Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Go Ahead and Try Not to Drown

Hey, what is this? Is it - is it a post of some kind? (Come on, man. What are you thinking?)

Mid-September's kind of crashed down on us, hasn't it? Crashed down like what, you ask? Silly readers, now that I've returned from my unannounced furlough, it's time for you to sing and dance - perhaps not too quickly, excessive exuberance can be a killer - but the time for metaphor is later. Perhaps. Yes, later. Let's say that.

So, where the hell have I been? Here, there, everywhere, nowhere. A good armload of meaningless, question-dodging answers - that is to say, I've been struggling with inspiration. It's been a messy summer and I still don't feel like I've fully normalized healthwise yet - now thanks in part to some worries about potential hypertension problems (Methinks it's time to get stricter about exercising more often again now. Let's hope I'm just faltering in the face of hypochondriac tendencies here.) - and otherwise, much of this week and past weekend were consumed by downward plodding toward the end of summer. This plodding entails the dropping of the temperature just enough to ensure the air conditioning isn't on much, which leads to my room - which has poor ventilation and circulation - becoming exceedingly hot, uncomfortable, and all around ovenlike, which can be a real sleep-killer. And of course, with the new TV season starting very soon (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia season six premieres on Thursday! Also, the new season means more of the usual blog fodder, of course.), I need to push myself to start normalizing my sleep cycle a bit more after how much of a mess it's been all summer. (None of this has helped my health, of course. So maybe that should be my primary reason for normalizing my sleep - at least compared to my currently wrecked cycle - as opposed to OH BOY TELEVISION.) Without those little slices of death, the big sleep comes much sooner than later, they say - I've got too much I still need to accomplish before I can let myself get that tired.

At any rate, there's been plenty this summer to write about that I haven't exactly taken advantage of. There was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back in April, for one, which should have served as more of a wake-up call to the nation to begin reducing fossil fuel consumption and shift our focus to green energy sources. Then there was rampant anti-Mexican bigotry in Arizona, the manufactured Shirley Sherrod scandal thanks to professional liar Andrew Breitbart, and a visible explosion of Islamophobia centered around a proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan - just a couple of blocks from ground zero. ("Hallowed ground" in the sense that strip clubs, fast food joints, and the like are A-OK, but a community center is not because after years of implying it now, now many Republicans are openly conflating all Muslims with terrorists.) The usual September 11th (Celebrate Terrormas by buying gifts for your whole family and burning down the household World Trade Center replica TOGETHER! NEVER FORGET.) memorial was marred by open displays of bigotry, and a fixation on Florida pastor Terry Jones's trolling for media attention by planning a Quran burning just to be incendiary and lower the discourse even further. And of course, just yesterday the Democrats in congress folded on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the face of a John McCain-led Republican party line filibuster. So much has happened in the past few months that's really filled me with overflowing faith in humanity. So, so much. (Ow.)

All that mind-numbing positivity aside, it's time for something different! Sort of. It's September 22nd now. Summer's about to end, and autumn's about to begin. All of you have been beating the war drums for weeks, demanding to know: WHERE THE HELL IS THAT AUGUST SHORT STORY!? There were reminders that I had pledged to post a short story a month on here - even if these short stories have often been delayed into early in the following month - back in February, and I've largely kept to my word. There were also some obscenities in there, but I chose to omit those because this is a fucking family-oriented blog. (You've got a foul mouth.) At any rate, just short of the end of summer, it's finally - finally! - finally time for the long-awaited end of summer ultra-late August short story.

Of course, after this long wait, you're undoubtedly expecting something simultaneously mindblowing, touching, and potentially deeply corrosive - if nothing else, you've always been able to count on my writing to be at least a little corrosive, if only in intent. What are you getting this time? Something even better - I ran out of ideas as we got into late summer, though I wanted to do another somewhat seasonal story as I largely have been all year long, at least in my mind. But after ending spring with death, hitting you with heat with the late-June story in early July, and hitting you with post-apocalyptic firefly sci-fi in early August for the late-July short story, I basically had nothing.

So now you're thinking, "If you've got nothing, why are you even writing this? Why are you wasting my time?" Reasonable questions. Reasonable questions deserve honest answers - they deserve accountability. And I've been predictably irresponsible in following through with achieving my own goals. I'd say addiction to underachieving is some kind of illness, but it's more of a personality thing bundled with excuses. And if I weren't good at making excuses - especially in hopefully becoming a regularly working writer within the next year or two with deadlines and the whole shebang - what kind of writer would I be?

Enough with the digressions. To end summer, you need an appropriately summery theme. What says "summer" more than the beach? Who spends more time on the beach than lifeguards? (Ignore the usual beachgoers, hermit crabs, certain jellyfish, etc.) Wouldn't a semi-allegorical internal monologue by a disgruntled lifeguard suffering some kind of PTSD be the greatest story ever conceived? Of course it would. (If nothing else, it might be kinda original. Kinda.) That's why I wrote this. I wrote it for you. All of you out there looking to bake your brains on itchy, sandy, summer-ending storytelling. You're welcome.

Consider this to be my sort of beginning the "fall season" of Spiral Reverie updates, in a manner of speaking. More productivity, more writing, hopefully some publishing, and continued agent query work lie ahead. Maybe I'll finally get out of here and make it someplace more interesting and inspiring within the next year, too. I'm pretty well past feeling like I could drop dead at this point, so with the autumnal equinox coming up in these next twenty-four hours, I hereby proclaim The Summer of (Anything terrible that starts with the letter S) at a close!

Now click the post title and jump down to the story itself. With all this other rambling as a preface, this one's pretty short - some concepts can only go so far before they risk transforming into something else entirely. This is just another experiment.
Go Ahead and Try Not to Drown

Some kid drowned last week. Another senseless, tragic accident. Maybe they shouldn't have swum out that far. You don't set foot in the ocean without learning about the undertow. Please tell me kids still learn about that. Anyway, unpopular opinion here, but maybe this time it was the kid's fault. You've gotta be vigilant out there. You can't go too far. Being six is no excuse.

What I'm trying to get at here is that you assholes who keep blaming me on the editorial page need to lay off. Presence of a lifeguard does not equal a one hundred percent rescue success rate. Some kids get pulled under. Some kids drown. Some kids die. You can't save everybody. Basic fact of life. Let's not kid ourselves.

I sit out here for six hours every day risking melanoma for you people. What for? A decent paycheck? Benefits? A tax write-off for sunscreen purchases?  I won't be getting these hours or skin cells back.

"Life's a beach." I hear this every time I remark that my job's not all sandcastles and slow-motion running. It's not funny. You guys think we just get up every morning thinking, "AW YEAH! I CAN'T WAIT TO GET ITCHY SAND ALL OVER MY FEET!"

Some of us occasionally get nasty bouts of psoriasis. Ever think about that? We can't all be David fucking Hasselhoff.

There's other ways to treat a jellyfish sting. You're not going to die. Stop being so eager to piss all over each other. Do you think I enjoy calling the cops on you? The beach is still public space. We don't have to contaminate everything, you know. Please tell me you know this.

And shut up about the sharks already. You're more likely to die in a falling coconut accident than get gobbled up by Jaws. Do you really think you taste that good? If you saw a fin, it was probably a dolphin. Those won't eat you. But if you're out that far, you're pretty much fair game for the undertow.

Remember how we have a little thing called the continental shelf out there? That ocean currents affect you more the further out you get? That after a certain point, there's a sharp drop off from the landmass into deeper ocean? You don't want to get too close to that. We can't save you out there. There's no magical automated net system to drag people too stupid to stay near shore back to land. Maybe you could take a few hours off from fucking around and visit one of our local marine museums - maybe learn a few things.

You guys had me out there for an hour yesterday looking for some other kid. You swore you saw someone out there in the waves, that you heard them crying for help. Then it turned out the little brat was asleep back in the hotel the whole time. Then you tried to brag me back out there again today.

I get it. You're still a little on edge. Just because one kid drowned does not mean that all kids will drown - even if, technically speaking, all of them can. There's no need to keep us all out there all the time. We're still human. You can talk up our profession all you like, but don't waste our time or risk our lives if there's no one to save - the pay is shit, and your thanks are just as meaningless if all you want is for us throw our lives away so you don't have to feel as afraid of something that can never be completely stopped. At least try meeting us halfway and stop letting Shark Week scare you shitless. Use your brains a little. Stop listening to the propaganda. We drown too. Nobody should have to die to protect your paranoia.


*T-Abby* said...

LMAO "...falling coconut accident" Best. line. ever.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Glad you enjoyed, haha. I figured that if nothing else, maybe I could get a few decent one-liners out of this one, since it's one of my shortest and weakest stories yet this year with a fairly clunky core allegory at best.