Six and a half hours of work went down the drain faster than the two hours defrosting, many teaspoons of seasoning and hours cleaning guns or making sure Gwendolyn was put away. Nona had just taken the lid off the roaster to let the turkey cool only to hear little tinkling in the hall outside of her apartment. Gone was Nona for maybe two . . . three minutes. Normally the drug addicts dragged their zombie carcasses into her foyer to shoot up. Nona grabbed a broom on the way out.
Her home was a glorified rectangle trying to be a one bedroom, one bath apartment. An eight by ten-foot apartment opened into a kitchen-slash-dining area that took up one hole side of a room shaped like a backwards letter L. Her craft station for welding and handyman stuff took up the corner. The upright part of the Letter L was a living area. The three-quarter bathroom and foyer were across from the nude portraits of floating abs in her living room. A fairly modest abode for an old spinster living alone.
Old woman stood to the side of her door. She didn’t hear any incomprehensible screaming or the hydraulics of an epi-pen full of fentanyl. The Caucasian adjusted her grip on her broom. She counted to the count of three only to slam open the door. Someone crashed into her storage rack. Several creatures scattered for the hills leaving a kid way too young and way too clean to be living in the streets.
Nona stood about five foot two inches plus a hundred pounds soaking wet. Her messy, low bun had gray mingled with the ginger framing a wrinkled face. Downturned, blue eyes blinked in disbelief at the kid who was probably her polar opposite in every way possible. The kid’s hair was freaking green! Pale skin that would have looked perfect for a goth boy band compared to the sun spots splattered down her peaches and cream hands. Whatever was left of his polo shirt, chinos, loafers, and expensive blazer went through a shredder. Forget clothes being bought ripped, he came to the door and got ripped up.
Nona closed the outside door. She threw the broom up to catch it at the bristle end. She poked said stranger with the stick end of the broom. Was he alive? She tapped him the head and bolted. The stranger stirred. He stretched. He was five feet five inches tall. Nona huffed thinking, yeah, she could take this man in a fight. He didn’t have prosthetics or crazed look in those pink eyes. They went round in fear.
“Hold up! Don’t hurt me!” he begged for his life and curled into a ball, “Just take what you want man! Compsognathus ate my wallet, keys and phone alright?!”
Nona heaved a sigh.
“A Comp-soak-Nathan?” Nona rumbled, “Now what in Pumpkin Pie is a Comp-slog-whose-its and why would I want your . . . whatever? Who are you again?”
The young man pulled at his hair in anguish.
“A comp-sog-nay-thus . . . you know like in the book, Michael Craton wrote!” he said, “Except uh,”
“Ohhhh,” interrupted Nona.
She didn’t science very well but she read a lot of books to the cat her landlord hated.
“I-I-I I’m Pugnax,” he said, “I go to college at the university.”
“Boy, you look like a drugstore cowboy not a college educate,” Nona drawled.
“Hey! My Dad bought me that tuition!” he started but stood up to his full height. He steeped his fingers. One deep breath in. He started again, “Look, my homework ate my stuff and I need it back. It was for a modern art project.”
Nona narrowed her eyes.
“Modern art?” she professed.
“It’s for school! I was supposed to create something of life and I . . . I need to get it back. Did you see which Compsognathus ate my house keys?”
“. . .” Nona shook her head no.
A crash clattered across the kitchen. Nona threw open the inner foyer door and shuffled into the apartment. Little lizards about a foot tall and a yard long tore into a turkey Nona spent hours working on. Instead of shriek like a normal person, Nona cussed like a sailor. She launched over the couch and swung her broom down. The creatures scattered. Their claws on the tile mimicked the tinkling Nona heard in the vents. Several of them gobbled her turkey akin to rabid dogs. She swung her broom. They scattered like pigeons.
Ancient angered one gripped her weapon so hard her knuckles turned white.
“Your bastardy blink born buzzards!” Nona snapped.
Her hand shot out before the dino sensed her grip. Nona squared her stance. Hand around the dinosaur’s throat and kept swinging round and round. G-forces slowly divorced the head from the neck. Flocks of its brethren bore down on her. Scratches and bites. Yet the power of fury kept Nona focused.
“You know how long I worked for that turkey! Left-overs are the best part of Thanksgiving and you bastard buzzards wouldn’t know generosity if in it ripped your head off!” she screamed.
The body popped off in Nona’s grip. Artery blood rocketed it into the nearest wall. The Compsognathus tried to walk its death off. That’s when Nona noticed a Compsognathus wasn’t as impressive as her imagination lead it to be. Compsagnathus was maybe a yard long. Two thirds of that length was garter snake tail shoved up the derriere of a bird squished sideways. She opened her hand to find the head as narrow as a turkey skull ending in a crocodile muzzle . . . squished into a wedge shape. She leered at Pugnax. Pugnax raised his arms in surrender.
“Hey! Don’t look at me! I didn’t bring them in here!” the collegiate lamented with a clap of his hands.
Beep-beep-beep beep beep~ beep-beep-beep-beep.
A tsunami of pests smashed into Pugnax’s rib cage. Pugnax screamed bloody murder. The more Compsognathus he slapped off, the more climbed up until he was a running pile of feathered snake tails slapped by a broom in a desperate attempt to get them off. Nona stomped her foot. She threw down her broom and cupped her eyes to survey the situation. There was only one thing left to do.
Nona clapped her hands.
Beep-beep-beep beep beep~ beep-beep-beep-beep.
One dino’s belly glowed. It cried out. The flock surged forth. Nona shuffled sideways. She up ended the table. Multitudes crashed onto its surface. More ambled over the side to get to Nona. Yet the broom smashed into them before they could reach her. Pugnax yelled something incomprehensible.
The two ran to Nona’s bedroom in a flurry of swats and kicks. Compsognathus arms and legs got shut in the sliding doors. Squeals deafened the kitchen. Pugnax beat at the beasts again and again until one by one Compsognathus critters scraped their limbs out. The duo slammed their backs against the door and slid down for some semblance of respite.
Pugnax’s hair spiked in disarray akin to bat wings struggled in a net. His pants were holier than thou and his blazer barely covered his shirt ribbons. His complexion went from white as a Strigoi to striped in lacerations. Nona’s hair was coming out of its bun. Her dress had holes all over it. Her cardigan ate up in holes. Pugnax wiped tears from his eyes. Nona took a deep breath from through her nose. Air exhaled from parted lips.
Nona got up. She dusted herself off.
“FUCK!” yelled the old woman.
Nona started again.
“Okay Drugstore Cowboy,” said Nona, “I mean, Pugnax. Okay from the top. What are those blinker buzzards and how are you involved in them.”
“My Dad bought my way into this art school because he wanted me to get kicked out of the house.” Pugnax said, “He’s dating a sugar baby.”
“Whoa-whoa not that far back Cowboy,” Nona corrected, “Just before you got stuck in my foyer.”
“Oh . . . Sorry,” Pugnax ran a hand down his face looking as tired as Nona was old, “For modern art we were supposed to do an art project focused on life. So, a bunch of us got to together, bought a bunch of eggs, a bioengineering kit off some shady guy in the hallway.”
“You’re insane,” Nona judged.
“Hey! It’s modern art, if a guy can put his head up a cow’s rectum to experience being in the womb, a bunch of college kids can bring back the dinosaurs,” Pugnax tried to defend himself, “No big deal.”
That “No big deal” crashed another thing in Nona’s house. Amidst the unholy screeching, the angered attitudes and Compsagnathus tearing apart Nona’s prized turkey, it proved a disappointing deal. Pugnax hugged his knees to his head. Nona pulled on his arm.
“Come on Cowboy, get up.” Nona said, “You fucked up. Just get up, dust off, yell fuck, and restart.”
“How is THAT supposed to help!” Pugnax complained.
Nona stared a hole through the boy. She strode to her closet. The doors pitched open revealing several pistols and blunt instruments on the left door. The right door glowed in psychedelic colors. Nona threw her cardigan on the bed revealing muscles ripped into her lean figure. Her arms bulged when she pulled on the knob. Purple eyes popped open from inside the closet.
“Uh . . . ma’am,” Pugnax tried to speak up.
“My name is Nona, I’m a fourth deployed super soldier, retired from a corporate army.” She told him.
Pugnax gulped. Buff grandma was the only words coming to mind but she was reassembling a Morningstar mace and tossed it to him. Pugnax buckled under its weight.
“Oh yeah I forgot nanites enhance strength not gauge strength,” Nona stated, “You’re puny.”
“Hey! I-I exercise!” Pugnax stammered.
He flexed his biceps to demonstrate. Guy was so thin the only muscles he could pump up were a couple of foothills. Nona pumped one arm. Her biceps were a mountain range bulging with rivers of blood vessels and the little barcode on her shoulder. Pugnax slumped in defeat then remembered his homework.
“You don’t have any cats here, do you? I don’t want them eaten.” He exclaimed.
“Have you seen my closet,” Nona hinted.
She parted the clothes. What unfolded out of the closet was a tall, Amazonian Goddess . . . If Goddesses dressed in purple. Black banes swept to frame a face of half-closed, gray almond eyes. She had doll joints at the elbows. Boobs filled the upper half of her wasp-waist build. Purple hair fell to the top of her hips. Yet purple spotted ears poked out of the top of her head. Long spotted tail carried in a point. She leaned forward to rub her cheek against Nona’s. Pugnax’s circulation pooled into his nose. He bit back a squeal.
“Pugnax, this is Gwendolyn,” Nona said, “Gwendolyn this is Pugnax. Together, we are going to help him with his homework.”
“Yay!” Gwendolyn mewed.
“We are going to murder Modern Art!” she leered.
“Yay!” Gwendolyn cheered again unwary of what she just said.
Pugnax’s brain bluescreened. He wondered where did a spinster get a sex-bot for a housecat. On the other hand, why. Pugnax didn’t want to know why. Gwendolyn didn’t care she just started throwing everyone clothes instead.
“Nana,” Gwendolyn complained, “I already have clothes.”
“We’re fighting tiny dinosaurs,” Nona reminded her cat . . . cat-girl . . . pet robot. “I don’t want to ruin our good clothes and sweatshirts provide a semblance of protection.”
Pugnax didn’t know what to do. A Modern Art degree in this city was an expensive training in bullshitting. How was he going to Bologna Bard this to the teachers.
“Okay, I’m getting dressed over here. Gwendolyn you get dressed with your back to him. Cowboy, you get dressed with your back to her. Screw the dry-cleaning bill. Just wear the sweatshirt.” Nona bossed everyone around with her back to them.
Pugnax took a deep breath as he looked at the bright pink “#10 Grandmaster Grandma” sweatshirt. If he put this on, there would be no point of no return. His dignity and his pride hung in the balance until he pawed the back of his pants. His homework tried to shear off his butt. The point of no return never returned.
“Gwendolyn, do you have a pair of pants I could borrow?” he asked Nona’s Gwendolyn.
“I need pants or a stapler,” he trailed off.
“Sure! Here!” Gwendolyn purred.
She threw a pair of pants over his shoulder. Pugnax turned to thank her only to be bombarded with naked legs and Gwendolyn’s leopard print panties. Pugnax turned around quick. No one had time to correct the situation of the wardrobe. He was just lucky her “I’m a Classic” purple sweatshirt was large enough to end mid-thigh on her bod.
Nona threw Gwendolyn a pair of pants.
“Confound it Gwendolyn, we’re fighting prehistoric chickens. Get your legs protected.”
The Compsognathus flock formed a tower of themselves to the ceiling grate wobbling back and forth from the bottom to the top. A knife bared in their little claws and wrists that don’t bend coupled to hands without thumbs. The bottom dino chased his tail prompting the tower to slowly spin. The knife started unscrewing the last screw. Little by little the hundreds of Compsognathus battered against the grate, enough to take over the whole building. Yet one headless body in the corner was stuck in the sink. The gravy boat filled with blood. Commander clapper belly hid behind all its compatriots, barking orders in a series of clicks and whistles from the back.
Applause erupted from the bedroom.
Beep-beep-beep beep beep~ beep-beep-beep-beep.
“WAH!” cried Commander Clapper Belly.
All available hands abandoned ship to attack the door. The grate fell out flooding tens more into the tiny kitchen. The door slammed open. Hammer smacked across wedged skulls. Pugnax had not the strength to smack a prehistoric bird-goblin into jelly. A blunt instrument didn’t need as much precision as a knife. Gwendolyn’s eyes lit with flames at her good cookery spread across the floor. She dropped her broom and went straight for the cleaver.
Slash sideways. Slash the other way. Nona swung down the middle. Her sword hand snaked back to thrust. Compsognathus were monster fodder for the madwoman. What the dinos lacked in poison they made up for in sheer numbers ambushing the old woman. Teeth and claws scratched at head and arms.
“Duck! Nona!” yelled Pugnax.
He swung his hammer. The beasts splattered among the scattered. Nona double backed around the couch. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the pistol. Her hand gripped high on the tang. Other hand wrapped around the firearm slotting one thumb into another. Her trigger finger turned off the safety. She said a prayer. Pugnax ducked out of the way.
Gunpowder and buckshot scattered the Compsognathus too unlucky to dodge Nona’s sight. Pugnax winced from the bang. Green eyes boggled in his skull.
“You brought a gun?!” Pugnax screamed.
“Bring overkill into a knife fight,” Nona cackled, “Chew on this BUZZARDS”
She emptied an entire magazine into the mob. The clip fell out of the end of the handle. Nona jammed another magazine into the gun.
Meanwhile, Gwendolyn scurried behind the mob with barbed wire and car batteries. She stifled her giggles. A scoot in the wrong direction had Gwendolyn jumping over dinosaurs. Her tail puffed out in alarm as she almost got caught.
Commander Clapper-belly zeroed in on Gwendolyn. He dove for her face. Pugnax gasped. He clapped his hands as loud as he could. The resonating beeps followed Commander Clapper-belly. Its personal mob ganged up on Pugnax in a maelstrom of clawed fury. Nona switched places. Barbed wire hooked up to the car batteries. The circuit left open in the middle between them and the exit. Nona whistled for Gwendolyn and Pugnax. Pugnax ran, throwing off lizards who squirmed all over him. Their teeth gnawing on his borrowed outfit. Nona yanked the two inside. The Foyer door slammed shut. She shut the outside door to her apartment for good measure too.
“Uh . . . Nona,” Pugnax gulped, “Did . . . uh . . . Did you just let my homework kick us out of your house?
“Yup,” Nona agreed, the puh sound popped on her lips.
Pugnax was covered in scratches. He wiped his cheek only to smear more blood on his cheek. Nona, for some odd reason, was slowly healing from the many bite wounds she received. Her skin cells each flipped over as the nanites racing through her DNA did their work to stitch her back up underneath the blood smearing her clothes. Pugnax guessed most of that blood was not hers.
Gwendolyn’s ears pricked forward, wiggled to and fro at the various ticks and tocks going on. She saw glowing eyes in the foyer vent. Like a good kitty she smashed their hands. Compsognathus ran off sucking on hurt fingers. With Gwendolyn’s six-foot-tall height, batting at buzzards was merely a game. Nona passed her a piece of wood and a set of nails. She hammered the board over the grate effectively blocking their exit.
All that was left . . . was the foyer.
Nona started clapping her hands. Pugnax blinked his eyes. He would have rubbed them in disbelief if they weren’t so dirty. Gwendolyn clapped along as happy as clam. She didn’t know what the hell was going on. She was delighted to include herself. Nona elbowed Pugnax. Pugnax went oomph!
“Hey, come on cowboy,” Nona said. “Let’s give a round of applause.”
“Those monsters nearly killed you!” Pugnax yelled.
Nona shrugged. She elbowed him again in a friendly manor but her bony elbows hurt.
“Have you ever noticed the commander of Compsagnathus hid behind everyone and let its friends do the fighting for it?” Nona pointed out, “It happened every time your house key’s clapper went off.”
Pugnax took a deep breath through his nose. He couldn’t believe what he was doing and he was the Modern Art student. Sometimes Modern Art was a heaping helping of half What the Fuck with a smidge of bologna barding and half philosophy. Nona seemed to have no connection until the dinosaurs attacked.
Compsognathus wailed in pain as more and more troops got tossed at a perpetual circuit between two lethal batteries. Nona took a break to light a cigar. The lighter lit deep frown lines around her eyes and lips. Cracked lips puffed away on the wrapped nicotine. The turned off lighter got tossed onto a shelf. She blew smoke out her nose. Pugnax and Gwendolyn’s applause were background noise to the cries of dinosaurs thrown to electrocution.
“Thanksgiving, a time of harvest,” Nona said, she strode in. Hands behind her back. Cigar smoke trailed above.
The foyer doors slid open with a whoosh. Nona stepped over the decimated Compsagnathus who dirtied their floor with their blackened, fricasseed corpses. The Compsognathus remaining scattered every which way to escape a calm, quiet Nona. She glared at the remains of her precious turkey.
“We give thanks for what our harvest gives us,” she stated, “Even if it’s harvested from a garden or lobed out of the frozen foods section of my favorite grocery store.”
Nona clapped her hands. Commander Clapper-belly’s tummy glowed with every beep. Yet everyone on its side ran away, straight into Gwendolyn’s awaiting gunny sack much to their horror. Nona snapped her fingers. The robot cat-girl scurried around hanging a clothesline tied from the top shelf of the storage rack next to Nona’s computer (that survived) and the bookshelf catty corner next to the living space.
Her hand shot out faster than his eyes could follow. Commander Clapper-belly cried, screamed, and struggled in Nona’s grip. She handed it to Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn hung Commander Clapper-belly upside down on the clothing line by his feet. He and his remain troops hung helplessly like prisoners of war before a shooting range.
“No one the hell should have messed with what I was thankful for,” Nona glowered. The cigar went from one side of the mouth to the other. “And if you start the fight. You finish even if you lose.”
Nona flipped the knife around. She held the handle out to Pugnax. Pugnax’s eyes widened. His gaze switched between the knife and the remaining Compsognathus he created. A thousand doubts clambered in his head. They got louder as his hand curled around the handle. It was one thing to breed an animal. It was another to remember how close death was at hand. Old spinster Nona pointed to the remaining Compsagnathus. Little monsters created on a shoestring budget in a world where getting god complex tech was cheap and easy.
‘No one ever told me taking a life is so physical,’ Pugnax thought as he gulped.
He started on the Compsognathus on the far side from Commando Clapper Belly. Pugnax held the creature’s head in his free hand. He squeezed his eyes shut. He sawed at the neck back and forth, back and forth. The serrated blade sawed into flesh and bone. Too soon the arteries sprayed. Pugnax gasped. Sticky liquid squirted out. Some of it landed in his mouth.
He gagged and gagged . . . and gagged.
“Again, Cowboy,” Nona scolded, “Slice hard. Slice fast. You actually kill more mercifully if you make it efficient. Like this.”
Nona borrowed the blade. She held the head. She slashed sideways. The head popped off. Blood sprayed to the floor, the disembodied carcass struggled to its last. Commander Clapper Belly watched in horror as its own creator practiced kills on its fellow beasts one . . . by . . . one until they came . . . to it.
By the time Pugnax made it to the last of his homework, the light in his eyes died inside. His lips steeled into a determined frown. Hand adjusted its grip on the blade. Pugnax looked him in the eye. His hands closed around his creation’s head.
“I’m sorry,” Pugnax choked out.
He brought his arm up until his knife hand was level with his ear. His heart pounded inside his head. Blood rushed to his face. Nostrils flared. He licked his dry lips. He didn’t know why it was so hard. He could see the torso rise and fall in teeny breaths. It couldn’t be the fact he had never butchered an animal before. Or maybe it could be the fact he never butchered an animal before. Servants usually made Thanksgiving Dinner at his Dad’s house. The closest he came to cooking was boiling water for cup noodles.
Then his brain asked him, what about his diet. Well, can’t say much. He never cooked before.
“I’m going to need my keys back,” he said and with one whack it was over.
Clapper-Belly’s head fell to the floor.
Nona was still a wee bit bitter at having her turkey ruined by knock off Dinosaur Park. Luckily a Compsognathus was still a bird, even a very reptilian looking bird. Much of the same things used to prepare poultry could be used on a Compsognathus. Pugnax did make a lot of those things.
The kitchen got scrubbed from top to bottom. The side dishes, like the pies, the sweet potatoes, the vegetables and casseroles were no worse for wear. Only problem was what to do with Pugnax. He looked like he got traumatized and hadn’t even fought in a war yet. Tears welled in his eyes. The very thing he put work into was now getting shredded and put into barbecue sauce for a pulled meat sandwich as if, the less he wanted to see any resemblance of his art, the better.
Nona flicked ash off of her cigar into the ash tray. She offered a comforting hand on his shoulder yet what could someone say to a kid who played mad scientist. He wasn’t Dr. Moreau. He cloned creatures. Yet was it any different than raising a lamb to be butchered.
“I’m sorry about your . . . Turkey,” Pugnax tried to find the right words, “I didn’t know I was playing God.”
“No, you were being retarded,” Nona said point blank. “Life needs a purpose. God gives people a purpose even if people don’t believe in God.”
Pugnax tried to smile through his tears. He just raised an animal only for it to wind up in a crockpot. It wasn’t too far off.
“That’s an insult to retards,” he said.
“No retarded is as retarded does,” Nona debated, “Though I guess we are supposed to call that “disabled” nowadays and it rubs me the wrong way to call kids that. Let’s agree to disagree. Can you call home?”
“My Dad kicked me out of the house,” Pugnax said, “He told me not to come back until I made a thousand creds.”
“His loss.” Nona shrugged. She shouted over her shoulder. “Gwendolyn! Put one more plate at the table please and get that darn thing out of your mouth.”
Gwendolyn eyed her master with a piece of electrocuted Compsagnathus tail hanging out of her mouth. She ran to get the plates. Pugnax did his best not to stare at where her sweatshirt ripped. Nona had on her apron that was covered in various bikini babes.
“Okay! But can I keep it.” Gwendolyn begged.
Nona stared a hole through Gwendolyn. Her eyes narrowed as Gwendolyn’s lower lip stuck out. She through the last of the mess in the trash. The trio sat around the table to a Thanksgiving dinner of the usual fixings accessorized by Compsognathus meat sandwiches. The taste was hard to wrap a tongue around. Red meat akin to an ostrich, white meat like poultry, but uniquely hinted with gator. Gwendolyn couldn’t eat but liked to gnaw on the bones. The end of her tail hid a plugin that plugged into the nearest outlet. Nona wasn’t one for conversation. That was okay. It got Pugnax to process his emotions when he realized, yeah, it’s okay to be thankful, just don’t play God.
After all the ups and the downs make the thank yous all the more lovely.
Broken Dads in Fiction or just Broken Fiction?
Why do we have wholesome Dads reduced to deadbeat Dads in fiction? I found out the other day Ken, from the Street Fighter franchise, was made to divorce his wife and live in the streets. That was taken horrendously because people liked that Ken was a family man. Same reaction happened when Peter Parker's family got split up. Lots of disappointment happened when Superman's family got demolished. There is also the Simpsons and Family Guy. In their cases, those cartoons ran for so long that, what started as just a normal, functioning family (by TV sitcom standards) eventually devolved into a dysfunctional family where the individual characters vices and flaws took over. In some cases being morally neutral can be really unhealthy in character arcs. I note this by thinking of Steven Universe. Steven’s family did seem a little bit better in season one. We got really great development in Season 2. Then, by the final season, all the giant aliens who committed mass genocide were forgiven, the main cast went back to square one in character development, and Steven became a corrupted monster only to be saved by the power of friendship then yeeted off-screen with a whole bunch of emotional wrecks living semi-normal broken wreck lives.
Please take whatever I have to say with a grain of salt, I am being ponderous as I write this and I make it a rule not to self-censor because I think it is more messed up to try and be “sensitive” about serious topics. The kind of sensitivity I’m talking about is Harrison Bergeron. In that story, all the gifted people had handicappers to make them bad at their particular talents so that the terribly skilled don’t feel bad at sucking at life. In that story, the family was broken by having the goal to be as average as anyone else. It forced people to conform to fit another person’s worldview. This kind of conformity is also something most communities hate. Yet it is a conformity that Kurt Vonnegut warned about via by showing the more the Harrison’s family let themselves try to be “average” the blinder they were to the societal problems around them. Basically Harrison finally snapped, got rid of the handicappers binding him, only to get shot down and killed on live TV. What makes this ending all the more fucked up is his mother saw her son get his head blown off with a rivet gun and she couldn’t mourn because she wore a handicapper that stifled her self-awareness and emotional intelligence. I note these things as examples because I need to keep to the theme of broken families in this thing I’m writing. I don’t give a damn about politics but have to be aware of real world events because politics gets shoved into EVERYTHING lately as OUR personal handicappers. It doesn’t really matter what sexuality, gender, class, status, political party or any other classification people identify as. It’s just that some productions have been used as therapy and things people hated are now immortalized in fiction for all eternity.
Creation and destruction is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Writing is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Art is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Validation is therapeutic but it is not therapy. Living vicariously through something we can swear is a perfect representation of us or different from us is therapeutic but it is not therapy. To deal with trauma, grot , and health problems of the mind or body, seek a therapist or doctor. Do not seek a medical professional who promises to help you behind people’s back whether those people they want to sneak behind are toxic or not because that grot is the start of more grot . I have found when I didn’t deal with my grot , it seeped into my creative endeavors and turned my beautiful creations into crap. As for the toxic people to sneak behind? No, it’s better to turn those people into the cops, don’t enable their poisonous behaviors and treat them with respect so that they don’t have any ammo to nag you with. That way you have the backbone to get out of those nasty situations. It is hard to get out of them and the scars can last a long time but so can you. I learned this in my mid-twenties when I was away in college and the toxic people in my life turned to drugs, sex, stealing, and bad coping mechanisms. They also had an abusive past but the good get over their abusive past, the nuts use it to justify grot. Avoid grot.
So, what did this paragraph I just wrote have to do with broken families found in media?
In some cartoons, people can create some things that are reflective of their lives and personal experiences. For example, since the 2016 election, people hated Donald Trump as President and many parts of mainstream media took such a hard left turn in their identity bias that Trump became the antagonist and lampooned figure in many forms of popular media. To be fair, where there would be far left propaganda there is far right propaganda and all of it looks the same because it operates exactly the same.
Another problem that broke up wholesome families in media has been running out of ideas. The Simpsons and Family Guy have been around quite a long time. Steven Universe probably suffered this too. Sometimes when ideas have run out the media consumer can see when the story has gone off the rails a little. Such as when some character flaws get overblown or other plots get repetitive. In this case we got the trope of the idiot Dad, the overly critical Mom, the punting bag, and kids who are either golden child or cannon fodder. Meg sometimes became the punting bag. Golden child has been Maggie. Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin have had a race to who can be the biggest idiot dad. Family Guy kids and pets become cannon fodder in some skits. In Steven Universe, everyone takes turns being cannon fodder, golden children, overly critical Moms and Idiot Dads because roles aren’t really defined by Gender when lines are blurred and sacred territories that have been a navigational post to how to identify different forms of love gets shoved into the same box.
The Crystal Gems have no gender because they are literally hologram projecting rocks in same sex relationships. The real counterproductive part of the whole story is they are from a function based society that reproduces like parasitic bacteria where their DNA equivalent is inseminated into a planet via giant bacteria shaped drills similar to babies born via artificial insemination. The Gems form out of the planet itself and the planet gets hollowed out until it dies. Vicariously the Gems, as a species, have an oversimplified view of love because they only have each other as a point of reference. Think of it like calling Planet Earth a birthing person and the Gems as children parenting children yet they are also immortal so add the confusion of generation gaps between them.
Steven Universe does have one example of something that happens in its show that doesn’t happen with the other mentioned sitcom families and that’s no defined roles in the family. It is canon in Steven Universe that the Crystal Gems are an unconventional family. Rose Quartz is a matriarch. Amethyst is a little sister. Garnet is a mentor. Pearl has been kind of a mother if helicopter Mama counts. However, Rose Quartz wanted to have a baby and the only way for her to do that to, with a lot of help from Greg Universe, basically become the Gem half of Steven who is a Gem/Human hybrid. Imagine the confusion the Gems went through when their parent/sibling/lover-turned-ex-lover turned into half of her son. Now the Gems are basically raising their quasi-sibling/quasi-son/quasi-future-boyfriend and all the emotional backlash that goes with it. It doesn’t get highlighted because there wasn’t really a defined basis of relationships but plenty of evidence for different forms of abuse. Cracked gems, flinching at whips, even the match made in hell that was the fusion of Jasper and Lapis Lazuli. In the first season they had a form of communicating the relationships via dancing and body language. As time went on, that got buried in soap operas and abusive relationships that lost their point of reference. Simpsons and Family Guy are a lot stronger than Steven Universe in communicating relationships because they did have defined family roles; a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, and the baby. This helped them show how the family is different from normal yet also how they are pretty strong as a family. To a degree, same sex couples also follow this family structure in reality. The Maheswarans are the canon example of a straight family. They also fall into the trope found in the LGBT media as the overly controlling heterosexual family. LGBT hate overly controlling parents and it shows up a lot in LGBT media though not always to the same degree depending on the story. While that aspect is still there sometimes, we the media consumers should not forget that not everything is exactly as portrayed as what’s on TV. Corporations are beholden to their shareholders, sources of money, and their personal actions.
Where a corporation forgets what keeps its lifeblood circulating, it has a harder time getting money. Disney was very stupid when it decided to go to court over a bill they named the “Don’t say Gay” bill. In reality it is called the “Parental Rights Act” and the short version is, the Parent is given leverage to get the kid out of class if what the teacher is teaching is suspicious. Disney framed it as Florida wasn’t going to let entire schools talk about being gay. Whatever your views are on this subject are your opinion. What I want to pay attention to is how Disney considered their audience's feelings. First Disney used to have a huge diplomacy deal that allowed Disney to build freely in Florida and that got taken away now safety features have to go through the Government. They advertised sex over story. Sexuality does involve sex because it defines which person hooks up with who. However they also used politics to leverage an easily angered portion of their audience. All you have to do is say the right thing, word topics the right way, and you could mobilize your angry mob just like how cults make followers drink Kool-Aid. Now you’ve narrowed their worldview and you have to get them to consume your media by advertising in the same way you weaponized them. In Disney’s case they have to ignore a movie or theme park’s entire premise and offer the volcano of their own creation which virgin to sacrifice on the lifeblood letting altar. Their favorite sacrifice has been gingers, masculine men, and characters who don’t represent their various target audiences. The same character they made gay or straight for one audience will probably get rearranged into some incestuous underage lover for a creepy oldster in a target audience where creepy relationships are normal for their everyday lifestyle. As usual, arguments will erupt on the internet and that’s how Disney’s less admirable movies will get advertised and it will paint their better stuff in the same bad reputation as the creepy creative decisions because Corporations listen to whatever gets traction, not whoever walks away. So, an innocent kiss advertised in a movie often gets called Grooming because a corporation advertised by treating their audience like a weaponized angry mob. So, one side will consume stuff out of spite and the other side will get ostracized once the sacrificial volcanoes erupt.
It is true you can have more than one target audience and people outside the target audience can like stuff you made. Thing is, sometimes pleasing everybody pleases nobody. For example, in some fandoms such as Steven Universe Fandom, Genshin Impact get really mad when something looks different. Like the young artist who drew Rose Quartz too skinny or the Genshin Impact Artists who got harassed for drawing a straight couple. These two fandoms don’t notice they’re repeating the Satanic Panic that happened when Dungeons and Dragons went mainstream. Nowadays, the biggest argument now had is if DMs should have safety rules so that Dungeons and Dragons isn’t too triggering.
There is also trying to respond to a crazy audience out of spite. If a fan decided to blackmail an animation studio to make their head-canon canon. The animation studio could just cancel the series altogether or could torture the fan by torturing their favorite characters until their characters die a horrible, terrible, irredeemable fate under the public gaze of millions of watching fans. Then the fan who held the animation studio hostage would have no peace and no sleep at night because everyone would hate their guts to the same degree Far Leftists hated Donald Trump. On the bright side they’ll be immortalized, on the dark side their reputation will be to be known as whatever name-calling anyone could reduce the fan to, pronouns, slurs, and rhyme schemes included. The reason this is a creepy thought is it also contributes to the broken families shown in media. In this case it has now grown to include all manner of broken families covering the whole rainbow of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity crossed with the human desire for juicy drama. Sometimes the drama surrounding the industry ends up becoming more entertaining than the media. Thus the creator will probably say, “Screw it”, get the story done, then move on to greener pastures.
One of the pieces of media I do watch has been the Tuttle Twins. I also had been reading Spy x Family on the Manga + app. I’ve also just gone back to my roots and privately consuming classic literature without delving into the various classic lit fandoms too much. The YouTuber, Professor Geek, had once mentioned the media we consume plays a huge role in creative endeavors, emotional health, and mental health. For example, idealistic heroes show us ideals to strive for. Looking at all the bad news on Twitter is eventually doom-scrolling. We don’t need to be the same as the fictional character because we can work to those ideals in our own special way. In anime, they get called husbandos and waifus because they seem like cool people to hang out with and have good qualities we’d want to find in a partner. There are limits though. People are people. Fiction is fiction.
Lots of times the people who make the broken family media have unresolved bad life grot in their lives and the waifus or husbandos get bad lifestyles projected onto them or get used as beating posts. This is the reason why I have to keep reminding myself creative endeavors are therapeutic but they are not therapy. I’m lucky because my bad life grot has had emotional distance for quite some time. If I was emotionally close to my bad life grot and we were in the same room together, we’d be arguing long and hard about whose fault was whose. Letting go gets easier when step by step the pain gets tempered by the blacksmithing of perspective and flare-ups might still happen because bad life grot leaves scars. Scars last but so do you.
How I try to keep the broken family stuff to a minimum is by not making my story all about me. It’s supposed to be about the characters, theme, ideas, settings, genre, feelings readers have after experiencing my work, premise, plot, and story. If my character has to look, act, talk, feel, think, gesticulate, or even take a dump the same way as I do in order to make my story 100% relatable then I’m hunting for validation for my lifestyle and asking others to judge me! That’s stupid. If the character is too much like my target audience then it becomes uncanny valley. Maybe some people like that? I’ve seen characters get their identities swapped because it’s easier to butcher legacy than it is to make one’s own. I quit appealing to representation because hunting validation doesn’t celebrate creation but pandering the broken treats my readers like a token. One episode of the Tuttle Twins, episode 7: Cakes, Pies, and Flat Earth Guys showed how to handle the discourse really well by basically focusing on what both sides have in common and making sure that in common thing was to appeal to the greater good. That makes sense and it got me to like a couple cardboard cutouts who were debating over whether their home planet was flat or not. In retrospect, Kurt Vonnegut’s story also showed that living in a world with blinders never allows us to experience the gifts we can find outside of the destroyed fiction we love to hate and that voting with your wallet is a power every consumer has. In my case, I like that people buy my work because it helps me create more fiction. It might be different, yet it is still a journey and the best discomfort I can give to broken family media is making what I want and having fun at it.
I think I will beed to better work the tags here on Prose to make sure when I am writing a piece of fiction that people know it's not real. I will admit one of the last pieces I deleted, I hated deleting because I feel I just reached an emotional writing hurdle where I got people to connect with a character and surprised people felt uplifted by it. I am not good at writing words of encouragement. I do sometimes have a knack for making people feel uncomfortable. Making people uncomfortable is not a good skill to have. Though I did learn the other day that there's a scary thought if someone thought that things I wrote were real. That is scary.
On the othe other hand I don't put trigger warnings on my writing because I know I won't know what upsets my readers. I write about toxic things sometimes. I write about wholesome stuff. Here on Prose, I take an idea that's rattling in my head and put it onto a challenge. It's my way of getting my mind back on track and getting research into what people respond well to.
I guess the reason I write about macabre things is because I like to find that sweet spot between solid writing and turning people's world upside down. That's why a lot of the stuff I do on Prose is experimental. Some of it can hurt. Some of it is comedy. Yet the majority of it is an experiment.
Bliss is a fluffy blanket and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is a good book, a fluffy blanket, and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is a giant moth outside the window, a good book, a fluffy blanket and a hot chocolate.
Bliss is headphones, a giant moth outside the window, a good book, a fluffy blanket, and a hot chocolate.
Whoever left the lights on during the last Mothra sighting has something pretty big pawing on their house.
Ignorance is super Bliss.
O-C to the R to the Don’t Finish that Sentence.
Ever have something fade in your arms?
The EKG is a constant beep.
Might as well have someone sit on the carhorn and beep for attention because no heartbeat is home.
The defibrillator makes the body jump.
There's hope in a static biorhythm only to lay on the high pitched beep.
Murmured words of encouragement whisper amongst chest compressions.
All is quiet except for the high pitched beep goodbye.
The chat died down.
The atmosphere intensifies.
A cold sweat crawls down everyone's neck.
"So," one of the surgeons exclaims, "Who wants to tell the happy couple."
The couple isn't too happy hoping for someone to be alive. They're praying in the waiting room.
The Happy Couple
The couple that works together stays together. Not everything is perfect. Not everything is bad. The happiest couples I've seen are the ones who made it work. Which includes staying true to each other, resolving fights, and keeping it fun for their family. The happiest couple is the one who makes their situation work positively for them.
The covid lockdown has left me alone with my thoughts. On one hand I found out I think about some of the dumbest ideas ever. On the other hand I finally got the time I wanted to pursue my creativity without interruption provided I remember to eat every once in a while. I think the scariest part is no tedious task is more tedious than my tedious thoughts. I also got so good at tedious tasks that I can think up entire story arcs without sitting still. Sad part is my brain loves soap operas like cigarettes love nicotine. I now have a huge cache of anime memes on my phone and out of boredom keep starting new stories to the point I have a new alarm on my phone called the Stay on Task button. So creativity drives me nuts but I love my creativity like a protagonist loves a tsundere . . . sort of.
Do Awful Ideas Make Good Stories?
This question goes through my head a lot. Not so much in a direct sort of way but in a played out sort of way kind of like having a movie play out in your head. Sometimes this skill is pretty distracting because it's an everlooping intrusive thought. Like having multiple plot bunnies trying to bash down your door. I do know that when ya promise your readers something you have to deliver on that promise. That's one of the reasons why I don't really focus on diversity or inclusion or representation because I like writing characters instead of cardboard cutouts. The most popular argument I've come across is people want to see themselves in the characters of the story, one that looks like the reader, is the reader, and someone the reader can just see themselves as. I can admit the appeal can be nice and quick but it's like junk food. As of March of 2021 Disney's High Republic had decided to make a Rock a main character in Star Wars. Creatively, it does reflect what I'd end up putting out there if I tried to make the main character just like the reader. We'd have a bunch of rocks whereing different wigs. If you like that sort of thing, cool.
I can't guarantee my characters will all be rocks though. I know if I don't like what I'm reading then you won't like what I'm reading and it will show. This is no excuse to say stay in my comfort zone. The real challenge comes from getting the readers to care about someone who isn't them. I'm not just saying integrity but empathy. For example hot women sell books and hot men sell books. That's why we have cheesecake and beefcake. The most attractive part of any person is supposed to be the content of their character. That's why we have waifus and husbandos. They are a combination of cheesecake, beefcake, and content of character.
Awful ideas . . . I have tons of bad ideas to choose from. I take a small comfort that all roughdrafts start off awful. However, one of my biggest pet peeves is typecasting. Who wants to be put into a box? Also, both good and bad stereotypes, pop up anyway. That's not a bad thing. Though making them propaganda is a bad thing. If my books ever become propaganda than I hope they get meme'd to death because having fun with things is better than getting mad at things all the time. Not even I remember that rule either but it's good to keep focus on the important stuff.
I'm writing this musing down because it's good to talk about. It might not be grand but it is important. Characters, plot, setting, and story are the four basic food groups of a good writing idea. Maybe the idea could be terrible or maybe it'll be good. The more I hone my craft, the better my art will get.