Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Binding Code

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Janie spent her weekends purchasing containers of bread crumbs and attempting to reassemble them into loaves of bread. She'd been working at it for decades but still hadn't mastered it. It had taken years just to get the first loaf together and that thing was a fiasco compared to the work she was doing now. Loaf number one was unidentifiable as a loaf of bread unless the observer was prompted by Janie as to its true nature. It actually looked like a fat gerbil covered in sawdust. It still sat freeze-dried in her storage locker, what she insisted on calling The Janie Mulmer Museum of Reconstituted Bread Loves.

Nowadays, her loaves really looked like loaves. "You've got to approach it like a jigsaw puzzle," she told her patrons. "Do all the crust pieces first. Then it's easier to fill in the rest." The new loaves were often missing slices. As they began to resemble actual bread, Janie looked to recreate the flavor and the texture of the real thing. And of course, the only way to really know was to try them.

First off, they didn't taste like bread, they tasted like bread crumbs. For some reason, she hadn't expected that. Janie hadn't considered that herbs are added in the production process. Even loaf number six, from which she extracted each and every herb with the aid of a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezies (tweezers were old school), still tasted wrong enough that she had to switch bread crumb brands. It felt, for some reason, like a great setback to her life's work, but hell, it had to be done.

Her philosopher's stone was something she referred to in her notes as The Binding Code. It was the formula that would bring crumbs together into a loaf indistinguishable from one store bought.

Until she cracked the code, texture would be an issue as well. The flour water she now used to glue her crumbs together made the loaf gummy and gross while the crumbs themselves were much crunchier than bread had any right to be and she always had to work in freezing temperatures so the whole mess wouldn't get nastier.

She kept the phone nearby as she worked, always expecting a call from the MacArthur people to lay one of those sweet genius awards on her. Janie had always considered herself a sweet genius. Apparently no one else did, because the call never came.

After four decades of toil she met a man named Javier at the grocery store while she was buying milk (I'll bet you thought she was buying bread crumbs. What did you think, she never drank milk?). He gave her cow eyes and she melted. She invited him over for dinner and they ate the cow eyes and drank the milk. After the best night of her life, Javier held her in his arms and said:

"Janie, I know your work means everything to you and you have no reason to forsake it, but I have to ask. The angels will banish me to Hell if I do not ask: Janie, will you spend the rest of your life with me? Heck, just spend the rest of my life with me, that's all I ask."

She thought of her work, her museum. Just eighty more years of toil and she was sure she'd have her breakthrough. She'd have The Binding Code.

"To Hell with it," she said, "I'll just learn how to bake."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Random thoughts:

Last week was a stink week. My too many early mornings schedule turned me into a zombie and next to no work got done. The last few days have been better but I'm still over two-thousand words behind on the novel. No sweat.

My daughter, Ivory, and I decided today that Mountain Dew comes from the Mountain Dew squirrel, a tiny species that lives in pant pockets and scurries along house and car keys the way its older cousins run through the treetops. Thousands of these are thrown into a press at one time and are squeezed until Mountain Dew comes out. It was all cutesy until that last part, I know.

Anxiety visits us all now and again but when we visit my sister-in-law there are times when I achieve true peace of mind. See, I've got this sort of phobia about running out of toilet paper. I've even been known to run to the store near the moment of truth just to stock up. But when I sit and do my dirty business in her bathroom I have at times counted up to twenty-four rolls of toilet paper in there, all within reach. I can't tell you the feeling of security that gives me, knowing that there's nothing that I'm physically capable of doing that would require more than twenty-four rolls of toilet paper for clean-up. So cheers to you, Bev.

Finally, this thing is just frickin' cool: The Jeep Waterfall.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Price

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

When my car got hungry it walked off the road. I flipped because I was already late for my meeting and the damned fuel gauge said I still had 1/32 of a tank. They'd never made a decent gauge since we moved away from fossil fuels. The car could have easily made another thirty miles, but when it felt hungry, none of that mattered. It slowed to that familiar crawl, its tires peeled apart into steel-reinforced rubbery feet for off-road terrain and it started grazing on the unmown grass on the side of the expressway.

"Shit!" I cried, pounding the fleshy dashboard. "Not grass, you idiot!"

The thing responded by shaking like a wet dog while my door and seatbelt buckle both sprang open. It threw me a good ten feet, but I didn't even feel the impact in my fury. Vegetation was the least efficient fuel the thing could have found.

"Stop eating that grass, damn you! I didn't pay eighty-thousand dollars for an omnivore to have you eating goddamned grass! Especially not now, find some squirrels or something!" I looked around in vain, praying we'd stopped near a cow pasture. Nothing.

The car stopped and went to a nearby tree. I searched the branches figuring it had indeed smelled a family of nice fat squirrels. Instead, it gnawed on the tree, stripping a chunk of bark and chewing contentedly.

At this rate, it'd take all day to consume enough calories to satiate itself. And if I missed my meeting, I'd be out of a job. And if I was out of a job, I'd be out of Karen. Sure, Linda would stick by my side, but she was the gum beneath my shoe. The kind of psychotic sticky wife that drove me to Karen in the first place.

Fuck it. This is where we separated upper-management from middle-management. I tore off my left pant leg (wouldn't be needing it anyway) and tied a tourniquet around my upper thigh. I dialed up the heroin on my hitbox and fed my whole mother fucking leg to the thing. The bitch tried to eat me whole but I beat the tender underbelly with a stick until it backed off. The thing still salivated, threatening another feeding. I figured I would decide on its next course rather than let it decide. My left arm went next and I hopped into the driver's seat before dessert came.

With a sharp kick, I got the beast back on the road and rolling again. I called my assistant, telling it I'd be a little late. I told it to print out some prosthetics and have a new suit sent up.

"Nothing can go wrong here, Troya," I told it. "My bonus is riding on this presentation and daddy needs the scratch. Goddamned price of fuel is getting ridiculous."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Give It Up

For those of you lamenting the dearth of quality fork art in today's society, I give you this.

I've got a couple of blog stories brewing in the old AlphaSmart, they're not ready just yet. Maybe you can have one for dinner tomorrow

Today started out as a bad day. I ate crap all day, did some mindless shopping and wrote maybe three sentences. I did get a story idea, but overall, what a waste. Around seven p.m., I gave up on feeling miserable about it and decided to throw myself into the badness wholeheartedly. I ate more shitty food and watched TV all night. Fuck it, why not take a day off once in a while? I at least had the presence of mind to stick something on the blog.

Sorry I haven't been blogging, but if I don't have a story, I just don't have anything interesting going on about which to write. Case in point: these four paragraphs.

In other news, besides today, the New Year's Resolution is moving along well. I've been writing slightly over five hundred words a day and started out a little ahead of the game to give myself a little cushion, so we're looking at over thirty-seven thousand words so far. I've got about half a first draft now.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I can feel it. (No, I can't. Tomorrow might suck too. What do I look like, a precog? And there's a big container of cheeseballs on the air hockey table that just keeps calling to me.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Family Tree

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

They came online in the middle of 2007, The Total Genealogy Project, revealing the relationship between every living thing and every other living thing. It became popularly known as Yggdrasil, after the world tree of ancient Norse mythology. It was wikified and lonely old men poured their data into its hungry maw by the truckload. Every proud relationship to some obscure historical figure was chronicled. Fractured families found one another as stems met at branches and branches met on limbs. Good.

Then the genetic research files began flowing in and things became unpleasant for some people. If you looked at enough of the treasured charts that laymen kept in their dens, you'd realize there were a lot less bastards there than there should have been. The genetic data with a little detective work showed that queen so and so might have had a little tryst with one of the squires and there was a reason that a certain branch of the family was a little closer to olive-skin than alabaster. Mysteries were solved. People grew angry. Racial purity groups had to adjust their standards once it was found that there just weren't any racially pure members to be had. Peace broke out everywhere, to the consternation of many, when family ties kept being brought up as a reason we should all get along.

While they were still sorting through the mess with the humans, the animal family trees were dumped into the mess, which pissed off a lot of America's heartland. They didn't like the idea of people being related to animals. There was the evolutionary problem and the implied age of the Earth problem. Even so, all of that was easier for many of the white people to swallow than the fact that this crazy Internet said that their ancestors had all come from Africa.

Each branch of the family tree was less welcome than the one which had proceeded it. Finally the vegetarians had something to feel guilty about. They'd been eating their cousins of course, like the omnivores, just different ones, and encouraging others to eat the same group of cousins.

"If you're going to eat," The U.N. Secretary General said, "You've got to eat a family member. There's no getting around it." He resigned in disgrace when people took this as an okay to eat their children and aunties.

Fortunately everything was fixed when the people banded together into a multitude of large and unruly mobs and destroyed the Internet.

"Glad that's over," remarked one mob spokesperson. "Now we can all go back to being unrelated again." Everyone seemed quite happy once more and the killing began again in earnest.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Days To Burn

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Jeez! His head was killing him! He'd just sprung into existence at midnight, the very instant after the old geezer had croaked. Baby 2007 had grabbed his first glass of champagne at one second old and hadn't stopped drinking until he was about five and a half hours. Had he really run around naked all night? Ah, hell, they were parties, right? It's not a good party if you don't have a story to tell afterward.

He crashed what, maybe sevenish? He hadn't been tired, necessarily, he hadn't been up the day before, but he was a baby and babies can only handle so much booze. Try it with yours, you'll see. Even so, 2007 could drink any baby under the table. He woke around five this afternoon, puking and throbbing and dry as a pressed flower. "I'll never drink again," he promised the spinning walls. And here he lay in the same crib, even now. Still throbbing, still regretting. The dry toast came back up a few minutes ago and then there were the dry heaves.

He hadn't seen a heck of a lot of daylight, his first day on earth, but that was okay. There'd be plenty of other days. He figured he had at least two-hundred great ones to come later on in the year. Two-hundred was a heck of a lot. What was one day? Looking out at the vast stretch of year before him, it seemed glorious, even in the wake of the his first drinking binge. He'd hit it hard tomorrow, leap out of bed and grab the bull by the horns and all that shit. And if he didn't, he'd do it the day after that. He had days to burn.