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"All literary men are Red Sox fans." John Cheever

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Hindenburg Down [Feb. 1st, 2005|09:40 pm]
"All literary men are Red Sox fans." John Cheever

Note: This is the first chapter of a novel I'm working on. I'm hoping that the end product ends up being a confusing mess.

Hindenburg One

The man in the suit had no eyes.

Or at least John thought he had no eyes. The man's eyelids were sewn shut, so if eyes remained, they were of no use to him now.

John had entered the apartment, turned on the lights, and the discovered the man in the suit sitting on the end of his bed. John's mind screamed for him to fightor fleet, but his body disagreed. So he stood frozen near the doorway like some idiot statue.

At first glance, the man on the end of the bed could have been mistaken for a ghost. His face was long and drawn, perched atop a lanky body clothed in a black business suit. His sunken cheeks, ashen yet with a hint of gray, surrounded a mouth thatwas barely more than a thin line. The man's posture bordered on perfect, and his hands (also pale with that gray hint) rested neatly in his lap. A briefcase stood by his feet.

What stood out above all else, though, were the suited man's eyes. Or lack thereof. Where most people hold their eyes (whether blue or green or brown), the man only had scar tissue. This feature had struck John upon first seeing the man, but now he took the time to really take it in. The eyes were in fact sewnshut, but with what John couldnt surmise. It sure wasn't string. Nausea rose as John got the feeling that the man's eyes were sewn shut by sinew.

Gathering himself, John made his way across the kitchen to the open bedroom.

The man in the suit cocked his head and John froze once again. The movement would have been cute had it come from a little dog, but cute was the last word that could describe the thing sitting on the bed. Secretly, John hoped the figure had been some kind of a sick practical joke. A dummy. Hell, he wouldn't put it past some of his friends to pull a stunt like this. His hopes were dashed as the man turned his head to look at John. Look isn't the right word, but if the man in the suit had eyes, he would have been staring directly at John.

The man spoke: "We've been waiting for you, Mr. Isaacs."

How does he know my name?

John repeated the question over and over again in his head. Another question might have been, How does a corpse speak?</font> Because really thats what the manin the suit was. Closer, and in better light, it became apparent to John. The graying of his cheeks and hands spoke of death, as did the man's spectral paleness. John saw that the man's nails were dark and thick, screamingto leave the desiccated fingers. The man in the suit's dark hair grayed a little at the tips, and was slicked back like a greaser's.

We've been waiting for you, Mr. Isaa--

"Mr. Isaacs?"

John snapped back to reality. "How'd you get in here?"

The man smiled, but barely. It sent a chill up John's spine nonetheless.

"Wouldn't you rather know who I am?"

Why does he think this is funny?

"I'm gonna call the cops," John said as he went for the phone. The man in the suit responded by making a sweeping gesture towards the phone.

"Be my guest, Mr. Isaacs."

The man's speech had an odd pattern to it. The emphasis was all wrong. And he made every word longer than it really was. Both made for an unsettling effect.

John grabbed the phone and brought it to his ear. He started dialing 911. He stopped after the first number. The line was dead.

He slammed the phone down and strode back to the man in the suit.

"You cut the line," John said, pointing a shaky finger.

That eerie smile again. "Think what you will, Mr. Isaacs."

"How do you know my name?"

"We know all</font> about you."


"My associates," the man pressed a dead hand to his chest, "and I."

The man in the suit stood. He moved deliberately with an inhuman grace. Like a robot.

"They call me Hindenburg One." The man held out a hand, but John just stared at it. "Err, yes," the man said, wiping his hand gently against his suit jacket, an eerily human gesture.

John scratched his chin nervously, "Who are the--" The man in the suit raised his hand to stifle John.

"'They' being my associates, Mr. Isaacs. You see, we are a very powerful, very important organization. And we are very interested in you." The man tipped his head to John.

"Interested? Why?"

The man in the suit shook his head slowly. "All things in good time. All things in good time." He smiled and raised a finger, as if he were reprimanding John. "Patience is a virtue, Mr. Isaacs."

John wondered what kind of company hired blind zombies.

"We're not zombies," the man in the suit said, smiling, "nor as we blind. We assure you, were alive as you are. Well, in a manner of speaking. And as for our vision...weve seen more thanyou can possible imagine." His smiled widened.

Now he can read thoughts? Thats just plain weird. John allowed a slight smile to escape. He decided to play along.

"So, whats the plan?" An unmistakable quaver erased all chance of sounding in control.

This time, only the very corners of the man's mouth turned upward.

"Very good, Mr. Isaacs. Very good. Mr. Isaacs, you have an appointment withus tomorrow. We'll leave you a card. It has all the information you'll need."

The man in the suit bent and picked up his suitcase. With his free hand he fished a business card out of his jacket. He handed it to John. "Here you go."

John took the card in both hands, and had to concentrate to stop shaking enough to read it.

Hindenburg One

120 Winter Street

10:00 am

John looked back to the man.

"See you then, Mr. Isaacs," he said with a little wave. John knew if the man had eyes, he would have winked.

The man in the suit fixed his gaze (if one could call it that) on the door. John stepped out of the way and let him pass. The man in the suit walked across the kitchen, gliding like a wraith. He stopped in front of the door, and without making a move, it swung open and the man in the suit made his exit. The door closed behind him.

John ran for the door and yanked it open. He shot his neck out into the hallway, looking first one way, then the other. He saw no one. Sweating, he ran to the stairwell and leaned over the railing. Again, no one.

Wiping his forehead with the heel of his hand, John returned to his apartment. He slammed the door and locked the three deadbolts. If the man in the suit wanted to come back John doubted the deadbolts would stop him. Better safe than sorry, though.

Just to ensure he wasn't totally insane, John went over to the kitchen table. Sure enough, the card lay there, just where he left it. John picked it up and turned it over and over. He looked out the window, deep in thought.

Do ghosts leave business cards?</font>
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(no subject) [Jan. 15th, 2005|10:26 pm]
"All literary men are Red Sox fans." John Cheever

Short story that just came to me, rip it apart if you'd like

His Eyes

“And our final question, on what day did Martin Luther King Jr. give his famous, I have a dream speech?”
Smooth as a well oiled machine, my thumb pressed the hand held buzzer. A light went on over my head, and the show host’s blue eyes bore into me.
“Contestant number 2, your answer?” His eyes stared into my skull, the T.V. cameras bore into me. The audience was completely silent, the calm before a storm. I began to shake from it all, just a little, and then I closed my eyes.
“August 28th, 1963. Washington D.C. As the good doctor uttered the words ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed’ the sun broke out from under the cloud cover and shone upon him, and one could see three drops of sweat on his brow, slowly dripping down his face. Another man of African American descent stood near the doctor, a brimmed hat sat upon his head, and a pair of sunglasses were on his face. As I remember it, he was some sort of police officer.”
My eyes slowly opened, the show host stared blankly at me, and then spoke,
“That is correct! What an amazing memory you have. Everyone please congratulate our champion, who has just received one million dollars!”
The crowd sat silent, slack jawed for a moment, and then broke out into applause. A large check, carried by a well endowed woman, was brought out before me, and as I stood there I noticed the camera man on my far left was the same one who filmed my first television appearance, a few months back, but he had bought a new watch, though he would have been better off purchasing a new pair of shoes, his current ones were wearing a little thin.
The after party was great, alcohol flowing, good looking people everywhere, and the food was great, though I had a better bean dip three years before at a backyard barbeque of an acquaintance, who had died in a horrible car accident four months, six days, seven hours, and, according to the coroner‘s report, seventeen seconds later. Four ribs broken, one piercing up into his heart. A fairly attractive blonde approached me and sat in my lap.
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she began
“Of course we have,” I answered. “Three years, two months, twelve days, eight minutes, and” pausing to look at my watch. “Sixteen seconds ago. In New York City. You pushed me into a brick wall, telling a skinny loser like me to get out of the way, you were in a hurry. Of course, you were about a size 4 back then, and that dress you’re wearing is about a size 10. You seem to have put on a few pounds since then.” I patted her abdomen, which was considerably softer than the ribs that had checked me into that brick. She stared at me for a second, wide eyed, and got up, and began to walk very quickly towards the nearest exit. Strange, I thought she wanted me for my brilliant mind.
As the after party wore down, I began to trace the steps back to the hotel where I was staying, three thousand, six hundred and thirty four, from the side entrance of the studio to the front lobby. As I rode the elevator up to my floor, a twenty seven second ride, I began to replay in my head the success I had enjoyed through out my life. I began with that night, the money after taxes that would soon be in my account, the look on everyone’s face as I won, the host’s blue eyes as he asked that final question. The shows before that one, answering all of my questions in the same way, reciting events that were beyond any human being’s memory. As the doors opened, which took 2.7 seconds every time, like clockwork, I began to replay the events of my schooling. College first, graduating with honors, hated by all my professors because I could prove them wrong. Then high school, my junior prom, a pimple faced kid with glasses and braces, picking up my date in my father’s car, her face was as greasy as mine, but I thought she was the prettiest thing in the world.
As I opened the door to my room, I recalled my childhood, repressing my ability so the other children wouldn’t stare at me with their blank eyes, making me feel an outsider. I was such a fool back then. As I disrobed and slid into bed, another memory of my childhood came back to haunt me, picture perfect just like everything else. I was in the back seat of my father’s car, in my Sunday best, which felt stiff and uncomfortable to a small body that was used to t shirts and shorts. It was a Saturday, and every Saturday my father would take me down to the corner store and buy me a small toy. The week before it was a small fire engine, the brilliant, deep red contrasted the perfectly white ladder, which would actually move and extend.
“Are we going to the toy store daddy?” I asked my father.
His head began to turn slowly, and as his eyes met mine, I did not see my father, who tried to teach me how to catch a football, though I was never very good at it.
“No,” he said, “My mother just died.” We were just coming home from the funeral, my mother, who was sitting next to him, stopped wiping her eyes to look back on me with disgust. No matter how hard I try, I can not forgive myself for asking that question. He did not look at me like I was his son, but some insignificant snot nosed kid, sitting on that black leather, with nothing but my own selfish thoughts in my head. No matter how hard I try, I can not forget the look in his eyes.
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"Trial Period", a short story [Jan. 13th, 2005|08:37 pm]
"All literary men are Red Sox fans." John Cheever

Trial Period



From total blackness, a complete void, there was suddenly something. It was a barely noticeable difference, but soon it became apparent that a change had taken place. The blackness was no longer complete; the void was less forbidding.

            It was getting lighter.

            Yes, the empty expanse was now gray, and, barely visible against the ubiquitous backdrop, shapes were flitting. They were almost indiscernible from their surroundings, but even now they were becoming more defined. Outlines were taking shape, contrasted against the rapidly lightening background, becoming cleaner and less blurred; finer details of the shapes could be detected. The shapes no longer danced, now: their motion was smoother, more uniform. Soon, as the background became incredibly bright, the shapes became clear enough to be made out. And then, something else happened.

            “…becoming conscious now, Doctor.”

            “Alright. Let’s see if this worked.”




            James Warner held up his hands to rub his face. It happened more often, now. He mustn’t let it get in the way of his duties. Just stand still for a moment…clear your mind…it’ll go away. It always does.

            With a struggle, the feeling of disconnectedness passed. Warner exhaled deeply, the lines showing on his face. He felt better, after the feeling subsided. That strange, cloudy sensation in his mind, as if his higher mental functions had ceased. It was disconcerting. His senses still passed him information; he could still see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, but the sensory input stimulated no response in his mind. It was almost as if…as if he couldn’t think anymore…


            He started. “What? Yes?”

            “You alright?” He recognized the face: it was Eisenberg, back from the water cooler, cup in hand. Warner welcomed the break from the monotony of work, and took the opportunity to talk with his friend.

            “I’ll be fine,” he muttered, as he flatly disbelieved it, “just tired, I guess.”

            “Well, better not fall off. The boss expects that report in the next hour. Wouldn’t want to miss it.”

            “That’s for sure.” Warner reached for his pills. “I’ll get over this,” he said reassuringly, as he unscrewed the top. “Just forgot to take my dosage.”

            “What you got there?” Eisenberg asked, peering closer over the cubicle wall.

            “Just some, uh, mild stimulants,” Warner quickly responded. “Mostly sugar…caffeine…a tiny bit of something that would probably be illegal in any larger amount.” He grinned, making the deception that much more convincing.

            “Ah. Gotcha. Mum’s the word.” Eisenberg winked and smiled widely. “Just remember that report. This place would be damn depressing without you to kick around.” He rapped on the cubicle wall. “I gotta get moving. See you at lunch break.”

            “Right.” Warner murmured as he watched Eisenberg return to his seat.

            Mum’s the word, he thought as he began crunching the numbers once again. You have no idea.




            The cab pulled to a stop in front of Warner’s apartment complex. Warner, looking up through the cab’s moonroof, noticed a private jet passing silently overhead, its blinking lights betraying its presence in the night sky. How bright were those points of light, Warner thought. How pretty. So bright…and so small…

            He didn’t even hear the cabbie talking until the hand was waving in front of his face.

            “Uh, sorry, what?” Warner blinked and shook his head, redirecting his attention.

            “I said it’s $7.34.”

            “Right. Sorry. Here you go.” He paid the cabbie.

            “Thanks pal. Have a nice night,” the cabbie called as Warner got out and walked towards the steps to his building. With a rattle, the taxi drove off into the night.

            Home again, thought Warner.

            He climbed the steps. Fumbling with his cardkeys, he unlocked the front door and stepped inside. A warm blast hit him, stark against the cold nighttime air. Nearly choking on the dry, hot air pouring out of the rusted heater vent, he began his trip up to the fourth floor. The steps, old and dusty, creaked under his feet. As he always did, he hoped they’d hold out, if only just this one time. And as he always did, he held onto the banister, just in case.

            Arriving at his apartment door, he swiped his card, opened it quickly, and moved inside. Shutting the steel door behind him, he leaned against it, staring into the darkness of his small apartment. It’s happening more often, he thought again. And it’s getting worse. The pills don’t help like they used to.

            In silence, he walked away from the door and dropped his briefcase on the floor. Walking into his kitchen aimlessly, Warner clicked on the light.

            A man was sitting at his kitchen table.

            Warner jumped backwards, startled. “What in the…who the hell are you?” he gasped, struggling to marshal his emotions. “How did you---”

             “The Company’s resources are…extensive,” interrupted the man. He stared back from behind a pair of dark sunglasses. Clad in black, his large frame belied the actual size of the table. “A locked door or two is no obstacle when one has the proper tools for the job. A simple card reader is easy to fool.”

            Warner relaxed a little. “The Company could have told me. I’m sure it would have been within your ‘extensive resources’ to send me a damn memo before breaking and entering.”

            The man grinned deeply. “True. But they prefer this method of communication. No paper trail to follow. Plus,” he added, with obvious pride, “it’s cheap and effective P.R.”

             “Undoubtedly, terrorizing your customers into loyalty is one of your unwritten rules.” Warner scoffed, walking over to his refrigerator. “But does that give you the right to invade my privacy?” He rummaged through the scraps of food left inside, but found nothing worth risking food poisoning over. He shut the fridge again.

             “To ensure that the consumer receives the best possible service,” the man recited, relishing the anguish that the drearily familiar words brought to Warner’s face, “and to address any issues arising from product usage as quickly as possible.” He paused briefly. “You, James Warner, are having an issue with our product.”

             “Your damn drug isn’t working anymore,” Warner spat. “I feel like I’m returning to the old ways. I’ll be at work and suddenly I’ll just drift off…mesmerized by a light bulb, or a filing cabinet, or a bubble in the water cooler. I have to be verbally brought back to reality.”

             “Yes, we’re aware of the situation.”


             “Come now, Mr. Warner---you know as well as anyone that Briggs & Stratton keeps a close eye on all its long-term investments.”

             “Yes,” Warner admitted, “how foolish of me.” Of course, the Company could easily have planted someone to keep tabs on him in his office. With such influence as B&S had, it would have been a simple matter of pulling the right strings. “Just fix my pills.”

             Your pills?” asked the man, raising an eyebrow slightly. “Mr. Warner, those pills are the property of Briggs & Stratton Pharmaceuticals. In no way are they ‘your’ pills; the only reason you even know about them is because of the very…”---he searched for the right word---“…promising results we’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, the FDA requires human trials for any new drug…but you know that already. Through…direct experience.” He grinned again, despicably.

             “Yes, yes…I know all about it. Just tell me what I have to do to get the pills to work again.”

            The man grinned still wider. “I have a car waiting outside. If you’ll follow me…?”




             “Where are we going?” Warner inquired.

            The car rolled over a bump in the road. His ‘acquaintance’ smiled back at him. “Why, to fix your issue, of course.”




            The heavy oak door swung slowly and silently open. Held open by the arm of the black-clad messenger, Warner walked past the door and into a dim, smoke-filled room. Behind an enormous maple desk, in front of a wall filled with books, sat Harvey Briggs himself.

             “Mr. Briggs,” Warner breathed. “It’s an honor to…to...”

            Briggs grinned. “Yes, Mr. Warner. Do you mind if I call you James?”

            Warner’s mouth flopped like a beached whale.

             “I suppose that will be a yes. Please, have a seat.” Briggs gestured to one of the unbelievably lavish chairs scattered throughout the room. Warner managed to stumble into one of the more humble seats. As Warner fumbled, Briggs leaned forward and twisted a dial embedded in his monstrous desk. The light level in the room increased.

             “Now, James,” Briggs said soothingly, as he leaned back in his chair again, peering at Warner through his glasses, “I understand that our product is reaching the end of its effectiveness for you.”

             “Uh, yes sir, that’s correct.” Warner muttered.

             “Speak up, boy, there’s no need to be afraid.” Briggs smiled in a way that seemed not entirely convincing. “After all…you’re our prodigal son.”

            Warner smiled back half-heartedly. The walls seemed to be closer to him than the last time he checked. “Yes sir, Mr. Briggs, sir.”

             “And drop that ‘sir’ nonsense. This isn’t the Corps, you know.”

             “Yes, s-Mr. Briggs.”

            Briggs raised an eyebrow at him. “Indeed. Now, as I was saying, word has it that you’re in need of our assistance.”

            Warner shifted in his seat. Avoiding the question, he replied, “Your drug doesn’t work anymore.”

             “Yes, I’m aware of that, as I already stated.”

             “Well…I want out.”

            Briggs’s false smile vanished. “Excuse me?”

            Warner gripped the arms of the chair desperately. “I…want to quit. It doesn’t feel right. I feel as if…as if this isn’t my life. As if this isn’t how I was supposed to live. It’s…eating at me.”

            The drug tycoon stared at him powerfully. All hint of geniality had evaporated from his voice. “You read the contract, Mr. Warner. The FDA mandates a minimum six-month ‘trial period’ for drugs of this type. And right now, AdVanz is the only one of its kind so far into it. If you quit, we’d have to start all over…with another ‘patient’…and lose valuable time. Time we could have spent marketing it, selling it to the public. Do you really want to set us back so far, Mr. Warner?”

            James Warner squirmed in his seat now. Somewhere, at the edge of his mind, he felt the sensation coming back. “What you’ve done here…is wrong. I feel it. I feel that you know it, too.”

            Briggs bolted up out of his chair. Placing his hands on his immense desk, he leaned close to Warner. “How dare you speak of AdVanz that way! This drug is a goddamned revolution in neurochemistry. Imagine the possible benefits of it! Surely you, of all people, can appreciate the wonders it works. Or have you become so deluded by your newfound sentience that you’ve forgotten where you came from? What you used to be?” He glared darkly at the shivering man before him. “When the choice was made to go ahead with human trials, I was apprehensive. Such radical alterations to the brain were inherently dangerous. But I wanted to put the interests of the human race first.” Briggs straightened up and began to walk around his desk. “The benefits of this drug…the sheer power it held.” He stood in front of Warner and bent down to speak eye-to-eye. “You can’t imagine the ramifications of what we had created. A drug with the power to increase one’s own brainpower. Imagine the future of humanity: a race of Einsteins, Nietzsches, Newtons, and Platos. Cognitive enhancement, in once-a-day format.” Briggs chuckled to himself softly. “Naturally, the government took notice. They gave us a hefty grant to start human trials ahead of schedule. The stench of corruption is heavy these days.” Briggs smiled darkly.

            Warner twitched, despite himself.

             “Of course, the human test subject had to be carefully selected. AdVanz, in such an early stage, was too powerful for a normal human; the sudden increase in cognitive ability would be rapidly fatal. But, we reasoned, if we could secure a human of…lesser ability…” Briggs said, patting Warner’s shoulder, “the risk might be lessened.

             “When we found you, you were in sad shape. But AdVanz changed all that.” Briggs’s stare became unfocused for a moment, as if he were looking at something far-off, a future of his own design. Quickly, he returned. “Naturally, such a process was carefully monitored by our finest doctors, and the moment of your ‘awakening’ was a great day for all of us here at the Company.”

            Warner looked at Briggs in a mixture of fascination and horror. “What…what are you saying?”

            Briggs laughed to himself. “Oh, poor James. You really don’t know, do you?” He leaned closer once more, grinning again. “Before AdVanz, your IQ was so low as to be impossible to measure. A legal vegetable. You were a drooling idiot in a mental institution.”

            Warner’s vision darkened. The room swayed under him. “What…?”

            Briggs grinned still deeper. “You’re a freak. Something we created in a lab. And as of this moment, you…are…cut…off.”

            The dreaded feeling enveloped Warner. He was disconnected again, unable to think, unable to feel. Having senses but having no mind. Darkness closed around him…darkness in which shapes moved, then danced, and were finally seen no more.




            The nurse locked the door to the padded cell with a click. Inside the small, cubic room sat the drooling, silent figure of James Warner. “So he wasn’t what you were looking for, then?” she asked, plaintively.

            The man, dressed entirely in black, spoke from behind a pair of dark sunglasses. “Afraid not.” He smiled to the nurse pleasantly. “Got any others like him?”
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(no subject) [Jan. 12th, 2005|07:49 pm]
"All literary men are Red Sox fans." John Cheever

In the loniest of loneliness a devil came upon me and said
"What wonderful thoughts fill your little head!
On God and Man, on love and war, on good and evil,
Too bad they all find you a bore."
Startled was I, and unshaken too,
"If a demon exists, the Lord must too, you bring me good news, I say to you!"

The devil's lips curled, his red teeth shined,
"The rule of this earth is alone, Mine."
"Not true!" Said I, "If evil is here, than where is good?"
"In the absence of fire, one must find wood"
"Show me good, for though I am present in man, this good must be too" the devil spake
So his evil heart I attempted to wake

"Man fights wars to save the innocents,
Is there not good in these fighting gents?"
The devil laughed, his chuckle tore through me
"Those men fight for their own good, they wish not to soothe thee"
"The fight for wrath, for pleasure and for lust,
They fight for all the things man needs, his "I must"

"What about me then, there’s good there!
If the noble cast off the cloak, the meek, they will wear!"
The devil smiled, a glint in his eye
"You started innocent, but you already know your fate, to die"
"You will lie forgotten, bones on the road of life,
the only way you'll be remembered is through children and wife"

My heart, it broke, my brain yelled out "True"
"My humble pursuits are nothing to you!"
"Tis right" said the devil "Your thoughts matter not,
You'd do better finding a wife and a warm cot"
With this my soul broke, my life had changed pace
"I can not win this stupid race, so shoot me in the face"

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