Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Welcome to the second in a rare but nevertheless plodding-along series of blog posts where I give away, for free, awful short story or novel ideas I've had -- yes, I give these ideas away 100% free of charge to you, the reader, to write them as you will, and I'll even throw in the basic outline for the low, low price of only 4 easy payments of $49.95. But if you call in the next 10 minutes, I'll knock off one payment so it's just 3 easy payments of $49.95. But wait! There's more! I'll even throw in the first idea absolutely free. If you don't like the second idea, you can return it for a full refund at any time ... but keep the first one as my special gift to you.
This idea is a fairly recent one, as I woke up one morning around 2:30 a.m. last month having dreamed about a man who suddenly developed the power to shit money.
I got no further than that. I could sense on some subtle emotional level that a book about a man who shits money wasn't the sort of idea that would lead to a rich vein of wealth, praise, artistic freedom, book tours, &c., &c. My guess: the constant descriptions of shitting money would be a stumbling block.
But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps in these troubled economic times, shitting money is just what people want out of their literary entertainment.
So what say we brainstorm this one together?
1. There's a man living somewhere in an average mid-sized city in America at a regular work-a-day job. Let's say he's in construction. Ooo! Ooo! You know what? He's in plumbing.
2. OK, so this plumber supports a family and lives your standard lower-middle-class life, aiming for bourgeoisity but not quite attaining it. He's got a wife with dreams of one day seeing a ballet that isn't on PBS, a kid is still in diapers pooping himself (foreshadowing) who Mr. Plumber would like one day to go to a decent college and work in an office and make lots of money shifting paperwork from one end of a desk to another.
3. One day without any warning or reason, Mr. Plumber goes to the bathroom to do his regular No. 2s, the way you do -- and right away the reader is going to know there's something different going on here. Because usually fiction writers leave this stuff out. Much the same way they don't make characters speak the way real people speak, including for example they cut out the "ums" and "you know, likes" and other related verbal stalling. Writers never bother to include bathroom breaks by characters unless it's integral to the story. Like, Melville didn't show Captain Ahab squatting over a bucket on the Pequod, breeches laying around his leg and stump, examining his nails or staring at a ball of dust in the corner while he relieves himself, because taking a shit on a boat was the one aspect of whaling life Melville figured was unnecessary and perhaps better left unexamined given their steady diet of warm beer and whale meat. So right away when you show Mr. Plumber unbuckling his Wranglers and sitting down for a shit, the reader is clued in. They are trained by previous experiences with storytelling to know Something Is Different. They will think, "Hold on a second. Characters don't shit in stories unless something good happens. Something good must be about to happen." Which it does, because as Mr. Plumber stands up to clean himself off, he notices there's money down in there. Mixed in. When he fishes the bills out and rinses them off in the sink, he counts $167, to be exact.
4. Come to think of it, this could be very Gabriel Garcia Marquezzy. Forget this America business. America doesn't sell. Nobody in the literary world is interested in what average Americans are like. Mr. Plumber is Señor Plumber. I'm pretty sure this whole story takes place in a village somewhere in a fictional magical realist Latin American country not unlike a mixture of Chile, Cuba, and Atlantis.
5. But he's still a plumber. The most famous, most talented plumber in all the land, who is bringing -- hold on, this is getting good -- bringing modernity to this backward village of magically realist Latin American villagers by tearing down their outhouses and selling them flush toilets. We're locked in. You can't tell this kind of story without involving "modernity" somehow.
6. Being able to shit money has obvious benefits. This is the part of the story where everything looks good for our characters. The plumber's wife and baby are becoming fat and happy and entitled. They're able to buy nice things and become big-shots in their village. Luckily for Señor Plumber's family, the exotic Latin American food in his fictional country doesn't quite agree with him. Thanks to this, he soon becomes even wealthier than he would have if he'd just been peddling his toilets from hovel to hovel. However, coins are difficult for his system to deal with, and hard to get really clean.
7. One day, Señor Plumber is settling down in his now opulent bathroom for his usual 3-hour after-breakfast session at the commode, forcing himself through circular breathing and patience to expel as much baksheesh as he can. As he does, he notices something curious (yes, more curious than a man shitting money). He gets up, wipes, and instinctively reaches into the toilet water as usual. Except this time, he hasn't shitted out pesos or whatever fictional currency used in his land. It's deutschemarks.
8. The plumber tries to shit money again after a particularly spicy lunch, but again no dice. He shits out 3,480 drachmas. They don't take drachmas anywhere! This is wherever-the-hell they are, not pre-European Union Greece! There's nowhere to exchange this currency! Again and in increasing desperation, the plumber withdraws to the facilities, and Señor Plumber keeps coming up with nothing. Bupkes. British pounds sterling. Malaysian ringgits. Indian rupees. He fishes them out of the water, rinses them in the sink, and hangs them on the clothesline anyway, just in case, but he is growing worried.
9. From here it just gets more absurd, and while the stress is not good for Señor Plumber's bowels and therefore should be good for his wallet, he just isn't producing money the way he used to. The plumber begins to shit obscure Arabian currencies belonging to countries that haven't existed for centuries. Confederate States of America greenbacks. Roman coinage. Spanish doubloons. Beads and feathers of the kind once traded by the American Indians. He shits out a long furry thing that after running through the washing machine proves to be a beaver pelt, and, in one cringeworthy paragraph, some stone arrowheads. [Insert more stuff about modernity here.]
10. Señor Plumber, of course, is thrown into poverty because his intestines aren't making money for him anymore, and he's been so busy shitting money that he hasn't sold and installed any toilets to the villagers lately. His wife is disgusted with him, and the constant odor, and has decided to divorce him and take the baby to The Big City where she can pursue a career in some sleazy endeavor and come to a morally unambiguous end (whatever fictional magically realist Gabriel Garcia Marquezzy city that is -- a mixture of Las Vegas, Rio, and Atlantis). The plumber grows lonely and despondent and one day while he's digging a trench to install new flush toilet pipes at the village monastery, he drops to his knees in pain and dies on the spot with a confession to God on his lips. The Franciscan friars are concerned, of course, and several of them carry him off to the doctor, noticing how heavy the plumber is despite his slight build. When they get to the village healer's humble shack, the old doctor presses the plumber's abdomen, his eyes widening with amazement. The doctor slices the plumber open and finds the cause of death -- he's got a 20-pound trapezoidal bar of solid gold lodged diagonally in his colon, engraved with the legend: "PROPERTY OF U.S. TREASURY." This has something to do with American imperialism, but I haven't worked that bit out yet.