A. Template for the Crrrazy-Bar-and-Grill Story
At the Crrrazy Bar and Grill, where everybody loves you and your worst quirks, Joe Schmuck cradled a foaming mug of Schlitz, sitting in his regular black leather barstool. The stool’s panoramic view allowed him first glance at whatever otherworldly creatures would slime inside Uhura’s [insert more Irish sounding name because they’re so crrrazy and they likes they booze]. The balding bartender wiped down the counter as in sashays his fiery red-headed daughter, whom Joe secretly pines after–the superfluous love interest that is never quite requited so that readers return, story after story, wondering when those two crrrazy kids will hook up. They’ll almost make out, but then she’s beeped out to LaGrange point 2.5 to settle the alien dispute raging there.
In [walked, zapped, sizzled, slithered] a(n) [extra-dimensional being, time traveler, cockatrice, the oafish two-headed were-snake] with a mean thirst for stouts–only Joe didn’t know it was a(n) [extra-dimensional being, time traveler, cockatrice, the oafish two-headed were-snake] until he/she/it did something dastardly, putting the whole universe in peril!
But thank God for Joe and the dipsomaniacs at the Crrrazy Bar and Grill, who come together when they’re needed most. [Insert corny gag at the end to release tension through a forgettable denouement.]
B. Questions for Popular Templates
Is it enough to kick over a man’s many-storied sandcastle, laugh, and walk away? Isn’t the gesture like the hole left from a foot passing through walls of sand?
What is a template, but the framework that satisfies many, not unlike eating a pound of chocolate in one sitting? Is it that the few are displeased that many are happy with little, or that the few are displeased with much?
What drunken misfit wouldn’t want to guzzle a beer-sticky oak floor where misfits fit in? What lover wants the chase to end: Isn’t that what leads to boredom, musty motel rooms, and expensive divorce lawyers? Isn’t it fulfilling when the clumsy two-headed oaf saves the universe precisely because of his unfortunate birthmark as it gives hope to the rest of us misfits?
C. Pop Will Eat Itself
Socrates’ fame inflated like a latex balloon by his popping other balloons with questions lathed to pinpricks. But what foundation did he ever smooth with a trowel? Can an ecology of pincushions and wrecking balls exist alone?
The snake consumes its tale.
Or does it? Is Frankenstein any less for creating a monster that seeks to destroy him as much as the creator seeks to destroy the created?
Long ago there was a man called Keha, the finest kite-maker in the kingdom. In his house was a small workshop, where he taught children how to make kites: how to assemble the wooden frame and cover it with handmade paper that he painted for them in intricate designs.
When Keha was an old man, he told the children to stay away from his house while he built them a surprise. They waited impatiently in their village until the day he invited them back. Daydreaming of kites, they ran through the rice fields to where he lived, but they found only one wall of his house remaining. The others had been knocked down to make space for his surprise.
Smiling broadly, Keha greeted them from the side of the largest kite ever built: larger than his house, painted blue like a clear, deep lake, with all manner of creatures swimming across its surface. Great fish with bright scales of red and yellow bared pointed teeth or held a wide tail above the waves. Serpents with green scales and wicked smiles waited beside small, fragile ships. Women with bare breasts and gold crowns around their topknots, and each with the tail of a fish, sat on rocks and held out lotus flowers to passing sailors.
The best thing about this kite, as far as the children were concerned, was not its beautiful decorations: this kite was magical and, with the right wind, the children and Keha could fly on it.
Many joyous days passed on its back, flying over the rice fields and jungles of the kingdom, even glimpsing the capital with the shining gold chedis and the multicoloured roofs of its palace and temples.
Then, on a day when the children were working for their parents, Keha watched fearfully as a great wind blew up. His massive kite tugged on its ropes, snapping one and then another. Not wanting it to tear apart under the strain, he cut the other ropes. He watched as the kite flew away and never saw it again.
But people from the far south of the kingdom are known to say that, once upon a time, a kite larger than a house fell, ripping apart the ground where it crashed, and that a great blue bay filled with fish and other creatures was formed.
It was the day without a story. At least, if we were reading the dials and blinking lights correctly.
The fictiometer sat in the middle of Professor Woodfern’s desk, whirring and clanking.
“According to this,” he said, nose grazing the pages of the operation’s manual as he read, “we’re in a state of storylessness. It has no beginning and no end.” He looked up, and got that voice he had when he dictated articles on critical theory, “An atemporal state of irremediable middleness. A paramodern and yet curiously prelapsarian condition attended by the utter suspension of causality.”
“Meaning?” I said. The machine was beginning to overheat, so I hoisted the nearest window a open couple inches.
“Events happen, and other events follow, but nothing causes anything else. It’s all isolated, as if the laws of profluence had been suspended.” There was a quiver in his voice as he looked out the window, where the shadow of the clock tower didn’t fall on the roses.
An airplane droned overhead.
My scalp tingled.
In the next office, someone sang a tune without words, only to be interrupted by their own laughter.
I picked up the operation’s manual, and clonked the side of the fictiometer with it the way you’d bang the side of a malfunctioning TV.
The readings didn’t change.
“So it’s true,” I said.
And then, other things happened.