March 14th, 2008


[fiction] "In the Green Jungles of Envy"

In the Green Jungles of Envy

by Jay Lake

In the green jungles of envy the tiger stalks his prey. Stripes flicker through shadows, the casual eye seeing nothing more than the flicker of sunlight on the trees. Monkeys scream from their high perches, throwing mud and sticks and worse down like a solid rain, as if the earth had mistakenly risen to beat against the uncaring tropical sky. There is always too much water or not enough. The word "sufficiency" is not in nature's vocabulary, not here.

"I don't give a flying God damn what the FAA says." The CEO, whose name was on the building, screamed into the telephone, pounding his teakwood desk with the butt of his letter opener -- an antique Turkish dagger worth more than most of his employees' homes. "You're the broker, straighten it out. I've been waiting too God damned long for this jet. I'll get it somewhere else if I have to. Do you hear me?" He shook the phone in his fist. "Well?"

After a while the CEO started picking teak splinters out of the palm of his hand.

In the green jungles of envy the ferns grow larger than a poor man's house. Tall hardwoods creak in the wind as pythons slither down their polished bark. Small animals crash through the brush, chasing smaller ones to their furry, squealing death. The beetles, ever patient, await their turn to polish the bones.

The marketing director, whose name was on his door, wandered into the copy writing team's bullpen, coffee mug in hand. He'd read that if you held a coffee mug, that made you more approachable. That was part of the "screaming monkey" theory of management, something about primate dominance. He felt like he should be picking lice off someone's head, but the coffee mug and a good style with memos had seen him through three promotions in four years.

"Schmidt, could you step into my office, please?" he said. Layoffs were never easy, but if he managed headcount tightly enough, he'd qualify for that year-end bonus. Then he could pay for the Lexus he'd been promising his wife for months. Malenkov and Popper would probably have to go too, but they'd find jobs somewhere else. Sooner or later.

They'd be okay, he told himself, sipping at his coffee.

In the green jungles of envy ants march from time to time, clearing a path from which even tigers and elephants will flee. Dragonflies with wings the width of dinner plates haunt the tree-lined swamps, while scaled monsters out of prehistory slide through the mud, leaving only bubbles and tail tracks impossibly broad.

"We're outsourcing all the custodial and grounds work. Friday is you guys's last day, and I don't want any slacking off before then, you hear? The contract service will bill us for shit you were too lazy to fix." Christ, thought Keller, there wasn't enough money in the world to do his job. Today he had to fire forty-two spics, every one of them with some stupid name like Angel or Jesus on his overalls.

"What about severance?" called a moon-faced man in the back of the crowd.

Keller shrugged. "Two weeks, same as anybody else."

"COO got two years' pay when he was fired."

"Then why don't you go fucking apply for his job," Keller snarled.

Many paths lead into the green jungles of envy, but none lead out. Some ways can even be opened from afar, by a bruja with his chicken blood or an isangoma with his sacred fires.

A man whose name is on his building might find his jet crashed there, stumbling out of the wreckage only to be eaten by tigers. A man whose name is on his office door might be swept off the rail of his cruise ship one storm-tossed night, washed up there to be eaten by a crocodile. A man with a bad attitude and hard heart, he might have to settle for being beaten in the parking lot by six brown-skinned men in identical coveralls, the names on their patches covered with duct tape.

But the patient, egalitarian beetles polish all bones, and the tiger always finds more prey.
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© 2008, Joseph E. Lake Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


[writing] Sometimes I surprise myself

Working on Green yesterday, I twice came to a point in the text where I surprised the hell out of myself. That's an interesting phenomenon, given that I wrote the damned thing less than three months ago.

(Good surprises, by the way. The kind my readers should appreciate.)

This is one reason why writing is so much fun.

[links] Link salad for a quiet Friday

Don't forget the new caption contest — Another ARC of Escapement Amazon ], as well as an gift card, are at stake!

A review promotional mention of Trial of Flowers Powell's | Amazon ] — Complete with dwarf disclaimer. In Portuguese.

Green Man Review rather liked Paper Cities Powell's | Amazon ] — They especially liked "Promises: A Tale of the City Imperishable". The story is in the Flowers continuity, concerning the life of Biggest Sister, leader of the Tribade at the time of Trial of Flowers.

kenscholes on the agonies and wonders of the writing process — Definitely worth a look.

Agent Joshua Bilmes on the coming changes in Borders bookstores — "You can either see this as the complete dumbing down of the bookstore, or as salvation as somebody attempts to think out of the box and do something new in a bookstore for the first time in decades." (Thanks to devonmonk.)

Some interesting comments in last night's post on dialog, btw.

Cheese fear — takes on cheese. (And yes, I owe a cheese blog from Rainforest. Busy here.)

The state of Tennessee shows some real class and economic foresight in dealing with illegal immigrants — This one's a doozie.

Time in saddle: 20 minutes
Last night's weigh-out: n/a
This morning's weigh-in: 278.8
Currently reading: Field of Fire, by James O. Born Powell's | Amazon ]


[politics] An open letter to Hillary Clinton

Dear Senator Clinton —

This has been the most important Democratic primary process in my lifetime. Your candidacy, along with Senators Edwards and Obama, has been invigorating to Democrats as well as nonpartisan liberal-progressives all across America. I found the South Carolina primary especially historic, in a way that lends me great hope for the future of us all.

For a long time this process has been characterized as a battle of ideals, a primary where messaging and policy and sheer old fashioned hope have driven both your candidacy and that of Senator Obama. But somewhere recently your campaign has crossed a line into business as usual.

If I wanted win-at-any-cost politics, if I wanted veiled racism and technical machinations and plausible deniability, I would be a Republican. America deserves better from your campaign. Your voters deserve better from your campaign. You deserve better from your campaign.

I don't suppose my few words this day will ever impinge on you. Your campaign certainly isn't going to change direction because of dissatisfied voters like me. But I wish I lived in a world that was different, higher-minded, more dedicated to principle.

More to the point, I wish you did too.

The Republican party has given us a painful eight-year lesson in what being less for America looks like. Please, be more for America.


Jay Lake
Portland, OR

This letter may be freely distributed, excerpted or quoted, with attribution.

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[writing] Green reaches a milestone

Ok, tight line edit is done. Book is clean and beautiful. I'm actually rather impressed with myself at the moment, gauche as it may be to admit it.

Of course I'm 34,000 words over contracted length koff koff but that's what multiple editing passes are for. I've got a couple more weeks to hammer on this.

Did I mention the 5,000 words or so I need to add?