Arts and Farts and Crafts Week 1: Writing – “Tar and Feathers”

We’ve decided to take a more “mixed media” feel to our artsy-fartsy challenge (once called “Writer Wrong”), so I’ve decided to call it “Arts and Farts and Crafts” in reference to one of my favorite films.

Next week’s medium is PHOTOGRAPHY. The theme is OUTDOORS. If anybody would like to play along, create some new art by Thursday following these rules, blog about it, and let me know.

For this week, our theme was based on an e-mail from my friend Nichole.

Peering through Venetian blinds I got my first look at the fuchsia demons. They perched innocently upon my Kentucky Blue in numbers approaching a hundred. Pink Flamencoes. Evil in plastic form.

In Florida there is a boy scout fund raising gimmick where they stick a lot of plastic flamencoes into some persons yard. They helpfully provide a sign stating “You have been Flocked by Troop#___” And then you are asked to “donate” to the troop in return for having the flamencos removed from your lawn.

Using that as inspiration, I freewrote this. Not great. I’m a little rusty, but I should be getting back into it soon. For now, I’ll just Frankenstein the pieces I like out of this and use them elsewhere.

Tar and Feathers

I pull down a slat in my Venetian blinds. Behind the blinds: nothing but a sea of blazing pink swimming with vacant, black eyes. Maybe a tree here or a rock there. Some grass–Kentucky Blue. But mostly just plastic pink flamingos standing ever-motionless with legs crossed in figure-fours. Fuschia demons basking in both the brightness of stagnant Frankfurt sunlight and the joy of blinding me.

The neighbors must be going batshit insane. The neon birds clash with the peeling, pale-blue paint of my ranch house like some terrible cotton candy concoction. Nothing I can do about it now.

There was a time when I could have stopped it. I would look through the blinds every morning to see houses and fields and sky and eventually, in some far-off place I’d never venture–mountains.

Then it was there.

Just a stupid lawn ornament. Some idiot kid probably stole it off the three-square-foot lawn in front of some ramshackle trailer from that community outside of town that’s filled with so many telephone poles it’s practically canopied with wires. It wasn’t worth the time and mental anguish to leave my house and remove the eyesore. Over the ensuing days, the collection grew and grew and grew and grew and all I could do was stare through the slats. Now there’s nothing else. Only pink.

There’s an old folktale about the creation of the earth. My mom used to read it to me at bedtime. Some ancient deity created the world in seven days. He started with the land, followed shortly thereafter by the sea and the sky. Threw some plants into the mix–palm trees and potatoes and those stupid spiky things that get stuck to your clothes. Then he created the animals, starting with the dumber amoebas and working his way through bark beetles, buzzing bumblebees, teeny-weeny mice, redheaded woodpeckers, bushy-tailed squirrels, raccoons with masks, until finally he ended with humans. Then he created Richard the Lionhearted, Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Colonel Sanders, and your grandma. On the seventh day, he was exhausted so he took a vacation. On the eighth day, he realized that the teenagers had nobody to make fun of, so he created me.

No matter where I go, the hooligans always find me. The teens tire pretty quickly of the dumb old favorites–ding-dong-ditch, poo-in-a-flaming-bag, what-have-you–and come up with some dumb new favorites to take their place. They place fresh fish under the windshield wipers of my beat-up old Plymouth Breeze, so that when I eventually exit my house the fish are baked onto the window, covered with flies, and filled with maggots. No matter where I go. I seem to be made to suffer. It’s my lot in life.

I look back out the window. Can it be that there’s even more pink than previously? It’s hard to tell now. There are so many birds. Where are these things coming from? Kids must be calling all K-Marts across the country looking for damned lawn ornaments.

My pops used to tell me tales of amazing rains. Once, he told me, the world was actually covered entirely in water. Some vengeful god was tired of the sex and the drugs and the rock and roll, so he pissed all over the earth until everybody drowned. Then, one guy and his wife repopulated the whole of humanity. He saved us from drowning in water, but doomed us to an eternity drowning in overpopulation–an ocean full of incest-bred siblings.

My pops used to tell me lots of tales. Used to drink a lot of whiskey, too.

My refrigerator hums to me. I hum back. Passes the time. I used to sing, but I forgot the words. I’ve been speaking later and later in the day. Sometimes I don’t talk ’til maybe eight o’clock at night. Later. Never. Doesn’t matter. Not much that can’t be said with a well-placed grunt. Or a hum.

A rustle. Brief. Then longer. Louder. Longer. Louder. This is not a normal sound. It is not the humidifier; the furnace; the mice; the humming. This is papers shuffling–an ever-nearing taxtime accountant. The rustling gets louder and louder until my windows shake. Until my teeth shake.

Just as creation myths are made for every belief system, destruction myths are par for the course. I’m a little bit muddier on them, just because everyone in my family died before they could finish reading that book. Or maybe they just got bored around the part where everybody begat everybody else. I think the end of the world will have something to do with a team of horses, and a big fire.

The noise is coming at me now. There’s not much left of the windows, and not much left of my teeth. Feathers are everywhere, pink and glorious and beautiful and horrifying. And those eyes–those eyes, black as coal, judging me and my every thought. My face is bloodied and oozing from wounds I didn’t know I’d gotten. Maybe they’d always been there. When was the last time I looked in a mirror, anyway? Must have been years ago, shortly after I’d seen that first bird. The Alpha Bird. I close my eyes. I open them. I close my eyes. I open them again. The noise is still here. Nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes.

I close my eyes and open them one last time. I spy the door. I make my way through the noise and through the feathers, and I step outside.

12 Responses to “Arts and Farts and Crafts Week 1: Writing – “Tar and Feathers””

  1. so the theme is just outdoors? that’s it?

    and an aside, aren’t flamencoes spanish dancers?

    hehe 🙂
    i like your writing though, and i like how you didn’t say ‘flamingo’ (or flamenco) once 😉 great visuals

  2. I actually did mention “flamingos” in the first paragraph. Wasn’t sure if my friend actually meant “flamenco” or misspelled “flamingo,” so I went with the one I was more interested in. It’s my story after all :-p

    Next week is just “outdoors.” The picture doesn’t even necessarily have to be taken outdoors. It just has to be…inspired by the word, I guess. I figure we’ll have both vague and specific themes at one point or another, assuming we can keep this up.

  3. and where should we send our themed submissions? ?

  4. Well, my initial idea was to have anybody that wanted to participate publish it in their own blog and then let me know about it so I can link to it. However, you can e-mail it to me at if you’re so inclined.

  5. Goddamn it use em dashes! You can’t use a hyphen as an em dash and then in the next freaking sentence use a hyphen as a hyphen! Because maybe you have friends that are tenderly, frantically, with much fumbling and sweating, clasping their last thread of sanity!

    When that thread breaks, Mike… well, something about flamingos, I’d imagine.

  6. Man that was such a metal fucking story. (I stopped reading after the first paragraph to throw cats at you about the em dash.)

    I so want in on this shit. Will try to keep up. Just keep it going!

  7. Not a lot of time to comment at the moment because I’m on a short work break, but I can partially explain the “hyphen dash.” I type in two hyphens (the Microsoft Word equivalent of an em-dash), and WordPress automatically converts them to a single hyphen. Glad you like the stories, and I hope you keep up with the arts challenge!

  8. A brief lesson:

    hold down an Alt key, type 0151 on the numeric keypad, then release the Alt key.

    That’s how you type an em dash in Windows XP, which I presume you’re using. In OS X (for those interested) I believe it’s alt+shift+hyphen. In Linux it’s whatever the fuck you want it to be.


  9. Also, this utility looks kind of neat if you often type weird characters.

    Sorry, I’m on a bent here.

  10. I just realized how incredibly like yours my story is. I shouldn’t write while so tired, I guess.

    I love the cotton candy line. I like the imagery of the mountains and how that plays against the presence of lawn ornaments. I like “Maybe they’d always been there.”

    I enjoy reading your writing.

  11. Hahaha, well, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Of course, it’s a lot less flattering when my so-called “imitation” is ten times better than my own piece. Your piece is all yours, dudeman!

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