Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Secret Mathematic - Chapter Seventeen


The Secret Mathematic is an original novel told in an indefinite number of chapters, posted serially by me, your nocturnally active host, Cheeseburger Brown. This is the seventeenth installment.

Chapters: 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|...

Multimedia: Listen to the The Secret Mathematic Overture in MP3 format, by Syntax Error.

Related reading: Stubborn Town, Three Face Flip, The Long Man, Plight of the Transformer, The Extra Cars

And now, the story continues:



SEVENTEEN

Sunset on Somerset West. Dundonald Park. Men stand in the bushes.

Mr. Mississauga walks the path, smoking, overcoat trailing out behind. His shadow is long. The light is bronze, the sky bloody. Parliament's spike is in silhouette. The capital is small; he spies senators and spots spies, but names aren't acknowledged in the park. Mr. Mississauga cruises on, gaze averted.

"How old are you?"

"Are you a cop?"

"No."

The kid asks to be called Jack. Mr. Mississauga doesn't offer a name. They take a taxi to his building, then stare at the elevator numbers illuminating in patient sequence. Their bellies quiver and the doors part.

No. 906: Mr. Mississauga unlocks the door, his leather glove creaking as his fingers buzz. The door swings open. Jack wanders forward into the gloom. He's patting his pockets. "It's cool if I have a smoke?"

"Yes."

The light snaps on. Jack slows. Mr. Mississauga is closing the door. Like everything in the small apartment, the door is swathed in a layer of white quilting. So too the walls, the ceiling, the cupboards, the refrigerator -- coated in woolen blankets of blanched curlicues and lozenges, dimpled swirls and nubby-edged squares.

Mr. Mississauga holds out an ignited lighter. Jack blinks, draws out a cigarette, then pokes his face at the flame. "Did you...did you like sew all this yourself?"

"No. I buy the quilts used from a place in the ByWard. I just bleach them out and hang them."

"What for?"

"To keep the noise in."

Jack licks his lips. "You play a lot of loud music?"

"No," says Mr. Mississauga. "I don't sleep soundly."

"Oh, so it's so's you won't be disturbed or nothing?"

Mr. Mississauga shakes his head. "No," he says, then nods toward the refrigerator. "Can I get you something?"

"Like a drink?"

"I don't keep any alcohol. Water?"

"I'm fine," says Jack, smoking. He shifts his weight. "You want to go lie down?"

Mr. Mississauga nods. "This way."

Later, the sky turns a murky shade of brown and the lights of the downtown core stand in place of stars outside the windows of No. 906. A helicopter lingers over Parliament Hill. Ambulance sirens babble and whine, echoing away.

The window is open. Mr. Mississauga leans by it, preparing tobacco.

Jack lounges in bed, tugging the covers over his smooth shoulder against the chill. He smokes languidly. He watches the tall native at the window, half revealed by the city's orange glow: at his shoulders and below his pelvis the soft shine of skin is lost to matte straps and gleaming buckles of his four artificial limbs. His bum is brown, taut and muscular.

"Todd told me about you," says Jack, gaze roaming. "He works Ogilvie. Been with you a few times."

Mr. Mississauga half-turns, lighter flaring. He puffs his hand-rolled cigarette alive, thin lips flexing. He looks back outside the window, trailing fume. "He won't see me again. I've lost my job. I don't walk down Ogilvie any more."

"Shitty. Which do you do?"

"Detective."

"I thought you said you weren't a cop."

"I'm not. I was with intelligence."

"You're like a spy?"

"No, a case investigator."

"So what do you investigate?"

He faces outside as he speaks, half his words escaping on the breeze. "Have you ever heard about military and airline pilots spotting UFOs? I'm the man who writes down their stories, and takes pictures of their burns." Mr. Mississauga drags and exhales. "Did you read about that woman from Nova Scotia who could whistle whatever song you were thinking about in your head? I interviewed her, and oversaw her testing."

Jack smirks. "Are you serious? It's actually somebody's tax-funded job to follow up on crackpot stuff?"

Mr. Mississauga nods humourlessly. "Yes," he says. "Or, rather, it was."

Jack props himself up on one elbow. "You got fired?"

Mr. Mississauga looks over at him and shakes his head. "Laid off. CSIS has a new mandate from Parliament to balance the budget. Our field of inquiry was deemed...non-essential. So they shut down the whole department."

"Did you get a gold watch?"

"Ten weeks pay and a handshake."

Jack stabs out his cigarette and shivers. "What're you going to do? Find a new job?"

Mr. Mississauga turns back toward the window and pulls it closed. "No." He pauses, eyes unfocused. Jack watches his reflection in the glass. "I'm still working on a case," says Mr. Mississauga flatly. "And if CSIS isn't going to pay my way to pursue it, I'll go it alone."

"How you going to pay the rent? You going to start hanging around in the park with me?"

"I can't pay the rent. It doesn't matter, because I can't stay here. The case is moving, and I have to follow it."

"The case moves?"

Mr. Mississauga nods, looking over his shoulder at the youth. "It isn't really a single case, but rather a matrix of connected cases. The more I investigate the more I'm able to build up a coherent picture of the pattern of occurrence, and hopefully learn what's at the heart of it all." He takes a breath. "And put a stop to it."

Jack looks at him quietly for a moment, then blinks. "Are you pranking me, or are you for real?"

Mr. Mississauga offers him a small, tight smile. "Real," he says.

Jack licks his lips quickly and draws his knees to his chest, hugging his own shoulders as he rocks lazily on the sheets. "So what happens? What are the cases about? Is it aliens? You can tell me."

Mr. Mississauga smokes, considering this as he leans against the window frame. "I don't know," he decides. "Someone reports something unusual. We look into it. Most of the time it's nothing -- contagious hysteria stemming from a misunderstood natural phenomenon. But sometimes it turns out to be...something more difficult to explain."

"Something impossible?"

Mr. Mississauga shakes his head curtly. "No. Something improbable."

"What's the difference?"

"The impossible never happens; the improbable seldom does."

Jack shrugs. "That doesn't sound so bad."

Mr. Mississauga tightens his mouth into a grim line. "Improbable developments can be trivial in a simple setting -- a rock that against the odds breaks loose and suddenly rolls down a hill, a stream that cuts an unexpected path one spring." He drags on his smoke, then exhales slowly, speaking through the haze. "But consider how things change when you introduce objects of highly compressed complexity, such as a Mammalian brain...objects that simulate and mirror aspects of the real world within themselves symbolically, which then lead to decisions -- often consequential decisions -- based on rule-based manipulations of those symbols."

"You lost me."

"Think of it this way: it's one thing for an unlikely event to occur in the world, but it's another thing altogether -- on a whole new order of magnitude -- for an unlikely event to occur in the virtual world carried around by a creature whose choices have ramifications in the real world."

"It's like double the trouble?"

"A geometric rise in the potency of the smallest seed of improbability, amplified through the complexity of living things by virtue of their own inherent, sheer unlikelihood."

Jack nods. "Oh, sure. That. Well." He drops his knees sullenly, gathering the covers at his chest. "And you're going to stop that how exactly? With a wrench? With a tank? With a nuke?"

"I don't know," says Mr. Mississauga, his voice hollow and uncharacteristically meek. "But I'll manage."

Jack flops back flat on the bed, staring at the quilted ceiling. "That's heavy," he says. "Why don't you forget about it for a while? Come on: let's screw."

"I never forget."

"Let's screw anyway."

In the morning Jack wakes up alone in the bed. Sun streams in through the windows. A woven dream-catcher hangs from the frame, casting a long, bobbing shadow across the quilted wall. Birds chirp.

Jack wanders to the washroom. Over the tub hangs a trapeze-like contraption of pulleys and braces to accommodate Mr. Mississauga's lack of mobility when his limbs are detached. The toilet's arrangements are simpler: a single piece of knotted rope hangs beside it. Jack bats the rope with his free hand while he pisses.

In the livingroom he finds his host sitting in a faded armchair. "Did you sleep out here all night?" asks Jack, knuckling his eyes.

"No," says Mr. Mississauga. "I didn't sleep."

Jack looks sheepish. "Is that my fault?"

"You nodded off. I didn't want to disturb you. Don't worry about it."

"You can't sleep with anybody else around, eh?"

"I can," he replies, "but no one else can." He gestures at the quilted walls. "You see, I scream."

Jack blinks. "You what? You scream -- like all night?"

"No, in cycles."

"You have crazy nightmares?"

"We all do," says Mr. Mississauga crisply. "Only you don't remember yours."

"Damn."

"Do you want to go out to get some breakfast?"

Jack's stomach quakes and groans. He looks sheepish again, then shakes his head and starts toward the bedroom. "It's fine. I got to get going anyways."

"It's on me."

Jack hesitates. He turns slowly, smiling. "You like waffles?"

For some reason beyond fathoming the waitresses at the waffle emporium are dressed as Mediaeval wenches, complete with tightly laced midriffs cinched to upthrust the young bosoms peeking out from scandalously low-cut peasant blouses. Jack looks up from the menu to be confronted by a morass of mammaries. "Can I get an extra scoop of blueberries on the side?"

"Verily, sire. And it cometh with whipped cream included."

"Right on." He raises his brow at Mr. Mississauga. "What's for you?"

"Nothing," he rumbles.

"Nothing?" echoes Jack.

The waitress smiles nervously. "Prithee allow me to tell you of today's specials, sire?"

"No," replies Mr. Mississauga in a tone that brokers no argument. The waitress escapes his gaze gratefully, tucking her notepad away and making eyes at her colleagues.

"You're not hungry?" asks Jack, sipping coffee.

Mr. Mississauga extracts a red and white can of Campbell's Scotch Broth from a pocket in his overcoat and sets it down on the table. His next manoeuvre reveals a compact camping-style can opener. His motorized hand buzzes as he works it patiently around the can's top. "I only eat food whose preparation is disconnected from me personally," he explains. The lid creaks as he folds it back. "Experience has made me prudent."

"You're just going to eat it cold like that?"

"It's pre-cooked."

"But it's not even warm."

"The tea is warm," says Mr. Mississauga as he brushes aside the paper-packaged teabag in favour of one he plucks from his own coat. Like a mechanical prize claw his gloved hand hovers over the pint-sized metal teapot, and then his fingers spring open and the bag drops inside. "It evens out."

Jack sips his coffee again, hiding his expression. The mug knocks on the table as he puts it down. "So, entertain me. Why don't you tell me more about these weird cases of yours?"

"I once visited an Inuit town that had been moved after mining eroded the stability of the underlying bedrock. The inhabitants went to bed in the new town, and awoke at the site of the old."

Jack whistles. "Okay, that's pretty weird. And it wasn't a trick or nothing? You checked it all out?"

"I checked it all out. No trick."

"Tell me another one."

"I once met a Manitoban with a topiary maze in his back garden. Despite the fact that the walls were deeply rooted cedars, the configuration of the maze tended to change over time."

"What else?"

"Back in the department in a special freezer we keep a glass of water that can't be drunk. If you pour the liquid into your mouth nothing reaches your belly and the level of water never changes. The Mounties brought it to us. They found it in the Northwest Territories in a smuggler's den."

"That's creepy."

"And then, of course, there are these," continues Mr. Mississauga, reaching into his pocket again. He withdraws a chess piece and places it gingerly between them on the table.

Jack squints, then blinks. It's a white rook. It sports a pair of breasts beneath the battlements and a set of plump labia at the base. Jack picks it up. "I always thought of rooks as guys," he observes. "But she's hot -- you know, for a game piece."

"I have recovered eroticized pieces such as this from over a dozen different locations."

Jack puts the piece down again. "What's it mean?"

"I don't know yet," says Mr. Mississauga. He inserts a spoon into his cold can of soup and shovels in a mouthful. He looks up as the waitress approaches with Jack's steaming plate of Belgian waffles. She frowns at the soup.

"We don't normally, uh, alloweth outside food," the waitress ventures.

Mr. Mississauga says nothing, looking back at her placidly.

"Thanks," says Jack as he reaches up and takes the plate from her fingers. The waitress accepts this cue and retreats. Jack digs in with relish, speaking around his food: "You're going to find out what's causing all the weirdness? Like maybe it's some chemical or something? Or a secret government experiment?"

Mr. Mississauga sips hot tea. "It isn't a secret government experiment. I've looked through the whole file, and nothing matches."

Jack sputters. "You mean there really are secret government experiments going on?"

"Well," admits Mr. Mississauga, consuming another spoonful of cold soup, "not currently. Like I said, Parliament's mandated balanced budgets all around which means anything in the books that's a challenge to explain has been put on indefinite hiatus."

Jack cuts into his second waffle. "Sure. Of course. Why not? Even shadow conspiracies need to worry about cashflow, right? Everybody's got bills to pay."

"There's no conspiracy. The government keeps programmes secret that have possible implications for national or international security. There's nothing nefarious or fantastic about it: stealth technologies, anti-missile systems, counter-hacking ops. It's about the defense of the country, simple as that."

"I forgot -- you're a company man. You toe the line."

Mr. Mississauga smiles tightly but humourlessly. "I toe no line. I'm not selling you on a vision of your government: I'm just telling you what I know from first hand experience." He pauses. "Also, you have blueberry juice on your face."

Jack mops up with a paper napkin. "What're you going to do next?"

"First of all I need a vehicle," says Mr. Mississauga. "Something suitable for surveillance. And for living in. A nondescript civilian vehicle with room in the back for cameras, equipment, a bedroll and a palette of soup."

Jack puts aside his fork thoughtfully. "Maybe I can help you out. I know a guy. You can do a cash deal, right?"

Mr. Mississauga nods.

"He's probably around this morning. It's not far."

Mr. Mississauga pauses again, spoon hanging over the can. The purple skin under his bottomless brown eyes quivers slightly. "I would very much appreciate that, Jack."

Jack grins. "Just let me finish my waffles, okay?"

The body shop is entered from an alley off Clyde. The heavy metal door meeps electronically as Jack pushes it open, then holds it for Mr. Mississauga. The garage is cluttered and busy, the flash and spark of arc welding flaring up from the furthest corner. Nearest to the door a crew of three work efficiently to strip the body panels away from a dark green minivan. Someone, unseen, is hammering metal on metal. A radio blares a distortion guitar solo tinnily.

"This is Shondel," calls Jack over the din, introducing a tall, high-foreheaded black man in a grubby coverall. "Shond, this is...this is my friend," he concludes lamely.

Mr. Mississauga extends a gloved hand. Shondel shakes it, pursing his lips in consideration of the slow, mechanically even grip. "You have a false arm," he says in a friendly way, his Caribbean accent lilting and low.

"Yes," says Mr. Mississauga.

"Are you a cop?"

"No."

Shondel smiles. His teeth are capped in gold. "Jack tells me you need someting to ride, am I right? And for campin' in? Tat's no problem at all. I got a black van wit integrated hot plate and a foldin' bunk, man. Does tat interest you?"

"A black van is too ominous. I need to blend in."

"You want a camouflage paint job? No problem."

"Urban camouflage. Maybe like a utility or service vehicle. Something normal."

"Someting normal for the serious man," laughs Shondel, clapping Mr. Mississauga on the back as if they are old pals. "Okay, no problem. I tink I'm on your wavelent now, my friend. And I've got the perfect ting."

Jack and Mr. Mississauga wait while Shondel leaves to look into it. The radio continues to blare. Jack winces. "What is this?"

"Cherry Nuk-Nuk," replies Mr. Mississauga, cocking his head. "The world's most famous Inuit pop star."

"Oh yeah?" says Jack. "I wouldn't have pegged you for a top ten music fan."

"I met her. She was born in the town I told you about, where the people were transported in their sleep."

Jack raises his eyebrows. Shondel returns, his domed head bobbing happily and keys clutched in his hand. "Gentle-men," he calls, beaming, "why don't you come wait out front while I fetch the ride and bring it aroun'? Tis way now. You're goin' to love it, man."

He escorts them to another metal door and then holds it open. Mr. Mississauga stumps past him, followed by Jack as he pats down his pockets until he finds his smokes. They emerge into a small parking lot fenced from the street by barbed-wire and sheet metal panels. Various sadly decrepit cars are parked by twin garage doors, heavily graffitoed.

Mr. Mississauga turns to Jack as soon as the metal door has slammed behind them. "Shondel can be trusted? He's not going to screw me?"

Jack shrugs coquettishly as he lights his cigarette. "He might. I don't know if you're his type. I've had a few dates with him and he's pretty -- uh, gymnastic, right?"

Mr. Mississauga frowns. "I don't have a very good sense of humour."

Jack looks at the ground. "Yeah, sorry. Listen, Shond's mechanics are good if nothing else. So the thing should run at least, right?" He looks up, brow furrowed. "Are you okay with an engine? You know how to mess around with them?"

"Yes."

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Mr. Detective Man. Shond's cool. This'll all be cool."

Mr. Mississagua sniffs. Minutes pass. Jack keeps waiting for his companion to smoke, but he doesn't. Jack smokes another. Traffic drones and swishes beyond the locked gate, gusts from the wakes of big trucks rattling the chains. Mr. Mississauga, who has taken a package of plastic-sealed saltine crackers from the waffle house soup cart, wanders between derelict cars and feeds the birds.

Jack licks his lips, shrugs to himself, then doesn't drag on the smoke he keeps hovering by his mouth. "I guess you're not going to be around Ottawa much longer then, eh?"

Mr. Mississauga looks over. "No."

Jack takes a breath. "Maybe you could use some help." He smiles uncertainly.

Mr. Mississauga turns away, shaking out his stiff glove to broadcast crumbs. "No," he says. "I don't take on sidekicks."

"I don't have to be your sidekick. I don't know nothing about what you do. I could just help you like get around and stuff..."

Mr. Mississauga turns back sharply. His look is cold. "What does that mean?"

"I just mean because you're handicapped. I could help."

"I am not handicapped." He turns away abruptly and jerks his hand upward, distributing the last of the crumbs to the chittering sparrows.

Jack scratches at his forearm and then smokes. "Yeah," he agrees vaguely, ashing into the air. "I just thought I'd ask. You know."

Mr. Mississauga hobbles over to him with dignity, eyes now sorrowful. "I know," he says, nodding. "And I'm sorry."

Jack shrugs carelessly, then gestures with his cigarette at the clumps of sparrows Mr. Mississauga has attracted. "What's with the birds?"

"They spook easily."

Jack squints. "Huh?"

"Birds are a natural barometer for tension," he explains. "If they scatter when Shondel returns, then so do we."

Jack hunches his shoulders, hands in his pockets, and glances uneasily back toward the body shop. "It'll be fine," he mumbles around his smoke.

They both turn as the left-side garage door rumbles upward. The birds pause from their snack to look over curiously. A repeating beep sounds and an engine growls and chortles as a large vehicle begins to slowly back out into the parking lot.

Jack steps back, and so does Mr. Mississauga.

It moves out of the garage's shadow, sunlight reflecting brightly from the yellow-orange paint. It's a slightly rust-tarnished, mildly dented micro-schoolbus. The suspension squeaks as it comes to a halt, and a moment later red beacons at the corners of the canopy start flashing on and off. A scratched-up stop sign unfolds from the side of the bus and the passenger door chuffs open. Finally, there is a quiet buzz as a wheelchair access ramp extends from the base of the steps and then clangs hollowly when it hits the ground.

Shondel strides down the ramp and gestures at the schoolbus, beaming widely. "What do you tink of tem apples, my friend?"

Mr. Mississauga hobbles a slow circuit around the vehicle, looking it up and down. He stumps up the ramp, feet banging on the metal, and then walks down the aisle between the twin rows of torn, patched and sun-faded vinyl bench seats. He's nodding to himself as he steps back out into the light.

"So?" prompts Shondel. Birds hop around his feet, vying for cracker crumbs.

Mr. Mississauga looks up from the birds and gives him a tight little smile. "How much?"

Shondel grins.


43 comments:

Tolomea said...

I like this one, it's nice to see the source of the bus and various details on Mr Miss's, About the only key Mr Miss thing that still seems to be outstanding is details of the benefactor he mentioned in one of the other stories and how that relationship came to be. I also liked the Cherry Nuk Nuk tie in.

Simon said...

We all knew Mr. Miss was gay, but actually sexualising him was a sort of odd feeling. Like you know your weird uncle on your mother's side is probably a fag, but you don't want to know that his buttocks are taut, eh? Felt like a humanising touch, though. Same as with smokes, a man's gotta get his fix somewhere.

I really liked Mr. Miss's explanation about the impossible vs. the improbable. And then laughed out loud at Jack saying, "Oh, sure. That. Well."

Right at the end there I got the feeling that the exchange was almost like Han winning the Falcon from Lando in a game of Sabacc. Only I don't imagine the school bus goes point five past light speed. But it sure is a piece of junk.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Tolomea said,

About the only key Mr Miss thing that still seems to be outstanding is details of the benefactor he mentioned in one of the other stories and how that relationship came to be.

Quite right, the one who hooked him up with an improved arm -- from the Zhang Workshop, I believe. We'll get there soon.

Simon says,

We all knew Mr. Miss was gay, but actually sexualising him was a sort of odd feeling...

I definitely know what you mean there, Simon, through to be perfectly candid I thought I went pretty easy on everyone. We discreetly "faded to black" at the right spots, as I see it, in order to avoid crossing the squeamish threshold of some readers.

I mean, my stories are never particularly pornotastic, but I'm especially sensitive to holding back details when it comes to the various sorts of forbidden love (incestual, homosexual, geriatric, perverse, et al.).

Right at the end there I got the feeling that the exchange was almost like Han winning the Falcon from Lando...

O, sweet ship-love; do you yet throb for this meagre microbus? Yea, mayhaps, for it is an engine in a larger opera, and so its voyages seem grand!

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Teddy said...

I mean, my stories are never particularly pornotastic

Ahem. Piroska.

It was a bit awkward adding more humanness to such a perceptibly different (I didn't want to use the word "Inhuman", but he has come across that way in the past) character. I suppose this wasn't nearly as odd as it would be to see him actually be wrong or make a mistake.

He seems sort of the wise-man character, always has an answer and can always put together what he's seeing perfectly, but in a way that teaches.

TRH

Sheik Yerbouti said...

"I only eat food whose preparation is disconnected from me personally"

Because of the Hubbardians. That just clicked with me.

I blame sleep deprivation.

al said...

IMHO I think Sky inspecting the bus was more like Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds laying eyes on Serenity for the first time.

fooburger said...

This sentence stuck out to me... the tense or voicing or something seems weird:
"The body shop is entered from an alley off Clyde."

Hmm... Mr. Miss sexuality was actually dubious to me until this post. I know he had told someone he was gay, but at the time, that person seemed to have some sort of unwanted interest in him, so I couldn't be sure whether it was some sort of excuse. There wasn't a narrator voice explaining it as him being gay, as far as I remember.

Raised my eyebrows a little bit, but not much. It didn't really feel shocking or anything to me. People are people, they have needs, even (or especially) the handicapped. This was, from my view, and expository chapter about the subject, with a little more for newer readers about Mr. Miss.

Simon said...

Al, I know what you mean about Serenity. "You treat her right, she'll take you anywhere you wanna go, Son." Or something like that. That was one of my favourite episodes.

And still on the general topic of sex in stories, I've always found that the most credible fiction I ever read never shies away from - more frequently embraces - the inclusion of sexuality and its many expressions. It is one of the single most powerful uniting factors of our humanity, and so to exclude it completely from a human tale often leaves a sorry gap. Any squeamishness on the part of the reader when we encounter pr0notastic descriptions of gay, geriatric, perverse, incestuous, etc. relations speaks more to our own inability to view those scenes with an open and critical eye versus less visceral content.

I have to wonder how much writing effort goes into some of Mr. Miss's monologues. He expounds, in a matter of 15 or 20 seconds worth of reading, upon some pretty heavy scientific and/or esoteric matters in a manner that is incredibly concise and eloquent. That's why I laughed at Jack's flippant reply, because his response would probably be typical of nearly anybody hearing that, scoffing at something little understood and so even the reader is tempted to reduce its import or impact. Those descriptive monologues (whether from Mr. Miss or some other character) are some of my favourite bits of writing. I think that's what helped make Tim's such a good story too. I hope they don't come TOO easily to you CBB!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Teddy reminded,

Ahem. Piroska.

Well, alright, granted -- but even there I tried to dance very lightly over the details rather than put you through paragraphs of lurid descriptions of erect nipples, heaving chests or thrusting pelvises, glistening this or that, or painfully purple euphemisms for bodily functions.

...But then again you never know what the next chapter may hold.

It was a bit awkward adding more humanness...

To be sure, and it was my intent: as evidenced by the fact that we're getting a glimpse into Mr. Mississauga's personal living space, the stage is set to also get a glimpse into Mr. Mississauga's personal life. This is to serve as some contrast to his usual demeanor, and to answer some nagging questions the more curious of you may have been wondering about, such as: how does Mr. Mississauga tend to his toilet needs? or How does he know he's gay if he never seems to be involved in a relationship?

This is a peek-behind-the-curtain chapter.

Simon mentioned,

I have to wonder how much writing effort goes into some of Mr. Miss's monologues...

I'll tell you honestly: most Mr. Miss chapters start horribly, with a page (or pages) of expository or explanatory material crammed into a stilted and very one-sided dialogue (short, stupid questions prompting long, complex answers). Inevitably, Mr. Miss starts coming off sounding more like a pompous professor than the man he is, and his monologues are painfully dense, multi-syllabic blasts of information overload.

Then I step back, shake my head, and say, "That sucks. I've made him into a pull-string encyclopaedia...again."

This has happened to me more than a few times now, which causes Mr. Miss chapters (despite how I enjoy them) to be scrapped and rewritten more than any other kind of chapter. While Shah/Bahram chapters are the hardest to write, I generally don't even start until I know the overall layout. Mr. Miss chapters, on the other hand, tend to put me through several false starts and mass deletions before I find my place.

In this process I will copy-paste Mr. Miss's explanatory monologues and stick them at the end of my text, little dangly reminders. Then, as I rewrite from scratch, I check down there occasionally to see if there's a sentence or two I might lift and incorporate back into the new chapter.

In general, for every 250 words Mr. Miss speaks in the "draft" phase, I rescue about 10 words in an effort to boil down his point into something digestible.

Part of my challenge with TSM has been fleshing it out/cutting it down in this way, because, from a certain point of view, practically the whole story could most succinctly be related via two very long, dense prompted monologues -- one from Mr. Mississauga, and one from the Shah of Anwar. Thus, in order to make this more of a thriller and less of an exercise in speculative fiction pedantry, I'm working hard to break down such potential monologues and sprinkle the crumbs in a more distributed fashion across bits of character development or clue discovery.

This current chapter, for example, started life as a long and thick conversation/argument between Mr. Miss and his immediate superior at work on the day the lay-off notices come down. Then I realized that I had nowhere to go: by cramming all the plot-forwarding exposition into the initial scene, any subsequent visit into Mr. Miss personal life was rather devoid of substance. As you've read, my ultimate decision was to aggressively pare down the exposition and drip it into just a few short exchanges along the way of exploring Mr. Miss's evening and morning. We end up with less plot advancement, but in exchange we get a more meaningful context for understanding what we do know, and some further insight into who Mr. Miss really is as a man.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Drago chapters almost always go to post in virtually the exact form that I type them the first time out.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Glad to see a chapter in my hometown!

One thing... I've never heard anyone call the Byward Market "the Byward" - it's usually just "the Market". But I can see how that would be a bit confusing if you're not from around here.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Anonymous,

Indeed, I wrestled with that one and finally settled on "the ByWard" as a suitable balance of specificity and ambiguity. Perhaps we can justify this by reminding ourselves that Mr. Miss is not an Ottawa native, and thus might handle some of the local vocabulary awkwardly. Jack knows what he means, at any rate.

The real question, however, is this: does park sex go on at Dundonald? Honestly, I have no idea, but its location in the city with respect to several important government offices made me imagine it was as likely a spot as any.

Confession: I've only been to Ottawa once, and I spent the majority of my time somewhat drunk. I peed on the Prime Minister's lawn on a dare, and was then obliged to run away from the RCMP agents whose attention I thus attracted.

My only encounter with the reality of homosexual park sex happened in Vancouver. No, I didn't have park sex -- I just happened to be walking through Stanley Park with some friends on our way back from seeing a band. It was a very dark night, and since none of us were native to Vancouver we were unsure of the way.

The footpath we were following veered into an area of thick forest growth. Immersed in conversation, my friends and I continued as it meandered.

Our conversation faltered as we noticed, one by one, that we were not alone.

The dense bush on either side of the path was filled by men. They stood in the bushes silently, watching the footpath, looking for someone to make eyes at them. The further we walked the more crowded the bushes became until we were like a nervous parade winding our way through throngs of utterly impassive, robotically stoic watchers.

The silence was weird, but it was even weirder when someone would take a tentative step forward and whisper, "Hi."

We passed on. There could be no consideration of stopping to turn around. Eventually the forest people's ranks became thinner and thinner, and then shortly thereafter the footpath meandered back to connect with the main road.

"What the fuck was that?" burst out my friend O., with whom I used to wile away hours discussing robots and math.

"Park sex," I concluded with a sudden realization, having read an article on the phenomenon just a few weeks before.

"What?"

My other friend nodded. "They're looking to hook up."

"So they just wait in the bushes for chicks to wander into the woods?"

"Uh...no, not exactly."

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Poor Mr Miss. I'd been under the impression that he had _risen_ from living in the bus to being the investigator who could demand helicopters and get them.

"occurance" -> occurrence

Orick of Toronto said...

"fleet banging on the metal"

think that's supposed to be "feet"

didn't Sherlock do a "impossible vs improbable" conversation as well.

I am less bother by Mr. Miss's one night stand than by the nagging feeling that his 'date' seems to be a paid date.

Simon said...

Actually Orick, I think Mr. Miss paying for sex is right in line with his character. (Whether or not one is bothered by the subjective morality of it.)

The same way he eats Campbell's Scotch Broth to separate him from the preparation of his meals, he's doing the same thing to sate another of his physical (and emotional) needs. By separating his screwing from any sort of relationship he frees himself from any (or at least most) emotional implications. Plus, being the world's most pragmatic man, he knows he's not exactly great relationship fodder, nor does he have the time for one in addition to his quest.

Picking up a trick is exactly what he'd do.

Mark said...

Wonderfully entertaining chapter. What is it about Mr. Miss that makes him so intriguing? I like these chapters that feature a character meeting and getting to know him (as much as anyone can). It's fun to see what each character notices.

The acquisition of the infamous micro school bus! Just great, CBB. Loved every sentence, but this one made me laugh aloud: "We don't normally, uh, alloweth outside food." Had you been waiting to insert a character who talks medieval-like? Or did this come to you as you wrote this chapter?

SaintPeter said...

This was a great Mr. Miss chapter. More than another other Mr. Miss story, this has really opened up his character.

The description of him picking up some guy in a part makes me feel kind of sad for him. Yet, I know that my pity is wasted, as he clearly does not feel that he needs it and has clearly, if not aggressivly, accepted his circumstances.

Funny thing - as soon as I read about the quilts covering the walls, all I could think about was "hey, fire hazard".

Great chapter! Glad to be back on the character track once again!

SaintPeter said...

Bah, I keep forgetting to check the "e-mail follow-up comments" box.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Thanks for the description, CBB; that was a fascinating look into the magical writing process.

Mark said...

CBB, have you seen "The Man from Earth" movie? It should be at least worth a look to you, the creator of Lallo.

Anybody else seen that one?

Anonymous said...

I took a drive past Dundonald Park on the way home. It's definitely not heavily forested like Stanley park (sounds like a great situation you were in by the way :p)... It's got trees around the outside, a playground at one end, and open space in the middle. There were some guys in the middle part - smoking, it looks like. I suppose it's possible they were waiting for some homosexual park sex, but I didn't get out of the car to ask them.

Big t said...

CBB you kinda creeped me out. This brought out a little more humanity to Mr. Miss. Some may disagree with homosexual love being a forbidden love and being lumped in with perversion. His paying for sex and was right in line with character. Olde English breakfast place sounds great, bet they serve spam.

Thank you for the insight on the Mr.Miss chapter writing, I feel that way writing comments here, some of these guys make some really good points. Sometimes they say what I want to, but can't comment till I get home, stupid work computer blocks out comment page, thank goodnes it doesn't block story.

Orick of Toronto said...

I don't think paying for sex is immoral actually. There really isn't a victim so I don't think of it as a crime. It's a straight money exchange for service like paying for a massage.

What I was bothered about was the fact Mr. Miss would have to pay for sex. It shows a certain weakness in him. Although he isn't my favorite character. I do have respect for him and think he can get sex without having to pay for it despite his oddities.

Maybe I read it wrong.

Simon said...

Mark,

No, I haven't seen The Man From Earth. How does it relate here?

Orick (again),

I agree that Mr. Miss could likely get his rocks off without paying for it, but it's in character for him to remove the element of emotion or attachment from the act.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Someone anonymous mentioned,

I'd been under the impression that he had _risen_ from living in the bus to being the investigator who could demand helicopters and get them.

The key to grokking the timeline, such as it is, are the timemarkers in Stubborn Town and The Extra Cars.

In the first story, Mr. Miss is on contract with the Ministry of the Environment: he is a man whose expertise is valued. He describes the projected "Event Zero" as taking place at an unknown time in the future.

In the second story, Mr. Miss is effectively a well-equipped hobo, journeying around in his schoolbus with some unknown amount of support from an unnamed benefactor. He describes Event Zero as taking place approximately "fourteen months" in the future.

Between these two stories, Mr. Miss is employed by a branch of the Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS) whose mandate is to investigate situations inexplicable via standard means of analysis. It is during this period that TSM's Chapter 14 takes place.

So the only Mr. Miss story that is not now in the past, from the point of view of the current chapter, is The Extra Cars, which we know occurs shortly before Event Zero itself.

The only other significant portion of Mr. Miss's life that we've skipped over entirely is the period in his twenties spent in Braj, India (as noted in The Taste of Blue). This, and more details of his adventures with the clandestine CSIS branch, are perhaps fodder for future short stories.

Orick said,

I am less bother by Mr. Miss's one night stand than by the nagging feeling that his 'date' seems to be a paid date.

I don't think I could supply a response to this that would be any better than what Simon has already said. I might add only this:

Mr. Miss has stated that he doesn't work with sidekicks. In The Taste of Blue he declined to further explore a friendship with Dr. Hollister, citing his dedication to "the case." In Stubborn Town he makes it clear to Aglakti that he would be loathe to drag anyone else down into his private world of torment and obsession, refusing to take her along. Again, in this chapter, he rebuffs Jack's request to accompany him.

His aversion isn't just to "sidekicks" -- it's an aversion to all relationships. In part, I think this is due to his childhood impression of feeling like a burden on people who care about him, first driving his mother away and then putting his father through such hardship in his efforts to deal with the boy's night terrors and other needs.

When Mr. Miss says, "I am not handicapped" what he's really saying is, I don't want to need you. Basically, it makes him feel like a heal to require assistance or to lean on someone.

Between the lines, however, it should be evident that Mr. Miss has mixed feelings about this guilt. He isn't heartless -- he's moved when people demonstrate genuine affection for him (Aglakti, Phat-so Kim), but he works to suppress the emotion.

So I suppose Mr. Miss isn't just paying for sex because it's his only option, or the most pragmatic option...he's also doing it to maintain a distance, and to compartmentalize his personal needs.

Mark asked,

Had you been waiting to insert a character who talks medieval-like? Or did this come to you as you wrote this chapter?

It came on the fly.

Writing Mr. Miss is an exercise in juxtapositions -- either Mr. Miss standing out in stark contrast to normal events and ambiance, or curiously banal situations as applied through the lens of Mr. Missness.

In this case, when it became apparent that Jack and Mr. Miss would have breakfast together I was plain and simple tickled by the idea of Mr. Miss in a waffle house. To me, this is not entirely dissimilar from Magneto in a hair-salon or Agent Smith at Best Buy.

Since that "joke" only exists briefly, when we are introduced to the change in setting, I decided it needed a little goosing in order to remain suitably off-kilter for the duration of the scene, and in my opinion there is little in this world sillier, or less dignified, than people pretending to be Mediaeval.

Also, on a purely mechanical note, the chapter had up until that point featured a fair shake of homoeroticism which I was concerned might alienate some readers. To balance the titillation, I decided that a mention of female cleavage would be an appropriate counter-touch.

About the movie: haven't seen, will investigate.

Again Anonymous:

I took a drive past Dundonald Park on the way home...

Nice. I do actually have some idea of the basic layout of the park, thanks to photographs posted on the Web and a satellite zoom-in from Google Maps. I detest writing about real-world locales if I don't have at least a hint of the true layout and feel of the place, which is why I often stick to sites I've actually spent some time at personally (Thunder Bay, Kingston, Montreal, Paris, etc.).

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Designer is...me.

Which sucks.

As a consequence, I have been pursuing a crash course in becoming more literate with the ways of the Web's jiggery-pokery, and doing more technical reading than my eyeballs (or brain) would ideally care for, so that when people ask me stuff at work I don't look like a fool.

The only reason this becomes relevant in the Cheeseburger Brown sphere is because all of my reading has educated me to the fact that the CheeseburgerBrown.com Website is a total bloody mess.

(Those of you in the know about such things are no doubt already aware of this fact. I never, ever claimed to be a Web Designer.)

If any of you have ever peeked at my code (and I can't imagine why you would), it's a dog's breakfast mishmash of deprecated tags, mixed standards, jury-rigged table-based formatting and a heavy reliance on JavaScript.

So I'm putting an end to that.

My new goals are these:

* To swear off WYSIWYG web formatting applications forever.

* To have perfect XHTML Strict validating code.

* To entirely separate content from styling, via linked Cascading Style Sheets.

Once redesigned with these goals in mind, the site will place a greater emphasis on making stories available in a variety of formats (eBook, HTML, PDF) to ease the spreading of the word.

I mention all of this because I'm hoping one of you readers out there actually is a Web professional, and wouldn't mind answering the odd question or two from me when I'm stuck. I like to do things myself, so I'm not asking for any free work from anyone -- just tips when I'm in a bind.

My first step, which I'll work on in the cracks over the next few weeks, is to strip all of the extraneous, broken or deprecated code out of story files, leaving them as naked and clean XHTML Strict Markup.

My next step will be to assign classes to each type of content (title, intro blurb, chapter listing, story body, etc.), and insert class tags into the files.

My third step will be to code a CSS design that arranges these elements in a way that pleases me. This is the step where I will need help. Online tutorials are great, but sometimes it's nice to know there's a human being who might be able to understand one's badly phrased question where a search engine just replies with gobbledigook.

Also, in general, this is an open solicitation for tips, advice or warnings. Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing, and I know it, so don't be afraid of I'd be offended at any tidbits offered. I am not under the illusion that I'm a good coder or a layout genius -- I usually work in video and animation...this stuff is well outside of my natural ken.

At any rate, wish me luck!

Come Hell or high water, my site will eventually render properly on every device under the sun!

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

What the -- ?

First half of my comment was cut off.

To make a long story short, they fired the Web Designer at work and now I'm obliged to learn his job because no one else seems able or willing.

CBB

Simon said...

I dunno, CBB.

I kinda thought that "Designer is... me" was a wonderfully esoteric intro to a rant-ish comment.

And to let you know, I'll be no help at all. I don't know how to do anything beyond hitting "Publish" on my own Typepad blog.

Best of luck!!

SaintPeter said...

While I am not a professional web designer, I got stuck with designing/maintaining/writing code to generate my meta-guild's website. I will be happy to answer questions as best I can, and I may be helpful from the perspective of having to get myself up to speed on it. I don't claim to be an expert, but I'm pretty sure I know how it all fits together.

Let me also point you to this site:
http://www.w3schools.com/

I found it to have excellent (if not terribly complete) Tutorials, and a very nice set of HTML and CSS references. I use it almost exclusively.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Simon and anyone who's bothering to check comments,

I'll tell you this much: cleaning up code may be no fun, but it's mindless enough that I can do it even with children climbing on me.

They've gone to bed now. And, somehow, thankfully, it's been an easy bedtime. No resets.

Which is good, because now I can relax a bit and have a drink. H'mm...actually, on an empty stomach, this drink is going pretty far. I find myself a tad shuffly on my feet.

What a week!

To earn some extra scratch, I'm been writing articles about Scotland and doing illustrations for a book that takes place in a parallel-history American dystopia.

So far I have completed 3 out of 17 Scottish tourism essays and 11 out of 12 full-colour illustrations. Colouring is hard. No wonder they send that shit to Korea. My hand hurts.

(Also, it doesn't help things that I've never even been to Scotland. WTF?)

My daughter has a concussion. She fell off the couch, wrestling with her brother. You know that shit about not letting people with a concussion fall asleep? It's malarkey. My wife looked it up. You're supposed to let them sleep as much as they can, so that's another reason I'm glad I detect no thumping from the upper floor of this old schoolhouse.

Chapter 18 has been started, but it's tough to get through a paragraph without somebody at work bugging me to earn my keep, especially because several of my colleagues are away on shows or, in the case of the Web Designer, at home collecting unemployment cheques.

I'm hardly getting a moment's peace at the office these days, what with the design this, will you? and the animate that, won't you? and the how do we translate 'amortized prioritization corporate healthiness strategy' into proper French?

Jeeze Louise.

I'm also trying to gussy up my house so it can appraised at a nice, juicy price so I can refinance the mortgage against the new value and so in one fell swoop pay off all my worst debts. This is a difficult process because we live in a sea of children's clothes, toys and animals, and neither my wife or I seem to be capable of making it a realistic priority to arrange it all. Digging through the clutter in order to even assess needed repairs is onerous, and time consuming. And kind of depressing.

The local theatre group called. My wife's the stage manager. They wanted be to design and illustrate the posters and playbill. I said, "No."

"Why not?" asked my wife.

"Because it's not price competitive with Scottish tourism profiles, and has none of the allure of disappearing myself into the Secret Math. I can't afford the time."

I think she thinks I'm a jerk, but it's true -- I support local theatre and all (I pay to see the terrible shows, tell the amateur actors they were wonderful), but there's only so much CBB to go around. I want to say yes, but I know I'll regret it. I don't need yet one more thing to wake up in the middle of the night, fretting about its unfinishnedness.

I rant, I rant.

Another drink? Sure, why not? Hit me.

(I'm mixing vodka with Kool-aid, like all the classiest people do.)

I hate feeling like my website is broken. Like most things I peck at, I keep in mind how what I'm building will weather once I'm dead. Thus, the idea of employing deprecated code threatens my immortality, since everyone knows I'll never get rich off all this output until I'm gone.

(It might be a car crash, but it will probably be cancer. In either event it will come soonier than I'd hoped.)

The whole Semantic Web concept of separting styling from content and then marking up that content in a meaningful way so that it might be processed by artificial intelligences now and in the future holds great appeal to me. I don't want to keep dickering with my Web formatting -- I want the content once rendered to rest. Because, like I said, I won't always be around to maintain it.

In this one way, retooling my website is more fun than tedious.

Lulu will disappear one day, which is pretty much my only motivation for continuing to search for a more solid publishing avenue. I want to be assured that this world I'm assembling will be a maze that people can get lost in after I'm gone. I spent so much time as a boy getting lost in other people's invented universes -- I've always wanted to be able to give back to that experience, to put something out into the world of comparable immersive potential. So that someone else can lose themselves there, by a small lamp at night, in bed with a snack.

I wish I had the money and luxury to just get it all out now, to pass every day for a year writing until every story stored in memory is told, and I could move on to something fresh, secure in my knowledge that I've successfully exported a world for future use.

Time is passing too quickly. I have so many other obligations.

In the past few years I've aged. I look at myself in the mirror and say, "Holy crap!" The purple bags under my eyes, like Mr. Mississauga's, have become permanent. Cue Krusty the Clown: "This ain't make-up!"

How can I work this hard and still be struggling to pay my bills? It seems cruel. How fast am I supposed to run, world? Is this what it takes to provide for a family?

Mercy.

Then again, I suppose all of that would be easier if I wasn't always trying to write novels. Looking after my children wouldn't be as hard as I weren't balancing a laptop on my knee, and my workload at the office wouldn't be so crushing if I weren't prying in the minutes to advance the plot. My breakfast would pass more peacefully if I didn't cram in food with one hand while I furiously draw with the other.

Is it, ultimately speaking, very selfish for me to make these sacrifices to write silly stoies?

I wonder. It troubles me.

(But what am I for, if not for this?)

One day, all of this will be a memory. I'll laugh, and make it into an amusing anecdote with a giggle-worthy punchline. I'll refer to it as, "paying my dues." I'll give younger people a half-genuine squeeze of the arm and say, "You'll get through it, champ. One day your bills will pay themselves, and your stage name will echo through the halls of culture."

This is what my wife thinks. She's the one who squeeze my arm and whispers, "You're a good man."

(She's wrong, bless her heart, but I love her for believing it.)

Imagine what I could do if I could write every day, all day! I could paint a symphony of stories, a wriggling puzzle of interconnected adventures in a season! I could write three novels a year!

Those of you who follow my blatherings know that I've made some films and, terrible as they are, I loved making them because filmmaking is the closest medium to replicating what is inside my head. But it takes too much damn time and too much damn money, which is why I settled on exporting everything via text -- but even so I'd positively swoon at the prospect of being free enough to pump it out faster!

But...real life.

I have to go to bed soon, because I've got to be into the office early tomorrow to prepare master show DVDs for an event going live on Saturday. I have to make the menus idiot proof, because I'm not familiar with the operator who'll be running it. People are so creative in their ability to fuck up, so I have to have an escape button to cover every contingency.

Oh...and I guess I should write another Scotland article before I go to bed. Damn. Forgot about that. I'm behind quota.

On the bright side, my car works. I'm so happy to have it back. Nothing puts you in a good mood faster than blasting down the highway on a warming spring day with thaw and loud music in the air in a sunshine yellow car. Zoooooooom!

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

Simon - I didn't want to spoil The Man From Earth for those who haven't seen it. Also, nobody research it too much if you're planning to see it. Although it doesn't rely solely on a surprise, it has a pretty good one.

CBB - Dayum, brotha. You said it all.

The sad thing to me is that there are people far less talented than you who do have the money and time to crank out novels at a rapid pace.

As far as separating your content from your styling and going XML compliant, you could choose a content management system already available for free. I love Wordpress and there are themes for it that do not require a bunch of Javascript. I hear of others that are very good, too, and maybe even better than WP for CMS vs. just blogging, but I'll be gawl-danged if I can remember their names right now.

Teddy said...

Wow...That's rough.

A local radio station (it's college radio out of Thief River Falls) has taken me on as a volunteer. I'm going to be on the radio, and I'm hoping to do a science-type reporting show. Episodes on local science stuff (Cirrus, the aircraft maker is nearby, as is a company making the blades for the new windmills), explorations into science history, discussions about science fiction...

which brings me to this little place. Upshot is, it'd be pretty cool to get a published science fiction author on the show to discuss his/her work, a phone-call interview or something similar. Take maybe a half-hour, and it'd be free advertising your newly published book.

Just thought I'd put it out there.

TRH

Orick of Toronto said...

Well if I was a drinking man, I would toast to you CBB - the very image of a struggling artist. As always, sorry to hear the pains you go through each day in the mundane world. I am sure you are meant for something greater.

If I had a million dollars... I would publish your book, and make movies of them, with really good special effects and believable actors! And you can have every penny of the profit so you can have all the free time in the world to creat.

Well enough dreaming. I am up at 1 am, trying to balance my cash for this month and figuring out how to pay tax, visa bill and mortage all in one go and still have money for food and gas.

But hey, at least this weekend will be gloriously sunny. Good night.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

CBB, that's quite a load. It's hard to balance life, work, and dreams (especially when they each demand at least 50% of your time).

As for webbing, I'm more of a back-end programmer, but I have a good handle on how most of that stuff works (so feel free to ask a question if you have one). Just don't let your perspective be completely shaped by the elitist "standards" people who think we live in some sort of ideal universe.

Also, you might consider joining a CSS design list or other web-development forum, since all the creative/techie types hang out there, and you'll get a lot more eyes on your work (which also might net you more readers once they get curious enough to look at your content).

Orick of Toronto said...

I use drupal for CMS and find it pretty easy. I hear Joomla is good too but never got into it.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Mark,

I'm looking into some CMS solutions now, despite the fact that it sort of runs against the grain of how I normally like to do things (i.e., build it myself). The fact is that a CMS solution might be the right balance of look-versus-time invested.

Sheik,

That's a good idea. While discussion lists have often annoyed me in the past, I can't deny I've also been helped.

Orick,

Googling drupal now...

Love,
CBB

Dan said...

CBB,

I hear and understand your vanishing time. With seven kids and a 45 minute commute to work, I never have enough time for the family. Therefore, in an effort to support your family commitment, I am going to stop reading so you won't feel obligated to produce so much work.

Not. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't have your world to escape in for a little while each week. I am about to venture into unknown waters career wise. I've been asked to hitch on to a start up company that is already landed a couple defense contracts and they don't even have any official employees yet. There is an expected buyout of this company for several million dollars in a few years. I boast all of this because I don't deserve it. But, if all comes to fruition, CBB, I will pay your salary for a year so you can devote all your time to getting this writing thing going properly, and letting your genious support you family.

THE Danimal

Big t said...

CBB- I remember making a fort underneath my bed and reading books way to late in the night, and getting up late for school with not enough time to comb my hair and looking a mess. Those stories got me through some rough times as a kid.

I don't know crap about web design, I can barely log on to email, but I commend you on what you are doing here, your stories give me something to look forward too. I check every day for new stories and comments.

I suggest Vodka and Tang, although I don't drink anymore but it may help you with watching theatre, I am a theatre actor and have a hard time watching unless I am involved.

I am starting a career in Film, and hope to produce one day. I hope to hit you up for a script and make us billions of dollars, but that is a ways off, but I will keep dreaming.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Dan,

I sympathize. While I only have three kids, my commute is far too long and my employer seems to think I should be willing to work even more than I'm doing now (gotta be a team player, you know). My five-year-old summed this up quite nicely after I said goodbye on the way out at 6AM or so; at breakfast later she excitedly announced "Mommy! I saw Daddy this morning!"

The only question is where to go from here...

Paul Bernard said...

Good stuff. Nice blog. Thanks for the kind comments on mine.

fooburger said...

Here's another vote for pulling a CMS system.
I'm not sure what you're doing now underneath... hopefully it's not static html pages you've written.
But if it is.. well...

Thing is.. with *extremely* static content like what you've got.. there are a lot of very easy ways to do it yourself. While that's tempting, and while CMS stuff may be a bit overkill for a 1-person operation, it's probably still worth it.

I use a lot of CSS and more so XSLT.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

I never refuse radio interviews. Set me up: I'll do it any way you care for. When it comes to promotions my legs are wide open (um, so to speak).

Dear all,

As usual, thanks for your wonderfully supportive comments!

Dear Paul,

No worries. For those of you who don't know, Paul posts a new slice of original fiction every stinkin' day on his blog. Well worth dipping into.

Dear fooburger,

I'm leaning toward Drupal right now. I'm investigating dedicated Drupal hosting so I won't have to worry about the jiggery-pokery with my current host (may not be strictly necessary, but I'm trying to cut down my potential headaches to as few as possible).

The upshot if I go the Drupal route is that we'll all get usernames and passwords (leading to more features available to registered users), and it will be a snap to put THE IMPOSSIBLE RAILROAD (the upcoming novel) behind closed doors.

Also, check this out:

http://www.birdmanofsteel.com/?p=16

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

fooburger said...

too funny... I just started to install drupal on a lark and realized that an account on my server had been compromised. Looks like everything was unsuccessful with their root kit, since it left logs of everything it had tried.
time to reinstall... whee... well.. if you want a drupal install to play with, lemme know.

Tolomea said...

I had a similar one a couple of months back, I have two identical servers, a live one and an offline backup. I rsync between them every so often to keep the backup currentish. One day I was playing cards while rsync was whirring past in a console window and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a bunch of new files in /home/guest fly past. A little digging showed up that my machine was running an IRC botnet server, I was not a happy camper.