Some kind of weekend

So it’s been a couple of days. I wish I could say I did anything more productive than watch a couple of movies, fail to finish the Sunday crossword, read some comics, and go to my writing group, but that would probably be lying. Why is it that when I take off on Friday, I feel like I’m getting an extra Sunday, and not an extra Saturday? Believe me, I think I’d prefer the latter.

I did buy a new television, which was something. I don’t have cable, but the TV has an internet connection (for Netflix, YouTube, etc.), which I can combine with my Roku and Blu-Ray player and more than enough entertainment. I picked it up at the local Best Buy, which made me glad I hadn’t gone there to buy a PlayStation 4. They were answering phones with “Thanks for calling Best Buy. We’re all sold out of the PS4,” and lots of people with me in the long pick-up line were worried their own purchases wouldn’t be there.

If and when there’s a Portal 3, I’ll consider buying a gaming system — maybe for a new Bioshock — but I haven’t actually had one in years, the original Nintendo. I think I sold it at a garage sale, which is a shame. I never did figure out how to get that robot to work.

Anyway, the movies were Kiss the Girls and Jack Reacher. The former wasn’t great, and then was unbelievably bad in its last twenty minutes, while the latter was entertaining but very forgettable, with more talk about how amazing Tom Cruise’s character was — “Who the hell is Jack Reacher? Well…let me tell you…” — than action.

And then there was my writing group. I wrote this, from a few randomly chosen writing prompts:

In the past, I’ve tried to kill this woman. It was nothing personal, mostly politics; I was just a hired gun, doing a job, and most of the times our paths crossed her name could have easily been any of a hundred others. That doesn’t make it any easier, realizing in the heat of battle that you’re only there because some bureaucrat flagged her name a little higher on that week’s kill list — some Congressman wanted to make a point, or more likely just stumbled on her name at random — and I’m sure it wouldn’t have made her feel any better about the whole damn thing. My intentions were still the same. But it wasn’t built on anything specific, no personal feelings. If anything, I kept accepting the contracts because I respected her too much, respected her skills, wanted yet another chance to match them against mine. I could have walked, or let some other agent tangle with her for a change. Sometimes I wonder why nobody ever forced me to do that. A hundred times we must have met, squared off either face to face or across the divide of rifle scopes, and there we were, both of us still alive. There’s no honor among thieves, they say, but maybe there’s too much among assassins. Maybe you shouldn’t send one killer to kill another. Sometimes I wonder. They had super-soldiers and black ops programs that might have settled the account more quickly and completely than my own self-taught skills, but I guess no one in charge ever learned the power of no. Let’s just keep sending her out, these senators must have said — just as they must have been saying about her on the other side — and eventually it’ll sort itself out. Law of averages. That’s if they even thought about it that far. After all, these were the same men who’d built the Abomination Project — actually called it that, like that wasn’t just asking for trouble — then tried burying it and the evidence when it all went predictably south. I’d tied up a few of those messy loose ends for them myself. The pay was always good, and their checks cleared — you couldn’t always say that in this line of work — but thinking far ahead wasn’t exactly my employer’s strong suit. After all, they hadn’t told that this time me she would be…

And that was my weekend. I also spent some time on Friday coordinating a meeting for tomorrow morning at the office — is it good or bad that I can do work from my phone…on my day off…while on line? — which I’m not exactly looking forward to. But we’ll see.

Saturday and Sunday

Yesterday, I read a bunch of Kaleidotrope submissions, and I finished playing the very enjoyable Bioshock Infinite. Then I capped the day off with a couple of movies: Silver Linings Playbook, which I liked a whole lot, and John Dies at the End, which…well, it wasn’t terrible. (Although I do think Noel Murray is right in that it’s “meant to appeal to people who are either chemically altered or sleep-deprived.”)

Today I did the crossword puzzle and wrote this with my weekly writing group:

“Because he was angry,” Bill said.

“What does that have to do with anything?” asked Jake. “He’s always angry. Every time I see him, I think he ought to be wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Hulk Smash.’”

“Is that some kind of pop-culture reference I’m supposed to get?” asked Bill.

“Well it’s not fashion advice, grandpa” said Jake. “I just think you should have told him. He’s going to find out eventually.”

“That’s if the Medusa Project even keeps running. Oversight has been asking difficult questions, and at this point, all the other funding is almost dried up.”

“When the hell were you going to tell me this?”

“When ‘almost’ turned into ‘all but.’ Don’t worry, you’re still more in the loop than Anderson.”

“I should hope so. He just has to get injected with the stuff, I’m the one who has to manufacture it. Which we can’t do without money, by the way.”

“I know. I’m not shutting you down.”

“Just shutting us out. Keeping secrets. First you don’t tell Anderson that his wife has died, because it might make him angry, and now you’re telling me the purse is all but empty.”

Almost. It’s a subtle difference.”

“We’re not working with tuning forks and salad shooters down there, you know. If Medusa is going to work — ”

“You need money, I know. You need equipment and staff — ”

“And more of the compound.”

“Well there I can help you. There’s been another outbreak. And this time we’ve taken some of them live.”

“What? And you waited this long to tell me? When? How many?!”

“Seven. They’re en route, and will be here before nightfall. Apparently the outbreak happened someplace in Romania.”

“Well that’s hardly surprising. That’s not far from where we think Patient Zero was — wait, seven? And they let themselves be captured?”

“We sent in a strike team.”

“You mean you sent in Anderson. Damn it, Bill, the man’s a lot of things, but he is not field-tested yet.”

“The man’s a Marine.”

Was a Marine. That’s before we started sticking needles in him, giving him a taste for the compound. We haven’t even moved him into the second phase of Medusa yet.”

“As of 1800 hours yesterday, you have. Frank Wilder administered the injection.”

“Whoa, whoa, Wilder? Tell me you did not let that quack into my lab while I was out. We don’t have any idea what phase two injections could mean long-term. You think Anderson is angry now? What happens if he goes full-on bloodsucker?”

“Wilder — and for that matter, your notes — suggest there’s only a small possibility of that. I didn’t make this decision lightly.”

“So it was your decision.”

“We’re running out of time, not just money. Besides Romania, we’re seeing scattered cases in Madrid, Beirut…Omaha. God, Jake, do you really think we’re going to be able to keep quiet on this much longer if we don’t start using our secret weapon?”

“And that’s why you didn’t tell Anderson anout his wife. Because he’s a weapon you don’t want going off in your face.”

“You didn’t see the footage from Romania. We’ll tell him — I’ll tell him — when we’re sure he’s stable. And if Medusa does get shut down…”

“He won’t be that easy to kill,” said Jake. “Not anymore. Even if he’s stable, he still might be a threat.”

“Well, we’ll decomission that bridge when we come to it.”

And that was the weekend. Well, except for the tomorrow part of it, anyway.


So I wrote this today.

“These are sensitive issues,” said the Director, “and they require a delicate hand, not some…trigger-happy hot-shot who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.”

“You know, I think he’s talking about me,” said Crosswell. “In case any of you had ‘trigger-happy hot-shot’ in the betting pool.”

“This is no laughing matter,” said the Director.

“You’re telling me,” said Crosswell. “I had twenty to one you were going to cite ‘flagrant disregard for agency protocol.’ That’s good money you just lost me.”

“This is serious!”

“I know,” said Crosswell. “I can tell from your grouchy face. Look,” he said after a moment, finally sitting forward in his chair, “no one’s denying I maybe got a little…over-eager with the gunfire on that last assignment.” He stared at the Director and at the other suits sitting around the conference table. “But are you going to tell me those xenophobic jerkwads didn’t deserve it? Just a little?”

“The Russian delegation?” asked one of the suits. Crosswell couldn’t remember her name. Then again, he’d only been half-listening during the earlier introductions.

“Jerkwads,” he said. “The lot of them. I mean, ‘the Cold War’s over, Ivan, lighten up a little,’ am I right?”

“Not even remotely,” said the Director.

“Potato, po-tot-o,” said Crosswell. “I guess we’ll just have to act like grown-ups and agree to disagree.”

“Unfortunately, your wholesale slaughter of the Russian delegation makes that rather difficult,” said the Director. “And to make matters worse, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Bingo!” Crosswell shouted. Then, when he noticed no one else was smiling, he said, “What? Didn’t anybody else have ‘tip of the iceberg’ in the betting pool?”

“The purpose of this meeting is decide on the proper disciplinary action,” said the Director. “Obviously the agency’s preferred course of action is disavowal, to strip you of your weapon and your clearance, and maybe, just maybe, if you’re really lucky, to not tell the Russians where to find you afterwards.”

“That’s a little harsh,” said Crosswell. “When did shooting three ex-KGB goons become slaughter? I was standing up for the Agency, you know, and for you. It’s not like I was unfaithful. They were bad-mouthing the whole outfit. I said they were wrong and you look fine in those pants. Have you lost weight?”

“Wow,” he added after a minute. “Tough room. And I’ve been tortured for state secrets.”

Yeah. So there’s that. Like always, it was based on a forty-minute free-writing prompt, in this case three random words. I don’t think it’s unamusing, but I also don’t think there’s anywhere to really go with it. It’s kind of a weak version of Archer, actually.

Meanwhile, in my never-ending quest to be non-productive, I have discovered and downloaded Bioshock. It’s a little like Portal, but with more shoot-’em-ups than puzzles, and I don’t think it’s going to replace those games as my favorites, but it’s nonetheless a bizarre and interesting (and violent) world.


I did the morning pages again this morning, though I decided to give this evening a break from the short story writing. To relax, decompress, rest my poor tired brain.

I finished re-playing Portal 2 and watched the latest episode of Justified instead.

That, plus work, was my Friday.


A busy day at work, but luckily it’s the start of a three-day weekend. The office is closed on Monday, and I’m working from home on Tuesday, and honestly I’m looking forward to it mainly for an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning. I am indeed that dull.

I do plan to do some more writing over the weekend, as I’m fast approaching the deadline this short story was meant for. It’s not the end of the world if I miss that deadline, and I can easily rework the story. I just worry that, with that deadline gone, I’ll have an excuse to avoid the work. And I don’t want that. I want to finish this story.

Meanwhile, the stories in the most recent issue of Kaleidotrope — that quarterly online zine I edit and publish — were reviewed at Locus Magazine’s website. Reviewer Lois Tilton, who’s had mixed things to say about the zine in the past, calls these stories “almost all dark, to a greater or lesser degree. Several quite depressing.” But I think she means that in a good way.

And I finished reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which may have made me tear up just a little. But I am a big softy like that. It’s not a perfect book, occasionally a little too clever for its own good, but it’s very touching, and it does that thing that all good books should do: make you miss the characters when they’re gone. I recently discovered Green through his YouTube channel, which I think I discovered mostly because I wanted to subscribe to a YouTube channel that didn’t then immediately vanish.

Anyway, it’s a good book, sweet without being maudlin, and I quite enjoyed it. That, as they say, is all.

Oh, and I (re-)finished playing Portal. On to Portal 2. (You think I’m kidding. I am not.)