that I was supposed to make Alichino’s robes motley, red in one half and black for the other. (White triangles in the red half, red triangles in the black half.)
I get really into the physical designs of my characters, probably because I have spent so much time being influenced and inspired by visual arts. The story of how Alichino wound up dressing himself like a deadly neo-jester is typical for my “creative process” (or whatever you would call the way my brain gets from point A to point Z). (Also originally there was a line where Max was thinking of Alichino’s image as “deadly post-modern neo-jester” but in the interests of subtlety I axed that line and just described Alichino’s government-mandated profile.)
The character of Max Drescher comes from waaaayyy back there, and has been left fairly unchanged over the years, complete with a backstory that doesn’t need changing anyway. Alichino is more recent, beginning in 2009 or so and growing from the fact that I was so tired that day my mind spat out the words “clown mafia” and it actually made sense to me.
Normally I HATE clowns, hate and fear them. But as is my custom, I went to the googles for clown research and tripped across a little thing called Commedia dell’arte and found myself totally fascinated by this nearly lost style of Italian theatre. So for a while I planned to write about a sort of Murder Inc. that was composed of people dressed like clowns. Of course it was meant to be humorous (emphasis on MEANT to be, though right now I am not sure what was in the water I was drinking). Clown hitmen who called their dangerous and flamboyant group Commedia dell’arte. CREATIVE PROCESS.
After a while certain details floated to the surface and left other details behind. For one thing there were no clown hitmen waiting to be written about. Only one clown hitman. For another, while looking up clowns I kept running into jesters and I found jesters a heck of a lot more appealing. They were oddly serious in their own right. Political. Kind of in-your-face about what they wanted to say. And their costumes were more easily modified than clownwear, which is always good for the visuals.
But I didn’t leave behind Italy entirely. In the Commedia dell’arte, the Harlequin figure was known as Arlecchino.
“The primary aspect of Arlecchino was his physical agility.While generally depicted as stupid and gluttonous, he was very nimble and performed the sort of acrobatics the audience expected to see. The character would never perform a simple action when the addition of a cartwheel, somersault, or flip would spice up the movement…
“He is typically cast as the servant of an innamorato or vecchio much to the detriment of the plans of his master. Arlecchino often had a love interest in the person of Colombina, or in older plays any of the Soubrette roles, and his lust for her was only superseded by his desire for food and fear of his master. Occasionally, Arlecchino would pursue the innamorata, though rarely with success, as in the Recueil Fossard of the 16th century where he is shown trying to woo Donna Lucia for himself by masquerading as a foreign nobleman. He also is known to try to win any given lady for himself if he chances upon anyone else trying to woo her, by interrupting or ridiculing the new competitor.” - Wikipedia
While building Alichino, I picked up these Arlecchino traits, weighed their appeal and usefulness, and either dropped or kept each one. Still, using a nearly ancient figure from Old World theatre made me feel so… literary. Like I was in the ranks of writers who draw from mythology and Shakespeare and, idk, Beowulf. “Awesome, I am being a Writer.”
As for the change in name….
Well. For some reason I *really* liked the idea of naming my character after a freakin’ devil in Dante’s hell. Because he IS deadly and unsafe, as are all three of the lead characters in this particular story arc. Max, Alichino, and Gemignani. All are up to their eyeballs in baggage, issues, bitterness, bad memories, hatreds, and dark inclinations. Alichino is the most subtle of the three, though, so naming him after a devil, while it was not a well-thought out move, has proved to be a useful move.
I found the name Gemignani while watching a segment on TV about tossing pizza dough.
I checked to see how long #7 was. I knew it was longer than earlier chapters.
It has 1337 words.
IT’S A SIGN
Edit: Well, it doesn’t now that I’ve added a couple lines. :/
I RUINED IT
This is epic. This song is so epic I can’t even call it a song without feeling like I am treating it shabbily.
This is epic. This is over the top and off the hook.
This is everything I want the book to be.
Max Drescher kicks open the tall, oaken double doors to the personal hellhole of the city’s third-most powerful criminal lord and master. Max fires his two-fisted automatics into the first chandelier he sees. Just making his point.
Chain links creak and split. Flaming with hundreds of white candles, the chandelier loosens from the forty-foot ceiling and splashes to the scarlet stone floor like an enormous drop of liquid crystal. Dozens of people scream as cut glass and flames splatter the swarms of furries, goths, 2-D lovers, jittery jattering addicts, whores, ravers, lolicons, cougars, and assorted humans of various styles gathered for the fun of it in the most partyin’ of the city’s party mansions.
Broken candles gently melt amongst the glittery shards; the stone floor is hot enough to warm the soles of your feet through your shoes.
Dozens of people- some naked and trying to salvage interrupted coitus- stare at Max. He holds the guns up where everyone can see them.
He says, “I’m invited.”
The infestation of candle-brilliant crystal chandeliers hanging above the hot, scarlet stone floor makes the chamber feel heavy and risky. Light panels as bright as the cores of lightning bolts cover the walls with no relief for the smallest shadow or the naked eye.
Furniture of transparent glass- thick and rounded and large chunks of glass, chairs, coffee tables, sofas- is scattered as if the pieces are regularly pushed around. Crimson cushions are plopped in the slippery seats and dark-colored drinks half-drunk in heavy tumblers sit on tables whose surfaces are glossy with condensation.
The firm churn of powerful engines thrums from unseen speakers and through the overbaked air. The chamber smells of sweat and roses.
The Publisher and Janus Valentine stand on the mansion’s brick steps outside, gaping over Max’s head into a world they have only wanted to write about. Ms. Mba is trying to draw everything, absolutely everything, without looking at the screen of her pad. Furries, goths, 2-D lovers, jittery jattering addicts, whores, ravers, lolicons, cougars, and assorted humans of various styles look back at the little gathering.
“I was also invited,” replies an unperturbed voice.
The chamber’s center of gravity shifts. The people from Darktimes News search for the new focus for a couple of seconds until they see a tall, thin figure resting in a glass chair and many loose cushions, back to the doors. At either side a boy stands, their large, electric-blue eyes clear and staring back at the Publisher and Mr. Valentine and Ms. Mba. Staring and drawing in every detail as if trying to fill their fragile-looking heads with the whole world.
Ms. Mba freezes. She quickly flicks opens a new blank page on her tablet.
Max Drescher’s muscles relax. He lowers his guns.
The drone of engines continues with no end in sight, minimalist background music from the industrial age.
The owner of the calmest voice in the room undrapes himself from the chair. A hand full of spindly fingers lies against a length of metal that is propped against the smooth armrest, a shiny, ebony, rectangular beam a foot taller than the man himself. A tight seam runs through the beam’s middle, as if it were a box.
As the man turns, and his steel-toed, black boots step closer to Max, his oxblood-colored robes of light cotton brushing his ankles. White and black diamond shapes whirl in wild flocks around the body of the robes. A handheld fan, closed, is tucked between a dark leather belt and its owner’s lean waist.
Alichino McKnight’s Counted profile has carried the suspiciously rebellious tagline “SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER SINCE MY 17TH BIRTHDAY” for two decades. The shadow silhouette of a jester, broad white mouth open in a grin too thrilled for comfort, hangs on the site in mid-pounce, long limbs spread and sprawled about next to Alichino’s vital and legally-required stats.
Age: THIRTY-EIGHT. STILL HERE.
Gender Identification: MALE.
Ethnic Identification: BLACK/AFRICAN AMERICAN/NEGRO/WHATEVER I’M SUPPOSED TO CALL MYSELF THESE DAYS.
Sexual Orientation: GAY. GAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.
Political Affiliation: THE LEFT PARTY. I VOTE NOTHING.
Occupation: I KILL PEOPLE FOR MONEY. I AM RICH.
This is after a site underling sent Alichino a notification informing that he would be fined if he did not edit his profile for clarity.
Alichino McKnight stops before Max, removes the handheld fan from his belt and opens it to wave it at his damp face. The fan’s paper-delicate white metal sports a dark-red smiley face in its pleats. The breeze from the fan rustles the tendrils of his oxblood cockscomb, the dozen stringy fingers that spill down his back and curl at the ends like harshly permed hair. Two red diamonds and two white ones are tattooed on his right cheek in a checkerboard pattern. He balances the metal beam against his left shoulder.
He looks behind him at the dead chandelier. With his free hand, he pulls a cell phone from an invisible pocket in his robes and takes a picture of the mess.
Max states, “You’re here. I’m here. Where’s Gemignani.”
“He’s not going to appreciate this,” says Alichino, studying his photo while sending it to fifty different social networks.
Max leans around Alichino to enjoy his handiwork crumpled and broken on the floor. “I am awesome. I’d shoot another one but I know overkill when I see it. Keep ‘em waiting for your next move. Where’s Gemignani.”
“Gemignani wants to defeat you at chess, Max.”
“Well.” Max raises his guns to his shoulders, his grin careless. “I want him to finally defeat me at chess too.”
Alichino takes a picture of Max’s “tough Jew with guns” pose.
He says, “No one should want to be defeated.”
Max lifts his eyebrows. He watches his friend send that photo to fifty different social networks.
The two boys hang back in silence, to either side of Alichino and a little behind. Watery hair as black as oil. Their skin is powder-white, a jarring white that surrounds their observant blue eyes.
“What the fuck did you do to my chandelier!?”
Max and Alichino look up. The city’s freshly crowned and third-most powerful criminal lord and master keeps screaming about the chandelier. He grips the railing of the little balcony that has sprung from behind a light panel far from the floor; Gemignani’s raging disturbs a chandelier’s crystals dangling an inch above his motions. A smattering of uncanny tones spot his screeches. This is not the voice he was born with.
Alichino looks at him, and gestures his cell phone in Max’s direction.
“I know who did it!” spits Gemignani.
Max shrugs. “You were going to redecorate anyway.”
“That’s beside the point, you maniac!”
“I have a tip.” Alichino offers from behind his fan, “A redecorating tip. Turn off the floor and at least half of the lights. It’s hot in here even with the doors open.”
“I just won this place,” howls Gemignani, “and already you two are destroying and criticizing it!”
“Hahahahahahahaha,” replies Max.
Alichino says, “First world problems.”
Big digital teeth grind together in a big digital mouth. Cartoon sparks flash, sparkly yellow pixels.
“Fuck you!” answers the indignant Gemignani, punching a button on the balcony rail and beginning a gradual, regal descent that makes light panels slide aside for him on the way down. The ivory beads of his rosary clatter against one another; the lengthy string is wound around his chest like a sash and then looped around his waist with enough slack to leave the large pewter medal and crucifix dangling at his knees to the side. The number of decades must be an unreasonably high number. The Our Father beads are a no-nonsense shade of black.
Sensible shoes are thick with dark polish. His priest’s cassock is evergreen, his clerical collar a bold white. Black leather gloves creak as Gemignani flexes his right fist.
Where his head should be stands plastic, hard plastic and a hard shade of green.
The balcony touches the hot floor. Light panels shift back into place, closing like a zipper above Gemignani. A digital face glares at Max and Alichino, the oversized, simply lined eyes and mouth of a cartoon. The plastic head is a large ball on Gemignani’s neck, with molded triangles the lengths of his forearms pointing backwards like the ears of a murderous cat.
Tucked under his right arm is a rich-brown, laquered box the size of a thin briefcase.
Alichino takes a picture of Gemignani.
This sucks. The book is getting top heavy with my desire to write a voluptuous masterpiece blah blah. That’s why there are only 6 chapters so far.
So I may just have to grit my teeth and start writing crap. Just to get the ideas out there. All first drafts are crap. I may have to embrace that.
So if it looks like I am being all avant-garde and stuff, I’m probably just taking lots of shortcuts for the sake of writing the story down faster than one chapter every three months.
After that, Tumblr would only let me make it private. Why can’t I make it a draft again?
It doesn’t matter much; whenever I finish the post I’ll just copy-paste it into another entry.
“Wangfujing Night Market” via Uday Phalgun.
Three children huddled together under a circle of a dining table. A waggling flashlight cast their shadows against the cream-colored pleats of a linen tablecloth, warping their shadows.
“Castle! Castle now!” squealed one of the shadows, an angry girl’s voice.
A boy’s brown silhouette waxed and waned as he pointed with the flashlight. “I’ll castle when I want to!”
“Why do you always wait so long! You’re supposed to castle as early as possible!”
“I will CASTLE when I WANT to, Gemma!”
“This is boring,” said the third shadow. The boy behind it took the flashlight for himself and aimed the beam downwards. The edges of a chessboard and curves of pieces lay flat against the tablecloth.
The dining room, tidy and delicately decorated, wore a soft layer of dust on every hand-carved chair, every vase and artificial flower petal. Drawn in the dust with careful fingers were the marks of the territory of children. Figure 8’s, smiley faces, frowney faces. Initials- GG, A-McK, m.d. Names: maxdrescher, ALICHINO, Gemma.
“Just play already.”
The girl and smaller boy muttered rebelliously but did what the thinner boy strongly suggested. Their shadows hunched over the chessboard.
Grownup conversation hummed through all four walls. From above, through the ceiling. From below, through the floor. Inflections of incoherent syllables sank into the dining room with threatening blunt surfaces. Grownups making decisions. Grownups making statements. Grownups making the future.
The smaller shadow moved in layers of two-dimensional darkness. A chess piece touched the board. The girl’s shadow flailed.
“YOU DIDN’T CASTLE! GODDAMMIT!”
“Don’t use words like that,” complained her cringing, unnerved opponent.
“Fuck,” said the thinner boy, matter-of-fact about it. He impressed the others, who rustled and leaned away from him.
Then the smaller boy made a scared, disgusted noise. “Gemma, you’re bleeding!”
Brief activity followed as all three shadows mingled in a shocked, thrilled search for the source of Gemma’s bleeding. “Nothing hurts, where’s it coming from-” “Ew, don’t get it on me!” “It’s all over your dress.” “So much of it, where is it-“
Gemma stopped. A thin, watery cry replaced words.
She tumbled under the table, yanking at the tablecloth. A vase paved with Swarovski crystals and fluffy with silk flowers clunked to its side and rolled off the table. It cracked on the ceramic floor. Gemma’s curled, brown hair and Victorian ribbons of lace erupted over the edge of the table. She clawed her way to her feet, round face starched into a panicked mask and white dress of frills streaked with veins of bright scarlet.
“IT’S WRONG!” she screamed. “I DON’T WANT THIS! I’M NOT THIS! I WANT IT GONE! IT’S WRONG! IT’S WRONG!” Gemma shrieked, her throat exploding with hard, thick sobs while she tore at the stained ruffles. Her manicured fingers dug into the ribbons in her hair and wrenched them off her head; when the knots tightened around locks of hair she pulled until the stark white roots came free. She attacked her face, scraping pale-pink makeup from her lips and her cheeks.
Max and Alichino knelt, frozen, still sheltered behind a tablecloth. Gemma howled. She gagged on the mucous filling her throat. She wailed. A lean-limbed African-American preteen and a Jewish boy of similar age looked at nothing, in that awkward way of listening to something unrepeatable.
Contagion set in.
“I wanna go home,” rasped Max. He clenched his hands over his knees and bared his teeth at the floor. Adult conversation experienced turbulence but hummed as if its work were too important for the breakdowns of children. “I want to go home. I hate it here. I hate YOU. DO YOU HEAR ME?” His voice creaked and cracked in half. He threw himself forward, palms to the cold ceramic tiles. “DO YOU HEAR ME? I HATE YOU! ALL OF YOU! I HATE YOU MOM! I WANNA GO HOME! I HATE YOU AND I HATE THOSE PEOPLE! LET ME GO HOME! LET ME GO HOME! I HATE YOU!”
Max punched the floor. He tried to beat the life out of it. Gemma ripped her glossy hair from her scalp; the blood of a new woman dripped down her white-stockinged legs. Alichino climbed into the open and stood, all bone and immature sheets of muscle beneath clothes designed for an important, powerful man, the dress shirt and slacks and polished shoes tailored for the preteen boy who was tall for his age.
Alichino’s expression was obscure as he gathered up the tablecloth in his hands. Max, exposed under the bare table, didn’t notice. Holding it flat before him, Alichino fixed his grasps on the cloth and ripped the linen down the middle. Threads popped. The tight weave gave and lost its grip on itself.
“You taught me how to kill anyone.” His quiet words did not wander far from his mouth, not interested in competing with the hysteria in the room. “I’m going to kill either you or myself. That’s what you want. Right? It must be.”
Gemma’s grandparents, Max’s mother and stepfather, and Alichino’s mentor blended with the swarms of adulthood infesting the estate house from ground floor to roof terrace. It was a very nice estate. Very relevant people lived there. They made decisions that no one would undo, made statements that no one would argue against, made the future that they wanted for themselves and for everyone else.