of God and the men of Dollar unanimously proclaimed God victor.  God could give anything, even the Dollar.  The Dollar couldn’t give God.

The accountants told the dollar, in God we trust.  The clergy welcomed the dollar into the church to reform its arrogance and to put it to good works.

People everywhere made a joyful noise.  Except the atheist, who claimed they never saw it.

I saw it.  I couldn’t help it; it was broadcast on all the major networks and sponsored by Visa… they showed it everywhere I wanted to be.

Meanwhile, news was breaking.  Conflict was stirring elsewhere.

After all, you can only have one root of all evil.  So right from square, the devil and the dollar had a problem…

The story behind the story: Hell if I know!  I can’t honestly remember WHY I wrote it, that’s how much I’ve checked out of the building.  See you guys in February. 

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Trench Gristle 06: The Classic Approach

The Classic Approach

By James Beamon

Paul and Miriam met the old-fashioned way.  That was the only way Miriam could describe it, as what they both wore had been out of fashion for centuries.  She was in a 17th century Puritan dress, shamefully decorated with a giant red letter A.  Paul donned tarnished armor.

She was minding her business, just waiting by the Great Gatsby’s poolside for George Wilson to arrive.  She was the only one online here so she had the scene all to herself.  Instead of George, she got Paul.

Miriam knew he was trouble when he approached her.  She could see his horns.

“Nice,” he said as he looked her up and down.  “Not too many ladies go for the branded look.”

“I don’t see why not,” she said.  “The Scarlet Letter should be heralded as the first American women’s lib piece–the unshackling of our sexuality and to hell with the alphabet.

“Besides,” she said, “I think the scarlet brings out my eyes.”

“You do have pretty eyes.”

Miriam smiled.  “I know better than to take compliments from the devil.”

Milton’s Lucifer was the devil she knew.  The devil she didn’t know, the one behind Milton’s, regarded her with a devilish grin. Then he introduced himself.

“I’m Paul.”

“Miriam”

“I like you, Miriam.”

“Well, you shouldn’t.  That’s what this big letter A is about.  Shoo.”

“The Lord of the Flies can’t be shooed as if he was a… wait… never mind.”

The intruding devil was silent for a moment, giving Miriam time to feel the mood in the air and Gatsby’s depression as he floated in the pool.  Then he broke the moment.

“So, what brings you here?”

“My membership.”

“No.  To the pool.”

She nodded towards Gatsby.  “I have a thing for tortured souls.  How about you?”

Paul pointed towards George Wilson, who appeared brandishing his gun as if on cue.  “I have a thing for meaningful violence.”

They both watched rapt the climax of tortured souls through meaningful violence.  At length, Paul spoke to her again.

“Miriam, let me take you out.  Someplace less bloody.”

“Why would I let you do that?”

“Well, if you prefer the blood, I know some choice steakhouses.”

“That’s cute.  But I don’t date guys I meet on Litworld.”

“Well, you shouldn’t date guys on Litworld.  Most romance in the classics is marred by tragedy.  I was thinking of something more upbeat.”

She waved a finger, warding him off.  “Don’t try to snake charm me, you old serpent.  I don’t know you.”

Paul’s smile grew.  “That’s what dates are for.”

This devil was charming.  But Miriam had her rules.  Dating was not something started across fiber optic cables.

“It’s been fun Paul, but I’m going to decline.”  She accessed her menu and left him at the pool.

She stood aboard the Pequod.  Miriam figured it was the safest place in Litworld, as she had always had the ship to herself.  Most of the time the vessel just rocked back in forth in the waves while Ahab searched doggedly for Moby Dick.  Other Litworlders probably got more kicks out of Treasure Island or 20,000 Leagues.

Ocean and sky was clear and blue.  The groan of the ship carried weight and melody.  Here, she freely enjoyed Ahab’s obsessive angst.

Then a gigantic green tentacle wrapped around the ship.

Wood buckled and cracked.  More huge green tentacles emerged from the depths.  The tentacles were part of the creature’s mouth.  And it kept rising.

By the time the creature was on its feet, the Pacific Ocean was waist high to it.  Its baleful eyes, like black mountains, regarded the ship and crew that dangled high above the water.

Miriam didn’t know if Cthulhu was focusing on her, as it seemed impossible for eyes that large to focus on anything so small.  But she recognized the voice.

“Miriam, I really am quite adorable when you get to know me.”

“How’d you find me, Paul?”

“You’re a lover of tortured souls.  I figured this would be the best place to find you, since Scrooge was all alone with the ghost of Jacob Marley.”

“But I already told you I wouldn’t date you.”

“People change their minds.  I want to be around when you change yours.”

“So you use the horrific visage of the Great Old One to help me change my mind?”

The monster shrugged and the boat cracked a little more under its tentacle.  “Figured it couldn’t hurt.”

Captain Ahab shook his fist at the huge evil creature.

“Hast thou seen the white whale?” he asked it.

Miriam smiled.  This man was something new and fun.  Her rule began breaking, much like the Pequod, from the stress he imposed on it.

“I’ll tell you what, you find me one more time and you’ll have your date.”

She jumped off the boat and accessed her menu.

Miriam was atop a train moving on impossibly rickety tracks, a faithful adaptation from the works of Seuss.

Stuck between her code and her intrigue, she decided to force the decision on his shoulders.  If he could find her then it was meant to be.

She wasn’t going to make it easy.

The train cruised through its impossibly construed world for long uneventful minutes.

Miriam wondered if she had made the chase too hard.  Who picks “Green Eggs and Ham” as a tortured soul work of classic literature?

She entered the darkness of the tunnel.  Her only company was the clickety-clack of train on rickety tracks.

Then she heard his voice talking to her in the darkness.

“Would you date me in the park?  Could you, would you, in the dark?”

She laughed.  “Why are you so persistent?”

“My soul was tortured…”

“Oh, shut up and kiss me.”

Perhaps it was because it was virtual, but Miriam thought their first kiss was electric.

Luckily, it felt that way again when they finally met in person.

The story behind the story:

This was originally written for “The First Line”, where I had to use the line they provided as the first line of the story.  The only modification I made to that first line was the removal of Paul and Miriam’s shared last name, which to me told the reader the ending.  I’ve always thought this story was cute, but I wager all the unexplained references to classic literature didn’t do it any favors.  But I’m thankful I wrote it and since it’s Thanksgiving, I’m giving this to you guys as a way of saying thanks for reading.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Trench Gristle 05: Sales Pitched Fork in the Road

Leaving the Mosque by Jean Leon Gerome

Sheikhs and mullahs (all the important robes) wait in the conference room.  Attention on the infidel in his Western business suit.

Lucis’ smile is disarming.  His words are a rearmament program.

“‘Prophet Jeans’!  I can see the slogan now… ‘Sightly in the eyes of God’.”

Interpreter talks to emissaries.  Emissaries erupt amongst themselves.  Emir hands down verdict to interpreter.  Interpreter feeds Lucis verdict.

“Mr. Ferre, there is much… uh… opposition to this.  None of the Eminent Ones like this.  Especially Esteemed Shareef al Rahman.”

“Shareef don’t like it?”

Interpreter shakes head.

“Well, does Shareef like hearing his own echo in the mosque?  Or the kids quote more gangsta rap than Koran?  Does Shareef like watching the glorious roar of his religion wither into a whisper right in front of him?”

Translation.

Murmurs.

Silence.

Attention.

“None of you like it.  That’s why I’m here.  I started off selling fruit to country bumpkins.  Now look at me, a global name.  I’m the best in the field.  And here’s the proof.”

Lucis delivers unto them the PowerPoint.  And PowerPoint’s glossy aura fills the room; it sells the dream slide by slide.

First doom coated in gloom.  Bar graphs of low quarterly turnouts.  Pie graphs of end-of-year predictions.  It was raining down down-arrows.

Then the testimonials.  The before and after of the Christian church showed them the power of integrated marketing communications.  The numbers for “Blood of Christ” Cabernet (now in communal baptism size!) stagger their minds.  The “Hot Body of Christ” concert series made Corpus Christi Texas THE premiere spring break destination… right under Cabo.  Returns for the “Jesus Sees Us” clothing line drop jaws.

Even some of the fringe groups were reaping more converts, thanks to an underground guerrilla marketing campaign for “Holy Roller” roller blades.

PowerPoint off.

Lights on.

Lucis never chances things to slideshow alone.

Release the demos!

Product lines roll out.  The jeans are high quality, with stylized key sura verses stenciled on the pockets.  Five Pillar pops promise the heavenly reward of cherry, mango, grape, strawberry, and lemon.  The packaging for the turkey salaami laikum is downright mouthwatering.  And in the center of it all, the Kaaba Soap Stone, with its exclusive blend of moisturizers and exfoliates, scientifically designed to win the jihad on offensive odor.

Oohs… aaahs… grunts.

Headshakes.  Nods.  Murmurs.

Talks, crosstalks, finger-points.

Scoffs!  Yells!  Shouts!

Silence.  Murmurs.  Nods all around.

Emir hands down question to interpreter.  Interpreter feeds Lucis question.

“Mr. Ferre, are you sure this is… uh… what the youth wants?”

“Did you say ‘want’?  What’s a want?  I don’t deal with wants.  They need this.”

Interpreter translates.  Eyebrows raise.  New question comes.

“Mr. Ferre, are you sure this will work?”

“Are you kidding?  I’ve turned crap into miracles.  And what we’re selling here is definitely not crap.  You guys have something great here.  Eternal Paradise.  Peace.  There’s even girls in Heaven!  No, it’s a great message.  The only problem is the packaging.  The packaging is thousands of years old.  It needs to be freshened up a bit.”

Translation.

Head bobs.

Lucis speaks to slay opposition.

“You have to speak to the youth, not preach.  To speak to them, you have to talk in language they understand.  The Christians got that; anything it takes to get the Message to the people.”

It only took a month to see an appreciable increase in the numbers.  It was no wonder; the Word of God was out in the street and walking both in low rise and boot cut.  DJ Muezzin’s “Booties on my 72 Virgins” was out and requests were blowing up the airwaves.

The imams smiled at the returning of the flock.  Then they put on the call to prayer, MC Jinn Ridah’s “Hot Ramadan” dub mix, to regenerate the faithful with that crazy casbah sound.

The story behind the story:  This was inspired mostly from The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”.   That and thoughts of “what would happen if the crass commercialism that affects Christmas was present in the whole of Christianity… and started invading Islam?”  I had no illusions that finding a publishing house for this one was nigh impossible.  I wrote it in an experimental, direct style.  Plus, while not intending to offend anyone but merely pose a what if, I’m pretty sure editors didn’t want to bank on none of the followers of two major religions NOT getting miffed.  As always, I hope you enjoy your gristle… all comments are appreciated!

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