Note: Our colleague, brilliant writer Timothy Hallinan announces that the Kindle version of his novel THE BONE POLISHER is free on Amazon, for a limited time only. Check it out at http://amzn.to/A6K9kj
Note: the following post is rated D for Dark and I for Irreverent. If it gives you the creeps, you may skip to the usual dessert of 55-word stories at the end. But I hope you’re not afraid of the dark.
BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH
The concept of fate is essential to storytelling and fiction writing. And one thing to know, one rule to follow or disobey at your own peril is: Dire predictions come true.
This is true in drama: Chekhov told us that when a rifle is hanging over the fireplace in Act One, that rifle must go off before the final curtain comes down. And when rifles are discharged on stage, someone’s going to get hurt.
The rule works in movies, too. If a character you love starts to cough from some illness, you’d better get out the Kleenex, because chances are that character won’t live long enough to read the credits.
Fate was essential to Greek tragedy. When an oracle tells King Laius that his infant son will one day kill him, he and his wife cripple the child and leave him to die on a mountaintop. Does the infanticide work? No way. The kid grows up, comes back to town, and unwittingly kills his dad and I won’t say what he does to his mom.
In the fairy tale, when the spiteful fairy godmother predicts that the infant princess Briar Rose will, on her sixteenth birthday, prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall asleep for a hundred years, there’s no point in the King’s ordering that all the spinning wheels in town be burned. He’s be better off shopping for a good mattress.
And when the soothsayer advises Julius Caesar to beware the ides of March, he’s not really telling Caesar to call in sick on the fifteenth. What he’s saying is, “Dude. Better get your affairs in order, because come the sixteenth, you’ll no longer be wearing sandals.”
So it’s pointless to try to outsmart fate. The house always wins. To buck fate is to engage in hubris, and the penalty for hubris is always a most unwelcome irony. The so-called Higher Power named Fate shrugs and thunders, “Told ya so.” Of course in real life we can’t help fighting to survive (as we usually should); and because our fiction is about the human condition, our characters are likely to try to beat the odds, even if all they can hope for is a temporary respite.
I guess the lesson to be learned from the knowledge that Old Bony always collects is this: Make the most of what time we have left. And that’s he human condition in a nutshell.
Here are a few stories about the announcement of things to come:
My Name’s Larry, and I...
I used to be an alcoholic. Booze was all I lived for.
Then one fateful day, my marriage broke up, I lost my job, and I got in a horrible automobile accident.
I haven’t had a drink since that day. That day changed me forever.
I don’t miss the alcohol. I just miss being alive.
Injury to Insult
“You’re foolish to insult a witch,” I scolded.
“You’re no witch.”
“You think not?”
“Prove it,” he sneered.
So I unlaced my bodice.
His jaw dropped.
His eyes fell.
His heart sank.
I kicked his heart, his eyes, and his jaw under the bed, then said to the rest of him, “I rest my case.”
…And Have Nice Day
Folks, this is your captain speaking. We’re experiencing some difficulty with three of our engines, and we’re going to have to lose some weight.
So I have volunteered to take the parachute and jump. Automatic pilot should keep you flying for a while, and eventually you’ll...land. Sort of.
Enjoy the rest of your flight.