Saturday, October 31, 2009

Morton Greenblatt and the Worst Halloween Party Ever

Muwahahahahahaha! (If that was unsatisfactory, imagine an ominous laugh of your choice. Or if you'd rather not, then just go away. You don't deserve my storytelling.)

It is indeed Halloween at last - at long last. Those 365 days, they do not pass quickly. (Wait - they have this year in a lot of senses. I'd really like time to slow down lately so I can enjoy what's left of autumn and forthcoming winter. I'd also like to have more time for agent research and query letter polishing. I don't like the idea of not at least making some valuable contacts before I turn 26 in less than half another year. I don't even want to think about next spring or summer. I like to take everything slowly, rather than deal with this kind of seeming temporal acceleration.) There, a convenient boxing in of this post's neuroses. Because this isn't a post about venting or being neurotic or anxious and extolling the virtues of accepting a life as a flawed human being. No! This is nothing so heavy-handed and arguably dumb.

Rather, it's time for my latest of my yearly Halloween short stories! (For easy access, my previous two: Skeletons are Eating My Bacon Bits and Boomer the Drunken Ghost. Yes, believe it or not, this blog's coming up on its third birthday. And yet it somehow hasn't yet become an internet sensation. Puzzling!) I like to write sorts of experimental comedy short stories for as many holidays - especially the fall and winter ones - as I can find inspiration for here each and every year. They're always intentionally rushed, rough around the edges, and largely about seeing what I can come up with when I push myself to write a little awkward comedy as a writer. (So, yes, rest easy, my professional level writing is worlds better than this.) Nonetheless, they're important to write, as so to remind you, dear readers, that yes, I am actually an aspiring fiction writer who's dedicated his life to the literary world. (And not just an awkward nerd who babbles about video games, politics, and science.) And so, without further ado, welcome to the 2009 Spiral Reverie Theater of the Spooky!

Morton Greenblatt and the Worst Halloween Party Ever

Morton Greenblatt brushed his teeth only about half as often as he should. I'd say that you couldn't blame him for his lack of enthusiasm for oral hygiene after losing a finger two years ago in a freak flossing accident, but that would be giving him too much sympathy. For just these reasons, he'd never been particularly popular amongst his coworkers at Stillborn Staplers. His yellowing teeth gave the women the heebie-jeebies, and the men were never impressed when they learned how he lost his missing digit. Let's be honest - there are only so many good missing finger stories. And failure to pay attention when flossing is not one of the good ones. By this point, Morton's one-less-finger jokes were about as stale as the boss's tireless efforts to blame his inability to lead on Bob Arkham at corporate. Many had even begun to doubt Arkham's existence.

Against their better judgment, the Stillborn Staplers accounting department had agreed to hold their yearly Halloween party at Morton's apartment. "Hey, he's finally useful for something," they thought, relieved to be out of the office and drinking. With the recession in full swing, there was little solace in anything but drinking. If anybody passed out, Morton was the least likely to get 'friendly' with them in their unconscious state, as it was apparent that he'd never touched a woman in his life. They did not, however, count on his having an 'outgoing' dog. That night, there was much shaking of legs, and not in the sense of dance.

"And then Martha said, 'Pass the cheese doodles!'" Morton concluded his story with as much enthusiasm as you'd expect from somebody who thought pretending to punch a live cow would make a good viral YouTube video. (It only got 200 hits - most of them looking for somebody doing something else to a cow carcass. A certain type of Rocky parody. Something YouTube wouldn't host. Let's not go there.) The Martha referenced here did not actually exist outside of Morton's wishful thinking.

Morton had hoped to regale his coworkers - perhaps make some friends, maybe actually find someone willing to set them up with a cute friend - through his presumed amazing talent for telling a yarn. In reality, Morton was near-insufferable when he thought he was being charming and witty. The only thing worse than a stupid person with too much self-confidence is a stupid person who thinks they're smart with too much self-confidence. Born with a thicker skull than most children, Morton lived relatively oblivious to the rest of the world's views on him.

It's a given that Morton was not exactly an experienced party-thrower. Or even an experienced party-goer. In high school, he was less popular than that forgotten bucket of rat poison. And by graduation, that bucket of rat poison was dating one of the smartest and prettiest girls in school - together, they were bound for Harvard Law and a future of sweet, sweet litigious love. The same bullies who used to pick on Morton also hated the bucket of rat poison - they told themselves he was only admitted to Harvard because of the novelty of having a student who was also a bucket of rat poison. But this bucket? He earned his admission. That other bucket of rat poison that received an honorary MBA from UCLA last summer? Dumb as a bucket of rocks. Nobody who's hired that bucket has made any money.

But as usual, I must digress. While that bucket of rat poison may be a true hero fo our times, having overcome adversity and achieved the American dream, this is a story about his apless classmate, Morton. They had mutually acknowledged one another but never spoken. Mostly because Morton wasn't sure how a bucket of old rat poison could speak. But I never claimed Morton was smart. (It's so obvious!)

As the evening progressed, Morton continued to drill holes in his coworkers' skulls with his inane chatter, telling horrible stories with the precision of a seasoned dentist out to torture their patient. (You'd better laugh at those bad teeth puns. They're hilarious to the maxillary!) Many of the partygoers had begun to suspect that Morton was, in fact, not the partymeister he claimed to be. And as the alcohol ran out - and Morton didn't even buy the good stuff - the accountants began to quietly trickle out of his apartment, their khaki pants stained with shame it would take at least several washing machine cycles to fade. Tonight had been a mistake. How could one human being surround themselves with so much Potatokins the angry potato merchandise? He was a one-note joke character!

"C'mon, guys!" Morton encouraged them, putting on an old C+C Music Factory album, "let's pump up the jam!" That wasn't even a C+C Music Factory reference! This was the last straw. Collectively, the accountants weren't good at much beyond crunching numbers. They weren't articulate enough to tear into Morton over his unsatisfactory party, and they didn't really want things to be tense at work on Monday, so instead of responding to the partyscheister, they cast furtively grim looks in his direction, mumbled thanks for the booze, and shuffled out onto the cold 8:35 PM asphalt. At least they'd have the rest of the night and weekend to forget the embarrassing ordeal.

For what it's worth, Morton wasn't actually that bad of a guy.

For those who finished this story and found themselves hankering for more Stillborn Staplers action, check out the first comedy blog post that introduced the company! See how I'm gradually developing a surreal, intertwined narrative in my blogging universe? You should be afraid.


8bitcity said...

I lol'd at "Boomer the Drunken Ghost" funny stuff!

3 years you've had your site? Wow. *bc is coming up on its 2nd anniversary... suddenly I'm feeling older. It's been a long time blogging!

Keep up the nice work!

8bitcity said...

Sorry to double-post but I just read "Morton Greenblatt and the Worst Halloween Party Ever" and also enjoyed it! You have a very Pynchonian style which works well with the crazy characters. Speaking of Pynchon, I highly recommend V; it is an amazing book set in post WW2 America with lots of dark comedy.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Yep, Spiral Reverie launched back on January 1st of 2007, so it's coming up on its 3rd anniversary now, though I've only been writing regularly here since that summer. Obviously not an explosively viral blog, and I still need to figure out how to best improve it visually, but my main focus as of far has just been to produce meaningful and worthwhile content for those who bother to drop by and stick around. Substance being paramount, as opposed to another of the millions of blogs designed for minimal-substance skimming.

I've really gotta figure out more of this "marketing" stuff, since it's going to be important in getting this site out there more as well as raising awareness of my work once I get my novel published. It's a challenge for me since most of the work that entails just feels kinda obnoxious to me. "Hey such and such corner of the internet! Check this shit out!" Throw some jazz hands in there for good measure or something.

Glad you enjoyed the stories, at any rate! Always nice to get feedback. :)

And yeah, time flies, haha. I wrote the first couple of posts way back in the day when I was in my last semester of college, and the vast majority of the content here's been post-graduation/stuck-at-home era stuff. Kinda cringeworthy to think about how long I've been home and not going anywhere so far, though I try to comfort myself with the reminder that I'm far from the only person in our generation dealing with this, anyway.

Thanks again, at any rate! Some nice milestones for 8BC there too. You keep it up as well! I always enjoy the writing you do on all these retro titles - lots of stuff I'm hoping the Virtual Console will eventually see. We're definitely seeing a lot of obscure and unlikely stuff on there as is. Just downloading Final Fantasy a couple of weeks back made me really wish more NES RPGs were available on there, considering how many great niche ones there were.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time I've been compared to Pynchon, either. One of my professors did back in college when I was writing humorous poetry in his classes. I haven't actually read any of Pynchon's stuff, so I suppose I should at some point. The kind of style I affect when writing this kind of absurdist short fiction differs greatly from my novel writing style - which is more personal and usually first person, though there's still humor there too - but I've written a fair amount of sketch comedy that I haven't done anything with yet, as well as bits and pieces of comic scripts in the same basic style. I'll have to check V out. It definitely sounds appealing. Thanks for the recommendation! :)