Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

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[writing] When one transept just isn't enough

John Klima is a strange, clever man. He invited various authors to contribute to Logorrhea Powell's | Amazon ], a book about words. Specifically, winning words in the National Spelling Bee.

Confronting an unreconstructed bibliophage like me with his word list was like Lucy in the chocolate factory.

I eventually settled on transept, because I've always had a soft spot for cathedral architecture (in part thanks to David Macauley), and also because of the pun which I had always seen inherent in the name. (And I walked right by the second major pun, except in the metalayer of the story.)

Plus it's a cool word. Walk around all day muttering "transept, transept" under your breath and you'll be amazed how much your life will change.

Klima being Klima, and lexical memes being lexical memes, he eventually decided that one story about transept was not enough, and so the indefatigable jeffvandermeer enters the scene, armed with the Musket of Understanding and the Dueling Pistol of Narrative Contention:


Why church broke? That question all ask when get Barahkad? Though no many tourist now — just detective last week, bad circus week before. But I tell you — even drunk sitting end of bar give answer if you want answer — he say we run out money when no water. That man, head on table, see? He tell you merchants. Merchants of Barakhad break church because priests too big, too big. Or I, sir, I tell you Devil visit Barakhad when church of Smaragdineans building and break it.

Or it could be that the architect's plans were too complicated and they planned not one but three transepts, with gold leaf that wouldn't flake off for the archways and brushes made from the tongues of hummingbirds to paint the column detail.

What? Oh, don't be mad. Just a little joke I like to play on tourists. So many of you think that our command of English is crumbling along with our infrastructure. But I went to university, even spent a summer at the University of San Diego on an exchange program, a long time ago. You're lucky you bumped into me, my friend. That drunk over there, for example — he doesn't want to speak English any more. His whole family died last year.

But do you really want to know why the church isn't "finished"? Why not get a drink and sit down. It won't take long, but you might need the drink. Don't worry, I'll keep it simple. I know the names around here confuse foreigners.

So: The real reason the church looks unfinished is that until recently we had a civil war in this country. Hadn't heard of it? Well, we're not in an area with anything of any value, really. Not anymore.

First one side held Barahkad. They starved us and killed some of us and took some of us away. Then the other side took over. They starved us and killed some of us and took some of us away. Then the peacekeepers came to our country, although we never saw one in Barakhad, not once, and a coalition of countries so far away that none of us here in Barahkad had ever visited any of them began to use planes to bomb us. I believe your country participated in that effort.

We already had little food, no electricity. Now when people walked down to the market, they might become splintered bones and shredded flesh and a stain of red on the roadside in a blink of the eye. We lost maybe half of the people in Barakhad during those months.

Now that the bombs have stopped, we are doing our best. The priests who might have helped are gone. There has been no time to rebuild the church, my friend. We haven't had time to rebuild many things, as you may have seen when you came into town.

So at the moment the church is crumbling and overgrown with weeds. It's green enough to make even a Smaragdinean happy. The north side of the transept remains one wall and a promise of a roof. No one likes a church where the wind can catch you up like the breath of God. No one likes a church with the rain on the inside. Except me, since that's where I'm forced to live for now.

Am I talking to you? Are we speaking? Are you hearing me?
Tags: books, funny, process, stories, writing

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