One More Weblog in the Blogosphere -- Why?

One More Weblog in the Blogosphere -- Why?

My name is Steven Doyle (although I usually write under the pen name Manuel Royal). For a while, in the late summer of 2011, I got paid to write a fiction column for an online newspaper, the Smyrna-Vinings Patch (owned by AOL).

Essentially it was a loosely-plotted serialized novel, in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Armistead Maupin (but without the use of talent), set in the area of Vinings, Georgia (just outside Atlanta), where I live.

The column was called "Welcome to Smyrnings" (the name being a combination of the towns of Smyrna and Vinings). It lasted nine brief weeks; eighteen installments. At least half a dozen people I know about read it at some point.

Then I parted ways with AOL. I thought that was it for the column, which seemed a shame, since I'd done some of my better work there (admittedly, it's a low bar). Unfortunately, since AOL owns every word published on its sites, I can't do anything with the 35,000 words of column on the Patch.

However, someone close to me requested more installments (or episodes, or what-have-you) for special occasions; she liked the characters. My ego couldn't resist such a request. So, I've done a few, and as I do more, I'll put them here, starting with Episode 019.

A note on the title: SPLAND of the SPLOST would make sense if one had read, in the old column on the Patch, Episode 12: SPLAND of the SPLOST. It's not terribly significant to the overall story (except insomuch as it reflects the occasionally-used theme of little adventures happening in mundane circumstances).

Anyway -- if you happen to be one of my six loyal readers, and you'd be interested in seeing further misadventures of my hapless characters, please start with 019: Week End. (The blog software automatically puts the most recent post at the top, but you can click on any post in the archive.)

Or start wherever you'd like. It's a free blogosphere, for Pete's sake. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

020 Birthday Wishes


December 31, 2011

A black Vespa GTS 300 called Death Princess tore down Smyrna's Windy-Mac connector.  Darryl "Aardvark" Willitt glanced down at the dashboard clock.  11:43.

He pushed the scooter up to its top souped-up speed, something over eighty.  Behind him, Martian Fighting Machine stuck his snout out of an opening in his plastic crate.  He let his tongue flap in the wind.

* * *

Ronnie grabbed Parmelia Mobley's wrist to look at her My Little Pony wristwatch.  She shouted to raise her voice above the Shriekback booming out of Shane's stereo.  "Synchronize your watch to mine!"  She held up her own watch.

"Oh, I don't think so."  Parmelia tapped her watch's face.  "This watch keeps perfect time."

"Sure it does, Honey.  Here, set it to 11:50 exactly and wait for my mark."

"You wait for your own mark, Toots."

Cherie Beamish hugged them both from behind, her face a head above Parmie's and on level with Ronnie's.  She spoke into Ronnie's ear.  "I trust your watch, Luv.  You're always on time."

Ronnie stuck to her guns.  "Parmie, this watch has a robot on the dial, so obviously it's more accurate."

"So what, you've got a robot on your tit."

Cherie said, "And the robot itself has tits."

Ronnie laughed.  "My tits never lose time!"  The instant she began shouting this, the music cut off.  Somewhere between My and tits.

Shane Bledsoe, sitting with his aunt at the kitchen table twenty feet away, had turned away from his conversation and used his iPhone to turn off the music.  He stood up and stared at the trio of girls.  "I heard 'tits'."

His aunt, Moira Belle Chesley, said, "What did they sound like?"

Wishes Tanager, coming in from the backyard, said, "I heard they sound like motorboats."  He plopped down in the middle of the sofa.

Ronnie went over and put her arm around Shane's neck.  She pulled his round head down and  noogied it.  "You like that?"  She was a little drunk.

"Yes'm."  Shane's voice was muffled, his face against her left breast.

"Oh, for God's sake."  Moira put her drink down and separated the two.  "Stop breast-feeding."

Parmie came over, holding up her wrist.  "She wanted me to set my watch to hers!"  She was way louder than necessary, now that the music was off; Parmie was more than a little drunk.

Moira hooked a thumb at the clock over the sink.  "I paid thirty bucks for that atomic clock.  Just set your watch to that."

Cherie sat down next to Wishes in the living room.  She pointed at the clock and asked him, "That thing's not really atomic, is it?"  She rested her head back against Caliban, the enormous orange cat, whose body weight was compressing the top of the sofa cushion.  He made a good pillow.

"No."  Wishes shook his head.  "I've told Moira a hundred times, it's not an atomic clock.  It receives a radio signal from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, where they do have an atomic clock.  It uses that to keep on the right time."

"Clever, that.  Did you get your girlfriend on the phone?"

"Yes, but just for a minute.  She said she was making rice pudding."

"Is she a good cook, then?"

"No.  Rice pudding means she thinks the call is bugged."

Shane wandered over.  "Hey, Bro, you get to talk to that crazy bitch of yours?"

Cherie said, "She's making the rice pudding."

"Oh!"  Shane's forehead wrinkled up like a bulldog's.  "Whattya think, Wishes, the Federales, or maybe the DEA?"

"Maybe her cousin's in trouble again."

Shane took a long pull on his long neck.  "Or maybe it's your cousin Paulo.   You sure she wasn't up on top of him when she was on the phone, like that time, with the conference call?"  He turned to Cherie.  "Crazy day at work."

Wishes said, "No, Paulo's up in Lexington, or at least his car is.  Aunt Viviane put a GPS tracker in it."

Shane dropped into the sofa next to Wishes, opposite Cherie.  "Look, Man, forget Michelle, for Christ's sake.  'S not like you owe her anything."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

"You shoulda invited that little Bethany chick tonight.  What's the point of having a hot coworker if you don't even try?  You should call her up right now."

Wishes shrugged.  "We might not even be coworkers anymore.  BPM is closed for repairs after that thing ... Maybe I won't even go back."

"Bullshit!  Call her anyway.  The more the merrier.  Hell, your evil bitch girlfriend is probably up on top of Paulo, or bangin' some drug lord, or smuggling endangered reptile eggs inside human cadavers.  Hey, where the hell's Aardvark, anyway?"  Shane scratched Caliban's head; the cat groaned and silently passed gas.  "Pew, cat!"  He stood up.  "I'll get you a drink, my Man, you call Bethany.  Don't tell me you don't know her number."

Cherie asked Wishes, "Do you know her number?"

"Yeah, I always learn everybody's numbers when I take a job."

"Well, do what feels right.  D'you reckon she's at another party, though?"

"Probably.  We're just friends, anyway.  I'm not going to interrupt her evening."

"Jesus H., look at the time!"  Shane pointed at the clock.  11:57.  He dragged two bottles of sparkling wine out of the fridge.  "Turn on the tv, I wanna see the peach drop!"  He trotted back to the sofa, holding the bottles out to Wishes.  "Get ready to open these things, Wishes.  Real Champagne from California."  He grabbed the remote and turned the tv on to Channel 2.  "Got more in the fridge."

Wishes looked at the label.  "This must be Napa Valley's finest sparkling wine for under five dollars."  He started on the twisted wire cages holding the plastic corks in place.

Ronnie, Parmie and Moira broke off their three-way conversation.  Ronnie started pulling wine glasses down and lining them up on the table.  Parmie leaned close to Moira and said, "Can I talk to you some time about the Precious Stuffs business?"

Moira beamed at her. "You want to model?  You'd look fantastic in some of the soft leather."

"Really?  Wow, I never really -- no, I meant something different."

"But you're thinkin' about it."

"Well, I'm a little drunk."

"Come out and spark one with me later."

"Moira, you know I don't toke.  You can spark one with anybody else in my family."


From outside came the husky growl of a Vespa 278cc four-stroke engine.  Ronnie called, "It's Aardvark!" and went out the kitchen door.

Shane followed, saying, "He'd better have Marty with him."

In the driveway, Aardvark was lifting the Death Princess up onto its kickstand and taking off his helmet.  Ronnie went up and flung her arms around him.  "'Vark, 'Vark, 'Vark.  We love you so much."

Aardvark patted her back.  "'Course you do, Dollface, you're drunk."

Shane opened up the crate strapped to the cargo rack behind the seat and lifted out Martian Fighting Machine, the household three-legged terrier.  "Marty!  I love you, you little freak, I love you so much!  Who's a good freak?  Who's a good little freak?"

Cherie had come out.  "Hey!  How'd our little tripod do on the photoshoot?"

Aardvark grinned, pulling an unlit Lucky Strike from behind his ear (it was a little mashed from being under the helmet) and taking it between his lips.  "Dog's a star.  Wait'll you see the shots."


Parmie and Moira came out and joined the group standing in the driveway.  Moira asked, "Did they use the Merry Widow?"

Aardvark opened up the scooter's underseat storage and pulled out a paper bag.  He handed it to Moira.  "Sorry, Darlin', for some reason nobody wanted to see a handicapped dog wearing sexy lingerie.  Man, they had a deaf Great Dane, a two-legged Dalmation in a little cart, they had a standard poodle pulling an oxygen tank on wheels -- tell you what, they even had a blind Labrador that had his own seeing-eye dog, this little weiner dog he was tied to."

Shane was cradling Marty like an infant.  "Do we get a free copy of the magazine when it comes out?"  He rubbed the dog's belly.

Wishes came out, still holding both bottles of wine.  "Hey, guys, almost time!"

With Wishes holding the door open, they could hear the chanting from the tv.  Nine!  Eight!

 Somehow, no one felt like going in.  They stood in the driveway and counted down together.

Midnight; 2012

Wishes popped both corks off at once with his thumbs.  As foam gushed out of the cold bottles, the two pops were answered by scattered gunshots, as Smyrna's rednecks celebrated their heritage by firing pistols into the air.

Shane and Parmie, holding Marty between them, had a good long kiss, a little drunk and sloppy.  Shane kept one eye open to watch Ronnie and Cherie.  Ronnie was still shy about kissing in public, but Cherie grabbed her and pulled her in for a good hard one.

Aardvark and Moira leaned together against Moira's Crown Vic Interceptor.  Aardvark shook his head.  "Young love.  Kinda gross."

Moira sighed.  "Kinda nice when you're in it."

Shane broke away from Parmie's mouth to yell, "Happy Birthday, Wishes!  Wishes!  Hey, Wishes!  Hey, acknowledge me, you selfish prick!"

"I'm busy."  Wishes was holding up both bottles, carefully pouring wine into the gaping mouths of Ronnie and Cherie, who stood with their heads thrown back.

Moira laughed.  "Guess you're the only one tall enough to do that."

Shane snapped a picture.  He said, "Not if they hunker down!  Hunker, Gals!"

This made Ronnie erupt into laughter, wine spraying from her nose and mouth.  "Gah!"

Ronnie punched Shane on the nipple.  They passed the bottles around; Moira and Aardvark shared a slender reefer.  Eventually they were all inside again, to Caliban's annoyance.

Shane went upstairs and came back down wearing only a diaper, a top hat, and a sash embroidered with the legend NEW YAER 2012.  Then he insisted on sitting in Wishes' lap and singing him the birthday song, trying to sound like Marilyn Monroe.

He gave Wishes a coffee-table book: a massive one-volume 30-year retrospective of Bad Gerry comics.

Cherie and Ronnie gave Wishes a collection of Twilight Zone on Blu-Ray.  The two girls kissed his cheeks until he visibly blushed through his mocha latte complexion.

More wine was opened.  Cherie flashed everyone her "Monster from the Id" breast tattoo; Shane, with gunfighter-like speed, pulled his phone out of his diaper and snapped a picture.

Wishes' cousin, Paulo Woodley, called from Lexington.  He was riding a police horse, again, and ordering a chili dog at a drive-through window.  Wishes put the call on speaker; they could all hear Paulo eating.  He wished Wishes a happy birthday, then started crying.  Paulo said he was in love with Patrol Officer Tricia Steeple.  He described his love for her as "overpowering, like encephalitis".

Officer Steeple herself apparently showed up about then, reclaimed her horse, handcuffed Paulo and commandeered his phone.  Aardvark got on the phone; he sweet-talked her into letting Paulo off with a ticket.

Caliban and Marty rough-housed non-stop for five minutes.  Marty got a good grip on the cat's tail and dragged him across the floor.

So it was a good evening.  Around 1:00, Moira produced the mint chip ice cream cake Wishes had requested, and held it while Wishes lit the candle from across the room with the 1.0-Watt blue laser Parmie had given him.

Shane grabbed the cake and held it in front of Wishes.  "Now make a wish!  And do it right this time, wish something for yourself!"  To Parmie, who was sitting in Wishes' lap, he said, "Boy always wishes stuff for other people.  That's cheating."

Wishes looked up, a little cross-eyed.  "I already got your woman, Redneck.  What else do I need?"  He closed his eyes.  "Hold on.  Got something.  Let me think."

"Do you got it or not?"  Shane was still holding the cake still.  "This cake's heavy, Son."

"Okay.  I got something."

Parmie said, "Don't tell anyone what it is."

Shane asked her, "You comfortable?"

"Of course I am.  Don't I look comfortable?"

"Wishes, she's not too heavy, is she?"

Wishes grinned, showing his missing tooth.  "What do you think?"

"I think I want some ice cream cake.  Blow out the dang candle already!"

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