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Category Archives: Shories

“Howl”

And yes, this is the fan fiction entry, in the slash category—although, does it count as fanfiction if it really happened? Better question, maybe: does it count as actually having happened if it’s never talked about, to the point that neither party is even really sure a week later if it actually did?

I don’t think either of them are actually gay. I mean, I know them both—one of them I’ve known for a very long time, and I am so sure that isn’t gay, and I’m not just saying that. One time doesn’t make you gay. Does it? One time is an experiment. It’s a fluke. It’s not something to get all worked up about.

But they’re boys. Boys get worked up about stuff. I guess girls do, too, but like, I don’t know. It’s different, I guess. I sure as hell wouldn’t get all worked up if the same thing happened with me and a girl. Actually that’s not true, probably. It would maybe depend on the girl? I don’t know.

It’s not like there wasn’t a girl involved. Her name was Stella (I’m not even joking) and she was such a groupie—one of their first. Imagine seeing your first set of real-life boobs in a room with like ten other people and knowing you were the one who made the girl take her top off.

Again, it’s a little bit different for girls. Even (and perhaps especially) when it’s a girl doing it.

It isn’t clear to me when this Stella character decided that she was going to seduce them. i get the feeling like maybe she couldn’t make up her mind? Like she knew she was horny and she knew she liked both of them, like they were both hot, and she figured why not, right? So she came up to both of them while they were talking together and just started gushing and probably figured one or the other would bow out eventually, but neither of them ever did. I’m sure there’s an urban dictionary entry comparing this kind of thing to a game of chicken. So she just went with it.

The real question I have is, why did they? What was going through the heads of these two straight white males at the time? Were they both just so focused on her they forgot they were competing? Or did either of them even think of it that way? Maybe one of them thought it was a competition and wanted to win and the other didn’t realize anyone’s style was getting cramped. That seems likely, but either way, once they got to the makeshift greenroom, the pants came off, the comparison became obvious and even if she didn’t care so much, any fraction of an inch difference would’ve mattered to them. That’s how boys are, right?

I’m pretty sure one of them was a virgin. Far as I know, at least. I don’t know. I don’t like to think of myself as keeping tabs. But I guess I am. I think he was. And if so, I’m sure he lost it to the girl. They took turns on her first—she picked, eenie meanie my knee moan. The other watched, entranced by the nearness of rubbing flesh and the look of his very dear friend.

How far they went, well… Let’s just say it was farther than either of them was comfortable with, at least to talk about, but it still left one of them with unwanted daydream thoughts he’d catch himself having about the girl he liked who was dating another guy. What if tehy were playing this all wrong? What if it didn’t need to be a rivalry?

But it’s not like he could ever propose something like that. Even later, even after they broke up, even once he was with her after all, it wasn’t something he could just admit to wanting, or even to having wanted. It was his deepest, darkest fantasy, not even to be with another guy, as such, but just to be… together. And maybe that’s not the kind of fantasy that should be taboo. It’s not like it’s poison—why should that fruit be forbidden?

Maybe it’s just different for boys.

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Hacking the Tree

I had a job once working on a database. I probably shouldn’t say too much about it because it was a third-party, confidential thing for a big company and involved a lot of proprietary information, but it was stuff that I didn’t really understand anyway. I just moved it around.

We called it the product tree. The stem was “these are our products”, and then it branched off into this kind of product and that kind of product and what did they do and what were they made for etc. etc.

But the owners of the information had changed their minds about what they wanted. I can’t remember what it was, something about whether they wanted to group products by what they were, what they did, or how they were marketing it and who it was for. My job was to move the information from the one tree, the one where all the products had been, to the next one, which was already set up when I got there, it was just a matter of moving things from one tree to the other.

Now, I don’t know much about computers as far as software or anything. I learned a lot on the job about ways of thinking about moving things around within a database, but without knowing how to program the databases themselves, I learned just enough to be terribly frustrated any time I use any database where I can’t, for example, copy documents in such a way that changes are made to them in every place that they’re copied to. Now, maybe there is a way to program any database to do that, but I’ve never been able to figure it out.

I don’t know why—maybe just because of the way that my brain works—but I always had a tendency to try to turn everything into Fantasy. In this case, what I came up with was what if there was a central database of every object in existence. It’s essentially Plato’s Cave, but using a Tree instead, a universal product tree that has the specs for creating any kind of object, and then branches down into infinite fractals that get more and more specific, down to the information on every individual copy of specific genetic information.

What if you could go onto that product tree and make changes? I had probably been able to make changes to products. Granted, when I did it, I was doing it under orders and purely for marketing purposes—I didn’t know what I was doing. But what if someone who did know what they were doing was able to access the Universal Product Tree—The Tree of Life, if you will—and make changes that could actually affect the objects themselves?

What if that was how magic worked?

These are the things that I thought about as I wielded my keyboard and (to be honest) my mouse as twin axes, chopping down that old product tree in the client company’s back yard: that a whole world was being broken down into its constituent rules and processes, piece by piece, perhaps not even realizing that changes were being made, that there was less matter in their little universe, or at least fewer things that could be done with it, until each individual possibility sucked through the binding Void reawoke in a brave new world that wasn’t different, quite, but just maybe presented in a different way, to different people.


Building Character

What are you doing? Seriously? Is this any way to write a story? Next thing you know, next thing you’re telling me, Pandora opens the box and out comes Zeus or Bacchus or Gods know what and straightens the whole thing out. Have you ever even read a story? Jeez, and you call yourself a writer.

Listen up, let me tell you how it really happened, right? You can trust me–I was there, remember? I know how it all went down, and there wasn’t any of this frou-frou, none of this namby-pamby stuff, none of this florid Shakespearean bullshit.

But it wasn’t like in the movies, either, where every little word they say is all straight to the point ‘cause they gotta get on with the story. You can’t skip stuff, it isn’t fair to me. You gotta take your time, dammit–this is my life!

Yeah, that’s better, take your time, show me everything, every little detail–I don’t care if it’s boring–you’re not writing for them, smarty-pants, this isn’t their story, this is my story, means you’re writing for me. So what you think about that?

That’s right, yeah, he didn’t hit me, I hit him, and then we made out. It was hot. That’s right. That’s how it happened. To the letter. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. You can trust me. I was there. And then there was bunt-cake, followed by an orgy and the fat kid wasn’t invited.

No, he didn’t leave me. We’re still together. No, seriously. How can you remember all this shit “better than I do”? I’m the one living it, right? I’m in charge of my own destiny? I’m the one writing the story?

What do you mean, cancer? No, but–

What do you mean, cancer? This is not how it’s supposed to go!

But it’s how it is, isn’t it? Because I’m not the one writing my own story. How can you know what it’s like? How can you know, if you’re all the way out there and I’m stuck down here in this awful, horrible, depressing story? You know what, fuck you! I don’t have to take this shit!

I’ll write my own damn stories.


Rapunzel; or, Medusa

They called her Rapunzel. Everyone did. It was the obvious thing to say to a girl with hair that reached literally down to her ankles, if not farther. Even though when most people make drawings of Rapunzel or even just picture her in their heads, she’s blonde, like blonder than blonde, right? Not Lauren Graves, though. Lauren Graves’s ankle-length hair was as dark as her name and as straight as the fall off a building.

“I wish I had hair like yours,” girls were always telling her. “But I can never get mine to grow that long.” As if she’d wanted this. As if it was her choice. “You’re so lucky,” they would say, “to be able to grow your hair like that.” As if the luck was on her side.

Her parents had always really liked her hair, too. When she was younger. Some of her earliest memories were of her mother brushing it out for her and whispering love in the night-time. But it wasn’t love that made her whisper anymore.

When she was four, her father had finally said something to the effect that maybe it was time after all to take it in for a trim, but by then it was too late. Lauren’s Rapunzel-hair cascaded wet down the back of the barber’s chair, but the second the clippers were out, every strand turned into a viper.

Bundles of straight, black hair lifted up of their own accord, twisted and coiled round each other into thin prehensile limbs like tentacle-arms, and they found the shears, twisted them out of the poor apprentice hairdresser’s hands and cracked across her face like a whip. Fortunately, the hair was wet and still too young and unskilled to be very effective, so the apprentice survived with only a small scar by her eyebrow, but Lauren and the Graves family still weren’t ever invited back to that shop.

When she was at school, the hair tended to behave itself. Like it knew what was good for it after all. At home, though, its reign of terror was unceasing. It controlled the remote, it picked out all Lauren’s clothes, carefully calculating what would make her most odd and least popular as a result. And any time she did try to talk about it, at school or anywhere with authority, the bottom hairs hidden under the surface would twist into each other and pull most painfully at the back of her scalp, that sharp persistent kind of pain that makes any resistance just not worth the effort.

Even her parents could talk to her. Not really. Not in any meaningful way. They couldn’t tell her how they really felt about certain things, certain practices, without her hair acting out. Sometimes it coiled up and tripped them, tied around their feet and flung them about the room. Sometimes it wrapped itself down into sharp points and hovered threateningly in front of their eyeballs, but the worst, which the hair reserved for when it was especially displeased with either Mr. or Mrs. Graves, was when it wrapped tightly around the neck of the little girl upon whose head it lived and squeezed.

“You don’t think it really would, do you?” Mrs. Graves asked her husband. “It wouldn’t kill her—it needs her, doesn’t it?”

“I would assume so,” said Mr. Graves. “But do we really want to risk it?”

One day at school, finally, things got very bad. For twelve years, she’d been afraid to talk about it, the hair had been dormant and nobody had known. Boys—ones who “liked her” according to her teachers—had even pulled on it—as had girls who didn’t. But pulling at her hair didn’t seem to hurt the hair, as it turned out—only her scalp.

Until one day, Tim Brandanowicz got bored and decided to see how it would react with a bunsen burner.

Was he jealous? Did he like her? Had she turned him down for something? We may never know and it’s questionable whether we should care. Little Timmy held the coil out with just enough slack that he thought Lauren wouldn’t feel it—but even if she had, wouldn’t she have been curious to see what he would do? What her hair would do? Whether it would come awake in public, as it never had before? Worst case scenario, the hair would go wild and at least she’d never have to hear again how lucky she was to be such a Rapunzel.

Sure enough, no one called her Rapunzel again after that day. She would hear whispers in the hall now, people muttering about Medusa, and she was actually relieved. She was a freak, after all, and people deserved to know that, to be warned.

It was still a surprise, though, to everyone in town, when her house burned down three weeks later. Both she and her parents survived (though her gerbil Crunchkin, sadly, didn’t), but somehow, all of the hair had been burned off her scalp. It had done so, inexplicably, in a way that kept the scalp itself pretty much intact. So once the burn wounds healed, there was nothing to stop Medusa’s hair from starting to grow again.

Nothing, that is, except for the lifetime supply of razors she had just invested in. At less than a quarter of an inch in length, she found it no longer had as much power over her.


“Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Does anything much really happen to the average teen?

I mean, sure, stuff happens, stuff happens all the time. Stuff happens to everyone. People fall in love, people get sick (big difference there, right?). People go to school, learn stuff, get in fights, get in arguments. Is there anything everyone does? Sure. Puberty, I guess. Well, maybe not everyone. Breathing. Eating. The other side of eating. Sleeping. Using their heart—in the clinical sense: pumping blood through their veins. Not everyone actually “uses their heart”. Obviously.

What am I getting at?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m trying to pull together everything that happened not just to me but my brother and my sister and all of their friends, like any of it had anything to do with anything else, and really I’m just making it up as I go. I’m not in middle school anymore. Truth is, it was pretty formative for me. I guess I’d like to say it is for everyone, but I can’t make that call. It’s too big of a statement. So am I trying to write something here with universal appeal? An appeal to the universe? I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe this is just for me.

Maybe it’s time for a recap, try to show where everyone is, with their respective agendas and arcs. There’s me (Kassandra Llywelyn), my brother Jasper, my sister Aly, and our mom, Nancy, although she’s not technically Aly’s mom, but she has raised her since she was like two. Our dad (dad to all us kids) left and none of us really know what. Sometimes I think I do, but… well, it’s the usual sob story, I guess. Except that I’m supposed to be psychic.

When Aly was a senior in high school, Jasper was a freshman and I just started middle school, so by the time I was a freshman, Jasper was a senior, and Aly was… well…

Aly was friends—kind of—with Tommy Murphy, who was Declan’s older brother, and Declan was Jasper’s best friend. Aly was only really friends with Tommy because Tommy was in a band with Mickey and Kyle Niedermeyer, and Aly had a crush on Kyle, mostly ‘cause he was a rock star in the making, but also ‘cause he was a pretty decent guy, I guess, as high school loser boys go. But he didn’t like her back. Turned out, he had a crush on one of his teachers, Erin Kelly. Actually more than a crush. So Aly went and slept with Tommy and got pregnant. She miscarried, though. I don’t know for sure what would’ve happened to her if she hadn’t, if she’d actually gone through with the pregnancy. Or, then again, maybe I do.

Jasper and Declan had a band, too. Their other two folks were Blake Morrissey on the drums and then this girl Raven, who Declan had a crush on. My brother didn’t like her—at least not in that way—probably because he was a pretty simple guy, for the most part, and Raven liked to wear her weirdness on her sleeve, even if she did then turn around and hide her face behind her hands. Declan’s crush on her was like most teenage boys’ crushes: a solid mix of half-baked attempts at romance and unintentional creepiness, fueling his self-hate. It didn’t help that she was always with someone else—first there was Christina, but not gonna lie, that shit was toxic; and then she fell in love, as much as anyone can at that age, with Blake. Did I ever get to that part? Well, I should’ve. I’m telling you now.

My friends are… well, I don’t know, they’re not as important. I’m not as important, not to this story. Or maybe I am. I don’t know. Maybe we should be. Even if we didn’t follow in the footsteps of those first two little generations and start a band, we’re still… something. Important? Representative?

My first friend in middle school was Kayla Shaw. She was my best friend through eighth and then she left. Who else? I guess Angus—Angus George. I’ve had visions of a redheaded man I’d fall in love with, he seems to fit the bill. Seemed. But I guess there’s still plenty of redheads, whatever the fearmongers say.

I’ve talked about Lucy, poor Lucy, too good for the likes of us, too chipper, and Isabella—I don’t even know what to do with her. But have I talked about Treveor? I always kinda felt bad for Trevor, with a name like that, he never really stood a chance. But maybe I shouldn’t say too much. This is a recap, right? And Trevor’s main contributions I haven’t gotten to yet. None of us really got important until we got to high school (hell, even then…) so maybe I should just shut up. I don’t know what I’m doing anyway, right?

Up until now, I’m kind of self-conscious of how I’ve, I don’t know, grounded the story? I tried to make it seem like all this stuff was happening all at once, in the same year, but I just want to come out and say, no, it didn’t, right?

You know how you look back on stuff and sometimes your memories get jumbled all out of order? If you’ve never noticed, I guarantee you some of your memories are wrong. And I wanna show it that way, warts and all, as it were, first of all ‘cause it’s easier for me, I’ll be honest, but more importantly ‘cause that’s pretty much how I experienced a lot of it at the time. The way your memories get jumbled? That heppens to be all the time. Constantly. Except when it happens to me, it’s not just the memories.

It’s visions, too. The past and the future all cluttering up in the present.


Guerrilla Narratives

It started off as a local marketing campaign. Guerrilla-style.

“You mean we dress up in ape suits?”

Not everyone got that joke, that’s the sad part.

We wanted to have a Haunted House for Halloween. We wanted to go all out, which would be expensive for the couple of us organizing it, but more importantly, we wanted people to come. Because we were artists. And those of us who weren’t artists were artists, too—at least when it came to this.

So to get people to come to our Haunted House event, we figured what better way than a campaign of rampant terror? Strike hard, strike often and don’t let up.

Man, it was fun. We started off with a zombie attack. There were lots of people at the interest meeting and we wanted to keep that interest going by doing something everyone could be involved with. And when I say everyone, I mean we had total strangers getting “attacked” and playing along—even pretending to become zombies themselves. Some of them we recruited to swell our ranks, some of them just promised to come give us their money.

We had a clown attack—I participated in that one myself as a bearded lady, thank you very much. One professor let us do a “haunted classroom” spiel in every one of his classes one week.

Tim dressed up as a preacher and did a few (reverse) exorcisms on “sinful folk” that correlated with the deadly sins, it was a hoot.

And every time, we thought “Well, you know, what if something goes wrong? What if someone starts to take it too seriously?”

Contingency plans were in place for in case someone called campus security and we drilled those contingencies so hard we were actually disappointed that everyone was so game to play along. It’s hard to keep people scared if everyone around them isn’t scared, too.

But on the other hand…

The last one we did was supposed to be a virgin sacrifice. Part of the joke, of course, was “Try finding a real virgin in college.” The girl we had doing it, Nina, her whole deal was, she’d scream and scream about how she “had so much to live for”, and of course that “I’m not even a virgin, I swear!”

We did it on the main quad in broad daylight. Four guys in robes and hoods—two holding her, two holding ceremonial scepters—dragged her literally kicking and screaming to the middle of the open field.

We thought for sure someone would dial 911 this time.

In the middle of the field, all four of us helped pin her to the ground and then all four of us drew our knives and gutted her.

Katie was great with the fake blood. Just did a fantastic job. As zombies, we ate this weird oatmeal-and-corn-syrup thing that looked real and disgusting from a ways off, but not right there, although it was disgusting. For this one, we were supposed to actually puncture this blood bag. Which we did. But something was…

I knew it right away. I think it was the smell, although my memories are kinda muttled. I remember thinking to myself, no, no, reassuring, it’s supposed to look like that, thick and dark, Katie did a real good job this time. And Nina was doing a great job. Sounded like she broke her voice with that ear-shattering finale. Then she gurgled and went limp.

There was some scattered applause and I looked up just in time to catch a couple of lonely students take their earphones off and look at what all the fuss was about. We didn’t bow, though. Gorillas don’t bow, it breaks the illusion.

We just turned around and each walked to a different corner of the quad.

It took us each about a minute and a half to cover that distance, but it was five before anyone on the quad noticed or got concerned that Nina wasn’t moving, that she hadn’t even blinked her eyes. By the time they figured out she was dead, I was already in class and the others were all scattered to the winds—literally to the four corners. No one could identify us and once I started thinking about it, I realized I couldn’t really be sure who the other three were. We had all worn our masks the whole time. I knew my knife wasn’t real—just sharp enough to puncture the blood bag, not to break skin, let alone bone… but I couldn’t vouch for the others.

Everyone had just stood there. We were telling them what we were doing—were we just that good at it? Or had we trained them by then not to respond to a crisis? Had we somehow convinced them that the only danger in the world is found in art?


Prose and Cons

Oswald Osgood was an insufferable know-it-all. The fact that he was a college professor didn’t help him much and the fact that his specialty was William Shakespeare helped him even less. Studying “the Bard” only made him think more of himself and less of everyone else. “No one,” he liked to complain, “can ever reach Shakespeare’s level of technique, or have his command of or ultimate impact on the English language.” And you know what that means.

“Shakespeare wasn’t even a Bard,” said one of his students, Stephanie Wing, “I mean, not really. He wrote on commission for, like, noble people and even for the Queen herself, right? It’s not like he went from town to town singing songs.”

Her male friend who was not her boyfriend, Justin Leech, had some things to say about that on a factual level, but instead scooped up the heart of the statement and agreed that “Shakespeare is not really all he’s cracked up to be. His writing is delightful, sure, but so much of the ‘myth of Shakespeare’ is perpetuated by the endless cycle of scholarship on the subject.”

And yet so much of that scholarship relied on information that was incomplete. “There is so much that we still don’t know,” Professor Osgood often lamented in his classes. “There are whole plays that have been lost to us—the Cardenio, which we are certian was based on an episode from the Don Quixote, and Love’s Labour’s Won, which might have been one of his later comedies under a different name, but I, for one, don’t think so.”

This would then trigger one of Professor Osgood’s favorite lecturing subjects: “If you look at the plot,” he said, “of Love’s Labour’s Lost, you’ll find two things of equal and related interest: the first is that there is more than one strand of action left utterly unresolved at the play’s conclusion; but more striking still is the fact that, despite its status as a comedy, structurally it can be called a tragedy in that the ending does not feature a wedding but rather the death of a king. This is monumental and should be considered incontrovertible evidence that Shakespeare had in fact intended to write what we now call a sequel to this early play, and we know from the records that a play with that title was performed. We just don’t have access to any of the text.”

“Maybe it just sucked,” Stephanie suggested. But that was, of course, not an argument that would hold water for torch-carrier Oswald Osgood.

Imagine the reaction, though, given Oswald’s obsession, when he came back to his office one day to find a box at his door marked “urgent and confidential”; he brought it inside with him, opened it up and discovered a faded and weary manuscript entitled “Love’s Labour’s Won: A New Play by William Shaksper”.

It wasn’t possible! It was some sort of joke, some sickly scheme. Wasn’t it?

Who would do such a thing?

Yet who could do such a thing?

Careful with the fragile pages, Oswald set about reading the text, and it was wonderful. Delightful, even. Filled with precious little quirks and four-hundred-year-old plot twists that still made him cry out “I knew it! I knew it!” in jubilation at their conclusion.

It was everything a Shakespearean scholar could ever possibly want and more.

But where had it come from?

“Oh, who cares!” Oswald reasoned, “if they sent it to me, it’s because they wanted me to have it—they probably didn’t know what to do with it anyway.”

But he knew what to do—in fact, he knew exactly whom to call.

“You’re kidding! said his old friend Gordon Mickiewicz. “Is it any good?”

Oswald could tell from the condescension this was one of those stuffy hipsters who didn’t fully appreciate the genius of the Bard’s early works. “I am telling you, it’s great! It’s going to revolutionize the study of Shakespeare’s cannon and who knows? It might even revitalize the Theatre Herself!”

“The Theatre Herself!” Professor Mickiewicz exclaimed. “Well, then, let’s not keep Thaleia waiting, send the darn thing over!” (Editor’s Note: Thaleia is the Greek Muse of Comedy)

Oswald promised to do just that once he had the whole thing transcribed. Mickiewicz had a computer that could identify authors from text with pinpoint accuracy (except Hunter S. Thompson—for some reason, it kept identifying him with bad translations of Karl Marx) so his blessing was the first step towards solidifying this new play as Shakespeare’s 38th (39th if you include The Two Noble Kinsmen, but Oswald turned his nose up at that idea).

In the meantime, though, he took the liberty of spreading the word and in particular of alerting the press. This level of notoriety was hard to come by, even in an age of instant access and lack of gatekeepers, and he found now that he wanted it.

“So,” said eminent members of the Shakespeare Society, “wherever did you dig up the text?”

“It was in our library, believe it or not, we do have a rare books section, small though our college is, and I found it hiding behind a second printing of Gorbaduc—or all places!”

“Curioser and curioser,” the Society remarked. “And has it been authenticated?”

“All in good time!” Oswald assured him. “I can vouch for its authenticity—been reading Shakespeare all my life, you know!”

The hype was like nothing Professor Osgood had ever seen. TED talks, talk shows, conferences, magazine interviews, online things; and what’s more: theatre troops were clawing at Oswald’s inbox to get their hands on the script and expand their repertory. He had everything but the one thing he really needed as an academic: articles in peer-reviewed journals.

“You know you’re going to have to send it to me,” Mickiewics reminded him. “Nobody’s going to take you seriously until you do—at least not within the academic community.”

“Oh, who cares about those stuffy old farts,” Oswald found himself saying, even though he knew his friend was right. “I know what I know and what I know is, it’s the most authentic thing I have ever laid eyes on!”

In fact, the more Oswald read it, the more convinced he became that it was his favorite Shakespearean text, not just among the comedies. There was something about the Princess and her grief for her father that brought tears to his eyes and put Hamlet himself to shame. Which made it all the more embarrassing for Oswald when Professor Mickiewicz got back to him with the results.

“Well, it’s a beautiful play, obviously,” Mickiewicz admitted, “but sadly, there isn’t the slightest chance that Shakespeare came up with it.” He went on and on about the science of it, which Oswald drowned out until Mickiewicz added “every chance that it’s actually a twenty-first century writer.”

“Twenty-first century!” Oswald was mortified. “I am willing to accept Marlowe or Edward de Vere or the Marquis the bloody Sade as the author, but I can tell you with absolute conviction, Gordon, that no one from this artforsaken twenty-first century of ours is capable of imitating Shakespeare to that degree or with that kind of quality!”

But Mickiewics responded with jargon and gibberish and finally, Oswald hung up.

It was then there was a knock on his office door. “Come in.”

“Hello, Professor,” said the student who had managed to do what no one could and imitated Shakespeare. “Perhaps you’d like to chat?”