Editor's Note: Earlier this week, Unloosen contributor Craig J. Clark approached fellow writer Joe Blevins about the possibility of collaborating on a story, round robin-style, for the site. Blevins readily agreed and they immediately set to work. Here are the fruits of their joint creation:
(How's this for an opening paragraph:)
Steve held his breath. This was not his first time doing so. Periodically, ever since he was a kid, he would try holding it until he passed out, but his body always rebelled against him and forced him to breathe in. Someday, he vowed, his will would prevail. Someday...
Time passed. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Half a minute, and still no ill effects or signs of fatigue! How much longer could he go, Steve wondered? Could this be a new world's record? He tried to think of Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. This got him to thinking about that Poseidon remake which he'd meant to see but never did. It must be on DVD by now, maybe even basic cable. He wondered who played the Shelley Winters role in the remake. Kurt Russell? That seemed unlikely.
Now, Kurt Russell: there was a guy who could light up the screen. He could even make a pretentious piece of crap like Vanilla Sky bearable merely by showing up. Steve couldn't articulate what was so pretentious about Vanilla Sky since he hadn't seen it in years. Heck, he couldn't even remember what year it came out. 2000? 2001? Wasn't that supposed to be the year we made contact? No, that was 2010. And the only thing Steve remembered about 2010 was the line "Piece of pie, easy as cake."
Such were poor Steve's last thoughts as he was efficiently and mercilessly killed by the actual protagonist of this story, Harley "Chomper" Wescott, professional assassin extrordinaire, who stood perched stealthily on a rooftop several blocks away clutching a sniper rifle in one hand and a deathly dry gin martini in the other. Wescott was a man of distinction and taste, yes, but he was also a man who knew how to kill when he had to... or when the money was right. Or both, I guess. I mean, if he had to kill someone and the money was right, he'd know how. Or if the money wasn't right but he had to kill someone anyway, he'd still know how. Now, if the money was right but he didn't actually have to kill someone, I suppose he'd know how also, but if the money wasn't right and he still didn't have to... well, I'm sure he'd do fine under those circumstances, y'know, but I can't guarantee anything. I've never known Harley to voluntarily kill anyone simply as a hobby in his free time, but I'm not with him night and day, you understand. The point is, Harley "Chomper" Wescott -- and here I should point out that "Chomper" is not a nickname but part of his actual name, quote marks and all -- was a professional killer and a darned good one. Sorry about the mix-up earlier, but I wanted to make sure I covered all the possible hypothetical situations. Now, then, where were we?
That's right, we were on a rooftop several blocks away. Well, I wasn't, but that didn't mean the heretofore unseen Wescott was alone. "What kind of a name is Harley, anyway?" purred the turquoise panda bear standing next to the sniper, who was efficiently dismantling his rifle. "Sounds like a girl's name. In fact, I'm freaking positive it's a girl's name. Is that why you became an assassin, to get back at all the people who made fun of you all through school? Well, is it?"
"Leapin' Lutherans!" exclaimed Wescott. "I'm hallucinating turquoise effing panda bears now! Must've been that panda semen I injected directly into my heart sac about half an hour ago," the assassin mused as he backed away from the quite-possibly-imaginary beast, edging ever closer to the ledge of the building.
"I wouldn't take another step if I were you," a voice whispered in his ear. Wescott turned his head and was looking down the barrel of... Well, it wasn't a barrel of anything, actually. It was just a barrel, and before Wescott knew what has happening to him, it was over his head and shoulders and pinning his arms to his body. He didn't dare try kicking his unknown assailant for fear of falling 20 stories to his death, but he still had one weapon in his arsenal: his wit.
"Well, looks like you have me over a barrel," Wescott quipped.
"More like under it, Mr. Wescott. Or should I say... Delores?"
"Delores? B-but... no one's called me that in years! Not since my days as porn star Delores Clitoris in the late 1970s before I had my surgery. Then you must be..."
"Exactly, Miz Wescott, I'm... the REAL Steve!"
Duhn duhn DUHNNNNNNN!
"What was that? I'm under a barrel here. I can't see too well. Help me out."
"Oh, it was just a dramatic sting."
"A music cue? In a short story?"
"Uh, sure. Why not? But we're wasting valuable time. We've got important business to discuss, Delores!"
"But I've told you before, Steve, that ship has sailed. That train has left the station. That airplane has taxied to the runway. That car has been driven off the dealer's lot. That bicycle has been stolen by the spoiled rich kid. That skateboard has done something that skateboards do when they go somewhere. But most of all, those roller skates have been returned to where they were rented from."
"That's what you think, sister. Lift your right foot."
The ringing of the alarm clock woke little Puddin' Cup, and her strange dream of assassins and pandas evaporated instantly into the morning air. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: The dramatic music sting we heard earlier was apparently just the sweet sound of birds chirping on her windowsill. This is what we writers refer to as "foreshadowing.") Now it was a gorgeous new day in Goody Goody Gumdropland, a day full of promise and hope, and Puddin' was determined to make the most of it.
Throwing off the covers, Puddin' swung her feet around to get out of bed, but when she tried to stand they went right out from under her and she landed firmly on her bottom. It was only then that she realized her feet had roller skates strapped onto them. (That's what I was going for, you see, before my co-author decided to bungle the whole thing and make it all a dream. That is what we writers refer to as "a cop-out.") Puddin' didn't remember going to bed with her roller skates on, but anything was possible for somebody whacked out on the powdered stuff like she was.
Laundry detergent (whatever's on sale)
Oh, I'm sorry. Was it my turn again? I must have zoned out during that last part -- effervescently written by my learned co-author, I must say (a round of applause please, dearest reader) -- and started thinking about things I need to pick up at the grocery store this weekend. Then when it came my turn again, you see, I just started typing the first thing that came into my head.
Anyway. You were saying...?
Paper towel? You're buying one paper towel? I didn't know they sold them individually.
You know, I should have realized this was going south when you brazenly killed off my main character after three paragraphs. We also should have laid down some ground rules: no randomly killing characters, no "it was all a dream" fake-outs, and most importantly, no passive-aggressive sniping. If you want to settle this, let's settle this like men.
I propose custard pies at dawn. The ball's in your court, Blevins.
To: Craig J. Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Bryan Trelawney email@example.com
Date: 20 February 2007
Subject: Cease and desist request
Dear Mr. Clark:
I am contacting you on behalf of my client, MR. JOSEPH BLEVINS (hereafter referred to as THE ARTIST). It has come to my attention that you and THE ARTIST recently entered into an informal agreement wherein you and THE ARTIST would collaborate upon a short story to be published on the website UNLOOSEN.COM, pending a final-draft approval by THE ARTIST.
It is my understanding that the aforementioned collaboration between yourself and THE ARTIST produced no usable work. THE ARTIST has informed me that this partnership quickly became acrimonious, leading you to threaten THE ARTIST with some form of starch-based food product. Mr. Clark, if this is indeed the case, I hereby demand that you cease and desist from any further harassment of my client, THE ARTIST, and from any further infringement of THE ARTIST's rights.
I also demand that you immediately destroy any work resulting from the aforementioned collaboration with THE ARTIST, including electronic copies of same, and that you deliver to me all unused, undistributed copies of the work.
If I have not received an affirmative response from you by March 13, indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, THE ARTIST shall be forced to take further legal action against you.
Yours most cordially,
Trelawney & Associates
Oh, so that's how it's going to be, is it, Joe? You can't take the heat, so you've sicced your attack lawyer on me? Well, who has the last laugh now, huh? Huh?