March 8, 2015

FICTION BY COLE KINNA "UNCLE CHUCK'S MUSE SAFARI"

 
Cole is a senior at Miami University from Glen Ellyn, IL studying creative writing and attempting to publish his first piece. He’s not really a fan of pickles. 



Uncle Chuck’s Muse Safari


    On the first of every month, Uncle Chuck takes a group of writers out on a Muse Safari. He loads up a caravan of three forest green Jeeps with aspiring writers hoping to catch a glimpse of something special to spark the latent creative genius all of them have been told they possess by their overbearing, yet emotionally distant parents. The writers all love Uncle Chuck because he helps them break through their nasty case of writer’s block with a journey through the wonderful world of the Muse Safari. Here any trope or archetype you could imagine resides just waiting to literally leap off the excursion and onto the page.  
    “We’re now coming up on the Dystopian Society Terrain,” Uncle Chuck’s voice announces with a crackle as it seeps out of the loudspeaker attached to the overhead bars of the oversized Jeep. Hungry, bespectacled eyes dart across the landscape while busy hands frantically jot down notes into impractically small leather bound journals. “You’ll notice the teen population in this particular region has exploded in recent years. This is due to a multitude of factors, such as the rising popularity in the young adult book market, compounded with the abundance of misunderstood youths who feel like they can’t fit in with the other kids because they have a greater purpose in life that they just haven’t figured out yet.” A slew of bookish younger women nod their heads with epiphanic fervor.  
    The origins of the Muse Safari remain a mystery among those who come to visit the hallowed grounds. Most speculate that the place is as old as the art of storytelling itself, conceived by some higher entity to ensure the world is never without the revolutionary power of literature. Uncle Chuck however, knows that his old man built the thing back in the day after he didn’t know what to do with the Greek women and Cecil, the Cyclops who wouldn’t stop wandering around his back yard. Back then the place was pretty much some sort of strange literary petting zoo, where, Homer, the blind kid from down the street would stop by and start spouting off some bullshit about sailing around and crashing into rocks. Uncle Chuck’s old man never really listened, all he knew was that kid was willing to pay stop by and be “inspired” so he kept the racquet going.
    The caravan continues on and makes its way to the Traumatic Childhood Experience Exhibit. Some of the more hardened and gruff older men begin to choke up as they survey the panorama of undeserved drunken beatings, friends cut down at their prime, and barren Christmas trees.
    “At this point in the trip I always recommend those of you who are interested to give your parents or better yet your therapists a quick call to sort out some of the deep emotional wreckage residing in the pit of your soul in order to begin drafting your semi-autobiographical novel,” Uncle Chuck reminds the group, his inflection chipper but weary. The clatter of thumbnails grazing cellphone screens quickly fills the silent void left by his suggestion.
    The truth is Uncle Chuck has begun to feel kind of lousy about the whole thing. Sure business is good, but unlike his old man, Chuck actually cares about the literature coming out of the Muse Safari. He’s seen some of the world’s most revered and celebrated works be conceived at this very spot. He remembers taking a whole group of drunken Americans down to the European section of the Muse Safari and they stumbled out with a goddamn literary movement.  Those were the days. Now Chuck feels like every writer he brings along is just regurgitating the same stories over and over again. Each time he guides a group past the darkened corners of the Vampire Sanctuary or Unappreciated Housewife Desert, he feels like he’s taking a steaming piss on Hemmingway’s predictably austere tombstone.
    When the convoy of Jeeps rolls to a stop at the Kesey-Johnson Memorial Addiction Preserve, Uncle Chuck lets the writers hop out and explore the area themselves in order to literally pick their own poison.
    “Some great works have been the direct result of both recreational and crippling drug use. While I would recommend the former, who am I to stifle your creative process? Make sure to reconvene at the Jeeps by 3 o’clock.”
With that, a throng of writers converges on the scene and samples the illegal substances in an attempt to unlock some latent genius dwelling deep in the catacombs of their mind. From the Jeep, Uncle Chuck can hear a cacophonic orchestra of sniffs, snorts, puffs, coughs, pops, pricks, and pokes.
    The group bumbles around in a pretty daze, filtering through kaleidoscope visions, pondering over the meaning of life while thinking about how they plan to eschew form in order to create something “real.” Uncle Chuck begins corralling the zonked zombie mass like doped up sheep and the battalion of writers slowly reassembles around the idling Jeeps ready to press on.
    “Remember, if any of you were particularly fond of any of those creativity aids they are available at the gift shop at the end of the tour,” says Uncle Chuck as he plops himself down in worn leather of the driver’s seat and ruefully eyes the field of substances around him, wondering if partaking in some of its offerings would make this safari go by any quicker.
    “Up ahead we have the Nihilist River, one of my favorite parts of the safari,” Chuck announces with a forgotten gusto.
    “What’s the point of the river?” quips one of the writers from behind him.
“Well, nothing really, but isn’t beautiful to look at?” Uncle Chuck answers, as he wistfully looks into the rabidly flowing serpentine mass, unsure of where it was heading next, yet strangely at peace with the uncertain chaos of it all. He catches a glimpse of the crowd of writers behind him coming down from their drug-induced spirituals, donning furrowed brows and grappling to comprehend the sight before them. He puts the Jeep in gear with a daydream-shattering jolt and unhurriedly drifts away from the river and on to the final stop of the day’s safari.
He often wonders if anyone else had the same reservations about the Safari or if he was an island of literary concern, the lone beacon of consternation futilely trying to illuminate a dark and overstuffed sea of written words.
Uncle Chuck’s Muse Safari pulls up to the final attraction of the day with the squeak of breaks and groaning of engines. The Religious Rhine was always a divisive stop on the trip. Some begin speaking in tongues; while others refuse to even so much as glance out at the plethora of archaic allegories. Some gush over C.S. Lewis comparisons, while others take to their pocket dictionaries and mull over the idea of existentialism didactically. The group observes temples, pantheons, and cathedrals, while angels sang and trumpets blare and L. Ron Hubbard preaches nonsensically. The Jeeps began start up one by one in a litany of grumbles and peel off back towards the gift shop. In his rearview mirror Uncle Chuck makes eye contact with a crucified Jesus.
After the last of the writers have left and scurried back to their writing caves to bash out their next masterpiece, Uncle Chuck takes one of the Jeeps out into the Muse Safari. It’s late now and the sky is a dark indigo blue. The bustling activity of the excursion has died down now and the only sound he can hear is the cascading rumble of the Nihilist River as the forest green Jeep creeps closer. Once the car reaches the bank of the river, Chuck kills the engine and it dies with a resigned whimper. He gazes into the dark body of water as it murmurs through the late night quietly. He contemplates jumping in and joining the meaningless chaos before him. The thought of leaving the Muse Safari behind is a tantalizing one. Deep down he knows that even if he did, someone else would just take his place and the cycle would keep on going just like the river before him. So he makes his way back to the Jeep and rides of into the night with the sort of cliché panache that would surely have inspired a thousands shitty stories. 
~Cole Kinna
   
   

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