The Relative Utility of Betting on Zombie Yard Flamingos

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

In Wilma’s mind, unmitigated assumptions about various sorts of extracurricular goings on never sufficed to cull active happiness. Rather, she believed that pretend friends, especially bowtie-adorned, invisible hedgehogs, purple cats with smiles larger than those of the Cheshire in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and two-headed wildebeests, succeeded in instances in which humdrum others, including, but not limited to: city bus drivers, bank tellers, and meter men, neither elicited smiles nor caused even the slightest kerfuffles.

More exactingly, the “greatest” of corporate quarterly reports lacquered over causal chains and the smallest of them leaked snot. Dear girls aspired to be best boys for commercial television’s feature shows or to drape themselves over movie directors’ couches (after quaffing enough prophylactic antibiotics to ward against diseases as rare as to be unknown to the WHO).

Similarly, their little brothers dreamed of amassing the technical prowesses requisite to becoming sound mixers, especially in cases in which such duties involved DJing at parties broadcast over the a global system of interconnected computers. Operating as prop masters for homemade YouTube videos, too, topped the lists of those youths’ aspirations. No kid, any longer, wanted to be a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon, or as much as a heavy metal guitarist.

For those reasons and more, Wilma, a mainstream writer, gave up her emphasis on diction. Words were unimportant if her novels’ themes failed to resonate with denizens that liked their coffee spritzed with berry-flavored syrup, that coupon clipped obsessively, and that fought one another for complimentary tickets to broadcast game shows and dance competitions.

She had discovered, additionally, that unfluctuating slovenliness in plotlines no longer seemed to matter. Her main audience, young adult readers, fancied being blasted with action instead of being layered with nuance. They retained their toddler memories of crayons and of building blocks, but not of erecting fey realms or of raising fortified residences. When in diapers, those kids had pointed their imaginations toward depicting farmstand smart phone applications or toward portraying new types of body-worn technology. Theirs was the first generation in which the names of production house presidents, not of national leaders, were taught in grammar school.

Theme, too, appeared to be of little weight in contemporary writing. Wilma wished to describe intercultural prejudices, and to emphasize lingering questions of gender equity, but concluded that aside from recently liberated inmates, modern consumers preferred crowd surfing, pit diving, and making water where no latrines could be found, to referencing footnotes, to learning the history of knots, or to looking up creative means of cooking oca, samphire, and romanesco. As per her fashioning commentary on the advantages of using coir-woven fabric over cellulose acetate, no one cared. Wilma was better advised to aim her energies toward avoiding stepping in the yellow puddles left between skyscrapers than in penning consequential literature.

Therefore, she decided to write about zombie yard flamingos. After all, kitsch remained in style. Folks still spent piles of money on Bambi ornaments, ceramic cat plant holders, and wooden fruit magnets. “Unsubstantial” and “gaudy” were as magical to present day advertising, in general, as they were to book sales, more specifically. She realized that vloggers had not yet tired of positioning urban vinyl, resin cast, and designer plush against the last vestiges of the world’s Bildungsbürgertum, or of pointing out, while filming themselves pouting, that petty, evil, self-satisfying vulgarities were as essential to a fulfilling life as was the regular use of soap and water. That those “popular kids” disparaged meaningful ideas in favor of silly notions signaled that dedicating her time to prose about undead plastic icons could build her market share.

It wasn’t so much that average souls embraced the lowbrow art movement and its intentional wink at high-falutin bluestockings and “intelligent” men, as it was that people had gotten cognitively lazy. In the current social milieu, artifice, not utility, was the rage.

Police and firefighters’ salaries, for instance, had had to be tripled to attract sufficient numbers of new recruits. Sanitation officials’ jobs got outsourced to overseas agencies.

What’s more, adolescents had ceased measuring themselves against athletes and pageant queens. Colleges no longer required SAT scores; admissions counselors heeded, primarily, the number of Twitter hangers-on of their applicants.

It followed that writers who wanted to sell their goods dared not to espouse episodes of gallantry witnessed in space operas or in dark forests, but endeavored to offer texts full of childlike caprices. Hence, Wilma mused, with relative success, about macabre versions of Don Featherstone’s original Union Products birds.

Perhaps, in another universe, or during a future era, a word girl would be able to fiduciarily manage by writing about rumors of ex-patriot Persians planning on returning to the Good ‘Ol US of A to build ostrich ranches and egg packing plants and about their compatriot nuclear scientists’ desire to “research on alternatives to silicon chips,” instead of by writing about the benefits of stacking cat food cans or about the subjective expense of putting aside spaghetti dinners, potluck lunches, and pancake breakfasts to make time for competitive naked yoga. In such an age, sophisticated rhetoric would be profitable.

As likely, the Estemmenosuchus and the Epicyon would be called back from extinction, and “divorce,” “cancer,” and “gender identity,” would, again, be hot subjects. Legislators would, equally, once more, see fit to make matters of human welfare as commonplace as to seem not salacious, but passé. Journalists would, likewise, ape those elected officials in tone and topic.

During Wilma’s time in the sun, though, pet mulch piles, hotel gardens’ sunbird feeders, and vampire tourism beat “less worthy” foci. Writing with evident morality underpinnings was dropkicked by the same audiences that stood in line, at upscale boutiques, for: aerosol cans of pine scent, cassette recordings of elephant seals, and actual handfuls of hay (envisioned to be used as “rustic” bedding). Books full of stockpiled ideas were those persons’ peanut butter sandwiches, their filling, cheapo, nutritious comestibles of choice. Conversely, thought-evoking work were the masses’ bocadillos spread with foie gras, were their doctrinally questionable, unapproachably expensive, sustenance, pulp fiction, sometimes excepted.

Her society supported bizarre titillations like fighting over chanticleers’ bits and pieces of clothing, or like using crowdsourcing to fund parkour, over expending resources on farming, forestry, and other serviceable activities. Cultural “innovators” proffered that orderly acquisitions of knowledge made people neither fat nor jolly and that it was meritorious to exaggeratedly mingle on the Internet. “More power to shiny things!” was their motto.

No one wanted to be reminded that overpopulation might fail to go the way of electronic elitism, or that, collectively, gonadic gratification had surpassed the joy experienced when dining in popup restaurants catering to individuals with euergetic preferences. To the greater populous, it had become more than immaterial that green salad was now known as “Odes to Ostraca,” and that overcooked sole was now called “Peplos Encrusted in Three-Colored Peppers.” That data about baldness cures had gone viral on an allegedly private packet switching grid had, furthermore, gone ignored.

After exploiting venues interested in her exposes on disfigured flamingos, Wilma redirected herself to writing about gelatinous wallabies. She guessed that generating pages about weird macropods could help pay her bills. Despite her attempts to kowtow to demands for popular content, the response to that work, by Wilma’s nay-sayers, was deafening.

To say that she wasn’t devastated by those rejoinders to the writing, which she had spawned to meet customers’ duel demands of pleasure and delight, was like saying all householders had suddenly become imbued with exceptional degrees of holiness in route to morphing into space lobsters. It didn’t seem to matter how much Wilma had contorted herself; the significant attenuation of communal brain cells, caused by the great dearth of grownups willing to wean themselves from audio visual channels or willing to bypass sales on Brix-Box, unicycles, Batman action figures, and ventriloquist dolls was daunting. In brief, Wilma wanted to die (or to take a cruise).

So, she set sail to visit fjords of prose that might not count, by her patrons, as “all contrary and defensive” or that might not be regarded, by them, as lacking the scent of amusement. That is, Wilma chose a quickie sojourn on a Baltic Sea boat in the hopes that such an adventure might yet slick some tasty additives into her writing. In the least, touring beat all of the alternatives to inhaling and exhaling that she had considered.

Unfortunately, such gifts as were Wilma’s could not be actualized in a windowless cabin on a craft to Latvia, inspiration brought on by hot bowls of sorrel soup notwithstanding. That dear one got flummoxed by outside instances brought about by an entry level cabin crew member, whose access to employment had been granted by lottery.

In particular, that bellhop, who had been assigned to her deck, had taken liberties with Wilma’s Celexa and with her netbook. Except for a handful of software nerds and some select military employees, all of whom had access, decades earlier, to the Arpanet, no one ought to have known that, when a teenage, Wilma had been an award-winning cheerleader, who was forced to retire from her sport and to make temporary friends with a Lofstrand crutch when a kickbasket toss (with five twists) had gone awry.

That datum noised, Wilma lost all rights to being a voice of the antiestablishment. When the porter’s captured pages, from Wilma’s personal computer, hit Instagram, she lost her professional standing. Her one million fans trickled to ten thousand in a week, and then dribbled to one hundred by the month’s end.

Nonetheless, she did not sue the cruise line. Without hesitation, she asked the corporation for a job managing midnight karaoke. Wilma was hired to slog on the company’s principle vessel. To wit, she learned rudimentary Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian as well as how to curse, like a good sailor, in German, French, Finnish, and Swedish. Patrons thought her output engaging, which was all that mattered.

Elsewhere, a crony of hers got rich pilfering 22 karat gold trimmings off of the Mouse Kingdom’s Small World ride. Decades ago, he had been a popular speculative fiction writer whose forte was social criticism. That former author never faced persecution since he had hid his face with an especially large cone of cotton candy and had masked his voice with the barking of a “sing-on-command” aid dog.


KJ Hannah Greenberg writes with attitude since she’s old enough to wear purple. Her eclectic works are dedicated to lovers of slipstream fiction and to oboe players who never got past the second orchestral chair. Her newest fiction collection is Cryptids (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2015).