Tagged: spouse

Down the Darkened Tunnel I Raced

  • by jenserved time in the military
  • a second peal of thunder
  • for eight and twenty miles
  • and a badass wife
  • or if she would repulse him

Tune in next time part 259                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

Down the darkened tunnel I raced, wondering if there would be a submarine in the Academy’s submarine dock. I knew how to drive a submersible even though I had never served time in the military. Behind me came the clattering of more debris, a second peal of thunder booming through the cavern to chase the echoes of the diversionary crash I had created moments ago.

I ran for eight and twenty miles, or at least that’s what it felt like, before the sound of my footsteps changed and I knew I was in a large open area. The sub dock. Murky red light filtered up through the water from the submarine that lurked just below the surface. As I caught my breath I let my eyes adjust to the faint, bloody illumination and was able to trace out the contours of the conning tower where it jutted from the water.

Before I had time to think better of it, I crept across the gangway and lowered myself silently down the ladder into the heart of the submarine. I immediately heard voices, so I froze halfway down the ladder to listen.

“He’s got a scary father-in-law and a badass wife,” a reedy male voice said.

“Her name’s Fleur, right?” said a woman. “That Contrarian noble?”

They were talking about me.

“She’s extremely pregnant right now,” said a third voice, this one with a familiar lisp. “Due any day. I wonder if he’d still think she’s hot or if she would repulse him.” It was Jason, I had no doubt.

I couldn’t stay where I was, perched awkwardly on the rungs of a metal ladder. Mere feet below me were Jason and two of his compatriots. There was no way I could slip past them. But if I exited the sub, I would no doubt run right into Betsy and Fernando, and possibly Tessa and who knows who else. That racket they’d raised might attract everyone at the Academy.

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By the Time Isaac was Done with Me

  • by jenwonder if you even miss me
  • people thought they had a far more sinister meaning
  • dressed in a Hazmat suit
  • mixture of ferocity and jocularity
  • nonetheless churning with anxiety

Tune in next time part 223                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

By the time Isaac was done with me I had learned that her real name was Cleopatra, and I was exhausted from my efforts both conversational and carnal. My mind was nonetheless churning with anxiety over the sinister Tibetan chocolate bar, which manifested in my actions as an odd mixture of ferocity and jocularity. The last time I felt that way I dressed in a Hazmat suit and went to the White House to talk things out with Thor. The thing about Hazmat suits is that most people thought they had a far more sinister meaning than I intended. I was just trying to be funny, but you try telling that to the Secret Service.

I digress.

There were no Hazmat suits in Cleopatra’s apartment so it was easy enough to avoid that misstep this time, despite my compromised mental state. As I was getting dressed in the clothes I’d gotten from Jim’s closet what felt like ages ago, Cleopatra turned on the TV.

“We need to make sure your father’s return hasn’t hit the news yet,” she said, flipping through the channels until she landed on the Contrarian News Network showing footage of my heavily pregnant wife Fleur and her retinue, all laughing at the antics of a troop of mimes.

I wonder if you even miss me, I thought, as she threw her arms around the neck of Viscount Arlo of Svenborgia. The damn Svenborgians were all over this mess.

“That Arlo guy is such a dick,” Cleopatra said.

How did she even know who he was?

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Becoming More Human-like

Writing is many things, but maybe more than anything else it comes down to recording — and transmitting — the experience of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. That’s the essence of “show don’t tell.” And it’s the essence of voice in your fiction.

Kent reflected on this, and on our process and all the different sets of eyes he’s looked out through, and formed the opinion that the act of writing has increased his capacity for empathy. For context, his workplace nicknames have included Spock, Data, and more recently, Sheldon. (His high-school nicknames were less flattering.)

He’s convinced that empathy has become easier for him, sometimes involuntary, and he blames it on the writing. It’s also possible that it’s just a symptom of getting older, or a side effect of spending so much time with someone as compassionate as Jen.

Writing is many things, but most of all it’s projecting yourself into another being. The reader has a keen nose for puppet strings, so the writer must cut them without the character falling limp. You can get away with a little pretending, a little imitating, but it won’t carry you far. To win the reader’s trust, your writing must contain the characters’ honest fears and hungers.

It ends up giving a writer lots of practice standing in others’ shoes. And if you’ve never had a nickname based on an inhuman creature devoid of emotion, you probably have a good head start!

Dramatis Personae

r-avatarFaithful blog readers have no doubt lost hours of their lives reading our chain story, cleverly titled Tune In Next Time. Since it’s been going on for more than a year and the cast has grown by leaps and bounds, we decided it was time to develop something of a cheat sheet. And here it is, without further ado.

Our Protagonist: Though we have yet to learn this man’s name, we have learned many interesting facts about him. His mother was a two-term US president before several scandals forced her to retire. Now his younger brother Thor holds that office. His father was presumed dead in some sort of sex scandal that is related to both the president leaving office and a cataclysm that merged the Great Lakes into one and obliterated several states. Our hero is part-Indian, immune to jellyfish stings, and spent at least part of his childhood in a cult. He is a graduate of the Hopscotch Academy who wound up in a career involving both crime and espionage. He sometimes uses the codename Ludovico, sometimes Winifred. He has the layout of at least one Hall of Mirrors memorized, and can imitate any kind of bird or beast.

New facts about our protagonist: His name is five syllables long, but we still don’t know what it is. As per family tradition, he was born at the North Pole. He learned everything he knows about stealth during his time as a stowaway on a tramp steamer in the South China Sea. Unlike his twin, he can sleep anywhere. He has blue-gray eyes and a super hairy chest. There is a tattoo hidden under his chest hair, given to him by Tessa. It contains, naturally, a hidden message. While at the Academy he was a member of the Ninja Defense League to learn how to defend against ninjas, and learned how to control the minds of others through an odd vocal technique he calls “hypnotoading,” and also how to break through most hypnotic trances. He is not English. He refers to his intuition as “The Ladies.”

He has a twin brother, a wife, and many former lovers, all dangerous.

His family: Our protagonist has a large family. They own an inflatable woman factory, and it is rumored that all the men in the family have a certain exotic compound in their semen.

  • ZsaZsa – Mother: Her name is ZsaZsa, but Father always called her Ralph. Like her husband and most of her children she was born at a military facility. She is a former US President who now pulls the strings and rules from the shadows. Her sprawling plan for world domination is called The Brontosaurus by Tessa and our protagonist. She was removed from office following the infamous White House Sex Scandal that resulted in her husband’s presumed death, and a scheme to bomb Contraria’s enemies and make it look like an accident. She is the current Ambassador to South Dakota. She employs ninjas in her schemes and machinations. She was last seen at a breakfast-themed strip club in Harmonia, near the airport.
  • Jack – Father: Turns out our hero’s father isn’t dead after all. His name is Jack. Like his wife and most of their children he was born at a military facility. He’s mixed up with the Contrarians in a bid to either become President of the United States (of Australia), or found his own rogue nation. Whatever his plans, he’s blowing through his whole treasury to pay for prostitutes. Jack spent his youth in the rural lava fields of Iceland. He has never been convicted of anything, or even charged, but many people call him The Devil. At one point in time he dated his ex-girlfriend’s sister, daughter, and niece at the same time. His faked death involved being run over by a backhoe. He signals his cohorts through the use of a linen pocket square because he is allergic to silk. Wants the protagonist’s help to defeat John and Tessa, but is refused. Last seen engaged in group sex with Esmerelda, Cleopatra, and Darlene in a black velvet room in an unnamed country.
  • Aunt Züg: Mom’s twin sister. Last seen impersonating Mom and plotting to exploit the Pirate-Ninja alliance in naval action against North Dakota.
  • Thor: Our protagonist’s younger brother, and current president of the United States. Often utilizes his twin sister as a body double. He is married to Tallulah, and thinks he is the father of Svetlana’s child by the protagonist. His sometime lover is professional wrestler Great Hammer, but they are currently on the outs. Made enemies of the militant vegans through meat-based legislation. Was last seen in their clutches aboard the presidential zeppelin above the Contrarian city of Pittsburghistan.
  • Freya: Thor’s twin, our protagonist’s younger sister. Despite being different genders, they are nearly impossible to tell apart when dressed. Played a part in the sex scandal that “killed” her father and got her mother thrown out of office. Has hypnotic powers. Got her training at a ranch in the high desert. Last seen making out with a Santa lookalike in an arctic spa in Pittsburghistan.
  • Jason: Our protagonist’s identical twin brother, and America’s #1 wedding rapper. He has a lisp, which is a good way to tell the brothers apart. Was thumb-wrestling champion at the Academy for four years running. Even though he was a terrible student, he seems somewhat adept at codes. Is in love with Kelly, who does not seem to return his affections proportionately. Perhaps is aligned with Tallulah, Taylor, Tara, and Tanya. May have been inducted into the Pinkie Swears. Last seen in a submarine in the Academy’s secret submarine dock.
  • Jim: Our protagonist’s younger brother, and the only twinless sibling in the family. He is a triplet, along with Jemima and Jemma. He has a southern drawl, small feet, and lots of theories about twins. Like most of the family he has a grudge against Mother. He claims to never use sex as a distraction while using sex as a distraction. Last seen in Dr Absinthia Belladonna’s subterranean apartment/laboratory, making out with the Professor’s unnamed girlfriend. Once worked in a bank with Kelly, the love of Jason’s life, and slept with her. Has a wife named Esmerelda.
  • Jemima: One of the triplets. Wears a dashing green and blue cardigan. Is currently drugged by Jim and under his control. Last seen locked in Dr Absinthia Belladonna’s bedroom with Jemma.
  • Jemma: One of the triplets. As the youngest female in the family she is promised to the Guild of Fire Eaters, and has the tattoos on her spine and ribcage to prove it. Wears a dashing green and blue cardigan. Is currently drugged by Jim and under his control. Last seen locked in Dr Absinthia Belladonna’s bedroom with Jemima.
  • Jinx Damocles: Our hero thought Jinx was his Great-Uncle, when in reality he is his step-grandfather. Is missing his left arm and only has one good eye. He was born in the “North Country.” Was thought dead following a plane crash in South America, but turned up in a small church in Rhode Island. Owned a theme park in Harmonia called Valentine Village, which our hero inherited when Jinx was declared dead. Last seen under a tree in the Harmonious countryside, near the trainline to Barbershoppe.
  • Fleur: Our hero’s blue-eyed wife. It was an arranged marriage, designed to tighten bonds between the US and Contraria, and neither of them are particularly happy with the match. That didn’t stop Fleur from insisting that her husband take part in many elaborate fertility rituals, and she is now pregnant with twins. This pleases her warlord father immensely. She trained all of the jellyfish in the Contrarian National Aquarium. Last seen, heavily pregnant, on a news broadcast, spending time with Viscount Arlo, whom she is sleeping with.
  • Isolde: Fleur’s sister, our hero’s sister-in-law. He has a crush on her and tried to talk her into taking part in the fertility rites. But Isolde is infatuated with Harry, a Contrarian noble whom she expects to marry as soon as Fleur delivers. Last seen in a Contrarian leathergoods store.

His friends and enemies:

  • Tessa: Tessa is very tricky. A former partner of John and our protagonist in several illegal schemes, she has double crossed them both several times.  She attended the Academy with our hero, and was valedictorian because she drugged everyone else. She has auburn hair, an impressive bosom, and gets hiccups when she’s horny. Her formidable ninja skills take our hero by surprise and suggest chapters of her backstory as yet unexplored. She was involved romantically with our protagonist in the past, and is currently engaged to John. She has at least four sisters and at least one robot duplicate. She has a cyberpunk unicorn tramp stamp spewing rainbows across her ass, and another unicorn tattoo around the front, grazing on her pubic hair. She spent time as a captive of the mimes. It’s hard to say when she was last seen, or if she really exists at all. Perhaps she has always been someone else in disguise. But if she’s not, then she was last seen wearing Mother’s favorite bracelet in the subbasement beneath the Academy’s root cellar, having just collected a sample of our hero’s semen under orders from the class reunion committee so that her colleagues can isolate and synthesize a certain exotic compound found therein.
  • John: Our protagonist’s former partner in crime and/or espionage. He’s described as an intimidating guy who sucks at ciphers. Is possibly Russian. He spent his childhood in a Tibetan monastery, an experience that left him with a deathly fear of the Himalayan Snowcock. Has a scar on his ring finger. He seems to be passingly good at roller derby, and is mixed up somehow with the warlords of Contraria. Has at least two sisters and is engaged to Tessa. According to Jack, John’s hair is not his own. He has an ex-wife named Hildegard, and feet that are not for the faint of heart. Last seen wearing a skintight orange jumpsuit and no shoes, ascending to the Academy’s root cellar with Hipster Jane.
  • Lyudmila: John’s sister Lyudmila (not to be confused with his one-time date by the same name) is a former sushi chef and current contortionist and helicopter pilot. Owns miniature Pinschers named Trouble and Time. She is one of our hero’s many former lovers, and is, of late, aligned with Tessa in some unknown scheme. Last seen drugging our protagonist and delivering him into the hands of Aphrodite and Heinrich Hunter.
  • Svetlana: John’s other sister. Svetlana is also a contortionist. She and her sister Lyudmila once had a sideshow act, but now hate each other “with good reason.” Has narrow hips, a scratchy voice, and a predilection for blowguns. She is the subject of an international manhunt which she eluded for years by using her contortionist skills and a harness to secret herself under the clothing of Heinrich Hunter, masquerading as his rotund belly. It’s unclear what Heinrich gets out of the arrangement. This former lover of our hero is quite pregnant with his child. She blackmailed him to help in her schemes by threatening to tell his wife and her warlord father about the baby. Last seen in a hallway in Valentine Village, with Heinrich, Jenkins, and an unconscious ninja.
  • Tallulah: Tessa’s sister, the most dangerous person our hero has ever met. Has unusual blue-black eyes and a tendency to impersonate her sister. Or perhaps has always been her sister. Is married to Thor. Wants to work with our protagonist to topple the governments of the US and Contraria, just like they planned in kindergarten. While disguised as Tessa disguised as Svetlana disguised as an old man, she claimed to have a son by our protagonist, but he does not think that’s true. Last seen with her sister Taylor, Tanya, and Tara walking into Jason’s underground lair  upstairs from Dr Absinthia Belladonna’s apartment/laboratory.
  • Kelly: The love of Jason’s life. As part of the plan to rob a bank with the protagonist, and possibly others, she worked in a bank with Jim, and slept with him. Went to jail in place of our protagonist, a fact that Jason is unwilling to forgive and forget. Now that she’s out of prison they have reconnected. Last seen tied up with Jason in an underground room at Valentine Village.
  • Aphrodite Hunter: A pirate with surgically enhanced breasts, and a glass eye. She is married to Heinrich and sleeping with Captain Jorgensen. Is involved in the Pirate-Ninja Alliance. Knows that her husband carts Svetlana around under his clothes. Last seen in a warehouse in the hinterlands being treated for inhaling a jellyfish.
  • Heinrich Hunter: Another pirate, with possible ninja connections. Has a floppy red mustache and carries a katana and an uzi. Smuggled Svetlana under his clothes for many years, which made him appear fat. His marriage to Aphrodite is over due to him having to pee in her mouth to neutralize the jellyfish toxin. Last seen in a hallway in Valentine Village with Svetlana, Jenkins, and an unconscious ninja.
  • Dr Minka Stiletto: A hypnotist in Ipswitch, Massachusetts. Has control over both the town and the Sanitation Workers Union. Wears, but does not need, an eyepatch. Sometimes hypnotizes our protagonist and uses him as a sex toy. Last seen being decapitated by Tessa in her jungle-themed hypnotism office.
  • Ulrike: A dangerous German woman with at least one sister. She hunts by smell, but tells our hero apart from his twin by feeling his corneas. Is a former lover of both our hero and John. Last seen corrupting minors outside a hall of mirrors on the boardwalk.
  • Myxolemia: Our hero’s prom date, arranged by his mother of course. It didn’t go well. She is now the American Ambassador to Contraria, and has metal studs where her eyelashes should be. Last seen unconscious in a Pittburghistan leather goods shoppe.
  • Michiko: The rebellious daughter of the leader of NinjaVision. She enjoys Harajuku clothing, and drives a Hello Kitty themed Lincoln. She owns a self storage place. Last seen behind the counter at her self storage operation.
  • Captain Jorgensen: A pirate captain involved in the Pirate-Ninja Alliance. Sometime lover of Aphrodite Hunter. Last seen aboard his ship.
  • Mitzy: Has access to a helicopter, but does not pilot it. Kidnaps people for the president, or people pretending to be the president. Last seen at the White House.
  • Oscar: Head of the Sanitation Workers Union. Last seen in Rhode Island being dragged into a barber shop.
  • Alonzo and Enzo: Milanese sanitation workers in the employ of Dr Minka Stiletto. Last seen dragging Oscar into a Rhode Island barber shop.

If somehow you have not read the entire saga, this page will make it easy to catch up.

We Turned Onto the Contrarian Equivalent of Rodeo Drive

  • by jenall of those are possibilities
  • trying to enjoy sex together
  • young, dashingly ill-disciplined Ambassador
  • The keen air made me giddy
  • venerable British saddle maker

Tune in next time part 117                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

We turned onto the Contrarian equivalent of Rodeo Drive and Svetlana pulled me into the overly air-conditioned showroom of a venerable British saddle maker. The keen air made me giddy, redolent as it was of rich leather and richer customers.

“This is not a good place to hide,” I said. “My wife’s family shops here all the time.”

Proving my point, young, dashingly ill-disciplined Ambassador Myxolemia strolled in, arm-in-arm-in-arm with Fleur and Isolde, all three of them laughing. Fleur’s cadre of bodyguards loomed behind them. So much for making my escape from Contraria.

“You’d better be on your way, Vanya,” I said to the disguised Svetlana. The last thing I needed was for Fleur to realize this ‘old man’ was really a young woman.

Fleur grabbed me by the hand and took me to a display case of riding crops. “Imagine we are trying to enjoy sex together but it has become boring. Which would you choose to liven things up?”

“That depends entirely on which of us would be wielding it,” I said.

Fleur turned to the obsequious shopkeeper and waved her hand at the crops. “All of those are possibilities. My husband and I will try them now.” She smirked evilly at me then. “I’m sure Svetlana will be happy to provide a surface upon which to test them in exchange for her freedom.”

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Reading Further of Contrarian Prophecies

  • by jenwe went to Pittsburgh
  • Uh uh honey
  • the prospect of a marriage proposal
  • what he did, and where, and when
  • pulled his tail

Tune in next time part 103                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

Reading further of Contrarian prophecies did nothing to dispel my unease. I was still reeling from the import of that 43rd stanza when Fleur found me. “It’s time for the feast,” she announced.

The feast lasted three months. When it and all the attendant rituals were finally done, Fleur rounded up her entire retinue of bodyguards and we went to Pittsburghistan, a city several hours form Funkistan by zeppelin, but one with much better sanitation. That’s where the royal hospital was.

The ultrasound technician adjusted her turban and then confirmed, in verse, that Fleur was carrying twins. A cold finger of dread ran down my back. I turned to my wife. “Uh uh honey. No way. I don’t want to be a martyr.”

Fleur’s smile was impish. “Maybe they’ll be boys.” She turned to the technician and said, “I forbid you to tell us the sex of the babies. It will be so delicious to see my husband squirm and worry for the next six months!”

Just then Fleur’s sister Isolde rushed into the room. Ever since the announcement of Fleur’s gravid state, Isolde had been atwitter at the prospect of a marriage proposal from the toad-like Harry. They were unable to make anything official until after Fleur delivered the heirs, but in the meantime we were regaled daily with updates about Harry, what he did, and where, and when, and with whom. Isolde nattered on about Harry and how he pulled his tailcoat out of the car door thereby avoiding an international incident, since the tailcoat was borrowed from the ruler of a rival clan. It was tedious.

Everything in Contraria was tedious, which was surprising for a place ruled by a warlord. There were just so many damn rituals and traditions. Every day I spent here was a day in which Tessa got further away. Sometimes I even had trouble remembering what all the fuss over the treasure was about, or why it was so important.

Fleur snapped her fingers under my nose, bringing me out of my reverie.

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Fleur’s Kissy-Fingers Routine

  • by jenso odd and alarming
  • and tell them to be punctual
  • on their faces and chests
  • The pet shop owner’s brother was lying
  • Even if you have a razor-sharp ax

Tune in next time part 101                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

Fleur’s kissy-fingers routine was so odd and alarming that at first I did not respond. She glared at me and kept up the smoochy noises until I finally pursed my own lips and kissed her thumb.

She nodded once in approval, then popped a gummy baby in her own mouth and sat behind me on the marble steps while I caught my breath.

“So you’re really pregnant?” I asked.

“Yes,” my wife replied. “I’ve known for a few days. I think it’s going to be twins, since they run in your family.” She grabbed my collar and hauled me onto my knees, then shoved my face up next to her stomach. “Say hello to your children, the future rulers of Contraria, and tell them to be punctual.”

She held me in place until I mumbled platitudes into her abdomen. Once she released me, I said, “You’ve known for days? That means we could have gotten a lot more sleep!”

Fleur laughed at me. “Get used to being tired. When our babies are born it will fall to you to make sure they have smiles on their faces and chests full of joy.”

“Don’t you use nannies?”

“Of course not, silly man. That’s what husbands are for.”

I thought back to my wedding to Fleur. At the rehearsal dinner the pet shop owner and his brother regaled me with tales of their sister’s work as a nanny for the Contrarian royals (it is considered good luck in Contraria to have a pet shop owner at your wedding). The pet shop owner’s brother was lying then, along with his brother, or my own wife was lying now. I hoped the liar was my wife, because I really had no desire to spend the next several years of my life in Contraria caring for children, even my own.

The warlord strode up, beaming with pride. “This child you two have created will bind Contraria and the US forever!” he boomed. “There will be no severing of the ties between our countries. Even if you have a razor-sharp ax.”

“It’s twins, Daddy.”

“Twins!” The warlord’s eyes grew wide. “If that’s true then that fulfills the prophecy!”


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As Dictated By the Customs of Her Clan

  • by jenthe sciences which keep men alive
  • producing a special voice for the occasion
  • wrist and knee
  • expression of the most abject and hopeless misery
  • the organic kind

Tune in next time part 84                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

As dictated by the customs of her clan, Fleur chanted passages from an ancient scroll entitled The Sciences Which Keep Men Alive while I made love to her, producing a special voice for the occasion. I concentrated my caresses on her left wrist and knee to increase our chances of producing a male heir. Neither of us wanted to face the expression of the most abject and hopeless misery her father would wear if a girl were born instead. It did not bear thinking of. Existential misery made him dangerous.

Soon our tent was filled with the organic kind of scent that comes from vigorous sex in hot climates. Fleur sighed happily and rang the gong. We barely had time to cover ourselves with the ritualistic doilies before her father strode in, flanked by his bodyguards.

The post-coital question and answer period was my least favorite part of this entire weeklong ceremony.

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“I Don’t Care That You’re Married, Genevieve”

  1. by jenCharacter – cheating wife
  2. Setting – witch’s cottage
  3. Object – sequined handbag
  4. Situation – I smell smoke

“I don’t care that you’re married, Genevieve,” cried Wilhelm. “So am I, and I won’t let it keep us apart.”

The beautiful raven-haired woman behind the cauldron nodded and held out her hand, and Wilhelm handed over her gift. As she opened it, Wilhelm admired the pale green undertones in her silky complexion and the way the firelight danced in her deep black eyes. Those lovely dark orbs sparkled with delight when she saw the sequined handbag under all the layers of tissue paper. Or was it the smoke that made them glisten?

“Thank you darling, it’s lovely,” Genevieve purred. She pulled a ladle from the voluminous folds of her long black gown and scooped up some of the liquid from her bubbling vat. The fumes made Wilhelm’s head spin. Genevieve carefully poured the effervescent concoction into a vial and handed it to Wilhelm.

“Have your wife drink this and our troubles will be over.”

“What about your husband?”

Genevieve smiled lazily. “Let me worry about him.”

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Hand-Drawn and Pale-Colored

  • by jendrawn and pale
  • clay alien bust
  • that’s gotta come first
  • made my teeth sweat
  • leg had healed so well

Hand-drawn and pale-colored stars decorate the clay alien bust that is the centerpiece of the exhibit. Hieronymus Warhol describes the sculpting process like this: “Inspiration — that’s gotta come first, before the clay is ever touched. I had this idea and it was so good it made my teeth sweat, or maybe it was the pain medicine that made ’em sweat. My wife Fiona told me I should stop taking the medicine once my leg had healed so well, but I didn’t listen to her. And it’s a good thing I didn’t.”

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