- October 15th, 2014
Want to be a novelist for National Novel Writing Month but don’t have time to write an entire book? My "DIY Novel Kit" is the solution time-challenged writers have been waiting for.
In honor of #nanowrimo, I have issued <YOUR NAME HERE> PRESENTS A LITTLE BIT OF
MARIENBAD, a 50,000-word reboot of MARIENBAD MY LOVE, the world’s longest novel.
I am offering this novel as a free download through a Creative Commons license, which allows authors to offer their copyrighted work to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing and remixing.
Writing is hard, but copying is easy, So if you want to win #nanowrimo you don't have to actually write 50,000 words. You can just copy the novel I've already written. (The first installment is pasted below.) Insert your name into the body of the manuscript and - presto! - you have an instant novel.
You Can Copy This Novel. It's legal!
Yes, <YOUR NAME HERE> PRESENTS A LITTLE BIT OF MARIENBAD is protected by copyright. But I have lifted those copyright protections for your enjoyment! You are invited to copy and republish this work under the generous terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
You are invited to copy, distribute and transmit this work, in whole or part. My intent is to encourage others to remix and adapt this work for their own purposes, both personal and commercial.
So here it is -- all 50,000 words. Cut, paste and be a winner of #nanowrimo!
<YOUR NAME HERE> PRESENTS A LITTLE BIT OF MARIENBAD
By <YOUR NAME HERE>
Again I advance across the tragic beaches of this deserted island, footsteps upon sand so profound, so deep, that one perceives no step. Mute beaches, where footsteps are lost. Mute, deserted – footsteps upon sand over which I advance once again. To find you.
This morning I saw a porpoise not 30 yards from here. At first I caught only a passing sideways glimpse of the dorsal fin, and I panicked that it was a shark. But no – that’s surely wrong, I told myself. There are no sharks here. Only memories – memories, deities and ghosts.
I’m leaving today, driving right off this island. You look doubtful, but it’s true. I have found the old reef road! The wooden marker posts of pioneer days are long gone, but I don’t need them to know I’ve found the spot. The water barely covers my ankles.
The reef road shouldn’t be here, but at North Beach on the other side of Corpus Christi Bay. And yet, here it is – my salvation. The oyster shells make a solid road bed, so I should have no trouble. At low tide I’ll drive across the Laguna Madre and back to dry land, carrying my Incredible Revelation – my reality-altering, conclusion-of-time vision – into the waking world of commonplace art and conventional theologies. A short trip across the public beach, and I’ll disappear into the anonymous traffic of Shoreline Drive, past the beachfront mansions.
Look, you can see them from here. Are they not beautiful, these vast and magnificent homes? Here is one worth noting, a tragic mansion of an earlier time. Notice how the grounds are in the Uruguayan style and yet without shrubbery, blossoms or vegetation of any kind. Here we find a past of Carrara marble, a past carved in stone – intersecting lines, reserved, ripe with inscrutability. Upon initial viewing it appears impossible to get lost here along the linear walkways between the unassailable statues and marble embellishments. And yet I am, even now, losing myself forever – losing myself in my own prophetic utterances, alone in my Patmosian exile. Alone without you.
Luh? She is fine. However, she will not be accompanying me on my trip. This time I will be traveling solo.
So what occurred with Luh?
Picture me flying, rocketing through the sky like Christopher Reeve in Superman, my right fist thrust before me. I am flying over a parking lot, heading for a landing next to a woman who is pregnant with my son. There is a complication: This woman is not my wife. I have not spoken with her at all during her pregnancy, and she’s already in her second trimester. It’s definitely time to pay her some attention.
Next, we are in a sort of cave, except most of the ceiling is missing, open to the sky. I think of a movie I am making, that I have already scripted. It’s called “Next Year at Marienbad.” As I look around at the walls of the cave, it occurs to me that I could become trapped. Always there are walls, everywhere around me. Mute, deserted – walls of baroque embellishments, mahogany veneer, Venetian plaster, gold-leafed frames, Carrara marble. Dark glass, obscure illustrations, Romanesque columns, sculptured thresholds, lines of doors, colonnades, oblique hallways leading to deserted meeting rooms paneled in the baroque embellishments of an earlier time. Mute rooms, where footsteps are lost. Sculpted berber so profound, so deep that one perceives no step. The walls are everywhere, enclosing me.
But I don’t panic. I tell myself that this place needn’t be safe all the time, just during this short time I am here. I won’t be trapped. If I can just set aside my neuroses and free-floating anxieties for a bit, I may even enjoy it.
The cave is a pretty place, with pools of still water and patches of rye grass and moss. I talk to the woman who will bear my child. She is Luh. Or maybe Cinnamon. Or maybe you.
I tell her I am not sure if I should tell my two sons about the baby. I would have to admit to extramarital sex. (I don’t mention that my wife might not appreciate this admission, either.) On the other hand, I think the boys should know about their half brother. After all, this new divine entity will grow up to create “Next Year at Marienbad,” the movie that will bring about the End of the World – and the beginning of the New Religion.
Luh is incredibly supportive. She tells me I should do whatever I think is best. I shouldn’t worry over the details. Her family is rich. (Her father was one of the medical professionals who treated the fatally wounded JFK in Dallas.) And she assures me that as far as they are concerned, “there are no strings attached” to any financial or other support.
I tell her it is so impressive that our son will grow up to do great things. “He’ll go to Yale,” I say. Luh corrects me. She tells me it is a different school, one I’ve never heard of. It is a hyphenated name with Yale as the first part, “Yale-Henning” or something like that. So that’s it. He’ll be part of an advanced and alien world, one I know nothing about.
Charlie: Attention <your first name><your last name>. David Lynch is holding on the red phone. He wants to lend you his embalmed calf fetus for the baby scenes.
Elmo: In case you’re just joining us here on “Blast” – it’s the End of the World in “Next Year at Marienbad.”
Charlie: B-movie sci-fi filmmakers have a long heritage of mining the various veins of the Apocalyptic genre, but few have tunneled as deep –
Elmo: And come up as lacking --
Charlie: -- as <your first name><your last name>. “Next Year at Marienbad” is arguably the worst end-of-the-world film ever made. The concept alone is one of the most bizarre in the history of film – a science fiction-themed tribute to “Last Year at Marienbad,” the 1960s movie that defined the French New Wave.
Elmo: While it is the on-again/off-again odd darling of the midnight movie and science fiction convention crowds, “Marienbad” has otherwise generated almost universal disdain among casual moviegoers as well as serious cinemaphiles, including those of us here at “Blast.” The onbeam world is rife with vitriolic reviews and caustic academic essays. Many of the comments are so vitriolic and caustic they cannot be repeated in a public broadcast; however, we have managed to sanitize a few for your enjoyment. “The incoherent ramblings of an insane mind … I am not sure there is even a classification for this one … long stretches of surrealism, where we are in this character's head and not grounded in any recognizable reality...What was that?! Was this person using drugs or what? … I decided to be generous and give you a one, rather than a zero … I am so completely confused. I have no idea what's going on, what's real and what the narrator is imagining … It's terrible.”
Charlie: This movie even offended the protagonist, who rather confusingly is also named <your first name><your last name>. He recently broke down the fourth wall to post his own objections in the onbeam world: “Congratulations, <your first name><your last name>. I read today that ‘Next Year at Marienbad’ has been declared one of the worst films ever made. And still you smile, that clueless, William Hung smile. Why so pleased? If you really wanted to create a noteworthy science fiction/fantasy film, then why no swords or elves? Why no Roman centurions? No, you thought you were too good. Only a hack would write genre, right? Instead of straight science fiction, you decided to employ the ‘conventions’ of SF. ‘It's all for EFFECT,’ you explain. And why did you have to make me so perverse? After all, I am an autobiographical character. What do my perversions say about you, the filmmaker? ‘You are only an exaggerated version of me,’ you say, ‘exaggerated for comic effect.’ Fine. Here is what I say: I hate this, being a fictional creation trapped in this abomination of a movie. Experimental? Stream of consciousness? Metafilm? How about ‘crap’? Now that ‘Next Year at Marienbad’ has been unleashed on the world, surely the Apocalypse is not far behind.”
Elmo: Indeed, the New York Agenda recently published a story about an Apocalyptic religion called Marienbadism. Inspired by scenes from the movie, a group of dedicated Marienbadists are planning to show the film in a special, yet-to-be-built drive-in theater in Tibet, an action <your first name><your last name> has stated will bring about the death of the world and the birth of the new religion.
Charlie: And of course there are still the pending murder charges.
Elmo: Though in all fairness it is hard to see how one person can be blamed for the destruction of an entire town. But we digress. How did such a film ever come to be made at all? How did such a filmmaker ever come to be born?
Charlie: Yes, what is going on in the unconscious mind of this offender of humanity, this embracer of iniquity, this self-diagnosed sufferer of Post-Modern Prophet Disorder –
Elmo: This prototype of the two-bodied man.
Charlie: Steve Harrison, business editor of the Tarrant County Register and <your last name>’s former boss, is here to shed some light on this strange and abhorrent being. Welcome Steve.
Steve: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be on “Blast.”
Charlie: <your first name>has called “Next Year at Marienbad” his Incredible Revelation. Did he often incorporate so-called prophetic or visionary content into his work as real estate editor?
Steve: <your first name>was not real estate editor at the Register.
Elmo: Oh. But I thought –
Steve: He may have put it on his resume, but that doesn’t make it true. <your first name>was a reporter, mostly daily assignments on local businesses.
Elmo: A revealing exaggeration, yet another example of this filmmaker’s all-encompassing configuration of ostentation – in imagination if not conduct – and general air of narcissism, a quality we often see in corporate CEOs as well as the criminally insane.
Charlie: And in fact, this particular insane criminal –
Elmo: Also the CEO of his own movie.
Charlie: -- yes, we’ll call him Chairman of the Board. He does show an overarching theme of hoped-for recognition as a superior life form. Or God.
Elmo: Unfortunately, <your first name>feels he is entitled to superiority without correspondingly superior achievements. Not good.
Charlie: At the risk of overusing an almost-trite example, I must say that at times his work reminds me of the schlock director from Texas, Ward E. Timber Jr.
Elmo: Exactly. “Next Year at Marienbad” comes off almost like a hymn to “Let Me Love You.” To paraphrase the DVD dust jacket comments of the distributor, Wade Williams -- a sincerely unique, yet utterly flawed tribute from Ward to himself and everyone else who has ever attempted to construct something clever and significant and yet botched it wretchedly at every turn.
Charlie: You can almost see the strings and cardboard tombstones!
Elmo: Steve, did you see signs of this misplaced grandiosity and self-deification in <your first name>‘s work at the Register?
Steve: No, I wouldn’t say that. <your first name>was quiet, a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of reporter. I’d characterize him as a journeyman. To be sure, he was a reliable worker. He met the expectations on his assignments, which were many and varied. I told him he was our utility infielder. But, uh --
Charlie: Ah yes, a jack of all trades, a master of none.
Steve: I’m afraid he never had much style as a journalist.
Charlie: Or a movie director.
Elmo: And that points to one of the central problems of “Next Year at Marienbad.” <your first name>has a nice touch at the micro level. Lots of stunning metaphorical imagery, especially dealing with the central theme of the eruption of the inner dreamscape into waking reality. The inexplicable scent of roses, mystic icons weeping blood, statues of the Saints moving of their own accord – this film is truly a story of the unconscious invading the waking world. But <your first name>just doesn’t pull it all together into a single cohesive narrative.
Charlie: What you just said about the “micro level” – this is absolutely on target. “Marienbad” is intermittently victorious. But as a whole – well, even <your first name>‘s biggest fans must admit that his talent shines brightest at the level of the individual scene.
Elmo: Let’s roll the clip.
Here’s one way the world ends: I am standing on the backyard patio of my boyhood home, looking up at the eastern heavens. It is an incredible sight – a white clock dial is bleeding through the thin cobalt sky. The psychic contrail is suspended in the high, thin stratosphere, an icy cirrus cloud of time. Somehow I understand that the government knows all about it, but has been keeping it a secret. Now that the Clock in the Air has been de-cloaked, there is no denying its existence. Is it an alien spaceship? Perhaps – or it could be something far more significant: A sign from the Deity. In fact, this may be the divine pocket watch, His timepiece. But time for what? Strange to be here, so out of my own time. My parents sold this house years ago.
Charlie: Agreed. We should be fair. “Next Year at Marienbad” is in no way a total embarrassment. <your first name>is comfortable behind the camera, even if he doesn’t have much rapport with it.
Elmo: And the camera clearly loves him. In scenes like this, “Next Year at Marienbad” certainly reminds one of the great Apocalyptic films of the Hydrocarbon Age, epics like “The Revolution of Zion,” “The Clockscan Conspiracy” or anything from “The Abandoned Ones” series.
Charlie: But unlike those drive-in classics, <your first name>‘s movie simply fails to generate its own animating personality. It never fully succeeds in the terms of the genre.
Elmo: So often during “Marienbad” I reflected upon how much better everything must have functioned inside <your first name>‘s head.
Steve: Honestly, it was the same way with <your first name>‘s longer, more in-depth news features.
Charlie: Do tell.
Steve: He struggled to make the jump from brain to computer keyboard. He could rarely establish the proper tension.
Elmo: Fascinating. How do you mean?
Steve: It’s like I tell my young reporters. Good writing is like a turnbuckle. Not too tight, not too loose.
Charlie: A turn what?
Steve: A turnbuckle. It’s the little metal adjustor they used to put on wooden screen doors. Set it too loose and the door would drag. Too tight and the door would warp.
Charlie: Your anecdote tires me, a languid blood bath waltz of insipid storytelling, a dog humping the silky femur, poorly sculpted fluff. Yawn.
Elmo: Any <your first name><your last name> examples come to mind?
Steve: I remember one time <your first name>brought us a story about a rash of new hotels slated to break ground in Tarrant County. At the time we were underserved in the lodging industry, so it was big news. But it wasn’t big enough for <your first name>. No, he said his research had revealed that there were so many projects in the works that if they were all constructed we’d be overbuilt.
Elmo: The hotel market would crash.
Steve: So he claimed. That’s the story he wanted to write. <your first name>was actually going to have us overbuilt before anybody even broke ground. So sad. I had to explain it to him. “<your first name>, you’re too clever by half.”
Charlie: But in fact he was right, yes? They did overbuild.
Steve: That’s hardly the point.
Elmo: You could say it’s the same way with “Next Year at Marienbad.” Do you recall the judge’s comments from the 2009 Novel Manuscript Contest by the Writers’ League of Texas?
Charlie: Ah yes, it is almost the same. Just substitute ‘movie’ for ‘novel’ and you’re there.
Elmo: Agreed. The movie is mostly clear cinematography about very fuzzy subject matter. It offers tons of jumbled imagery with no firm story. No resolution is offered.
Charlie: Agreed. Rambling imagery and disjointed reflection will hold a moviegoer’s attention only so far. It is difficult to tell who the protagonist is and what makes him tick, beyond the impression that he has a warped view of numerous things.
Elmo: This movie is a jumbled attempt to tear a Dali painting in half. The ramblings of the narrator flow smoothly but make no sense – a stream of consciousness run off the tracks. The film contains occasional strong imagery but it is scattershot and refuses to paint a consistent, coherent sensory image. To contemplate watching 168 hours of such random ramblings causes one to tremble.
Charlie: To be fair, the movie is composed of competent scene structures and effective application of editing – I made few mark-ups as I watched – but it is one long jumble of incoherent philosophizing. To what purpose? Movies are meant to contain stories. None is apparent in the first ten minutes, and the synopsis reads more like a sales pitch -- an incoherent one at that – than a description of the story itself. The impression one gathers while viewing this film is that the director is attempting to turn the stereotypical Robbe-Grillet anti-novel into a movie. It is unsatisfyingly confusing. The cinematography itself is competent but it serves only to convey clearly a state of philosophical chaos. To steal a phrase, “I don’t get it.”
Elmo: I don’t, either. <your first name>‘s cleverness is quite engaging, but not engaging enough to sustain narrative tension for two or more hours on a 50-foot drive-in movie screen.
Charlie: Yes, he almost fails to suck.
Welcome to my island.
Pull up a deck chair, help yourself to the tanning oil. But watch out for the brain crabs – they bite!
May I offer you a festive beverage, perhaps with a paper umbrella? No? I understand. You are unsure, filled with doubt. You have purchased your ticket, acquired your soft drink and bucket of popcorn and taken your seat. And yet still you wonder: A Rapture movie without a Rapture? Is this really for you? Or perhaps you worry it is rather too much for you. That is to say, too much <your first name><your last name>. (I’m told a little of me goes quite a ways.)
I hope you’re not here to console me. Such an action is clearly not documented in the script.
I am happy, snug in my antebellum “bachelor’s pad.” The slave-made bricks are beginning to crumble, but the walls are still strong and thick. Imagine it: three feet of solid masonry! Cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Dry, too. The old slate roof is like a sheet of iron. Nothing gets through. The accommodations are quite luxurious. A leather sofa, a Sears-O-Pedic king mattress, a fully stocked wine cellar. I even have my old 1970 Cutlass convertible. You remember it, don't you?
My island. It’s nothing like a prison.
Did you know I dreamed this place? And I don’t mean onbeam, either. I’m talking about a genuine, naturally-occurring Incredible Revelation. Again you look doubtful, betrayed by the old, familiar smile. I know what you’re thinking: We studied this building in Mrs. Wilson’s 7th grade Texas History class, the section on the Civil War. What can I say? I'm a native Texan; I know my state history. I have filled a mayonnaise jar with Minieballs pried out of the bricks and unearthed from the beach. But here, such concrete evidence is inadmissible; this place does not belong to the waking world.
This place, this beach over which I advance once again, sand so profound, so deep that one perceives no step. This mournful island of another era, encrusted with the artifacts of another time. This magnificent island, where beaches without end follow upon beaches, the sand beneath my feet so profound, so deep. The beaches are deserted now, void of the still, mute, possibly long-dead people of my exile. One perceives no step in this prison, this perjury.
Do you know I never hear anyone raise his voice in this place? No one. Conversation flows in a void apparently meaningless or, at any rate, not meant to mean anything. A phrase hangs in midair, as though frozen, though doubtless taken up again later. No matter. The same conversations are always repeated by the same prosaic voices.
No, this place does not belong to the waking world. We now put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.
I am part of a travel group on the Texas Gulf Coast, enjoying a boat tour.
The man at the helm – our captain and guide – takes us on a fast ride. We zip past little islands, some just big enough to stand on, all the while heading toward the biggest link in the chain: Marienbad.
This main island is dominated by an old brick structure. It has no windows. An arch-type design element is set into the brickwork. Perhaps it has a flat roof; I cannot say for sure. Later, it will occur to me that the structure reminds me of Fort Sumter, the place where Confederate troops fired the first shots of the Civil War.
As we near the island, the captain brings us around on the ocean side for a closer look. On the beach I notice giant, root-like structures. They lie on top of the sand, spread out like thick vines or cables, their surfaces resembling the rough, fibrous husk of a coconut. As we pass the island, I see that we are now heading back toward the beach, as if we have been in a harbor rather than the open sea. I ask our guide about the purpose of the old building.
“It was a hospital,” he replies. But he does not sound certain, and I am not convinced he is correct.
“Why is the building on an island, separated from the land?” I ask. Without waiting for an answer, I immediately volunteer my theory.
“Maybe the building was once on the mainland but the shoreline has changed over the years, cutting it off from the rest of the world.”
The guide does not respond.
Then our boat is suddenly a car, and our guide is driving us along a road that parallels the shore.
“Next, we will see the original downtown of Corpus Christi,” he says.
Corpus Christi. The Body of Christ. I am excited because we will see the real town, the one where the locals go -- not the theological illusion that is maintained for the pilgrims and tourists.
The road and shoreline depart, and soon we reach the historic central business district. No high rise hotels or floating seafood restaurant here. This Corpus Christi appears to be a typical rural Texas town, a few blocks of old buildings crowded together along an empty street. (You should go check it out before you leave. Very picturesque.)
We approach on a two-lane highway that skirts the edge of the downtown. The first portion, roughly half the land area, consists of old corrugated metal warehouse buildings. The cross street is marked by a sort of entry gate made out of the sheet metal, obviously a new creation intended to play off the old buildings. On the sign there is a multi-word name, but I do not recall it -- perhaps something that uses the word “market” or “marketplace.” I realize that some developer has created this marketing concept in hopes of revitalizing and reusing the old buildings, a not-too-clever rip off of a similar re-development concept in Strangers Rest. The sign is colorful yet muted -- a perfect match for the weathered, oxidized metal.
A block later we reach the retail area. As we pass, I glance back over my shoulder for a better look. There is some revitalization here, too. The Body of Christ now has three or four new businesses. One is an ice cream parlor. Another is a restaurant with a front sign in neon of a cartoon-like pig face, perhaps some Carolina-style barbecue.
The Minieballs sit on a high, narrow shelf alongside stacks of gray steel film canisters and random entries from the sanctioned psychic manifest, nightmare metaphors of violent purple twilight and unfulfilled judgments and dreams.
Welcome to my broken world.
Here I wander through an obscene territory of winged demons, aerial creatures bearing branded vials of amputated ghost parts, decaying metallic reek of bankrupt snake skins, corroded iron shadows of cicada exoskeletons, troubled mirrors reproducing endless spectral relations, hopeless erotic cries echoing across vast plains of repressed desire. Here in the thin gray light I pour over the sacred texts of communal disaster, breathe in the double helix of lilac smoke suspended in a porcelain cobalt heaven, view the golden coronas of uneven and prepared genetic amplifiers, walk uselessly through the neurotic oily winds, listen to the rasping wings of hysterical tidal birds, feel the sluggish tropic flames burning through anxious gaunt smirks. (Yes, we’re on the Pathway now!)
A shower of glittering emerald flakes descending unhurried through a tarnished sea of fluid screams, painfully abrupt stench of damp waste, giant mounds of smoldering linen mummy casings, a broken stone indicator of the final extinguished horse thief of Strangers Rest (Gone but not Forgotten, a murder by pittance rage), an image of the horned creature automobile with a factory-installed means of listening to the Deity. And that’s just the opening credits.
For the soundtrack, I have commissioned an orchestra of reluctantly castrated violinists to perform my compositions, disconsolate tunes of homicidal alien bewilderment, of old coins and fermented blood, of desiccated cats and threadbare Egyptians, of heretical transformations occurring behind jagged DNA dream codes and splotched sallow screens of rancid ectoplasm, surging penetration of –
Forgive me. I am an odious being.
This sort of thing happens often these days, me getting carried away in the beauty of chaos, in lurid intervals of narcissistic horror. The FX apparatus disgorges an enormous radiant fog of visual rumors and nonsense. I digress into the shattered violet neon dusk of my own atrophied human citizenship and the dazzling garbage heap of our tragic, dead age.
When I am like this, unpleasant things happen. The walls start bleeding. Nazi paratroopers land outside the window. Tiny white eggs on the back of my hand hatch into hungry wolf spiders, which proceed to strip the flesh from my bones. (Director’s note: We’ll leave this quantity of tainted celluloid on the cutting room floor.)
My favorite prop is the jar of pickled sea monsters. I caught them just a few yards from here in the roiling surf, my inner sea. Warning: Beware of the riptide. Do not swim without a prophet on duty. You could be dragged into the Land of the Dead.
How can it be otherwise? Here in my Patmosian exile, I have learned to give credit to the inner world, the world of fire -- the world behind the masonry walls of the everyday.
Heraclitus said “it is to Hades that they rage and celebrate their feasts.” Hades – the world of Death, the conclusion of Practical Man and the ambition of Spiritual Man.
Still, I miss the practical, the everyday. I miss ice cream and barbecue, miss eating out. I miss so many things. The result is some rather severe restrictions on the “natural libido flow,” as one of my court-ordered dental psychiatrists put it. So perhaps this place really is a prison.
And then, of course, I miss my face.
Yes, I noticed you’ve been starring at it. I don't mind; it's understandable. The right half of my face now resembles a cross between a slab of brown, bloodless beef and a piece of weathered lumber. Nothing human left. Alien. Most people assume it happened in the fire. But it’s not a scar. This is the raw, undifferentiated tissue of evolution. This is the disintegration of culture into chaos. This is the alien within. It’s even in the script.
“Sure, we took a few liberties, skirted the old genetic taboos (aren't we all kin, really?) -- but it was all for science. Cutting edge work I tell you. A flippered anxiety disorder here, a web-footed phobia there. And just last week, a break through in the treatment of mystical psychosis: Cicada wings. Tiny little protrusions anchored by tendons to the clavicles. Talk about visionary transformation! Eventually, we'll get one we don't have to euthanize. So sad. They look quite peaceful up there on the lab shelf, lined up in their labeled pickle jars like sleeping baby dragons.”