« Quite Possibly the Most Wonderful Woman in the World | Main | Day Three »

March 19, 2008

Boneman Travis

The other day Robbi and I were talking about creative process. When we first started the Idiots'Books venture, our works were just going to be studies, little more than sketches, and certainly not beholden to a standard as lofty as clarity or coherence. But as the months passed, we realized that we had started taking the work more seriously than we had originally intended. Expectations were raised. The production value rose. And though we still try not to pander to the gods of linear narrative, we pour some major brainpower and man hours into making each book as polished as we can. Which pleases us when we see the finished product. But this more careful, purposeful process has also starved that feckless, carefree part of both of us that wishes to produce without audience or expectation. And so we've launched a new endeavor.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I will write a quick burst of something for Robbi to respond to with an illustration. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, she will create an illustration for me to write a response to. On Sundays we will rest.

It is day three of the experiment, and so far we have not reneged on our commitment to the plan. I woke up at 3:00am a few nights back and penned my first installment.

Boneman Travis cut a stark profile among the pretty girls of Evars Street. He was thick as a tree and mean like two snakes. He ate daydreams and laughed. He coughed and favorite teacups flew from narrow shelves and shattered. He was a big man in a small space and that was how he liked it.

Sally "Frito" Jones saw his game from across the river. She bribed a man to get a boat, put on a red mask to make herself seem dangerous, and set out to sell the Boneman some swampland. The years away from the old neighborhood had changed her such that he could not now recognize the crumpled features of the girl he had once ruined.

To which Robbi responded (be sure to click on the image):


Yesterday Robbi sent me this (click on the image):


To which I responded:

It was stunning how loud he felt before the door opened, before he realized the group of little boys had grown into a pack of fearsome hunters. He saw their spears against the wall, still dripping blood or wine or motor oil, and wanted to recant the things he'd threatened in the telegram.

He wanted to, but didn't. The time had come, he knew. The forest had been burned, his home consumed. His sister and his mother gone away to somewhere warm with beaches. And so he pushed the door, in spite of the creak. And so he stood and spoke.

"Hello," he said, "I've come to ask for my honor back." He spoke as fiercely as he could, but the hunters did not look up from the table, where they hunched their backs and tore at flesh of something large and slick.

"Hello?" he said again. "I've got a gun. I'm not afraid to use it."

The hunters ate without chewing. They swallowed without tasting, ignoring him for hours as he shouted from the doorway.

Eventually, they finished and they slept. Eventually they woke and were hungry again. By then he was gone. By then they knew his voice and so they found him and killed him and ate him and went then back to sleep.


And I wasn't thrilled, so I tried this instead.

Rene remembers suddenly that he wasn't supposed to have been assertive. "Don't be assertive," his mother had said. "The ladies do not like it." Rene had rolled his eyes at that, sighing heavily to indicate his skepticism. "That's a good boy," his mother had said, putting a cupcake on his favorite plate. When he had finished eating, she had wiped the frosting from the corners of his mouth and had sent him up to take a bath.

Later that night, on his date with Linda, Rene is quiet through the salad course, deferential as she chews her veal, deferential as the waiter torches the creme brule.

But when he drops her off at her second story walkup and Linda leans back in her car seat and closes her eyes while parting her lips and exhaling in a hopeful sort of way, Rene surrenders to the buried urges of decades and does for himself the thing he's always wanted to. He brings his fists down squarely in the middle of the steering wheel, sounding the horn with a stunning authority. He does it three times and then stops. The car is silent. The streetlight is glaring.

"I suppose you didn't like that," says Rene.

But Linda is alert now, the hair on her wrists at attention, her eyes eager and her posture inquisitive. She doesn't say yes but she doesn't say no, and Rene wonders what to do next.


The ball is in my court now. It's Wednesday, and I owe Robbi a prompt. We're not going to share these every day, I promise. But now and then, when one strikes us as worth posting, we might.

Posted by bogenamp at March 19, 2008 09:37 AM