Sunday, May 13, 2007

ok, so here's the plan

I need to finish my play for the fringe and write a 10 min play for Ars Nova by the end of the month and then I'm getting back on this novel fulltime (or as fulltime as someone with a fulltime job anyway) and try and finish by Aug 17. We'll see how it goes. I'm sure I will have to interrupt the writing to work on some play rewrites but it is theoretically possible to finish the first draft of the novel by my 30th birthday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

the old novel attempt

Ok, So I will get back to writing this novel. i swear. In the meantime, here my first attempt to write a novel at the age of 23 or so. i was reading lots of Tom Robbins at the time. In some ways, it's the same story I'm trying to tell now. I'm just not using the same characters exactly or the same plot exactly. But in my mind, I'm just starting over and telling the same story. This is 18 pages double spaced.

The Tabington Breakfast Cult
By Adam Szymkowicz

Part I
Eggs and Marmalade Toast: How the Cult Got Started


Like he did at least twice a week, Tad woke at three in the morning or three at night, depending how you look at it. He clawed the plaid covers away from his plaid pajamas and sat up, running his hands through his dark shaggy hair while his wife, Phyllis, snored up a lung on the far side of the bed. Tad hated to be awake more and more this last year. What bothered him more than the price of gas, his thinning hair or the smile-and-chide boss at the insurance company where he phoned and keyboarded his day away was a feeling that something was missing.
Something unknown gnawed at his brain, especially at three-o-clock in the morning and night. Tad considered becoming an alcoholic, but remembered that his grandfather had been one, and had been fairly miserable. Perhaps alcoholism was not the answer. Anyway, these days they had prescription drugs to chase away whatever this void was. Though Tad couldn’t see asking a doctor for prescription drugs because he woke at night with a dread of death and a godless world. Maybe I’m not getting enough sunlight, he thought. Or vitamins. It could be vitamins. Maybe I should pick up some quartz crystal or start smoking something. Maybe there’s a religion I ‘d like. I haven’t really been looking too hard. So Tad went back to bed, thinking tomorrow he would go to the library and learn about the religions of the world.

Instead, the next evening, Tad sat in front of the TV with his cheap beer in one hand, ignoring his wife screeching in the kitchen.
“Fucking cat! You know what that fucking cat did?”
Tad finished his beer and went to the refrigerator for another.
“You know what that fucking cat did?”
“Who cares.”
“You better damn well care.”
“Phyllis, you could get a heart attack from standing too close to the microwave and you could die instantly and it wouldn’t make a difference what the cat did.”
“Why do you say things like that?”
“I could die too. I’m not saying . . .”
“Well, don’t.”
“I could die too. I could be dead when you wake up tomorrow.”
“Stop talking like that. Go back in there and watch your TV.”

That night Tad didn’t sleep at all. He rolled and turned, punched his pillow, twisted and rolled, stretched and curled and rolled some more. His wife’s snoring seemed to him like a jeering cigarette boat speeding past a dinky dinghy on a windless day. He nudged her, but she didn’t stir. He nudged her a little harder. She rolled with his punch, but didn’t wake. Finally Tad lifted his 5’10’ frame out of bed and shuffled to the kitchen. It was fiveish now, and he’d have to be up in another hour anyway. He may as well get a jump on breakfast.
Tad opened the refrigerator and examined his options: ketchup, onions, grapes, beer, tupperware containers full of leftovers he didn’t like the first time, old cheese, four slices of bread, a couple of oranges, eggs and cat food. He settled on the eggs. As he was heating the frying pan, getting ready to scramble his breakfast, he thought he heard a little voice. No smoking. Tad looked around. Did someone just tell him not to smoke? He didn’t smoke. Not since he was a teenager. Why would someone forbid him to smoke--and in his own kitchen at that?
By the time he had begun his scrambling, he had forgotten all about the little voice. When he sat down with his plate of slightly burned eggs, he dug his fork in and the eggs shouted, Ouch! What are ya doing? Tad jumped back, dropping the plate on the floor. His wife’s cat scurried into the kitchen and started to munch the spilled egg fragments. Tad picked up the cat and threw her out the back door. Then he got down on the kitchen floor and pleaded with the eggs to speak again.
“Please, don’t die. Tell me again--what were you saying? What have you come to tell me?”
And that is when he noticed his wife standing in the doorway.
“Did you put Mittens outside in this rain?” She demanded.


Tracey always slept through the nights without difficulties, but keep in mind she dosed herself heavily with sleeping pills. She liked the little blue pills the best because she rarely woke before noon when she downed a couple of those bad boys.
Tracey didn’t mind not waking until noon. She hadn’t gone to any sort of regular work for a couple of years now and was living off the money of others, especially her parents. She graduated from the University of Colchester with a double major in Painting and Writing and had found it nearly impossible to find a job with credentials like that. She didn’t want to work for Disney or write her own children’s books as some of her peers had suggested. And she fumed at the thought of pretending her five years in college had never happened and waste her days away in front of a cash register or a computer. So she lived off her parents. They were rarely around anyway to bother her. So what if she was 24? She was fairly happy, bored sometimes, but that’s where the sleeping pills came in. And it wasn’t like she didn’t have her friends and her hobbies. She did spend an hour or so a day painting and at least an hour fucking one or two of her friends.
The only thing you could say bothered her was her lack of fame. Every morning she woke up and went into the bathroom, stood on her furry purple bathmat and looked into the mirror at her unfamous face. Then she looked down at her unfamous feet blocked slightly by her small unfamous breasts.
Tracey wanted to be Picasso and Van Gogh. She wanted to be Janis Joplin, Alice in Wonderland and Anais Nin. She wanted to be a porn star and a rock star and a star of the screen. But more than anything she wanted to be a famous painter. Not just an average famous painter, but the kind even unartistic people knew. She wanted her own movement like Surrealism or Dadaism, but bigger and bolder and a lot more famous. She would be a pioneer. Now all she needed was an original idea--an original view of the world. Then she would let her idea out in the world with her name tacked onto it and her feet and her face and her wrists would be famous. Photographers would come in their black sunglasses, black pants, black shirts and ties and they would photograph her famous feet against velvet maroon backgrounds.
Until then, she vegged and painted her day away. Her boyfriends came around because of her loud “I’m here, let’s dance” attitude. She only fucked one or two of them who she couldn’t resist. The others she just kept around because they made her feel good and they helped to entertain her, not to mention take her out to clubs where other men could look at her. She never had to buy her own drinks. But, she knew, that wasn’t just because of her attitude but also because of her red hair.
Some men wanted her merely because of her curley red shoulder-length hair. She was pretty in an innocent freckled way but she could never have been a porn star. She was too real. Her breasts barely crossed the threshold between A and B. Her ankles were too large, her legs slightly too plump. Her ass, she thought, was growing every day, but she kept it in tight pants when she went out and let it go where it would. At five-foot four, she attracted almost as much attention as she wanted because her red hair, untainted by blond or brown took the attention away from her muddy eyes and stunted strawberry blond lashes.
Tracey frequented the clubs, strolling in with one or two men and leaving with at least as many. She was at Orco’s when the S&M Doctors played two stoned sets and at the end of the night she took Streak, the lead singer, home with her. Tracey was also at Orco’s two months later, the first time Tad appeared on stage.


Ed lived alone and slept on the floor. He hated beds and told his acquaintances the floor was better for his back. It made him feel manly. It made him feel strong. The sad truth, however, was that Ed only lay on the floor for fifteen or thirty minutes before he got into the bed. It was one thing to sleep on the floor, it was quite another to spend the whole night there. Ed only slept 4 or 5 hours a night anyway. When he was younger he had slept an average of 3 hours a night, but he was popping up on 30 and found he needed sleep, so he played less chess and slept an hour or so longer.
Ed disliked people. They bored him and annoyed him with their stupidity. He rarely left his apartment except to go to work and to the store. He ate only wheat bread and tuna fish out of the can. Now and then he’d order a pizza, but that didn’t really count in his mind as part of his diet and he never fed his cat any of the pizza. Flippers, named in a night of irony, ate tuna from the same can Ed ate from. Ed used a spoon, so he wouldn’t accidentally stab Flippers.
Ed was a computer programmer who hated computers. He was a human who hated other humans. The only thing he loved was Flippers and Flippers often didn’t know when Ed was around because she was too old and blind and deaf.
On top of his dresser, Ed kept a list of people he thought should die. The pope was high on the list and so was the vice president. The list contained a number of people who were already dead and Ed, who didn’t read the newspaper, had never been notified. John Denver was on the list. He had also added a few fictional characters to the list before printing it out on his laser printer. Most of them were Disney characters. Ed hated the way Disney made all their animals and plates and things talk and walk around. Both Mickey and Minnie Mouse had asterisks next to their names, meaning they were fictional and it would be difficult for them to actually die. The pope also had an asterisk next to his name, but Ed only wished the pope were fictional. He hated organized religions like many bitterly intelligent people.
While Ed was not a virgin, he was not comfortable with sex and preferred his own hand to a partner of any kind. Although he considered himself heterosexual, Ed often masterbated while watching Conan the Barbarian, one of the two movies he owned. The other movie, which was still in its shrink wrap, was an instructional video on how to play the harmonica. He hadn’t gotten around to buying the harmonica yet.
He spent most of his time playing chess, moving the pewter chess warriors around the stone board. He hadn’t played against someone else in a long time. They were too stupid. He had played chess by mail and then chess by email, but had mocked his opponents until no one would play him anymore. Now he played himself and the games were much more intense and lasted longer.
The month when Ed started playing chess with three queens per side and no rooks, was when he first heard about the Tabington Breakfast Cult, as the newspapers called it. His co-worker, Josh, was eating an egg and bacon sandwich while Ed stepped to the table, head down to get some water for his tea.
“It’s ridiculous. Think about it,” said Josh to Denise.
“It’s like the burning bush though.”
“Sure. That stuff only happened with Moses. Anyway that was a little ridiculous too.”
“You think the Bible is made up?”
“Of course it is.” Josh turned to Ed who had procured his water and was making his escape. “Ed isn’t the Bible a lot of poppycock?”
Ed turned like a rickety chair. “Yes.” He looked to see if that’s all that was required of him.
“I don’t care what you say. It could happen.”
“What’s his name? Tabington?”
“That’s what they call him.”
“He’s hallucinating. Been smoking too much crack.”
And that had been the end of it. Ed walked away and didn’t flash back to that conversation until months later.


The evening on the day Tad’s eggs spoke to him, he sat on his kitchen stool talking to his best friend and neighbor,Toby.
“I swear to God, Toby.”
“I’m not saying I don’t believe you.”
“You’re not saying you do.”
“I believe you actually think your scrambled eggs told you not to smoke.”
“You think I’m crazy?”
“Over-worked, maybe. Crazy? Probably not.”
“I’m not overworked.”
“I haven’t slept too much recently.”
“There you go. Lack of sleep can cause hallucinations.”
“Yeah, but Toby, I’ve had less sleep.”
“You ever see weird shit?”
“Sometimes the paintings start vibrating.”
“There you go.”
“But they never spoke.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Toby said and took a sip from his beer.
They sat in silence for a minute, then Toby added, “If it happens again tomorrow morning I’ll believe you.”

But nothing happened the next morning even though Tad got up just as early and scrambled his eggs. It didn’t happen at all that week. Or the next. And by the time Tad had forgotten about talking eggs, that’s when his toast started screaming at him.
Tad was sitting at the kitchen counter waiting for his white bread to pop up brown when he heard a rusty voice coming from the general area of the toaster.
Tad, you’re a piece of shit!
“You’re a piece of shit,” Tad said without thinking.
I’m a piece of toast. You’re a piece of shit.
Will you shut up? said the first toast’s mate.
No I won’t. I’m talking to this piece of shit.
He’s not a piece of shit. He’s Tad.
“She’s right,” said Tad who instinctively knew the second rusty voice was a female piece of toast.”
Get me out of this hell hole and spread some orange marmalade on me!
“I don’t like marmalade.”
I didn’t ask you.
Now, sweetheart, watch your temper.
I will not watch my temper. I’m burning here. The bastard piece of shit is letting me burn.
Tad, could you take us out please.
And Tad popped the handle, lifted them out onto his plate, careful not to let them break or flake off. Then he spread butter on them.
He’s gonna eat us.
No he won’t.
Careful with the butter, piece of shit. That’s cold stuff you’re spreading around.
Tad continued to spread, then paused before lifting the male slice up to his mouth.
Whoa!! Whoa there! What are you doing?
“Having breakfast.”
Don’t you know that we’re sacred slices sent down from heaven to deliver a prophecy?
Floyd, don’t you think you’re spreading it a little thick?
We come to deliver a message from your creator.
I need a shovel, Floyd.
“All right, what’s your message then?”
I’m not telling you. You’ll eat me.
“You’re toast. What do you expect?”
The female slice shrugged. He’s right.
I’m not telling you anything until you promise not to eat us.
“All right.” Tad got up and put two more slices into the toaster.
And put orange marmalade on us.
“Over the butter?”
Yeah, over the butter.
Tad conceded and talked to the toast until his wife came into the room still in her robe, her dark hair twisted into uncomfortable knots. As she shuffled in, the slices went mute.
“Who are you talking to?”
“No one.”
“I don’t see any eggs, Tad.
“There aren’t any eggs for you to talk to Tad.”
“What do you want?”
“The toilet’s clogged.”
Tad left to unclog the toilet and when he returned, his wife had eaten his conversation partners.

Tracey was in her room riding a pale hairy stallion when, in mid-thrust, she suddenly got an idea. She leaped off him and ran to her moon-shaped table where she began scribbling away at her notepad, all the while ignoring his whimpers of unrequited love.
This was it! This was the idea! This was her passageway to fame. Now all she needed were several pieces of work implementing her idea and several thousand people coming to see it every day. If only she had taken that marketing class in college. But she was getting ahead of herself. She had to paint it first. Maybe a couple of sculptures, a manifesto or two. Then try to market it.
Tracey was so caught up in her new canvas, she didn’t notice when her toy left. She had completely forgotten about him until an hour later when she started wipe her paint-covered hands on her smock and realized she was naked.

That same night, after Ed did his seventy nightly pushups and stared for fifteen minutes at his bare white walls, he went to the closet, got a pair of rubber-handled pliers and began tearing his left hand with them.
He was testing his pain threshold. Pretty soon his hand started bleeding as he went from finger to finger. It was true that Ed’s father lost his left arm in a jet engine, and it was perhaps guilt of having a left hand that made him do it. Or maybe it was a general masochistic tendency he’d had since he was a child running through prickers, stung with the pain yet enjoying the exhiliration of feeling alive. Surviving. Or perhaps as his neighbors who heard him grunt in pain would later say, “He’s crazy.”

Tracey attacked the canvas in a way she never had before, painting with both hands and no brushes. She chose violent vivid colors and the product turned out much more abstract than any other work she had ever created. Only one object was visible in her color muddle: a slice of toast. She almost painted over it, but later she was glad she didn’t.

Ed wrapped his bleeding hand in an old blue dress shirt and fell into bed.
“Flippers!” he called to his cat, but she was too deaf to hear him. He didn’t sleep at all that night, the sting of his bleeding keeping him awake.


Father Dave was standing at his ironing board about to iron his black shirt when Toby knocked on his door. Dave had to squeeze past his ironing board and file between his cat scratched coffee table and chairs to get to the door.
“Father Dave, I don’t know if you remember me, but I . . .”
“Toby, you cut your hair. You cut off those beautiful blond curls.”
“I’m an adult now.”
“You can’t be more than 20.”
“I’m 22.”
“And Twenty-two year olds don’t have blond curls? It was your halo. I always said it was your halo. How do I look to you? Old, I imagine. Keep in mind I was just about to shave when you knocked so I may be a bit scruffy.”
“You’re not scruffy.”
“And I’m balding.”
“You were always balding.”
“It’s part of my charm. So what can I do for you? You’re not getting married are you, because I’m sorry but I don’t do that anymore, not that I don’t miss it mind you , but one must make sacrifices. Of course I could become a justice of the peace, but then it wouldn’t be the same, now would it?”
“I’m not here to get married.”
“Good. You’re so young. I didn’t want to say anything earlier, you had your mind so set on it, but you really are still quite young. Please sit down.” Father Dave led him to the gold and yellow armchair which had been methodically torn-up by the cats of the previous owners, then went back to his ironing. “There you go. Can I get you anything? Some juice maybe? Well, I guess you’re old enough for a beer now, though I doubt that would be your failing the way you’d scrunch up your face from the communion wine. Christ never knew he could cause such pain in young children. He probably would have made it apple juice if he could have. Of course, beer and wine have a much different taste anyway. You could adore beer and never touch wine for the rest of your days. Both of them aquired tastes anyway, really.”
“I’m fine. Thank you.” Toby smiled at the man he once knew. “The reason I came Father . . .”
“Are you selling something? I don’t have a lot of money, but you know I would of course do anything to help out someone from my old Parish.”
“I’m not selling anything.”
“I need some new knives, actually. Do you know where I could get some good steak knives? Not that I really need them, but it is difficult to cut a steak with a paring knife, not that I eat too much steak, but a good steak every now and then is good for the soul, don’t you think?”
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“Oh. Well, I guess I’m still a little bit Old Testament when it comes to eating animals.”
“That’s what I came to talk to you about.”
“What? Eating animals.”
“The Old Testament.”
“I see. How unusual. Are you selling Bibles?”
“No. You see I have this friend Tad and he’s telling people that his toast and eggs are talking to him.” Father Dave looked up from his ironing. “I was just wondering, I don’t know. Has God ever spoken to you?”
“Does God ever stop speaking? Never underestimate the divine.”
“So you think Tad’s eggs really are talking?”
“It’s possible. What do the eggs say?”

That Sunday Phyllis tried to drag Tad to Church again.
“But what if I don’t believe in God?”
“Of course you believe in God. Everyone believes in God. I promise you the Christ wafers will talk to you if you go.”
“Shut up about that.”
“Put on your shoes. My mom will be here any minute.”
“I told you I’m not going.”
Phyllis went to the bathroom to remove the cat hair from her black pants and when she emerged fifteen minutes later her husband was missing.

Tad had decided to go on a walk thereby avoiding Phyllis’s mother and the Catholic church and so he could grab a bite to eat. He stopped in Sam’s Diner, enjoying the ring of bells as he entered and quietly sat in the farthest corner below the moosehead which seemed terribly out of place in the 50’s style of metal walls and table jukeboxes--almost as out of place as the bowling trophies behind the counter.
As Tad was sipping his tomato juice waiting for his hashbrowns and eggs to arrive, he heard a deep grunt. Tad was about to run to the door away from these noises he knew would only bring him ridicule when he heard the voice say, “Don’t get up.”
“I wasn’t going to,” Tad bluffed. He looked around to see if anyone could hear him talking to himself.
“Oh, you’re a rookie at this game. Don’t be playing with me,” Tad heard the booming moose say without moving his mouth.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to listen to my story. No more. No less. When I’m finished you can eat your breakfast in peace.”
“My food isn’t here yet.”
“I know. The service is terrible, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. It is.”
“I would never eat here.”
“Sometimes you can’t be picky. So what’s your story?”
“I’m getting to it. Hold on.” The moose took a deep breath. “Once upon a time there was a frog named Edgar who didn’t get along well with the other frogs. He was always pushing tadpoles around and stealing flies away from little frogs, running around calling the elders ‘Wartboy’ and ‘Cheeseface.’ No one would do anything about Edgar because he was a big teenage frog and all the little frogs were afraid of him. And he was an orphan so he didn’t have parents to yell at him and keep him in line. One little frog named Jay thought he’d try to teach Edgar a lesson. He waited til Edgar.....went into deep water and Jay got eaten by a big bass.