Saturday, May 22, 2010

Liner Notes: Handle With Care... and borscht

SPOILER ALERT: "Liner Notes" discuss levels in Radiator. You should play Radiator first -- or if you don't care, read on.

I took a creative writing course while working on Handle With Care. Stealing a page from Marc Laidlaw, I wrote a short story to help me decide on a tone for the mod, a story I completely forgot until I was cleaning out my room just now.

As an exercise, I think it helped me immensely -- as a story, I don't think it holds up very well because Dylan's arc / reasons at the end never really come out and the parenthetical monologue thing is a bit gimmicky. However, I still like the ending quite a bit.

Anyway, I just thought some people might be interested in seeing how the story began and how it changed into its current playable form (which I'll detail more in a later post.)

Enjoy, or perhaps subject yourself to unimaginable pain:

"Oh Those Polish and Their Borscht"
by Robert Yang

What kind of a name is Roubicek anyway? (Polish?) I think it’s Polish, I tell him.

“Mmhm,” Dylan murmurs, burying his face in what must surely be a riveting article in that five month old issue of Men’s Health. (Quick six-pack abs! Seduce any woman any time!)

I bet she eats borscht, I say to the topless smiling guy with great abs on the wrinkled magazine cover. My Polish friend Allysia likes that stuff, but isn’t it just a shitload of cabbage?

“Mmhm,” topless inanimate smiling guy murmurs.

Then that lady with the six coats of eye-shadow says Doctor Roubicek will see us now so if we would please just head on in that’d be great thank you. Me and Dylan get up and walk over. I give his ass an affectionate pat but end up hurting my hand, slapping the car keys in his pocket.

“Stop it,” he whispers at me, “Just take this seriously for once.”
She interrupts me again. “Please! Right now it is Dylan’s turn to speak.” (Why, so he can just whine some more about his feelings and his needs?)

“Dylan, tell us about your feelings and your needs. We will listen. Together. Go on.”

“Well, Dr. Roubicek,” he stammers, “why bother when we can’t communicate!” (So many diplomas on such a small wood paneled wall. I wonder if they’re real? Nah, probably about as real as that palm tree in the waiting room or that eye-shadow lady’s breasts.)

“And why do you feel you two cannot communicate?” she asks.

“Because…” (Is that a bird nest through the window?) “…listen to me!”

“And why do you feel…” (I think it’s really a bird nest! Wow. I wonder if they really regurgitate food into their babies’ mouths? Eww.) “… not listen to you?”

“Because it’s… I don’t speak up!” (Regurgitation! Nasty. Motherhood is so nasty. Uh oh, now she’s staring at me for some reason. She’s quite pretty, actually, even with the glasses – but then again, this is Fresno. Around here all you need is a pulse and a shower.)

“And why do you feel you do not speak up?” asks Rubestack.

“Well, it’s just, Dr. Roubicek, why bother when we just can’t communicate!” (Where did that bird in the window run off to? I wonder if the bird was Polish? A Polish bird in Fresno! Ha.)

“Let’s ask your husband. Do you agree that there is a communication problem?” (Maybe the bird was craving some delicious hot steaming borscht fresh from the oven? Oh, those Polish!)

“JAMES. Do you think there’s a fucking communication problem in our marriage?!”

Hm? What? Pardon? What? No! Dr. Rubestack, we just fight sometimes like any other couple. That’s it. He just needs to calm down and relax. He’s just overreacting like always.

“James, please, last time we agreed not to point fingers ­-”

Oh, so now it’s my fault? A witch hunt, is it? I’ve said it before: Fuck this therapy shit.

“I agree,” Dylan barks, “This is fucking hopeless – you don’t listen and you never will. You think you’re so fucking clever, like – like – a fucking teenager. Grow up.”

When he slams the door, two of those fake Polish diplomas fall off the wall, but the plastic frames stay intact. Now that crazy Dr. Rubestack stares at me through her rimless glasses. We’re alone.

(“And being clever. How’s that working out for you, for your marriage?”)

(It’s swell. Thanks for asking, Doctor.)

(“You’ll still, of course, be charged the full hour. Just pay the eye-shadow lady.”)

(What, the full forty-five minute hour? This marriage therapy is a fucking rip-off.)

(“I know, and it’s so much more profitable than being a real doctor, helping people.”)

She smiles an especially Polish smile through her rimless glasses. It’s somewhat unsettling and I don’t know why. That’s when I remember Dylan has the car keys.