Wednesday, April 06, 2005

What is a META For?

From Phil Phantom's "Guide to Writing Good Trash"
I know, you hate to think of your writing as trash, but if done well, others will. If done poorly, your magnificent creation is just crap, shit, or garbage. Excellent trash can rise to the level of good shit, but you and your good shit will never be studied in English Lit. As for riches, sure, but it helps if you are wealthy when you start.

We're going to watch a short Army training film. The film is called, "What's a META For?" Pay close attention. What you learn is this film can save your writing from the crap heap.

Roll 'em!

What's a META For?
Corporal Jim Kelley poked his head in the commanding officer's door and said, "Were you looking for me, Sir?"

Without looking up from his cluttered desk, the captain said, "Get me the META, Kelley."

"Uh...did you say metal?"

"META, Kelley...M-E-T-A...META."

"Uh, yes Sir. Right away, Sir." Kelley eased out, shutting the door. He stood against the wall of the bunker tunnel complex and glanced both ways down the corridor, looking for a friendly, knowledgeable face. The tunnel was a faceless void - an empty colon in the bowels of a sleepy volcano. "META?"

He needed to find the NCOIC and made straight for the Bunker Bar. He wasn't sure he'd find anyone at ten in the morning, but he found Yolanda behind the bar polishing the nipple on a Hillary Clinton tittie mug. "Yolanda, you gotta help me. What's a META?"

"Nothing's the matter; what's a matter with you?"

"No, M-E-T-A, META. The Captain needs one right away, only I don't know what it is."

"Why didn't you ask?"

"Sonny said I have to stop looking and acting clueless. Are you sure you never heard of a META?"

"I'm sure. Sounds to me like one of those military thingies, like DEROS, FTA, QTTMB."


"Yeah - quit talking to my breasts."

"Oh, sorry... You're probably right, but what can it mean?"

"Beats me; Ask Sonny."

"Is he here?"

"Where else? In the corner behind the slot machines. He's briefing that new girl, Barbara. Look, take him aside and tell him to get a room, will ya."

Kelley smiled, gave her a Boy Scout salute, then made for the corner. He stalked in from the rear like a toothless predator with sore paws.

The NCOIC sat close with his bad arm resting on her good shoulder, trailing the chrome claw of his hook lightly up the nape of her neck to tease the ear, making her scrunch and giggle. Kelley also noticed Sonny's good hand sliding up a bare inner thigh, disappearing under the hem of a tight mini skirt. The diversion always worked; at least, in the early stages.

The shy nimrod heard Barbara say, "Sonny, you shouldn't touch me there. My husband wouldn't like this at all."

"That's understandable. Marines are built totally different."

Kelley cleared his throat.

The briefer and the briefee sat up. Sonny turned, saying, "What is it Kelley? I'm very busy. If this is another dumb question, I'm going to rip your lips off."

"Well, it's a question."

"Look, Jimbro, save your lips. Whatever it is, take it elsewhere."

"But you said I shouldn't be looking clueless all the time."

"You don't have to if you handle it right. Instead of going around saying, 'What's this, and what's that?' try this technique. Act like you know what it is; you just want more information. That way, you'll look curious, not clueless. You do that by saying, 'What is this or that for? What does this or that do? How does this or that work?'"

"Yeah, but for this, I really don't have a clue."

"It doesn't matter. Do like you did for head-space. You asked what head-space was for. The answer clued you to the fact that it relates to a fifty caliber machine gun and the tuning of that gun to fire properly. See what I mean?"

"Yeah. That's great. Sonny, what's a META for?"

"Bring your lips over here."

Barbara said, "Here, allow me." She turned in her seat to face Kelley, smiled and said, "This is my favorite, Jim: He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

Barbara laughed, slugged Sonny's shoulder, and said, "Isn't that a hoot? Don't you just love that one?"

Sonny rubbed his shoulder and said, "Yeah, a hoot, but now Jim looks as perplexed as a hacker who means to access\aakk/ch@ung, but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake."

Jim backed away from the table. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30. He smiled the way a basset hound does when he farts in mixed company, gave them his signature Boy Scout salute, then returned to the bar.

Yolanda held another tittie mug up to catch the faint light coming in through the north firing port. A storm gathered steam outside, making her inspection more difficult. The thunder was much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play. Hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease, but Kelley and Yolanda couldn't see that.

Yolanda set the mug down, saying, "So, what's a META?"

"Beats me, but that Barbara chick is one weird lady."

"Yeah, she has a vocabulary, like...whatever."

Karen made her entrance, wringing wet. She stood beside Jim and shook like a retriever. Her hair glistened from the rain like nose hair after a sneeze. Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center. She looked over and smiled.

Yolanda said, "So, how'd your date with Lt. Singer go?"

"He was pleasant enough, but if my life were a movie he'd be buried in the credits as something like 'Second Tall Man.' Besides that, he's married."

"That explains it, then. First Tall Man is single."

"You got that straight, Sister."

Turning to Jim, Yolanda said, "Lt. Singer and Karen had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met. You should have been here when those two saw each other. It was like a scene from a 'B' movie: Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph."

Jim shook his head. As they'd been talking, Richard entered the bar and went straight for the north firing port. There he stood, tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree stooping to peek through a six-foot aperture. As Jim approached, Richard said, "The hailstones look just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease."

"Hey, Richard. I was just wondering - what's a META for?"

Without looking over, White said, "The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't."

Jim peered past the big man's shoulder but saw no boat and certainly no bowling ball. He shrugged like a man with a chip on each shoulder, then left the big guy to ponder the weather.

On the way out of this bar caught in the Twilight Zone, Jim met Bob, Phil, Bernie, and Kerry on their way in. He followed them to a table, hoping these men hadn't been affected. When they sat, he pulled up a chair. They ordered Hillaries (Texas Tornados in the First Lady's mug). Jim ordered a Chelsea. He was on duty, he explained, after they looked to him as though he were a smiling basset hound with a tiny dick.

When the drinks came, the men toasted stormy weather.

Jim downed a swig, then said, "You know, I was wondering, what's a META for?"

Bob said, "She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again."

Jim looked around for her.

Bernie said, "Bush - that's one."

Phil offered, "Boonies - there's another."

Kerry said, "I like 'The World'. The World says it all, Bro....Hey, 'Bro', that's one, ain't it?"

Jim eased away from the table leaving half an 'A'-cup of TT in the tiny mug. He marched directly to the CO's office. On the way, he encountered an apparition straight out of a puppy's nightmare - A near-naked Tommy Bass on a pogo stick.

Tommy came around a bend in the tunnel, bounding from one side to the other while making forward progress, his long hair teased and flapping. He wore a genuine Arapaho loin cloth with Go Go boots. Peacock feathers stuck into the backs of each boot created a dance of color with every bounce. He boinged his way toward Jim then began marking time like a kangaroo drum major in a backed-up parade.

Tommy tucked the M-60 machinegun under his right arm and said, "[BOING] Wasup, Jim? [BOING]"

Jim was glad to finally encounter someone who was still his normal self. He said, "I think something is making everyone crazy."

"[BOING] No shit! [BOING]."

"What's with the pogo, Tommy?"

"[BOING] It's my new [BOING] static offense invention [BOING]. This'll make 'em shit [BOING] and miss, dontcha think? [BOING]"

"I suppose, if it don't wake up the volcano."

"The trick [BOING] is to fire when the stick [BOING] is in contact with the floor [BOING], otherwise, I spin [BOING] out of control from the recoil [BOING]."

"Yeah, I can see where that might be a problem. Say, Tommy, what's a META for?"

"Beats me [BOING], but if one [BOING] gets in the tunnels [BOING] his ass is grass [BOING] and I'm the lawn mower [BOING]. Later bro. [BOING] ... [BOING] ... [BOING]."

Jim watched Tommy bound down the tunnel, the back flap of his loin cloth waving goodbye and showing the punji scar he picked up in Nam after having sat on one. That was not a pretty sight.

Jim moved on to the captain's office. He cracked the door and poked his head in. When the CO acknowledged his presence, Jim timidly asked, "Sir, what's a META for?"

"A figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as if it were another. Now, where's that damned Map Evaluation and Tactical Analysis report I asked for thirty minutes ago?"

"The META?"

"Yes, the META!"

"Right! I'm on it, Sir. Right away, Sir!" Jim eased out, shut the door, leaned against the wall, and said, "Shit fuzzy."

The End
From Phil Phantom’s: “Guide to Writing Good Trash"
(Click article title to read the whole thing.)

Morgan Hawke

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