Neither have I, but I do have a pretty interesting idea for a Young Adult novel that I’m not sure where it came from. I don't know if it's my idea.
For starters, I’ve never intentionally stolen a story or an idea for a story in my life. Well, there was that one time, but I don’t think it counts because I apologized. (There was a big likable fellow who worked at Jim Hanley’s comic shop on Staten Island, who kept telling me about this story he wanted to write about the Grim Reaper coming to kill someone, but when he shows up at his intended victim’s door he’s mistaken for someone responding to an ad for a roommate. The Reaper winds up renting the room from the guy and pretty soon the fellow is wondering why all his friends are dying. I thought it was a really fun idea and told him so, but he never wrote it up. After months of asking him if he’d done anything with it I got frustrated and wrote a comic book story about the Grim Reaper attempting to kill a doddering old woman, a fairly simple task, but a comedic series of mishaps keeps getting in his way and prevents him for completing his mission. The story was illustrated by Kyle Baker and saw print in a comic called Asylum. I later apologized to the fellow at Hanley’s, and he said it was cool with him.)
Anyway, a few days ago I had a germ of an idea. I scribbled ‘Horse in the basement’ on a Post-It and went back to what I was doing. Over the course of the day little bits of bacteria and microbes formed around said germ. By the end of the day I had it. Sort of. Here’s what I had:
Ten or fifteen years ago a friendly old coot who works part time at a local animal shelter gets a strange animal dropped off during his shift. Someone brings in an injured foal (baby horse) from a nearby, urm… riding academy, or maybe a farm, but they bring the foal, who was born with a crippled leg, to the shelter to be put to sleep. The old coot can’t bring himself to put the animal down, so instead he brings it home and puts it in his basement. His wife nearly files for divorces him, but in the end she lets him try to nurse the animal back to health. He cares and nurtures the horse until it’s healthy and healed enough to walk around with only a slight limp. (?) But the old couple, their children long since moved away, have grown attached to horse so in the basement it stays. The basement is unfinished and big enough so the horse can walk around a small circuit to get some daily exercise.
Years pass and the wife dies. Tears flow like raindrops. The old coot continues to care for the horse. A few more years pass and the old coot dies too. The couple never had a great relationship with their kids, so they leave the house to their only grandson. A teenager named…urm…Burt. Burt and his folks fly in for the funeral and to check out the house and the horse is discovered.
That’s the premise. Now for the conflict.
The horse is much too big at this stage to get out of the house. He’s as big as a friggin’ horse. The only way to get him out is to rip open the back of the house and dig a ramp down to the basement. The problem is that the house is like two hundred years old. Well, not old enough to be a historical monument, but it’s of a certain style and construction that collectors covet them and spend millions of dollars to own one. They even better than Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Burt’s parents see the dollar signs and convince Burt to sell the house to some bloke who has showed up from …urm, Canada, with a check for two million bucks.
Burt wants to be a millionaire, go to the college of his choice, blah blah blah, but the problem of course is the horse. If they tear up the house to get the horse out the value drops to a fraction of what it is now. Even if they do an expert job patching things back up. The dude from Canada certainly doesn’t want a house with a horse in the basement, so the only alternative is to put the horse down. Kill it dead and chop it into small enough sections to be carried up the basement stairs.
It’s a ghastly concept, but we’re talking about a lot of money here. Or, and Burt’s sister may or may not have a rare medical disorder that require expensive surgery that their medical insurance won’t cover, for some convenient reason.
Burt has a difficult decision to make, and things only get worse when he takes a liking to the horse (feeding it, walking it around, toting bags of crap up to the backyard garden). What will he do? Will the parents force him to make a decision he doesn’t want to make? Will he free the horse and flush his fortune down the toilet?
I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet.
But here’s my problem. I know that this isn’t necessarily the best story that’s ever been written, but I like it a lot. Pieces of it come to me effortlessly. Writing it would be as simple as falling off a horse.
But is it my story? It’s coming to me so easily that it’s almost as if I’d heard it before.
Did I read it when I was a young’un? It’s seems so familiar that I almost think I did, except for the fact that overall it’s a pretty lame story (pun intended).
Maybe I should search at Amazon or Google ‘horse in basement’. Or maybe I should just go ahead and write it and see if that jogs my memory.
As with most things, time will tell.
When I was a kid I heard something that scared me. This was around the time the war in Viet Nam was winding down, so I must have been eight or nine. What I heard was that all the big nations in the world had doomsday bombs hidden away in case they should ever be overrun by a hostile nation. This concept boggled my mind. It was one thing to have thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at other countries. I could sort of understand that one. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. If you were walking home down an alley at night you were less likely to get jumped and robbed if you were carrying a baseball bat, than if you were empty handed.
Bullies love taking cheap shots. They seem to lose most of the wind from their sails if a prospective target is capable of fighting back. So we needed our missiles to keep the other guys with missiles from taking a cheap shot. That I understood. But the whole doomsday scenario was staggering.
The way that I heard it was that if the impossible did happen, if Russia, or China, or even Canada proved capable of conquering the U.S. of A., and actually set foot on our sacred soil, that all they would be getting was a nuclear wasteland.
For starters, the military had planted a string of hundreds of nuclear warheads a couple miles off shore, up and down the East and West coastline of the U.S.. Once triggered, they would create a thousand foot tidal wave that would wipe both coasts clean. While this was happening, dozens of specially constructed nuclear-tipped missiles would fire one mile straight up and then detonate, covering the country in a thick cloud or radioactivity. If the bad guys won, we sure the hell wouldn’t let them take us alive.
I used to spend sleepless nights wondering just how this whole doomsday procedure would be initiated. It would have to be some sort of automatic sensor or something that would detect that the country had fallen into enemy hands. It wouldn’t go off until it thought we were as good as dead, right?
But what if there was some sort of malfunction? Glitches happened all the time in movies like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe. What if the doomsday device lost a gear or blew a transistor and all of a sudden decided it was time to exterminate the United States?
Certainly the President would have a way to override the device. He would have to have a button to push to stop the madness.
It wouldn’t be just one button, though. One button would be too easy to press accidentally. No, it would have to be a series of buttons. Perhaps they needed to be pushed in a special sequence. Maybe even a coded sequence that changed from day to day. Or best of all, a password. People can forget coded number sequences, but passwords are easy to remember.
The President probably had to enter a special password to deactivate the device and avoid the destruction of the United States. He probably got to make up his own password, to make it easier to remember. Maybe the name of his first girlfriend, or the title of a favorite book.
If through some wild sequence of events, the likes of which only happen in Michael Bay movies, if I was suddenly deemed the only sane person left in the world to shut down the doomsday device, I know what my secret password would be. I would make it: LITTLEOLDLADYWHO?
I would never forget it.
Don’t be alarmed that I’m telling you what it is. It was my intention to. Because, if a wild series of events could fall in place making me the only person capable of deactivating the device, then it’s just as likely that a cracked piece of masonry would drop off the Washington monument and crack my skull open, just about the same time the device accidentally triggers itself. (Hey, don’t laugh. Stuff like that happens all the time.)
So, if (and I realize what a big ‘IF’ this is) I’m put in charge of stopping the device and if something should happen to me, anyone who has read this will be able to step up and save the United States.
Why LITTLEOLDLADYWHO? you ask? And why am I so certain that I’ll never forget it as a password? Well, when I was a very little kid, long before I’d heard of the whole doomsday possibility, I had convinced myself that I could yodel. I think I’d been watching the version of Heidi that starred Shirley Temple, and someone was yodeling at her. It sounded like a pretty fun thing to do, and didn’t seem to be too difficult so I gave it a go. What came out of my mouth was “Little Old Lady Who?” and I thought I was golden. I spent the day traveling the neighborhood entertaining everyone within earshot with my newfound ability.
And then finally that night someone told me the cold hard truth. It might have been one of my sisters. It smacked me in the face like a giant hand made of ice (because it stung so much). I didn’t know how to yodel. I only knew how to say Little Old Lady Who? The people I’d been singing it to all day must have thought I was an idiot. “What’s that fool boy think he’s doing?” “I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure he ain’t doing, and that’s yodeling!”
I was crushed. I guess I still am today. Years later I heard one of the Three Stooges do a bit where the punchline was Little Old Lady Who? I’d been watching the Stooges from the cradle, so I guess it was already planted in the back of my brain by the time I watched Heidi and began my short lived yodeling career.
So there you have the password to save the country, and the reason I’ll never forget it. Use this information wisely, please.
For starters, I’m not talking about the whole cigar = phallus thing. That one is just dead wrong. If cigars weren’t bad for your health I’d have a thick one in my mouth right this very second. That, plus a cigar worth smoking is going to cost you at least ten bucks, which is enough to buy a good book, or could feed an entire village of those starving kids you see on late night infomercials.
The thing that I’m worried about is what Freud is supposed to have said about mistakes. He claimed that there were no mistakes. You say what you really think and you do what you really want to.
As you can imagine, there are both lightweight and heavy-duty implications to a concept like this.
Lightweight: Ooops! I bought a gallon of triple fudge Heath Bar crunch ice cream; when I forgot that I was supposed to get the non-fat, sugar free, Soy vanilla. Silly me.
Heavy-Duty: Oooops! The wife and me were doing some gardening in the yard. Somehow the hedge clipper got away from me and I managed to gouge into her femoral artery. Ain’t I a goof?
I have a hard enough time taking responsibility for all my conscious actions, but if Freud was right, now I’ve got to take on everything I do and say on the sub-conscious level too? This is such a massive concept for me to try to absorb, but then I start to consider that not only am I operating on two levels, so is everyone else around me.
If we decide to climb aboard this train of thought, then the next stop down the line is the notion that, yes, we do make our own luck. Consciously, we really want that new job promotion that is about to open up, and we think we deserve it far more than Larry or Judy. Now try to imagine what’s happening in our unchecked sub-conscious?
The next day Judy has to be rushed to the hospital because a copier toner cartridge, which someone stupidly left leaning on the shelf over her cubicle, has dribbled enough toner into her coffee cup during the course of the day to make her pee blood.
And gee, Larry’s in a bit of a jam. It seems that a couple of guys from the were chatting, while doing their business at the urinal, about how Larry has so much porn on his office computer that he’s had to request a bigger hard drive from the boys in IT. This wouldn’t have been so bad if CEO of the company hadn’t been sitting in the handicapped stall, reading the Wall Street Journal, like he did every morning.
I guess if we have tight enough reigns on our waking mind, our sub-conscious can’t get too far out of control. Of course now I’m thinking about the movie Forbidden Planet, which was a mixture of Freud’s theory of Id, Ego & Superego, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If you haven’t seen the movie, (Forbidden Planet, not The Tempest) in short, it’s about a group of space travelers who settle down to live on a planet once inhabited by an ancient alien race, the Krell, that apparently vanished overnight. In a short time the space settlers begin to mysteriously die, torn apart my invisible monsters. As it turns out the Krell had been such an evolved (and apparently lazy) race that they had created an elaborate underground machine that was capable of attending to their every need. If a Krell was hungry for a plate of steamed Nurelian swamp root, all he had to do was wish for it and the machine below would make it appear. Things went bad, though, when said Krell went to bed for the night and dreamed that it would be really great if a monster were to kill his neighbor, and while he was at it, destroy his entire living pod, so he could have an unobstructed view of the ammonia pond.
The moral of the movie was that if you’re going to build an all-powerful machine capable of fulfilling your every wish, don’t. You’re going to regret it in a hurry.
Which brings me to 4:50 last night. No monster attacked me in my sleep, but my wife did crack me a good one on the head with her elbow. It hurt me enough to wake up and look at the clock so I could tell her what she had done and at what time it had happened.
My wife has never hit me with her elbow during the waking hours. As far as I can recall, not even once by accident. Was her subconscious pissed at me last night and decided, what the hell, why not give him a good shot to the head now? I don’t think so. I think it really was an accident.
We have six cats. Two of them sleep on the bed with us. One spends most of his time in the laundry basket on the hall landing. Another fancies the cat tree in the living room. The last two, brothers who don’t realize that they’re technically not kittens any more, divide their time between the couch and anywhere else they flop down in exhaustion.
This is WHEN they sleep. A good part of the night they participate in the cat Olympics. The events include the synchronized stair chase, two and three-cat wrassle matches, and their favorite, the bed dive. And it’s not unusual for them to incorporate the other events, like the stair chase or the cat wrassle into the bed dive event.
Each night there’s enough activity in our bed to fill a dozen installments of Penthouse Forum (although the average reader might be a tad disappointed by the content). So is it possible that the elbow I took to the head was the result of my wife getting mauled by a cat who had tunneled beneath the blanket? It is certainly possible and probably highly likely.
I think I slept better when we had a hand me down mattress and only one cat, than I do now that we have a ridiculously expensive mattress and six cats. That’s what I think.
Of course this raises the question; are cats aware of what they’re doing when they bite and scratch us, or trip us when we stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
As I type this I’m listening to the soundtrack to the Broadway hit Mamma Mia. I like a lot of Broadway show tunes. People who like Broadway show tunes are supposed to be gay. That’s what I’ve heard.
I don’t have any other homosexual tendencies. I like having sex with women (I mean WOMAN, as in my wife) and have never been what they call bi-curious. Still, I’m far from what you’d call a typical hetro macho male. I like building stuff (if putting together bookcases and desks counts as building) and lifting heavy objects, but I’m not into sports, like diehard hetros are supposed to. I do watch the Super Bowl each year, and enjoy most of it, but the truth is that I mostly watch to see the cool commercials. When I was young I used to play a lot of sports in the neighborhood. We would always be playing football or softball in the nearest vacant lot. But as an adult I’m not into sports at all. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that I’m a great big fat tubby who would have a myocardial infarction if I got together for a pick-up game of b-ball with the guys after work. If I had a job, and if there were guys present.
Speaking of guy and jobs, that reminds me of a time several years ago when I was living in New York and worked at DC Comics. There were a bunch of guys who would spend their lunch hours at a local high priced strip club. They used to ask me along but I always declined. Most times if I went out of the office at lunch I would go to an arcade down the block and play pinball. So why didn’t I go see mostly naked girls and drink overpriced cocktails? Well, nobody likes looking at naked ladies more than me. (Okay, that’s not true, and we all know it, but for the sake of argument let’s just pretend that nobody likes looking at naked ladies more than me.) And I’ve been in my share of strip clubs in my day. But the thing of it is that I kind of thought the notion of going to a strip club during lunch was just plain silly. A.) I wasn’t making a ton of money back then, and laying down ten or twenty bucks for some watered down drinks never seemed like a good investment. B.) The whole point of going to a strip club, at least I always thought, was to get excited/aroused/interested in the vast quantities of nude flesh parading around on stage. Who wants to get all excited/aroused/ and interested and then have to go back to work? C.) Drinking during the middle of the day has never worked out for me, and paying $4.50 for a Diet Pepsi just so I can see naked chicks works even less. So I never went to the strip club with the guys. Did they think I was gay? I don’t know. I quit DC to move to California to get married, so perhaps those who did rethought their opinion. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
I guess my real problem is that I don’t live up to the image of the heterosexual as portrayed in our modern culture. When I was young, based on what I’d seen in movies and on television, I thought that when ‘the man’ came home from a long day of toiling at whatever he toiled at, one of two things would happen. Either his wife (dressed in a smart outfit, neatly coifed, and complete with earrings, necklace, and high heel shoes) would meet him at the door with a peck on the cheek and a pitcher of chilled martinis, or he would loosen his tie while heading to a sideboard loaded with booze bottles, and he’d pour himself a stiff drink of some brownish liquid on the rocks. (Of course there was always ice in the ice bucket) That’s what I thought, even though nothing of the sort happened in my house. At my house my dad would come home, pour himself a short shot from the pint of Segrams whiskey he kept somewhat ‘hidden’ in the cupboard, and then follow it with a can or two of Schlitz beer. My mom never served him, and there was rarely a peck on the cheek, but that’s a story for another day. My point is that people drink like fish in the movies and on television. They also used to smoke like chimneys and light their cigarettes with a decorative lighter that sat on the coffee table next to a cigarette box. For years my mom smoked Salem cigarettes straight from the pack and lit them with a matchbook.
Still, I saw it so often I thought that was the way men were supposed to act. Drink lots of booze, smoke from morning until night, and if someone gave you a hard time you slugged them on the jaw. I don’t do any of those things and it bugs me to this day.
I’m not gay. The truth is that I don’t think the gays would have me. I’m fat, bald, have a scraggy beard, and mostly wear shorts and t-shirts. As the saying goes, I certainly wouldn’t shag me. I’m not gay but I like a lot of things that fit into the whole gay stereotype, including Broadway show tunes, enjoying an hour or two of watching figure skating on the television with my wife, and I’m certainly not thuggish. If someone walked up to me on the street and socked me in the jaw I’d probably fall down and cry a little, but I don’t think I’m alone there.
I downloaded the Mamma Mia soundtrack off the Internet and it’s not bad. I'm glad I didn't spend fifteen bucks for it. I think I like the original ABBA version of the songs better. Yeah, I like ABBA. I like Barry Manilow albums too (just the old ones from the 70s) and I listen to the soundtrack to the movie Xanadu at least once a week. If you have a problem with what I listen to you can call me gay, or you could walk up to me and give me a sock in the jaw. I’d prefer former over the latter.
Oh, and if you don’t recognize the photo in this post then you’re missing out on Little Britain, the funniest show to come out of England in a long time. Look for it on BBC America or buy the first season on DVD. It’s a hoot and a half.