Scrappy Sketches

Writing for eMergent Publishing’s new anthology “89” has proven to be an interesting task.

The brief asks for a retro speculative fiction story based in 1989 with a reference to a significant event from that year, all prompted by a song from the same year. Following? Good, because it’s doing my head in.

Some of us have been slogging through ideas while others have written their story quickly. I am in the former group. What follows below is a sketch I wrote to help get the ideas flowing. It is not being used in the final story but I thought I would share this scrappy sketch with you.

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“Why does the fat lady get to sing the last song?” asked Claire. “I mean, it’s not like she’s Whitney Houston or anything.” She dragged on the cigarette before extinguishing it. “This songbird’s gonna have the final note tonight. Fat chick be damned.”

The karaoke microphone was vacant, illuminated by a single spot lights. Claire’s best friend, Rachelle, dubbed it The Truth Amplifier. The microphone revealed a person’s ability, she said. If they could sing, it magnified the singer’s competent vocal chords. If the singer was a hairbrush vocalist, it simply amplified their cat-being-pulled-by-a-toddler screeching.

Flicking through the karaoke menu, Claire chose her song. It was 2 am and the bar was emptying. MIDI strains of Bon Jovi clambered out of the speaker. Rachelle whooped her encouragement from the table. Claire pulled the microphone from the stand, feeling its weight, balancing it before winking at Rachelle. In her head she counted off the final bar before the lyrics started. On the last beat she spun the mic in her hand, caught it, leaned forward and breathed the lyrics, “If you’re ready, I’m willing and able. Help me lay my cards out on the table.”

The crowd was caught in her performance. At the first chorus she pushed the vocals, but deliberately held back from giving it everything, “Lay your hands on me, lay your hands on me, lay your hands on me.” She extended her hand towards the crowd. A polite smattering of applause came from the thinning crowd, but Claire knew she had them. The second verse spun from her lips like caramel, despite the MIDI-synth backing track. Perched on the edge of the tiny stage, she could feel herself flying with the music. Grasping the mic stand in her left hand she threw her head back for the final chorus and released the diva within, finding the pure note and producing a sonic boom.

Putting the mic back into the clip, the audience erupted in whoops, cheers and whistles.

Dropping into the chair beside Rachelle, Claire said, “Elvis and the fat lady have left the building. Together. Eating deep friend sandwiches and caressing their arses where I kicked it.”

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8 responses to “Scrappy Sketches

  1. Jason Coggins

    And you have the audacity to call this a mere sketch? That was funny and tight as!!!!

  2. I’ve read so much gimmicky fiction and metafiction lately that I thought your three paragraph into was actually part of the story! Sheesh, I can be silly.

    The story itself is as sharp as it is short. I enjoy that you compressed things down like this and still had room for bright nuggets like the MIDI of Bon Jovi.

  3. This was fun! I hope I’ll find the whole story (or as John hinted, something related to this) in the 89′ link above. Heading there. 🙂

  4. She most definitely owned the crowd 😉 I only sing in the shower, when nobody else is home so i don’t know anything about doing karaoke!

  5. I liked this, especially this “Claire pulled the microphone from the stand, feeling its weight, balancing it before winking at Rachelle. In her head she counted off the final bar before the lyrics started. On the last beat she spun the mic in her hand, caught it, leaned forward and breathed the lyrics, ” it created just the right amount of tension as the reader anticipated Claire’s performance. That girl was a pro!

  6. I’m glad you shared this one and I can’t wait to see what you came up with for the anthology. Great choice of song with this one, and nicely written. I almost grabbed the mike myself. (That would have been a mistake, though.) 🙂

  7. I was a little confused partway through when you mentioned the “thinning crowd” and wondered if maybe her ability was all in her head, and she simply thought she sounded great when she was actually awful and everyone was leaving, but then everyone apparently gave her a good reception when she was finished.

    Either way, great use of the song.

  8. I love Bon Jovi! I thought this was great, Adam. And what a cool prompt for the stories. Great job as always.

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