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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2240822-The-Color-of-Muse
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Satire · #2240822
Don't let ego or injustice blind you to a potential Muse. They are hard enough to find.
"What the hell?!"

"'Swearing in a story should be preceded by text that sets up the appropriateness of the swearing to the situation. When a story starts with swearing, that's not possible.'"

"Yikes! Who the ...!?" John whipped around in the old tattered office chair he picked up at some rummage sale. It nearly dropped him to the floor.

"I said, swearing is not allowed if you don't set up the context first". The eyes of the Little Red Demon that had hovered over John's right shoulder were the color of Hell itself. As usual.

"Oh for the love of ... You, again. I just had the place fumigated."

"Yes. You did. Thank you. It has a nice bouquet. But can we get back to the point? You aren't my only visit today."

"Please. Feel free to leave whenever."

"John! I am hurt! After all I go through to give you insightful and constructive criticism. If you don't like the feedback, maybe the problem is with the story, not the feedback. Anyway, as I was trying to say, you can't go breaking rules you don't understand."

"This is military genre. Salty dialogue is ENTIRELY appropriate within that genre."

"Not if you don't contextualize it."

"I do! I mean, I will! Keep reading, if you must. Just keep quiet."

John turned back to his keyboard.


"Flight, Raptor One. Who is that?"

"Ah, Raptor One, Three. Sorry, One. I have a chattering in my flight controls."

"No, no, no. John. If I have said this once I have said this a thousand times:

'An effective opening of a story grounds the reader in the story world and the viewpoint/main character right away. That doesn't happen here. The hook isn't effective. Starting a story with a speech has the issue of not informing the reader beforehand about who is speaking.'

"All you have done, John, is confuse the reader."

"All I have done, you green-eared LRD, is create tension with a mere three words."

"They are NOT green!" The LRD flamed.

"Readers are smart enough to see, or at least feel, that tension. I set up a conflict with the implicit promise that I will resolve that conflict shortly. And I do. 'Flight, Raptor One ...' - at the beginning of the next line - sets the context; it is a military scenario with jet fighters. All in the first six words. The rest of the second line, only three more words, asks the question the reader is asking right now, 'Who is that?' It draws the reader in, knowing the author - me - is listening to them and treating them with respect. The third line validates the identities of the two principals in this scene - Raptor One and Raptor Three. By the end of the third line, the context for the swearing is sufficiently clear - there is something wrong with Raptor Three's aircraft. By not telling all, letting the reader fill in the blanks and little bits with their own experiences and perceptions, they believe they 'own' the story. It entices the reader to keep reading."

"You expect too much from readers."

God, it is going to be one of those days.


"Three, One. Status."

"One, Three. All good. Just an intermittent chatter. Does not appear to be affecting flight control at this time."

"Three, One. Your call, Three. Are you safe to continue?"

"One, Three. All safe."

"Three, One. Write it up when we land."

---

"There! Scene One complete. The stage is set!"

"You've already lost your reader, John. Just give up."

"Quiet, you green-eyed horn-toed lizard"

"You have a problem with color-blindness?"

"I'm getting a ham and cheese. You want something?"

"Freshly charred soul, if you have it. Corrupted flesh will do in pinch."

"Go to hell."

---

Much later, having feted on holiday leftovers, a renewed John returned to his writer's studio. LRD was standing on the back of the old chair, arms crossed, foot tapping.

"You. You're still here ..."

"Forgot about me? Nice. For a species that likes to think it has empathy, you sure don't show it to those of us who are just a little different. Did you think to bring me something?"

"Ahhhh, I'm fresh out of charred souls, and corrupted flesh is out of season"

"Corrupted flesh is never out of season."

"Sorry. Couldn't you just - I don't know - pop out and get something?"

"I can't leave until we are done -- I mean, I can't just leave you in your hour of need. And they aren't exactly a take-out item."

Interesting. LRD corrected himself real fast about why he was still here.

Acrid brimstone wafted across the room as LRD fumed. "Well? Shall we get to it? You do have a deadline."

I hate him. I really really hate him. And he knows he is right. Jack has been bugging me for days about this piece.

Trying not to breathe too deeply, John sat down.

"So. Let's start with a rewrite, shall we?"

"Shut up, man. You talk too much."

"Funny man. You should save that humor for your writing. It needs it."


F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Pilot Lt. James Hornblower. Intermittent chatter in flight controls while inverted.
Aircraft flyable.

---

"Jonesey! Got a Flight Control write-up on 48-25.

"Sarge! Is it a Red X write-up?"

"Nope. Pilot says it is still flyable. You don't need sign-off from a senior tech."

---

F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Ran F/C diag. Could not duplicate.
Log entry closed.


F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Pilot Lt. James Hornblower. Intermittent chatter in flight controls ONLY while inverted.
Aircraft flyable.


F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Ran F/C diag. No problems noted. Cannot replicate inverted condition on GROUND.
Log entry closed.

------

LRD sighed.

"John. We need to talk."

"What?"

"'The part about Cannot replicate inverted condition on GROUND. reminds me of a similar story/joke that was circulating a few months ago.'"

"Are you accusing me of plagiarism?"

"John, John, John. No. Not at all. I like a little plagiarism, but have you heard of 'subtlety'? It's not a new concept; it's been around as long as I have been corrupting flesh."

"Ok, smart guy. Where? When?"

LRD rolled his eyes. "Damned if I know. It just has a ring of familiarity."

"Familiarity, eh? Let's see, like, the opening scene of Top Gun? Or maybe the climax of Blue Thunder, where Roy Scheider does the seemingly impossible and inverts a helicopter? How about Airwolf, that TV series with Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine? I swear, they inverted the helicopter as part of the climax every week, if memory serves. Could you be confusing this with Iron Eagle, where the kid asks Louis Gossett, Jr, "Chappy? Can you fire a missle on the ground?" I was in Germany when that movie played at the Base Theater. Half the audience walked out at that point, it was such a dumb-ass question. Why does the Navy get all the cool movies and the Air Force get dog-assed ones like that? Or maybe it was an old Gary Cooper movie, doing Immelmann's during WWI Dogfights? No, I know! Snoopy and the Red Baron!"

"You should hire a comedian; your senility is causing your humor to go stale. Again, as I have told you a hundred times:

'Legally, story ideas can usually be stolen without penalty as long as the wording is redone. However, effective stealing requires changing enough of the original idea that readers don't recognize the source.'"

"You sound like a green-toed lawyer, three sheets to the wind. That's bull and you know it. Legally, I can even take pieces of copyrighted material and use it, if it is in the context of political or social or artistic commentary."

"Hey! That's low, John! Lawyers happen to be some of my best clients."

"You're right. Sorry."

"Damn right I'm right."

"Seriously, though, legally, before one accuses someone of theft, one must come up with proof. You got nothing but allegations and 'vague' recollections that are, at best, mere tropes. Tropes have no legal status, dude."


---

"Goddammit! Do you hear that noise?"

---

F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Pilot Lt. James Hornblower. Intermittent chatter in flight controls while inverted.
Sounds like a little green man with a ball peen hammer!
Aircraft GROUNDED.

---

"Jonesey! Hornblower wrote it up AGAIN! But he Red-X it! You guys gotta find something, anything, wrong. This bird doesn't fly until then!"

---

F-22 log entry, aircraft 48-25.
Ran full F/C diag. Found LGM and confiscated ball peen hammer. Chased LGM off base. R2 stick actuator.
Master Sergeant Bear.
Log entry closed.

---

"Colonel. Did you see the write-ups on Hornblower's aircraft?"

"God, what now!?"

Squadron Commander read the logs.

"Removed and replaced 'stick actuator'? ... Ok. Fine. Reassign Hornblower a different aircraft. I am not pissing off the ground crew on this."


"John, John, John. Where do I start, John?"

John tuned LRD out. He liked the piece. It was even true, mostly. When he was stationed in Germany, a pilot actually wrote up the 'Little Green Man' schtick. When John heard that a senior NCO wrote up, removed and replaced 'stick actuator', he thought all hell was going to break loose. That was when he learned that even colonels had an abiding respect, if not fear, for senior NCOs. And only 4-star generals would dare question the integrity of a Chief Master Sergeant. Especially, if they didn't want every aircraft down for maintenance for a fortnight.

Meanwhile, LRD was complaining about whether the chattering was noise, or was it noise + vibration/impact. And what was the cause of the chattering; that wasn't clear.

Who cares? That isn't the real conflict in the story.

"John!"

"What?"

"You're not listening. As I was saying, at the end of the story,

'The term "stick actuator" needs context on the page. The surrounding text doesn't clarify for general readers. Moving the lieutenant to a different plane doesn't solve anything re: not upsetting the ground crew.'

"John. You're not resolving anything. The reader is going to feel incomplete, unsatiated. Like I am, without lunch!"

John just stared at LRD. LRD was complaining the story had no resolution to the conflict of the story, while the real conflict and the real solution was coming out of his mouth, italicized. Can he not figure out what a 'stick actuator' is? What moves the stick in the cockpit, little dude? Do I really need to dumb this up? No. If you have to explain the joke, it isn't funny.

After a while, John relented. A bit. Writing the story, it did bother him how to explain some of this without dumbing it up too much. LRD did have a point there, but only there, at that one point. Hornblower, the REAL Hornblower, had been as much of a pain in the ass as LRD ever was. Maybe LRD saw a little of himself in Hornblower and was blinded by the implicit anal qualities that were being reflected in the story. Certainly, the Squadron Commander's response to yet another one of Hornblower's log entries should have been a big tipoff - well, it was SUPPOSED to be. If nothing else, the Lieutenant's name alone should have raised some eyebrows. If LRD hadn't been such a damn demon about all the other stuff, especially accusing him of plagiarism without proof, John might have given LRD's criticism a little more credence.

"John, you are not going to submit that, are you?"

John hit the SEND button.

"John, John, John. What am I to do? The Big Guy is getting a little tired of no results here. Remember the old days? You didn't give me much then either, but it was enough to keep me assigned to you. Can you imagine what your life would have been like if it had been someone else working you?"

John couldn't imagine. Probably would have gotten anyone else off his ass long before, but LRD - there was something there, something he didn't fathom. LRD kept coming back.

"You know, I always had a soft spot for you. I kept telling the Big Guy, don't worry, John's a soft touch, but he'll come around. But you never did. You took my free samples but never signed. Free samples! Right. Do you know how much those 'free' samples cost me?"

"I seem to recall most of those 'free' samples got me into a lot of hot water."

"It's always about you, isn't it? You never think how your behavior affects others. Your selfish conceit is going to get me reassigned! Do you know what Hell is like?! It's not a bad place to visit, but try staying for a couple thousand years!"

He's losing it. He is actually losing it. Could that be it? I was his ... gravy train? and now the train is leaving the station without him? OMG. I almost feel sorry for the little green turd.

"John, c'mon. Give me something here, anything. Something to keep me going till I can find someone else, someone who has enough empathy to show some gratitude!"

"Dude. I feel ya, I really do. But we all gotta move on sometime. I got stories to write and you are just so damn depressing and needy. You are just too toxic, dude. So please take this in the spirit it is intended:"

"Burn in hell, dude."

With an unholy scream that ripped the very fabric of existence, the little red demon vanished.

John felt he should feel a little sorry. Then his email beeped with his editor's response to the story and John forgot about LRD.
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