Generalizations Can Be Dangerous Things

Credit must be given to Zack Keller, an old college buddy, who conveyed the story of this quote to me a few weeks after I met him.  Now that I’m saying it, I’ve pretty much ripped off his story, but I feel safe having been the first one to put it into a cartoon medium (to my knowledge).  I also don’t feel any guilt since I am about to promote his own blog, ZackKeller.com, his first published book, The Success Of Suexliegh (available on Amazon.com), and also his web series Dick Figures, which now that I say it, shares a lot of similarities to my cartoons style-wise.

One of the things that let’s me know I’m a good person (more or less), is that my jealousy in my friend’s success is overshadowed by my utter joy for my friend’s success.  By just how much will remain my information for the time being.

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This is the Title of the Story Which is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself

By David Moser

This story is pretty heady so if you get lost easily, here’s a link to the text so you can read along.

No More Yielding But A Dream

Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to write down my dreams in the hope that I may discover a subject for a story.  Usually my dreams are nothing more than vague images and fragments of memories, as most dreams usually are, and they fade from my memory before the end of the day, as most dreams usually do.  On the few occasions that I remember most of what I saw, I tend to find that my dream was just me going through what I normally go through in a day.  This tends to anger me since I feel like I have been forced to back track and relive something I have already gone through, or that instead of acting as a respite from reality the dream just put on an eighth day to my week.  But every now and then I strike gold, and when I stumble from bed to my computer and type my dream I find something magical; like digging up a time capsule, only to find gold instead.

When I do remember enough of my dream to make it worth the time to write it down, I usually don’t remember the actual act of writing so when I sit down and read about my dream, I get to be surprised by it all over again.  It would be like taking that gold you dug up and hiding it in the back of your sock drawer, only to be found when you put on that last pair of socks with the holes in it that you only save to remind you that you should probably do your laundry.  Then, lo and behold, you find enough gold to buy enough socks for everyone on the block.

So today, being either absolutely out of ideas or too lazy to finish writing some short stories I’ve been working on, I opened the file labeled “Dreams” on my desktop to look for something I could post today.  And what I found was this:

Living in Germany during World War II, fighting Nazis by smuggling alligators out of the country.

I can vaguely remember the dream itself and although the description is rather short, I do recall the dream being rather long and detailed.  It seemed like the perfect choice.

And yet, as I stare at the blank Word document waiting for me to start typing, I realize that nothing I could say would do justice to the idea.  I know it was important work, smuggling the alligators out of Berlin, and I know it was hurting the Nazis something fierce, but I can’t bring myself to elaborate or explain any of these things further; I’m just too afraid I’d fuck up its purity, the ever-loving “awesomeness” of it.

So instead of drawing out a scenario from an idea that I’m not sure even Hemingway could justify in a story, I’ll just leave you all with the muse itself.  How does stealing alligators hurt the Nazis?  I have no idea, but I do know Hitler hated that I was, and man, fuck that guy.

by Illishar on deviantART

The Commandments of All-Day Reading

1.  Hunker Thyself in Thy Dwelling

Let no friend nor occasion draw you hence from thy abode, lest the power the AUTHOR condemn you.  Shift all devices and electric boxes to slumber, for they are demons and will only serve to distract.  Lock thy doors and yea, verily, let the Holy Spirit of Imagination flow into your heart.

2. Be Not Still in Thy Dwelling

Though the door be shut and the window be barred, let not your body go limp in a single place for thy shall offend the grace of the AUTHOR.  As the apostle Wordsmithington once remarked, “Move they body to many places ever and anon, from here to there, from this place to that place, and may the position of thy body never find one state.  To stay in one position is a temptation of the devil, and he shall rack your body with pains and aches and sores for sinning against the AUTHOR.”

3.  Let No Food Grace Your Touch

At no time, from the dawn of your All-Day Read to its dusk, shall you consume a meal of more than a single handful.  If you dare commit this grievance against the AUTHOR, such a fate of pages splashed with soup, smudges of grease and oil, droplets of juice and wine, shall be visited upon thee and ruin thy sacred book.  Commit not this sin and either choose a section of hour to eat thy meal, or choose the holy path and abstain from food.  Yea, but do not forget to drink water, for a soul must breath life to read the word of the AUTHOR.

4.  Give Thyself Over To The Word

Choose not to keep thyself at a distance from the character, plot and theme of the book you hold.  Nay, instead give over thy spirit and embrace the power of the AUTHOR.

5.  May the Make-Believe Guide You Towards Heaven

Let it be known that the All-Day Read is the most holiest of book endeavors, and can only be quested after stories of imagine and nod.  “No man shall read the script of history, for its characters are set and firm in the earth,” sayeth the AUTHOR.

6.  Lend Thyself To The Passage of Time

While in the act of reading and meditation, in the throes of the story, prepare thy soul to travel and skip through the minute, hour, and day.  The unprepared soul will be surprised by the passage of the day, and in a fit of rage blame the book.  This is a sin against the AUTHOR, and will only serve to drag you away from the light.

7. Rest Thyself in the Fellowship of Friends

The AUTHOR, knowing we are but mortal beings susceptible to weakness and scrutiny, has allowed one hour of the day to summon one friend and speak of such things as unrelated to the story.  This will serve thy mind a respite from the word of the AUTHOR, in His glory and light, for they are sometimes too great for we to witness.

8.  Focus On The Word

Train thy eye to witness every letter, word, and phrase written by the Author, for in doing so, you shall know the face of creation.

9.  Cleanse Thyself

The AUTHOR has decreed that, though most time must be spent on the word and plot, the reader must give pause for the washing of hands, feet and face in a basin of clear water, for the act of the All-Day Read will leave on oily and grimed, and to read as such is an affront to the AUTHOR.

10.  Prepare Thy Soul For the Absence of Grace

Once finished with the word, the reader will feel the emptiness as the spirit of the AUTHOR leaves their bodies and returns to the creative ether up in the clouds of Art.  Do not seek more of the word in other stories, for this would be a crime against the AUTHOR.  Be not afraid, nor despair, for although the word of the AUTHOR has left thee, a part of His grace remains in thy heart.  Give praise and rejoice, for the AUTHOR shall return one day and bless upon you once again the gift of the kingdom of Art.  Yea, though we walk through the valley of mediocre plot and character of single dimension, we shall not fear for the spirit of the AUTHOR is with us, and shall remain for all of time.

The End.Image

The Tiny Chefs – Part 1

“You should open your own restaurant.”

All of my guests end up saying this.  I have heard it from countless friends that have been over for dinner, or at barbeques I was throwing, or from people who ate food I brought to some potluck.  At some point towards the end of the meal they would say, “You should open your own restaurant,” or, “You should have your own cooking show,” and I would force a small smile and say that I’m not a professional and I wouldn’t make it.  I say that it’s just the fact that it is a home-cooked meal that makes it seem outstanding, but it’s really nothing special.

“No, I’m serious.  That was absolutely delicious.  I never knew you could cook like this!” Elliott responds, laughing.  I chuckle and start to clear the plates from the table.  “Are you sure you didn’t go to culinary school at some point and just forgot to mention it to everyone?”

“I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even get into culinary school, let alone pass it.”

“Rick, that was amazing!  What’s your secret?”

“There’s no secret.”

“You have to have a secret.  Why else would you keep the door to your kitchen locked and bolted?”

I glance over to my kitchen door, with its two bolt locks and a chain lock and a space for a heavy-duty padlock that I only use when I go to sleep and currently have hidden in the chest bureau in the hall.  All of them have only one key, and all of those keys are on my key ring in my left pocket.

“I had those installed because this apartment has a horrible draft, and that door is very heavy.  After the fourth or fifth time of being smashed against the walled when I was going to make tea, I figured some stabilizers would be a good idea.”

Elliott stares at the door.  “Bullshit.”  He leans in and takes the stack of dishes I had made and slides them out of my reach.  He wasn’t smiling anymore.  “This is a real talent, Rick.  I’m a reporter on Los Angeles’s art scene, so I’ve been to my fair share of swanky soirees and restaurants.  I’ve eaten some fantastic food made by world class chefs, famous and renowned as the top in their field.  This, what you’ve made tonight, is better than anything I’ve ever had.  Why don’t you do something with this?  I could help you, I know the right people.”

None of my guests have ever said that before.  I sit down.

“Come on, you have to want to do something more with your life.  Chartered accountancy can’t be what you’re really interested in.”

I sigh and look at the stack of dishes on the other side of Elliott.  He was right, of course, but not about my job as an accountant (which I thoroughly enjoyed) or about my culinary talents.  I’m not a bad cook, but the most elaborate dish I can make is lemon chicken and that’s only because I buy those pre-made spice mixtures from the store.  But I did have a secret.

Behind the door with three locks sits a kitchen like anyone else’s; a refrigerator, a collection of dinnerware from Ikea, a cupboard filled with basic seasonings and Kraft mac n’ cheese, a food disposal that doesn’t really work and a dishwasher that seems to make dishes dirtier.  No fancy cooking appliances, no extravagant spices from the Orient, no ancient cookbook detailing long-forgotten recipes; just a simple, normal kitchen.  Nothing special.

Nothing special, that is, except one very peculiar oven.

About eight months ago, I had gotten home late after a long day at work.  I had gone to the grocery store to buy ingredients for a meal I was going to cook for a lunch date I would be having the following day.  A girl I had gone on a few dates with was going to be coming over and I wanted to impress her with some show of culinary ability.  I stumbled into my kitchen and opened the fridge to find all the space taken up by take-out leftovers boxes and overripe fruit.  I would have started throwing things away to make room, but I was tired from work and just decided to throw everything into the oven since the chicken needed to thaw anyway.  I just needed some sleep, and then I could wake up early and put everything into the fridge before it started to spoil.

Apparently I needed more than just a little bit of sleep because I slept right past my alarm and was only awoken by my cell phone ringing.  I groggily answered it, only to find that my date was outside my condo, waiting to be let in.  I quickly put on some clothes, donned a nice cabby hat to hide my bed hair and jogged to the front door.  I opened it and let her in.  I took her coat and we exchanged pleasantries.

“I can’t wait to see what you’ve cooked, I’m starving.”

Motherfucker, I thought, the food!  What the hell am I going to feed this woman?!  I started to make a mental inventory of all the leftovers I had in the fridge, trying to figure out what kind of meal I could put together on the fly.

“Mmmmm,” my date said, taking in a deep breath, “It smells wonderful in here.  You must be quite the cook.”

In my rush to meet my date I hadn’t notice the aromas emanating from the kitchen and filling the apartment, but yes, it did smell very good.  Had I turned on the oven before I went to bed?  I imagined the inside of my oven, with burnt chicken and vegetables covered in melted plastic bags and a billow of smoke just waiting to be let loose.  But would that smell this good? I wondered.

“What did you cook for us today?”

I looked at her and tried to hide my panic.  “It’s . . . it’s a surprise.”

She giggled.  “Very intriguing.  Well, I brought the wine.  Shall we get started?”

I led her into the dining room, where I opened the bottle of wine and filled two glasses.  We sat there, chatting about God knows what.  I don’t remember any of the conversation from that day.  I just wanted to stall her as long as I could, not wanting to see what mess lay beyond my kitchen door.  It was a futile plan.

“Save some wine for the meal Rick,” my date told me, with a suggestive look on her face, “I don’t have any other plans for the day, so I’m all yours.  There’s no rush.”  She smiled, a smile that I would have normally found as an extremely good sign, but I was too worried about what the hell I was going to do to appreciate it.  There was no more room for stalling.

“I am going to get the food now,” I said in a mechanical voice as I stood up and walked to the kitchen.  I started to close the door behind me, proclaiming about how my methods in the kitchen are an old family secret and if I showed any of them to her I’d have to kill her.  It was a bad joke but she laughed anyway.  I shut the door and turned to the oven.

It was set to “WARM”.  There was no smoke coming from it.  In front of the oven, all of the plastic bags lay on the floor.  I didn’t remember taking everything out before I put it into the oven, but I was just glad that they didn’t cook.  The chicken would still be covered in plastic wrap, and all the vegetables would be ruined, but at least the plastic bags didn’t cook.  I leaned over and began to pick up the bags, but those weren’t the only things that I found on the floor.  There was also the plastic from around the chicken, a container of “Aunt Miriam’s Lemon-Pepper Spice Mix”, all the twisty-ties that held the bundles of vegetables together, and a bar of fancy hand soap I bought for my bathroom.  I definitely do not remember taking those out.  I went to my refrigerator and opened the door only to find what I had seen the night before; leftovers and rotting fruit taking up every bit of available space.

The most dreadful times aren’t the ones where everything you can imagine that could go wrong do go wrong.  At least those times you are somewhat prepared for, you create an image in your mind labeled “When Everything Goes To Shit” and start to prepare yourself for it.  It’s terrifying, but it’s not overwhelming.  The true terror comes when you are faced with a situation in which you are in no way prepared for.  No preparation could be done because what is happening is beyond your understanding of the actual world.  A grim and bleak picture is replaced by an entirely black canvas, a void with no rhyme or reason.  And despite Nietzsche’s words, when you stare into the abyss you don’t care if it stares back into you; you’re too busy defecating yourself .

I stood in front of my oven, put my hand on the oven door handle, and pulled the door open.

There, in the middle of the rack and on a broiling pan, was a perfectly roasted chicken.  In a small pan on a lower rack were all the vegetables, glazed and looking delicious.  I definitely didn’t do this before I went to bed.

“Rick?  Are you okay?  You’ve been in there five minutes.”

I came out of a daze, not realizing I had just been standing there in the middle of my kitchen, gawping at the food in my oven.

“Yeah, I’m fine.  Just got caught up glazing the carrots one final time.”  I took the food out of the oven and set it on top of the stove.  I grabbed some plates, cut off a breast and leg for her and a thigh and wing for me, scooped some vegetables onto each plate, and then drizzled some drippings from the chicken over everything.  I picked up some napkins and started to close the oven door when I eyed some just underneath the grate covering the burner.  Was that a hand?  A tiny hand? I thought as the door closed shut.  Placing utensils on each plate, and then holding a dish in each hand I pushed the kitchen door open with my rear end and went back into the dining room.

“Voila,” I said, and placed the dish in front of her.  My date’s mouth hung open as she stared at her food.

“Wow,” she said, flustered, “this looks fantastic.”

“Well . . . I try.”

She slowly picked up her fork and knife, cut off a small piece of breast and then lanced a carrot chunk, and then slowly put it into her mouth.  She chewed and chewed.  I held my breath, worrying that maybe the food was somehow poisoned.  And then her eyes widened, as far as they could go, and then drowsily closed as she made a face of pure ecstasy.  I have come to understand that ecstasy, true ecstasy, is not caused just by sexual activity but by the simple and unmistakable overload of a single sense.  Out of all the human senses taste is the most complex, and when it overloads your entire body begins to quiver with what I can only describe as the joy of God.

“Oh . . . my . . . goodness,” my date stammered.

I began to eat the food that was on the plate in front of me.  It was that good.  But who had cooked it?  Who had thrown all of my plastic bags out of the oven and then cooked me a meal that was 100% going to get me laid tonight?  Was that a tiny hand dashing away underneath my oven?!  These questions raced through my mind for the rest of the night.  Well, they raced up until the point when about twenty minutes after we finished our meal, my date stood up, gently took my hand and asked, “Would you like to show me what kind of sheets you have on your bed?”  They were a dark chocolate brown, and I was more than happy to show her.

But after the one or two (or three or four) times we had made love, after she had finally fallen asleep with her head on my chest, snoring softly, I began to think about my oven.  Most likely I had gotten up when my alarm went off, prepared everything, and then gotten back into to bed without remembering any of it because I was so tired.  It’s not that hard to roast a chicken so I could have done it.  But that hand, that little hand; what was that about?  Was that just an illusion, a part of a dream that lingered?  Why did it only have four fingers?

These thoughts bounced through my head until I, too, drifted off into sleep, where I dreamed that my oven was filled with a thousand tiny men that dragged me into the oven to cook me for their evening meal.

—– This story will be concluded in The Tiny Chefs – Part 2 next week. —–