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Of all the crafts to which we may turn and apply ourselves, writing is indeed the most gay. As testament to writing's status as the most gay of sciences stand volume upon volume dedicated solely to writing itself, to the dropping of fingers repeatedly on one's typewriter or computer keyboard, to the sheer joy of the magical process from inspiration divine through the mental and physical hardships of translating one's art on a written page, to the ecstasy of one's readers uplifted and enlightened, thrilled and invigorated on reading this work, on unlocking its mysterious power. The writer, whether gentleman or lady, sophisticate or barbarian, surely finds himself happily immersed in a shadow world of elves, faeries and mysterious forces when applying himself to his calling.

Quills and ink, rolls of parchment, tight pants, riding boots and grey wigs, these are the things we associate with writing. Roses, picnicking in sunny meadows, fields of daisies and a pipe full of tobacco are parts of the writer's world as are the cocktail party, the letter of damnable criticism and the witty jab. Long hours bent over a desk working by lamplight way into the night, a glass of port, a leather chair, instructions to one's manservant that one is not to be disturbed, these things are of the writer and his occupation. Pacing the floor of one's library, the dramatic structure, the revision, a pencil broken in half in frustration, a visit to a bawdy house, living in poverty, the invention of the cotton gin, the telling of a ribald tale at Thanksgiving dinner, a dalliance with a first cousin; these images flood our mind simultaneously when we consider the most peculiar vocation of writing.

The writer's inspiration pours down from on high, flowing down into him from the gods. His is a world of demons and goblins, of pure, milky white, supine young maidens and skulking wart-covered trolls. The mystical muse visiting the writer unannounced causing him to leap from his bed to a flurry of activity, capturing his amorphous idea and wresting it to the page in black and white manifestation. Forever in the service of this hidden magic, the writer is destined as slave to his gods and demons and cannot be bothered in his intercourse with them. Dancing through fields of poppies, falling down inebriated in public, grabbing the buttocks of a complete stranger -- these activities are simply part of the work of the writer, who bounds about here and there, wherever his whims should take him, while awaiting the call of his fey higher powers.

Manly men are the writers we know, and it goes that a writer who is not manly as such will not last long on the treacherous high seas of the writerly world. Impossible it is to write without boarding the ship, without setting off for the unknown and the uncharted, without entering completely the world of piratry. The ship offers adventure and opportunity. Individuals will accept different positions in the crew hierarchy. Most will rotate through many of the available roles aboard ship, some dominant, others subordinate; rare is the writer who has not assumed the four-legged stance of ultimate submission.

Ahoy! The writer jolts awake -- you are aboard a ship, her sails billowing full with a wind pushing you on to a destination unknown and causing the flowing locks of your curly golden hair to hop about against your soft yet tanned face as you squint, looking to the horizon, unafraid. You reach into your vest and, withdrawing a telescope, take it firmly with both hands and gently pull on it extending it to its full length. With one deerskin-booted foot upon the rail you peer out to the sea, scanning the foamy expanse.

A firm hand clasps your shoulder and you turn around. Mind the bird!! you admonish your fellow crewmate as your macaw, Geronimo, perched near your collar, his head tilted indignantly, squawks and steps back and forth and opens his wings in brief flutter motions to regain his balance. Your crewmate mutters something unintelligible. You reach over and remove the knife he has clenched between his teeth. "A fight is brewing on the fore-deck!" he says. Replacing the knife, you stuff the telescope into your trousers and the two of you are off.

You bound across the deck after him, his white silken shirt alternately billowing out and clinging to his strong, broad, sweaty back, and the light clacking sound of your necklace -- made from finger bones of a Nigerian who tried to cheat you at a game of cribbage -- is drowned out by shouting as you approach the crowd gathered around the two combatants. Arms flail, punches land and miss, a blow to the head displaces an eye patch, muscled bodies hit the dry wood, the men grunt as they wrestle and flip one another about. The captain appears through the crowd and dumps a bucket of water on the two writhing figures on deck before him to the laughter of all around. "Enough!" he yells. The men disperse, the matter is over, there is a peaceful end. And this is fortunate, for it is regrettable when a man unsheathes his weapon and, run away with emotion, pierces another with it.

Wrestling, sword-fighting, using the work of others without permission, dominating enemies and binding them with straps of leather in the hold where they remain till you can barter them for things more desirable -- life aboard the writerly ship is an adventure, yes it is!

But not all on the ship of writing is so stimulating and exciting. There are the long, quiet days of good weather, a gentle breeze pushing the craft along through warm sunlight and fresh air while each wanders about deeply involved in his own pursuit. Lively discussion, argument and the sharing of ideas at the supper table over a cask of good ale are times to look forward to. To lie on one's back on deck, gazing at the clouds of an endless afternoon sky, a writer can be taken away, far from the confines of his relatively tiny boat: climbing the rock face of a mountain with his bare hands . . . hunting down wild game . . . racing a bicycle in the Olympics...fencing other writers atop a high parapet in the fog . . . running from a wild boar through the jungle . . . or walking the streets of Paris, an arm around the slender waist of a young companion...

But the kiss on the forehead awakening the writer from his sensual and fantastic dreams, gently pulling him back into this world, is from another member of the crew, a fellow writer/adventurer reminding him that there is a time for fantasy and a time for reality, a time to relax and a time to answer the call to work, a time to go within one's own mind and a time to take part in communal activities that run the ship, and a time for discipline as well as a time for play. The writer must balance the desire to grapple with his fellow crewmates and take pleasure in their company with the need to be in his study or bunk alone. He must release himself to the dangerous, daemonic writerly sea world, and also cultivate the sensibility to properly arrange his domicile. He must remain at home, disciplined, bound to the work of himself and his inclination, and he must give himself over with joy to the piratic impulse. For of the many things it is, writing remains after all the most gay of sciences.

Please realize that Mr. Ratblood 
is a card-carrying member of the 
Underground Literary Alliance.

[Forever after at

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The short of it is this:
(1) click these words, (2) select the story called
"You Are a 14-Year-Old Arab Chick . . ."
by Randa Jarrar, and (3) click "Submit Vote"

Here's the long of it: by clicking the words above you can help this youngish Arab-American Austinite lady win the "storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction." According to storySouth, "The purpose of the Million Writers Award is to honor and promote the best fiction published in online literary journals and magazines during 2003." Around 600 stories were nominated, then fifty-something stories were chosen as notables (including Jamie Allen's "REO Speedwagon"-related story and Steven Coy's "Car Singer" as well as many other stories posted elsewhere by Eyeshot contributors including Gary Glauber, Kelly Daniel, Tom Bradley, Karen Ashburner, Christopher Monks, A.C. Koch, and Claudia Smith), and now it's down to ten stories, including Randa Jarrar's, which you can read here as long as you promise to click here or seven inches above and vote for her to win. We're sure it would make everyone involved very happy if Randa won. So click here and place your vote for Randa Jarrar to win the storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction.