Exquisite Corpse - Issue 4
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Texas: Notes From Texas Future
by Mark Williams

Recently I opened a credit card account in order to get the handy time-travel device offered gratis to new members. On a whim I sent myself a hundred years into the future and somehow (the device was a little imprecise) ended up in Texas. I'd been living on plastic in late twenty-first century Texas for a month or so and was about ready to return, when I sat down in a little café to collect my thoughts in a notebook.
     "My not unkind and incontrovertibly estimable and wholly unregrettable, prospective yet not presumed, and profoundly cherished customer, or friend, or mere fellow filament in the tasty and timeless tapestry of this earthly or otherly life" began the waiter.
     As he had a carafe poised over my cup, I gathered that he was offering me coffee, but I knew he that he would be a long time saying as much; so I continued to write as he stood there with the carafe.
     "The use of extremely florid and circumlocutory language," I wrote, "has become peculiar to Texan culture in the generations since a law passed here allowing anyone to carry and conceal any sort of weapon at all. Texans presume in any social encounter that the other person may be lethally armed, and so they have developed this evasive and overpolite way of addressing each other in order to avoid arousing the sudden hostilities to which blunt speech may give rise. These polite formulas have gradually lengthened and elaborated and become so protracted and fantastic that occasionally a Texan, often a service worker such as a gas station attendant or hotel clerk, will be shot dead by a visitor from out of state, where people have not acquired the patience and discernment needed to get through even the simplest conversation in Texas.
     "Texans have become so unfamiliar with the plainer forms of English that movies have to be dubbed in modern Texan, and so when John Wayne says 'Howdy!' the film actually has to be stopped so that the translation does not run into the next scene. Awkward as this is, Texans prefer it to subtitles, which obscure too much of the screen and are a dangerous temptation to brevity on the part of the translators. Another method used in the overdubbed films is to run the film at rather slower than normal speed, which eliminates or shortens some of the necessary pauses. This can create other problems of a more purely aesthetic kind, however, as when John Wayne's famously slow, lumbering gait is exaggerated until it becomes a hulking, trudging, labored thing that is almost pitiful to behold, and then when this apparently deeply infirm and barely conscious hero opens his mouth, the incongruously deft and delicate verbal tracery that emerges is sometimes fatal to even the most hydraulic suspension of disbelief.
     "Legislation is now pending to allow the showing of movies that do not feature John Wayne, but passage is doubtful, for the debate on so sensitive an issue has had to be carried on in such unusually refractory and opaque terms that no one can be sure how it is going. Even so, three state senators have fallen to bullets or grenades while discoursing on this subject, as far as anyone could tell."
     "crown of Araby, jewel of Java, bracing brew of brown and beneficent bean" continued the waiter.
     "No thanks, it's probably cold by now anyway, " I interrupted absently, instantly regretting this shocking breach of civilized speech. A flash and a deafening percussion told me that the waiter had adroitly punctured me with the stylishly understated derringer that had magically appeared in his left hand, while he still held the coffee in his right. Clearly he was to the trigger born. I reached weakly for the time-travel gizmo and presently found myself standing in the middle of Houston--Street, that is--where a swerving cabby loudly invited me to go fuck myself, and I knew I was back among the brashly unarmed.
     My health is fine, for my fatal injury lies far in the future where I intend to leave it; but let my tale be a caution to anyone contemplating time travel, what with current legislative trends being what they are.

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