Welcome, Dear Reader, to Orphans Eleven. I am Father Michael Gulligan, your Editor and Host. My Patron and I have spared every expense to adorn these pages with only the most spare and basic design elements. Our purpose is to minimize visual distractions that might impede your fullest enjoyment of the words contained herein. Actually, you have Mr Ellison to thank for this, perhaps owing to his visits to early editions of McSweeney's. I might have preferred a more elaborate visual statement.
I entreat you, however, not to be too hard on our Patron for these apparent paucities. He is, after all, providing this valuable web space and this reading matter at absolutely no charge. But why should you care about any of this? These are merely squabbles between a poor Editor and his Patron, and you should feel free to bypass all this dithering and jump to the stories. However....
One of my long-held goals as an Editor, is to be able to write one of those clever Submission Guidelines pieces that tells you not to be too clever, what to say about yourself in your cover letter (you must eschew mentioning any achievements beyond high school graduation so that the editors will not be influenced by your inevitable inflations as opposed to your story, which they wish to stand naked in the klieg lights of their judicial inquiry), whether to email or snailmail, how long you should expect to wait before getting your rejection slip, that you won't earn a dime for your efforts even if your submission is published, and to never even think of following up on your submission because editors are very busy and mercurial people who can become mean-spirited and "forgetful" at the drop of a hat. And so forth. But alas, I shall have to wait longer to achieve my long-held goal: I am currently handcuffed by my Patron's inflexible policy of publishing only his own material in Orphans Eleven. Such infamies we poor Editors must tolerate at the hands of Patrons!
As you might expect, I am obligated to inform you that anything you read in Orphans Eleven is copyrighted material that is the exclusive property of E T Ellison, our most generous Patron. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any way, shape or form without the express written permission of the Patron. But you can read whatever you find here without fear of further legal or extralegal intimidation.
I am also obligated to mention the fact that the stories are fiction. If you are a diligent reader you will doubtless be able to identify (and catalog, if so inclined) the fictils (fiction filaments) woven into each tale. If you've just arrived from Elsewhere and are not familiar with the Earthly concept of fiction, it means (in this context) that all persons, places and incidents in the stories are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, which seems a little like circular reasoning. In plain language, nothing you read here is real or true. Anything that sounds real or true must technically be considered pure coincidence, even though you might wish it were really real or even truly true. If you think this might be stretching the probabilities associated with the concept of "coincidence" beyond the breaking point, remind yourself that legalisms are subject only to their own internal truths. And that's the law.
UNTIL NEXT TUESDAY -- This tale might properly be titled "The Secret Lives of Rocking Chairs," wherein the natures of boxes, stuffed animals and a plastic amputee are illuminated. The instigator for it was the author's mother who was well aware that the author needs only the thinnest of excuses to write about any absurd thing or another. Is it truly a tale about the dangers of allowing a woman to come between the best of chairmates? It's worth reading to find out. READ IT
CATS IN THE CHANNEL -- If I am to believe what I have been told, this first person account of an aquatic venture involving thousands of felines is dedicated to the memory of a cat named Madonnawanna. I am not so sure: I suspect it is nothing more than an op-ed piece thinly disguised as a short story. One of my jobs as Editor is Classification and Description. That is to say, where to slot these items in one's perceptual filing cabinet. I doubt that your perceptual filing cabinet has a place called Absurdist Self-Colloquoy, but maybe it will in the future. READ IT
TONEWOOD ANGEL -- I have it from the author's own mouth that he once entertained the notion of becoming an amateur luthier. This notion went so far as the purchase of an acoustic bass kit from the famous C F Martin & Company guitar works. Eventually, the author's notion faded enough that he hired a professional luthier to put it together and make it beautiful. The author asserts that the story was assembled out of admiration for the maniacally patient artistry of luthiers, the heady dust of tonewoods and the ironic dispositions of postmodern gods. READ IT
THE TINSEL TRAP -- Translated from British English by E T Ellison, "The Tinsel Trap" is an obscure 1950 detective story by an obscure British writer named Maxine Frank, who might have been someone else entirely. Or so we are told by Mr Ellison in his Foreword and Afterword to the story. This tale features a hardboiled female private dick named Hawkeye Smale who gets caught up in a mystery involving Dr Seuss, Wildroot Cream Oil, skinny feet and a shipload of thinly veiled threats to the American Way of Life. READ IT
GRISHVARD'S PRANK -- When I first read this item I was unable to decide whether to classify it as a fairy tale or a shaggy dog story disguised as a fairy tale. It was written as part of a wedding gift to a countrified couple, the other part being, I am told, a large red-brown hen with (allegedly) a heroic propensity for egg-laying in winter. If nothing else, these gifts qualify as more useful and amusing than, say, a place setting of fancy china destined for a china cabinet. READ IT
LONELY ISLAND -- Herein lies the curious tale of the dog shogun and the last dodo, which went from impending stardom to total oblivion in less than week. I have verified that this story is at least partly true, as it contains numerous verifiable facts. For example, did you know about 17th century Japan's infamous "Dog Shogun" and his remarkable edicts? Neither did your humble Editor, who also found it somewhat astonishing that last dodo's end occurred 6,000 nautical miles from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius where all other members of raphus cucullatus lived out their flightless lives. It may just be true that history is stranger than either truth or fiction. READ IT
ON THE TRUE ORIGIN OF PIZZA -- My Patron's first published story became known far and wide. He wrote it for Tom Bombadil's Food & Drink in Hawaii, the idea being that the story would give patrons something to do while while waiting for their meal. To everyone's surprise, the tale became so popular that souvenir copies were printed for customers to take home. And they did. They showed it (right along with their vacation photos) to their friends in Cincinnati and Houston and Hong Kong and Oslo and wherever, who then made it a point to visit Bombadil's when they were in Kailua-Kona. Not everyone was pleased, however: at least one irate customer felt misled, claiming that this was NOT a true story. Imagine that! READ IT
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