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The International Writers Magazine: Narrator too

Triskaidekaphobia
• Oswaldo Jimenez
Chris pinched the knight with his thumb and index finger and with a delicate twist of the wrist made two skipping moves in the air before placing the ivory horse-head on the black square, between his opponent’s Rook and his Bishop.

Pawn

Check!

Victor, his opponent, did not immediately make a move. He stared at the board. His mind had been occupied in trying to remember which of the socks that he was wearing had the hole in it. He had been wiggling his toes inside his shoes trying to feel the hole in the sock, to no avail. To Chris, the vacuous look of concentration in Victor’s eyes had worried him a little, thinking that perhaps Victor may had come up with some unpredictable move that will free his King from check mate, in one move.

The black king remained under check. Victor was frozen. He was now moving the tip of his tongue along the back of his crooked teeth, searching for that cavity he knew he had to get filled before it got bigger. It’s funny, Victor thought as he glided his nimble tongue along the moist walls of his cheeks, how everything seems to be larger than life when felt with the tongue.

Check, Victor. Mate in one!

Dead end Victor was still wiggling his toes trying to feel for the hole in his sock. His tongue could not find the cavity. Victor’s eyes hovered over the board, scanning every square, every piece, every lane. He was moving each and every possible piece in his mind, trying to find an escape for his King. There was no solution. He was defeated.

Shit!

"Now is the Winter of our discontent," Victor murmured. He lowered his head and flicked his black king with his index finger knocking a pawn, a Bishop, and the offending white knight in the process.

Shit!

"You do those epic lines a disservice," said Chris. "I think Richard was celebrating the end of that winter," Chris said staring at his opponent’s face.

"Made glorious summer by this son of York," Victor added abruptly.

Another game, Victor?

"You realize that this is the thirteenth game you’ve won," said Victor.

"The thirteenth game you’ve manage to lose," mumbled Chris.

Victor closed his eyes for a moment. In his mind he was still playing with his toes. He could almost see his toes wiggling in the dark confines of the inside of his boots. The rough texture of the socks felt like sand paper on his delicate toes.

"My mind is just not in it." he said, "I can’t get past two moves without losing my focus, you know."

"Perhaps, we should call it quits." blurted Chris,

"Of course, there may be one way you can bring me back into the game," said Victor, "perhaps a small wager?"

"Victor! I think you just uttered the magic word! What will it be then?"

"Chris, I think it has to be something more valuable than just money." said Victor, "After all, you know how I feel about betting money on chess, it bores me." Victor said adamantly. "Let’s try something a little more risky, something more daring. I know you feel empowered after having your way with me on the chessboard today, so i’m sure you’ll find it easy to agree to wager something dear, something, I don’t know, that has more value than money.

More value than money? I don’t think so, mumbled Chris. "Well, let me think, more value than money? I guess nothing is more valuable than money to me, except, my life, but I don’t think you’re morbid enough to go there, right Victorino? "Besides, I don’t want to risk my hide playing a silly game, although you make it sound intriguing. But no thank you." Chris said coyly. "Are you proposing something that goes against my religion? You know how I feel about sexuality, I’m straight and I don’t dab, or experiment."

"Ha, ha, not what you’re thinking my friend. let’s bet our bonuses. Let’s play for the complete thirteen thousand dollars you and I got as a bonus from the firm this year." Best of five. Draws don’t count. Offered Victor.

"Wait, wait, the entire thirteen thousand?" asked Chris.

"If you win, you get my bonus. If I win, I get yours" answered Victory.

"You greedy son-of-a-bitch! What splendid Idea! Ha! set them up!" said Chris gleefully.

"You greedy little shit. " Victor mumbled to himself.

Victor Juarez and Christopher Marlowe were partners in a law firm in Washington DC. They had both attended the same University, graduated, and clerked at the same law firm. Chris was a year younger than Victor. Chris was the son of a college professor, whom he referred to as the blue collar guy, because he felt his parents had not made a good investment with their Ivy League educations, and had decided to follow each other to the world of academia after making a killing in the stock market. Victor, on the other hand, was the son of true blue collar workers. His father had been a super at a building downtown, and his mother had worked as an office clerk in a law office, in the same building his father worked, and where they had met. Victor’s parents had spent all their savings to give Victor the opportunities they did not have, and a shot to a better life: the blue collar parent’s dream. Victor had obliged.

OK,OK,OK! STOP! STOP! I have to stop you here. I know exactly what you’re going to say next: That I, Victor, was born poor and that Christopher was rich and that this game of chess was a game of life and that I was going to somehow beat Chris at the game and win the money, in a surprisingly turn of events, so that the reader would be, you know, elated, not surprised, necessarily but happy to read about a loser winning for once, thus relating to Victor, because in life, in real life, things don’t happen this way. When you lose in real life, you lose. You rarely get second chances. The rich, those with money, are better off than the poor, and they lead better lives than those without means. So basically, I have to stop you here because you are doing what’s been done a hundred million times. Besides, I don’t care too much for the story, I think it’s cheap and stupid.

Mr. author, I think I know why your going on with this, but I don’t understand what’s in it for you. I mean, do you get some sort of satisfaction at making this shit up? Perhaps you are in search of some sort of recognition. Aha! that’s it, isn't it? You want attention. Well, let me tell you, you are not going to get any attention if you continue to write these terrible stories “with their transparent plot devices, one dimensional characters, remedial grammatical errors, adverbs galore, lazy writing, and smug hipster irony.” Notice that I did not make this up myself but lifted it, that’s right, I lifted that description of bad writing. I plagiarized it from that letter you got requesting a donation for some literary magazine, and you wrote it down because it reminded you of some of the work you’ve read, or work that sounded familiar, right? It sounded familiar because it describes your work! Succinctly. Does it not?

HA! This is a first. At least for me as an author. I did not think that one of my own creations, one of my “galley slaves,” ( to borrow from Mr.Nabokov) would actually turn on me, defy me, criticize my writing, my own work; which, in turn, I must say, denigrates all my creations, thus, it becomes a transitive insult, because by saying that my work is not good enough, you are basically saying that YOU, as a creation of mine, are not good enough to exist. So, you see, you cannot say that my work is banal, or that it needs no attention. Also, just so you’ll know, I do not do this for vanity, or for ‘attention.’ I don’t crave attention, and I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I have to, it is in me, and it will out.

“It will out” Right! Now that is funny! You realize, of course, that I am a victim, don’t you? I am a victim of your imagination. YOUR imagination. I come from the same organ that is trying to rationalize this narrative. What I mean, if you don’t get my drift, is that you cannot lie to me. I know what you are thinking. I am a creature of your imagination, I come from your brain; from your thoughts, so I know what you are thinking, and I know the reason why you write. I know what you are writing is a lie. It is a lie you made up to help you cope, to help make you think that what you do is not a banality, a longing for attention, that it “will out,” meaning that you are doing this magnanimously, for no reward, monetary or otherwise; when in fact, you’re doing this because you cannot stand not to be 'rich and famous' from what YOU think is good writing. Well, I hate to brake this to you but, A- You are not smart enough; B- your work is not good enough; and C- As a character of your own creation, I am one dimensional. Add it all up and you get ‘Oblivion.’

Oblivion! You bastard. I can’t be bothered with these thoughts! You know that all I have to do is stop writing and you’re gone. As you said, you are a figment of my imagination. You live and die if I want you to live or die. You are gone if I decide you're not worth the effort. Or, I could revise this entire document, press the 'delete' and you’ll be nothing but a forgotten thought!

Perhaps you are right. So why don’t you continue? Or, better yet, would you like me to summarize the story here so that you don’t have to spend too much of your time with it?

Here it is, your story in a nutshell: The two friends from college, one rich one poor, are playing chess. The poor guy, Victor (me,) is in serious financial woes ( but you won’t tell us why ) Victor lets Christopher win the first thirteen ( 'thirteen' used to make the title of the story make sense ) games ( so very transparent ) so that Chris, ( you make the name short to make him seem familiar to the reader and to Victor, to show they are good buddies) gets confident and allows Victor to talk him into betting the large sum of money ( thirteen thousand dollars, again. 'thirteen,' not an arbitrary figure in you little scheme) Where did they get the money? Well, you already thought that one out too: they work for the same law firm and they get an end-of-year bonus, thus, they both have the ‘cash-in-hand’ ( notice that I am using cliches so that you’ll feel comfortable with my eloquent descriptions) then you have the two friends start playing a game of chess ( a match that you have already picked out from the annals of chess history: the Boris Spassky, vs. Bobby Fisher game for the championship of the world) and you picked out the match where Bobby Fisher uses a particularly odd move with his knight, which, you thought, would make things ‘real’ ( note the quotes) and you interject the story in between moves, thus: White: PK4 - black: PKB4 etc.. using the nomenclature of the annotated game to add veracity to the tale (realism) so the reader is 'fooled' into thinking that this is plausible, or that the story is really happening, and that you are a clever and intelligent author.

So, Did I spoil your story, Mr. author? Press delete now!

Thank YOU! but I think you fail to understand what a story is about. You have given away the 'plot' of the story, a plot that may or may not stay as you describe it. Sure, you are a one-dimensional creation, but the reason is not because you cannot become a rounded character, or that your presence in my story is a happenstance. You a tool, nothing more than a tool, a conduit to show a state of mind. I will use the characters to help develop the narrative, and as I have said before, I will use YOU as a pawn for telling of the story. So the narrative will develop and be told, not by telling, as you just did, but by showing the actions of a character, thus showing to an audience that there are consequences for actions. That what a character, such as you, does, shows the intent, and the results of the actions, some disastrous, some not.

You, my friend, are nothing but a ‘galley slave,’ again quoting Nabokov. You're created to do my bidding. You don't decide on your own what it is that you will become. I decide. I am the author. I am the creator. This is my world. As Mr. Edward P. Jones eloquently said about his novel The Known World: “I as the ‘god’ of the people in the book, could see their first days and their last days and all that was in between, and those people did not have linear lives as I saw all that they had lives.” As I write this lines, I start to become uneasy, because of the implied schizophrenia this exchange is beginning to reveal. I feel like Lord Chesterfield urging his son to be the perfect man and also be able to seduce a married woman. This, my friend, is what I do. And remember, as if you didn’t already know: it is not whether or not Rome and Juliet die at the end, it is the manner in which their tragedy has been written, word, by word, and sentence by beautiful sentence.

Then why Triskaidekaphobia? You had chosen this title to be an allusion to bad luck, a phobia: fear of the number thirteen ( you think you are so clever, when, in fact, you didn’t know its definition until you looked it up on Wikipedia! ) and hoped that the unsuspecting, or the not very well informed reader, would not make the connection ( but will make the connection, after Googling the title and reading its definition on Wikipedia like you did.) For your chosen title to make sense, and to add some intrigue, and a silly 'twist' to your narrative, you make me, Victor, tell a spooky story about the thirteenth floor of the building where Victor’s father worked; that way, everything fits in nicely into the title, and Victor ( a very transparent name, right? a foreshadowing of the end of the story: The Victor, the winner, but also a stupid stereotype: if your name is of Hispanic origin you are likely to be the son of laborers, and poor ) So Victor wins the money, stops fearing the number thirteen, and the story’s end is happy, tidy, without any lose ends. Notice I did not use any adverbs.

Just so you will know, my dear Victor, this is not the first time a character has tried to gain consciousness, it is not the first time the character has been used as a device to make the reader think there is more to writing than placing words together to form a narrative, it is not the first time that a narrator has attempted, and failed, at trying to create a character that gains consciousness. It's a cheap trick. It's not the first time that a character in a tale, as a magpie, is granted the ability to recognize its own reflection in the mirror of the words of the author; but as the magpie, the character, who "may be astutely aware that its reflection" is wholly dependent on forces it cannot comprehend, or obfuscate. So, if I may have the last word, and I will have the last word, this is a pantomime, a way to make the creative process seem more mysterious than it actually is; for, if not, then, I surely suffer from schizophrenia.

© Oswaldo Jimenez Jan 2013
artzonline@gmail.com
Secret
Oswaldo Jimenez

Idolatry. There’s really no other way to describe it. My behavior had reached the idolatrous phase. The shrine of sorts that I had created inside my walk-in closet was clear evidence.



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