And Now for the Ubiquitous Penis Joke

…I’m not sure that’s what I meant to say, but it sure does sound cool.

I had my first story workshopped last week (week before that? I have no sense of time these days), and to be honest, I am really, really into this story. It’s called “Monkey Killer,” and it’s about a woman who goes to a Tool concert.

(Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) In fact, the story was inspired by this blog post about the concert: Nothing Else Matters. In fact, I may have stolen from myself because the story starts off with almost the same line:

Congratulations. You are not too old, too unhip, too fat, or too phobic to go to a rock concert.

This one, though, is about a woman who attends the concert with her 25 year old son. She is 40, which is a story in itself. She’s also a recovering alcoholic, and her son is an active one. I’m playing with several elements of the story: how to characterize without “telling” too much, how to show their relationship as mother-and-son without saying it straight out, things like that. I’m also playing with point of view.

It’s in the second person. YOU are the main character. It was done really, really effectively by Tom Robbins in “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas,” and YOU are a Filipina stock broker who stole money from her clients, is engaged to an ex-lumberjack, is friends with a 300 lb psychic, is in lust with an enlightened derelict, and is searching for a criminal monkey.

Of course, I didn’t read then like I read now, so I’m not sure how effective it still is. But nonetheless, I’m intrigued, and wanted to try it in my writing.

Now, because the story takes place at a Tool concert, my own experience at the concert plays in heavily to the description of the arena, the people around the character, the band, and the music itself.

And, because the Canadian flag played so heavily into that experience, I included that in my story. I noticed at the arena that the American flag was straight down from the stage–the only people who could see it would be the band and whoever turned their backs on the band. That was about it.

When I purchased my tickets, for some reason I can’t recall, I lost my original seats (Oh, yeah, had to hunt down my credit card and the transaction timed out) and when I obtained new ones, they weren’t as good as the first ones (so I thought). Based on where Maynard was during the show, however, they proved to be perfect.

That, and I was sitting directly across from a Canadian flag, and that made me smile. Had I gotten the first seats, I would have sat under it, completely oblivious to both it and the singer since I wouldn’t have been able to see him, either.

Long story short–I know a Canadian who really likes Tool. The Canadian is important to me. Tool is important to me. The fact that the flag was in a place that I would have never expected it, directly across from me at a Tool concert — at my first one, even, when my seats weren’t even my first choice seemed rather poignant to me.

That is the entire connection of the Canadian flag. I think the comment that the narrator makes when the main character sees the flag is that “for some unknown reason, it makes you happy, and you smile,” or something like that.

When I presented it in class, however, it was all about political commentary. Nancy, what was up with the political commentary? If you like Canada so much, why don’t you move there? Is this a comment on the health care system between the US and Canada?

When I realized what they had gotten from it, I felt so incredibly foolish. OF COURSE YOU CAN’T use flags “innocently” — there’s too much political charge to them as a symbol.

Silly, silly me.

And, Nancy, what the hell is this line about: “There is an American flag less obviously hung directly across from the stage. From this position, only those on stage and those turning their backs to the show would be able to see it.”

Are you saying, Nancy, that Americans are less obviously hung than Canadians?

I know I blushed. I had no idea what to say to that.

Why do the brilliant, snappy, smart ass remarks ALWAYS come hours or days after the moment I need them?


4 thoughts on “And Now for the Ubiquitous Penis Joke”

  1. ah, symbolism. Gotta love it when readers read shit in, huh? Not your fault. Your words, their interpretation.

    at least, that ‘s what I always got from reading Wm Faulkner’s answers to stupid “but what does it MEAN?!” questions. But I could be wrong. It’s been a very long time since I studied Faulkner.


  2. Think of it this way — when you are famously published with this meaty story , there will be people who make their theses and their careers reading meaning into every comma you choose to use or lose. Hee hee!

    I am always late with a re-quip — consider, “If you have to ask about it, you aren’t capable of getting it.”

    I think the story sounds most intriguing.


  3. @ CuriousC: When I’m actually in my right mind, I realize that blatant symbols are symbols, regardless of my intention of them. When you’re writing for a specific effect, what a reader gets from the material is just as (or almost as) important as what the author meant to convey.

    I mean, come on, a flag? I felt a bit foolish, yes, especially in these days of such political high-handedness, and Professor F-Dawg (the leader of the fiction class) knows how I feel about the US Government, so….

    I think that even when we THINK we’re talking about one thing (i.e., the Canadian), everything else that we feel go into that writing unless we filter it out. Knowing myself, the little flag displacement issue, while it WAS about one certain thing, because I didn’t consciously filter myself, became multi-faceted.

    I.e., I certainly could have conveyed the moment of poignancy much better, and more honestly, than saying something to the effect of the American flag becoming displaced, or, “less obviously hung.” It’s probably at that moment that it became (unconsciously) less about the Canadian and more about my latent political feelings.

    As far as the “less obviously hung” comment, I’ll just say this. While I’m certainly not capable of commenting on the “hungness” of two entire nations, I will say that, based on what little and unusual experience I have, my statement is a valid one. I’m sticking out my tongue now, but you just can’t see it.

    @ shussmallsworld: I don’t want to be one of “those” writers (i.e., snooty) but, on the other hand, I don’t want to make people work too hard for meaning by being purposely obscure (a mortal sin in the writing world, I think which makes me loathe postmodernism), but on the other hand, I don’t want to insult them by being too obvious either. A tough balance, I think.

    I think the story is intriguing, too 🙂 I received permission from the prof to submit a revision of it for my next short story due…I plan on getting it chopped up and moved around and submitted for a writing contest at the end of the month. 🙂

    Thanks for the comments!


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