Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Ghost Tweeter

The following excerpt is from The Ghost Tweeter by Ben Shakey. It will be published by T. Dolby Press in May 2009

When Andrew became the first American to win the Osaka Cherry Blossom Haiku contest he thought it might look good on his next grant application.

He didn’t expect to be called to the home of the musician, and notorious screw up before the paparazzi cameras, named Havoc and offered employment.

The work was offered by Havoc’s assistant even though Havoc sat in the same room refusing to communicate with anything other than points of the chin and nods from his faux hawked head.

“Since you are able to express large artistic terms within small confines, Havoc would like to hire you to write his Twitter updates. We will pay you $50 an update with a minimum of 5 updates a day.

Andrew rarely received more than $15 for any poem he actually sold. He accepted that day and quit his job at the bookstore.

He never used Twitter before and he wasn’t really sure what the point was but the challenge of such a small canvas was appealing.

“Just follow Havoc around” said the assistant “and then write it up. He doesn’t have time for that shit.”

Andrew was amazed at the shit that Havoc did have time for.

Andrew began his updates.

Havoc just took another Xanax.

Havoc is watching homemade pornography with women of undetermined age.

Havoc is buying into 9/11 conspiracy theory as he tragically uninformed.

The assistant called him to a spare room.

“Is this shit supposed to be funny?” He yelled “Just write about his feelings and connect to his fans – and for fuck’s sake don’t write about illegal shit!”

Andrew never talked to Havoc before. He had no idea what feelings to write about.

He watched Havoc slumped on the sofa, mid-day, watching Scarface again. The curtains were drawn while two blondes sat on either side of him. One rubbed his shoulders after trying to achieve a contact high of fame. The other dropped a pill into his mouth like a candy.

Andrew wrote the update: “Havoc is held in cage of loneliness”

Neither the Havoc nor the assistant said anything.

After a few days it was clear that neither were reading this and Andrew felt safe writing anything.

Havoc is as empty as a dry coffee mug.

Havoc is breaking like the light returning from an eclipse.

Havoc is fading like a rained on snowman.

Soon he stopped meeting with Havoc at all. Havoc and the entourage travelled to Europe for two weeks. Andrew stayed in LA writing updates

Havoc is transcending, rising like a drowned diver’s final breathe.

“What is this shit!” yelled the assistant. He held a NY times profile in his hand with the headline “HAVOC: POET OF TWITTER”

Andrew was fired and returned to the bookstore, although they could only offer a part time position now.

A little before closing he saw a guy wearing a pork pie hat and an undershirt that cost more than any single belonging of Andrew’s. It was Havoc.

His eyes were red and he was high or had been crying or possibly both.

“I read your twitter updates” he said “How did you know that stuff about me?”

“I didn’t,” said Andrew “I wrote about myself. The personal is universal.”

Havoc nodded like he was giving Andrew some sort of approval that was never asked for.

“What the fuck’s a haiku?” asked Havoc.

Andrew thought about how to explain this. Many of the responses in his head sounded condescending so he tried to keep it straight forward.

“It’s a short Japanese poem. It only has 17 syllables so has a small space to evoke a very specific image within. It also has to have a seasonal reference. A lot of them refer to various flowers blooming to establish that.”

“That’s a lot to get across in 17 syllables.” nodded Havoc.

“You’d be surprised at what you can do.” said Andrew.

“Dude, I read your fucking haikus. I love it bro. I’ve been setting them to music. Can we cut a deal?”

“Well, I can’t imagine a song based on haiku that would be more than 17 seconds long.” explained Andrew.

“Ya, it’s the perfect length. I already have a bunch of ringtone providers signed on. It’s the first single written specifically for a ringtone.”

Andrew never applied for a grant again.

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