I mentioned a while back that I’d be doing more audio work similar to The Mucky Angel, and here it is!
You might remember this story from Red Herring, my 2013 flash fiction collection. Well, a few weeks ago I was running a workshop at Winchester College and I’d been asked to read out a few of my stories. One of the points I wanted to make was that comedy in writing works best when you combine an absurd situation with a twist ending, and I felt as though (TM) did a pretty good job of illustrating that. However, it involves a lot of character speech without a whole lot of narration and, when read aloud, the only way I could make it clear who’s who was to give the characters silly voices. So I booked some time in the university recording booths to make sure I wouldn’t sound totally ridiculous attempting to voice “Big Harry.”
Turns out that I do. However, it was funny enough that I decided to stick with it.
The video for this one uses a different technique to The Mucky Angel, and was rendered using a dedicated graphics card rather than the CPU I used before. The jumping white audio visualiser bars are down to a Python script written by sirrandalot, and the setup as a whole based closely on his tutorial for “Monstercat” style audio visualisation. The whole thing rendered in just over two hours without too much setup beforehand, so although I’m still considering putting out an audio collection, it’s not too difficult to put together basic YouTube eye-candy for individual stories in the meantime.
Still, I feel as though the stories themselves are very much the main thing, so here’s the text of (TM) if you’d prefer to read along:
“Do you think this is funny?” Big Harry leaned forward in his chair, pressing a sausage-like finger against the table. “Is this some kind of a joke to you?”
“No, no!” Gus tried to lift his hands in a “No way!” gesture, but it was kind of hard with them duct-taped to the chair. “It’s not like that!”
“Then what can I do but take it as an insult?” Leaning back again, he gestured to Elbows McCain to join them at the table.
McCain slipped a hand into his suit pocket. When it came out again, it was wearing brass knuckles.
“Okay!” Gus said, hastily, still not sure what he’d done. “Maybe…maybe I did think it’d be funny.”
“Ah. Well, I like to think I got a sense of humour, and I’m sure Elbows here don’t want to waste his time with no funny guys.”
McCain nodded, slinking back into the shadows. Gus breathed a sigh of relief.
“Funny guys is more Vince’s for-tay. Vince!” He turned around in his chair and shouted to the man at the back of the room. “I hope you’s got your steel toe caps on today!”
Vince began to clomp towards them, his lumpy face obscured by a cloud of cigar smoke.
“Aaaaah!” Gus frantically hopped his whole chair back a few inches. “Wait, wait, wait! It wasn’t, like, a joke…as such. I just thought…maybe you…that I…you…”
“Are you screwing with me?” He whipped a knife out of his pocket, the blade shooting from the handle with a crisp “snak!” He pointed it at Gus across the table. “Because when people start screwing with me, I deal with them personal, like.”
“Aaaaaaaah…” Gus could feel his forehead prickling with sweat. “Aaah…ummm…” he couldn’t think straight. He just said the first thing that popped into his head. “I’m sorry. What were we talking about again?”
“We was talking…” Big Harry heaved a suitcase up onto the table, letting it fall with a crash, “about this!”
Gus didn’t like to say anything just then. Big Harry was angry. Real angry. Vein throbbing in forehead angry.
“One of my associates passed you a note. A handwritten note. Handwritten by me. This note instructed you to fill the suitcase provided—by me—with four kilos of cocaine and leave it behind the nightclub bins at 2am. These instructions—written by me—were very simple, and very specific. And what do you do? You give me this!” He opened the suitcase. “Two bottles of nasty-looking brown water!”
Again, Gus didn’t like to respond. His only hope now was that Big Harry’s epic forehead vein would develop into some kind of lethal aneurism.
“Does that look like cocaine to you!?”
Finally, an answer formed itself in Gus’s mind. “You uh…you asked for Coke.”
“Of course I asked for coke!” Spittle flecked the bottles. “When Big Harry asks for coke, he gets coke! Do I make myself clear?”
“No,” Gus insisted. “You asked for ‘Coke.’ With a capital ‘C.’ I’ve still got the note.”
Vince stepped over.
“It’s, uhhh, that pocket.” Gus nodded to his left, trying not to breathe as cigar-breath Vince stooped to retrieve the note.
“He’s right, Boss.” Vince smoothed the paper out on the table. “‘Coke’ with a capital ‘C.’ That’s a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola Company.”
Big Harry calmed down, but only a little. “Yeah? Well since when does Coke come in kilograms? Huh? Answer me that.”
“Well…one litre weighs a kilogram, right?” answered Gus. “I gave you two two-litre bottles. That’s four kilograms.”
“That’s true, Boss.” Elbows McCain put in. “I mean, technically it’s only true of distilled water at room temperature, but for our purposes it’s close enough.”
Everyone stared at him.
“What?” He stared back. “I knows my science.”
“Alright.” Big Harry pushed the suitcase to one side, appraising its contents. “Let me get this straight. I, a crime lord, passed you a note asking for Coke, and you just immediately assumed I was talking about a soft drink?”
“Even though I asked for it in kilograms?”
“And not once did you think I might have actually wanted cocaine?”
“I…uhhh…” Gus felt like he had about four kilograms of sweat clinging to his forehead.
Big Harry laughed. “That’s hilarious!” Reaching out with his switchblade, he cut the duct tape holding Gus to the chair and peeled it away, leaving quite a bit of arm hair still clinging to it. “Didn’t I tell you I had a sense of humour?”
Gus stood, nervously. “I…uhh…it is pretty funny.”
Big Harry spread his big arms wide. “I guess I just been in the business so long, I forgot it meant anything else!” He unscrewed a bottle and lifted it. “To your continuing good health.”
“Righto.” On shaky legs, Gus made his way to the door. He was just reaching for the handle when Big Harry spoke again.
“Wait a minute…”
Gus turned, and their eyes met.
“…this is Pepsi.”