Monday, 27 November 2006

Pink Santa, Part One


Pink Santa is a Christmas novelette of twelve chapters, posted serially by me, your yuletide host, Cheeseburger Brown.

In contrast to my other stories, this story features neither profanity nor adult situations. Also, I'll admit you now that everything goes well by the finish -- that's right: a happy ending. In short, this story is suitable for consumption by juvenile readers. If you know any juveniles you might want to consider printing this out for them.

The story is also suitable for those who inner child has not yet been strangled by bitterness or a messy divorce or fiscal insolvency, existential angst or the quagmire in Iraq.

And now, we begin our tale:



1/12

Mike got up in the night, because he had to pee.

He had neither a father nor a mother to care for him, so Mike lived in an orphange. The orphanage was very old and it smelled like a sticky shower curtain. At night the orphanage was very dark, but Mike knew his way to the washroom by touch.

In the washroom he was surprised to surprise Chloe. They surprised each other. Both Mike and Chloe gasped. Mike said, "What are doing in the boy's bathroom?"

Chloe said, "Shhh!"

She was teetering on top of a stack of books. Mike recognized The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, A Wrinkle in Time and Winnie-the-Pooh. Chloe had built a tower out of the books next to the wall, and she was stretching to reach the windowsill up high.

"What are you doing?" he whispered.

Chloe frowned at him, then lost her balance and accidentally kicked at the stack with her dangling feet. Books flew everywhere, skidding into the corners. Chloe was left hanging from the windowsill by the tips of her fingers. She yelped.

"Oh my gosh!" said Mike.

They heard thumps and bumps from the floor above them, and then muttering adult voices. The nuns were awake!

"The nuns are awake!" cried Chloe.

Mike was scared. He didn't want to get in trouble. "What should I do?" he asked.

Chloe said, "Help me!"

So Mike got below Chloe, and she put her feet on his little shoulders, then hauled herself up to sit in the sill. She turned the lock and grunted as she pushed open the window, letting in a puff of cold, winter air. It started to snow inside the washroom.

They could hear the nuns in the corridor outside poking into each room and calling for Chloe. They sounded very angry.

Mike started to cry.

"Shhh!" hissed Chloe again.

"But I don't want to be in trouble," whined Mike, sniffling through his sobs.

"Be quiet!" said Chloe.

The nuns were getting closer. The lights in the corridor came on.

"I don't know where to hide!" squeaked Mike.

Suddenly Chloe dangled her arms down from the sill, grabbed the top of Mike's pajamas, and used all her strength to pull him up. Mike scrambled onto the sill and squeezed in beside her. "What are we going to do?" he wanted to know, his breath making little puffs of steam in the cold air by the window.

"We're going to escape!" said Chloe.

"Where's escape?" asked Mike.

"Escape isn't a place, it's a thing to do. I'm running away. Are you coming?"

Mike crinkled his brow. "Where?"

"Out. Away. Far away. Come on -- quickly!"

Mike didn't know what to do. He started to cry again. Chloe squirmed through the open window and dropped down to the metal fire-escape below. She looked up at him. "Are you coming or aren't you?" she asked.

The door of the washroom began to open. Long, adult-sized shadows were cast upon the floor. Sister Bethany was carrying her special paddle which she used for spanking the backsides of children who broke the rules.

Mike panicked when he saw the paddle and dove through the open window. He landed on top of Chloe who said, "Oof."

They tried to stay perfectly still and perfectly quiet. They heard Sister Bethany say, "The window's open in here. Did somebody leave this window open?"

Chloe and Mike stayed crunched up in a little ball on the fire escape, hoping Sister Bethany wouldn't see them when she looked outside. She called, "Chloe! Chloe!"

"What's going on?" said Sister Joanna from inside the washroom.

"I think Chloe Blair has escaped again," said Sister Bethany. "Send Alfred around to check the alley."

Chloe tugged on Mike's pajamas. "Let's go! Hurry!" she whispered.

They padded down the rickety steps of the fire-escape and hopped into the soft snow in the alley beside the orphanage. Mike was happy that his pajamas had little socks built into them.

Chloe took Mike's hand and pulled him through the alley, his short legs working hard to keep up with the older girl's quick pace. They came out into the dark street and rushed past the front doors of the orphanage just seconds before Alfred the janitor came out, tying closed his robe. "Who's out here?" he called into the empty street.

Chloe and Mike rushed away.

It was very cold outside. Mike used his free hand to clutch at his bits. "I still have to go pee," he whined.

"We'll be there soon," said Chloe, tugging him along.

"But where are we going?" he asked.

"Don't worry," said Chloe. "I have a plan."


15 comments:

lukas said...

"The nuns are awake!" is such a great, terrifying line. I'm hearing it in the way one might hear "Godzilla is attacking the city!", perhaps even out of sync with the mouth saying it.
Luke

nlummu: My wife says "i love you", and I respond "I love you too" through a mouthful of instant oatmeal.

Simon said...

Ah, there's already a warm little fuzzy in my heart, knowing that Mike is going to see a happy ending to this particular story. This is definitely one that will get printed out and saved for the kids. Maybe, if he's feeling ambitious and suffused with unexpected free time, CBB will eventually add some more art to it and slap the whole shebang up on Cafepress. Though perhaps not on the same shelf as Goodbye to Kitty.

(Hooray for Christmas stories!)

"ldkvlrz" -- Feminine kevlar attire for the discerning combatant.

Mark said...

What's next? Night Flight Mike's thoughts as a fetus?

This promises to be quiet an adventure, I'm sure. Perhaps Mike and Chloe land with their permanent family? I'm sure Cherry Nuk-Nuk is too young yet to be a star, but here's hoping we see her again, too.

Mark said...

Quite an adventure, that is. Sheesh.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

I always read that as "Cherry Nyuk Nyuk", which brings to mind a gyrating Curly with some kind of dessert fixation.

"xabos": some random Greek guy, I guess.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Lukas,

Not having a lot of contact with the Catholic church the line is just a line to me, but I do know some nunphobics scarred by past experience for whom the line would definitely be a call to panic.

Dear Simon,

Indeed, if the story is well received we might see an illustrated version available for Christmas 2008. We'll see.

Dear Mark,

That's it -- the interuterine adventures of Night Flight Mike versus the Placental Goo.

Dear Sheik,

Did you miss Cherry Nuk-Nuk's earlier appearence in Night Flight Mike? She'll be back again, but not in this particular adventure.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Sheik Yerbouti said...

CBB,

Not at all; it's just my usual eye-brain scrambler at work. The only reason I added "gyrating" was because of her nightclub act (though she also gets cameo mention in Bad Traffic, if nothing else).

For some reason, my little brother and I used to think it was nothing short of hilarious to yell "The nuns are coming!" in a panicked imitation of Paul Revere's legendary (if misstated) ride.

We were weird kids.

"cfcmfqkw": 1) Global warming activist's derogatory name for an aerosol exec. 2) Word ver's revenge for my much-too-pronounceable result last time.

Simon said...

As a random interjectory comment, have you ever considered creating a paid subscription option for CBB?

As you note in the sidebar, stories don't grow on trees. Plus, I've found that altruism is often catalysed by adding the element of convenience. I mean, it takes effort each and every time somebody makes a donation! And you have to remember to do it. Subscriptions take your money every month automagically!

I mention this because I financially subscribe to only one other site and the writing HERE is more entertaining and more frequent. (I dare not say 'better' since the oeuvre is so far removed.) The kicker is that, there, there's subscriber-specific content (far less frequent) which in your case would cannibalize already precious time. But it's not a necessity. I'd sign up without the promise of you whoring yourself more than you already do for free.

I don't know how large your readership is to make it a viable option, though the efforts up front with PayPal would be minimal. And I add it here as a comment rather than in an email to see if it sparks any sort of agreement from the regular masses. Five bucks a month is a cheap meal at McDonald's or over a dozen little stories from an increasingly adept word smith.

Personally, I find the intellectual satiety far more satisfying for the dollar value. Consider this some food for thought.

"picje" -- 3.14159 times the speed of light times the irrational natural logarithm. Holy numbers Batman, it must be the Secret Mathematic!

Mark said...

I would support the subscription option. But, that would open you up to a new level of pressure (even if only self-imposed).

Moksha Gren said...

Wow, I thought I was shaking things up when I suggested CBB only post three times a week. Simon, you're shaking the very foundation!!!

Couple thoughts on that front. First, I hadn't even noticed the donation button. I rember CBB taking it down from the old site when he got his job and I just never noticed it go back up. I'll make use of it soon. Thanks, Simon, for bringing that to my attention.

As for subscription...tricky question. I'd certainly be willing to pay for the work you do, CBB. And having a small fee attached DOES add a psychological sense of value to the product. However, if the goal of this site is to hone your craft and hopefully generate word of mouth about your work that could lead to publishing opertunities...then perhaps encouraging the masses to read as they amble by is a better system for you.

Or maybe some compromise. Special content for members. Members only commenting. You only get the first half of any story for free :) That sort of thing.

I periodically read David Wellington's stuff. He's a horror writer and probaly not your thing. But he is quickly turning his free website into a full-fledged writing career. And I don't think his word craft is as good as yours. So, the free thing can work out in the long view. But it's certainly not the only way to go.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

As a random interjectory comment, have you ever considered creating a paid subscription option for CBB?

Simon's right that it would be easy as pie to add a PayPal subscription option. My chief objection at this point is that those subscribers wouldn't be receiving for their trouble a different level of service than non-subscribers. In other words, the only reward for contributing would be the satisfaction of contribution.

It would make me uncomfortable to be seen as asking for money in exchange for...well, the same old same old -- when others could continue to receive the same old same old for nothing.

Is it conceivable a kind of premium level of service could be streamed for subscribers? Yes, but I don't think it's anything I'm prepared to implement just yet. I could, for example, offer subscribers a substantive discount on printed anthologies but I'm uncomforting promising that for the future when I can't realistically commit to a delivery date for the first such collection. I don't want to accept anyone's money or good faith based on vapour, you understand.

My second objection is that that or a comparable scheme may not be worth the administrative effort given the current volume of audience. Basically it boils down to the fact that I don't think the current readership is sufficiently large or diverse yet.

As you know, I rebooted my blogging effort in this current incarnation only this past August -- this specific blog is therefore fairly young from a certain point of view, and it hasn't yet had that phase transition from author-generated hooplah to self-generated hooplah that brings a significant jump in visitors.

With a larger audience I could entertain ideas of tiered access to content or similar schemes, while always having some part of the content available for free. I don't know. I guess I haven't thought about it much because I'm still waiting for the volume of audience to fill in.

I remember the phase transition with Simon of Space -- when we jumped from 400 daily readers to 2,000 daily readers. I certainly remember the phase transition with The Darth Side: I thought my stats meter was busted when it counted 1.2 million visitors in a single day.

Suddenly there was a large enough pool to experiment with. I sure learned a lot about Google AdSense.

In both cases the catalyzing factor was bloggers blogging about my blog, basically explaining to people ahead of time why checking out my stuff was worth a few moments of their time. In both cases the sheer volume of posts on other people's blogs inevitably led to posts on the meta-blogs: first the smaller fry like MonkeyFilter and MilkandCookies and then the goliaths like MetaFilter and Slashdot.

No matter how much singing and dancing I do on my own account, it just can't hold a candle to the virulence of a meme with some inertia behind it. And, frankly, even if I did know how to purposefully ignite such a storm on my own (without sucking on Lucasfilm's chaps, that is) I'm sure doing so would make me little better than a spammer.

That isn't to say that none of the current readers has blogged about this blog, because I've seen some very sweet posts or mentions and certainly a lot of friendly hyperlinking, and I appreciate it. Still, the readership waits for a real kick.

Then, when I've got an audience big enough to poke around with, I'll be more apt to entertain different notions for delivery/subscriptions/etc.

It'll happen eventually. I can be patient, and hope when some blogosphere hooplah does come my way it'll catch me in the middle of a good story so some of the new visitors will stick to the walls, so to speak. I happy to bide my time, filling up these domains with content and commentary the later visitors, when they do come, will be able to browse through.

I really don't know how the traffic here compares to the blogs you folks run, but here's the basic run-down:

BLOGSPOT DOMAIN: 408 uniques/day
CHEESEBURGERBROWN.COM DOMAIN: 467 uniques/day
RSS FEED: 389 subscribers
E-MAIL FEED: 36 subscribers

*VERY* APPROXIMATE TOTAL DAILY AUDIENCE: 1,300

Those numbers aren't too impressive compared to my previous blogging efforts, and the whole enchilada is still only about 30% of the traffic I get on my personal homepage.

Of course, I don't really know how many of those visitors are readers, per se. Some of them come for less than 5 seconds after a failed search attempt. Some of them are clearly just looking for porn. A number of the RSS subscriptions aren't by human beings but websites who've just been syndicating my content for seach term whoring, PageRank whoring, scraper ad sites, and so on. It's hard to get an accurate picture of what's really going on, consumption-wise.

As far as I can tell, however, there are only about 50 or 60 people who can be counted with some certainty as regular readers who return like clockwork to check out the latest chapter. You folks comprise my core readership, and I'm loathe to tax you without giving you something tangible in return...which brings me right back to where I started this ramble.

What do you all think?

Any bright ideas for causing the readership to explode? If that did happen, what do you think about subscription options and what kind of premium services you might enjoy for your trouble? Any basic philosophical objections?

Let me know.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

P.S. Thanks for the donation, Simon. You're a sweetheart.

Simon said...

I can appreciate all the points made, and do agree that it's pretty early in this current incarnation for that sort of significant step up. Still, there are those here I know would agree that we're getting a pretty sweet free ride for the time being. Cool as it is, the internet is chock full of dross so it's nice to come across a shiny, yellow nugget every now and again.

I don't have much in the way of ideas for readership explosions. I do think you would find more success with something along the lines of Simon of Space. And by that I mean the serialised novel rather than short stories. The Long Man and Leslie and the Powder were more alluring stories partly because of their length. It's appealing to get drawn into something that's going to last a longer while.

That effect was vastly increased with SoS. Not only did the story attract and retain readers, but because of the medium there evolved a community that itself became a smaller part of the appeal. Harder to do when the works are more fleeting and the focus instead centres on the author.

Stemming from that, one decision becomes whether this is where you want to attract a readership or hone a craft by experimenting with different, shorter, stories? Both, certainly, but which takes primacy? And if a novel doesn't garner the sort of following SoS did, what do you do? Hard to see the future is.

(Since you don't want to leech off Lucas to create the draw, you could just start writing space porn. That'd bring 'em in. All the women would have heart-shaped beaver pelts and you could consider it a challenge to work in cheeseburgers and flatulence to random chapters.)

When the explosion does happen I don't have any specific desires for 'premium services'. Perhaps a prominent subscriber blogroll? I'm just happy with continuous content.

"rrpcb" -- MFDH moonlights as a rap artist.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

You're right about the long form story (or blook, or whatever) being a better honeypot to attracting and capturing new readers.

The primary function of this blog is for me to improve my craft. Where the volume of audience really comes into play there is simply that the more feedback I get, the better.

Perhaps the event that will swell the ranks a bit will be the release of the 2nd edition of SoS. I hope that happens relatively early in the new year. I am almost finished my rewrites...just struggling with a few differences of opinion between the editor and I (bless her heart, she's been very understanding).

I'll mull the subscription options over Christmas. I plan at that time, anyway, to pore over my logs and try to make sense of my traffic, try to make some decisions to optimize it during the hiatus.

Oh yeah -- I guess I hadn't mentioned that. There will be a posting hiatus between the end of Pink Santa and the next story. The hiatus will last the week of December 25th, when we should all be hanging around with our families instead of reading stuff off the Web, anyway.

Posting will resume on 1 January 2007 with The Bikes of New York, a dark tale set in the near future.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

I had been putting this off because other "postable" things kept popping up in our lives. But, I'm going to write a post plugging your stories over here.

I do have a question, though. Where are all the stories I found here before? I can't find the one about the robot on the sailing ship (sorry, titles don't stick in my head) and others that I thought were just great stuff.

I wonder for myself and for the brief descriptions I'd like to give of each story I mention.

Mark said...

Never ye mind, please. I just found those stories. "The Stars are Wonder." That was it, and the others are there, too. "The Sweet Funk of Revenge" "A Cheeseburger in Paris"

Just very fun to read, for any of you who have not.