Friday, 25 February 2011

Writer's circle post - February 2011

Snap

"Tom Cruise?"

"Yours."

"David Beckham?"

"Yours."

"Robert Downey Jr?"

"Mine."

"What?" Spluttered God, spilling his orange juice into his goatee. The juice dribbled down his chin and soaked into his Hawaiian shirt, staining almost instantly and leaving him looking like a sweaty fruit salad. He sighed heavily and bought both hands across his face, removing the facial hair and shrinking his nose while widening his cheekbones. With a flick of his wrists, the soiled shirt became a white t-shirt printed with the slogan 'I'm with stupid.'

"I do wish you wouldn't do that." Said Satan, peering with fascinated disgust at God's latest face. "It really creeps me out. Besides, your eyebrows are wonky."

God ignored him.

"Why do you get Robert Downey Jr?" God asked petulantly. The Devil took a sip of orange juice from his glass in order to delay answering. The glass - an ornate goblet made from the inverted skull of a shop-lifter - looked somewhat out of place in God's new walnut and granite fitted kitchen. Like eyeliner on a budgerigar. Still, Satan liked to maintain an air of malignancy, especially at brunch.

The Devil buttered a scone carefully and took a small bite, chewed thoughtfully and then swallowed. He took a crimson handkerchief from the pocket of his jeans and wiped his mouth slowly. God knew that he had to indulge Satan when he was in one of his antagonistic moods, or risk him sulking and holding his breath until he fainted. Again.

"Come on now" Said Satan, in answer to the question posed some paragraphs ago, "You know the rules! A prison stay, drug abuse? He's clearly one of mine."

"It just doesn't seem fair. You get all the rock stars and gangsters and all I get are the philanthropists, noble prize-winning scientists and country and western singers. If I have to hear about the discovery of the double-helix one more time, I think I'm going to scream!"

God sat at the breakfast bar (which the builders had kindly installed free of charge when he caught them pissing in the sink) and sighed again. "Sure, Darwin was fun for a while - remember when we showed up at his funeral and you told him he was going to your place for what he'd said about evolution? And I was dressed in my finest smiting robes? I hadn't worn them since the old days! The look on his face! But now who have I got to look forward to meeting? Justin Beiber?" He dissolved into silent sobs.

Satan sat down opposite God and patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. "There, there. You've got Mandela to look forward to."

God's shoulders stopped juddering and he looked up through newly-grown pink dreadlocks. His red-rimmed eyes twinkled with recognition. "Yeah," He said, "Yeah, I bet he'll have some good stories to tell!"

The Devil looked down at his perfectly manicured fingernails for a few moments, and a sly smile crept up his neck and onto his face like a particularly acrobatic woodlouse.

"Of course," He said slowly, "Mandela has been incarcerated."

God's face, now that of a stern West Indian woman, crumpled and fell.

"But, that was a corrupt regime, he was innocent, surely that doesn't count?"

"Rules are rules," Said Satan, massaging his knuckles gleefully. "My Goodness! What fun we'll have! Cocktails with Nelson and Adolf on the veranda, with a marvellous view of the fire pits. I can introduce him to Vlad and Benito, and Caligula will be thrilled to finally have someone to play boules with."

God was crestfallen. He demanded that they consult The Rule Book. The two deities spent twenty minutes searching for the text, which they found being used to prop up a wobbly table leg in the study. In removing the book from under the table, they displaced the cat from her perch atop a yellowing collection of What Car? Magazines. The cat had been lazily musing on the nature of existence, and whether God could be tried by the court of human rights for calling her 'Mrs Pussy Lumpkins.' She had concluded that, being a cat, she was not entitled to due judicial process and resolved to speak to her representatives about putting together a case for extreme mental cruelty. She was tipped from the table and shooed from the room. She croaked her displeasure, and went to phone her solicitor, to see if she might be entitled to compensation for wrongful dismissal.

Satan whisked the leather-bound Rule Book from God's hands and opened it out on the table.

"Here," He exclaimed after several minutes perusal, "Rule 64. No soul held in penal servitude can be eligible for entry into the Glorious Hereafter. See!" He picked up the book and shoved it in God's face. God squinted at the print before snatching the book from Satan and pulling it close around him, so that the Lord of the Underworld could not read it. God furtively removed a biro from the dinner jacket he was now wearing and hunched over the book. The sound of scratching came from within.

"Ah ha!" Said God triumphantly, a moment later, "You forgot to read the exceptions! You're going to be disappointed!"

The Devil smiled a tight-lipped smile and scratched his cheek with his middle finger, simultaneously making a rude gesture at his host. God didn't notice.

"'No soul, blah blah blah, except prisoners of war, Boy George and Nelson Mandela.' So there!"

"Boy George?" Satan pulled on the covers of the book, forcing them downwards and towards him, pulling God's fingers away one by one from the spine. He coupled this attack with a jab to the ribs and bit down hard on God's left shoulder.

"Now come on!" Said God, in a perfect parody of the Devil's pomposity, "Rules are rules, you said so yourself!"

Satan kicked him hard in the shin and God relinquished his prize with a yelp of pain that dislodged his eyebrows once more.

The Devil held the book open at arm's length above his head, while God danced around him, trying to catch hold of it again.

"Hold on," He said, placing his palm on God's nose and forcing him downwards and out of the way. "Wait a minute! That last bit is written in pen! In your handwriting!"

God shrugged. "I knew it was a bad idea to put Boy George in there. I got greedy - I'll admit that. But I just love Culture Club so much!" And with that, he stretched out flat on his back on the floor and sang Karma Chameleon at the top of his voice.

Satan listened for a while, but by the end of the second verse his patience began to wane. How could dreams and love be coloured red, gold and green? Not only was it inaccurate, it was positively garish. The Devil had always preferred Duran Duran.

"OK," He relented, "I'll give you a chance to win Nelson back. Think of it as a wager. A challenge. We'll play for his immortal soul!"

Those expecting a dramatic clap of thunder at this point will be left wanting, although the cat did emit a small burp from her seat on the stairs. Mortified at her own impropriety, she retreated to the relative safety of the bedroom.

God pulled himself to his feet, with the aid of a conveniently-place lamp-stand, which clattered to the floor as he rose from it. His face had changed once more, so that he now resembled a old farmer, complete with cloth cap and mutton-chop sideburns.

"Chess?" said God hopefully.

"No," Replied Satan. "I am sick to the back teeth of playing chess with you! We'll play cards, and you'd better turn off your omnipresence. I know you've been cheating at Gin Rummy. Poseidon has lost a lot of money through your tomfoolery!" Satan pressed his pockets, searching for a deck of cards. "And don't you think of cheating like you did last week with Diana."

God smiled benignly. "What a lovely girl." He said. "To be honest, she wasn't really qualified for your place."

"No, but she'd have some stories!"

"She does indeed," Said God smugly. "Why, only last night, she and Mother Teresa were discussing..."

"Shh,I'm not interested. I just don't think its fair that you failed to mention that you were the Deities and Demi-Gods Secondary School Tiddlywinks champion for six years running!"

"What can I say, I was athletic in my youth." Said God, without a hint of irony.

They had, by this time, returned to the kitchen and were now sitting opposite one another across the breakfast table. The scones and jam sat between them. The Devil produced a deck of cards from his left sleeve and gave them to his opponent to check.

A lengthy discussion followed about whether it was appropriate to be gambling for a man's immortal soul with 'Dr Lovelength's Extremely Naked Ladies' pornographic playing cards. Finally God found a more appropriate pack in his kitchen cupboard.

"Five card stud?" Suggested Satan, fanning out the pack with his thumb and shuffling the cards deftly. "Aces are high, jokers are wild?"

"Snap."

Satan dropped the cards mid-shuffle.

"You chose last time," Said God, "It's my turn to choose the game, and I choose the most formidable test of skill and dexterity, of observation and cat-like reflexes."

"Snap?"

"Snap."

So the game began in earnest. God placed down a jack, Satan followed him with a four. God played a six, the Devil countered with an ace. God put a king down and Satan conceded a ten. Sweat began to form on Satan's brow as he watched the pile of discarded cards grow with not a pair amongst them. God's fingers shook as he placed a nine down over a seven. The tension was almost non-existent.

Eventually, after what seemed like hours, each entity was down to his final card. The ace of hearts sneered belligerently up from the top of the deck, the only member of the cohort to truly recognise the ridiculousness of the situation.

God looked Satan square in the eye and pressed his last card into the deck. The two exchanged a long stare, neither wanting to be the first to break eye contact, yet both desperately wanting to see the card. In an instant, both pairs of eyes snapped down towards the pack.

The ace of spades.

God's reflexes were sharp, but Satan was faster.

"SNAP!" The Devil bellowed, as God slapped his own hand down impotently. "SNAP!" He shouted again, "And I think you'll find that means that Mandela is mine!"

God shot him a sour look.

"That's not fair!" He whined, "You cheated!" God folded his arms. "I'm going to tell on you!"

Satan sighed. The Man Who Ruled the Universe did not approve of God and Satan bickering. He would probably stop their pocket money, and Satan had his eye on a lovely new tidal wave.

"All right," Satan sighed, "I'll let you have Mandela." God's face shone with pleasure, which was especially eerily now that he has luminous green skin. "But," Satan continued, "You have to let me have Boy George."

Turmoil etched itself into every line on God's face. It was a tough decision.

"All right." He said at last, "You can have Boy George."

Satan cursed inwardly. He had always preferred Duran Duran.

13 comments:

  1. i loved this story, it is very witty and fresh. is it the beginning of a bigger story?
    i generally have nothing to add, this is awesome and it just made me smile. there is very story imaginary. the little sides involving the cat made me smile. i have had a big grin on my face, my jaw is starting to hurt.

    Ella Grey

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  2. Thank you for your comment Ella, I'm really pleased you liked the story :)

    At the moment, it's a stand alone piece, but I could definitely use it as a scene in a larger story.

    I have three main concerns which I need you guys in the circle to help me with:

    1. The title. I am truly terrible at titles, and I'm really not sure that this one is right for the story. Maybe it gives too much away before the story begins?

    2. I'm a little worried that a petulant God and a childish Satan might be a bit clichéd?

    Thanks -x-

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  3. Snaps a good title, but then if you think your central theme is more than about them playing a game then maybe something else? personally, and shoot me dead if I'm wrong, your piece is a little bit of fun right? Not that it's throw away, but calling it snap is honest, potent and as I said in the very beginning, its good.
    If it's not broken...

    Cliche? Maybe, but you're not trying to redesign the wheel here. Or were you? Maybe if you expanded on the man who is in charge than you might be doing more in the way of subversion. But don't. I think this piece is a stand alone.
    What was the idea behind god constantly changing his image? I think its a demonstration of power but how does it serve the story? I figure it is not a serious piece but still, I wanted to hear it from you.

    'But now who have I got to look forward to meeting? Justin Beiber?" He dissolved into silent sobs.'
    Nice.

    The Ace of Hearts was a nice touch, so was the pack that Satan originally wanted to use. If you feel inspired to do a longer piece, its these little touches that I'll be looking out for. They felt quite original and of course, revealing ;)

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  4. I think you're right John. Snap works as a title, because it is just meant to be an entertaining squabble between God and the Devil. Sadly there are no deep metaphors in this one - Satan is just a bit of a dick.

    To be honest, God just changes his appearance to annoy the devil. My main starting point for the story was 'wouldn't it be funny if God and the devil were brothers? How would that relationship play out?' Also, I thought the image of God with pink dreads would be funny.

    I suppose this piece just serves as a bit of a comic aside - not much substance, but the aim is to raise a smile.

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  5. Well if you're still in a 'light' mood, you may want to avoid here:

    http://talesfromwordsunseen.blogspot.com/2011/02/invisible.html

    At least until later anyway ;)

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  6. Im adraid you eill nly be getting a short review here. Not really much to say.

    Its nigh on perfect. Well written, witty, lighthearted, a slap stick battle of wills. This is very you, from your sense of humour to the briliant subleties you place within to give it substance.

    It only needs to be a stand alone, i think you could lose its verve if you tried to force it into a grander plot. Snap isnt exactly a title that catches the readers interest, but more than apt. I dont think its cliche, you've made it modern with the refs, and kept it original with your wry humour.

    Bravo

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  7. Interesting discussion between God and Satan. I don't know if I would have God sobbing. Maybe extremely frustrating but even in this give and take bantering, crying seems out of place. Since I don't understand the game Snap, I didn't quite get the card playing. Also, I didn't understand the reference to the Man Who Runs the Universe. Is this person above God? Don't want to get too philisophical, but then who is God? I'd stick with the comedic angle, sort of a spin-off of the Job story. On your dialogue declarative statements, put a comma before the tag line, not a period and don't capitalize the word said.

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  8. Hi Stephen, thanks for your comments :)

    The idea behind this story was to have God and Satan bickering in a brotherly sort of way - hence the petulant behaviour from God and the goading in which the devil indulges. I can see your point though. I wanted to make the God character unpredictable emotionally and the devil character a school-yard bully. (Any resemblance to any deities living or dead is purely coincidental).

    This was also the reasoning behind the 'man who runs the universe'. He was to act as an authority figure in the scenario. It's also a bit of a nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - which has a similarly-named character.

    I didn't realise that Snap was not universally played. I guess this makes my story a bit too ethnocentric for a wider audience. I will remember this for next time.

    Thanks for the grammar help - I will correct this for any re-posting. :)

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  9. Said from a rather christian view point there!! One of the things i enjoyed about this is that; whilst the central characters are 'God' and 'Satan' it isnt a story centred on the precepts of christianty, bt rather transends them with the mention of other Deities and the man who rules the universe.

    If you choose to read deeper it coul even be read as a slight mockery of the christian ideals. God isnt some omni potent supreme being majestic in his might, but rather someone who is childish, using his power out of pettiness. And rather than satan being the epitome of evil and sin, he is meerly a pretentious bully, whos wickedness goes back to the oldest tenets and punishes the bad. By the rules of the book of course.

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  10. Yeah, that's exactly it Ashley. Originally I called the characters God and the devil - then I changed them to Zeus and Hades because I was worried about offending the Judo-Christian tradition. But then I realised that it's only fiction, and in no way bares any resemblance to any real deities. So I went back to God and the devil. I hope I didn't offend anyone though, that was certainly not my intention.

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  11. I wasn't offended but then that's no suprise is it? I think that you shouldn't rule out snap or anything else that might not be universlly recognised. Just so long as you're careful with tiny bits of exposition, the Americans reading your work will get it. Plus it's challenging.

    So many different people read Neil Gaiman for instance, and just look at the stuff he writes. SO MUCH English culture in their! But he works in a little exposition here and there, often with an American in the story who can act baffled. Clever literary device that. Any American reading it and not getting what Snap is would identify with the Yank in the story.

    Hope this helps!

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  12. Hahahaha. I thinking writing and laughing because of this story kind of reserves a place for us in hell. :-P

    http://ficklecattle.blogspot.com/

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  13. Thanks for your comment fickle cattle. :)

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