Posts Tagged 'Always Happy to Serve You'

Either Cowardly or Polite, I Can’t Tell

I’m active once again this year on the Edgewood Review Editorial Board, the group of people that read things submitted for the literary magazine and critique them. I like this job, but when I’m also submitting pieces for consideration, it can gum up the works.

Today was the day we reviewed my story, which was distributed without a name at the top. One of the participants in the meeting said as an aside before the meeting began that she hated the story. However, once it came to light that I had written it, she didn’t say anything of the sort. I hate when this happens. I’m a grownup, I can handle criticism. Never mind the fact that I have my own misgivings about the story that I submitted, Always Happy to Serve You. After all, while I do feel it’s one of my funnier pieces, I know that it’s not about anything significant other than itself, and that I don’t go into much depth with the characters, et cetera. I’m okay with this, though, because I can still take solace in the fact that I’ve written something entertaining. The great literature part can come later.

So. Well-read people don’t like my stuff. On the other hand, some of the other well-read people in the room seemed to, the editor going so far as to call it “an example of good writing,” which is really all the praise I can hope for. What I take solace in, though, is that the people that aren’t English majors that read my things tend to really enjoy them, or at least do a convincing job of lying about it. I value accessibility and try not to be elitist about my literature choice, so I’m gonna mark that one down in the plus column.

On the other hand, now I really wanna rewrite Golden into the real world and submit that. Goddamn that one’s good.



The submissions for the Edgewood Review, my college’s little annual literary collection, are due soon, so I’ve spent some of my time this morning working on shaping up stories. The tentative plan is to submit The King of Pecatonica County and Always Happy to Serve You. I don’t have anything as good as my submission last year, but it’s worth a shot. The group saw the first story last year – I submitted it after it got a good reception in my class workshop, and it was tentatively accepted until I submitted something much better. However, last year the magazine’s editor was also a fan of my work, and she graduated, so it’s more of an uphill struggle. We’ll see how it goes.

In any case, while editing, I mentioned to Courtney that I’m not very good at physical descriptions. She agreed, and pointed out that the one’s I’d put in were long after we met the respective characters, and stated that I should practice my descriptions by doing them of real-life people. I like this idea. So, without further ado, I present Wilson-style descriptions of my friends and myself. Guys, don’t take it personally.


Isaac is a thin, nearly gangly individual of average height. His most notable features are his typical look of slight confusion, his beard, which splotches up like an invasive weed despite any grooming efforts, and his hairline, which long ago abandoned his forehead and now loses ground on his scalp with every passing year. He smells of motor oil and baby.


Ben is a gentle giant, a tall, quiet fellow with dark brown hair and a smile that can make him look a bit dopier than he really is. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Isaac’s missing hair had simply migrated, colonizing Ben’s upper back and neck. Despite his height, he’s rather nonthreatening, especially since his normal stance is sitting, slightly hunched, staring intently at a computer screen.


Whereas Ben’s smile is dopey, Courtney’s always looks loaded; There’s mischief or planning behind it. Her hair, which is currently a rusty brown, changes colors with her whim, probably more often than is healthy, though each change is agonized over. Her other most notable feature is her chest, which somehow sticks out farther than her nose, and which she tends to show off a bit, much to her boyfriend’s dismay – those are his, after all.


Taylor is a lumpy little fellow pushing a B cup with his moobs. His hair is perpetually greasy, which doesn’t even help to add a gloss to the dull brown. He typically has a look of boredom or disinterest, unless he is actually interested in something, in which case his eyes bug out and he stares way too intently and gets way too close to the person in question. He is almost always in a Hawaiian shirt and cargo khakis, even in summer, which makes him sweat, which makes him seem even greasier. His glasses are usually dirty and slightly crooked.

So there you have it. Now I wait for Isaac and Ben to kill me.

I’m Very Bad at Chess, Too

It’s one of those days when I don’t feel like a grown-up writer. I’m sitting here, plugging away at Always Happy to Serve You, taking my existing writings and adding a couple more auxiliary characters in earlier – folding them in, as a chef would. And I’m thinking about a group of people I’m planning to portray, and I think ‘Wow, someone could get mad at this portrayal. But when you really analyze it, I’m portraying these people as smart and as human beings, so it’s really a good portrayal.’ And then I stop, and I look back, and realize how… high school that sounds. Will I outgrow this? Do real artists still get that feeling, or do I just need to learn to plan ahead more, look into more depth?

EDIT: To prove that I’m not blowing smoke, and that I actually am working on Wilson III, here’s another taste.

Cliff’s Eatery was a mildly successful, unassuming restaurant in Wilson for fifteen years before Clarence Zimmerman started working there at the age of eighteen, and it remained so for two more years until the freshman mayor, Norman Haroldson, had privately mentioned it in passing as having greasy, unredeemably unhealthy food. A local newsman heard about it, reported on it, and then asked owner Clifford Kaplan what he thought. And Clifford Kaplan, in what many considered shrewd and Clarence considered insane, embraced it. He changed unredeemable to shameless, unhealthy to decadent, and kept the greasy, and began playing up the complete disregard for human life contained within his menu. Soon, he introduced the Stentburger, named for the heart procedure and slathered with ketchup, mayo, and cheese. Next came the Cardio Chicken, deep-fried and served with barbeque sauce and bacon. Before all was said and done, there was even the Haroldson, named for the mayor that started it all, a triple burger with cheddar, bacon, and even onion rings right on the sandwich. The monstrosity was immediately popular with the kind of people that backlash against people who generally mind their own business while trying to stay healthy – namely, Wisconsinites.

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Header photo by David Reber's Hammer Photography. Many ideas and images copyright Blizzard.