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Like the Cockroach it Was

"Shouldn't there be a word for junk food caked on molars? Oreo and Cheez-It or whatnot? You know, when it's just a big black or orange mass back there." Tricky Carmichael pushed stop on his tape recorder and slid his damp palms into the worn pockets his sweat-stained sports jacket. He let out his habitual gasp of defeat. He'd spent the night working on his stand-up act but he hadn't come up with a lot of big laughs. There'd been no calls, which was kind of funny, because he'd been putting feelers out all week. He checked the cord to make sure the phone was plugged in; it was. Well there was no reason to assume the worst. There was always tomorrow. In his prime, he'd headlined with Frankie Babylon, he'd sold out The Agora on a Saturday night. His day would come again. He'd been putting out feelers and it was just a matter of time.

The phone rang.
"Carmichael here."
"I thought you said you was in Dayton."
"Oh, Francine, I thought you were someone else..."
"Well I ain't. I'm me. Whyn't you come down to my room and have a drink."
"Not tonight, Francine, I'm waiting on a phone call."
"C'mon, baby. I'm lonely down here. Stew's outa town and the boys've gone to Cheryl's to play video games."
"I said no."
"You're a fat old fuck, you know that? I bet if I cut you open your guts would spill out in a black puddle of stink."
"I don't think..."
"My monkey's wet, baby. You know I need you to fuck it in for me."
"You know I don't like that kind of talk."
"Okay, okay, just come down."
"I told you no. I need to work on my act. I'll come over tomorrow."
"What are you, deaf? Tomorrow ain't no good. Stew'll be back. Besides. I need your fuckin' now!"

Tricky pulled the phone away and looked it over carefully. The handle was cracked and the earpiece was smeared with ear grime.

"Can't risk it, baby. My act comes first. I'm sorry."
"I hope you die."
"We all will, don't you worry. Listen, I gotta go. They could be trying to call right now."

He put down the phone and picked up the tape recorder. He pressed record and tried to think of something funny. Maybe he should have gone down there. A warm body's a good thing. It made up for all sorts of shit. Who was he kidding with this stand-up act anyway? But then again, who knew? The phone could ring any second. There was always a chance, even if it was just a sliver of a chance, and that was all he needed. The tape kept rolling. He opened his mouth, ready to speak but nothing came to him. He knew his life was nearly over and that he probably wouldn't make it big ever again. He'd probably peaked thirty years ago when he'd headlined with Frankie Babylon. The rest of his days would pass, each faster than the last. And then the grave. He needed a good joke and he needed it now. His very life depended on it. Nothing.

The night crept on, like the cockroach that it was, in silence.

Date Written: December 06, 2003
Author: Ewan Snow
Average Vote: 3.75

12/11/2003 qualcomm (3): you should have just published the phone conversation as its own short. the rest of it reads like Data's idea of a Bukowski story, full of manufactured feeling (maybe if you titled it Data's Idea of a Bukowski Story it would have been funny). it seems like a parody that's too similar to whatever it's making fun of to be funny ('cept for that phone call), and yet too clearly stupid to evoke an emotional response. also, the 'borrowing' of ej's 'fuck it in' seems thiefy. i appreciate that the author is trying to do something different, but shit, 549 words?
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: First of all, most of Bukowski reads like Data's idea of a Bukowski story. (By the way, is any old failure an imitation of Bukowski?) Second, taking "fuck it in" was not on purpose, besides I'd never heard it used in relation to actual fucking. Third, stop crying cuz it's over 500 words; it takes about two minutes to read. Forth, get used to it, cuz I'm sick of writing the same clichéd short shorts over and over. Maybe it won’t always work, but so be it. And Fifth, true it's not that great, but like I said in my last comment on Mittens, I don’t give a flying F.
12/11/2003 qualcomm: oh ok, i like it then.
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: Mulp.
12/11/2003 Will Disney: what is mulp?
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: It's a glottal contraction of "well" as in "mulp, too late..." or "mulp, tough luck."
12/11/2003 qualcomm: re your sickness of writing the same old cliched shorts: this short itself follows a well-trod path, it just happens to be longer. it's not that it doesn't "work", it's just a logorrheic form of a tried-and-true short style.
12/11/2003 Will Disney: or "mulp, you said no" when accidentally says no but means yes?
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: Really? In your first comment you said you appreciated that the author was trying to do something different, but objected to the length. You no longer appreciate it?
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: Disney, no... I meant yes! (Mulp, I said no...)
12/11/2003 qualcomm: appreciate as in "understand." i understand that that was what you thought you were doing.
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: Are your feeling still hurt about Dylan's short. Is that what this is about? It's okay to cry.
12/11/2003 qualcomm: mulp
12/11/2003 Texxx (3): The phone conversation is by the far the highlight - and it's very good. The bookends, however, don't enhance the story. Not that the story's too long - I think it's more an issue of the details, and the way they're presented. I don't feel any Bukowski reference here, as was mentioned earlier, but the details of the guy's life and his situation don't do much other than provide some information that could be gleaned from the conversation alone. Okay, so maybe it is a bit too long - but not because of word count.
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: I think that this short is too long. I think the phone conversation is good, but the other parts aren't that good. I agree with everyone about everything.
12/11/2003 qualcomm: my mother once said that ewan was "very gentle". i don't know what she meant, really, but maybe it has something to do with whatever's going on here. thing about these comments is that they're much more direct/harsh than anything you'd say in a classic, in-person short-writing seminar. and then there's a vicicous cycle that happens in the comments, where the author feels obliged to defend his work, and the critic feels obliged to defend his criticism. well, i'm going back to not leaving critical comments (unless the short's a real 1-star stinker). i don't want to hurt anyone anymore. not here, anyway.
12/11/2003 Ewan Snow: Your mother had her reasons. Trust me! But as to your not making comments any more, why the hell not? It's half the fun. Plus, we're just playing to the camera (as Dylan would say) to a certain degree. At least I am. If I were being objective, I would agree with most of your criticisms. And given how little time (not to mention a complete lack of sweat and blood) goes into writing a short, who cares, anyway? At this point, I'd say the comments are the most interesting part of Acme. As I've said recently (and part of the reason I've been writing (or at least trying to) write different kinds of shorts), I'm pretty sick of short shorts. It always just seems like a rehash. Maybe it’s just that I've written too many. Before Disney instituted the required one a week, I hadn't written one in over a month. When the New Cruelty came down, I was ready to pack it in. Now I mostly keep trying to come up with something different. In any case, truth be told, I read the site now mostly for the comments...
12/11/2003 Jon Matza: 1) To some extent I agree with the bookend stuff, but I found the opening bit extremely funny...the sheer badness of his material successfully evokes both how pathetic a comedian he is and how exhausted he is with churning out product (subconscious echo of Ewan's recent comments on short-writing?)

2) The last sentence has the distinction of being both a metaphor and simile.

3) Re short-exhaustion: I think the repetition of the form is part of the fun of it...finding new variations & ways to make it interesting. Like the blues, dude. However, this does point out a danger of the one a week system--that we'll start feeling burned out. As I opined long ago, in the long run quality will bring this site more glory (and readers) than quantity. But as usual my cool-headed, prophetic words were ignored by certain power-crazed, megalomaniacal dictators.
12/11/2003 Will Disney: Personally speaking, I like this Short just fine and think it's a good idea for Ewan, the author of over 100 published Shorts, to experiment with the genre. And I agree with Matza's sentiment that the genre of Shorts is flexible enough to allow for artistic variation.

As for the issue of burning out, I'm sensitive to it. Just look at Ewan. But I'd say that for now the quality of the new Shorts being published is good and if anything, the New Cruelty has inspired people to go new places in the genre rather than just quitting. I think that this kind of a deadline inspires better quality. Can we change things up if we all get burned out? Sure - but things seem to be working now.

Now, finally, regarding fame and fortune. I'm confident that it's forthcoming. When you're counting your Shorts-brought millions, I imagine you jerks may finally find some happiness.
12/13/2003 Dylan Danko: Trod? Trodden?
07/25/2004 scoop (5): The Lerpa and Texxx both may be right together about the phone conversation. But come on a 3??? Seems lowly and lowballish in the utmost. Matza is also dead on with the beginning -- elicits depression and laughs, especially on a Barney Miller grey day like today.
01/4/2005 Mr. Joshua (4): Flagrantly derivative of Wildman Jimmy Moore