Charles Placard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: November 19, 2016

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Submitted: November 19, 2016

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Chapter One:

The sullen skies opened up, and he was suddenly caught in a monsoon, only, weren’t monsoons usually warm water, because the icy raindrops didn’t feel particularly warm,


 

“Shit!” screamed Charles Placard, from where he lay in his sleeping bag, on the front lawn of his friend Rupert’s house.

He’d been sleeping there the last few nights because, until he thought up some way to become rich off his writing, which he’d yet to do, he was a little down on his luck. This being the first week of February, the weather was atrocious, but this was the only way Rupert had agreed to let him stay here. He knew he should just get a job, but Charles Placard wasn’t a man to give up easily, and what he wanted was to strike it rich off his pen. But alas, so far at least, he hadn’t figured out what the people wanted. He’d tried everything from serious to humorous, and everything in between, but had nothing to show for his efforts. He just couldn’t figure it out; there just HAD to be a way! Just then, Rupert stuck his head out the door and called,

“Time to clear out--I’m headed for work.”

Charles grumbled and mumbled under his breath. “Yeah, yeah, dick head!” This was the agreement. He had to sleep outside, and everyday, when Rupert left for work, he’d have to clear out. Why Rupert wouldn’t even trust him on his front lawn when he was away, Charles didn’t understand. No food, no bathroom (Charles washed up at the Handy-Mart bathroom), and nothing which vaguely resembled humanity. He stumbled his way over to what he jokingly referred to as ‘Placard Place’, the 4-door monstrosity currently serving as both his home, or would have, if it wasn’t jammed full of his belongings, and his office-on-wheels. Strewn across the front seat was what he’d gotten accomplished in his latest attempt to write a serious novel, “Fall Asleep, Dream a Little, and Die!”. It was much slower going because he was using a pen instead of his computer, and his spelling left something to be desired, but he was getting close to being done. While he waited for the circulation in his hands to return, man, was it ever cold, he reviewed what he had written yesterday:

Bobby restelessly turned over. In his dream, he was holding the sharpened steak nife in his left hand, the fork in his right. Boy, was this steak ever tuff! It was all he could do to cut a peece off the bloody steak. So tuff, that he had to push with all his mite--and still, the meat remained solid. Damn it, he wanted a bite! He pushed still-harder.

Damn it, cut, you bast...”

Sudenly, the nife cut all the way through, and cut into his leg! Bobby snapped wide awake, only to see his hand come down, grasping a bloody knife, and, almost as if there was some invisibal hand holding the knife, over which he had no control, plunge the cold steel into his flesh. Bobby screemed/laughed hystericaly, as his own hand repeetedly stabbed downward!”


 

“Charles Placard, Mr. LaRue will see you now”

Charles strode confidently into Mr. LaRue’s office, at ‘Fantastic Dramatic Press’, at least with as much confidence as wearing the same exact clothes for 3 days would allow. Sure, he hadn’t had much, or any, luck, but today was another day! He still believed deep in his heart that he was a great writer, destined for great things. After all, all it took was for one company, one man, to recognize the greatness within him, and he’d be off and running! Maybe this company, this man, would be the one.

“Hello, Mr. LaRue, I’m here to give you the first shot at a literary gold mine, me!”

“Have a seat, Mr. Placard, I understand you’re the author of this manuscript.”

“Yes sir, that’s correct.”

“And you still say that this is a dramatic novel, correct?”

“Correct.”

“Well, I just wanted to see you for myself--this is unbelievable!”

Yes, after all this time, somebody was being smart and snapping up greatness!

“This is unbelievably bad, I mean, and he read outloud:

...cawsed Bobby to shriek in agony, and beg for his mother, even though she had abandined him at birth, in the backseat of a hatchback, and gone in pursuit of her dream of becoming a hot-coal walker in the Cirk of Flames Traveling Circus. His mother, nor anybody else, could save him now, as his hand, seemingley with a mind of it’s own, cept flashen down, still holden the bloody nife, and reepeetedly plunged the nife-blade into his leg!”

“I mean, what? A man losing control of his own hand and stabbing himself? Ha, ha--this would make a better comedy book than a dramatic one!”

Not again--“Well, Mr. LaRue, I thought you were smarter than that, but you can’t see the obvious greatness before you. Good day, sir!”


 

Charles turned over, and his horn shrieked, causing shouts out of darkened bedroom windows across the neighborhood his car was parked in. His sleep-filled eyes searched for his wrist watch. He held up his wrist, so he could see it by the light of the streetlight up the road where he was parked, and groaned. It was only 3.15 am. He just had to come up with the novel that would make him rich very soon--this living in his car blew! He had been staying on Rupert’s front lawn, because his car was jammed full of his belongings, but the hell with that! He’d got rid of much of his belongings, and moved into his car. He would no longer be subject to Rupert’s ‘conditions’, and besides, it was too damn cold outside. As he lay there, shivering (he didn’t want to waste gas by starting the engine so he could run the heater), his thoughts were again focused on topics for a book, there just had to be something, and he was bound and determined to find it!


 

As he lay in the arctic waste that was his front seat, he caught a glimpse of himself in the ice-shrouded rearview mirror. His longish brown hair hung down in straggly, total messy clumps. Boy, could he ever use a haircut, but there was no way he could afford one. His writing had better start paying off soon, and paying off in the form of money. He’d heard it said that the creative process should be reward in and of itself, but the hell with that; he wanted cash money! He was starting to resemble a mountain man, with his beard; and his hungry eyes looked like a dog, slobbering over Aunt Gertrude’s pork chops. He was as determined as ever to become a wildly-successful writer, and was sure he would, but he didn’t know what to write about. He thought back to every horrible occurrence that had lead him to this wasteland of existence:


 

It had started innocently enough, Charles had had a series of loser jobs; graveyard shift fry cook at a truck stop from Hell, selling aluminum siding, which was way less glamorous than the name implies, and many other great jobs. They were great, only if you considered dead-end to be great. So one day, he looked around himself, and said,

“That’s it--no more!”--he had quit the aluminum siding business, and walked away. He was going to become a best-selling novelist. The only problem was, he had absolutely no idea what he was going to write about, and absolutely no experience. He didn’t know the first thing about writing, but it couldn’t be that hard, after all, look at all the movie stars and celebrities who had written books. Granted, they were telling about something that had really happened, or so they claimed, but the idea was the same, write about something exciting, no matter if it was true or not.


 

Charles sat in front of his computer, waiting for something, anything, to pop into his head. Hey, maybe he could get inspiration from the view out the window of his rental house; except he had a front-row seat at a lumber yard. How exciting!


 

The longer he sat there, the more frustrated he became. The hell with it, he had to write something. He watched the lumber yard, and angrily began to type:

The Fast-Talking Lumber King

By Charles Placard

Chapter One:

The man crawled on hands and knees away from the burning inferno that used to be his discount lumber warehouse. Now, it was a dangerous blowtorch that threatened to consume him, and chased him on legs of fire.”


 

So began Charles Placard’s first novel. He’d called it “The Fast-Talking Lumber-King”, about a criminal on the run who uses an assumed name to get a job as a lowly cashier on weekends at a lumber supply warehouse and climbs the corporation’s ladder, until, after a few short years, is promoted to president of the company, and then buys it. On the surface, he’s only a successful entrepreneur, but in the evenings he runs an illegal betting ring out of the warehouse. Charles knew this novel would be a bestseller someday--the only question was which book publisher would step up and grab the opportunity by the ‘tale’?


 

Charles rose the next morning full of anticipation, he’d gotten a phone call last evening from Behemoth Press, saying they’d like to set up an appointment to talk to him. He was confident once they met, face to face, he’d snag a book deal.


 

He walked in to Behemoth’s offices and went up to the receptionist’s desk.

“Can I help you sir?” asked a beautiful blond woman.

“Yes, I’m Charles Placard, and I’ve got a 10:00 appointment to see Mr. Calamine.”

“Yes, Mr. Placard, I’ll buzz Mr. Calamine and let him know you’re here.”

She dialed a number, and after a few seconds, “Yes, Mr. Calamine, Mr. Placard her to see you. What? Yes, the comedy writer.”

“There must be some mistake, I’m not a comedy writer, I’m a dramatic writer,” said Charles, rather indignantly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you wrote the comedy book that has the whole office laughing to themselves. You may go in the office straight down the hall. Mr. Calamine is expecting you.”


 

A few minutes later, Charles knocked on the office door of Mr. Calamine.

“Please, come in,” answered a voice from inside. “Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you something to drink?” asked Calamine.

He was so nervous, and a drink would help calm him down. “Sure, a double whiskey on the rocks sounds good.”

Mr. Calamine shot him an incredulous look, and replied, “Ah, I meant a soft drink, coffee, or water. I’m afraid we don’t have any liquor.”

“Then nothing for me, thanks.”

“Fine, I’ll get right to the point. We liked what you wrote, and we’d like to offer you a book deal.”

Yes! Charles had known all along he had a winner of an idea. “Well, Mr. Calamine, I’d very much like to work something out, what is your offer?”

Calamine replied, “We here at Behemoth Book Publishers have been on the lookout for a good comedy writer, and we’ve finally located one. Our off—”

“Hold on there, Mr. Calamine, I think you have the wrong book in mind.”

“Is it the book about a lumber yard owner who also runs an illegal betting ring out of his warehouse? Hilarious!”

Charles shot back, “A comedy book? No, it’s a dramatic novel.”

“Dramatic, hell, it’s unbelievably bad writing. There’s no way you could expect people to take it seriously. Surely, you meant it as a joke, for no one could write that badly on purpose!”

Charles was immediately angry, answering, “I’m not going to sit here and have my work made fun of! I believe our business is concluded,” and with those parting words, he stomped back down the hall, passing several employees on his way towards the front door.

“Hey man, very funny stuff! Let me be the fir---hey, where are you going?”

Charles continued on his way out of the building. He was pissed!


 

When he got home, the first thing Charles did was pour himself a big drink of straight booze. Usually, the taste of straight alcohol made him sick, but he didn’t even taste it. How dare they basically make fun of his work, who the hell did they think they were? After he’d finished the first drink, and ½ of another, he had calmed down considerably. After he’d finished the second and third, he started to think the book company’s offer sounded pretty good, after all, he had no money now, and they were going to make him an offer. So what if the humor was unintentional, they were going to market it. For the right price, he could endure having to see people laughing at his novel. He picked up the phone, and dialed a number.

“Hello, Behemoth Book Publishing Company, this is Daisy, how may I help you?”

“Yes, hello Daisy, I was just in to visit Mr. Calamine, could you please connect me with him?”

“Sure, please hold the line while I place you on hold and ring Mr. Calamine’s office.”

“Thanks, Daisy.”


 

“So, as I was saying, I’m thinking of adding a new character, a guy who thinks he’s right even if everyone else disagrees with him. I was merely acting out the part to see if it would work, and I think it would add a comic fleshing out to the book. And of course I was kidding, you’re absolutely right, no one could possibly write a book that bad and expect people to take it seriously,” Charles said.

Calamine answered, “Well, Mr. Placard, you sure had me convinced. Sure, we’re still going to make you an offer, and did you ever think about acting? You played your part brilliantly!”


 

Chapter Two:


 

Charles Placard’s hand was cramping at this point, so he decided to give the computer keyboard a rest. He had typed and retyped the resumption of the story which he was telling in his second attempt at writing a novel, but none of it lived up to his lofty standards. He had to face it, he was stuck. “In the Tent of the Samurai” was proving difficult. Despite his first attempt at dramatic writing, “The Fast-Talking Lumber-King”, being mistaken for a comedy book, and Behemoth Press publishing it as such, it had sold unbelievably well, and he now had a deal for another with Behemoth he had to fulfill. He would make sure with this one, there would be no more mistaking it was for comedy!


 

Charles had taken a break from his writing, and was watching an old movie on television. It had to do with a group of foreign travelers taken prisoner by an evil king. That gave him a great idea. He rushed back to his typewriter, and the words flew from his mind onto the page:


 

The men struggled in vain to escape from the dungeon, and the evil clutches of the demented samurai warrior. Judging from the skeletons which littered the cold gray stones of the dungeon’s floor, they wouldn’t be the first of his unlucky victims.”

Perfect, it was a great place to continue the story. So far, his novel had it all--sex, madness, war, a villain, and several would-be heroes. All he had to do was the tying it all together, and tell the story.


 

He was once again sitting in the offices of Behemoth Press, nervous but determined to tell Calamine this book was as good as he could do in writing a dramatic novel. He was just about finished with it. When he had resumed writing, the ideas had flowed almost non-stop. He was grateful his first book had done well, but as a comedy book. He hadn’t meant for it to be a comedy, but what the hell, he’d gotten his foot in the door, and now that he had some clout, he was going to use it to market the new novel as a straight dramatic book, not as a comedy, like Behemoth wanted.


 

Daisy the receptionist called his name and told him to go into Mr. Calamine’s office.


 

“Very good stuff, this is outstanding!” said a clearly-excited Calamine. He then read a part of Charles’s novel out loud.


 

Danny had to escape, but there was one small problem, between him and the door to freedom were 12 ninjas with automatic weapons. He tried the oldest trick in the book, he called out,

Excuse me, guys, but I’ve got to go to the bathroom, could one of you kindly untie my hands?”

He thought they’ll never fall for this--you’d have to be pretty stupid. Much to his surprise, one of them came up to him and untied his hands, saying,

Okay, you’ve got 2 minutes. If you’re not back out here in that time, we’ll be coming in looking for you, and you wouldn’t like that at all. In other words, it would behoove you to be standing back here in 2 minutes.”


 

He entered the bathroom and looked for a way out. He saw a small window, and the sun was shining through a frosted window at the top of the opposite bathroom wall. Danny let out an almost-silent laugh. The idiots had fallen for it! He quickly stood on a nearby chair and unlatched the window. Just as easy as that, he was outside, and free!


 

He had only taken a couple of steps when from behind him he heard a voice, “And what do we have here? Why, I do believe I should stop you!”

The person who had spoken those words was a hot-looking female ninja. She wore a skin-tight ninja outfit, which Danny would have admired, if he wasn’t getting pounded, pounded until he felt himself losing consciousness.”


 

“Hot damn, that’s some hilarious stuff!” said Calamine.

Charles was crushed. Calamine still thought he was trying to be funny,

“Eh, ha, ha, yeah, isn’t it?” He felt like screaming, “The hell with you, and the hell with this place,” but knew if he did that, he could kiss the outstanding money he was making goodbye, so he managed,

“The new book is almost fi nished, I just have a couple more jokes to fit in, and I’ll be done.”


 

Charles was despondent. He had written as good of a dramatic novel as he could, only to have Calamine at Behemoth Press once again laugh at it, instead of being gripped by the drama. He just didn’t get it, what did he have to do to be taken seriously as a writer? He made up his mind, that if Behemoth didn’t want a dramatic novel, which was the only kind he was interested in writing, and published his novels as comedy, he’d bag it, and find a publisher who’d see him for what he was, the greatest dramatic author of his generation. In the meantime, he’d go a different route. With that thought motivating him, he started writing:

Door-to-Door Evil

By Charles Placard

Chapter One:

Gloria Underwire heard a rapping at her door at 11.30 at night. Who could it be at this late hour? She rose from the warmth and security of her bed and slipped her silk robe around her naked body, so at least she’d be wearing something. Again, she heard the urgent knocking. Whoever was outside her door must be in serious trouble. She called out,

Yes, I’m coming.”

More knocking sounded.

I said I’ll be right there!” she shouted.

She swung open the door to find the oddest-looking man she had ever seen. He was dressed head to toe in nothing but black, and on his face he wore a smiling mask that concealed his actual features. Judging by the hour, and his sinister appearance, Gloria knew his real face wasn’t smiling.

Sorry to bother you at this late hour ma'am, but I’m rather desperate to make a sale, because my son needs an operation, before it’s too late--he’ll never walk again if I can’t come up with $5000 dollars by tomorrow night. Can I interest you, madam, in a set of these fine handcrafted carving knives?” and he hoisted a case, and upon opening it, lifted out a huge bladed-knife.

Gloria’s eyes got huge, and she mumbled, “Sure, I’ll take a set, how much?”

The menacing man replied, “Oh, great! They’re only $49.95. Thank you so much, you’re a great start to what I hope is a successful selling spree, so my daughter can get her operation.”

Gloria’s blood ran cold--originally, he’d said it was his son who needed an operation. “I thought you said it was your son?”

He swore, and ripped off his mask, saying, “No more games, time for you to say “goodnight”, and raised the knife into the misty night air.

Gloria saw the face concealed beneath the mask and screamed. Bits of bloody flesh hung in strips. This was no desperate door-to-door---

Her eyes saw nothing after the knife-blade plunged into her heart. As her non-breathing form slid to the floor, pumping out geysers of blood, the killer let out a maniacal laugh, and disappeared into the fog-shrouded darkness.”


 

Charles Placard sat back with a sense of accomplishment at the beginning of his new novel. Since Behemoth apparently thought his books were only good for comedy, he’d show them! He’d submit his newest novel under an assumed name, to an amateur writing contest, maybe they’d appreciate him for what he was, a great dramatic writer!


 

It had been two months since he had turned in his story, “Door-to-Door Evil”, and he’d heard nothing from the amateur writing contest. Maybe Behemoth Press was right, all he was good for was a laugh or two. Maybe he held himself high on the writing scale for no good reason.


 

He had almost given up hope--he had to start work on his next book for Behemoth, when one morning the phone rang. He disinterestedly answered,

“Hello?”

“Hello, is Mr. Placard at home please?”

“This is Mr. Placard, who’s calling please?”

“This is Jane Mainway calling from the book competition you entered, and I’m happy to inform you’ve won first prize.”

Yes, he knew he was right! He yelled into the phone, “I did?”

“Yes, you did, and we’d like to get all our winners together so we can have you all together in a photograph. How’s next Wednesday at 3.pm work for you?”

“Ah, I’m confused. I thought you said I won?”

“You did win, in your category.”

“My category, what do you mean my category?”

“Why, the comedy category, what else?” she answered.


 

Charles was as down as he’d ever been. He had received his message, loud and clear, he had absolutely no talent for writing. All he could manage to do was unintentionally and accidentally regurgitate plots that others found hilarious! Himself? He failed to see anything remotely humorous about finding he sucked as a writer.


 

Charles remembered vividly what had happened to him then. He’d decided to bag writing, and get a 'real' job, which meant shitty! He’d taken a job driving a milk truck from store to store making deliveries.


 

Charles drove the milk truck toward the grocery store that would be the next stop on his route. He had given up on his dream of becoming a successful writer--in fact he had given up becoming any kind of writer at all. That’s because he hadn’t written a thing since he’d won the comedy writing category with a story he’d intended to be taken as drama. It seemed that no matter how hard he tried to write a serious story, people seemed to think he had penned a comedy; that he was intending it to be humorous. So he had packed away his dream and taken this shit job.


 

He’d only been doing it for a week, and he already hated it. Awaking by 3am and getting that day’s orders for dairy products loaded in the refrigerated back of the truck, driving miles in all kinds of miserable weather conditions, putting up with angry store managers because one of your pint-size chocolate milks went bad, having to smell cow dung for miles, both arriving for work and leaving, getting reamed out by the angry dairy owner for one reason or another, and for putting up with all that, needing a microscope to see how much his paycheck was.


 

Charles downshifted as the fully-loaded truck strained to make the step hill up which his next store was located. He downshifted again, popping the clutch ever-so-slightly, and he heard a load ‘thunk’ from the rear of the truck, stopped, and got out. Even before he reached the back door, he could see a ribbon of milk trailing in a white river back down the hill. The hell with this--he went back to his open door, slammed it shut, and headed for the bus station. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he’d change his name, pick up his pen, and start writing again. He needed a fresh start, and he’d be damned if he’d settle for another blue-collar job. No, he may suck as a writer, but he could always make people laugh, albeit unintended laughter.


 

Jasper Winger reread what he’d just written, and kept up his furious writing until he reached the end. Using his new name, Charles Placard would send in his new book to Behemoth Press, and they’d grant Jasper Winger a book deal, and not have the preconceived notions that had kept him from reaching dramatic success under his real name:


 

Al Blank held the welder in his left hand, but his mind was already at the party. He was going to drink like a fish, and crash on his friend’s couch. Before he could go to the party, he had to finish this welding job. NASA had commissioned his boss’s company to weld their spaceship. But, since it was only a mock-up, and would never go into space, he didn’t have to check his welds for strength. He quickly ran a weld around the window, and called it good. After all, he had a party to go to…

Ahhh!” screamed the beautiful blond astronaut as she was being sucked out of the airlock. Her shriek of terror was cut off in mid-scream as her lungs drew nothing but the vacuum of space. Astronaut Zachary Taylor Kershaw, better known in the bars around Houston as ‘Zeke’, knew that if he didn’t plug the hole near the window, he too would suffer the same fate. Zeke was thinking for a moment of how he’d miss having a hot girl sharing the canned air of the spacecraft. Man, had she ever had…he wrenched his mind from pleasurable thoughts back to less-pleasurable thoughts, such as stopping the oxygen that was rushing out the hole in the ship with incredible speed. He desperately looked around, until his eyes came to rest on Jolene’s seat cushion. It was as tall as she was, cushioning her gorgeous bod…now was not the time for daydreams. He shook his head to clear it, grabbed the cushion, and stuffed it in the hole. There, it was working. Just a little bit further, and…suddenly, the cushion made a loud sucking sound, as it too was pulled through the hole into nothingness. Great! His watering eyes resumed their frantic search, but to no avail. He had removed his seat cushion from the spacecraft because it felt uncomfortable. There was nothing else to stop the air, he realized with a sinking feeling."


 

Behemoth Press was going crazy, crazy with laughter. A book manuscript was making the rounds. It was at least as funny as anything Charles Placard had written, and Charles had mysteriously vanished. So without Charles, Behemoth was looking for a new comedy writer.

“Hello?” Charles breathed into the phone. He had just answered the ringing telephone and heard,

“Yes, is Mr. Jasper Winger there?”

“No, this is the home of…”, what was he saying? Anyone calling for that name had to be from Behemoth Press. “Ah, that is to say, speaking.”

“Yes, Mr. Winger, my bosses here at Behemoth Press would like to offer you a book deal. They loved what they read.”

Charles was vindicated! Because they thought his name was Justin Winger, and not Charles Placard, they had read what he wrote with no preconceptions.

“That’s great,” he replied.

“Wonderful! We’d like to set up a time where we can meet you and work out the particulars.”

“I’m free to come in at any time.” He’d keep the meeting, and enjoy the moment they realized he was Charles Placard.


 

When he’s seen that it was really Charles Placard, and not Jasper Winger, Calamine had blown a gasket! “What the fuck? We thought you had disappeared, and we’d get to replace your sorry ass with someone whose head didn’t resemble a hot air balloon!”

“Well to be honest, I think I AM Behemoth!”

“Oh, you want honesty? How’s this for honesty? You blow as a writer, now, take a hike, hack!”


 

Charles was devastated when he had first gotten home, but now that he’d had time to absorb the news, and think it over, he was angry, and getting angrier. Screw this, he’d show them. They’d just made the worst mistake in the history of publishing! He’d write the great American novel, and really stick it to them!

The Skeleton Crew

By Charles Placard

Chapter Twelve:

Abe Mackerel was looking up--up towards the surface of the ocean 40 feet above. Below him was the wreck of the haunted pirate ship, which had sunk below the waves with a hold full of gold bouillon and an entire crew of drowned pirates. Abe alone knew the location, and he wanted the gold. He planned on diving down and somehow recover it. To that end, he was carrying an extra tank on his back--a tank of compressed helium, which he would use to inflate special rubber boxes, which would lift the heavy gold bouillon up to the surface, where his bikini-clad assistant, Trixi, would then hoist it aboard the recovery vessel. It was a perfect plan--perfect despite several great white sharks which circled the ship in hopes of getting a meal, but they soon would be disappointed, because the only sailors aboard this ship were already dead. The skeletons, still thinking they were sailing the ship, ran along the underwater deck!”


 

Charles Placard re-read the opening of chapter 12 of his new novel. It was brilliant! He had covered everything readers were looking for in a dramatic novel, money, greed, sex, dangerous animals, and horror, lots of horror. He had poured his heart and soul into the writing, and in his humble opinion, it showed. He was planning on mailing a copy to his local newspaper to have them review it. They had a section called “First Time in Print”, in which they reviewed new author’s books. Although he wasn’t exactly a new, unpublished author, his other books had all been published as comedy books, so he felt like a first-time author because this book was pure drama.


 

With hands shaking from nervousness, Charles opened his copy of today’s paper to the “First Time in Print” section, and scanned the pages. There it was! Just to be safe, he had not used his real name. He almost fainted from the excitement. The article read,

“I received this new novel by Charles Mustard in the mail. No return address was left, and I think I know why. Although I make it my policy never to review a book from anything other than a reputable publisher, I had to make an exception--this thing is an absolute garbage pile! Mustard spins like a drunken sailor from one ludicrous plot twist to the next, with the unfortunate reader left dazed, lost, and disoriented. I would have thought Mr. Mustard was going for laughs, if he didn’t include a note telling me this was a work of drama. Just listen to an excerpt from the book,

Mackerel (Abe) was thrashing around wildly as he fended off the skeleton crew’s maniacal attacks. The wild thrashing caught a Great White Shark’s attention, and as Mackerel had his eyes glued on the skeletons with swords, he felt a searing pain in his leg. He risked a quick look down, and saw a gray monster swimming away, with a human foot leaving an inky trail in the water behind him, then he let out an underwater scream, where his right leg should be, there was nothing but jagged sinews of pink flesh spewing incredible clouds of the same inky liquid that trailed behind the shark. It slowly dawned on a disbelieving Mackerel that the foot he’d seen in the shark’s mouth was his!”


 

What was Mr. Mustard thinking when he wrote this? I’m sorry if you were planning on reading this book, but as the only other copy is the likely to be the author’s, I don’t feel too bad about giving away the ending, because you’ll probably never read this. I’m surprised there aren’t child-like stick-men illustrations throughout this bloated pig’s belly of a so-called novel! It’s so poorly-written, it’s almost like a little kid’s school project, gone horribly wrong!”


 

Charles gently folded the paper, walked to the fireplace, struck a match, and calmly the lit the thing, along with his dream, on fire. That had killed it, his much-sought-after goal of becoming a successful dramatic writer. After he’d tried so hard to put down onto paper a gripping, suspenseful novel, to the best of his abilities, which were apparently nowhere near good enough, his effort had been ripped to shreds by the reviewer. For sure this time he’d been told in no uncertain terms he had no head for weaving a good story. But ‘bloated pig’s belly’ bad?


 

Charles Placard was angry. He had tried with all his skill to write the great American dramatic novel, but it seemed everyone thought he was going for comedy. His first instinct was to pack up his literary aspirations and go home, but damn it, he would make a career out of writing, but how? What should he do? The more he thought about it, the more he knew what he should do. If all the critics and fans thought he was so damn funny, then that’s exactly what he’d deliver. Why, he’d write the funniest novel ever seen by mankind! He practically ran to his computer and started writing, with much excitement roiling in his veins:


 

He would call his novel, “Stand and be Fired Upon”. It would tell the story of a coward who joins the navy, in what he thought was only a clerical position, but it soon turns deadly serious. He kept typing as one humorous situation after another sprang first into his head, then was typed out on a Word document. He typed and typed, taking breaks only when he could stand it no more. The jokes where literally almost writing themselves. He’d never been this focused. Suddenly, he reached the end. He could scarcely believe it! It was then he realized just how hungry he was. He’d review the ending he’d just written, then order a pizza. He reread what he'd just written:

...and still the bombs fell all around him. He was so scared! He’d d never thought this would happen. What was he doing here? He was supposedly only a file clerk. He looked across the waves at the specter of the enemy battleship, saw a puff of smoke, turned to start running, and... The End.


 

Man, was that ever funny--see people, now that is funny! He couldn’t wait to stick it to his old publishers, Behemoth Press. They had refused to take him seriously, insisting he was a comedy writer. They’d laughed at his attempts at drama, and he’d stopped dealing with them. Now he got an ironic pleasure from the thought of the look on their faces when he, Charles Placard, became a famous comedy writer, for someone else!


 

He’d decided on Slapstick Press as the perfect company to publish his new novel. He sat, clutching his precious manuscript to his chest. He had a one o’clock appointment to see a Mr. Carlin. Just then the receptionist, whose name was Georgina according to the golden nameplate before her, called out,

“Mr. Placard? Mr. Carlin will see you now. Through that door.”


 

Still clutching his manuscript, Charles opened the door, only it came to a sudden, jarring stop, then a small voice said.

“Hey, take it easy--don’t open the door so fast--I’m back here!”

Charles was immediately contrite, replying, “Oh, I’m so sorry! Here, let me close the door. I was just on my way to meet Mr. Carlin, and...” He had looked behind the door to finish apologizing, but no one was there. He did a double take in confusion.

“Ha, ha, ha! That electronic voice get’s everybody the first time; eh, ha, ha! Please, come in and sit. I’m Jay Carlin, and welcome to Slapstick Press!”

Charles was spitting mad, but supposed he shouldn’t show it, after all, they were a comedy book publisher. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Carlin, and you really got me on that trapped behind the door bit, eh, ha, ha! There’s probably something heavy back there to keep the door from opening all the way.”

“Yeah, a big rock--eh, ha, ha!”

Eh, ha, fricking ha! “Well, you sure had me going. I fully expected to look behind the door and see a dude holding his brains in his hands .”

“Eh, ha, ha! Did you bring a sample of the book you’ve written. The premise sounded hilarious on the phone.”

“Sure did. Here you go. I think you’ll agree that it’s comedic gold.”

“I see you brought the entire novel, but that’s okay. Give me twenty minutes to read a bit, and I’ll call you back in.


 

“Mr. Placard, Mr. Carlin will see you again,” announced Georgina. Charles strode up to the door, and walked over to Mr. Carlin’s desk.

“Well, do you find the premise even funnier now that you’ve read a bit? It’s all written, so you can have it immediately.”

Carlin got a strange look on his face. “Ah, Mr. Placard, perhaps you accidently brought the wrong manuscript. This is much too heavy a subject for us to publish. We specialize in comedy, not something this dramatic.”

“What are you talking about? My book is nothing more than an excuse to write one literary pratfall after the other.”

“This,” said Mr. Carlin, pointing to the open manuscript, “this is one big downer. Surely you must have grabbed the wrong manuscript by mistake.”

Charles turned beet-red in the face. “Mr. Carlin, I’m afraid our business is concluded! I don’t want to be represented by a company who can’t see funny, when it’s laid right in their lap--good day, sir!


 

Now what? When he was trying for serious, they thought it was a comedy. When he was trying for comedy, they thought it was serious. Hey, maybe he should write a “Don’t Have a Clue?” cookbook.


 


 

******

The bookstore was abuzz with conversation, as Charles Placard was about to start working his way through the long line of people who waited impatiently for him to personally autograph their copy of his new book, ‘The No-Clue Cookbook’, published by his new publisher, Sherholtz Publishing. In it, he listed many recipes for ways for a bachelor more concerned with partying than cooking to prepare food. Charles had been struggling to make it as an author, first trying to write the next great dramatic novel, then next great comedic novel, having no luck at either, until now, he had written a cookbook aimed a dudes who had more important thing to do than cooking a good meal, namely guzzling as much or more than they could hold. At first, he was just plain pissed when he had thought up ‘The No-Clue Cookbook’, but after thinking about it for awhile, he started to become intrigued with the idea, and so he wrote it, and sent out the manuscript. Sherholz had signed him, and sent him to this book signing to help promote it.


 

He included ways to prepare a microwave burrito, how to boil water for making either hot dogs or spaghetti, how to prepare a frozen pizza for cooking (first, turn on oven, remove the cardboard beneath the pizza, then insert on a rack set in the middle (roughly), and cook for exactly how long the directions call for), how to prepare microwave popcorn for a tasty snack, and many other seemingly-simple items that somehow fell through the cracks of regular cookbooks. Being a confirmed bachelor for more years than he wanted to remember, he would have loved to have this cookbook when he had first moved out on his own, but he’d had to learn by trial and error. He figured the market was wide open for this type of practical cookbook.


 

“Okay, ma’am, step right up,” Charles called out. His hand was already cramping, when he thought about all the people he’d have to sign for! He’d much rather they were here to see him for one of his dramatic works, but hey, a guy had to eat! Until his dramatic work was recognized for the brilliance it was, he’d go with this in the meantime.


 

The first person to step up to his desk was a housewife, who was pushing a stroller with a wide-eyed baby inside, who peered wonderingly up at him.

“Hi, Mr. Placard, would you mind signing my copy of your book?” the woman asked.

“Why no--what’s your name?”

“Candace”

“Okay, Candace, who would you like this made out to?”

“Oh, please write, ‘To Todd, the biggest Three Stooges fan in the world, on his birthday. Todd honey, I couldn’t find anything about the Stooges that you don’t already have, but I hope this will be a good substitute.”

Charles was immediately angry, and a red rash made it’s way up his neck to his face. “Madam, I’ll have you know this is a serious cookbook. I don’t know whatever in the world gave you the idea that it was supposed be taken as a joke, or something funny, but you’ve come to the wrong conclusion.”

“Oh, then I’m sorry, I guess I just assumed.”

“Well, you assumed wrong--next!”

“I truly meant no offense.”

“NEXT!” He knew that he should have paid more attention to why it was selling so well, but...,

The chagrined woman sheepishly moved aside, and a gentleman wearing a three-piece gray suit stepped up to the table.

“Hello, Mr. Placard.”

“Hello, and how should I make this out?”

“If you would, could you sign it to my Uncle Larry Larang--he’s working on his stand-up routine, and I want him to read this and realize you can make anything funny.”

Charles sent his pen flying, glared up at the man, and snarled, “Not you too? Weren’t you listening to what I said to the woman who was just up here?”

The red-faced man replied, “No, I’m sorry, but I had the man standing behind me save my place, and ran to the bathroom. I only got back in time to move up to your desk.”

“Well, let me say it again--this cookbook was meant to be serous;--NEXT!”, but when he looked at the line, which only moments before was practically out the door, was now non-existent. The man in the suit slunk away.


 

Charles has just received an urgent call from Sherholtz Press, his publishing company. He was now seated before Gary Shirk, the president.

“Mr. Shirk, you wanted to see me?” he said, as he was ushered into Smirk’s office.

“Yes, Charles, we’ve received a complaint from Ned’s Books, saying that you cleared out all their customers with something you said. You said that your cookbook is serious, and not a comedy book. Why would you say something like that?”

“Because it is a serious cookbook.”

“Oh, come on, microwave popcorn, how to boil water? What else could it be but a comedy book?”


 

Charles was back to square one. He’d told Smirk to take the damn book and shove it up somewhere, but now he was at a loss. Every time he thought he had thought of a good idea, it turned out he was wrong. This time, he had really thought he had a winner, but it turned out to be a loser bomb, that when it blew, covered him in disappointment.

******

He had given up; he had reached the end of his tether. Charles sat slumped morosely at a table for two, all alone. He had tried to make it as a dramatic writer--he had tried to make it as a comedic writer, he had tried to make it as a non-fiction writer, all to no avail. When he’d poured all his efforts into writing a novel that was dramatic, they had laughed. When he’d tried to write a comedy, they had cried, when he’d tried to use his practical experience to break out, they had laughed. What was it they wanted? He was out of ideas, and out of hope. Right now, the only thing that mattered was getting to the bottom of his glass, so he could start all over. His gut hurt, and it was hard for him to tell if it was from the tavern cheeseburger he had just finished, or from bitter disappointment. Depression seemed to mock him. “Loser--hey everyone, loser here!”

For years now, writing was all he’d wanted to do. Now that his dreams had blown up in his face, he didn’t want to do anything but drink himself into a stupor, and in that, at least, he was being successful!


 

Charles was stumbling his way home from yet-another afternoon spent hunched over a beer glass in the tavern around the corner from his shabby rental house. House, hell, it was a fricking trailer. Look at it, he got even more depressed at the sight. Streamers of rust down its sides--taped-together windows, and his beater of a 4-door car up on blocks in the carport. Not that he would have driven it anywhere-- there was no place to go. That’s assuming he felt like going anywhere, which he didn’t. He had to figure out what he was going to do with his life, but writing was the only thing he was he’d ever been passionate about. As he was shuffling and stumbling homeward bound, he walked past the neighborhood book store. Sons of bitches! Look at all the garbage that passed as real literature--he was just going to walk on by, but something, professional curiosity perhaps, guided his feet up the sidewalk, and his hand to the doorknob.


 

He went in, not sure what he was doing here, but not turning around and leaving. He headed down the closest aisle, which happened to be fishing and hunting guides.

“Look at this shit--I mean, do you clowns even consider this writing?”


 

He was just about to leave, when a successful-looking businessman next to him grabbed a hunting guide off the rack, and walked the few steps to the register. Charles couldn’t help but overhearing the conversation between the man buying the guide and the sales clerk.

“Did you find everything you were looking for?” asked the clerk, a teen in a Motordeath tee shirt.

“Yeah, thank you, this hunting guide should do it--after I leave, you can lock up and go home, because you’ll have made enough profit for the day.”

The clerk, with zits covering his face, answered, “Oh, you’d be surprised. This time of year these make us a lot of money.”

“Really? These?”

“Yes, sir, they fly out of here.”


 

The conversation continued, but Charles was no longer listening. This was it--his way to the top. While it was true he didn’t know anything about either hunting or fishing, how hard could it really be to write like you did?


 

The prepared fisherman should have two things in order to have a great and successful fishing trip. A fishing pole, and a shit-load of cold beer!”

When looking for a likely good fishing spot, look for another fisherman who looks to be having good luck, distract him or her by hiding somewhere, and then yelling out,

Hey, there’s a car ablaze in the parking lot--look at that baby burn!”

Then, when they quickly reel in their line, and leave to see if it was their car, simply slide on down and cast out your line. When they discover it wasn’t their car, and return to claim their spot, simply say,

Tough shit, dude, I’m fishing here now!”

They could take offense, but more than likely, they’ll be a wimp who won’t want a confrontation. You’ll now be free to fish out the day, provided you brought enough beer!”


 

Charles finish writing, and looked up, it was growing dark outside, he’d been writing non-stop for most of the last 5 hours, but he had it--the book that would make him a well-known name in literary circles. The fact that he knew next-to-nothing about fishing hadn’t slowed him down at all. Granted, it wasn’t real writing, but it was a book!


 

“...and furthermore, any drunk fisherman might have written this! I mean, “Grasp opener firmly” is not writing anything about fishing, take a hike, although with the amount of time you obviously spent on this waste of paper, you’ll probably be back tomorrow with a book about that!”


 

Charles stomped out of ‘Outdoor Cast and Bullet’ magazine, thinking, I may not be an expert, but damn it, I will do anything, write about anything to become a success!


 

Charles once again sat at the same two-person table in the same rundown tavern, with his once-again rundown dreams hanging over his head, and watched as the bartender set a full-to-the-brim tankard of ale before him, and took away the empty mug. Now what, again?


 

Chapter Three:

Charles was not about to let one, or five, or ten rejections get him down enough to quit trying, so he settled in at his computer, and began, “Die, Little Teddy”:

Die, Little Teddy

By Charles Placard

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Freddy watched in frightened awe as his blue eyes saw movement on his dresser. He pulled his blankets up even higher on his face, and stared at the unbelievable scene he was beholding, for there, on his dresser, two teddy bears where having an argument. Not your average fight--we’re talking a gouge-out-the-eyes, go-for-the-throat, fur-shredding, fight-to-the-death, winner lives, loser dies, screaming-in-pain kind of fight. Tuffs of fur filled the air, and teddy bear blood was everywhere. It soaked the blanket covering the top of the dresser, and dripped to the floor, where it soaked into the carpet in an ever-widening puddle. Little Freddy didn’t know what to do. He started screaming, and was shaken awake by his mother.

Sweetie, you were having a nightmare--it’s okay, you’re safe. Mommy’s here.”

Relief surged through his veins--it had only been a dream. “I’m okay now Mom, and I’m sorry.”

It’s okay son--I’m glad it was just a nightmare. Now go back to sleep and dream only happy dreams--good night Freddy.”

Goodnight Mom.”

Then his mom was gone, closing the door behind her.


 

Morning sunlight streamed in the window, waking a groggy Freddy. He stretched, and lazily, slowly, came awake. In the haze of half-remembered thoughts, he remembered the nightmare he’d had. Boy, what a doozie! Imagine, his teddy bears not only coming to life, but having a vicious fight on his dress--his eyes looked at the dresser top. Jimbo the Bear was laying there eviscerated, with his stuffing laying in great crimson heaps. A trail of bloody footprints lead from his dresser to the window, which was open to the summer heat.”


 

Charles Placard laid down his pen. He was done. After thinking he had it made using all kinds of styles, who would have guessed that writing children’s stories would prove to be his niche? Certainly not himself, but maybe still thinking like a kid led him to this style? Daydreaming like a little boy had unlocked the key to his imagination, and was why he found it so easy to write. All he had to do was let his imagination take over, and the story damn near wrote itself.


 

Today he was meeting with Minuet Dawson, the owner and publisher of ‘Little Bow Peep Books’. He had set up this meeting after finishing “Die, Little Teddy”, although he was saving the title to close the deal. After reading the book, once he told her why he though he had stumbled upon an untapped market, and had the perfect title, he was sure he’d be offered a book deal.


 

“But did you read it yet?” Charles whined.

“Yes, I read it, and frankly, it sickened me. How you could think this would be appropriate fare for a child is beyond me.”

“But the little bastards need to be made aware that there’s bad shit out there, and the sooner they come to that realization, the better! I have looked at so-called ‘children’s books’, and all I saw was fantasy-land stuff, with adorable animals making friends with the child. Well, sweetheart, that’s about as far from reality as you can get.They need to be made aware of the fact a cute and cuddly might be just as apt to rip your throat out, as look at you. I see a need for more realistic writing.”

“And a couple of murderous teddy bears is realistic?”

“Well, it’s certainly more realistic than a talking candy cane, or something.”

“Get Out!”

“I’m sure once you’ve had a chance to think about what I’ve said, you---”

“Get out now!”


 

Charles Placard was a beaten man--could he help it if everyone else was a moron? He couldn’t pay his bills, through no fault of his own.


 

Charles was done--what the hell did people want? Pick a writing style, and he had tried it. He thought there was no way it could be him--it had to be the style, although obviously, he didn’t have a damn clue about what that style was.


 

******


 

He knew he shouldn’t, he’d already tried writing a cook book and it had been ridiculed and derided unmercifully. But Charles Placard couldn’t think of another way to make it to the top of the writing wars. He’d tried serious, he’d tried humorous, hell, he’d tried everything, but nothing was the result. He was totally flummoxed as to what direction he should go in to help him achieve notoriety. He was now thinking that if he could come up with a totally-awesome recipe, he could achieve fame that way. He knew nothing about cooking, but he was sure this was the way to literary greatness, so he thought, I’ll just steal some other recipe from a person who does know what they’re doing, make a few changes, and keep the recipe as my own.


 

Charles had found a recipe for a homemade bread in a cookbook, modified it somewhat, and written it up as his own. It wasn’t exactly the way he’d envisioned making it, and true, it was very short, but damn it, it was literary. But maybe he should try out his recipe, to see how the cake tasted?


 

He got out a bowl, a mixer, and a cake pan, and got to work. First, he put the eggs in, then sugar, then his own unique twist, anchovy’s. The way he figured it, people who liked seafood, and fresh-baked bread, would eat it up--ha, a little play on words, that. When it came time to add the yeast, he figured if he doubled the amount, it would be done that much quicker. Like was already discussed, he didn’t know the first thing about cooking, but that seemed logical to him.


 

He had put the mixture in the oven and was waiting impatiently for it to bake. It would take a while, and in the meantime, he went to his computer and searched the net for ways to post his recipe. He found a place for seafood recipes, and bread recipes, but non that combined the two in his unique fashion.


 

After a few minutes, he heard the ding of the timer. As he was standing up to make his way over to the oven, there a loud bang from the kitchen. He ran back to the kitchen and beheld disaster. The door to the oven had been flung open, a gigantic mass of dough was heading for the floor, seemingly propelled on it’s own, and grinning anchovy’s smiled up at him from the disastrous mixture. What a mess! What had he done wrong?


 

He had gone online and searched for ways to make bread. He had learned that doubling the yeast didn’t make the bread rise that much faster, and to be sure you added the salt. What salt? Oops; he had somehow forgotten the salt. Damn.

******

Charles Placard’s thoughts returned to his current freezing state. He had thought over all the disasters which had lead him to living in his car. Damn it--he would not give up--he’d never give up. He’d keep on trying until he hit it big. He knew he had the talent, even if he was the only person who thought so. He shook off the sheen of frost which had again covered him, and started writing a new novel. Damn it was cold!

 

 

Even though he’d had to use a pencil, because it was so cold, his ink pen froze, he was at last finished. Two whole days--two whole days of his hands getting so cold, they had turned blue. Two whole days of hunger knawing at his stomach like starving rats, two whole days of a living hell, the finished novel represented perseverance on his part. He’d tried everything but the kitchen sink (hey, now there’s an idea!), but so far at least, nothing. The desire to succeed burned bright in him. He had no publisher, but he’d be damned if he was just going to give up. He reviewed part of what he’d written:

 

 

Private George Washington Sneed tried to face the fact of having to charge across mud-filed ground, into withering enemy fire, all so his side could control another few yards of blood-soaked ground. It seemed pointless to him. World War I was three years old, and his side would charge a trench, take it, set up to stay, then the enemy would charge, and take it back. Then the whole vicious cycle would begin again. It was madness! Now, his regiment was ordered over the top once again. Private Sneed already knew exactly how what would happen--they’d charge, losing many men, they’d take the trench, settle in, then the enemy would counter-charge, losing many men, and retake the trench. His side would limp back to this very trench, and the whole thing will have been a pointless event.

 

The whistle for prepare to attack sounded shrilly from somewhere down the trench, and Private Sneed reluctantly prepared himself to join the many other soldiers who would be charging into a deadly hail of steel, and try to wrest a few more feet of wasteland for a couple of days. He looked around at the mud pit he currently sat in--they’d soon be back--yes, he knew they’d soon be back. He didn’t know if he’d be with them. Just then, the whistle sounded again, and Private Sneed was over the top of the trench, and running, slogging really, through the barren, muddy, bomb-cratered wasteland between trenches, towards the enemy trench. He always resented that damn whistle, blown by superiors who would stay behind, while he and his mates would face the horror and lived with the thought that their next step could be their last.

 

 

They were nearing the enemy’s trench, and bullets were chewing up the ground all around him, but so far, at least, none had struck him.

 

 

At last, he was at the side of the god-forsaken slash of pitiful earth that was the enemy trench. He could see the enemy troops, spitting death from their rifles. He ran towards the closest, and went to run his bayonet through his back. He thrust the deadly steel to the hilt, and the enemy soldier gave a shriek, and fell face-up in the mud that covered the bottom of the trench. Private Sneed felt a wave of remorse. The soldier he’d killed was probably just like him--didn’t want to be here, and had a family back home who would be receiving a telegram, informing them of Rudolph, or Gunther’s demise, and for what? So a bunch of fat-cat politicians somewhere could live in a mansion? Suddenly, Private Sneed was angry--what a waste. He went to step across the slain enemy solder, and suddenly, a hand shot up and grasped his leg. A shocked Private Sneed looked frantically down to see a bone-white skeletal hand grasping his leg. Then his gaze landed upon the grinning skeleton face of the slain enemy soldier. Then Private George Washington Sneed let out a blood-curdling scream. He hadn’t noticed, but all the enemy soldiers were skeletons. The last thing Private Sneed ever saw was the skeletal enemy taking out a knife, and plunging it repeatedly into his stomach--then blackness.”

 

 

 

“Eh, ha ha; this is some seriously funny and demented writing,” said Fielding Harcourt, owner of Harcourt Publishing.

 

Not again--“Sir, this was meant to be a serious horror novel,” sputtered Charles.

 

“No way, get out!”

 

Charles got extremely angry. “I can’t believe the disrespect--kicking me out?”

 

“What? No, get out as in ‘surely you can’t be serious!”

 

The old joke about not calling him Shirley flashed briefly in his head, then he hotly replied, “Oh, but I am serious, deadly serious.”

 

“What? You expect my company to publish this absolute trash as a serious novel?”

 

 

Charles bleakly opened the door to his to car. As he slumped into the front seat, he noticed a strange smell. At first, he couldn’t place the strange odor. Then he had it--it was the smell of failure.

 

 

Many months went by, and Charles had at last given in to the idea of publishing The Army of the Not Dead as a comedy novel, but not before he’d been laughed out of every publishing company office, until he was down to the last one, a company run by a twenty year old slacker who’d inherited several million from an uncle, an uncle he’d never met (it was rumored his Uncle Zeke had lost his mind--and after giving twenty million to his nephew, Hal Rodgers (the slacker), he’d left the rest of his two hundred million to a charity organization that helped out people who gave away everything to charity, and were destitute). He’d signed with 'Yeah, Dude! Publishing House', not expecting to make a dime, but unbelievably, he’d just received a two million dollar royalty check from 'Yeah, Dude!' It turned out that 'Army of Not Dead' was a runaway hit.

 

 

Charles stared blankly at the check in his hand. Surely, there’d been some sort of mistake. This must have been delivered to him by mistake. He’d just received this check, along with a request from 'Yeah, Dude!' for several more novels based on the bony bad boys. He’d have to kick it into high gear.


 

He’d closed the P.O. box he’d been renting, bought an entirely new wardrobe, and now stood stared at himself in the bathroom mirror of his brand-new three-story beach house. It was amazing. He’d gone from living and freezing in his beater of a car, to living in this place. The Army of the Not Dead was a runaway hit. “Sergeant Skelator and The Parade of Death”, "Sergeant Skelator Loses His Head”, and “Give ‘em the Bone!” quickly flowed from the mind of Charles onto the pages of the three novels so far of the Skeleton series. And, there was no sign of the craze for Skeletons abating, any time soon. 'Beyond the Grave Pictures' had taken out an option for as many novels as he could churn out--to be made into feature films, much to the delight of teenagers everywhere, and much to the chagrin of book reviewers everywhere, who panned each and every effort by Charles Placard. Charles said he could give a rat’s ass; he was getting incredibly rich, but deep down, the reviews hurt, badly. He’d always imagined himself at the top of the writing ladder, but because of his great writing--not having stumbled upon something successful, quite by accident.


 

He was reading a review of “Give ‘em the Bone!”, in 'Page Notes', and cringed as he read:

“I wished I had skipped lunch, because what book should be laid upon my desk for review while I was gone? The latest bile-churner from that new master of all things idiotic, Charles Placard. It was all I could do to keep the cheeseburger I had for lunch down, after I opened the book and started reading. This thing is an open sore on the literary world.”

The review had continued, but Charles threw the whole paper into the fireplace, and watches as the flames consumed his embarrassment. He vowed then and there to write a new novel, that would be hailed by every reviewer as the best piece of writing to come along in quite some time! He thought it would be funny to call his new novel ‘Super-Model in Uniform’, but instead he called it ‘Skeleton in Uniform’. It told the story of a skeleton who joins the Army on a lark, because he’s tired of just laying around.


 

Skeleton Steve didn’t realize he was dead, and didn’t realize how much the Army was going to suck. He’d already been turned away because he had failed to meet the minimum weight requirement, so he stuck two sandbags down his pants when he’d tried again (which made walking extremely challenging!) He’d been accepted, but now was dreading the physical. He was extremely shy to show his bones to anyone.”


 

Charles at last was finished, and all the hard work had been so worth it--this baby would grab the reader by the balls. Well, the odd woman too, but most of his readers were men.


 

“What kind of crap is this?”

He was reading a review of his novel in the local paper. It continued:

“I suppose this affront to literature would be useful for something. If you were stranded on a deserted island, and had to signal a passing ship, and all you had with you was a copy of 'Skeleton in Uniform' and a lighter, you could rip out the pages of the novel, ball them up, and set them ablaze--yes, it’s that bad.”


 

Charles crumpled up the entire newspaper and threw it down in disgust. He was outraged. Who did they think they were to piss on a man’s dreams? Then his angry eyes fell upon the royalty check he’d just received in the mail, and his anger somewhat faded away.


 

He’d decided--no matter how good the money was from The Skeleton Army series was, a guy had to write what he wanted, and what he wanted was to write damn near anything but the emptiness that was that series. He’d long toyed with the idea of writing a play--why not now? He sat in front of his computer, and just started typing:

“The People Who Lived...”

A Play by Charles Placard

 

Act One:

 

The Bucket’s living room--Ralph Bucket was in a great mood. He is whistling as he comes through his front door.

 

Ralph Bucket: “Hello, is anybody home?”

 

Molly Bucket, his wife, coming on stage: “Honey--so glad to see you--how was your day?”

 

Ralph Bucket: “Oh, I had a wonderful day. Everyone at work was in a fantastic mood, this being Friday.”

 

Molly Bucket: “That’s great, honey--we had a wonderful day too, didn’t we kids?”

 

2 children, ages 5 and 7, come out on stage:

 

Bobby, the son: “Dad; I missed you so much!”

 

Daisy, the daughter: “Dad--I missed you too!”

 

Ralph Bucket: “Kids, it’s so nice to come home to your smiling faces.”

 

Molly Bucket: “Why don’t you sit down in your recliner, and let me get you a beer, then I’ll make you a nice steak.”

 

Ralph Bucket: “Oh, that sounds lovely, honey--why, I must be the luckiest man around. I’ve got the nicest, prettiest wife, and the 2 smartest kids in the entire world.”

 

End of act one:

 

At this point, Charles was growing restless, and was eager to finish. He knew the play wasn’t nearly long enough, but he was getting bored. He thought for a moment, then started typing again:

 

Act Two:

 

The entire Bucket family is gathered around the dinner table, where Molly Bucket has just served dinner:

 

Ralph Bucket: “Honey, these pork chops are fantasti--say, does anyone else smell gas?”

 

Molly Bucket: “Well, I have a cold, but now that you mention it, yeah I do.”

 

Bobby Bucket; “Is that what that funny smell is? I was being polite, and not saying anything. I figured Mom torched dinner again, an--”

 

A giant fireball erupts, and all the Buckets’ are instantly vaporized.

 

curtain falls

 

the end

 

Charles Placard sat back from the computer and shook his head. How did playwrights do it? He knew it was a little sparse, a little short, but it would have to be good enough.

 

 

He’d sent his play out to many different companies, and had heard nothing back. He was a little disappointed, but not really. He apparently didn’t have the patience to be a playwright. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, returning to The Skeleton Army was sort of a relief--something he knew how to write.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Mike S.. All rights reserved.

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