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To Kill a Mockingly Bird

Updated on May 27, 2012
Here again...
Here again... | Source
So if you call it "Creative Plagiarism" it's OK...?
So if you call it "Creative Plagiarism" it's OK...? | Source
Comes out Swinging...BOOM...a Pulitzer.  Bitch...
Comes out Swinging...BOOM...a Pulitzer. Bitch... | Source
If Turnips had arms...
If Turnips had arms... | Source

Opening Session...

The Microsoft Word program opens as quickly as the aging computer allows. With fits and starts, an hourglass begins to twirl before changing its’ course and starts to swirl.

The flash of a corporate icon reminds me which program was activated prior to starting the coffee brewing. Suddenly, more twirling hourglass.

I go refill my coffee cup.

I’m using the time it takes the program to boot to come up with ideas for my next story. I may need an even slower computer.

After an indeterminate period, that can be measured by the three cups of coffee and two cigarettes I’d consumed, a blank document materializes and stares me down.

The doubts begin immediately. I have no reason for opening this document. I don’t have a story idea.

Clearly, from the title, one might expect that I’d planned on ripping off that venerable literary masterpiece, Harper Lee’s 1960 classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Perhaps. It’s an old trick of mine. Use the hard work of another author and simply piggyback a silly tale upon the strengths of already strong plots and well-established fictional characters.

Occasionally, to mix shit up, I’ll also throw in other random TV, movie, or literary characters to avoid wholesale plagiarism from a single source.

I guess it works. I’ve yet to be sued but that’s only because I’ve made clear that any legal judgment obtained would merely be an exercise in practicing their legal judgment “getting” skills. Beyond that, collecting would be rather like getting blood from a turnip.

It occurs to me that turnips may be selling their blood for drugs; thus providing grist for that saying. My bigger concern then becomes who’s subsequently; hydro-mining drugged-up, passed-out, blood-drained turnips for their corpuscles and to what purpose? Is there a story there?

That’s the problem. Harper Lee came out swinging and wrote, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m trying to string together three-thousand words about turnip stains. Blood from a turnip, indeed.

“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.

I couldn’t argue the point so I ignore it while thinking, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

This was a bad idea...
This was a bad idea... | Source
Nude With Cat on Chair...
Nude With Cat on Chair... | Source
OH SHIT...Here Comes Doubt...
OH SHIT...Here Comes Doubt... | Source
For When Lenses need Fuzzing...
For When Lenses need Fuzzing... | Source

The Indictment...

I’m not special. Anyone who has ever tried to stitch together a few paragraphs and call themselves an “author” has been assailed by the inevitable misgivings.

Doubts run amok through the writer’s mind like the rampaging bulls of Pamplona, Spain. Timid ideas, nervous analogies, and tepid dialogue flee in fear and confusion from the onslaught.

Not good enough? Do grammar rules apply EVERYTIME you write a sentence? Nothing to say that hasn’t already been said? How could ‘splurp’ not be a word? Should eight pages be devoted to describing a chair? Should the chair be a cat? Would you need to change the description, you already wrote, if it were a cat? Does hitting “Add to Dictionary” make ‘splurp’ a word? Does that hold true for all words?

Perhaps another dozen or so qualms that they’re not even aware they possess. I don’t know.

Instinctively speaking, when I’m being run down by bulls (real or their, less tasty, metaphorical cousins), my first move is to drop to the ground where I’ll assume the fetal position while emitting a, low-pitched, keening sound until the ruckus subsides. Comforting? Certainly. It got me through my divorce. Hardly conducive to writing, however.

I’m not one for serious introspection. It’s not that I’m shallow. More callow, really. Callow. Immature. Once you start introspecting; all manner of weird, twisted shit comes to the fore. That’s a lot to deal with.

It’s best to slap some Vaseline on the “lens of life” and fuzz that ‘ole image up a bit. Avoidance as an art form.

Glancing down at the word count it’s obvious I don’t know where I’m going but I’m making pretty good time so I reward myself with more coffee. I guess I could write a story that addresses the doubts of writers, but I have doubts that I could write it.

As they say, “Write what you know!” and I certainly know about having doubts, but so does everybody else. Like discovering’s already been done. Nothing new to see here. Move along people, move along...

As with every new literary pursuit, my subconscious sits in judgment on my abilities to craft anything truly meaningful. My insecurities are represented by a prosecuting attorney with a keen eye for the untold lie and a thorough understanding of the case file. My case file, as embodied in the collective writings of ThoughtSandwiches.

“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.

I couldn’t argue the point so I ignore it while thinking, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

Chewed Gum...disgusting...
Chewed Gum...disgusting... | Source
Gregory there's a lawyer...
Gregory there's a lawyer... | Source
OH...that kind of segregation...
OH...that kind of segregation...
The Jury box...
The Jury box... | Source
The Cop who Started this Nonsense...
The Cop who Started this Nonsense... | Source
Worth four-dollars...?
Worth four-dollars...? | Source
A (very convincing) duck...
A (very convincing) duck... | Source

Legal Stuff and a Duck...

Pre-trial maneuvers see my lawyer and the District Attorney in Judge's Chambers. I sit alone at the cherry wood defense table.

I’ve been here before and, as proof, I trace my finger along the previously gouged out “ThoughtSandwiches was Here—Aug, ‘92” that I’d carved into the wood during an earlier spate of mental soul searching.

A discreet inquiry with my fingers yields the further information that my gum was still adhered to the underside of the chair.

“That’s disgusting and unsanitary.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.

I couldn’t argue the point so I ignore it while thinking, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

In an effort to incorporate as much of Harper Lee’s work as possible, concessions have been made to my typical mental courthouse.

Normally, these affairs are held in a seedy metropolitan night court setting. For this story it more closely resembles the Maycomb County Courthouse in Maycomb County, Alabama as depicted in, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The early Victorian building boasts Greek revivalist columns alongside a 19th-century clock tower which hosts an inaccurate timepiece.

Inside, the courtroom is located on the second floor and offers two tiered segregated seating: All-white seating downstairs and a “colored” balcony in the back.

As the walls downstairs were already painted white, I decide to make the “colored” balcony blue.

Regardless, the gallery is full. Each seat occupied by a word, sentence, or phrase that I could have easily removed from previous stories and didn’t; thus leading to frequent charges of ‘wordiness’ in my writing. A failure of editing, really.

Across the room, the jury box is situated under a long bank of windows and filled to capacity. As one might expect from a jury of my peers, it’s a ragtag looking group of malcontents.

Several are napping while two appear to be smelling each other’s fingers as money exchanges hands based on those dubious olfactory outcomes. Great.

Like a feverish football fan, placing bets on every conceivable game outcome, the cop who started this latest round of legal problems wasn’t shy about loading up on roadside literary felonies: Impersonating an author, fleeing the scene of a crime, causing the scene of another crime, failure to yield to a gerund, splitting infinitives in an illegal attempt to expose a dangling participle within five hundred yards of a house of worship.

The charging document went to several pages.

In the interest of justice and the desire to not bog down the court’s calendar, the Judge, D.A., and my attorney were attempting to pare down the many charges into something more manageable. They’ve been back there for awhile.

They say that only a fool has themselves for a client in legal matters. Something like that, anyways. It’s best to have an attorney. Unless it’s a Public Defender, then all bets are off.

Not to disparage the hard work of Public Pretenders but, absent the profit motive, those attorneys aren’t noted for their fine attention to detail in these matters. They make the same $32,000 whether you fry or fly.

Real lawyers are expensive, however, so I’ve adopted a hybrid course of action and retained my writing partner, alter ego, and legal scholar...Creative Voice as my council.

He was back there fighting the good fight while I found myself left to my own devices. I watch a “thumb sniff” result in a grimace that earns four-dollars for the proud owner of the thumb.

Under the philosophy that “busy hands are happy hands” I pull out my pocket-knife and begin carving into the table top.

I was just beginning the finishing work on a (very convincing) duck carving when the door to chambers opens and, out spills Creative Voice and the District Attorney. Creative Voice looks grim. The District Attorney looks like a douche-bag. I put away my pocket knife.

The Mockingly Bird looks over my shoulder at the duck carving.

“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.

I was prepared to argue the point since I thought it looked like a (very convincing) duck. My thoughts turn to violence, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

A Clever Ruse...
A Clever Ruse... | Source
Harper Lee...not resorting to Theatrics and shenanigans...
Harper Lee...not resorting to Theatrics and shenanigans... | Source
Bad News...
Bad News... | Source
Good News...
Good News... | Source
Judge Harold (Harry) T. Stone
Judge Harold (Harry) T. Stone | Source
Arrgh...Plot Piracy...
Arrgh...Plot Piracy... | Source
Grammar= syphilis...
Grammar= syphilis... | Source

All Rise...

The Mockingly Bird notices Creative Voice’s attire and gives a shrill call of alarm before taking flight towards the blue colored balcony...

“CAW!! You guys suck!!” He screeches from the back of my mind.

It’s part of our overall trial strategy. Creative Voice was dressed like Colonel Sanders. Our assumption being that any bird would be afraid of the Colonel. Our assumption appeared to be correct.

It’s difficult to concentrate on legal proceedings with a Mockingly Bird announcing, “You Suck” every five minutes.

Until such time as I can actually kill the foul fucking fowl, this strategy should serve to help keep the beast at bay.

Obviously, Harper Lee didn’t need to resort to such theatrics because, you know, she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. That bitch. That was unkind. Still...

I begin to question Creative Voice, regarding the latest legal developments, when he interrupts me.

“That’s it? You’re going to call her a bitch, say it’s unkind and move on without apologizing or otherwise acknowledging the randomness of it all?”

In the viewing gallery, folding chairs are moved in among the already overcrowded supply of unneeded words, sentences, and phrases. Grumbling can be heard as ushers begin squeezing them into one long, run-on sentence as this entire dialogue sequence gets moved to the gallery.

“So what happened with the judge?” I probe.

“I’ve got good news and bad news.” He reports

“What’s the bad news?”

“The bad news is that there’s not much good news.”

I hear a low pitched keening sound. It’s coming from me. I get out from under the table and sit in my chair.

“What’s the good news?” I ask.

“The good news is that we will have plenty of time to deal with the bad news because there’s absolutely no good news to distract us with any false expectations of hope.”

The low pitched keening sound gets louder...

“ALL RISE!” The bailiff calls out, “The Honorable, Judge Harold T. Stone, presiding!”

Judge Harold T. Stone, of course, was the lovable fictional character played by Harry Anderson in the 1984 to 1992 comedy series, Night Court.

His quirky antics and goofy persona showed the kinder and gentler side of televised jurisprudence during the years that, roughly, corresponded with Ronald Reagan’s second term and the four-years of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

We sit down when we get the bailiff’s “All clear” and continue talking in low tones as the judge settles in.

Stripping aside the legalese, we were facing three broad categories of charges: Grammar offenses, character flaws, and plot piracy. This wasn’t the problem. This was the typical legal baggage I carry to these proceedings. I know my limitations.

As mentioned before, I’m not big on serious introspection. I’m also lazy. My tendency is to wait out events in an effort to not have to deal with them until the very last minute, if at all. With the possible exception of the time I take to actively develop my procrastination skills, this is my preferred course of action.

Of the three charges, grammar offenses are the easiest to fix. It’s just a matter of learning the grammar. This of course is where the ‘lazy’ part comes in. I don’t want to. Learning grammar is a lot like learning math.

The other two charges suggest a deeper problem. The inability to craft convincing characters and compelling plot lines is the death knell of any creative writing career. Worse, there was meat to the accusations thus supporting my general aversion to serious introspection.


As the case is called, those bodily orifices, with that particular ability, clench slightly.

“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the blue-colored gallery.

I couldn’t argue the point so I ignore it while thinking, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

The Pied Piper...
The Pied Piper... | Source
This IS a legal setback...
This IS a legal setback... | Source
Discussing Legal Options...
Discussing Legal Options... | Source
How You feel When Using the Colon Correctly...
How You feel When Using the Colon Correctly... | Source

Character Witnesses, High Crimes, and Misdemeanors...

Our established legal strategy was in complete disarray. Normally, we embrace the lesser grammar charges with a wink and a nod while skillfully using the ellipse to gain legal continuances and enrollment in grammar support groups and diversion programs that always prove poorly attended.

Apparently, they will only allow you to abuse the system for so long and now it was time to pay the piper...

I hand a dollar, with the exhortation to go away, to the guy standing next to me dressed like the pied-piper. He’s very distracting.

“Wait.” I seek clarification from Creative Voice as the guy, dressed like the pied-piper, leaves. “They’re not even going to hear our arguments about how grammar is for the weak and its use represents a very real potential for spreading syphilis?”

Creative Voice provides the disappointing news...

“No. They say that your time is up and that you just need to learn the shit. They want to concentrate on the more serious charges of Character Flaws and Plot Piracy. In fact, as part of the plea agreement, you’ve been banned from using the colon until you learn grammar.”

“But how will I eat and process meat?” I ask alarmed.

“I asked them about that.”

“Yeah? What did they say?”

“They said, ‘Clearly, you never really understood its proper use, anyway’.”

We fall silent for a moment...

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“I have no idea.” My attorney admits.

This was both a legal and a barbequing setback.

I suddenly notice the “High Crimes” that is mentioned in the capsule title...

“Hey? Why is there a ‘High Crimes’ category?”

“That cop found your weed pipe under the seat.”


“Colonel Sanders?” Judge Stone calls over to Creative Voice. “Have you explained the nature of the grammar plea bargain to your client? Are there any questions?”

Creative Voice stands up. “I have your honor. We have grave concerns that this will prove prejudicial to my client’s barbequing schedule and we would like to stipulate a review of the case and possible use of the colon for the Fourth of July know...lots of potato salad and such...” Creative Voice sits down.

I begin to giggle when I hear the word ‘stipulate.’ I just wasn’t expecting it, is all. It caught me by surprise. A majority of the jury also begins to giggle. Perhaps they really are a jury of my peers. I discretely sniff my fingers and am relieved to find that there is nothing worth four-dollars to be found there.

Our request is approved and the Court Clerk makes the appropriate notes in the court docket. My stomach growls. The District Attorney begins his opening remarks.

He's back...
He's back... | Source
Jurors #5 and #11...
Jurors #5 and #11... | Source
Jurors #2 and #9...
Jurors #2 and #9... | Source
Angry looks...
Angry looks... | Source
Juror #4...
Juror #4... | Source
There's just no wrong way...
There's just no wrong way... | Source
Pandemonium... | Source
Truman Capote...?
Truman Capote...? | Source

“Douche-Bag”...We Coughed into our Fists...”Douche-Bag”...

“Your Honor,” he begins indignantly, “The ability to craft convincing characters is an indispensible skill-set of any wanna-be writer. I’ve seen Colorform cutouts with more depth than this guy’s characters!”

What a douche-bag.

It’s true though. I have actually only developed one character to any great degree and that character is Creative Voice. As he merely represents my alter-ego and dark-side, I didn’t dig too deep to find him.

As mentioned, I tend to use already established literary and TV characters with a healthy mix of real-life authors, friends, roommates, and inanimate objects to round out the cast. I’m lazy.

“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.

In all the excitement he had flown down from the blue-colored balcony and had landed back in my mind. We were ready for this contingency, however. Creative Voice begins to pull “original recipe” ingredients from his briefcase while I begin assembling a portable hibachi.

“CAW!! You guys suck!!” The bird screeches in alarm before heading back to the blue-colored balcony...

I couldn’t argue the point so I ignore it while thinking, “I need to kill that Mockingly Bird...”

In the meantime, the douche-bag, District-Attorney continues to say disparaging things about my writing abilities.

“Further,” He says, “the defendant has reduced this fine jury of twelve individuals into an amorphous mass of narcoleptic, finger-smelling troglodytes. If the court reporter would be so kind as to read back from the record the defendant’s description of the jury, please...”

The court reporter finds the relevant section before reading out...

“’s a ragtag looking group of malcontents. Several are napping while two appear to be smelling each other’s fingers as money exchanges hands based on those dubious olfactory outcomes. Great...”

Those jurors not sleeping appear even more malcontented. Several seem outright offended. The two finger-sniffers look embarrassed. They all start casting dirty looks in my direction. Great.

The douche-bag wasn’t finished, “In an effort to describe twelve, character-rich, separate, distinct individuals...he bothered to use only thirty words! And he called me a douche-bag!”

“OBJECTION!” Creative Voice calls out. “Those statements were only made within the context of the author’s utter loathing for those individuals.”

It occurs to him that he could have phrased that more diplomatically.

“Um, this is to say that he said some very nice things about you, Your Honor!” Creative Voice hastily adds. “I believe the terms ‘lovable’ and ‘quirky’ were bandied about.”

The judge blushes. “Aww, really? Well that’s just great! You know what? I’m going to throw this part of the case out!” Harry announces happily.

The Prosecution is rattled...

“ the charges of Plot Piracy—“

“OBJECTION!” Creative Voice calls out. “How can charges of plot piracy be leveled when in sixty-years of television history, there have only been seven, truly, original plot lines developed? For six decades, writers have been chewing on the exact same seven ideas! We would like to invoke the ‘There’s No Wrong Way to Eat a Reese’s Cup’ Defense!”

The courtroom breaks out in complete pandemonium.

Audible gasps resonate throughout the gallery. My stomach growls. The Pied Piper starts playing his magic pipe. Creative Voice starts chanting, “HAZZAR!” over and over again as he pumps his fist into the air. The Mockingly Bird hurls obscenities at me. Reporters rush out to phone this in with orders to, “Stop the Presses!”

The judge restores a modicum of order.

“ORDER, ORDER!” Judge Stone calls out. “ORDER, ORDER!”

Truman Capote (randomly) walks up and orders a cheeseburger, chocolate shake, and fries before taking a number and sitting down...

Judge Stone looks at me disappointedly. “Truman Capote? Really?”

“I’m sorry Your Honor.” I assure him.

“The ‘There’s No Wrong Way to Eat a Reese’s Cup’ defense is a bold legal move Colonel Sanders.” The Judge tells Creative Voice before pausing to consider his next words. “I look forward to trying your Chicken Chocolate Chicken Peanut Butter Chicken Chocolate. Case Dismissed!!”

[Gavel Sounds]

[Crowd Sounds]


[“You suck.” The Mockingly Bird announces from the back of my mind.]

[Fade Out...]

At the scene.  On the job...
At the scene. On the job... | Source
They call EVERYTHING Chesterfields...there's even a town in England...
They call EVERYTHING Chesterfields...there's even a town in England... | Source
A Pope Throne...
A Pope Throne... | Source
When will the madness stop...?
When will the madness stop...? | Source Happier Times.  High School Yearbook... Happier Times. High School Yearbook... | Source

Oh Yeah...A Story...

Detective Phil Lombard had taken the call. Now that he was on the scene he knew that that was probably a mistake.

In nineteen years on the force, with ten of those in homicide, he has seen his fair share of nasty crime scenes. This was by far the worst.

The age and stress lines that crisscross his face serve as a brail representation of the horrors he’d witnessed over the past two decades in the service of this city that he both loves and hates.

He was a year away from retirement and his wife, Nancy, was looking forward to the R.V. lifestyle they had been planning for the past decade. Canadian Rockies. On nights like this he found himself hankering for the open road himself.

“The perp is getting angrier.” Patrolman Reynolds notes. A three year veteran of the force, Reynolds was first on the scene.

Lombard observes the stains on the patrolman’s cuffs where he wiped away the vomit. He neither blames him nor comments on it. He would have lost his dinner too.

“Any witnesses?” He asks instead.

Reynolds jerks his thumb over his shoulder, “Yeah. Behind me there.”

Lombard follows the jerked thumb and sees a chair.

In its day it was probably nice, albeit, long in the tooth now. It’s a Chesterfield. Traditional button-down back and arms, hand finished rustic top-grain cowhide leather and turned walnut-finished wooden legs. Yeah. It was probably a beauty in its day.

Lombard’s confused. “Wait. Are you telling me that our only witness is a chair?”

“Actually detective, that’s a cat.” Reynolds reports sheepishly. “I made the same mistake.”

“A cat? That’s crazy, it looks like a chair. What has he said?”

Reynolds consults his notebook...


“Excuse me?”

“That’s what the witness has said, sir. Repeatedly, in fact. Splurp. He hasn’t changed his story once.”

Lombard is flummoxed. “I don’t even think ‘Splurp’ is a word. Is it a word?”

“We’re not sure,” the patrolman admits, “we have people looking into that.”

“Alright, take that chair-cat downto—“

“He prefers cat-chair, detective.” Reynolds interrupts.

“OK. Take that cat-chair downtown and put him in a kennel or under a desk until we sort this mess out.”

As the patrolman begins searching for a furniture dolly, Lombard surveys the two victims. Reynolds was right. Their perp was getting angrier and more frustrated. You could see it in the crime scene. The violence is much rawer and the interval in between attacks has become much shorter.

Over a three month period there have been seven attacks with four of them occurring within the last six weeks. Tonight their guy graduated to murder.

Fortunately, the mainstream media had yet to pick up on the story and that made Lombard’s job easier.

Unfortunately, one of the tabloids was dogging his trail. The Onion had first reported on this hate-based crime spree a month ago, however, most ascribed a vegetable-based bias to their coverage and none of the affiliates had picked up on it.

Vegetable-based bias or not, somebody was targeting drugged-up, passed-out, blood-drained turnips for their corpuscles and it was Lombard’s job to stop it...


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