Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ryan and the Cherubs

It's a small class, but in it Ryan, about fourteen, is the class clown. And somehow we got on the subject of him and cherubs. Since Ryan has a penchant for all things cute and roundish, it wasn't too out of line. But then it also came about that we were discussing the word torso, as it appears in Dan Brown's recent novel Inferno, which we're reading in this class, a class of five Taiwanese teens who meet every Saturday to discuss novels. And that day it was cherubs and Ryan and torsos. When we'd been talking and reading for an hour and a half, and I had only thirty minutes left with them, I did what I often do: I gave them a quick in-class assignment. They were to write something, anything, on the theme of "Ryan and the Cherub". Results follow.

Eric Mader

* * *

Ryan and the Cherub

by Johnny Jiang (江寧)

Once upon a time there was an old man named Ryan. He was an ugly person, so that nobody wanted to marry him and even no boss wanted to hire him.       

One day, a little cherub flew through the street by Ryan's house and saw him crying because no one was there to remind him to turn off the gas stove and so he burned his dinner.      

The cherub was so kind and felt so sorry for Ryan that he decided to help him find a good wife.       

Next morning, when Ryan went to the market, the cherub followed him, planning to wait for a young lady to stand in front of him.       

Poor Ryan, even if old grandma saw him she would jump up from her wheelchair and run away!      

No young woman stood anywhere near him.       

Finally, in one shop, a clerk came up to Ryan and told him to leave the store because he was standing and talking to himself.       

The cherub thought this was his only chance to find a woman for Ryan, so he quickly pulled out his arrow and shot the unlucky clerk.       

Ryan screamed and ran out of the shop. The clerk also screamed and fell to the ground.       

The cherub realized that he had taken the wrong arrow: it was a real one. The cherub was shocked and embarrassed and flew away up into the clouds.       

What a poor clerk!

Ryan and the Cherub Avengers

by Anthony Huang (黃聖翔)

High in the clouds, a troupe of cherubs circled together, examining a mangled and gruesome object. One of them held it in his outstretched hands.      

"This must be one of us," he said. "But where is the torso?"      

"Who would dare do this?" another said. "We must find the killer! We must avenge our brother!"      

And so it was that the Cherub Avengers came to be: Ironrub, Greenrub, Captainrub, Thunderub, and Eaglerub. They each had their special weapons with which they would exact their terrible vengeance.

They traveled the world, seeking the enemy who had dared kill one of their holy brotherhood.      

One day, searching through Xin Yi Road in the city of Taipei, they came upon a strange boy eating curry ice cream in front of a building with a sign that read "ZEI: Costco of Torsos!"      

They came down and surrounded the boy.      

"Excuse me," Captainrub said. "What does this sign mean?"      

"It means go @#&*#% yourself, angel boy," the boy replied.      

The cherubs found this to be a rude reply. They sent Eaglerub into the building to find out the truth.      

Suddenly the strange boy leered, shouted "Torsos!" and grabbing Captainrub by the wings he twisted him around and cut off his head.

"It is you!" the other cherubs cried out, and so the combat began.      

Ironrub slipped into his iron suit and shot love missiles from his springloaded fists; Greenrub became a giant Cherish and tried to attack the boy with his green love punch; Thunderub flew forward to smash the boy with his love hammer.      

But the boy squirmed out of the way of each of these attacks, and spitting curses and foul curry, he drove the cherubs into a startled retreat.      

As the cherubs tried to regroup, Eaglerub flew out from the building, crying: "Hey! This kid has got some wonderful torsos in there! I want to buy some!"      

But nobody paid him any attention.      

"Alright then!" Eaglerub said. "I'll pick some myself!" And he flew back into the building.      

The battle continued, curry and love arrows and hammering. The boy roared out: "I'm Ryan, Curry King and merchant of cherub torsos! You will never defeat me!"      

The three cherubs fought like heroes, but none could harm Ryan.      

Finally, in the heat of battle, the Curry King opened his huge mouth, baring his foul curried teeth, and began to suck violently. The screaming cherubs could not bat their wings fast enough, they were sucked into his mouth. Ryan chewed them and spat their limbs and torsos onto the sidewalk next to him.       

At this moment Eaglerub exited the building with a large white shopping bag. He saw the scene on the sidewalk.      

"Uh oh," he said, and shot straight up into the sky.      

And that is the story of the rise and fall of the Cherub Avengers, the stupidest Hollywood movie of the year.

Ryan, Ryanair and the Cherub

by Ryan

Once upon a time, there was an unnamed man called Ryan. He was a pilot working for Ryanair.

One day, as he was flying an old Boeing 787 to Costco, a terrorist with a bazooka began shooting passengers from his seat. So Ryan locked the door of the cockpit and continued listening to music.

Suddenly, a cute cherub appeared outside the cockpit window, 25,000 meters above the ground, and magically entering the plane, he went back and shot the terrorist with an arrow.

The terrorist died immediately.

“Nooooo!” cried the cherub. “He was supposed to fall in love! With me!”

Ryan was finally getting angry. All this was too much for one flight. He left the cockpit and went back into the cabin. First he yelled at the cherub, then he broke his little bow and arrows; finally he began to beat the cherub’s round head, hands, legs and wings. Even the passengers, the ones who hadn’t been killed by the terrorist, thought this treatment was excessive.

But what none of them knew was that the terrorist had also planted a bomb on the plane. It exploded, blowing off the back half of the cabin.

Ryan grabbed what remained of the cherub and struggled to the cockpit. As the broken front half of the plane spiraled to the ground, he got on his emergency parachute and jumped.

And that’s how Ryan lost his job at Ryanair. But it’s also how he got his first cherub torso.

The Psychopath and the Cherub (after Dan Brown’s Inferno)

by Claire Fan-Chiang (范姜詠欣)

“Ow!” yelped Ryan as the arrow struck his forehead. He looked up to locate his attacker.

Oh, he had never seen such a handsome young boy in his life! Blonde curls that shone and flickered in the evening light, the clearest eyes whose colors seemed to be changing like a kaleidoscope, skin pale yet beautiful as alabaster, and a smile more radiant than the golden sun itself.

Ryan leapt up, pinning the cherub down and accidentally squashing his wings against the floor of Florence’s famed Palazzo Vecchio. Ryan’s parents were on the other side of the great Renaissance hall from him, studying Vasari’s huge mural The Battle of Marciano. They’d taken their son to Italy with them to learn about European culture.

As Ryan held the wounded cherub pinned to the floor, the museum guards struggling to pull him off, a low humming filled his head, the murmur of many voices, then the thunder of soldiers’ footsteps, and a high scream sharp enough to rent The Apotheosis of Cosimo I in two.

But it didn’t matter; for all that Ryan knew was that the cherub looked delicious.

Half an hour later Ryan was seated, handcuffed, in the back of a black van. Next to him was Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey and the handsome soldier gripping her left calf. The streets of Florence flew past through the van windows. But that didn’t matter either. All Ryan remembered was the cherub’s face and that delicious taste that left a tang of iron inside his mouth.

* * *

A flash of blonde wove through the crowds of summer tourists. It was Sienna Brooks, running madly down the stone pavement along the river, tears splashing down her cheeks.

Sienna had never felt so betrayed by anybody, her mind was blank--an emptiness caused by the shock she’d just suffered. She stopped. A gentle wind touched her cheek. She screamed a venomous curse over the olive green water of the Arno.

* * *

Up in the palazzo’s massive garret, Vayentha and Langdon were sitting on the viewing platform. She was listening to Langdon talk about his Mickey Mouse watch. Vayentha didn’t catch every word Langdon said, but it didn’t matter. All she could think of was how beautiful Langdon seemed at that moment.

If only this could last forever!

* * *

The cherub stared up at the rent canvas, mouth agape, full of hatred for the garish ceiling of the Hall of the Five-Hundred. Warm liquid oozed from his broken body; nothing the medics did seemed to stanch the flow. A buzz echoed in his brain; his mind was in chaos now, memories flashed by, fleeting images of wings and clouds and lovely limbs. A tear slid down his cheek. How stupid he was to attack a trained assassin! If he had not, he would not have been shot; and if he hadn’t been shot, he would not have fallen, hitting the psychopath with his second arrow. How had that boy leapt so high? How had he not swerved from his grasp? Had he only swerved in time, he would not have been pinned to the stone floor and the crazed Asian boy would not have gnawed into his flesh as he did, a fatal wound.

His vision swam before his eyes, his consciousness slipping away. Finally darkness took him in its soft embrace.

* * *

Six months later, a shop opened its doors near the old Taipei Sogo. The space had formerly been a tapas restaurant, neither very small nor very large. The new shop owner had installed an imposing wooden door; through cramped, yellow-tinted windows the merchandise could barely be made out along the dimly lit interior.

You pushed through the heavy door, curious to verify if what you had seen could be true. You heard the heavy click of the automatic lock snap shut behind you as the door swung closed. And then, stepping forward, the mad leer of the patron, his familiar crazed and gleeful cackle: “Welcome back.”

Suddenly, from behind, a cloth was pressed against your face as a strong arm seized you round your chest. A heavy medicinal smell filled your nostrils and stung your panicked eyes. In your last instants of consciousness, you realized that the shop, the dim lighting, the tinted windows, the sign--“Cherub Torsos”--it was all a trap to draw you in.

But now there was no turning back.

* * *

Ryan, international man of mystery. And crackpot.

* * *

Yes, in fact some people don't believe that my Taipei teen students, who don't even speak English as a first language, can write prose as good as what you find on this page. They say that I must be writing most of the stories for them, or heavily changing the stories. This isn't true. I only edit the pieces, correct grammar or usage problems, and sometimes add phrases to make the stories clearer or sharper. Here's a photo of one of the pages from Claire Fan-Chiang's piece, to give you some of idea of how much I typically edit. Click on it and enlarge if you want to see the details. I'm even going to be so bold as to claim that some of these kids write English better than most American kids their age. And English is a second language for them! Which should tell us something about American education. Sigh. --Eric Mader

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shares of Idiocy Remain Stable after Taipei Times Review

Bradley Winterton at the Taipei Times reviewed my Idiocy, Ltd. today. A mix of positive and negative. I knew the review was coming, and having read Winterton's reviews for years, I foresaw some of the things he wouldn't go for. Still, I'm glad he appreciated what he did and that he took the time to review the book rather than just say "WTF is all this?" He's in any case scrupulously honest in his reviews, you get the man's own readerly reactions rather than fluff or posing, so I was interested to read it.

The only thing that annoyed me about the piece was the title, which I strongly suspect Winterton himself didn't write, but that some friendly editor at the paper tacked on.

See the good, the bad and the ugly here.

And visit Amazon to get your copy of this now officially underappreciated masterpiece of deadpan prose.