Short Story Of the Day – At the Library (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges

Recycled Books
Denton, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#52) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

At the Library

I can find excitement anywhere. Even the library.

The library… the thrill of finding that asshole sleeping at a table – two books in front of him; a string of drool from his lips past his chin staining the front of his shirt. He was really asleep, deep asleep, dead to the world.

I had a big hardback picture book of erotic Greek Sculptures – I love the curves, the roundness of the bodies, the unabashedness of the sexuality – the perfection of the human form. It was a big flat book with a plastic cover.

The book in my hand, I started low, swinging it from my waist out and up over my head holding it tightly cupped on edge like a Greek discus thrower. At the top of the swing I lifted my whole body up… onto my tiptoes… yet never leaving the ground, maintaining control, sliding my hand into the center of the book so when I brought it down, fast and hard, yet controlled, perfectly flat, in a parallel plane with the Formica top of the library table. I was able to put the full weight of my body behind the book, moving it with a terrible acceleration.

It hit the table flat hard and fast and the plastic cover of the book and the Formica tabletop left nowhere for the air to go except compressed and out sideways. Right in front of Sleeping Beauty.  It made a terrific boom, a thunderclap, and since this was a library after all… well, everybody on the whole floor practically shat themselves.

Especially sleeping beauty. He snapped up and awake, scared and confused. The momentum of his head yanking off the table threw his whole body back and his chair tilted a bit, the front two legs coming an inch or two off the floor. I thought that might happen so I was ready.

It didn’t take much of a kick, really… more like a little push with my shoe on his chest. He was looking right in my eyes, still in shock from the book boom, when my loafer made contact. He tumbled over backwards, easy, like it was the most natural thing in the world, like the chair was designed for that. He hit the ground hard, though, with a boom that was not nearly as loud as my book but so much more satisfying – because there was flesh and bone involved, flesh and bone and muscle out of position, out of balance, and gravity and steel, and hard industrial type institutional floors and everything out of whack and finding a new equilibrium really quickly.

And it must have hurt bad. He let out a “woof” before his head snapped back, spittle left over from his nap shooting out when the back of his head bounced off the floor with a sickening crunch… it sounded like a bunch of things; some hard, some soft – broke in there.

He didn’t get up, or move or change his expression. I walked out quickly; before the librarians, security guards, folks with books, folks with laptops, could get their mouths closed and figure out what the hell to do. I hit the stairs, hit the front door, and was gone.

Who says the library is boring.

The Hunger Games and Battle Royale – Compare and Contrast

I have not been watching enough television… no, no, no, that’s not right. I’ve been watching too much television (isn’t watching any television too much television?) – what I mean is that my television watching has been too unfocused. I waste my meager allotment of precious time with sports or my obsession with How It’s Made/How do They Do That/Modern Marvels (por ejemplo – do you have any idea how much work goes into making a tennis ball?). I want to stop that and start working my way down my Netflix Queue – especially the twisted obscure crap that feeds my imagination.

In that regard, I watched too similar (yet completely different) films that I’ve been meaning to check out. I finally came around and caught The Hunger Games on Netflix, and then, last night, stayed up too late and watched a wild and controversial Japanese film from a decade ago called Battle Royale.

I had not read the books from The Hunger Games and now, I’m know I won’t. I had heard a lot of good things and, sure enough, The Hunger Games was a well-acted, slick, excellent production of a popular story and it was a serious disappointment to me. It was simply too Young Adult for my tastes.

Then there is Battle Royale. People say that Battle Royale is the inspiration for The Hunger Games – though the Suzanne Collins claims to have never read the book or seen the film. The overall concept is similar – a group of teenagers trapped in an isolated area and forced to fight each other to the death.

However, there are more differences than similarities. The Hunger Games is a carefully calibrated teen vehicle where the most horrific aspects of the godawful situation are concealed and glossed over – making a tale which is unsavory on the surface palatable for the masses. Battle Royale, on the other hand, pulls no punches. It is an unfettered tsunami of death… a tornado of gore, terror, and raw emotion. It is deeply disturbing. The ultra-violence makes A Clockwork Orange look like Barney.

Both films have political overtones. The Hunger Games concentrates on class warfare in an Occupy Wall Street inspired tale of the wealthy versus the poor – the monied, powerful elite oppressing and suppressing the unwashed, starving masses. Battle Royale has a more subtle, complex take. It is, first of all, a conflict of generations. The young people are out of control – it starts with a student stabbing his teacher – and the older generation decides to take revenge.

It is the story of a traditionalist society unraveling, of personal vendetta and obsession, of child abuse and the sins of the fathers’ hoisted on the young. Above all, it is about the Zero Sum Game and the idea that none of us, really, gets out of this alive.

The Hunger Games is modeled after television reality shows, while Battle Royale takes the form of an adolescent fever-spawned nightmare.

The Hunger Games has beautiful model-like specimens of perfection running around in a well-lit carefully manicured park-like setting, while Battle Royale is gritty, dark and more than a little rough around the edges. Instead of a shiny bow and arrow, the contestants in Battle Royale are each given a random weapon – some useful, some not. Some get submachine guns while the hero gets the lid from a cooking pot.

Model-like appearance of the contestants from The Hunger Games

Model-like appearance of the contestants from The Hunger Games

The class from Battle Royale

The class from Battle Royale

The Hunger Games contestants are carefully selected and trained, while in Battle Royale a class of forty students (half girls and boys) are gassed while on a school trip and thrown together on an island with no preparation other than a cute, silly instructional video. That means they all know each other well beforehand – and the usual alliances, crushes, and hatreds of the young come forward as a matter of life and death.

The Hunger Games is broadcast as an entertainment for a worldwide audience… like the ultimate Roman Gladiatorial Extravaganza. It is a spectacle for and about the media. On the other hand, the Battle Royale itself is not even televised. The authorities seem to stage the Battle Royale mostly because… well, because they can.

One interesting section of Battle Royale is when the members of the school’s Cheerleading squad are shown hiding out in the luminous whitewashed lighthouse. They are organized, have set up a watch schedule, a kitchen, an infirmary, and have settled into what appears to be a polite, happy, domesticated, and insulated clique. They are shown cooking and carefully cleaning – wiping down the tables before a meal. However the horror of their situation is running right under the surface and all it takes is a plate of spaghetti eaten by the wrong person to set everything off. Minutes later, they have all slaughtered each other – with the last survivor throwing herself off the lighthouse into the rocks below. One exclaims while dying, “I at least thought I’d live until tomorrow.”

Don't mess with the Cheerleaders

Don’t mess with the Cheerleaders

In a movie with an ensemble cast like this it is fun to try and spot actors you’ve seen elsewhere. Sure enough, playing Takako Chigusa (Girl #13) in Battle Royale is Chiaki Kuriyama who played Gogo Yubari in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1. I’ve always thought that the fight to the death between Gogo and Beatrix Kiddo is the best fight scene in pretty much any movie. It’s no coincidence; Quentin Tarantino is a fan of Battle Royale and based Gogo on Chigusa. I kept expecting Chigusa to pull a chain with a spiked ball on the end out of her weapons bag.

Takako Chigusa  (Girl #13)  from Battle Royale - in this one, she gets to wear the yellow jumpsuit

Takako Chigusa (Girl #13) from Battle Royale – in this one, she gets to wear the yellow jumpsuit

The same actress as Gogo Yubari in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1

The same actress as Gogo Yubari in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1

Now, the important question… what to watch next? I haven’t decided but I have it narrowed down to two that I have on DVR – Sharknado or La Traviata. They’re sort of the same thing… aren’t they? La Traviata is basically Sharknado plus tuberculosis.