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Ms. Galahan and Her Cardboard Shack - 1st finished draft, short version

The ending is flat-out terrible. One of these days I'll give the story a proper finish, maybe something with zombies. That said, I love the rest of the story, so give it a read and lemme know what you think.

MS. GALAHAN AND HER CARDBOARD SHACK
By J. Alexander Jerusalem

Mary Galahan lived in a rickety shack by the ocean.
[picture of shack with ocean]
The shack was built from pieces of cardboard, plastic bags, and other things that Mary found in the City. The City was LA and Mary Galahan was one of LA's people.
LA is not like other cities. It is stupider. Not to say that the city is sentient and walking around being stupid or anything. What I mean is that the people there become stupider simply by being there. Mary had noticed this immediately and taken measures to prevent the encroaching stupid. Tin-foil, thought Mary, in moderate amounts, might block some kind of ray or something. So on it went, crinkle crinkle crinkle, wrapped round the head until it fit quite snugly. Not the entire head of course. Then Mary wouldn't be able to see. That would be silly. No, just the bits of the head that weren't doing anything else, where Mary's pretty hair would be if it wasn't falling out and round the forehead and such.
Even protected from the stupid, Mary couldn't avoid the stares of all the stupid people, all wondering, wondering what this smart person was doing with tin-foil wrapped quite around her noggin. So she wore hats. “This,” she thought, “will certainly trick them, stupid as they are, into believing I am one of them and they will not look at me so uncomfortably.” Of course this plan worked very well, except for the times that it didn't, when it didn't.

Upon completing her smart protector, Mary went to work on finding a living; that is, the work that one does in order to live. One has to work very hard in order to live.
And so Mary worked very hard. She found different work, never staying at one job for longer than she was comfortable with. She cleaned houses or waited tables, always wearing her hat (a fisherman's hat that never quite fit properly because of the tin-foil), always without complaining, until she had her money. She spent her money on living, usually the kind of living that comes in little pills but sometimes the kind that goes through a needle.

She had been in LA for two months when the waves came. She never found out what caused the waves, they just happened at her. She certainly didn't have time to find a radio or newspaper or anything afterward, what with being pushed around in her shack. The noise and sogginess would have woken her but she was having an excellent dream. A chocolate river with Bengal tigers ferrying passengers across, towards and back, between the pretty banks.
[picture of dream]

When the first wave came Mary Galahan's shack was pushed east, away from the ocean, as one might expect. When the second, larger wave came, things happened differently. Waves usually either push forward or pull under. Perhaps the waves, tired of the hum-drum life of pushing this and pulling that just so and only the right way, decided to rebel; and what a stroke of luck to find this floaty-looking box here on the shore, just waiting to be rebelled.
So it was that Mary Galahan and her cardboard shack were pulled out onto the ocean, driven along by what can only have been a young wave freed from the shackles of conformity or something.

While Ms. Galahan's shack rode Pacific waves, Derald Munch gathered ketchup. The floor, ketchup having been dispensed like crazy all over it, had become the brilliant red that one only finds in large doses of such condiments. Munch had never seen anything so red in all his life. He did not care, either.
Ketchup, as many Europeans will tell you, is a distinctly American gunk. The gunks preferred by Europeans vary, of course. I am told that Belgians enjoy mayonnaise, while the people of the British Isles prefer lard, and so on. Munch, as a cook (Cook Munch, they called him), hated ketchup. Munch hated ketchup because it was so American. Any cook worth his salt will tell you that American cuisine doesn't count - French or Italian or Indian food being so very superior in terms of a certain something which they will not describe.
Cook Munch, upon gathering the ketchup all into a bucket, found himself thinking of his days on land. He was a very good fellow really, although a bit funny in the head, and so this is what he thought to himself:

"Ah," he thought, "those were good days, before I took to sailing." (Munch never quite understood the difference between sailing and being on a boat and insisted on using the terms interchangeably)
"Yea, it was all fruits and vegetables, yellow pears and purple cabbage, none of this ketchup nonsense," and here he sneezed out of his great anger towards all things ketchupy. "Nay, 'twas all quite nice. Why ever did I leave?"
As it turned out, Munch had left because the nice police man had come and asked about something, a naughty something that Munch had done. The nice police man had been quite rude, asking about such a thing only after he had washed the pieces and bits of it off the walls. So Munch had left, after helping the nice police man into the basement and helping a shovel against the nice police man's head.
So now Munch sailed (boated really) as a ship's cook, dealing with ketchup and sailors and things.
[picture of ketchup]

Back to Galahan's shack now. It had been a number of hours and she was starting to wake, a few seconds at a time of wakeness before passing back to dream. Eventually she woke for enough seconds for her to notice certain oddities – calm floating, nap waves becoming real ones and tinkly dream sounds turning to swooshy ocean ones. She sat up.
At this time her wave had started to tire of its self-expressive journey. It was finding it's pushy-job harder than it had at first seemed. The wave began to question its endurance. Could it really make it far enough to show those that laughed as it left? How far was far enough?
Ms. Galahan poked her head out of the shack.
The wave wondered further – just what was it was rebelling against in the first place? Could this simply be the type of young wave angst and pointless hipsterism that it had oft decried in the past?
Ms. Galahan scrunched her eyes at the sea.
The wave was now becoming quite agitated. Could its journey of self-discovery be nothing more than the typical fancies of youth? Was the originality it had hoped to express not original at all? Clearly this should have been better thought out.
Ms. Galahan went back inside to look for her little pills.

This is what was happening above Cook Munch: a sailor (boater) swabbed the deck with a great large tissuey mop. A man on top of a pole yelled surprise. An old, angry-looking lady swung a wheel.

This is what was happening below Cook Munch: water.

This is what was happening in front of Cook Munch: Ms. Galahan discovered that her shack suffered from a horrible lack of all things pilly.

This is what happened next:

Mary lift-lifted herself off of the floor of her shack and looked up at the big white thing in front of her. It reminded her of something you would find in a huge bathroom. The clean kind, the kind that Mary didn't get to use anymore. What it was, of course, was the ship.
Mary's wave had noticed the ship only after it filled most of its vision as it was still involved heavily in internal monologues. But when it saw the ship the wave was terrified and had doubled back. It was terrified because of how waves make babies: like amoebas, they divide. But unlike amoebas they need chunk-things to divide them, they cannot just jump up and divide all by themselves (stupid amoebas). Ships are common chunk-things for child-hungry waves to seek out, but Mary's wave felt unready for father/siblinghood and so it fled, swift as swift could go.
Resultingly Mary was not yet being crunched sharp by the ship, but it was coming closer, as her wave could only run so fast. On the ship the men and ladies put to stopping, seeing Mary and not wanting to hurt her or her cardboard shack. But boats stop slow, like trains or bullets or bullet-trains. So closer the boat came, its whiteness engulfing Mary's vision in a way that made her feel slightly uncomfortable for reasons she wasn't sure of. Closer and closer. Closer and closer. The tedious drama persisted for what seemed a very long time to Mary, before she noticed, at last, the whiteness shrinking.

Already you have learned things you did not know about waves and ketchup. Now you will learn about icebergs. Iceberg society is very complex, but to humans it might seem a paradise. Icebergs do not have wars. They do not kill each other, they only break chunks off each other sometimes and usually it is by accident. They have no little pills to take the pain away, not because they are not smart like humans, but because they do not need them. Also they have no nerves and so no concept of pain. Icebergs, like ostriches and penguins and those fish that have legs, are outcasts. This makes them very cool. Which is why they are frozen. So now you understand icebergs. Here is another thing about icebergs: sometimes they are sloped.
[picture of Mary looking out perplexedly of her shack as it goes up an iceberg slope, with the huge ship encroaching on the left]

Mary watched the boat with a sort of clicky dread as she slided up the iceberg. It was no longer shrinking. She knew what was coming, and eventually, after another period of what seemed to Mary to be dreary waiting: a great crunch, like the entire earth opened its mouth and chewed a big honking pretzel. Sounds of screams and tearing metal. And Mary looked straight ahead as the crunching, screaming monster-boat came closer and closer. She did not run. She saw no point in it. She sat patiently and she waited.

Munch removed his head from the hole in the bathroom stall. "Lucky that were there," he thought, "else I might'a hurt me self." He hobbled to the sink and looked in the mirror.
Red head-juice trickled down his face and he'd lost his hat. Also, the room seemed to be oddly tilted – as if one of Munch's legs had suddenly gotten much shorter. He checked, but neither of his leg had shrunk.
He checked the bathroom for his hat. He found it floating in the bowl of the stall next to his and could not help wondering how it had gotten there. He took it out and squeezed out the moisture and popped it right back up top upon his head. Stumbly he left the room and walked down the tilted hall. As he walked he considered what might have happened to cause this sudden headredness and hatlosedness and roomtiltiness. Three possibilities swept up and down his mind: the first possibility, thought Munch, was perhaps that of betrayal. Munch was not a man who trusted easily, you see, and he had often suspected his sailmates of clunky ambition and unfeelingness toward him.
The second possibility, he thought, was that of incompetence. Munch was no fool, but he knew that sometimes other people were. He had gotten used to it and he often said to himself that he must learn to bear it, for it is oh so prevalent and really he was not very good at bearing it.
But the possibility that Munch decided on was that of an attack. Munch knew he had many enemies – although he removed them when the opportunity presented, he could never hope to remove them all – and surely they would relish the chance to dispatch him at sea, oh yes. So although he was bits aware that it was not the most likely of reasons, he settled upon it just in case.

As Derald padded the ship, Mary surveyed it. She was having difficulty with this because of it's very close proximity to her eyes – like watching the TV from an inch away. The huge boat had, of course, stopped just short of squishing lucky Ms. Galahan. Now she was watching it carefully to see if it was still dangerous. She stared at it with all the intensity that her adventures thus far would allow, and when she was at last satisfied that it was no longer a threat, she stepped out of her shack and slip-wobbled over to the ladder on the side. And up she went.

Mary's mother had never properly explained death to her. When they passed poofy-eyed roadkill possums in their rickety old car, she would wonder. And at night, when questions bubbled in her brain, she would ask. But her mother thought that it was nothing for little girls to think about. She would tell young Mary not to worry, but to go back to bed and sleep her problems away.
Mary shared a bed with her mother until she was 15. Because her mother had never explained death to her, she did not understand when one day she woke up and her mother would not move. Mary pulled and pushed her mother, trying to wake her up. She pulled on her mother's hair until it came out in her hand. Eventually, after her mother swelled up, bloated stinky with death-gases, Mary left. She was going to get help, but she was young and distractable and was distracted by a man in an alley with a stinky rag that brought blackness. Because of this unfamiliarity with death Mary was not quite sure about what the crew was doing - all lying sprawled about, unmoving.
So she walked the deck of the boat, examining and thinking wonder-thoughts.

Munch, meanwhile, had ruled out betrayal. Already he had seen many of his companions presumably beaten owwy by the same sudden jerk that had sent his own head quite through the door of the stall. Still he walked, searching out the cause. His head mumbled crash or bump ideas but Munch was not yet convinced that it was no attack. Systematically he checked each room, sometimes finding dead or wounded (it wasn't easy to tell and Munch was in a hurry), but never finding an answer. He made his mind up to see what he could from the deck.

To her left, a door opened.

Munch slitted his eyes. A stranger was on board, but he could not yet tell if they were dangerous. He approached carefully.

A man did come to Mary, and she jogged to him to ask all of the questions in her head.

And then they saw each other, and they saw each other as they each saw themselves:
Cook Munch, in reality a deranged and violent man appears to Mary as a swashbuckling pirate, handsome and full of adventure.
Mary Galahan, in reality a disturbed hobo suffering from disease and addiction, appears to Munch as a gorgeous woman full of untapped potential and smart as a whip.

This is what they are to each other and it is what they shall be.

[picture of above scene]
After seeing each other, who can know what came next for Munch and Galahan? There are tales of further adventures each had, together and separate, but they will not yet be told for they are not yet ready to be told. But believe that they found great joy and adventure - indeed, and especially strangeness - in each other and all around them. Full of flaws and broken ideas, these two and their story is
[illustration: To Be Continued]

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

I do agree a different

I do agree a different ending would be better (and most things are better with zombies), but I enjoyed this. A great match of tone and content.

Do you have a 'further adventure' in mind, or is that still in the planning stage?

Well, I'm going to get rid

Well, I'm going to get rid of everything romantic, it seems out of character anyway and I just put it in there to have a temporary ending for a class I was doing. I've started working on the next part, and yep, I'll definitely be getting some zombies in there. I'm not sure how well that will work though, since up 'till now, the "adult" elements of the story have been relatively subtle, and it's hard to do subtle zombies. Still, I'll give it a go. My problem right now is that I've still got no ending, but hopefully that'll come to me eventually. Glad you liked it, and thanks for the comment!