Thursday, May 14, 2009

Excerpt from "Jack" -- A Theme Thursday Post

Today's Theme Thursday topic is "(Wh)oops." For the full, somewhat intriguing story of how that topic came to be, click here, and then here.

What follows is a segment of a story called "Jack," which I co-wrote with my former writing partner, a talented writer and even more talented cartoonist named Skip Simpson.

I'll spare you the intricate details of the project's genesis, but basically it boiled down to this: One night circa 1982, I was paradoxically bored and inspired while visiting Skip. Suddenly, I sat down at the typewriter -- remember them, fellow babies? -- and wrote about a page and a half of... stuff. I handed it to Skip to read.

After reading it, and noticing that it ended with a mini-cliffhanger, Skip looked at me and said, "Okay, now what?"

I replied, "Now it's your turn."

Skip added about as much as I had written before him, leaving me with a cliffhanger.

We handed the story back and forth this way until we'd completed "Jack," which ended up being about seventeen pages long.

So today's entry, as stated above, is just one section of the whole, and naturally (because it's here, on my blog), it's one of the sections which I wrote. Not Skip!

The setting: The summer cottage of John Sylvester "Jack" Parmenter. Jack is wallowing in self-pity sometime after being dumped by his girlfriend, Arlene... a break-up due in part to the influence of her obnoxious brother, Bernie.

And in keeping with today's theme, it kinda/sorta
starts with an "oops." And it kinda/sorta ends with an "oops." I hope you enjoy it... kinda/sorta.

Other than that, I only need to add the following incidental comments:

1. At several times during the story, Jack receives phone calls from people asking for "Roland." (Jack doesn't know anyone named Roland.)
2. At this point in the tale, Jack has just made a disastrous attempt at preparing a supper of Spam. Don't ask.
3. You'll probably notice the constant use of the term "damn," or a variable. That was a running
schtick between Skip and myself which seemed a lot funnier then than it does now.

* * * * *

Shaken and more than a bit exhausted, Jack made his way back to his study, the study with the thick shag rug upon which he had so callously thrown his last cigarette more than half an hour ago. No Arlene, no Spam, no Marlboros... What else was left? Not even Bernie, for that matter, not even damnable Bernie.

Jack leaned against the study table, reminiscing about when he and Arlene, in a moment of idealistic romantic fantasy, had planned to marry and buy a beach house, one with a large picture window overlooking the sea. In his mind's eye, Jack could not only see that picture window, but could see through it. He envisioned Arlene strolling arm-in-arm with... Bernie, walking along the shore on a sticky summer night, barely visible but for the orange dot of Bernie's ever-present Marlboro in the distance.

Unfortunately, Jack's cozy little three-room cottage, which he had bought after recognizing his occasional need to get away from it all, was situated in the backwoods of Connecticut. Therefore all of Jack's meandering thoughts were reduced to pure bull-feathers, best left to screenwriters in search of time-consuming visuals rather than plot.

Abruptly, Jack found his attention riveted to the floor, or more precisely, the carpet, which had smoldered for roughly forty-five minutes and had now, finally, burst into flame. Evidently, he had not fully extinguished that last cigarette, as he had thought. "Damn!" he shrieked, as he realized that the aforementioned "getting away from it all" had insured only that there wasn't any water available in his cozy little shack.

Or wasn't there?

After a few moments' deliberation, Jack thought of the nearby fishing pond he so enjoyed. By that time, however, he'd been backed up against his study table. The phone was within reach, but by the time he could summon the fire department, he knew it would be too late.

Where could he find liquid, any kind of liquid? Ah-HAH! he thought, perhaps the sparsely-stocked liquor cabinet, conveniently located beside the study table? Hopefully, he hadn't polished off all of his expensive stock while wallowing in self-pity.

He rushed to the liquor cabinet, which also contained his small but valuable assortment of collector's item LPs. First he found the bottle of Dom Perignon champagne he'd bought in a nearby village and brown-bagged for breakfast. Empty. Damn! Quickly, he checked the other bottles in his small but high-priced collection. Irish Mist, empty; Chivas Regal, empty; Seagram's Crown Royal, empty; Chateau Mouton-Rothschild '29, empty; Tango, empty! Now, the entire cabinet was empty, and the only nearby portion of floor not yet burning was covered by discarded bottles. Jack leaped onto the study table. The closes door was ten feet away, separated from Jack by a roaring sheet of flame. Was there even a slim hope for survival, he wondered desperately?

The telephone rang. "Damn!" exclaimed Jack, reaching down to grab it.

"Hi," said a cheerful voice. "This is Roland. Any messages for me?"

"Yeah, some guy called earlier." Jack could feel the flames licking at the soles of his bare feet. The smoke grew thicker.

"Well, who was it?"

"I don't have the slightest idea. I didn't know him." Jack thought for a moment, then added, "I don't know you, either, for that matter!"

"Oh, yeah? Well, up yours, Jack!" said Roland angrily, before hanging up.

How did he know my name, Jack wondered. Suddenly, his attention was brought rudely back to the towering inferno now threatening life, limb, and record collection. He had to take action now.

One slim hope existed, decided Jack: the snow on the roof! It could extinguish the blaze. From atop his study table, Jack studied the study. Although he himself was surrounded by the fire, most of the rest of the room was as yet unscathed.

He grabbed his dictionary from the study table, weighed it carefully in his hand, frowned, put it down, and reached instead for his Thesaurus. Testing it, he decided it was perfect for what he had in mind. Taking careful aim, he hurled the Thesaurus at his large framed print of Norman Rocckwell's little-known version of The Last Supper, where Jesus and all twelve apostles smiled brightly as the turkey was brought to the table.

Just as Jack had intended, the book hit dead center, causing the print to fall to the mantel below. The sudden jolt knocked the imitation marble mantelpiece off of the fireplace, crashing to the floor and knocking over the cheap metal cart holding Jack's croquet set.

A red wooden ball rolled from the overturned cart and across the floor, nudging the brass coat rack forward a few inches, where it struck the ornate molding and fell over, slamming against the study window. As the window shattered, a stray piece of glass flew across the room and onto the hair trigger of Jack's shotgun, which Bernie had carelessly propped up against the side of Jack's favorite rocking chair.

The shotgun fired a deafening blast into the ceiling, causing a great hole to appear even as plaster and chips of wood rained down upon the blazing study. But no snow.

Jack suddenly realized that since it was August, there was no snow on the roof.


* * * * *

"Damn," indeed! Or, if you prefer, "(wh)oops."

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ Okay, okay, suffice it to say that Jack didn't die. Skip explained that Jack had taken an elective college course in Native American Rituals, y'see... so Jack did a little table-top rain dance which saved his life. Happy now?

("Jack" copyright © 1982 David M. Lynch and Andrew G. Simpson.)


  1. This was a very fun and funny story. You guys must have had a great game of going back and forth. Loved the "mouse trap" scenario of the domino effect to finding no snow in August. Simply joyful to read!!!

  2. rofl. great stuff! enjoy your writing, funny. love the absurdity...random Roland calls, then Roland calls randomly...too much. Reminds me of Tim Dorsey a bit, whose good for a bit of absurdity. table top rain dance...need the rest of the story please.

  3. I knew what was coming when you said "shag rug" and "Marlboros". What I didn't expect was the "Mousetrap" game at the very end. Good job...had me going right through. I still want to know who this "Roland" fella is though.

    Kat (fellow baby)

  4. LOL,a damn good story!
    But at the en who was Roland??
    The mystery,lol.

  5. 1) A Shaggy Rug--not Dog--story?!
    2) What fun!
    3) "Skip Simpson" is an awesome name for a writing partner. Sounds like the name of a newspaper guy in Dick Tracy or somethin'! "Skip Simpson, star reporter for the Galaxy Gazette..." (Note: I was saddened to discover his real name is Andrew...)

  6. That was quite fun! Great post, thanks for sharing. Jack sounds like an interesting character. :)

  7. Fabulous story...I am with Brian Miller....we need and "The Rest of the Story"

  8. Thanks for the smiles. Yes, we need more!

  9. "thoughts left to screen writers in search of time-consuming visuals, rather than plot"~~~ain't that the truth! Love it!

  10. Loved it lol And then? What happened next?

    Thank you for the great Whoopsy story!

  11. Studied the study. I laughed out loud there!

  12. That Jack is the dullest tack don't ya think? Great Whoops story. You're always so entertaining.

  13. Here it is, almost 9:30 p.m., on Thursday -- excuse me, Theme Thursday -- and I didn't get home until about half an hour ago! Busy day, and NOW I get to read everybody else's TT entries!

    As far as the complete "Jack" story goes, I appreciate all the folks who asked for the whole thing, but I'm not sure if I can post an entire story copyrighted to myself and someone else. I haven't spoken to Skip Simpson for 17 years -- no horrible falling-out or anything, we've just gone our separate ways over time -- and I have no idea if he'd allow it.

    If that situation changes, you'll hear about it on my blog.

    In the meantime, if you really need to have answers, send me $100 and I'll send you the complete... Sorry, just kidding!!!

    The good(?) news is that sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be telling the story of the Simpson/Lynch partnership. (But don't hold your breath; I have many irons in the proverbial fire at the moment.)

    And by the way, after that surreal phone call from Roland himself, the only other mention of Roland in "Jack" is at the story's end, when Jack is advised by his dad to sell his ruined Jeep Cherokee to a junkyard called "Roland's Wrecks and Repairs."

  14. Silver Fox, you have a strange and probably disturbed mind. Isn't it fun?

  15. A fun story, I really enjoyed it. And yes we need the end, but can see we will not get it. So the rain dance will have to do. After the rain dance did it flood? Cause we could use a rain dance in CA right now.

    Great whoops story and thank you for sharing your half.

    God bless.

  16. Sandra: Yes, insanity is a lot of fun.

    Mrsupole: Nope, no flood. And sorry you folks will miss the rest of the story, especially Jack's ride downhill in an outhouse, followed by a Jeep Cherokee...

    BTW, how do you pronounce "Mrsupole" -- I hear "marsupial" every time I read it, and I'm sure that's not right -- and where'd the name come from?

  17. 4) Bawk bawk bawk! Find Skip Simpson! Get his permission! Your readers demand it!
    5) Whoops! I'm kidding.
    202) (No I'm not!)

  18. Skip Simpson, Your Former Writing PartnerMay 15, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    Hi. I'm Skip Simpson. You might remember me as your co-writer of stories such as "Jack." Feel free to put up the rest of the story. Damn, I have a great name.

  19. I would LOVE to believe that the previous comment was really from Skip Simpson. However, knowing how people around Blogger like to goof around... Here's a few questions only Skip can answer:

    1. What was the play we were in when we first met?
    2. Who was "the big-nosed kid?" (The one you dated, not the super-villainess from "Hawklad?")
    3. What was my first paid writing job, thanks to you?

    I will not take a chance on stepping on anyone's toes by printing "Jack" unless I'm sure.

  20. Okay, okay, okay. It was me. But I'm confident I would have answered those questions correctly. Here goes:

    1) Moby Dick: The Musical!
    2) Snoopy
    3) Writing on a bathroom wall.

    I'm right, right? Right? Sigh.

    (No desire to have you step on Skip's toes; I just figured you'd know it was me.)

  21. as kids we used to do this sort of thing with pencil and paper and about some weird concoctions...
    i don't know how authors can co-write...the whole process just seems to personal to share.

  22. More!, More!, More!

    LOL funny...{luv-ed it

  23. Very whoopsy! Very good writing. I haven't been here before, but I'll be back.

  24. Of course you can print the entire story!
    1. Moonchildren
    2. Selena
    3. Tom Foolery's Menu
    Glad to hear from you again after all this time! Maybe we can write again! Skip

  25. Well! Nice to hear from the real Skip Simpson.

    As far as posting the "complete" Jack, it won't happen until I can return to the 'net full-time, but Sparkle and the others should be pleased.


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