|Image by Ensie & Matthias via Wikimedia Commons|
Author’s note: This week, I ran out of story ideas, so I’m substituting this travelogue. Enjoy!
I walk through the bazaar, the air filled with coffee and spices, while stands of every color and shape assault my senses. Silhouettes of femme fatales gyrate on the wall of one tent, pixies and leprechauns play dice in front of another. At an outdoor cafe, a knight sits with a man in a tuxedo and a woman in an aviator helmet sharing coffee and cigarettes. Another man sits alone at another table, casting furtive glances at the trio and whispering into his sleeve.
Normally, I'd hang out at the cafe and see who I'd meet, but today, I'm in need of something quick, a plot driver. Something to take back to the office where my characters are sitting around on set, complaining about their motivations. (Ugh! Characters!)
I stop at a stand painted green where a short bearded man looks up at me expectantly.
“Welcome to Macadoo McGuffin’s, sir! Please come into my humble stall and find the solution to all your plot problems!”
I thank the man and browse around the shelves and barrels. Macadoo hovers around me like a shadow, making comments of the obvious.
I look at a barrel filled with black falcon statuary.
I point to another barrel filled with golden cups.
“Holy grails. Also ten for a dollar. In this barrel, swords Excalibur. Next to that, Spears of Destiny. All ten for dollar, or mix and match.”
I remark on the borderline blasphemy of offering the cup of Christ so cheaply. Macadoo shrugs and spreads his hands.
“I don't make the rules, I just work here.”
I nod in sympathy and move on to paintings hung on a wall.
“Ah, you have a good eye sir. These are Picassos, Rembrandts, and Da Vincis. Works of art, perhaps stolen by your dastardly villains to be recovered by a plucky hero? Or maybe the canvases hold clues to an ancient secret? You've come on a banner day, sir. These priceless objets d'art are 35 percent off today.”
I shrug and keep walking. On a shelf are several disassembled bombs.
“Time bombs, honorable sir! We have timers in both ticking analog and flashing digital. Wires straight and curly in a variety of True-Brite ™ colors! As for the bombs themselves, I have sticks of TNT, slabs of plastic explosive, and I believe I can even find a black powder cannonball if you're of a pirate mind.”
“Of course not, sir! I can see you are a man of big ideas. Accordingly, let me offer you this full nuclear device. Guaranteed to end your story in 200 pages or less! Look how it shines! Did you know I was Ian Fleming’s sole supplier? It's true!”
I move on, further into the shop. When did his kiosk become a shop?
Behind a beaded curtain are an old woman, a boy, a girl, and a middle-aged woman. They're watching a movie with subtitles, but that's not what's odd about them. The four are bound hand-and-foot, with white gags in their mouths. I arch an eyebrow at the proprietor.
“Kidnap victims, good sir. Look at the eyes on the boy! The freckles on the girl! What protagonist would dare sit around when children such as these are missing? Ten percent off for the pair! Not enough? Don't like the single-father angle? Add in the mother! Take fifteen percent off for the set, and I'll throw Grandma in for free!”
I ask about the price for just the mother. Macadoo shakes his head.
“No, no, no. This one is too old to work on her own. You want the younger, prettier model, the girlfriend-fiancée. She screams your hero's name at 110 decibels.”
I ask if that's not a little sexist in this day and age.
“I don't make the rules, I just work here. You know, they used to be called the princess models, but now they're all girlfriend-fiancées. PC-marketing, am I right? But if you're worried about the trope police, you could always get your princess with the kung-fu upgrade. It's surprisingly affordable these days.”
I inform him that the revenge props seem a bit over the top for what I have in mind. Perhaps he sells something that gives peace-of-mind?
He shakes his head. “I'm strictly a genre guy.” He jerks his head to indicate a kiosk across the bazaar. “Talk to that guy with the purple beret if you just want existential materials.”
I mention that the beret looks red to me, almost raspberry.
“You tryin' to be funny?” Macadoo says.
“Anyway, his place is called 'Stuttering Tulips,' it sells literary tropes. Today he has a sale on children coming of age and lives wrecked by alcoholism.”
I shake my head and move on, scanning the shelves filled with dusty pieces of the true cross.
“Dan Brown stood in front of this shelf for an hour one day. Then he shouted ‘Jesus, that’s it!’ and ran off. I hear he did quite well for himself after that.”
I walk away.
“Perhaps if you could just tell me what you're looking for.”
I mention that I’m a science fiction author.
“Ah-ah! I should have known. The glasses, the pocket protector, the Dr Who t-shirt!” He grabs me by the hand and leads me to a glowing cube the size of an elephant.
“A genuine spaceship engine! Faster than light travel! Moves at the speed of plot!”
I look for a while, kicking at the warp core and tugging on the superconductors. It's too big, I say. I couldn’t possibly build a story around it.
Macdoodle nods, and taps a finger against his chin.
“Ah! Just the thing!”
He hurries behind a counter and disappears under it. Moments later, he emerges struggling under the weight of a long multi-barreled gun. It lands on the counter with a thud, sitting on a tripod with articulated legs like a scorpion's, the matte-black barrels soaking up all available light.
“Behold! The OSH-1T multi-barrel particle beam portable orbital defense system.”
I attempt to repeat the name and fail.
“Most people call it the 'oh shit.' for short. This baby will stop alien invasions in seconds.”
I admit that it looks impressive.
“And for you, I can sell it so cheaply it may as well be a gift.”
I wonder aloud about a catch.
“Well,” Macadoo says sheepishly, “There is one little thing. It violates the laws of physics.”
That doesn't sound good to me, and I say so.
“Fortunately,” Macadoo says, “I can offer you a pair of Improbability Underwear. It girds the loins of its wearer so that they may violate nature's laws with impunity. Guaranteed flame-resistant.”
I ask why I would need flame-resistant underwear.
“Ever hear of the Internet?”
Point taken. The price?
He names it.
I agree and arrange for shipment. As I pay the man with the kudos my writing has earned over the past months, I mention that now I will have to come up with an alien foe worthy of such a weapon. He smiles and hands me a card.
“This will get you fifteen percent off at Arnold’s Aliens and Frozen Custard, located at the end of the street. He’s got a nice stable of extra-terrestrials, but stay away from the custard. I’ve heard stories …”
I stay longer than I should as he tells me all about Arnold and his unusual custards of questionable origin. I soon discover I am late and have to bid a hasty farewell to Macadoo MacGuffin. As I begin my journey back to reality, I wonder why I am always drawn to stories of the bazaar.