Procedural: Or, How to Find an Epic Story Spoiler…

by | February 2021 B (Day 2)


It all started with an ad that should’ve been outdated.
I mean, it was well over a year old, but I was all “nothing ventured
nothing gained“ about it.

Ran only once in Starlog magazine. I called to see if anyone was still taking on any work for the offer.
“Oh, this is so boss! I’d despaired of finding anyone! Spend-dee-doh!”

Never actually met the person behind the voice. I told them I’d check
the microfilm, find the place. There had to be something to it.

Got the item I was promised.  It was the minutes from the insurance
company, after Carl Denham’s inauspicious night in New York. You know
the one I mean.  The premiere.

Since then?
I’ve become a kind of event producer – gallery openings, music festivals, the like.
I’m also an inspector-for-hire.

My current gig is about finding Óðr the Shishämœ.
That more or less means “one who is treacherous and leaves no trail.”

He’s a guy who wiped out a Viking village and blamed it on Grendel.
Now, understand, some things get embellished over time, but.


Client is a surviving member of the Notebook of the Tempest.
They were a Swedish heavy metal group. Yes, all female.

You might say they invented progressive rock, but that’s
another debate for another time. They were mostly choral.
This elusive fugitive was their tour manager.
Just before this shipwreck, my client cast a spell.

Trouble was, Kára didn’t foresee how old Norse would have
different indicative tenses from English. Plus affixes and suffixes and that
pesky verb rule about habitual aspects.

So, he’s still around. I have to find out where.

I’m in the diner. Not gonna say where exactly. Don’t bother trying to track metadata
on the story either.

Meeting my informant. She had something to do with that escapade in Des Moines.
It’s on this old film noir flick. You won’t find it.

Hey, I have to stay two steps ahead. Protect my network. So don’t be wasting
any time in the Reddit threads.


She’s one of the survivors of the survey team from ‘38 and the
Skirmish. Orson Welles said it was in Grovers Mill, NJ but he was off by –
well, more than a few counties. If you want to know more about that,
you’ll have to fork over a brownstone in Alexandria. That’s where
Poe – still curious?  Sorry to hear it.   I’m on a deadline here.

I ask her my question in Ríírti. She knows just enough to follow the lingo.

“Yeah, I’ve got some intel.”
How certain?
“Reliably speaking, it’s better than 50/50. ”

Kpepœ, I think, with an impassive look that cloaks impatience and a shard
of vexation.

Sounds dubious, I say. Follow up on it.

The exchange is cut short. My pal Edward Hopper comes in.
He looks at my snitch, then back at me.
I join him at the booth.

“How’s the painting? Got over your blank spell?”
Maybe. He looks back at the counter.
He sketches something.  Impressionistic.
I decide to wait for another time, to talk about the lighthouse.

I excuse myself.


One cool thing about all this. Everything has this
retro look. The architecture, fashion.

I pass the McCleare building. There’s a phone bank going on inside. Betty
Cooper’s student council campaign.

One of the volunteers might be of help.

René Belloq.
He’s charismatic but slippery.

I ask him if he’s had any luck with getting his claim settled.
Him and that damn pocket-watch from Egypt.

Not yet.

I come close to telling him I’m got a Jones for antiques too but I don’t.


  1. Trent

    Alrighty-o: a mix of a couple of prompts. Conlang/invented language, plus code switching and inside/outside language. Plus of course the cameos of things I just happen to love writing about, so. Kind of satirical but maybe a start of some magical realism/cultural reference mystery…

  2. Randal Houle


    Good work weaving several of the prompts together I liked the flow of it. Things that almost happen but not quite. A lot working here. Big fan of slipping non-English into the narrative as well. That is always a big plus especially when it fits.

  3. sara lippmann

    Trent! This is so wild I love it — the writing is kinetic. The narrative voice, how it opens, grabs us immediately. I love how it assumes a level of intimacy, talks in a shorthand that brings the reader into the know. The inventiveness of it all, the energy — how it keeps shifting and opening up.

    The humor!

    Now, understand, some things get embellished over time, but.

    Choral Swedish all female heavy metal

    I love how it continues to unfold in a sort of increasingly Alice in Wonderland magic — each opening on to the next and down we go. The voice is so assured that we don’t question any of it, we trust we are in steady hands. It’s masterful in that control. Have you read David Hollander’s Anthropica? Hollander is the inspiration behind this course — and I feel like you’d love his latest.

    I’m excited by stories that throw away the rule book, that present their own rules, and that continue to subvert the very rules they establish, which you are doing here. Eager to see where you go with this, and what you do. It’s like a Mamet play but uniquely yours. (the possibilities of event producer/inspector for hire…) Thanks!

  4. Meg Tuite

    WOW Trent!! This is a trip well-worth taking over and over! It’s hilarious and brilliant! “You know what I mean” “Since?” And then the language. And Hopper: “He looks at my snitch, then back at me.
    I join him at the booth. “How’s the painting? Got over your blank spell?” I LOVE everything about this! It’s absolute brilliance!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE! I would send this beauty out! Amazing!

  5. Nancy Bauer-King

    Well, this guy (with the great narrative voice) gets around! I like his quick action, the frenetic pace – bumping into famous, mythical, fictional characters with an underlying humor. Delightful! Thank You!

  6. David O'Connor

    What a voice here! Tight-roping between couplets and paragraphs adds a cool dimension, makes it easy to read, and allows the mind to wander while the narrative details keep pulling in the slack. From actors to Viking, antiques to classified, the whole gamut run in such a short space, great writing.

  7. Todd Clay Stuart

    Trent, such a strong voice in this bizarre, yet absorbing piece. Love the Indiana Jones references! Love the Spend-dee-doh! This is such an original, one of a kind piece. Good work!

  8. Jonathan Cardew

    This is weird and wonderful! I love all the names and descriptions, “René Belloq. He’s charismatic but slippery.” A riotous piece and pleasure to read.


  9. April Bradley

    These prompts worked magic for you, Trent. This character is so vivid, and the way he moves through this narrative has so much energy. This works so well as a short piece but I want to know more. I easily could fall into a novel that began this way. Thanks so much!

  10. Jenn Rossmann

    Wow, Trent, this is so cool. Energetic, as others have mentioned! Electric!
    I would read a lot more about
    “Notebook of the Tempest.
    They were a Swedish heavy metal group. Yes, all female.”
    Yes I would. Thanks so much for sharing this, and thanks for the inspiration of what amazing journeys these prompts can lead us on!

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