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Turgid Prose
an immodest collection of bad writing

Since 1982, the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the prestigious Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest [ ] in which bad writers from around the globe compete pen-to-pen in a no-commas-barred fight to create the worst possible opening sentence for a novel. For reasons that remain entirely fathomable to anyone who has perused the printed collections of winning entries (and as many others that were needed to fill out the volumes to publishable lengths), I've never won this contest myelf, but I have made several unsuccessful attempts.

Now, in most cases, that would have been the end of the story for all those story beginnings, but thanks to the miracle of "personal vanity page" technology, I have rescued these non-winning attempts at literary awfulness from a fate of well-deserved oblivion.

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"The years had not been kind to Harry; we must all grow older, but the ceaseless tread of time's golf shoes had treated him like an unreplaced and unwanted divot in the game of life," I reflected upon seeing my old school chum, Harry Bender, now a shrunken head in an otherwise unremarkable display of roadside oddities and tourist attractions much like any of the dozens of other such stands that, along with poorly contructed shanties that advertized "fresh watermellon, 4 cents per pound" and adult bookstores, usually sporting names like "Ma and Pa's Whip and Chain Heaven," dotted the otherwise unremarkable landscape along Highway One.

With the sickening thud that a cloth sack filled with rabbit entrails makes when colliding with a concrete wall, the sack of rabbit entrails smashed into the wall behind me.

After the erstwhile sturdy-looking embankment collapsed asunder beneath our soles, precipitously propelling the dapper police inspector LeFarge and my equally impeccably dressed self into the turbulent maelstrom that the until recently placid stream had been miraculously transformed into by Tuesday's incredible vespertine deluge, I swore as I was dragged beneath the waters that if providence would only see fit to deliver me from this deadly effluvient, I would never again write a sequipedalian, badly written detective novel.

Alas, Abigail adored Andy, and all Andy's ardor and anticipation adhered achingly atop alternately aloof and alluring Alicia--although acrimonious Anton attracted Alicia's amour.

- From "Love Letters"--a romantic novel in twenty-six volumes

"Yummy!" exclaimed five-year-old Cindy Spallit, biting eagerly into her ice cream bar, pausing only when she realized that it had bones in it.

Genevieve shouldered the small bundle which contained all that she owned and walked nervously but purposefully away from a life that had, at first, seemed too good to be true: it had been more than she could ever have hoped for that the ruggedly handsome Count Baden-Falkenhausenmann would have asked for her--his maid and nanny to his four children borne to him by his beloved wife Griselda who had died years ago under mysterious circumstances involving a runnaway horse and a ladle--hand in marriage, but she knew that, though she had long loved him from afar, allowed her maidenly eyes to linger on his dark, brooding countenance and the chiseled scar that seemed only to lend excitement and mystery to an already compelling visage, she could never marry him for her honor would never allow her to accede to his exotic sexual demands--no, no matter how she much she longed for him, she simply wouldn't go down for the Count.

Too quickly the last of the pitons worked free from the sheer wall of the icy cliff, plunging Randolf and his sister Margie to a messy death 700 feet below; now, normally, this would be the end of the story, but for artistic reasons I have decided to fill the remaining 349 pages of this book with 837,541 'M's: M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M M . . .

"I hate editors," I thought to myself, gazing at the check the postman had just handed over to me, still smelling of garlic and kippers and something that I was almost certain was kangaroo, "sure, I jumped at the chance to have my novella printed at forty-four cents a word, but how was I to know that they, through a catastrophic error in their word processing program, would print it without spaces? The last straw was that the publisher had deducted half of my royalties to pay for the stamp."

Like a blue-painted dalmatian being dragged through a grommet by a length of rough packing twine, the sickly grey moon rose above the horizon, thought better of it, and sunk below again as the direction of the earth's rotation mysteriously reversed.

The soft clouds were lit by the morning sun, glowing orange-yellow, a color that Jake would have described as like the little blob of pasty stuff that TV dinners like to claim is peach cobbler--except, of course, that he was dead and it seemed unlikely that he was going to say anything at all.

Professor Weigenburger sighed, knowing that without the alien mother to care for the last surviving egg of her once-proud species, the egg would surely die; still, he thought, greasing the fry-pan, it certainly was going to be an interesting breakfast.

"Somewhere in this cemetary, the vampyre lies hidden," the grave-looking man with the stake said cryptically.

I never would have guessed that Grandma would have brought a severed head back from the 7-11, which was reasonable, because she never did.

Sandy's memory sprung unbidden into my thoughts, just as it did every time I emptied my running shoes.

I suppose it's natural for a seven-year-old boy to have a crush on his teacher, but as I stood at the airport, waving goodbye to them as they left to spend Christmas vacation in Acapulco, I began to wonder if they weren't going just a little bit too far.

As I looked at the body of Jock Haversham, formerly the star quarterback of Hammond Jr. High, lying covered in red and yellow confetti, I knew that there were a couple of pom-pom girls who had some answering to do.

"Cobalt blue is such a nice color, don't you think?" I asked; but, since I was talking to a gas pump, I received no answer.

"My god, Matilda! You've turned into an anchovy!"

The name of Emilio Ramsbladder would go down in history as the greatest experimentalist in the history of genetic research, but the irony was that his first great discovery was really due to the poor spelling of one of his assistants; because of a misspelled label, Emilio selected the wrong jar and, using the most sophisticated recombinant DNA techniques of the time, created a new organism--half peach and half Levi's denim jeans--that was to revolutionize the world of genetic research: yes, Emilio Ramsbladder had created the fruit fly.

"Whoa!" I cried, surprised at the sudden and quite unexpected appearance of the splattered blancmange whose nacreous, almost luminescent sheen conjured within me an image of a brilliant, gibbous moon, somehow split asunder by a great bolt of lightning (providing, of course, that the moon was made of cream cheese or perhaps tapioca and was somewhat lower in altitude than is its habit) and deposited, by some twist of fate engineered by the cruel gods of an uncaring universe, and spattered upon my table--the kind with the little hinged segments on either side so that it could be connected with the other tables in the vicinity, a prospect I was loathe to imagine, largely because of the obvious overbite and distinctly unshaven appearance of the patron to my left, whom I could imagine to have all the erudition of a pure-bred guernsey, an impression entirely corroborated by his distinctly bovine mastication of a side order of hash browns which currently, together with a bottle of ketchup, seemed to consume the whole of his attention even as he was consuming them--in the pancake house where I softly savored the delicacy of my metaphor, decided that it would be less outre' to pretend not to have noticed the waiter's manifest incompetence and instead take a slow sip from the cup of coffee that the management was kind enough to have refilled whenever I ran out; "a pretty good deal, for forty cents," I thought.

It was the winter of my heart's desire, the spring of my autumnal fancy, the summer of my discontent; all in all, I think it was Monday.

When Leigh Marconi, the sultry and seductive head of the English Department at State U., first laid eyes upon the new PhD just hired in Geophysics, she wanted to be near him, she wanted to be with him, she wanted to be on him--in short, she wanted to preposition him.

Andrea's golden hair spread out like a halo from the serenity of her slightly sleepy face, framing her blissful expression in a nest of saffron locks that irresistably and inevitably drew John's mind back to fond memories involving a few scattered bales of straw the color of her hair covering the bed of the azure datsun pickup truck where they shared their secrets and their bodies for the first time; smiling inwardly at the upwelling of pleasant memory, he reached out and stroked her hair, glad once again that her hair didn't make the sort of crunching sound that straw did when stroked and that her hair didn't break off in little pieces and get uncomfortably stuck in his shorts.

The hours grew long, passing slowly like an underpowered railway engine dragging sixty minutes overloaded with coal through a city where the Interstate Commerce Commission had decreed that trains could not be operated at speeds above fifteen miles per hour; the minutes dragged on, each one seeming like sixty seconds, each of those seeming like twenty-two feet of the aforementioned train--and then it happened.

Stretching her arms and legs as the sun first peeked in between the drapes that covered her windows, much the same way Herbert had peeked through her blouse the previous night, Melissa reflected (perhaps because of the shiny spot where some of the superglue still hadn't come off) that she liked waking up in the mornings--not so much as, for instance, waking up in the afternoon or even in the evening, but much more than she liked waking up in a dumpster.

Jeffery Tate's apartment reeked of seduction, from the calculatedly uncomfortable chairs which would practically force a female guest to share his overstuffed and undersized couch to the prominent and well-stocked bar to the full-ceiling mirror over the bed with the little white letters that said, "OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE LARGER THAN THEY APPEAR."

Our hero gazes upwards at our heroine, the ceiling light above her head shining through her soft blonde locks, illuminating stray strands of hair wafted gently upwards by his breath like Quetzalcoatl sunbeams tethered to her scalp, the light silhouetting her in a way that from his point of view looks almost identical to the great black monolith in "2001, a Space Odyssey" except, of course, that she's much more pink and has, he notes upon reflection, a better figure.

As tradition demands, the sun began to rise above the horizon, its thin crescent glowing pinkly as it peeked over the rim of the world at an hour far too inconvenient for its own good; beams of sunlight tiptoed around the pastel draperies to shine warmly upon the skin of Bernadine Lambert who was also glowing pinkly as she and her lover stirred sleepilly, limbs comfortably intertwined in a manner so strikingly like an octupus swept up in the onanistic frenzy of trying to dance cheek-to-cheek with itself that the videotapes later would cause Jacques Cousteau to blush and accidentally steer one of his ships into a buoy that through one of the most dramatic displays of synchonicity in the past century looked just like Opus the Penguin--and yet she knew that, like all other good things that ever have a chance to begin, this too must end: there were only so many days one could call in sick; plus, she knew that her boss at the record store was beginning to suspect that her labored breathing when she called in to say that she was sick had less to do with the ravages of the flu than she had been willing to admit.

Even in the giant space station where the difference between night and day is whether you have the nearest light switch on or off and down is wherever your feet happen to be pointing at the time, the 24-hour biological rhythms must be maintained and each 'day' at 1900 hours shiptime it was the duty of Ensign Powell, agricultural control engineer's assistant (third class) to shut off the artificial lights that illuminated the station's hydroponic grazing fields--1900 hours was pasture bedtime.

"I hate it when that happens!" Famed genetic researcher Doctor Ivan Von Bloom said as he sneezed into the pipette that he filling with a sample of his latest batch of genetically altered botulism bacteria, spattering bacilli on his trousers and starting the plague that was to kill off three-fourths of the population of London.

"Master Trevelyan!"--those two words were all that Powell, Trevelyan's faithful valet for more than twenty years, could force from his lips before the alien's radioactive beam reduced him to a cyanotic blistered jelly of charred protoplasm that burbled and hissed as it dripped through the slats of the spacious redwood deck that extended from the northern side of the picturesque mountain A-frame that Trevelyan and the Koog ambassador had selected as the venue for their mutual repast, causing Trevelyan to wonder whether the alien was less gentlemanly than his (its?) unctuous praise of the Bernaise sauce would have suggested or that overcooking shirred eggs was not accepted with the same casualness throughout the galaxy as it was here on earth.

Why I had accepted my frat brothers' dare to sign up with an inter-species computer dating service I'd never understand--oh, I know as well as anybody that the decendants of the plethora of ambitious genetic experiments of the past century were as intelligent as anybody else and sometimes surprisingly compatible with humans, but I had never imagined actually dating one of them--or how I came to be matched to something (I hesitate to call her a girl) whose grandfather had been an insect in a particularly zealous experimenter's garden, but after downing all but the cork of a rather large bottle of distilled spirits I hardly noticed the huge segmented eyes and extra legs and, somehow, we ended up in bed together that night; and, as she wrapped her powerful anterior arms around me and drew me to her chitinous green torso, one thought only kept racing through what little consciousness was left to me--what was it that my freshman biology teacher had said about the mating habits of praying mantises?

- From "Dial-a-Prayer," the story of an insect call girl and what bugs her.

"These are the tines that pry men's soles," Jerome the shoemaker remarked philosophically, using the tarnished shrimp fork to separate the top from the bottom of the well-used brown brogan.

"I knew I should have brought the stool along!" said Anna Von Helsing, the last (and shortest) of that famous line of vampire-killers, "I'll never be able to kill the vampire before sundown--the stakes are just too high!"

I never would have guessed the strange turn my life was about to take as I first gazed upon the wonderous city of T____, my eyes as wide and innocent as a newborn babe's. I was used to the simpler world of coral reefs and palm trees, not the hustle-bustle of a modern city; it seemed to me that there must be more people in T____ than I had imagined could exist in the whole world--and, somehow, not only had all these people managed to fit into such a small place, they had all done it without being where they wanted and were all rushing madly to be somewhere else. My eyes and ears took in all the incredible sights and sounds of this fantastic city, but my stomach remained oblivious to the wonders around me, reminding me that it had been many hours since breakfast. As I listened to the roar of an approaching train, I looked around, wishing that someone would suddenly appear and offer this tired and hungry traveller a hot meal. The train pulled into the station, its engine dragging dozens of cars stuffed with people; surely the city of T____ wouldn't mind if I ate just one, I thought to myself as I picked up the car at the end....

- From "Wuthering Depths"
(not actually a Bulwer-Lytton entry, owing to its greater-than-one-sentence length, but I'm including it in here anyway.)

"Isn't it just like a Monday to start out like this?" thought Godzilla; tonight was Rhodan's surprise birthday party, and somehow he had managed to lose one of the earrings he was planning to give her. He spent most of the morning searching nearly every square inch of the sea bed before realizing that he had probably dropped it somewhere on the way home from the jewelers. His mind had been full of plans for the party and he had forgotten that, being a huge radioactive sea monster, he didn't have pockets. It was probably somewhere in downtown Tokyo, but where? Then, to make matters worse, he'd just begun checking under a couple of buildings for it when half the Japanese army showed up and opened fire on him. Sheesh! At least he and Rhodan were having a normal and satisfying relationship -- unlike his friend Gidrah, who was in a love triangle all by himself.

- From "Desperately Seeking Rhodan"

I could sense the tension in the air as I walked down the dark street. Fog hung in the air like curtains on a blender; off in the distance I could hear a dog barking his shin as I stepped beneath a streetlamp that some punk kid had covered with a loaf of rye bread. A few stray caraway seeds bounced off my hat and caught in the upturned collar of my trenchcoat, causing my mind to wander back to a simpler time before Mary-Lou had inherited control of the world's second-largest oil firm--but, no, this was no time for memories: I had to find out who stole Grandpa's dentures and return them before the thieves discovered the microfilm hidden in the second upper-left molar.

"" gasped the mime as I emptied the clip of .38 shells into his black-clad chest.

The Unnatural Enquirer, © 1984-2001 Trygve Lode (

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