Trouble in Paradise: April 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - talk three with Phyllis

Even though Mr. Ed told himself to never come clean, it seemed that he was doing just that. After discussing how his predicament with those two bad elements was magically solved, the conversation had turned to women and wives. 

*

Mr. Ed and Lela stayed together because of appearance and convenience, but ultimately out of a fear of ending up alone.
I’d rather keep paying her as my wife, than the prospect of ending up all alone,” Mr. Ed said, “I talked it through with an old buddy of mine once who tried to convince me to break it off. That night when I closed my eyes I had this dream in which I saw myself in a cheap hotel, obese, with shot veins, surrounded by empty trays of frozen dinners and empty bottles of beer and other booze. In that puddle I sat all liquored up with cheap whiskey (the one that’s better used to clean windows) and on my lap I had a loaded shotgun. Even my dog had left me.” 
Good Bye Charlie,” Marty said, “You obviously never reached that point where things turn beyond sour. My ex was such a pain that even that would have seemed the better prospect.” 
I bet you weren’t married for twenty-plus years,” Mr. Ed says, “Come to think of it…. neither was that guy who advised me to end it. The thing is this: it just isn’t black and white; it’s all so vastly grey that you can’t see shit.”


1

Shane had been asking Phyllis for weeks to hit the nightlife on the weekend. She kept throwing her off with stories of being too busy, while in fact she simply wasn’t in the mood. Finally she caved in. 
On Saturday at nine they met downtown for a late night dinner. It was busy all over town, mostly locals and some tourists here and there. They shared a bottle of wine and talked the talk. They went over their usual bucket list. Relationships; theirs, others, and when either of these will break under pressure. It’s mostly gossip obviously and most of it comes down to who likes who. 
It leaves Phyllis with this understanding of what was unique about her friendship with Jep, Tony, Frankie and Jim. Looking at the number of years the span of her friendship with Shane is almost the same as her friendship with the boys, but it just doesn’t have the intensity of a friendship that started in childhood.
Shane is a great friend, because they can be of the same mind, but it’s also Shane who is more impulsive it always makes Phyllis feel that’s how she was herself when she was part of the gang. It makes her feel as if she somehow lost that part of herself. By the time the bottle is empty they both conclude that they’re free gals. 

After dinner they hit a touristy night club.

*

A little after midnight they leave for something better: the music was becoming much of the same thing and the crowd was thinning out.
The Docks,” Shane says when they are outside.
Just us two gals?” Phyllis asks, “Why The Docks?”

I don’t know,” Shane says, “I got this itch.”

One drink,” Phyllis says, “Then we leave.”
One,” she says, and she holds up her finger in an I swear,“I promise.”

*

On some subconscious level Shane must have known what she was in for, because it wasn’t exactly a place where women tended to go on their own. The docks were a rough area, with crummy bars, bad characters and criminal activity ranging from being able to buy unregistered guns to coke and everything in between. 

It literally got more grim when they exited the last metro station. There weren’t many people around, except for the occasional dealer or pimp that hung around just outside the beam of street lights.
Remind me why we’re here again?” Phyllis says.
One drink.”

Phyllis rolls her eyes.

Shane walks them to the same bar that they visited after New Year’s. They take a seat in one of the booths and they order two sparkly’s.
I had a hunch,” Shane says, “And I think I’m not mistaken: take a look over at the bar.”
A cowboy….” Phyllis says, and it comes to her: “Thecowboy….”
Aha.”
How did you know?”
I didn’t,” Shane says, “It was after midnight when we came from that club.”
And you didn’t tell me, because you were sure that I wouldn’t have come.”
I didn’t tell you, because I wasn’t sure.”
Aha,” Phyllis says, “So now what?”

Shane is plotting their next move.
We can’t confront him,” Shane says, “He’ll just deny everything.”
If he remembers us at all….”

Shane is still thinking it over.
Believe me: if he’s dirty he remembers every detail of that night.”
So you want to talk to him….”
I do.”
And you’re sure we won’t get in trouble….”

This is a public place,” Shane says, “Kind of, at least.”
Just go get a drink and make yourchit-chat….”

Shane does, but she doesn’t know what to make of it. From the cowboy’s behavior she can’t figure out whether he remembers her from that night or that she reminds him of someone else, or that he remembers her at all. 
You must be the only cowboy on Rokset Island,” Shane says, in an attempt to start a conversation.
There are more,” the guy says, and in an unsettlingvoice, “But we only come out at night….”
Okay then,” Shane says, and since the cowboy’s demeanor isn’t exactly welcoming, she decides that it’s better to back off.

Shane walks back to their booth and she gives Phyllis the update.
Sohebasically just freaked you out….”
Maybe, but I saw some of his cards….” Shane says, “If he didn’t do something bad on New Year’s, he definitely did it at a later time.”
Huh,” Phyllis says, “So what are you saying?”
We need to follow this guy….” Shane says, “And find out where he lives….”

This time Phyllis doesn’t roll her eyes, but she isn’t too eager to go on a roll like this. She always liked the impulsive strike of Shane, because it got her into a lot of fun – but this time it might turn into something else.
You’re joking, right?” Phyllis says.
Even if he does remember me he must have figured that we were just two lowly tourists,” Shane says, “If he’s guilty, I don’t believe that he even bothered to change his routine….”


2

At three a.m. sharp the cowboy gets up and gets out. Shane gets up right after, and thirty seconds after that Phyllis follows.
So how exactly is this gonna end good?” Phyllis whispers, when she joys Shane on the street, “Do you even know where this guy went?”
Look,” she says and she points in the distance, towards the end of the street. They see the guy with the cowboy hat disappear from under a street light. His shadow is the last to go. 
At least we know that he’s no vampire….”
We gotta move,” Shane says, briskly.

*

The girls have no new leads by the time they reached the spot where they saw the cowboy disappear into the dead of the night. Before they have a chance to lament on what has happened, a hand closes over both of their mouths and they are pulled into the dark.
Why are you following me?” the cowboy whispers coolly.

What do you mean?” Shane whispers in a scared voice.
The coy small-talk, but underneath I could smell the fear of both of you.”

You’re confusing us with someone else,” Phyllis says.
I’m not confused….” the cowboy says. He tries to jug his memories, but nothing comes up. 

Phyllis and Shane think: this is it.
I’d better not see you two again,” the cowboy whispers. In a split second he lets go of them and he’s gone. 

What just happened?” Phyllis whispers.

Sssshh.
I didn’t even hear in which direction he went,” Shane says, “It’s like he just slithered away into the night.”
A cowboy that slithers,” Phyllis says, “Doesn’t exactly fit the profile….”

Friday, April 19, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES: talk three with Marty


Mr. Ed needs to blow off steam and he heads straight for the establishment where he hung out on a few other occasions. Decent food and drinks that are endless and cheap abound, but best of all there are no nosy people around that are in this habit of asking too many questions. 
Mr. Ed had this nagging feeling that his stay in Martossa had made him docile. It didn’t make sense though, because he had unleashed his fury on that poor unsuspecting fellow that was finished by Victor Vaughn, who in turn was killed in a double murder by that other bad character named Malcolm Thompson. 
The nagging feeling that he had was more about Mr. Ed’s Frozen Pizza: he wanted to be back on the floor with all the hustle and bustle. He had lived in the big city his whole life, and even though a small town by the sea was nice and all, it didn’t really feel like it was his town and it simply wouldn’t be enough in the long run. 


1

It was almost as if those few nights that Mr. Ed had spend liquoring up had made him a regular. There were a few guys that nodded when he came in, the bartender asked him if he wanted a beer and the stool next to Marty was still empty.

Mr. Ed taps Marty on the shoulder.
You again,” Marty says, “I wondered where you had been.”
I needed to lay low for a while,” Mr. Ed says, deciding how much he was willing to tell, “Sometimes there are circumstances that dictate that kind of action.”
Too much work, or too little money.”
A nagging wife….”
No….” they both say.

Mr. Ed sizes up the bar and he waits for his beer.
You ever got this feeling as if you have got luck on your side.”
Aaaah,” Marty says, “One in a thousand.”

Mr. Ed gives the number a thought. The bartender places the cold beer in front of him and Mr. Ed asks him to get another beer for Marty.
I have had years like that,” Mr. Ed says, “But this last year it seems like I got at least ten in one year.”
Getting a raise? Attention from a nice girl? Getting away with murder?”
It really is that kind of lucky,” Mr Ed says cryptically. 

Marty thinks: he finally did it – he finally went apeshit and started slashing away….
Explain,” Marty says, not sure how much he wanted to know exactly. 
Maybe it’s more like winning the lottery.”
“….”
Let’s just say that it has to do with business….”
As long as you keep some cold ones floating towards me, I don’t care where the dough comes from….”

*

Mr. Ed needed to talk about what had happened, but he fully well realized that it would be more prudent to keep most of it to himself. 
There’s something on my mind though,” Mr. Ed begins.
Shoot,” Marty says.
You know about this question that has been asked a million times by a million different people: can a man do the bad thing for the right reason?”
It kind of sounds like a contradiction.”
That’s what I thought,” Mr. Ed says, “But let’s say that something like this happens: you’re working late one night and you’re the last one in the office. Then an intruder comes in. This character holds a gun to your head and he says he wants all the money. Then there’s some sound outside and he let’s his attention slide for a split second. You manage to get his gun and shoothim then and there. He then dies of the injuries. Later on it’s ruled to be self-defense and you get out blame free.”
I’d say it’s self-defense.”
A guy is dead.”
In that moment you don’t know what else he had up his sleeve. Maybe a second gun? A knife?” Marty says, “We simply don’t need those kind of elements running around.”
In other words: it’s possible to do the bad thing for the right reason.”
It’s murky,” Marty says.
Ok,” Mr. Ed says, “Let’s say this happened back than in the Gulf War. You’re on sentry duty and after a few hours your mind starts to shut down. Your eyes are getting tired, you’re feeling fatigue, you’re getting thirsty, hungry all that. Now let’s say that there was this Iraqi that was watching you for let’s say the last two hours. This guy patiently waits for an opportunity to get close to knife you down.”

My fellow soldiers can’t see me….” Marty says, “I’d say that the same kind of struggle ensues and it ends with the death of that Iraqi soldier.”
Same basic situation.”
Same outcome,” Marty says.
And I must say I feel as bad for this Iraqi soldier as I do for this mugger,” Mr. Ed says, “Meaning: not at all.”

Mr. Ed takes a sip from his beer and he thinks it over. 
One more,” Mr. Ed says, “This one is from an old movie. There’s this guy. A rich guy. He has this younger secretary and she comes with him on business trips and it’s not long until they have an affair. From the beginning this guy kept telling himself that he shouldn’t let things get out of hand but then they do. Now this secretary is getting fidgety and she has come to believe that there’s more going on than there actually is: she believes that this guy will leave his wife over her.”
This is about you?”
It ain’t,” Mr. Ed says, and he reads the expression on Marty’s face, “What can I say: it’s complicated.”
“…..”
So this secretary wants to go public and she gives this guy an ultimatum: tell the wife before the end of the month, or she will,” Mr. Ed says, “So on the ride home this guy’s mind is on his predicament, because this woman has become a serious jeopardy.He can only think of one way out of it.”

So this is where it becomes the same story as the one with the mugger and the Iraqi,” Marty says, “But still this one is different.”
Because there’s a young lady that’s good in the sack?” Mr. Ed asks, “It will destroy his life: his wife will divorce him and go with half of the money and he’s convinced that she might even drag down the company with her.”

Mr. Ed gives it a thought.
Never come clean,” Mr. Ed says, “That’s about the only advise that my old man gave that was any use to me. And that’s the only thing that I can make of this strange story.”
It’s interesting,” Marty says, “I mean I would never be in a position to have a secretary, so this situation would never come up for me. But still it’s tempting to imagine that it does.”
My point exactly.”
I would like to say that I would do the right thing, because that’s what we’re programmed to do,” Marty says, “But I doubt that I will...”

*

Back to my initial predicament,” Mr. Ed says, “It isn’t like the mugger, the Iraqi and the broad, but it’ssomething like it. There was a situation that I had to deal with and then it resolved itself right before my eyes.”
No loose ends?”
Not one string.”


2

Marty hadn’t given Mr. Ed’s predicament much thought until the next day. After all, how much did he really tell? Then his mind started going over the way he said right before my eyes.
The glimpse that was in Mr. Ed’s eyes revealed that he still saw it before him and that’s when Marty realized that it wasn’t just a figure of speech. All of a sudden it gave him this eery feeling. A few months ago, this guy Mr. Ed comes to town. His gut tells him that this guy is bad news, but then nothing really happens. 
What if he was a witness or he had something to do with those two bad elements that murdered each other at the edge of town. That in itself was the kind of bad thing that became good. What was it that this Mr. Ed guy had to do with those two?

Friday, April 12, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - talk three with Jep / Antaris


Nothing much had happened for another week and it made Mr. Ed feel good. By now he could be sure that he wasn’t spotted on the kill-site and even if he was, Mr. Ed had his story ready. He just took a walk and he had just ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t have much of a reputation yet in Martossa and for that reason it made sense that that statement would be enough in itself. 
Mr. Ed was eager though to have some more work on his hands. For the time being he had relayed the operation of Mr. Ed’s frozen pizza to his number two. This guy had worked for Mr. Ed for over twenty years. He knew the ropes and he was well skilled in the same type of negotiations that Mr. Ed needed to resort to from time to time. 
The only question was why? Why did Mr. Ed feel this sudden need to chronicle his wisdom? There was more to it than the heat that was brought on by his daughter that had pressured him to change his ways.


1

As long as Jep can remember he has been writing stories. It had always been an outlet, although he had never seriously considered letting anyone read them. When he was young Jep and his friends Tony, Frankie, Jim and Phyllis were obsessed by this super-hero that they created by the name of The Shadow. At the time, they were sure that it was a superpower in human form, but later on their attention and interests drifted to booze, girls and having a good time.
The other reason why Jep hadn’t let anyone read his work was the fact that he had never considered that he really was any good. Out of their gang, Tony had always been the one with the wildest imagination, and even during the reunion in West End Mansion Tony was the one that came up with the most outlandish stories. When he was back in The West Jep realized something though: those stories were all accounts of tales and legends that had been around and it hadn’t originated from his imagination. And even though Jep thought highly of Tony, he just didn’t seem the type that would be able to pull through and write a full blown novel. 
Jep was sure that he would have the stamina and ideas to pull through.


2

Writing is hard to learn and even for those who have the inspiration and stamina to jam out a full blown novel chances are that the work doesn’t sell, eitherbecause the work isn’t that good or it just doesn’t generate the kind of traction of the next big thing
Mostcontemporarywriting doesn’t have the spark: it doesn’t have strong, memorable characters and the events are plain boring. Writing should always be larger than life, it should interesting, and even when it isn’t, there should at least be this anticipation of the reader that things will pick up soon.
To some degree writing starts by analyzing popular works of great writers and then to dream that one day you yourself wouldbe able to write something of the same caliber. To wish is to hope for, to dream is to have seen the possibilityis what Jep thought to be a quote from a great science-fiction series (he later found out that it was almosta complete fabrication). 
Reading and enjoying and hoping, wishing and dreaming is the beginning. There should be the enjoyment at the level of entertainment when reading these works, but ultimately that’s where it begins and ends. Writing is one of those occupations in which you need to have some skin in the game: there’s some of the writer in it call it passion, imagination or anything, and it filters through on the page and the reader picks up on that, mostly on a subconscious level. 
The point is this: a writer needs to work hard to find his own voice, recurring themes, world view etc etc and that makes writing one of those things that’s very hard to learn, because it takes a lot of effort for many years and even after all that there’s no guarantee that the work will be any good. If you can find anything else, do it, if not: writeis one of those other famous quotes that’s more air than substance, because writing takes a lot of work, yes, talent, yes, but also luck.
Jep didn’t know about all of this, but he knew of this without knowing and that’s why he had never considered writing to be more than a hobby. 


3

In his writings Jep had always leaned towards science-fiction, not so much the hard-boiled kind that’s completely disconnected from our current times, but the kind where a few things are tweaked and then the story analyzes what exactly will happen next. It’s a way to speculate how the problems of our times will pan out on multiple levels: individual, society, technological. 
There were the things that were discussed in the sessions with Mr. Ed, although Jep realized that most of those were brought up by himself, either by stating it as a fact or by association. They also weren’t necessarily the stuff of great novels, but they might be a place to start. 
The first real issue that Jep had discussed with Mr. Ed had been the murder of the girl at West End Mansion. You can’t run from lifewas what the advise came down to, which in a way was an open door, because it could be applied to anything, but it was also exactly what he needed to hear at that time. In a way it could also be seen as one of the problems of our times: we want to stay young, we don’t want to commit etc etc. It almost links up with the borderline times: the inability to control anger, extreme black and white thinking, an existential emptiness. 
Jep coined the whole depression-anxiety-thing during another session with Mr. Ed and while talking he stipulated that more complexity (on the level of society) wasn’t the answer to the problems of our times. It may be actually be the opposite: a simpler life, or to put it another way, a re-wilding. Then there was the notion of that retired shrink who stated that the distinction between those who pull through and those who sink away in insanity has to do with how effective they are at employing coping mechanisms that work. There’s a definite link here: complexity gives stress, which requires coping mechanisms. Re-wilding means less complexity, which (in theory) means less stress and less coping mechanisms. There’s one remark here though, re-wilding requires skills to grow food and an ability to lead a more frugal life with much less entertainment (vacations, big cars, the newest gadgets etc etc). It might not be for everyone. 
Then what is? One of these is the deliberate decision no to be effected by what goes on around us. And you can take this very literally: do I let events tear me apart or will this experience make me stronger (or at least find a way to deal with things)? In somewhat different words, it was also what Nietzsche said that the strugglewill end up making you stronger.
Then throughout it all there’s that whole idea of the narrative identity: literally rewriting of apersonal past into such a story that it allows you to go on living with yourself. Even then there’s that statement that hovers over all of it like a dark cloudthe cloud and that statement are both about thatvast, cold unloving universe and how it’s ultimately us who invest it with anymeaning. 
Fuck, Jep thinks, How can I make this into a story? A science-fiction that’s interesting to read and that may stand at least an iota of the test of time.


4

At the end of that week Jep had reached out and Mr. Ed had accepted the request for another session. It was in VR, which made it more easy to accept, kind of.

This time Mr. Ed had logged in before Jep. When Jep entered Mr. Ed looked up from his notes and gestured for Jep to take a seat.
What can I do for you, Mr. Jep?” 
The usual,” Jep says, “Maintenance.
Anything in particular?”
Art,” Jep says, “Artistic endeavors.”
As in what? Painting?”
Writing,” Jep says, “I have been writing on and off for as long as I can remember. I’m thinking about a science-fiction: introduction describing a problem and a character that’s bound to solve it, a description of technological advancements. Then the middle where the problem is played out. The ending where it’s resolved.”
I see….” Mr. Ed says, “What kind of problem?”
I don’t know yet,” Jep says, “The problem might be the space travel itself, the middle where they arrive at a new place, struggle, then when it seems that everything will work out something bad happens.”
Murder?”
Danger,” Jep says.
Terror?” Mr. Ed says, “Like acrazy guy in a clown suit whostarts terrorizing without any purpose or reasoning.”
Then there’s the question of the kind of people that are willing to give up their lives, possibly indefinitely,” Jep says, “Which is very interesting, because if you think about it: which kind of person would do that?”
If it was just for a short stretch, then it could be a sense of adventure,” Mr. Ed says.
That’s the whole point: it isn’t short space travel to distant planets will take years…. Then there’s the problem of time dilation: even if those space travelers somehow make it back to earth…. Everyone that they know will be dead, because for them, being on a space ship traveling near the speed of light or at high warp means that time for themwill go faster.”

Mr. Ed thinks about that one for a second.
If you look back athistory there might be another element:” Mr. Ed says, “Those that were on the Mayflower didn’t just have that sense of adventure, but for many there was also a necessity, because a good number of them were struggling through poverty in Europeand the US was a fair chance at a better life.”
Then the riches of space travel can never be expressed in US Dollars, since the riches that can be brought on a space ship will be very limited. Unless you bring technology that can create other technology that will be able to extract natural resources and literally build a new society.”
Robots.”
And a whole lot of them,” Jep says, “I’m just not sure yet about the poverty, because being poor now or a hundred years ago is very different. Back then it was more likely to have meant famine and starvation, these days it’s more about having little money and having limited means to change that situation.”
You mean that back then there was still a way out and these days there isn’t?”
There’s still migration, obviously, from Africa to Europe, South to North America, but one thing is very different: there’s already scarcity in the places where they’re traveling to. Back then there was opportunity and abundance.”
Which is what space travel to a new home world might also be about.”
Opportunity and abundance.”

*

They continued talking some more and by the time the hour was up, they hadn’t discussed anything that would have been discussed in aregular therapy session. 
Still, Jep had the feeling that he had gotten something out of it. 


5

Long after Jep had logged out from the VR, his mind stayed with his unwritten story. He was still looking for its larger than life theme, but at the same time it needed to be relatable and contemporary: possibly something about what keeps us going (although that one might also be considered to be a sub-theme)…. 
The main theme is more straight forward: struggle and then to overcome. The story will take place in the future, possibly with a small group that’s trying to survive on a distant new world. 
He had already had a name for the new home-world: Antaris.