It’s been there all along and we didn’t see it.
Did you ever think: Someday, I’m going to write a novel and it’s going to be the greatest thing ever written and I’m going to be on the bestseller list on every bestseller list in the world and they’re going to make a movie out of it and I’m going to appear on talk shows and have millions of adoring fans.
This is normal.
Unfortunately, someday never comes. And we die…our novels unwritten, no bestseller, no talk shows, no movie, no adoring fans.
But you know…there’s another side to this totally sucks situation.
Welcome to the World You Live In
It’s a mess. It’s diseased, polluted, over-populated and too close to the sun. But it’s all we have and we’re losing it fast, so we may as well have a good laugh before the sun reaches out and reclaims us.
In Blowing Up, Biff Mitchell shakes the foundations of a world gone bad with outrageous dollops of inappropriate humor. Nothing is sacred, nothing is spared. Nothing is safe in a world accumulating too much ammunition for too few targets.
So welcome to Mitchell’s world of ghosts who have to get the last word, ball-busting muses who torture for the hell of it, a woman who sheds rabbits from her eyes instead of tears, an office of petty-minded workers fused together in a nuclear holocaust and a world where you write grammatically correct essays or starve to death.
But there will be laughter.
This Christmas, give the gift of laughter in spite of the world.
From Double Dragon Publishing (an imprint of Fiction4All)
(New to The Weekly Man? Click here. If you’re using MS IE, you’ll have to click twice.)
It’s been a while since I posted the last episode of The Weekly Man…seventy-two all together over a period of two and a half months. It was tough. It was sometimes a royal pain in the ass, especially when one or more of the technologies ran amok and I tried to tear hairs out of my bald scalp. But it’s done and every episode was posted before the midnight deadline to be ready for the next day’s coffee break.
I’m going to leave both the blog and smartphone versions. That might be a problem: opening 72 PDFs for the phone version and scrolling up and down the blog version and reading in such an unnatural manner as to cause irreversible brain damage.
On the other hand, you might want to wait until early to mid-2020 for the print version. It won’t be free, but it’ll be easier on your head. And it will include a massive re-write. Check back here for details as they unfold.
However, it’s my intent to leave the free version up even after the print version is published…just for those who actually want to read the novel the way it was intended…one episode a day during your coffee break…for 72 days.
And finally, I’ve started the story dump for the sequel to The Weekly Man. This one’s going to be really weird.
(New to The Weekly Man? Click here.)
Because the final episode is in email format (which doesn’t work well with this WordPress template) this episode is in PDF format ready to be viewed when you click here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading The Weekly Man over the last 72 days. It’s been a blast running the serialization and now it’s time to move on to a print version of the novel, but more on that later.
In the meantime, you can check out some informative writer’s resources and free short stories here.
Jackson eased back in the beach chair as the sound of surf crashed over the beach and up to his table where he lay in the shade of a wooden beach umbrella. He admired the intricate pattern of thatched wood and wondered when they’d started using metal nails along with the thatching. He wondered what kind of wood they used for the umbrellas. He imagined it would be something needing minimal upkeep in terms of drying out and warping. A dozen feet from where he lay, seven wooden umbrellas were under construction. He thought about walking over and taking a closer look but decided his rum punch was closer and he really didn’t feel like getting up so he sipped some rum, keeping in mind that he would have to go easy today. Not like the first night. But then, it was the first time he’d had rum, his first night in a tropical paradise, his first time getting drunk.
Someone else had paid the price for his drunken stupor. He’d made Jax first day in paradise hell-on-earth with a brain splitting hangover. Jax had asked Jack if he would please pass the favour on to Jackson. But mercifully, Jack just left a message for him to take better care of his brother’s head next time.
He watched as a trio of pelican’s buzzed around a couple with a pail of fish. They were letting people take the fish from the pail and feed the pelicans. A middle-aged bald man and his strawberry blond twenty-something daughter, who was almost the spitting image of her father, passed by the pelicans and the daughter held up a small fish as a pelican flapped its wings in front of her and snapped its beak forward, grabbing the fish and giving the girl a nasty bite. She swore at the bird as her father laughed. She swore at her father but he kept laughing. The couple with the pail emptied the rest of the fish on the beach and the pelicans landed and strutted toward the fish as though they owned the beach.
The father said something about pina coladas and the girl stopped swearing as the two made off toward the hotel laughing.
Vacation. He still had a hard time getting his head around it but that was the way lately. Everything made sense now: the cuts and bruises, the bumps and missing teeth, the million and one things he’d had to shrug off since childhood. It all made sense.
And what a wonder everything had become. He had five brothers and a sister. All these years, he had five brothers and a sister and he’d shared his body with them. It took a while to get his head around that one but it all made sense. Ad he’d had a chance to visit his mother before she died.
He remembered looking into her eyes. His brother, Jack’s, friend, Valerie had been there. She’d explained everything before they went to the hospital. Manzer had been there. It had been like a dream. So many truths. So many questions finally answered. As he’d looked into his mother’s eyes he was amazed that he’d never guessed the truth hidden between all those folds of skin, that sparkle in her eyes, his mother’s sparkle, so obviously full of love.
How could I never have seen that? How could I never have known?
The folds of her mouth and lips had kept working as she tried to get the words out. It seemed to take forever with his head bent over her, his ear close to her mouth. And then the barely perceptible words:
And that last long breath with all the years of her secret rushing out as her body relaxed.
For the first time in his life, he’d cried. He’d felt like a sack of water punctured in the eyes so badly that his entire life spilled out through his tears. He wasn’t sure how long he’d cried. He remembered Manzer’s hand on his shoulder and him saying it was a time to go home and talk.
They’d talked, he and Manzer and Valerie, right up till the time.
Manzer said they would come back in the morning and talk to Jax.
(Tomorrow is the final episode of The Weekly Man. How do you think they’ll put all this together and still function as people?)
So many questions. Her whole life had been questions. Questions without answers. Questions to be shrugged off and ignored. Questions to be shoved to the back of her mind and forgotten.
Never question the questions.
Acceptance of things for what they are: events with no beginnings, reactions with no actions. Someone else’s clothing. Waking up in the park without going into the park. A bump on the head with no accident.
And what does Mrs. Gilbert know that made her react that way? And why would she know anything? What could she possibly know? Why that look of shock?
She’d been out in the dark. Past the time. She’d never done that before.
And those faces? What were those faces? Me…but not me.
A chill crept up her legs and into her spine. She walked to the closet and pressed the code to open the secret door.
Why do I have a secret door? Why did I always have a secret door? What was it Mom said? It was so long ago. About protecting me from those who would treat me like a freak?
But I am a freak.
It was something she’d always known. She’d grown up suspecting it. She’d never been into the things that men were into and she’d never felt comfortable with her body.
But the acceptance of things over the years. Accepting and ignoring things.
She was suddenly awed by the power of her mother’s suggestion and the continued power after her death. She felt that she’d been in a hypnotic spell all her life, conditioned to accept without question.
But I can’t do that anymore. I need to know what’s going on in my life. I need to find out who I am—or what—I am.
She grabbed her fall coat, closed the closet and went to the door.
It felt like someone with an iron grip squeezing her heart as the numbness coursed up and down her arm. She gripped the shelves and knocked over a large planter with green leaves spilling over the sides. The planter hit the floor and cracked, spewing dark soil and green leaves as Mrs. Gilbert’s eyes rolled. She watched in horror at the room spinning around her as she fell, knocking over the entire shelf with six more planters. She hit the floor hard.
Jackie and Natalie
Jackie heard the crashing from Mrs. Gilbert’s flat as she opened the door leading to the front steps.
She rushed to Mrs. Gilbert’s door and knocked.
“Mrs. Gilbert. Mrs. Gilbert. It’s Jackie. Are you all right?”
She tried the door knob. It was locked. She knocked harder.
“Mrs. Gilbert! Mrs. Gilbert! Are you all right!”
She put her ear up against the door and listened. She thought she heard moaning.
She tried the knob again, turning it hard, but it wouldn’t budge.
She yelled as loud as she could, “Mrs. Gilbert!” She put her ear up against the door again. She was certain that she heard moaning.
My god…she’s had another heart attack. This fucking door. Well, Jackie…what about this fucking door?
Man’s body or not, she wasn’t big. She was slim but solid. She’d never been sure why that was because she never did much in the way of physical activity and certainly didn’t follow an exercise routine. But she was solid and she kicked at the door with all the force she could muster. To her surprise, the door swung open. She rushed in and saw Mrs. Gilbert lying on her side surrounded by dirt and broken flower pots. She was convulsing. Jackie ran over to her and hoisted the woman’s head onto her lap.
The older woman’s breathing started to return to normal. She opened her eyes and looked into Jackie’s eyes. The helplessness in those eyes frightened Jackie…this woman who was always so robust, so brimming with energy and positivity.
Her eyes. So helpless.
She reached into her back pocket for her phone. “Mrs. Gilbert, I’m going to call an ambulance for you. Hold on now. Help will be here soon.” She couldn’t help but think that there was something else besides helplessness in the old woman’s eyes as she punched in the numbers and talked to a calm voice that requested information slowly and methodically.
What is that in her eyes? Like she’s saying she’s sorry. Why would she be sorry? What for?
She returned the phone to her pocket. “They’re on their way now, Mrs. Gilbert. Just hold on. Everything’s going to be OK.” She sat on the floor with Mrs. Gilbert’s head in her lap, looking into her eyes. The older woman’s lips moved as though she were trying to say something but she couldn’t get the words to come. “It’s OK, Mrs. Gilbert. It’s OK. They’ll be here soon. Just hang in there. You’re going to be OK.”
She looked around to see if there was a pillow nearby. There was something about the furniture in the room that seemed strange. The sandy brown recliner. It looked familiar. The dark brown chesterfield with the light brown tasseled throws. She couldn’t put her finger on why it seemed so familiar. The paisley wing chair and ottoman. To her right, there was a fireplace that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. On the mantle above the fireplace there were pictures. There was something about the pictures. She squinted her eyes.
No. This can’t be. How can this be?
They were pictures of Jackie when she was a child. Seven pictures of her when her mother was still alive.
It was a few seconds before Jackie could tear her gaze away from the pictures to look at the woman who had just walked through the door and past the dark oak storage bench with scarves and coats hanging from brass hooks. She remembered the bench from her childhood when it had been beside the door leading into the backyard from the kitchen.
Long blonde hair flowed over the woman’s navy blue fall coat. She had a long hawk-like nose but she was beautiful. The motion of her steps was sure and concise. She moved quickly and was beside Jackie in a matter of seconds. She looked first at Mrs. Gilbert and then at Jackie. “Did you call an ambulance?”
Jackie nodded yes and looked back at the pictures on the mantle. She looked back into Mrs. Gilbert’s helpless apologetic eyes and it started to sink in.
All this time. All these years.
“Mom? Is that you Mom?”
The faintest of smiles curled at the edges of Natalie’s mouth.
Valerie watched as Jackie’s eyes turned to the pictures on the mantle and back to the old woman, back to the pictures and back to the woman. The confusion. The realization. And even more confusion.
Well, I guess the secret is out now.
The look in Mrs. Gilbert’s eyes didn’t show a trace of fear. Valerie would much rather have seen that than the look of infinite helplessness. The movement of her lips, but unable to speak. Knowing that her years of keeping the secret, all her strategies, the planning, the quick responses to emergencies, the mental programming, the faked death…the lies: It was all coming undone. There was no strategy for this. One of them had seen the photos.
And why did she keep the pictures here in the same building?
One of them had looked into her eyes and seen the truth. There would be no amount of conditioning that would make Jackie just shrug off and forget that the mother she’d thought was dead since she was a child was still alive and had been living in the same building with her for years.
Some things can’t be shrugged off no matter how much conditioning.
She looked down at Natalie and shook her head, her face showing her disappointment. Tears streamed out of Natalie’s eyes. She’d stopped trying to talk. She just lay on the floor looking up into Jackie’s eyes.
Jackie was still dumbfounded. She stared deep into Natalie’s eyes. Every few minutes, she said, “Mom? Is that you?”
In the distance, a siren grew closer and closer. Natalie stared into Jackie’s eyes and now both were streaming tears.
Things were about to change and Valerie hoped those changes would be for the best.
It was a couple of hours before the time as Jackie sat on the chesterfield with the tasseled throw staring across the room at the woman named Valerie, sitting in the brown recliner. They were in Mrs. Gilbert’s apartment, except that it wasn’t Mrs. Gilbert’s apartment because Mrs. Gilbert didn’t exist. It was her mother’s apartment. Natalie Carson. Her long dead mother, Natalie Carson, living downstairs all these years.
She’d been allowed to visit her briefly after the surgery. Until then, she’d sat with Valerie Vine in the waiting room, neither of them saying a word, Jackie still in shock. Everything in her life was beginning to fly apart like a bursting piñata. The visit had been short. Valerie had told her that it was essential that she be home before midnight. Her mother’s lips moved furiously under the folds of flesh. Jackie barely managed to hear her words, “Go now. Explain later. Listen Valerie. Please. Go now.”
Neither woman had spoken during the ride home as Jackie stared straight ahead, feeling the buildings and sidewalks, the traffic and intersections, a whole world passing by on the other side of the window. Every thought that could have bred a question dissolved before she had a chance to clearly define what she was thinking. Everything tangible was suddenly illusory. Even her presence in the car felt dreamlike, a product of her imagination. She clenched her fists tightly to assure herself that she could feel something in the physical world—that she was real.
And now they were facing each other surrounded by things that Jackie had let go of years ago, those things that wouldn’t fit into the flat. But she wasn’t looking at the furniture. She was looking at the pictures on the mantle. They were the faces of herself that she’d seen in her dream. They were her but not her, except for one at the far end of the shelf. For some reason, she was sure that was her. She turned her head to Valerie.
“OK…so I’m pretty damn sure the one at the end is me,” she said, pointing. “But I have a feeling that the others are someone, or something, else. Can you explain?”
Valerie closed her eyes as she looked up at the ceiling and breathed deeply. She was motionless for a few minutes while Jackie stared patiently.”
Valerie opened her eyes and looked at Jackie. “Let’s go over to the mantle and I’ll introduce you to some people you’ve been sharing your body with since birth…your brothers.”
(Only two more episodes to go. I think I enjoyed writing the last episode more than any of the others. And I think it leads nicely into the sequel. Working on that.)
It was a strange but familiar feeling. The presence of a woman. He knew her but he didn’t know her. He had a sense of something of himself in her or was it something of her in him? It was blurry and surreal. Like a dream. He smiled.
It was a dream.
Something else moved across the panorama of his waking.
How did I get here?
He remembered being in the park. He remembered sitting on the bench. He didn’t remember coming home or going to bed. Again, the female presence came back to him.
What was that? Why was she so familiar?
He remembered the dog, the Beagle.
After a quick trip to the washroom, he was on the phone.
“Yes, the Beagle. It was on your site. I called about it. It was still available.”
“You mean unadopted?” The female voice on the other end was young, cold, distant.
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t see anything here about a Beagle. It’s…oh wait. Yes. It was finished yesterday.”
He thought for a minute. He could hear choppy breathing from the other end. “What do you mean finished?”
“Its term here was finished without an adoption.”
“So what, sir?”
“So what happens when the dog is finished?”
The voice was suddenly arrogant, as though he were foolish or stupid for not knowing “finished”. “We had to put the dog down, sir. Its term was finished. We only have so much room here. If an animal hasn’t been adopted by the end of its term, we have to put it down. Those are the rules.”
“But I called. I told them I wanted the dog. I was going to come in.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t see a record of that. There’s no record of that. There would have been an entry, a record. There’s no record of that. The animal finished its term and was put down. It’s a very humane process. The animal didn’t feel any pain. But there’s no…”
Jac squeezed down on the End Call button.
Fucking idiots. Fucking stupid idiots.
Maybe it’s punishment. Or a reminder?
Jac was angry. Disappointed.
He felft down on himself and wondered if maybe he’d been wrong to change his tune on the nature of life.
The first time in ages that I let myself want something.
And I lose it before I even get it.
He noticed people he passed in the park, nodding to him, smiling, as though they knew him or recognized him. He felt a brief flash of panic as he thought that maybe his identity as Simon Pierce might have somehow been revealed but it passed quickly when he realized that, if that were the case, he wouldn’t be getting friendly nods. He sat in the same spot he’d had the last time he was in the park. He tried to remember back to then, to remember going home. It didn’t make sense to him that he couldn’t remember that. But then, there were so many things he’d forgotten about.
The cuts. The bruises.
He put that out of his mind and thought again about the dog. He wanted that dog. There had been something about its picture, something about the dog that had attracted him. He’d almost owned it through the fantasies of taking it out for walks in the park. Scooping poop like a proud dog owner. He’d already started to grow attached to it, to own it, to love it. Everything he’d been telling the world to avoid through his stories.
And the first time I let myself break my own advice…
He thought about the female presence. How real she’d been. How familiar. He thought about his mother. How much he’d loved her. The aroma of food cooking on the stove and in the oven. He thought about the roast beef. The Yorkshire pudding. The mashed potatoes and gravy. He thought about how long it had been since he’d had a meal like that.
A lifetime ago.
He was suddenly aware of himself smiling at the memory. He was physically smiling. An elderly man bunched up with scarves and a heavy coat returned his smile, thinking that Jac was smiling at him. He didn’t have his mother anymore but he still had the memories of her and the kitchen. He’d lost so many memories but they were the little things. What he’d loved and cherished most was still so very real in his mind and he was sure that he would always hold on to them.
Would like to have built some memories with that dog though.
The park was dismal. A cold wind cut to the bone under a blanket of cloud. The last of the colorful fall flowers had wilted into flakey brown husks. Boney branches scratched the sky. Jac rubbed his hands together. He tried to remember where in his closet he’d packed his winter gloves. He would need them soon.
Just bad luck, I guess. And maybe stories about me and a dog wouldn’t exactly be all that intriguing enough to sell. What kind of adventures do you go on with your dog? I’ve never been on any kind of adventure. What would I know about adventures period, let alone with a dog?
He thought about that. He’d never been on any kind of adventure. He’d spent his whole life mostly writing, venturing out for the occasional shopping or meal. But he’d never been anywhere, never traveled. He had memories of his mother’s house. He had memories of the place he lived in now.
That was it. Nothing else. It was something he never thought about. He’d never had a desire to look beyond his neighborhood. He’d never had a desire to know much about anything except that everything could be lost. Slowly, it dawned on him that he was some kind of hermit. He lived in a flat across from a park. He had no friends other than his landlady. Under his pen name, hundreds, possibly thousands, of people hated him.
No wonder I’m a hermit.
A young couple wearing matching camel hair coats nodded and smiled at him as they walked by, arm in arm.
But everyone seems to like Jac Munroe…without the books about hopelessness. Everybody in this park. The park.
He didn’t know anything about adventure. He didn’t know anything about dogs. He didn’t know anything about the world beyond the park.
So, this is what I write about.
The rumbling emptiness in Jacques’ stomach almost hurt.
I need to eat.
He leaned over to the table by his bed, opened a drawer and took out a granola bar.
Why have I been waking up so hungry lately? Active dreams? New persona needs more food?
As he chewed, he remembered feeling a female presence in his sleep but he shrugged it off to his new persona manifesting herself in his writing psyche. Sunlight beat against the curtains covering his bedroom window. What sunlight penetrated the blue material of the curtains spread a bluish hue throughout the room that relaxed him. After finishing his granola bar, he lay in bed for a while, past the time he normally rose to slip into his female persona and write. He didn’t feel like writing. At least, not just yet. He just wanted to lie in bed and think about nothing in particular.
He was happy with The Insufferable Bitch’s first novel. It was kinky, light-hearted, kinky, speculative fiction at its finest, kinky, and the entire story had simply jumped out of his head as though it were a memory.
A thought suddenly jumped into his head.
I think I’ll publish Jasmine’s last book today. And to go along with the publication, I think I’ll announce that Jasmine Jackson, illustrious creator of the laundromance and author of numerous books set in laundromats, has passed away.
Because she fucked up an email.
He sat at his writing desk with fingers over the keyboard, smiling, satisfied; in fact, happy. Jasmine’s last novel was published and available in both print and ebook versions. He loved the ease and speed of online publishing. He had tools that automated every step of the publication process from converting the manuscript to both print and ebook formats to distribution to the online bookstores and distributors. Some went directly to readers who subscribed to his books, straight into their digital libraries. They didn’t even have to order them.
He had an automated marketing system for his books. He filled in a few fields with information about his latest novel and the software drew from previous marketing campaigns to build a whole new campaign. It sent copies to reviewers, announcements to readers’ groups, media releases to news and social media sites and a variety of other marketing devices that would insure blanket coverage of the book by the end of the day.
Now, it was time to release the announcement of Jasmine Jackson’s unfortunate passing. This would also fly out into the world through templated programs that would have word of Jasmine’s death reaching around the world within an hour. Jacques let his right index finger fall onto the Enter key and press.
And that was the end of Jasmine Jackson.
Time to eat. Again.
Jacques loved Chinese dumplings. There was a dim sum restaurant on the far side of the park. He’d just barely scratched the pantry today. He’d slept in, published a book, killed off the author and now he was walking through the park on his way for dim sum. Busy day.
He smoked a cigar as he walked. It was unusually warm for this time of year, some kind of freak thing with wind currents according to the weather network. Even with a light jacket he could feel a buildup of sweat under his arms. But his mind was elsewhere. He wondered how Judy Armstrong was going to take Jasmine’s death. Given that she felt that all of Jasmine’s novels were coming from her imagination, would she have to start writing her own books? Or would she blame some other writer for stealing her stories? Would she experience some kind of psychic death? Or would she just have another glass of wine and order a copy of Jasmine’s last novel?
He wondered how many news sites would run his media release? How many of them would contact his automated agency for more details? How much of an impact would Jasmine Jackson’s passing have on the civilized world?
A group of three joggers heading his way stared at him with what looked like distain. One of them shook his head as he passed Jacques.
What’s their problem?
It crossed his mind as strange that they were the only people he’d seen so far and he was almost halfway through the park.
Must be an off night for the runners. Maybe they all switched to Pilates.
He felt a little sad about Jasmine’s passing. She’d been a part of him for years.
Or had I been a part of her?
He didn’t think it mattered. She’d written some wonderful laundromances.
A couple holding hands walking toward him looked at him with the same seemingly distaste as the joggers. They looked him up and down, frowning, as they passed him.
What’s wrong with everybody tonight?
He shrugged it off.
He wondered how his first novel as The Insufferable Bitch would sell. He’d have to come up with a whole new marketing approach to feed into the templates but he already had a website and a blog. Now it was just a matter of filling them with content and building some hoopla before the debut novel from the world’s next big erotica sensation.
He wondered what a laundromance written by The Insufferable Bitch would be like.
All those machines. All that soap.
He was nearing the far end of the park. He could almost taste chicken-filled dim sum. Another couple passed by him, frowning. Looking him up and down.
He looked down. Black nylons. Straps. Black see-through bodice.
For the first time in his life, he was thankful that he didn’t have an erection.
(Don’t miss the final episode of The Weekly Man, coming next Tuesday.)