Writing the Short Story

I was thinking tonight about my nephew, Tod Goldberg. He is a brilliant author, as is his brother Lee, and his Uncle Burl. All three are shy, modest and ever-so-helpful to the surging sea of pre-published (unpublished) would-be-writers who continually (a) kindly ask for our insightful advice, or (b) tell us that because we are published authors, we are clueless fools.

The best safeguard against the "b" category is to charge for insightful advice, guidance, and homework assignments. This is called "teaching," or "instructing."   All three of us have managed to fill anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes per class with sufficient anecdotes and re-phrased verities to suck up the alloted time while successfully sustaining our students’ voluntary consciousness.  Tod, however, is the only one of us who pulls this off with profitable, respectable consistency at an accredited institution of higher learning. In celebration of the release of Tod’s new book of short stories, Simplify, I present this 500 word short story starring — Tod Goldberg.

Mr. Goldberg’s Class: Writing the 500 Word Short Story

“The essential problem with your story, David,” explained Mr. Goldberg politely, “is simply that you set your sights too high for a first effort.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

“You’re trying to run before you walk, pardon the cliché,” said the instructor. “Your title, `A Perfect Murder’ is a bit grandiose – in real life, a murderer can’t drag a dead body all over L.A in public without someone getting wind of it, so to speak. Write what you know, David.  Perhaps something such as `How I Feed the Dog’ would be more appropriate.”

David stared at Goldberg quizzically. “I don’t have no dog.”

“What I mean, is that I want you to write something less complex. Keep it simple.”

“Well, yeah. I did write on both sides of the page,” admitted David. “So, I should just do one side? That would be more simpler?”

“Simpler, yes,” said Mr. Goldberg, smiling and sighing and glancing at his watch. “However, I do admire that you put so much effort into it. I recognize that you are a very dedicated student.”

David shifted his weight, cleared his throat and stammered out what was obviously an important question. “What do I do about the ending?”

“Well, the ending has to make sense in light of everything that came before it. As it is now, the story sort of…well…just stops.”

Perspiration dripped from David’s forehead, translucent drops plopped on crude pulp pages, puckering the author’s erratic Scripto scrawl.

“Here’s my best advice, David,” Goldberg said, offering a warm smile. ”Re-write the story at the end of the semester. By then, you’ll have mastered the basics. I know you’re eager, David. That’s good, really it is. You’re just a little impatient.”

“Thanks for your encouragement; Mr. Goldberg,” said David. “I really want to write good ‘cause it’s important to my mom. She had a book published once, you know. So, she’s always been on me to write good, .too.”

The student hurriedly gathered his things. “I almost forgot,’ he said nervously, “she’s waiting for me in the car. See you Monday.”

Goldberg responded with appropriate social echo; David quickly walked out of the classroom and down the stairs to the parking lot. On the way, he crumpled the story’s pages into a sweaty ball and tossed them in the trash can.

“I’m sorry for making you wait. Mom,” he said, splaying his denim clad posterior across the driver’s side cracked black plastic bucket seat.   “I was talking to Mr. Goldberg, and guess what? He says I’m a good student. Really! I’m learning just fine, he said. I’m just impatient, that’s all. I need to be patient, you understand, right?  So, you gotta be patient with me too, okay?”

Mother nodded as David fumbled the key into the ignition, started the engine, and forced the gear-shift into drive. “There’s just one problem Mom.” His tone was as cautiously casual as trepidation allowed. “It will be the end of the semester before I know what to do with your corpse.”



Copyright 2005 Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved

WAL-MART JOKE

I may be a story teller, not not a joke-teller. I seldom remember jokes, and those I do recall are best not shared in mixed company. My question for today is, "Who writes the Jokes that people send via email?"   I recently received the following joke — it is well structured, and has all the indications of being crafted by a trained joke writer — via email. The original author is not credited, nor is he/she receiving royalties. Which brings us to the next questionL "Is joke downloading the same as music downloading?"  Will I be arrested and run the risk of prosecution for downloading elements of humor and not paying for them? What about p2p joke file sharing? If the joke was written post 1900, it is probably picaresque plundering to pool our humor resources.  What is a law abiding citizen to do?

ONE DAY, IN LINE AT THE COMPANY CAFETERIA. JOE SAYS TO MIKE BEHIND  HIM, "MY ELBOW HURTS LIKE HELL GUESS I HAD BETTER SEE A DOCTOR"

"LISTEN, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND THAT KIND OF MONEY" MIKE REPLIES.   "THERE’S A DIAGNOSTIC COMPUTER DOWN AT WAL-MART. JUST GIVE IT A URINE sMPLE AND THE COMPUTER WILL TELL YOU WHAT’S WRONG, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT IT TAKES TEN SECONDS AND COSTS TEN DOLLARS…..A LOT CHEAPER THAN A DOCTOR."

JOE BRINGS A URINE SAMPLE TO WAL MART, FINDS THE DIAGNOSTIC COMPUER, DEPOSITS TEN DOLLARS AND POURS THE SAMPLE INTO THE SLOT.

TEN SECONDS LATER, THE COMPUTER EJECTS A PRINTOUT:
"You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water and avoid heavy activity. It will improve in two weeks. Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart"

THAT EVENING, JOE BEGAN TO WONDER IF THE COMPUTER COULD BE FOOLED. HE MIXED SOME TAP WATER, A STOOL SAMPLE FROM HIS DOG, URINE SAMPLES FROM HIS WIFE AND  DAUGHTER, AND A SPERM SAMPLE FROM HIMSELF FOR GOOD MEASURE.

JOE HURRIED BACK TO  WAL-MART, EAGER TO CHECK THE RESULTS. HE DEPOSITED TEN DOLLARS, POURED IN HIS CONCOCTION, AND AWAITED THE RESULTS. THE COMPUTER PRINTED THE FOLLOWING:

1. Your tap water is too hard. get a water softener (aisle 9)
2. Your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo (aisle 7)
3. Your daughter has a cocaine habit. Get her into rehab.
4. Your wife is pregnant. Twins – they aren’t yours. Get a lawyer.
5. If you don’t stop playing with yourself, your elbow will never get
better.
Thank You for Shopping @ Wal-Mart

Now, I don’t know who wrote that joke, nor do I know how much money you owe for reading it. You may owe more if you laughed, a bit less if you chuckled, etc. In any event, perhaps the best way to avoid difficulty in this matter is to make a donation to my "Laughing all the way to the Bank" fund via PayPal.  Just go to http://www.paypal.com and make a donation to BARER COMMUNICATIONS. Memo it: "Joke"

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROBERT DENIRO?

What’s the deal with Robert DeNiro? Remember when he made real movies — ok, he had a few clunkers in the old days, but nothing as outright horrid as GODSEND – a piece of crap that just stops, not ends.  He is working constantly — that’s good — sort of like Michael Caine who, like Gene Hackman, is always excellent even if the movie sucks, but WHAT IS WITH DeNIRO!?!??!  When was the last time he had a memorable role equal to his status as an actor? Well? Is it HIDE AND SEEK — with FOUR alternate endings?  I’ll find out today — I rented it, along with De-Lovely and House of Frankenstien. So far, House of Frankenstein is light years ahead of GODSEND — right now, the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) is dragging Boris Karloff,  lisping, into the bog! Ooops, that was it THE END.  Universal Studios certainly wasn’t much into epilogs.

Well, STEALTH is done. It isn’t exactly the longest novel — a mere 50,000 words. That’s 3,000 less than THE SAINT but maybe it will be longer in Japanese.

The Jolson Story Again and Again

When my sister, Jan and I were visiting our Mom in Seattle, we delighted all of us by putting The Jolsen Story in the VCR. Mom has a big plasman screen TV, and stereo headphones — she was smiling ear to ear for the duration of the flick, and so were Jan and I.  We have always loved Jolson, and whenever I feel homesick, or lonely or depressed or nostalgic, I’ll put on Jolson. Well, they had The Jolson Story at the corner video store so, naturally, I rented it and have been half-watching/all-listening as I write Stealth (almost done, and pre-deadline).  As the warm up act today is the Kevin Spacey Bobby Darin bio-pic.  Don’t know if it is any more accurate than Jolson’s but I did notice they left out his early folk years (not folk rock) in the era of the Chad Mitchell Trio when Roger McGuinn (later of the Byrds) was backing him on banjo. The pic gives the impression he went from rock to lounge. Who cares? I wonder if there was a novelization of the screenplay. The film is rather artsy-fartsy, and Spacey doesn’t lip sync to Darin’s originals — he sings the tunes himself. Not bad, but not Bobby Darin, That’s All.

YOU AINT HEARD NOTHIN’ YET

You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!

2005

Long Island

Jolson Festival

Saturday, August 27

from

9:30 a.m.

to

4:30 p.m.

Knights of

Columbus

2985 Kenneth Place

Oceanside

Long Island

,

NY

(just 35 minutes from NYC Penn Station

via

Long Island

Railroad to

Oceanside

Station, L.I.)

starring

Tony Babino "The Heart of Al Jolson"

accompanied by the piano artistry of Dave Gross

——————————————————————————–

also scheduled to appear

Radio Personality Joe Franklin

Janet Cantor Gari – the daughter of Eddie Cantor

Brian Gari – the grandson of Eddie Cantor

Richard Halpern – Mr. Tin Pan Alley

John Kenrick (Mr. Musicals101.com)

——————————————————————————–

FESTIVAL PROGRAM Registration, Muffins, Coffee & Tea

9:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Welcome by Jan Hernstat

10:00 – 10:30 a.m.

John Kenrick (Mr. Musicals101.com)

will show a multimedia

presentation on Al Jolson

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Society Auction (please bring items)

11:30 – 12:30 p.m.

Lunch Buffet

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

The Heart of Al Jolson – Tony Babino

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Special Video Presentation

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Please bring your Jolson items for the auction.

The Lunch Buffet includes a Salad and

Chicken Parmigiana, Sliced London Broil (beef),

Penne a la Vodka (pasta), Southern Fried Chicken,

Dessert and coffee.

MYRA SVELTE VS. WORLD HUNGER

Myra Svelte, Jewish Mother to the World, struck another blow
for lox, eggs, and the American way. Our plucky heroine, outraged by hunger and
propelled by power from Saturn voyaged from Sherman Oaks to Culver City to Cuba,
drop-kicking terrorist hunger pangs and anti-Semitic absence of nutrients at
every mile. Yes, armed with the best
intentions and a Scripto lighter, Myra retained her victorious attitude despite one door after another being locked in
her face – restaurateurs turning her away, claiming  closures as their rationale. Undaunted, Myrawound her way through the serpentine surface streets until, by use of her wits
and wiles, she gained entrance to Izzy’s Deli on Wilshire. It was there, in
this mock-Kosher environment, (melted ham and cheese in a deli?) she
successfully consumed scrambled eggs and lox while Burl Barer, Brilliant
Author, stuffed his puffy face with Rabbi Reuben’s Reuben Sandwich.

It was dark and dangerous on the side streets of Santa Monica when Svelte tossed Barer to the curb, arming
him with a frozen rib-eye steak. “Watch your step, Barer,” she intoned. “The
world is crawling with genetic-mutant gentiles who, Zombie like in their
adherence to the blood-libel myth, would eat you and your little dog too!”

With that, she popped the non-existent clutch on her
automatic transmission, and careened off down Ocean Park Blvd. howling wildly out her Saturn’s recently installed moon-roof.

———————–


Okay, I took some creative liberties with the story. We were both hungry, it only took us 45
minutes to find an open restaurant, and we stuffed ourselves. There was no
mention of genetic-mutant Zombies (except my view of those who trust Fox News to
actually be news, not propaganda worthy of the old   USSR).

I wore a wig to David Zarkin’s wedding

Reading a recent comment from David Zarkin reminded me that I almost lost consciousness during his wedding due to the fact that my wig was too tight.  Okay, i admit this is another absurd but true story torn from the pages of my family's real life — a life as unreal as real life really is..really.

David was getting  married in St.Paul in the summertime when the humidity was 2000%. This meant we landed underwater at the airport, picked up our luggage in scuba gear, and wore flippers to slog our way to baggage claim. Did i mention we were perspiring? The men did, anyway. The women "glowed."

I was honored to participate in the wedding party  (no, not as Ring Barer) but as the family of the bride was not emotionally prepared to encounter a counter-culture rock n roll DJ whose hair looked as if on rental from Tina Turner, David's sister and her hubby suggested I buy a wig and stuff my long hair up underneath it. Brilliant idea! The three of us trotted off to a wig shop in Seattle at the last minute prior to flying off to St. Paul, and I purchased the only wig they had that was "man hair' and sort-of fit. Sort of, in terms of blood flow to the scalp and brain, is not sufficient. My wig was too tight, the blood flow stopped at the elastic cutting into the top of my forehead. By the time David slipped the ring on his bride's finger, I was ready to slip into unconsciousness and flop on the floor like a grounded flounder. Somewhere there is a lovely picture of the wedding party — including Burl Barer wearing a short hair wig, smiling through a migraine fog. When the wedding reception began, I was rescued by a pair of nail scissors — we cut the elastic, my brain once again had blood flow, and I had a delightful time devouring the refreshments and dancing with a cousin of the bride. My sideburns, which were real, were not the exact same color as the wig. A waitress at the reception said to me, "I've never seen a man wear paste-on sideburns before!"  Sheeeeesh!

"No," I explained, "the sideburns are real, it's the hair that is pasted on!"   tsk tsk…she was very sympathetic that a man as young as I would already be so severely bald. "Well, it happens you know, but as you can see, I have remarkable stamina and virility despite the hair loss." That didn't earn me any points with either the waitress or the dancing cousin. This event was the highlight of my one visit to St Paul. The #2 highlight was the tour of the Betty Crocker Kitchens, a pop culture event no longer available to the general public, most likely due to recent restrictions imposed on Americans by  "Fatherland Security" and the Patriot Act.

ON THE BEACH

I signed up for Yahoo Personals, figuring its a good way to meet emotionally disturbed individuals who have no more real life than I do. Yahoo keeps sending me “YOUR LATEST MATCHES!” Will someone please explain why all these women enjoy long walks on the beach? When? Midnight? In the middle of the day when there are 8,000 dogs and teens on roller blades? And why is it a long walk? Where the hell are they going? Can’t they take a cab? I don’t want a long walk on the beach. Not only do i get sand in my shoes, but trudging through sand makes any destination seem twice as far and three times as inconvenient. These same woman want to curl up by a roaring fire. Fine — move to Malibu in August. Plus they all have friends of dubious veracity. “My friends tell me I’m cute.” No they don’t. Real friends don’t say that, they say “Hey, lose twenty pounds, shave your back, brush your teeth, get sensible shoes, or invest in a designer blindfolds. I have met some really cool people on Yahoo Personals — they are cool because they respond to my messages, when most people not only observe strict silence, but remove their profile from the site entirely. A very nice lady told me that she was a life coach. She has nice eyes. Does that make her a coach potato? There is also a problem with names — everyone has the same name. There are five thousand Susans on Yahoo Personals, and that’s just in the Santa Monica/Venice area. Life is difficult enough without remembering which person is Myra, Marsha, Mishna, or Mushka. Yahoo also needs to refine their match criteria. First of all, someone whose hobby is fascism is not going to ring my bell, nor is someone who thinks the minimum wage should be $2.50 an hour, and regards the Bill of Rights is “quaint but archaic.” amd bemoans the International Zionist Banking Media Conspiracy. Thankfully, I beat the odds on Yahoo Personals. Ive met three Susans,but I can keep them straight in my mind as one is British, another has red hair and is a writer who knows my nephew, and the third is the fun loving lady who often makes commentary here on this site. I still get confused between Marsha and Marushka, but there is only one Noba, one Rama, and one winner of Best Profile by a Woman who puts on lipstick to answer the telephone.” The woman who described herself as buxom and Rubinesque never respnded after I asked her to describe the difference between her ass and a Greyhound Bus, aside from the license tabs. OK, i’m no bargain either — I am ready to be carbon dated, and there are times when my visible means of support rank up there with Popo the Puppet’s. Now, if you will excuse me, I must go for a long walk through a raging fire on the beach.

On the Sony Lot

A surprise phone call from the nice folks at Sony Entertaiment — I was invited to see STEALTH while the director supervised the addition of new sound effects to the stellar action sequences. We had a brief chat about devising sub-plots for the novel,  and we  were surprised to discover that we had independently created the same new character who was not in the original screenplay — yes, the SAME CHARACTER for the same dramatic purpose. As the director said, "proof positive that great minds think alike."
I moved today from one end of Santa Monica to the other — if there are ends to Santa Monica. I was by the pier, now I’m not. Happily, this move was paid for by a co-owner of both hotels who did it simply to make my life easier! I have more room, full time DSL internet connection, and a dog run for Isis. What motivated him to do this? Well, it turns out he also had a surprise heart attack a year or so ago, and just thought it would reduce my stress level to be in this new location. Isn’t that nice of him?  His real career is original music for television and films, having composed title tunes for many well known shows — including the infamous Howard Stern. Check out his site: http://www.sammyserious.com

HEADING BACK TO L.A.

Well, I can’t say I’m thrilled to be leaving Seattle, but I really should get back to Santa Monica. One reason is that my doggie has been in the Kennel since May 15th. If she stays there much longer, I could buy a used car for the price of bailing her out.  Plus, I’ve been paying rent on my room in Santa Monica. I’m sure my clothing appreciates it. It has been wonderful being in Seattle, staying with my brother and his wife, eating his food, using his computer, watching his TV, driving his car…(remind me to NOT buy a Range Rover– too many design flaws.) I have seen my son almost everday, and visited my Mom several times. My daughter came up from Portland and visited me, too. The weather has been incredible, and we have had no earthquakes.
Yes, it will be culture shock on Wednesday when I return to L.A, but sooner or later I had to go back. I am already hard at work on STEALTH, and I’ve got some other projects cookin’ in L.A. as well.  The nice thing is, I know I’m welcome to come back — and Southwest has some nice, cheap tickets with two weeks advance notice.
So, Tuesday I pack it all up — Wednesday I arrive back at LAX.
Please, don’t greet me with an earthquake!!