Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Beginning 503

"You must get a lot of last minute customers?" Kyle blushed. It was 7:30 pm and his party was at 8:00. He looked around the costume shop. Nothing but plain brown boxes filled the shelves from the front to the back of the store.

"I can stay late to accommodate. Customer service in my fate." Multicolored, Day-Glo smiley-faces decorated the clerk's shirt. With its Peter Pan collar, voluminous sleeves and polyester sheen, neither Stevie Wonder nor Andrea Bocelli could miss seeing it. Ugly letters on his nametag screamed "Argyle." Harlequin costumes fill the flatscreen of the store's POS computer.

"Um, Argyle? I'd prefer black."

"You and Johnny Cash! I'm not Argyle. My name is Salvatore Gian-Carlo Benvenuti, Duncan for short." He reached under the counter and picked up a Groucho Marx nose, glasses and moustache.

"Say da magic woid and win a prize; black shall be your costume tonight."

"I'd prefer black, please."

"That's not it."

"If you please."

"That's three words."

Kyle glared at Duncan and sighed. "Abracadabra."




"I've heard enough, Counselor." Judge Brandon Meredith cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, this case is dismissed. Based on today's testimony and the evidence put before me, it is clear that any reasonable man would have throttled the annoying bastard. "Mr. Kyle, you are free to go."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: anon./ril


Evil Editor said...

No need to reference two blind guys; one makes the point.

Duncan is likely to be as annoying to readers as he is to Kyle. Unless Kyle kills him in the next sentence, it might be better to hook us before exposing us to this guy.

Whirlochre said...

When this first appeared in the NBs To Go column, I bet against myself this was Dave, and now I've finally been proved right I'm not sure how to settle the wager without going schizoid.

This is great.


Bernita said...

"Kyle blushed" seems unsupported by the circumstances, but it's an interesting set-up.

Dave Fragments said...

I still have to go and read all those continuations to see what the minions saw. I can usually find good critiques in them when they point to flaws.

I have too many pale, stale, perfectly polite characters. It's harder for me to write complete, non-PC butt-holes than polite, intelligent good guys. There are days that I read my stories and feel that the characters are all the same.

For this summer, I picked four older short stories to rewrite and I wondered just how far I push this clerk into being a total loon and so completely obnoxious that a truly desperate man would put up with his antics (or be reduced to begging him to act semi-normal).

EE - yes, thank you.

WO - Bet against yourself?

R. Lyle - you may use "Duncan" in other comments too.

Bernita - "Kyle blushed" - I know better than to write "Kyle blushed." It screws up the whole first paragraph.
But then, my words are so wonderful that I never noticed it until now. Just a little self-flagellation here.

Why didn't I say: "Kyle didn't make eye contact with the clerk, instead he looked at the plain brown boxes filling the shelves in the shop. How can I pick a costume and still arrive in 30 minutes? Why did wait so long? he thought.
or something like that.

Anonymous said...

"You must get a lot of last minute customers?" Kyle blushed.

Is the stuff inside the quotes really a question?

Is this all one sentence, meaning that as he as asked the question he was blushing?

Dave Fragments said...

"IS that stuff in quotes really a question" Well to be honest, perfectly honest - NO. But, it is perfectly human. It is the way people act.

One thing I have noticed in my work and in life - The Guilty assume you know what they have done wrong. The Ashamed believe you know what they did to shame themselves.

Why do the guilty confess to police?

Kyle is embarrassed because he procrastinated so long and it is almost party time. He thinks that "Duncan" actually cares or might be offended by his actions. He feels he has offended clerks everywhere by his coming in near closing time and asking for complex items.

But "Duncan" hasn't a clue who or what or why Kyle is there other than to rent a costume. To think otherwise, we must believe "Duncan" is clairvoyant. He isn't.

And likewise, Kyle doesn't know "Duncan's" agenda. "Duncan" has two, BTW - one is being a perfect butt-hole and the other is to dress Kyle in a very special costume.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked a lot about this, but it contains too many words, Dave! (You deserved that. You know you did.)
The second paragraph has lots of great elements, but so many that I'm not able to settle on a scene in my mind's eye. Unless you are searching for a Jackson Pollack effect, you might want to trim a bit of it out.

Something like "pirate's shirt in lime green polyester, dotted with happy faces" maybe instead of what you take three sentences to say? Drop the flatscreen mention.

The nametag is interesting, but using Argyle--name for a pattern--on top of all that pattern info is the final straw that confused the hell out of me. I'd suggest some other name, but that's just me.

If you began as you mean to go on, this might prove to be a bit over the top. I thought the scene was pretty funny though, and figured it might make a better scene in teh middle of the tale than at the beginning.

Dave Fragments said...

WW -- Argyle was a puzzle to me. It needs fixin'. I think I'll make it Red LEDs and "Manchester United." One of my Brit friends will love me for that. The other will send me hate email.

And yes, there's a few too many words that shouldn't be there. They are in the wrong place, too.

Nancy Beck said...

Ah, I had a feeling this was from Dave's pen - funny and weird (which is good in my book, BTW).

Funniest line that I feel I shouldn't be laughing at:

neither Stevie Wonder nor Andrea Bocelli could miss seeing it

I'd read more. :-)

Anonymous said...

Argyle... were you watching 'Die Hard' around the time you originally wrote this?

He's definitely not a pastel character, judging by the determination of the continuance-rs to harm, mutilate, and terminate him. So in that you were successful.

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks Nancy and Jeb.
Stevie Wonder stayed and Andrea Bocelli has left the buildinga because more people are aware of STevie Wonder than Bocelli. That's sad but true. . The overall line is staying.

I wasn't watching Die Hard. Argyle is a funny word for me. Argyle is a harlequin pattern. But clowns were one too many images in the opening. It was too much to fit into too few words.

Bonnie said...

Argyle in the US tends to connote incredible stodginess. It's the kind of thing *ahem* an English bureaucrat would wear. So I thought the name made a funny contrast with the very non-stodgy character.

I didn't mind that he was annoying. He was at least interesting. Kyle is coming across as pretty much a wimp. He's behaving realistically, but not in a way that leads me to believe he might be capable of handling any kind of complex plot or difficult situation. Except maybe as victim.

My continuation, which I did not submit because I didn't get it done in time, involved Salvatore non-Argyle putting a heavy move on Kyle. It was the rhyme that held me up...

Dave Fragments said...

Post it here Bonny. I'll gladly read your continuation.

My favorite socks are argyle. That was where the nametag came from.

Argyle looks like harlequin patterns (diamonds stacked together) which is very clown-like and very scary to some kids. So are polka dots.

Kyle is a wimp. He's going to accept whatever Duncan shows him. He's been taught to be embarrassed about his behavior. He's so afraid of looking or being wronged and thus scorned, that he's almost subservient. He's a jellyfish.

talpianna said...

"I'd rather be Menteith of Menteith, with the betrayal of Wallace cast in my teeth, than the black Campbell of Argyll, with the memory of Glencoe to follow me to Hell!"

writtenwyrdd said...

In the U.S. argyle is plaid stood on end to get the diamond effects.

Dave Fragments said...

I marched in a Pipe and Drum band in College. Bagpipe that is. And we wore proper uniforms in the appropriate Tartans. SO I do know who and what Argyle is and the differences between plaid, tartan and that piece of clothing called "plaid" but not pronounced that way.

You would invoke the 8th Campbell... naughty, naughty. We is talkin' light comedy here not trecherous behavior.

Interesting take, though. There is a slim connection to Campbell through Argyle if Duncan is a deceiver. I see Duncan as more of a McDonald.

Now that we've puzzled half the world, what shall we do.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Kyle turned back toward the door uncertainly, head down, and mumbled, "I think I'll just leave."

Duncan swirled around and appeared in a cheap men's sweater. "Kyle Halperin, c'mon down. C'mon down."

Monty Hall? A game show? Kyle felt the hairs on his neck freeze. "How did you know my name?"

"Love is in the details, darling." Now Duncan was Oprah, in a trim red satin suit, large dark eyes staring at him. She reached for a black cape, lined in raw, red dayglo silk. "Put this on."

"Thanks. This is fine. I don't need to try it on," Kyle said. He thrust a wad of bills at Duncan cum Oprah and fled from the premises. Little did he know the magic dayglo held in store for him.

--Saipan Writer

“So, that’s Dracula, right? Or mebbe Daffy Duck?”

Salvatore took out a harp, threw on a curly blonde wig, and said nothing, ushering Kyle to the store room with a swoop of his missing Addam’s Family hand. There, among the dangling who’s who of rubber celebrities, stood a small changing booth. Kyle slipped behind the semi-transparent PSYCHO curtain and opened a large cardboard box. Black, he discovered, meant Indiana Jones in an unlit cave. The hat was way too small, the whip doubled up as Kaa from The Jungle Book and the straps on the cave bit into his flesh, but he figured with barely twenty minutes to spare, he had no choice but to take it.

“That’s a-fifty bucks, but I’ll accept gelato.”

“Do you take credit?”

“You do the clappin’, I’ll do the comedy curtseys.”

Kyle settled up and Salvatore wheeled him out into the street on an ER hospital trolley. Only one more stop for pretzels at the Gene Kelly Singalong Superstore and he was done...


"Please?" Kyle asked, before remembering to add the all-important "Duncan?"

"Now there's a man who knows how to please a fellow. Yes, we have a winner. Black I have." Duncan Argyle wandered over to a tower of boxes, selected one, and dropped it on the counter. "There you go, sonny. Black it is."

Kyle cautiously lifted the top of the box. Inside was a heap of satin, straps and leather, lying a top a strange mask.

"Ummm..." he began.

"Wear it well, my man, " said Duncan cheerfully. "The girls will eat you up!"

At the party, Kyle nervously tried to talk, but the girls wouldn't let him. They swarmed him, feeling his arms, thighs, abs. Drinks were brought and kisses stolen. All because of this costume?

"Who's Kyle supposed to be?" asked Len.

"Some guy called 'Evil Editor'."


Kyle blushed harder. "Prize and black so don't rhyme".

The Groucho Marx mask went back under the counter. Salvatore leaned across it, and seized Kyle by the throat.

"Continue to evil-eddicate, partying naked be your fate."


“Uh, I’m in kind of a hurry here?” Kyle said, blushing again. It was 7:35 pm and his party was at 8:00. He looked around again, saw the store’s sign, and realized this wasn’t a costume shop. It was a Hot Topic. That explained the Day-Glo blackgama loving guy named Argyle with the smiley-faces and Groucho facial getup more than any continuing narrative with zany, zestful commentary ever could.

“Um, Argyle? I’d really prefer something in black, and, sorry, but, I’m really in a hurry.”

Just then, Argyle dropped his drawers, and all the wordy ruses fell as well. ‘Cause Duncan, in her black satin thong, was definitely a goy-all.

“Say da magic woid and it’s quickie time, Kylie,” Duncan said, grinning through her Groucho. “It’s like I told ya. Customer service? I’m a one-woman fete.”

--Robin S.

He bobbed back under the counter and came up with a cigar and brandy snifter, both fake. At least, Kyle hoped they were fake. A drunk clerk setting fire to as store full of cheap fabric would make him way more than fashionably late.

"We will fight on the beaches, we will fight in the fields. We will never surrender," the clerk bellowed. "Nice black suit goes with one. Change the hat if you want to be W.C. Fields being Winston Churchill. No? Wait, how about..." He dived again.

"Never mind! I've decided."

Argyle-Salvatore-Gian-Carlo-Duncan's head rose beside the till. "You haven't seen everything yet."

"I've seen enough." Kyle grinned. "I'm going as a random thrill-killer."

The shot caught Argyle's fuzzy fake eyebrows on the rise and put him beneath the counter permanently. Kyle cleaned out the till and left, helping himself to a lone pirate hat from the rack beside the door. On Halloween night, being out without a silly hat was a sure way to get noticed.


It came from nowhere- the impulse. Kyle's fist clamped and drew back and turned forward and flew in the face of reason, striking the plastic nose dead-on and warping the glasses, giving Salvatore Gian-Carlo Benvenuti the look of Marty Feldman and the consciousnes of George Foreman in Zaire in round seven.

"You're a Duncan Donut!" Kyle shouted as Salvatore Gian-Carlo Benvenuti slid to the floor. "And you have no right to disparage Groucho! My mom played bridge with him, you know?"

--Scott from Oregon

Kyle laughed. "Ok, da magic woid."

In a flash, Duncan wiggled his Groucho Marx nose and magic smoke surrounded them both. When it cleared, Kyle was indeed black, but it wasn't quite what he expected.

He ran around in panicked circles, fanning the air with his little, black Scottie tail. He was trying to scream, "Turn me back," but all that came out was a series of shrill yips.

Duncan put him out the door. "Be back by tomorrow at 6:00 or you don't get your deposit back."

-Julie Weathers

"Look." Kyle raised his voice as a wave of irritation passed through him. "I'm late. I have to get to a party, and I need a costume. I don't need any games. Alright?"

Perhaps attracted by the noise, an old man dressed in a check shirt, slacks and an apron shuffled out from behind a curtain at the back. "Is there a problem, sir?"

"I'll say there's--" Kyle was cut-off by the old man's raised finger.

"No problem." Duncan grineed. "It's perfect. I'll take it. You can just put my regular clothes in a bag and charge it to my account. Oh, and this guy wants something black."

"Well..." The store-owner rubbed at his stubble. "The Stevie Wonder's out, but I could do you a Ray Charles..."