F e b r u a r y   2 0 0 5

Guest Writer

All's Mel that ends Mel ...
To Mel and back
by Jess Gulbranson

nd in the end, Mel had one more card up his scarlet cotton sleeve ... Indeed, our rumpled yellow-haired hero has been with us nearly from the start: Jess and Mel came aboard for NW Drizzle's second issue; it was February 2001 and the world certainly seemed like a much different place. Nevertheless, it all began, once upon a time, when Mel lost his motel – along with everything else but a red hooded sweatshirt – in a poker game.

Forty-nine issues later, here's the final episode:

Miskatonic University Press
1324 University Street
Arkham, Mass. 02129

Jan. 14, 2005

Dear Mr. Gulbranson,

Received your essay of this Sunday from our mutual editor/friend at the "e-magazine." He claimed to want a second opinion, from a real doctor this time. I wonder who he could be referring to? Maybe the D.D. doesn't cut it for literary diagnosis.

I'm sorry to hear about Mel's abrupt and premature retirement, but ending after so long a run is understandable. Your essay, however, was not. Hoo-ah, as the man said. Where do I begin? I can't really fathom why you would even attempt something like this in the first place. In the text you state that "ideations have been lurking" at the back of your mind for a long time. Perhaps the faceless author simply wanted to be seen, eh? It just doesn't fit.

For one thing, it's too serious. Your analysis of the "Flawed Hero" archetype is flawless, but let's be realistic. Who gives a shit? (Actually, I did slip a copy of the essay on Prof. Armitage's desk, and he's hot to get some young Turk writers under the Miskatonic banner. He's talking honorary degree and comp copies – but we can discuss that later.) NW Drizzle is not a university press, and therefore you might expect something a little more ... urbane.

Let me tell you something about your readers that you might not know. There was a focus group a while back, and it revealed a surprising set of data that 82 percent of the readership hold in common. Allow me to give you a glimpse of Joe (or Joan) Reader:

  • Owns a set of frayed corduroy pants, probably brown.
  • Can define the word "bricolage" and use it in a sentence.
  • Has had 1.5 adult homosexual experiences, but was not really into it.
  • Supports the troops, but not the war.
  • Drinks beer before liquor, never gets sicker.
  • Shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

You see? The highbrow sort of epistemology/nostalgia vignette you were going for was so ... New Yorker.

The masses, in this case, expect something arch, slightly crass, altogether literary. You, as the author of a tongue-in-cheek pop-culture space opera, should have known that. My advice to you (and your editor) is to find another way of capping off the story without resorting to a Twainism and dropping the hero down a backyard well.

So, here are my thoughts on the matter; take or leave as you will:

You could throw Mel into an established storyline from the ancient world, say ... Beowulf.

Picture this: Mel defeats Jeuss Rucker, then Jeuss Rucker's mama, then retires. When someone steals a Mustang Ranch souvenir shot glass from Frank Burley's collection, he goes on a rampage over the countryside and Mel is killed in a climactic, fiery battle.

Hmm, nope.

If you're feeling a little frisky, you could do a stream-of-consciousness jaunt, a la Beckett, and explore Mel's tiniest thoughts and notions as he tries to survive on the mean streets.

Okay, maybe not.

Perhaps something with pageantry, to make Clive Barker's fruity molestation of Grand Guignol look tame.

Christ, what am I saying?

Personally, I think you should go Derida all over that ass, and deflate the antihero myth with some scene of domestic dysfunction with Mel and his best girl. Your editor's idea was to come full circle and end with a poker game. Very clean and classy.

Now, wait – combine the two and I think you've got a winner. It could go like this (and please forgive my humble impersonation of your style):

nne set the pot of coffee on the tablecloth with a clunk, which seemed unable to penetrate the rustling wall of Mel's newspaper. She cleared her throat, and he folded the broadsheet with exaggerated motions.

"Says here another Pathfinder was arrested for possession. I wonder if they even remember how to shoot hoop anymore?" Mel shook his head.

"I thought you were looking at the employment section, Mel."

Anne pulled the tie out of her red hair and retied it, nervously. Mel grunted and made a dismissing gesture with his hand.

"You want eggs with your waffle?" He said nothing. "Mel?"

"If you want."

"Do you want fucking eggs or not? It's a simple decision!"

Mel opened his mouth to say something and was cut off by the ringing phone. Anne reached for the handset, but he reached out and stopped her.

"We screen calls on Sundays, remember? If it's the mortgage company, I'll think of something to tell them on Monday."

Anne blinked, the slightest bit of moisture appearing at the edge of her eyes. When the beep subsided, a gruff voice came over the speaker.

"Mel? It's me. Answer th–" Mel picked up.

"Frank? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Donny's in five. Okay." He hung up and rose from the table. "I'm going out."



He grabbed his red hoody from the back of the chair and pulled it on. He paused at the door, seeing Anne at the table with the first tear rolling down her cheek. He scowled. "I'll be playing some poker tonight. Don't wait up."

Mel slammed the door behind him.


See how easy it is?

(As for transporting Mel from behind bars to Anne's apartment, well, I'll leave that magic show to you and your typewriter's deft mumbo jumbo; I can't do everything!)

Regardless, I think we can all agree that for Mel to have gone gracefully, we should never have seen him after he waded into that ocean. But I won't question your reasons for continuing.

Well, I should tie this epistle up. My time, as the man said, is like a Sunday in TJ. It's cheap, but it's not free. Good luck, and be in touch.

Juan del Facio Endiaz
Professor Emeritus
Editor / Miskatonic University Press


Relive all Mel's past adventures, check out an interview with our dimensionally challenged hero, and e-mail Jess at j_gulbranson@hotmail.com.

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