Friday, September 28, 2012

Gritty Reboots of Common Conference Stories

I wondered recently in the comments section of Casey's recent post what would happen if cliched conference stories weren't repeated, but rather, rebooted?

We came up with a couple of examples then and there. Casey began:

As streaks of blood obscured his vision, he saw his arm dangling by its last few sinews. The spiritual crocodile slowly approached, and he knew it would only be moments before it finally snapped his neck.
I followed it up with this:

The boy stared at the brine. He wanted--no, needed--to repeat the daily routine, the agrarian chores that were once his bane, but now, his one connection to reality. He pushed back the flood of memories--his father's sordid ties to drug peddlers and crimeland kingpins, his mother's heroin-addled madness, the murdered cop in the trunk of the family car--and laughed. It was an eerie, animalistic laugh, one more fit for an asylum than a barn.With a swift jerk of his arm, he pulled a cucumber from the salty water and whispered, "How alike we are, humans and pickles."

So, consider this post an open call for your own gritty reboots. Write 'em up, long or short, and post them in the comments section, or let us all know which stories are your favorites--or which conference stories are begging for a reboot.

I'll kick things off with a longer story. Picture it, if you will, in the voice of Boyd K. Packer.

The Street Mediator
Let me tell you a story--a parable.

There once was a tweaker who wanted some product very much. It had been longer than he could remember since his last fix; shooting it again seemed more important than, like, anything else in his life, you know? Thanks to the DEA busting the biggest supplier in town, street prices had more than tripled. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.
Parable, yo.
The last words his daddy told him before he run off to who knows where were a warning about going into that kind of debt, and particularly about his creditor--a cartel dude with a Glock in his pocket and an ax in his trunk. But it seemed so important to him to get his fix and to get it now--like, right now. His junkie mind was sure he could pay for it later, so he signed a contract. The big man would let him pay it off along the way in money or favors. He didn't worry. He had the stuff, man, and that was legit.

The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, but he spent his time partying. And when I say partying, I mean that tweaker got forty people in his little trailer, blasted out electronica until ten in the morning, passed out until the early evening, rinsed and repeated.

But the day of reckoning came, and the contract fell due. The debt hadn't been fully paid. His a** was grass.

Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to mess him up, but the power to put a bullet in his brain.

"Dude, I can't pay you! I don't have the G's, man!" he confessed.

"Then," said the creditor coldly, hefting his ax onto his shoulder, "we will exercise the contract, take off your hands and feet, and shoot you in the back of the head. You signed my contract, homie, and now it must be enforced."

"No way, man, you gotta give me more time, I'm good for the money--or hey, can't you, like, forgive me or something?" the tweaker begged. "Can't you, like, not shoot me, and maybe not cut off my hands and feet? Don't you believe in mercy, bro?"

The creditor shifted that big-a** ax of his and leaned on it, looking into the debtor's eyes. "Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you, you know? If I show mercy to you, then I don't get my money and I look weak on the streets. No, homie, I demand justice. You do believe in justice, right?"

"Well, yeah, like, when I signed the contract and it was all, like, helping me and s***."

"Well guess what? Justice is like my ax--it demands that you pay the contract," the creditor replied, leaning closer. "Mercy can't gank justice."

There they were: One meting out justice with a well-used ax, the other forced down on his knees by a couple of refrigerator-sized street thugs, pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other. They are two rules of the street that appear to straight up contradict each other. So you gotta be wondering, can you do both?

F*** yeah, you can! Justice can be exacted and mercy can be extended. It takes someone else, though, you know? And so it happened this time.

That's my parable, yo. Sometimes you gotta help a brother out.


  1. As he leaned over the side of his ship, he saw the remains of an animal drifting by, a soaking mess of hair and flesh rotting in the hot sun. Cat. Big one. Lion, maybe. Surprising how many things float to the surface as muscle and membrane break down, as if scattered body parts sought one final touch of the breeze before sinking back into oblivion. There were uprooted trees too, some big enough for birds to land on. For now birds were the lucky ones, at least the resourceful carrion-eaters able to stake a claim on anything solid. The rest would be underwater soon enough. The ocean itself was a lie. A death shroud, not a placid sea, concealing the carnage and horror beneath, which the occasional floating carcass could only hint at.

    At least the dead no longer suffered. The boat, with its small band of survivors, offered its own brand of hell. Cramped, foul-smelling, filled with starving and barely-restrained beasts. The normally tame and docile ones were now as dangerous as the predators, and nobody went below deck if they could help it. Worse was the hopelessness. The suffocating, bleak desperation. Supplies were nearly gone. There was nowhere to dock, might never be again.

    He shuddered as hunger spasms racked his body, and tried to focus on the sky. The dove hadn't returned since he released it hours ago. Probably killed by a hawk, or drowned. But, without any other options, he waited. As the hours dragged on he barely noticed the skin on his arms peeling. Maybe, maybe, this time would be different.

    1. I'm trying to decide whether this was told by Cormac McCarthy or Ernest Hemingway.

    2. That's about what I was going for :)

    3. Fabulous. I will have to think about this. I would love to have the Prodigal Son redone, but given some issues with my siblings, this woul dnot be the time for me to do it.

      (Side note: Is there a reason that you can't sign up as a follower or to receive new posts by email?)

    4. Answer to side note: clerical error. You can now follow us if you so choose. :)

  2. Warm air caressed the stout man's face, a silk handkerchief of wind dragging slowly across the deserted beach. He closed his eyes and drew a slow, whistling breath in through his nostrils. It's beautiful, he thought.

    He knocked some ash from the tip of his cigar.

    Behind him, futilely fighting the wind, his assistant tried to lay out paperwork on their car's trunk. "Have you even looked at these?" he said, wrinkling his brow.

    "Son," said the portly man, "I know them backwards and forwards. The bottom line is, this place is cheap."

    "Well, yeah, of course it's cheap--this area's a hellhole." The assistant squinted at the paperwork. "There was an oil spill here in the nineties..."

    "The nineties are ancient history already. Oil spills happen all the time. They get cleaned up."

    "That may be so, but this is also a breeding ground for an endangered species of crab..."

    The stout man sucked on his cigar angrily. The wind pulled at his lapels and necktie. "So we won't eat seafood. What more do these Green peace whack jobs want? A crab mating service?"

    "The geologists' report is troubling, to say the least..."


    The assistant paused and glanced at his employer, waiting for further rebuttal. Realizing that that was the extent of the other man's opinions on the matter, he sighed and began collecting his papers. "I know that undercutting competitors is how you get ahead in this business, but its time to admit that WeissCorp's got us. They had time to pick a better spot. No wildlife to worry about, no environmental hazards...." He shuffled to the geologists' report again. "Their foundation is cut into bedrock."

    The paunchy man clicked his teeth and tossed his cigar aside. "Why don't I save myself a hundred thousand dollars a year, fire you, and hire a six year old to send me a daily memo reading, 'I disagree with your every decision'?" He stormed passed his assistant, bumping him with his shoulder and sending each sheet of paper tumbling into the wind. "When the rainy season comes and goes and I'm making money hand over fist, I'll trade you a raise check for your apology."

    1. What a foolish man ... and what an awesome reboot.

  3. So, the thought entered into my mind of doing a gritty reboot of Pres. Packer's "Little Factories" allegory, but I think we should keep this in PG-13 territory :)

    1. The same thought had occurred to me ... and the same reservations