The next big thing.

In the summer’s heat, after the rains had abated, and the flooding had receded, and the paths had all dried up, they unchained the picnic tables and brought them down to the banks of the Charente once again. Three days later, Alabama Turk would run by and see, for the first time since midwinter, his favorite spot under the willow tree was uncovered and untaken. Slowing to a halted canter and finally a bedraggled saunter, the young man popped down on the bench for a good sit.

This particular picnic table, peeking out from within the confines of a billowing willow, offered the best skyline anywhere within or without the somnolent French town. Saint-Pierre burst forth from the bulwarks and market square, blooming over the town like a stone perennial, a gothic sentinel tasked to watch and protect its citizens from unrest and malignant hoodoo. Fun fact: inside the cathedral, Alabama had even found a postcard picture taken a few feet away from his favorite spot. Another testament to the merits of said view.

As he watched the water flow lazily on either side of the bifurcated river, Alabama Turk came to terms with a simple, sour truth: he was nearing the end of his magnificent adventure abroad. With soggy eyes, he thought of Tenor Abernathy and the Resonant Beast, the twin titans who had dueled upon the Gelded Gully. He remembered ridding himself of the stinking Grimoldge, that filthy gunk-critter living in his bile. Alabama smiled as he thought about the wedding reception, after the marriage of Pallow Brarro and Alowa Skybrindle, the pair of whom subsequently rode off into the sunset in their decorated Minnie Winnie. How was he supposed to return home with a bleeding heart so thickly laden with nostalgia?

Mr. Turk awoke from his daydream at the moist plodding sounds of an approaching behemoth. The man, if he was indeed a man at all, lurched forward on the offbeat as though his melted, mushy brain-bag was set to a coked-up, crooked metronome. One after the other, his legs would manifest themselves from within the many folds of his portly personhood. His petulant, putty face was riddled with blisters, glistening in the summer’s sun as his saturated, oily dough-skin fried orange in the heat. Boiled and braised, his flesh strained under the immense tension, looking ready to peel away layer-by-layer until gargantuan pustules erupted, turning his body into a baking, vacuous lagoon of vulgarity. It should be no small wonder if anyone had ever written this sorry sod a clean bill of health.

Alabama watched the goober lumber over and present itself at his picnic table with a wet belch.

“Would you like to take a seat?”

The creature sat and the bench groaned morosely in protest. His overlong tie lay impotently upon the grass, sliding like the sorriest sausage in the slaughterhouse between his grimy, muck riddled suit lapels.

“What, ah…,” Turk was trying to look the beast in its eyes, but kept getting distracted by its gaping, fetid mouth hole. Teeth roosted sparsely along the cavern walls like furry bats in a grotto, “What brings you to Saintes?”

Whether the monster belched or flatulated, Alabama didn’t know, but between gaseous emissions the gargoyle conveyed that he was indeed a foreign diplomat.

“I… ughhhh… I’m the best, most bestest even… uhm… lord, uhm, uh, president that my people have, hm, have ever seen. Um. Yes.”

He had garnered the favor of his fellow countrymen apparently by appealing to the inner cannibal in all of them. Riding a wave of high-protein, zero-ethics nationalism, this cellulite-in-a-suit rose to power and lead his nation into a fear-driven frenzy. Among many other things, Alabama picked up a distinctly Anti-Muslim sentiment from him.

Alabama was not the least bit perturbed by Cannibal President’s apparition. Should the fiend have shambled over a year ago, sure, the lad would’ve run screaming in the other direction. But a year of odd characters and magical happenstance had weathered Alabama into the seasoned veteran of the abnormal he was today. Now he recalled the day that Farabella Fagglebonk appeared before him, recruiting him for battle against the villainous warlord, Magna-Kmar Everlasting. For that quest, he’d traveled three continents and a couple higher dimensions to track down the criminal scourge and drive the feathery brillow through Magna-Kmar’s gaudy mane.

Cannibal President smacked his lips and lolled his sluggy tongue around his mouth to wet his terrific maw. He stood; his tiny, meaty mittens still poised upon the table as he sniffed the air furtively. Catching a delicious whiff on the wind, he lumbered off down the lawn toward a family of four. The parents were laughing and cooing over a five-inch display trained on their youngest nugget rolling around in the grass with a puppy.

Alabama scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. Surely they saw him coming, right? But, low and behold, they did not, and Cannibal President scooped the boy up in his paws by the scruff of his neck and sunk his infected incisors into the nubile flesh. The couple stared in abject horror at their screen as the carnage unfurled. In sumptuous HD, they looked on as their highly rendered child’s limbs were gnawed on, the Cannibal President looking to lap up that sweet, sweet child marrow. At a truly awesome 60 frames per second, they watched at least 240 frames in which the ogre gargled their baby’s blood and flossed with a mat of his hair.

The whole scene was awfully upsetting, but after half a minute of gratuitous violence, Alabama got up from his bench, dumbfounded, and wandered around the ordeal to the sidewalk for a better sideline view. The parents were wracked with grief, the wife having fallen to her knees, barely able to hold up her cellular phone between trembling fingers. The increasingly crimson glow of the screen reflected in the father’s waterfall eyes. Still:

The bright red stop-record button glared, unpressed, on the righthand side of the screen.

On a personal note, Alabama noted they were filming landscape. These people may have been monsters, he reflected, but they weren’t charlatans for God Sake.


A six year-old kid tugged at Alabama’s sleeve.

“Hey,” said the kid.

“Hey,” Turk said dismissively before suddenly double-taking, “Hey, wait a sec, isn’t that your brother over there?”

“That he is,” sighed the child, rocking back on her heels, “Getting a little face time with big Donny. Do you have any water? I’m dying in this heat.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Alabama unscrewed the lid on his bottle, moving to pass it along to the kid before pausing, “Hold on, who’s Donny? And — ,” he added, after a moment’s pause, “ — why aren’t you freaking out about all this?”

“Oh, are we still in character?” The girl was asking me, the author, by way of Alabama Turk, the character, “Look, I’m not on camera right now, and I don’t play games for free. Can we both just be professionals for ten minutes while running this featurette? Besides, anyone that’s reading and didn’t get the ‘Trump-as-a-cannibal’ gag can stuff it. It’s 2018, what else is anyone writing about?”

She’s probably right, so we’ll go ahead and put a pin on this whole third-person narrative for a minute while we unveil the rest of the story. Buckle up.

I relented.

“I guess you’re right. I don’t know if conventional forms are gonna cut it in this day and age.”

“You’re still gonna try?”

“The form will always fit the function. We’ll figure it out, but in the meantime, let’s Q&A this pony.”

The kid shrugged, “Weird turn of phrase for this day and age.”

Across the lawn, we were accosted by one loud Sweet Baby Jesus!, as the mother called up in agony to high heaven, while still looking down her nose at her phone screen. Simultaneously onscreen and a couple meters away, Cannibal Prez was twirling a femur around like he was lead color guard in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“So… tell me about this whole situation,” I said, indicating the girl’s parents, still bawling at their digital baby’s death while the real one was still fighting tooth and nail to save it’s remaining two and half limbs.

“Well, I was born first, and that was three-hundred likes,” she took a quick breath and another swig of water, “Not a lot, but it only takes a spark to get the fame train rolling. By the week’s close, I was swaddled in a comfortable following across three platforms. A month old and we were dealing in the thousands each post, getting reposted, releasing sponsored content, and getting big name guest-post features.”

She was nodding to her own beat, the soundtrack of memories gone by played over her brother’s massacre. While her brother’s carotid artery was opened up like 4th of July fireworks, she related:

“I think I peaked somewhere between my first-steps livestream and the potty-training tweet. By then, Mom and Dad were pulling in substantial royalties each month, but by three they saw my numbers weaning and got busy cooking up my baby brother over there.”

“Huh,” I nodded. I wondered idly which social network was watching the young star’s entrails cascade form the cannibal’s mouth in real time. Snapchat? FB livestream? InstaStory?

“I still make cameos, though,” continued the girl, “I was scheduled to reenact my first bike ride next week. I mean, I’ve been pedaling around the neighborhood since last fall, but they bought this poor bastard a puppy ‘round the same time. That’s when you know you’re on your way out — when they start getting gimmicky. It doesn’t match the brand, but it’ll hold the ratings till they can get a permanent fix.”

The child star in question had lost the remaining half limb, rounding him down to an even two appendages. Donny had concocted a new solo blood sport involving some of the boy’s vital organs and was now trying to best his latest PR. The boy’s mother and father carried on, doing the same useless shit as before not ten feet away. From their fruitless wailing, I picked out the boy’s name: Mango.

“He would’ve started preschool in the fall, so as you can see, Momma over there’s already got another A-lister locked and loaded. Baby Bogart probably started feeling the heat once the tummy-timelines and ultrasounds hit Instagram.”

We sat down at a bench a few feet away with a good view of the now surfeited murder scene playing out in front of us.

“You got a cig?”

Asked the kid.

“You smoke?”

“I’m mostly retired, and I’m only six,” she shrugged and raised both her palms toward the sky, weighing two imaginary possibilities, “Either this planet is going to find a cure for cancer by the time I can rent a car or it’s going to be halfway underwater anyway. What is that, Norwegian shag?

“Uh-huh, can you roll?”

“Yup.”

I lent her a lighter and she took a couple long hits before launching back into it. She was totally cloyed by the wall-to-wall, non-stop stimulation of post-millennialism and yet she still seemed to feel something for the poor kid. She emanated a sort of general mourning, not for the spectacle at hand, but for her brother’s very existence.

“He’s had a tough go of it,” she admitted, “Being born a boy didn’t do him any favors: Steve, our social media analyst, estimated that that’s a 15% lifetime like-reduction right off the bat.”

“So, that’s why they named him Mango?”

She nodded and bobbed back and forth while conceding, “It was a smart move, I suppose. Probably offset that 15% for at least a year, between the claims of cultural insensitivity and an unexpected boost from the feminists,” she’d softened her gaze, looking past the bizarre carnival of gore towards the gently whispering water as she mused, “I mean, the rents were banking on the cultural appropriation claims to catapult them into the limelight, but as fate would have it, they also caught that gender neutral naming tailwind. With #MeToo on the horizon and feminism gaining wider acceptance, they would’ve landed on Ellen if our handlers played their cards right.”

She shook her head and pushed out a long, weary exhale.

“Honestly, this is probably the best thing for him. He’s going out in his prime.”


At a certain point, entropy had its way and Mango resembled a sort of uniform, reddish-brown paste. Big D, having eaten his fill, waddled off to the stream to do whatever he was going to do. Honestly, there was no use speculating; everything was reactionary with the Cannibal President, so who knew what he thought he wanted to do. He certainly didn’t. You’d have had more luck asking Mango’s puddle.

“What’s your name, anyways?”

The little girl took a long, pensive drag off her rollie.

“Coconut,” she said, without a hint of irony.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. I go by Coco, but on official documents it’s Coconut Brown.”

“That’s quite a name.”

“Sure, for a crayon. Sounds more like a colorful description Conrad would’ve used to describe the savages in Africa.

“You read a lot of Conrad, Coconut?”

“Shut the fuck up.”


Time lapsed, minutes banded together and formed hours, the flies descended, and odors rose up from the bloody mire. The sun lit the water on fire as it tucked itself in for bed.

“Before we wrap this whole thing up, can I ask you a question, Coconut?”

“Sure?”

“Where are we going? I mean, where is all of this…,” I gestured at the poor, dumb giant, now hunkered down by the banks. He watched as the bloody tendons trailed from between his fat, varicose toes and giggled simply. My waving hand encompassed him and the two monsters now editing the video of their child’s death, trying on different filters and writing, rewriting captions, “…going?”

“The scene? Or…?”

“No, not the scene. I’ve got a handle on that, just, like, the ubiquitousness of technology, the nonstop filming, the incessant, minute record-keeping… what’s the endgame?”

“I’m not sure I follow. I mean, I am six years-old, but also, what are you getting at?

“I dunno, I feel like we’re leading up to something. Like, we’re standing on the shore, with our feet halfway in the water, about to take off. About to move on to the next big thing. It’s like, here’s technology: so miraculously advanced and adept, infinitely powerful and nearly universally accessible. And then here’s us. Here’s what we’ve decided to do with it.”

Coco raised a shoulder halfheartedly. Eh.

“It might just be us letting go.”

The Charente babbled quietly on.


“Can I ask you a question, Zack?”

“Go for it.”

“What do you think you’re going to change by writing this?”

“To be honest, Coconut, until I get through a few more years of this, I don’t think I’ll know. I don’t know that writing is ever going to change any of this, any of this real world business. When I look at Meyers, Colbert, Noah, SNL, Glover… I guess I’m just cashing in like everyone else? Preaching to the choir. Maybe that’s all that you can do, and then maybe you make some money off it, and also maybe you can do something with that money. I don’t know that we’re ever going to art our way out of this situation. But, you know, I’m new at this.

I’ve got to try.”

Francegiving

Bonjour y’all, welcome to the American Fables’ Review… thingy. I really gotta come up with a better name for these. But that’s all just a bunch of hoopla for Season Two, because tonight I welcome you to the much anticipated

~ Season One Finale ~

At long last, the votes are in and it looks like we’ll be doing a review of the international holiday, Francegiving!

So, interesting tidbit about this review before we dig in: I’d already written this review back in November, right after Thanksgiving, but I never published it because I think I had a couple of other reviews that were ready and I thought this lil’ pup was a bit too hot to release just then. Now that it’s had a couple months to cool off, I think I’m ready to take a ~ trip ~ back to that particular time, and that very particular mindset.

Without further ado, let’s unscrew the lid on this little time capsule.

 


 

Francegiving_Banner_Test


Hey, everyone, today we’re going to do a very special review. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I thought I’d go ahead and kick it off with a review of the national French holiday, Francegiving. Now, I know a lot of you probably have objections like, “Zack, that’s not a real thing” or, “Zack, you can’t review holidays, that doesn’t make any sense,” but honestly, after a bottle of wine and a day like today, I can review anything I damn well please.

So let’s dig into it. En gros, Francegiving is a holiday celebrated by American expats residing in France. It’s based off the American holiday, Thanksgiving, a day of relentless indulgence (not to be confused with Mindless Self-Indulgence) and intense visceral regret coupled with undercurrents of thankfulness and familial tensions. Traditionally, an American family will hunt down a wild turkey, slay it, pull out all of its feathers, stuff bread into its butt cave and roast it in an oven. Following the ritual hunt, they will then share their turkey with a tribe of Native Americans, so as to render them sluggish and complacent prior to appropriating their land or running piping in or around it—oops! Almost got a little ~ political. ~ That reminds me though: what’s one crucial difference between Francegiving and Thanksgiving? No heated family debates over politics! Not because there aren’t any politics over here, but rather there isn’t any, uh, family here. Not for me anyway, I mean, that is to say,

I am alone.

Let’s go ahead and break down this holiday into its base components: there’s the invitation stage, the meal prep stage, and then the actual feast itself. Naturally we’re gonna take this thing apart chronologically, starting by dismantling the invitation stage. Now, Francegiving is unique among holidays in that it is a celebration that absolutely no one expects you to celebrate, and one that you have zero obligation to participate in. Unlike Thanksgiving, your family won’t be dragging you along to any relatives’ places and you won’t get invited to, like, ten different “Friendsgivings.” This means that when you decide to participate in Francegiving, you have no one but yourself to blame.

That said, I’m a Francegiving veteran, having celebrated it twice in my life, and I’ve learned that this special holiday can look a lot of different ways. For example, my first Francegiving was spent in the beautiful city of Lyon and I didn’t have many friends and I lived in a tiny dorm outside of town, so I bought a whole pizza that night and ate it. All of it. By myself.

But this time was different, and last week I walked into the office and told my colleagues that this year we were going to celebrate Francegiving! Sure, you know, it took a little explaining, but I also told them that I was going to cook food for them and supply beer, so they agreed, and that is how this year’s invitation stage kicked off.

FRANCEGIVING_TWO_test
Holidays are for family.

Since you’re in another country where you don’t know many people, and, depending on when you arrived, the people you do know you probably don’t know very well, it’s quite likely that you’ll accrue an eclectic bunch of thankful, albeit confused, kinda-friends. For example, you might want to invite the nice butcher who reminds you of your middle school band teacher, or perhaps your much older neighbors, or your roommate because they can’t really say no. Just make that a staple in your conversations for a week, inviting everyone you talk to, and making sure to mention that you’ll be cooking food and supplying alcohol. Remember, in the moment, it doesn’t matter who you invite or what you say, because it’s your future self that has to deal with all this and not your present self.

Now, after you’ve invited people over for Francegiving, you’re going to want to devote a very minimal, though constant, stream of attention to the project. This way, you can maximize distress by thinking extra about this event without actually doing anything to prepare for it. This is the psychological equivalent of packing peanuts: you can make it seem like you’ve crammed a lot into a week while having done nothing extra at all. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to start thinking about preparations every night at 7:45, right when the E. LeClerc closes. Meditate on these feelings of malaise until bedtime, and then coast off the norepinephrine till the wee hours of the morning. This strategy is doubly effective, because not only will you accumulate more stress the next day due to sleep deprivation, but you’ll also miss the free air markets in the morning because you’ll be sleeping in. Since all the seasonal food you know how to make requires stupidly specific ingredients that are only offered periodically in the grocery store and in the markets, missing the markets is essential to securing that last minute frenzy you’ll want the day of Francegiving.

By now you might be feeling a little uncomfortable, maybe there’s some subtext to this review that I should be more forward about. You’re probably saying something like, “well geez, no one made you celebrate this holiday,” and, “golly gee, mister, do you maybe wanna talk about this in a less public space.” But honestly, No, this is just another straight forward review from a straight shooting guy. So, that brings us to the preparation stage which should begin in earnest the morning of, at the earliest. Since celebrating Francegiving necessitates that you live in France, you won’t have the day off work, because the government for some reason doesn’t recognize Francegiving as an official holiday. That’s perfect though, because this means you get to wake up extra early before work, buy everything at the supermarket and then try and cook it all right after work. Hopefully you’ve set the RDV time optimistically early in the evening so that you’ll be sprinting back to your apartment to ram-jam that turkey in the oven.

Pause. Breath. Un-pause.

Let’s talk about what you’ll actually be buying: everything. Buy all the things you could conceivably cook in one day if that day was on Venus, and make sure that you do none of the unit conversions at home. Some of my fondest memories of Francegiving as a twenty-three year old took place right there, in the canned food aisle of LeClerc, trying to figure out how many grams 30 ounces of corn is. Look up none of the translations beforehand either, because Francegiving is all about the journey and part of that journey is trying to explain what nutmeg is to a sale’s clerk while you’re running late for work.

I recommend a price range of somewhere around 100 euros, or roughly one eighth of your monthly salary. Anything less than that isn’t going to be enough to  trigger an existential crisis. See, 100 euros is the threshold for calling into question your motives for planning this event in the first place: why would you spend that much money on something you didn’t need or necessarily want to do in the first place? Not to mention, you’ve known these people for, what, about two or three months, au maximum? This is just going to be awkward. Like, you wouldn’t even normally spend this kind of money on people you’ve known for years, why are you going to do it for virtual strangers? Clearly, you’re not doing this for them, but are you really doing it for you?  You would’ve been perfectly satisfied to Facetime in to one of your friend’s Friendsgivings or your family’s actual Thanksgiving. So if it’s not for them, and it’s not for you, then who is it for?

Let’s talk about the meal. Now, you should anticipate a certain level of

C

O

N

F

U

S

I

O

N. As per tradition, you’ve not explained what Thanksgiving is to any of your guests or why it is you want to celebrate it. You may expect,

for example, that one of your guests brings an apéritif or some biscuits to enjoy before the meal. This will be a

blessing

in

disguise, because testing your oven for the first time on Francegiving means that you’ll have turned the oven off several times by accident

I mean, if it wasn’t in accident, it was self-sabotage. Why would I do that?

Why would anyone do that?

while trying to cook your turkey. Consequently, when you open your front door and accept the apéritif from your neighbor, telling him or her that the cuisse de dinde is cooking as we speak and will be ready in an hour, that will be,

in fact,

what we North Carolinians call,

a lie.

And by extension, this also means that the turkey will not,

in any way, shape, or form,

be ready by dinner time.

… Just needed to refill my glass real quick before continuing on.

FRANCEGIVING_smoke_test.png
Never fear the black smoke! 

Let’s talk about mysterious black smoke. For any other holiday celebration, mysterious black smoke would be a real canary in the coal mine, indicating that something is clearly amiss. But on Francegiving, never fear the black smoke, it’s great for reinforcing the sense of enigma surrounding your strange hybrid celebration. The annual black smoke hunt is a time-honored tradition, and I think we can all agree, it’s less about actually finding the source than the maddening, frenzied hunt.   

Sooner or later, the nature of time will inevitably see you all seated at the dinner table. Tis’ now the season for merriment and non-familial bonding between you and your melange of hastily adopted family members. Remember all those great equivocating skills you learned in French Lit class? Time to employ all the genre de’s, the Une sorte de’s, the C’est compliqué’s, and all the En fait, je sais pas du tout qu’est-ce que c’est ou comment l’expliquer, mais à la base c’est une…’s that you’ve ~ bien maîtrisé ~ to describe your savory simulacra of recipes you grew up with and still never learned to properly cook.

Some of you might be worried about cooking food for French people given their rich culinary patrimony, but let me just tell you, sample size of four and they all ate my stuffing so don’t you worry about a thing. For those of you who’re reading this that aren’t from the States, stuffing is literally stale white bread that is made to be put inside of a turkey’s excavated asshole. So, really, there are two take away points: don’t be afraid to cook for other people, and the bar for acceptable French cuisine is considerably lowered the moment bread is added to a recipe.

What else did I cook besides stale bread crumbs? Well, let’s break it down, listicle style:

 


Three Recipes you Absolutely Cannot Forget about this Francegiving

Dishes that will make the holiday season memorable for everyone in the office whose first name you remembered.

Corn Swamp,
The Martha Stewart approved recipe for abiogenesis.

CornSwamp_test

Mega Crispy Turkey Leg, 
Mega crispy, yet somehow still not cooked all the way through.

Mega_Crispy_test

Butternut Squash Puddle,
Perfect pie surface, hiding the sloppy-slop lagoon below. 

Butternut_Squash_test

Well, that about does it for today’s review. I don’t want to come off as a sellout, but I should be upfront and disclose that this review was, in part, paid for by Schadenfreude— Schadenfreude, the disconcerting feeling of joy you get when get when you watch someone else fall down stairs or see Sarah Huckabee Sanders take the podium.

In total, I give Francegiving my first score of 0. Zilch. Aucun flocon de neige. What I’m saying is: don’t celebrate this holiday. Just don’t. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for good fortune and family; Friendsgiving is about being thankful for friends (and white affluence, I’d imagine). Francegiving? Francegiving is about an Instagram post.

Look, if you have friends in France, have yourself a Friendsgiving, tag it #Francegiving, and be done with it. But whatever you do, don’t try and build this baby from the ground up. Instead, just buy yourself un demi, or maybe even a pint, and call your mom. Have her put you on speakerphone, say hi to the fam, and tell them all what a wonderful time you’re having across the pond and how much you miss them this Thanksgiving.

 


 

And that’s it. We’ve reached the end of Season One of Today in Review. Yep, that’s what we’re going with, we’re calling the thing Today in Review and sticking with it.

I really do hope you’ve enjoyed this project so far. I know I have.

We’re back in a couple months with another season, but in the meantime, we’ll be focusing our energies on developing our fiction catalogue. If you haven’t read our first two complete short, Sun Shines Bright and A Trip Down Memory Lane, please do. We’ll be publishing new chapters of Lost in the Woods soon, and hopefully releasing all new stories, unrelated to The Escapists.

One final note: we’re always looking to work with new artists, so if you’re interested, feel free to contact us here, at:

Americanfablesofficial@gmail.com

Send illustrations, animations, stories—you name it, we’ll be happy to look over it.

Until next time,

À toute, y’all.

-Z