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Howard was in all his faculties the second before he dropped dead three days before his 44th birthday. He was repairing his wristwatch when his heart stopped. He had no idea it was coming.
In his final few moments he experienced a complex set of feelings, or rather a memory of a complex set of feelings. Actually, it was a complex mix of feelings and memories, memories dislodging old feelings that in turn dislodged older memories. It was very complex and intense. Anyway, it all had to do with the excitement he felt almost unendingly when he was 22 and fresh out of college, the whole world before him full of possibility.
Through his 30's and early 40's he periodically had these intense moments. His mind would be flooded with images of sleeping under the stars and sitting in smoky Viennese koffee houses. And trains, riding on trains; always going somewhere. He would be transfixed in this reverie of nostalgia, as still as death.
Often, on these occasions, this nostalgia would turn to a feeling of inadequacy. Why? Who knows. Howard would take a Calvados and some sleeping pills and drift off to sleep with thoughts of his linen underwear from when he was 11, the ones with little black soccer balls all over them. The next day there would be some distance between him and the rent fabric of his bitter subconscious. Not that he would be aware of that. I mean, it was his subconscious; he wasn't conscious of it. Right?
This time however, 3 days before his 44th birthday, his reverie led him to a different train of thought: that people came into their own at different stages of life. Some were better as children, some as adults. Some were better adolescents; some were better post adolescents, some better post- post-adolescent/pre-young adults. People either waited feeling not quite whole until they came into their own, or came into their own and then lived the rest of their life feeling like they would never be quite as happy as before. Should I be having a Calvados, he thought?
This was absolutely the final thought Howard had before he died, and basically no one cared or remembered him. I am Howard.
Date Written: February 21, 2005Comments:
Author: John Slocum
Average Vote: 4.4286
03/1/2005 qualcomm: i didn't like the ending graf and the whole thing could use some editing, but i enjoyed this.
03/1/2005 Dick Vomit (4): Yes/ok
03/1/2005 Will Disney: PHONY I liked this one.
03/1/2005 Will Disney: i agree with RETARDOCOMM's comments.
03/1/2005 qualcomm: well, who's the bigger retard: the retard or the muppet who follows him?
03/1/2005 qualcomm: i'm going to go out on a limb and say that there's a real thomas mann-like exploration of mediocrity here. i only wish the writing had executed better.
03/1/2005 The Rid: I think Disney's comments are better than this short.
03/1/2005 TheBuyer (4): I'm with the Dis-qualliance for editing. the line, He had no idea it was coming. seems a bit much, most heart attacks/stoppages are unscheduled.
03/1/2005 Will Disney: incorrect, the rid, my comments are *not* better than this short!
03/1/2005 Jon Matza: Can you really say someone was "in all his faculties"? Don't you mean "in possession of all his faculties"?
03/1/2005 John Slocum (4): A very enjoyable read. Not so much laugh out loud funny, as laugh inside your mouth without letting the noise escape funny. I am Howard.
03/1/2005 John Slocum: Matzoid! Whoa! I thought the same thing.
03/1/2005 Jon Matza: Hey, I just noticed the "link helper" button. Let's see if it works...
03/1/2005 John Slocum: Interesting, I was wondering what that was all about.
03/1/2005 Jon Matza: It sort of does...can't say I'm convinced it saves any effort though. Thanks for nothing, Disney; FU.
03/1/2005 Dylan Danko: Slocum, your an asshole. My screen just lit up like a fireworks display of cock.
03/1/2005 Dylan Danko: you're
03/1/2005 John Slocum: Got ya'!
03/1/2005 Will Disney: It's for people who don't know how to generate HTML links. Maybe in the future I'll "enhance" it to make it more useful...
03/1/2005 TheBuyer: There's a pretty good tutorial here.
03/1/2005 Mr. Pony (4): I enjoyed reading this thing here. The number thing was fun, but I'm not sure what it means, so I'll just take credit for spotting it. I didn't laugh, and, I certainly didn't laugh like Slocum, and I'll wager that had more to do with his cleft palate than anything else. But I liked it, even though parts of it ("as still as death," "and the rent fabric of") were just a little dumb. Did qualcomm just admit to being a retard? Danko, whose computer are you using?
03/1/2005 TheBuyer: Pony, are you talking about the multiples of 11, or is there a cooler number thing?
03/1/2005 Mr. Pony: I saw it first!!
03/1/2005 anonymous: Aloha, Mr. Pony! Bon Soir, TheBuyer! Good work identifying the multiples of 11. Sadly, it means nothing more than I was toilet trained at gunpoint. But you're right - it was fun.
Qualcomm.....mediocrity, yes. Not familiar with the works of Mr. Mann. Very, very, very distantly had The Death of Ivan Illyich in mind. Sorry about the execution. Perhaps you could point some things out.
03/1/2005 qualcomm: matza's and thebuyer's first comments address the two actual errors. other than that, my problem with it is stylistic. uneven tone, like, "I mean, it was his subconscious; he wasn't conscious of it. Right?" the narrator's apparent disdain for howard at the end was an error; a fondness for him would have produced more heightened sentiment. in the second graf, you'd have been better off showing me how complex his feelings were instead of just telling me they were complex (notwithstanding the joke you made of it, repeating "complex" thrice). come to think of it, the best remedy would be to "zoom in" a little, make the narrative more from howard's POV, instead of the highly distanced thing you're doing here.
03/1/2005 Phony Millions (4): Don't quite agree with you Qualcomm, I like the disdain - it saves the short from being downright sappy. This one has a certain sentiment that jibes well with me. I like the theme of memory handled with slightly ironic gloves, and really like the second paragraph where the narrator trips on his recollections of recollections.
03/2/2005 John Slocum: Qualcomm: agree about TheBuyer's comment (I actually took out 'He had no idea it was coming' and put it back in at the last minute for rhythm reasons. Disagree about Matza's comment ('In all...' sounds to me like a different way of saying 'in possession of all...', both right, but I wouldn't argue this one too strenuously - reminds of the 'a cunt to a man' dispute), disagree with you (and agree with Phony [thanks, Phony]) about the disdain issue -point was to avoid sappiness.
03/2/2005 qualcomm: yeah, but we don't need the narrator's disdain to know howard is not to be pitied. it feels like we're being told how to react.
03/2/2005 qualcomm: (ie, the disdain has the same effect as a james horner soundtrack)
03/2/2005 John Slocum: I guess I was basically shooting for 2 things: 1. that this guys life wasn't altogether worth scrutinizing, so why scrutinize it; and 2. a parody of scrutinizing a person's life for seminal events/experiences or meaningful moments (as if we don't just drift through life meaninglessly).
Therefore, 'zooming in' would have worked against these things, as would have removing gags like, 'it was his subconscious; he wasn't conscious of it. Right?' Or 'And trains, riding on trains;' or '.. feeling of inadequacy. Why? Who knows.' or any of the other countless, super-hilarious gags I artfully spun in this short. Thank you.
03/2/2005 John Slocum: yah, maybe ('but we don't need the narrator's disdain to know howard is not to be pitied')
03/2/2005 qualcomm: possibly even a score crafted by alan silvestri
03/2/2005 John Slocum: don't know him, but boy is this 89 vina ardanza delicious!
03/2/2005 Litcube (5): I really enjoyed reading this. I should have submitted this vote earlier.
03/2/2005 cuntry (5):
03/2/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum (5):