Well, probably the surprise of the century is that we have a winner already for the 2010 Yacht Club short story contest. As always, the entries were many (even more so than usual) and the judges really had their work cut out for them trying to winnow a winner from the bountiful harvest of excellent entries. Needless to say there were several entries which require an honorable mention, such as the story of the young man who was so addicted to pain pills that he was trying to give away his cat (oddly and coincidentally named Fay Lynn) so he could kill himself without a shred of remorse about the total wreck of a life he was leaving behind, and the story about blah blah bah, which again although excellent and brilliantly realized, didn’t quite meet the standards of tone which, if not as clearly defined under the rules from the Creative Loafing as many would have liked , well, how about some common sense? It is Christmas after all, and so we decided to go with a story, which is not only lyrical and insightful about the ways and workings of the Yacht Club, but also seems pervasive of a whole new era of scientific hope and optimism.
The Swashbuckler’s Tale
The thick smoke, broken glass and stench of stomach fluids from the survivors of the previous engagement distracted the boarding party only slightly as they entered the early A.M. aftermath, dim light faltering as they rolled their way through the debris and various detritus of debauchery. If anything registered, it was amazement at the simultaneous levels of both destruction and revelry which had evidently preceded their arrival. The boarding party came on as a team of seven, strapped into sophisticated, state of the art, motorized wheelchairs, able to open doors, by manipulating prosthetic “limbs” to extract and turn keys, grasp and move small tools, and most importantly, lift lidded Styrofoam cups of rum and coke to their lips.
“We’re in,” Glen said into his headset, as the front door swung shut and locked behind him with a loud “snick”. The seven chairs fanned out around a grouping of graffiti-carved wooden tables, the chairs stacked atop them, making the room a paradise of accessibility. “Let’s get a head count via com link and bring up our maps before I start the countdown.”
“A head count?” Xeno snorted, “We’re all right here, Glen. There’s hardly anywhere in the bar we can’t all see each other.”
“Wrong reality!” Bill said sternly from his chair to Xeno’s right. “This isn’t a bar, it’s a disabled shuttle, and we are here to rescue survivors and secure the loaf.”
“Oops, sorry,” Xeno said, chastised. “Xeno present. Screen up. X marks the spot.” He touched his tongue to the back of his teeth and his wheelchair rotated the opposite of the way he had expected it to, but he continued on through nearly 360 degrees hoping no one would be the wiser and oriented himself until the large red X on his screen was dead ahead of him. He was looking into the darkness of the kitchen.
“Bill present. Screen up. X marks the spot.” He likewise used his tongue implant to touch the hair-fine wire that ran around the inside of his teeth and oriented his chair so that it faced an archway leading into the other half of the restaurant.
“Roy present. My screen’s up. X is marking the. . . .” Before he could finish his sentence, his wheelchair shot forward into the table and the pyramid of chairs atop it crashed down, shattering the 4A.M stillness of the closed restaurant. “Oh, my god, oh my god oh my god!” Roy gasped.
“Get a grip on yourself Gbiv,” Glen snapped. “Anyone hurt, or in need of assistance?”
“Negative,” came six replies, almost simultaneously.
“Rich Present. Uhh, X marks the spot.” He rotated his chair maybe 10 degrees and consulted again his monitor. “This is weird, though. I seem to be right on top of my X.”
“Or maybe right beneath it. Scott present. Pinging . . . homing. Hmmm. That’s interesting, he said, letting his ruined eyes gaze in essentially Rich’s direction. I have to admit I didn’t expect a three dimensional grid. I’m impressed.”
“Man! Me too,” said Xeno, looking at the ceiling above Rich and the floor below.
“Eh hem,” Maria said. “Maria present. X marks the spot.” She used her dental input console slowly and carefully and oriented her chair until it pointed into the dark back corner of the restaurant, where a short hallway led to a set of men’s and women’s single-occupancy restrooms.
“Ross present. Acquiring X on screen.” He sat motionless for a second, then burst out angrily. “ I knew it. I told that idiot that the triple diode relay wasn’t going to work. I have nothing. No maneuverability! It’s exactly what I said. . . .”
“I don’t remember you saying anything like that,” Xeno said.
“Did you initialize your function pad with a triple roof tap?” Maria asked, making a show of opening her mouth and tapping the roof of her mouth three times.
“Of course I did!” Ross said angrily, mimicking her facial contortions, at which point his chair zoomed backwards, until his wheels encountered a strong, sticky rat trap, and he toppled over backwards, his headrest hitting the floor with a scary sounding crack. “I’m OK,” he said. But I may have to break the rules to get upright.”
“You do and you’re out,” Rich sneered.
“Fuck you, Rich,” Ross said, angrily struggling with the complicated safety harness he had helped to design, which held him snugly in his seat. He was in the exact predicament he had fantasized Maria would get herself into.
Filling in for the report of a pistol at the starting line of the hundred-yard dash, Glen yelled, “Go!” and held a stopwatch up with his prosthetic limb. His tongue moved erratically behind his upper teeth until his channel lock hand crushed the timepiece and it’s various components flew out in all directions. “Damn it!” Glen laughed. Since injuring his spine in a diving accident fifteen years ago he hadn’t done much smashing of things, nor did breaking an eight dollar stop watch register on his list of things to get mad about. “Let’s secure the treasure.”
“Maybe we should secure Ross first,” Maria said.
“God, the compassion,” Xeno mocked.
“Actually, he’s in my way.”
“This would be really cool if we could right him,” Bill said, moving to Ross’s headrest and securing it with his pincer arm.
“Quickly,” Ross urged. “Some of my drink is dribbling out through the straw.” Xeno and Maria got a grip on either side of his armrests and on Bill’s count they hoisted him into an upright position. The sadistically adhesive rattrap was still stuck to his back, but otherwise he was fine.
“Parasite unlikely to interfere with mission,” Bill stated, trying not to smile. “Proceed with plan.” Everyone realigned themselves so that that the Xs on their screen were at twelve o’clock. “You know, if nothing else goes right at all, we’ve already proven that this technology is priceless.”
* * * * * * * * *
“I’m telling you it’s true! It’s called The Tongue Drive Study. I already signed up for it. Look it up on your girlfriend if you don’t believe me.”
“I will,” Roy said, pulling his I-phone from its pink satin and angora case. “It’s OK sweetie,” he said, stroking her tenderly with a finger to bring her to life, “I just need you to prove that Xeno’s a liar. You’ll be back safe and comfy in no time.”
“Oh my God, please stop it,” Ross said, looking up and down the empty bar to make sure no one was overhearing this. “What if someone else comes in?”
“It’s one o’clock on a beautiful Friday afternoon,” Xeno said, coming around from behind the bar to peer over Roy’s shoulder. “What kind of horrible losers would come into this dank cave?”
“Hello everybody,” Rich said. “I’m taking over the world and killing all the poor and sick.” He sat at the bar and ordered a cup of water.
“Holy crap, here it is,” Roy said, swapping out one pair of eyeglasses for another. “The Tongue Drive Study. It says it’s a grain-of-rice-sized sensor implanted in the tip of the tongue. Blah blah blah. Used to tap out commands programmed into the teeth. Blah blah blah. Hair-sized strands of super conducting filament placed behind the teeth.” He stroked the screen again with his finger and text whizzed by.
“See?” Xeno smirked at Ross.
“Says it was developed at the nanotech laboratory at Georgia Tech. Medical procedure done at the Emory Medical Center. Holy shit!”
“And I’m signed up for it.”
“Signed up at that piercing place . . . Kolo?”
“Three doors down.”
“And they pay you?”
“Hundred fifty bucks.”
“I’m there,” Ross said, ambling out the door. Roy took a moment to tuck his I-phone into its little sleeping bag and zip it into his jacket pocket.
“What’s new?” Bill asked as he and Maria walked in and sidled up to the bar their usual drinks placed before them.
“Funny you should ask,” Xeno said. “But I just signed up to have a sensor implanted into my tongue so I can tap out commands on the back of my teeth. It’s a beta test for paraplegics to operate wheelchairs and manipulate computers.”
“Bullshit.” Maria said.
“Look it up on your boyfriend,” Xeno said patiently. “It’s called Tongue Drive Study.”
“Don’t think I won’t,” Maria said, extracting her Droid from its black leather sheath. Within a minute she gave Xeno the sheepish
I was wrong look. Within thirty seconds they were out the door and headed down to Kolo piercing shop to sign up, and Xeno was once again alone in the bar, as Rich had disappeared into the bathroom to write his threats of world domination on the wall. Sighing, he poured himself a fair-sized Captain Morgan’s and Coke and waited for Roy and Ross and Rich to return. Their reappearance coincided exactly with a very Yacht Club/Three Stooges moment in which Glen Spitz, Scott Keller and Jim Trabeck all Tried to wedge in the front door at the same time, the fault of such a faux pax being difficult to pin on any one individual as Jim was there first, Scott was blind, and Glenn was in a motorized wheel chair. Xeno decided to assign them all equal blame and served up their usual drinks, a can of Schlitz and a shot of Rumplemintz for Jim, a glass of Yeungling for Scott, and a can of Tecate for Glen.
“Can I also get a pack of smokes there, Xeno?” Scott asked, and they were at his fingertips along with a clean ashtray seconds later.
“Look, before she comes back, there’s this girl I’m totally in love with coming back in any second,” Gino said so don’t embarrass me.”
“Would this be the lovely lady coming in now?” Scott asked, as Ross and Roy returned and rearranged their drinks at the bar to better fit in with the newcomer.
“Yup, that’s her,” Xeno said. “Thanks a million Scott.”
“Xeno was just telling us all about you,” Scott said to Ross, lighting up a Camel light. You must be quite a special young lady to have caught Xeno’s eye.”
“I’m quite sexy,” Ross said in a high pitched falsetto.
“See, I want a smart, funny girlfriend like Maria, with a super-useful skill like cinematography, but one I can slip into a little sleeping bag customized to her personality.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, Xeno,” Maria said, “but I have a boyfriend.”
“But doesn’t the fact that I find you perfect for me eliminate that minor obstacle?”
“You would think it would,” she said, “but, oddly, it doesn’t.”
“Surely, the fact that I blew up my priceless, vintage Kiss dolls so you could videotape it? And don’t forget about our identical tongue implants? I mean, even in a biotechnological sense we’d make a great couple.
“Unfortunately that would make you a viable biotechnological mate with five other dudes, at least one of whom is a dangerous sociopath.”
“Anyway, I like your boyfriend,” Xeno lied. “So the heck with it. There’s probably dozens of girls like you in the known universe.”
“Oh, probably hundreds.”
“So, you’re all signed up for the tongue implant study?” Trabeck asked. Conspiratorial smiles traveled up and down the bar.
“Don’t tell me you have an exciting idea,” Xeno said.
“Huddle up,” Trabeck said. “This is for our ears only.”
“Rich, if you want in,” Xeno said. “You need to skeedaddle down to Kolo and sign up for the beta testing of the Tongue implant.”
“If you think I would have anything implanted into my body by those liberal monkeys from Emory . . ..”
“Thank God,” Ross said. “Because if he’s in, I’m out.”
“I’ll be right back,” Rich said looking Maria up and down, and out the door he limped.
“Xeno, your ability to ruin my life is . . . well, actually my vocabulary escapes me,” Ross said. The withering look from Maria pretty much made Xeno want to go home and put a bullet in his brain, not that he would have needed to travel that far for a means of self-annihilation, working behind a fully stocked bar and all. But finally he had the nerve to glance up at Trabeck’s face, and the grin he saw made him know he had made the right decision.
“Woot! Woot! Woot!” Xeno hooted. Oh ye of little faith and vision!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Wow! Did everyone actually find a sealed envelope with their name on it?” Glen asked.
The wheelchair-bound scavenger hunters, once again situated loosely in a circle in the middle of the restaurant floor, all nodded their heads solemnly and fidgeted with their personalized clues.
“Well, blow me down and shiver me timbers,” Bill said. “I had serious doubts we’d even make it in the door.”
“Well, I’m not blown away yet,” Rich said. And I won’t be until we complete the mission.”
“Lighten up, Francis,” Ross said, rolling his eyes.
“Should we go ahead and open them?” Maria asked.
“On my command,” Glen said, but before he could utter another word the sound of tearing paper washed out all other sounds in the room.
“There is a bible in this bar isn’t there?” Xeno asked, but he was shouted down by everyone else’s questions and complaints about the contents of their sealed envelopes.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Is it possible I got the wrong one?” Roy asked. “I mean, why would mine say ‘Xeno, if it takes you ten years, please figure this out. Enlist help.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Xeno said, “but that sounds really familiar for some reason.”
“I’m pretty sure mine is for me,” Ross said. “It just says Xn+Yn=Zn when n >2. I mean, I know that’s Fermat’s last theorem and all but. . . . “
“Um, something about that’s making Roy’s clue sound even more familiar,” Xeno said.
“Mine just says MUSIC” Rich said dejectedly.
“Maybe this will cheer you up,” Maria said, then read, “ Never let that pill head Rich forget the date.”
“Our date?” Rich asked, visibly cheering.
“I seriously doubt it.”
“What about you Xeno?” Glen asked. “One of these is going to have to give us a finger hold into something.”
“It’s like trying to start a crossword puzzle,” Maria said.
“Exodus 20:17” Xeno said apologetically.
“That fucking Trabeck,” Bill said, tonguing his teeth to move beyond the circle. “I think we may have had a very unfunny joke played on us.”
“Why?” Xeno and Roy asked simultaneously.
“Actually . . . that was pretty goddamned weird,” Bill said, looking at them slantwise.
“My clue,” Bill said, still looking at them as if they were involved in some conspiracy, “It says, Roy and Xeno at play together.”
“Oh, I knew it,” Rich said angrily, “this is some sort of fruity pervert thing.” But Xeno and Roy were looking at each other with varying levels of realization spreading across their faces.
“That play!” Roy said.
“There’s a copy of it here! It’s called Arcadia. I brought it back from London for Gino, and Trabeck knows about it!”
“Is that that play about Fermat?” Ross asked. “The one you guys blabbed on and on about ad nauseum?”
“Of course it is!” Xeno gushed. “And if I didn’t think it would give Rich the biggest boner in L5P I’d give you a huge wet kiss on the lips!”
“On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone!” Rich screamed.
“Jesus fucking Christ! It is The fourth of July isn’t it?” Xeno asked.
“Oh my God, so Trabeck is some sort of genius after all?!” Roy exclaimed through a mouth full of tongue/teeth commands which caused his wheel chair to shoot backwards and become wedged in a small window area alternately called the porthole because there was a small, round ship’s window mounted on the wall behind it and the fish tank because sitting in it was much like being a fish in a bowl watching people walk to and fro.
“Oh my god! I love that song!” Maria said, motoring behind the bar. “Can we listen to it?”
“If it’s on the I-Pod,” Xeno said. “In fact, why haven’t we been cranking tunes this whole time?”
“Fucking brilliant misdirection,” Maria said. “X is queued up and 4th Of July is ready to go.”
“There’s no way that’s a coincidence,” Glen said.
“I don’t understand anything anyone just said,” Bill complained.
“This is where we start the crossword puzzle,” Maria said. “Today is the 4th of July, which is a song by the band X.”
“Which song is coincidentally queued up on the I-pod,” Rich added.
“But I always thought they said ’understands I smoke a cigarette alone’”, Roy said, still trying to maneuver his way back into the cleared area in the center of the bar.
“We’ve had this conversation before,” Ross said.
“And much more importantly, we’ve had this conversation with Trabeck.”
“And what was his opinion?” Rich asked. “Because I always thought it was ‘On the stairs’”
“It totally doesn’t matter,” Xeno said, becoming impatient. “It only matters that he knows we’ll argue about it.”
“I’ll tell you what does matter,” Bill said. “And that’s how the hell are we going to get these chairs up seven stairs, and if we do get them up there, what exactly are we looking for? A pack of cigarettes?”
“Meredith keeps a pack squirreled away up there somewhere,” Xeno said, looking forlornly at the access to the back door fire escape as if it were Mount Everest.
“Roy, if you can get yourself out of the fishbowl, could you look up that Arcadia?” Xeno asked, meticulously using his prosthetic arm to apply fire to a Camel cigarette.
“And how are we supposed to get up these stairs again?” Maria asked.
There was a distinctive golden hue reflecting off the windows of the vintage clothing store across the street as the seven circled their wheel chairs and held forth the scraps of paper they had been figuring on.
“Dawn already,” Glen sighed.
“Here’s the copy of Arcadia,” Roy said, reaching up into the wine rack where there was a small collection of books. “It’s right next to a Gideon’s Bible.”
“You wrote something on the front, inside page.”
“Well I’ll be danged. ‘Gino, if it takes you ten years. . . . “
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Glen said.
“This has something to do with marginalia,” Ross said.
“Grab that Bible down while you’re there,” Xeno said. “Exodus 20:17.”
“It’s the tenth commandment,” Roy said, leaving the bible opened on the bar. “About coveting your neighbor’s ass.”
“Hmm . . . must be further along in the crossword puzzle,” Glen said.
“Let’s just go with what we know so far,” Ross suggested. “We all have solid leads on how to get to our second clues, and the sun is already coming up.”
“We have about three hours before Meredith gets here to start setting up the bar,” Xeno said.
“Look,” Glen interrupted excitedly. “We’ve already used the tongue implants to pull up maps on our I-pads, set right an over-turned wheelchair, and get books down from a high wine rack!” Do any of you really doubt we’ll figure out a way to get up seven stairs and ultimately solve the puzzle . . . find the treasure?” They all stared at him for a few seconds, then as the glow from the rising sun filled the room they gunned their wheel chairs to form a circle around Glen.
“X marks the spot!” they all said together, like a septuplet version of the wonder twins invoking their various powers. “Bring it together!”
Well, normally the announcement and publishing of the annual short story winner is sufficient copy for a log entry, but again, it’s Christmas, and I know how everyone, myself included, wants more of everything, so this go round you’re getting an exciting, first annual double log entry! Woot! Woot! And since the second half of it will be mostly me blatantly plagiarizing Hippy’s December church newsletter (how’s that for low laities and gentlenuns?) you need not concern yourselves with my health and well being. And since I obviously didn’t write the winning short story either, well, I actually end up doing less work while still producing a two-banger! Efficiency! Excelsior! Son!
So anyway, In Hippy’s church’s newsletter (The Angelus, published by The Church of Our Saviour, 1068 North Highland Avenue) the editor, Oreta Hinamon Taylor, wrote a well-researched and thoroughly footnoted piece on how Christmas came to be celebrated on Dec. 25th.
Of course, I have always considered myself especially erudite because I have known for years that Christmas was a kind of merging with pre-existing pagan holidays such as Saturnalia, you know the winter solstice and all, but it turns out that that thinking is so19th century. Modern religious scholars point to numerous references of early Christians who practically broke their necks to distance themselves from the pagans who themselves were pretty much hell bent on persecuting and killing the Christians. No, it seems like there is much more math involved in the modern theory of how Christmas ended up on December 25th (yay!) and it goes like this, to the best of my calculus-failing understanding. You have to start off with Easter, the day of the resurrection, and the central point to all of Christianity.
In the early days of the church it was believed that Jesus rose from the dead on March 25th. (How they arrived at that date is a whole different set of equations which we will explore in the spring). Now you have to remember that back in those days life was just one interminable nightmare of painful suffering and insanity (no cars, no malls, no internet, no xanax) and so, whenever any kind of festival or celebration rolled around, they would make it last. In the case of Easter, 60 days was not uncommon. So between the protracted celebrating, and some kind of spurious wheeling and dealing between the Western and Eastern Orthodox Catholic churches we ended up with Easter being when it is now, which is what I specifically said we were not going to talk about yet, so suffice it must to say that back in the day Jesus was believed to have risen from the dead on March 25th.
Now, if you go back and read your early Christian philosophers, like Saint Augustine (yawn!), you will find a pervading belief that Jesus died on the same day he was conceived. So you figure, if he rose from the dead on March 25th, he died three days earlier, March 22nd, factor in the Gregorian Calendar constant k, adjust for leap year, allow for the twelve days of Christmas (evidentally the amount of time women spent in labor during those horrible, horrible times), and what you have is Jesus being conceived on March 25th. Now, here’s the easy part. Since all pregnancies lasted exactly nine months, you simply add March 25th plus 9 equals March 34th or, since March only has 31 days it equals December 25th.
Xmas = C/k+9 Where C equals the date of conception.