Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fun with fiction and stereotypes

At a party this weekend a couple of former co-workers, Chris and Bill, were talking about this romance novel they were planning to write. The main character was to be a badass Scotsman -- whose name I can't remember. He'd wear a kilt all the time and bed busty ladies regularly. 

I'm not sure how serious these two were about their novel -- they'd been drinking girly moonshine (it was peach flavored) and looked a bit glassy eyed and giddy, but I went along with the quick brainstorming session -- suggesting names for their protagonist and character traits (like that he rode a motorcycle and had a tragic past).

Then yesterday, I amused myself by inserting their Scottish rogue into the sort of story I would write (as you will see I'm much to cynical and prudish to tackle romance). Here's what I came up with (and lest you think of me as a novel concept thief, Chris gave me his blessing … I don't really care what Bill had to say).

“The Short, Bonnie Life of Donovan MacWallace”

Photo courtesy of Ishan Manjrekar/Flickr
Donovan MacWallace sat at the end of the dark bar. One elbow leaned against the glossy wood, the sleeve of his scarlet tartan shirt soaking the condensation dripping slowly off his scotch.

He surveyed the room, slowly stroking his jaw – a few days worth of carefully curated scuff scratching the tips of his fingers.

A few regulars sat closest to him – 30-something-year-old bearded fellows who cheered each time one of the 48 kegs was kicked and the bartender wrote a new microbrew on the large chalkboards landscaping the back wall. With each glass they spoke of the hoppiness or spiciness, trying to one-up each other with tales of even more obscure pints consumed at even-more-obscure faux dive bars in places like Williamsburg or Madison or Portland.

Past them were the happy hour stragglers, still wearing suits – ties loosened, blazers strewn on the backs of puritan wooden chairs.

It was the lull between when the weary business crowd stumbled home to tuck their kids in and the fresh-faced coeds bounced in from the local college.

Donovan relished these moments, when the evening was so full of possibility. A drink or two down he felt warm and confident, ready for conquest. From his seat he lean back – one dusty boot balanced on the brass rail the other slung on his knee – and watch the door swing open and closed. Each gust expelling a new candidate.

A bob-haired burnet with full pouting lips and a narrow waist. A compact, tight-assed cheerleader-type with a sheet of shiny raven hair. A cadre of blonds, their hair all curled in wide undulations, in jeans so tight they must have been slipped on with oil and heels that made their legs look as if they never ended.

One of these sweet creatures glanced over at Donovan. Her wide blue eyes encased in black liner and false lashes. He refused eye contact, instead of furrowing his brow and looking off as if to some distant moor against a crashing sea. But he watched out of the corner of his contemplative maple eyes as she strode toward his end of the bar.

When the bartender failed to notice her, Donovan swooped in ever so slightly.

“Her name’s Kelly,” he told the girl in a gruff Scottish accent, nodding toward the barkeep. “She gets distracted sometimes.”

And that was all it took.

The girl, smiled at him – her immaculately styled brows shot up in surprise and pleasure. “Thanks! You’re not from here are you? Are you Irish?”

 He allowed his lips to turn up a fraction of a centimeter. He glanced at her a second then stared down at his glass, taking a quick sip.

“Nah – tho that’s what everyone usually guesses. A’m from Edinburgh,”

“Oh … where’s that?” She was wearing a loose sequined tank top whose neckline flopped down over her ample breasts. From his vantage he could see black lace cupping her chest. He knew his hands would perform that same duty in a matter of hours.

“Scotland.” He replied, finally turning his full gaze onto her glowing face. “Ma name’s Van – pleasure to meet you.”

And then he’d stand up. And they’d see his kilt.

Game. Set. Etc.

It was the same story every night.

His exotic accent. His James McAvoyian eyes. His bike. His feigned aloofness. And the story they’d eventually draw out of him – the one about Fiona, his dead fiancé – killed by an unruly mob drunk on whiskey and a recent win on the pitch.

The woman fell at his feet, beguiled by his foreignness, the undercurrent of danger and the promise of being taken by a Celtic rogue. If they were disappointed by his softer-than-expected physique or his inability to remove their lingerie with anything bordering on panache, they never said anything, not wanting to seem culturally ignorant. Melting at his boyish apologies.

“I’ve never been great with these things,” he’d intone fumbling with dainty clasps and fussy elastic. And they’d do the job for him. His charm and that accent lubricating the way to passionate, or more often than not, rather underwhelming coitus.

He’d leave in the middle of the night. Pulling on his kilt and weathered leather jacket. Getting off again on the 4 a.m. rumble his bike made on the empty street and the image of another satiated lass sprawled in twisted sheets.

****

Donald Geuber became Scottish on drunken dare. He was offered a free High Life for a week if he hit on a woman while pretending to be Groundskeeper Willie from “The Simpsons.”

Unremarkable in every other way, Donald could make passable impersonations of some of televisions most iconic characters, so he accepted the bet and approached an marginally attractive (in a cute-as-a-friend sort of way) girl wearing orange Converse sneakers and a T-shirt picturing a hippo with the word “marblevore” underneath.

As he recalled, he struck up the conversation by asking where he might relieve himself.

“Excuse me – do ye happen to know where the loo is?”

Her friend, who had just recently returned from a semester abroad, caught his bathroom reference immediately and began pummeling him with excited questions about his origins while sharing all about how great actual pubs were compared to these shabby American knockoffs and how much better a real pint of Guinness tasted over there than here and how the people were so much cooler … he zoned out while she blabbed eventually making eye contact with Marblevore, telling her she was “a right bonnie lass” and asking if he could buy her a drink, which she accepted (later lapping her tongue up his stomach in the corner next to the bathrooms).

It was as much a surprise to Donald himself as it was to all of his friends that the tactic actually worked. And while they never put him up to the challenge again, he was so intoxicated by his early successes that Donald found himself deploying Groundskeeper Willie in more and more social situations (such as they were for someone who spent a large portion of his non-working hours in the basement of his parents house playing “World of Warcraft”.)

Not every outing was a success in those early days. More than one potential mate picked up on the fact that as the night wore on his accent drifted from that charming lilt something more nondescript and vaguely American. That, and he didn’t seem to have the mysterious qualities possessed by mythical Europeans – that of style, social graces and knowledge of soccer (or football, as he’d come to prefer). 

Photo courtesy of Darren Foreman/Flickr
He’d watch them lose interest as the night wore on and made the decision to do something about it (the possibility that the sex being offered to him so freely might disappear too devastating to consider at length.)

To facilitate his transformation, Donald immersed himself into Scottish culture by way of  “Highlander,” “Trainspotting,” “Brigadoon” and “Brave.” (He also watched “Michael Collins” and “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” perhaps assuming Ireland was just another name for Scotland in the same way the States were representative of all America).

(He was also aided in no small part from the various romance novels he found on his mother’s nightstand – usually featuring a strapping clansman with long hair blowing in the cries of his countryman preparing to pillage a heaving young maiden. The man always wore a fraying tartan cape and tie-front shirts untied to reveal booming pectorals. The women were always in too-small corsets – their peaches and cream expressions a mix of fear and lust.)

But it was the Academy Award winner “Braveheart” he watched over and over again, inspired in no small part by his admiration and respect for Mel Gibson, who he maintained gave his heart and soul to the role of the incomparable William Wallace.

He memorized Wallace’s famous troop-rallying speech, practicing it in front of a mirror, half his face painted cobalt, in hopes that he might one day have the opportunity to inspire his friends to take life-altering measures.

“And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and say … .”

Sadly, he never could come up with an applicable, equally stirring, life-altering ending though.

His friends commented on the ever-present accent at first, but were dismissive – figuring Donald – who, let’s be honest, had always been on the fringe of even their fringe – was just trying to make them laugh.

But there were more changes. He began wearing plaid daily. He grew a beard. Bought the bike. And the leather jacket (the latter two less for Scottish authenticity than general badass-ness).

He stopped hanging out with them altogether, instead venturing out solo. One time they ran into him at a bar across town, shouting “Hey Donald!” while he was talking to a girl in a dress that only feebly offered to cover up the parts that could get you arrested.  The fact that she was much too sexy to be talking to their friend didn’t seem to register with her.

When they approached Donald laughing about the skirt he was wearing, he hissed at them to stop calling him “Donald.” He went by “Van” now. And don’t act like they know anything about him. As they left, Van shrugged at the girl with disgust. “A bunch of wankers,” he said. She nodded in agreement, her hand crawling up his kilt.

That was the last anyone saw of Donald Greuber.

****
Photo courtesy of Dave Stokes/Flickr
 One night Van was out. Usual spot.

When across the room, as if glowing in the moonlight reflected off Loch Ness, he spotted a woman so fair it made his heart break.

Her glossy auburn hair fell in tight curls down to her shoulders framing a long, delicate neck with skin the color of buttermilk from a hairy coo. She wore a loose green top unbuttoned just enough to reveal her creamy décolletage and jeans that molded a delicious posterior. She looked over at him, her eyes as emerald as the isles, and this time he did not turn away.

She walked toward him, a smile forming on her rose-colored lips. Nessie stirred under the kilt.

“You’re not from around here,” she said – her voice the wind dancing over the heather.

He smiled. “Nah. I’m from Edinburgh.”

And she’d been there. A couple times. Visited the castle, climbed Arthur’s Seat, toured a distillery. She didn’t seem fazed by the fact that he did not engage in more discussion about his homeland. Which he, of course, appreciated.

They talked for most of the night – well, mostly she talked. (As was customary, he shared the heart-wrenching tail of the lovely Fiona – taken too soon from this cruel world – before resuming his usual brooding.)

He watched those pretty lips open and close, imagining how they’d be used later that evening. He thought about how her soft the skin on her belly might feel and admired the sprinkle of freckles along her throat.

When it was time to go, she asked him to take her home with him. Something he never did (What with the fact that he’d have to sneak past his parent’s bedroom to get to his own.)

But she insisted, saying her roommate’s boyfriend was in town for the weekend and the apartment was small and she could often be loud. At this last part she giggled in embarrassment. Leaving him to wonder about what it was she was loud about.

The stirring shifted to throbbing.

He relented, but told her his grandparents were staying on with him for awhile – his grandfather having lost his potato farm to a fire. They’d need to be quiet.

He could feel the start of her thighs against the back of his as they sat on his bike. She smelled like vanilla and strawberries.

He raced home.

When they made it up to his bedroom -- the same one he’d had since childhood – he made an excuse for the twin bed, telling her he’d given up his room for his grandparents. This was where his nephew stayed when he came to visit.

As he pulled her over to the bed she became coy. She tousled his hair and blew in his ear, but backed away from all his advances.

“Tell me your name,” she said, sucking on her index finger and then running it down her chest.

He’d read about this game. She wanted to be taken. To have that blouse ripped off, the soundtrack to their passions a popping of buttons and angry tearing of seams.

“It’s Donovan MacWallace. Now get over here woman,” he returned.

But she didn’t move. When he strode over reaching for her shirt, she intercepted his hands. Placing them down by his sides.

She began fiddling with the buttons on her shirt. Unbuttoning the first. The second. The third. Exposing the lacy tops of her breasts.

“No. Your real name.”

This caught Van off guard. But the strangeness of the question was outweighed by the promise of her that he answered, panting, after only a short pause.

“Donald Geuber – can you do that thing with your finger again,” and with the reintroduction of Donald, away went that voice. That charming, panties-dropping voice.

She straightened up. Buttoned her shirt.

“Hello Donald, my name is Phyllis Gertmander. I’m with a local collections office. It seems you’ve failed to pay your Visa bill since last May. We’ve sent you several notices and have visited your house on at least six occasions. I’d like to notify you in person that unless you can fulfill your obligations, we will be filing a lawsuit against you.”

Van nee Donald felt his stomach drop. His smile fell. He sighed.

As it turned out, becoming Donovan MacWallace – Rogue, seducer of women, wounded soul – was not an inexpensive undertaking.

In fact, it had cost him nearly $50,000. Which he couldn’t really afford with his job as an administrative assistant, so he’d charged it all. The bike. The clothes. The collection of Scottish and/or Irish-themed DVDs. The replica highlander sword that he liked to wield in front of the mirror while re-enacting the William Wallace speech. The bagpipe he’d intended to learn how to play.

The legend was exposed as a myth and somewhere under his kilt Nessie died.

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