Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 Frankie Knuckles “Your Love”
 Bonnie Byrd “We Can Make It”
 Inner City “Do You Love What You Feel”
 The Adventures of Stevie V “Dirty Cash (Money Talks)”
 Adamski “One of The People”
Isn’t it nice to feel like you belong? There are over seven billion of us littered across the globe vying for attention, wrestling for airtime, and desperately trying to stand out, so it’s a wonder that we ever find time to settle. Life moves at a breakneck speed, seldom slowing down for a second to enquire about our wellbeing, and a day can pass before we’ve so much as asked its name. Regrettably the older we get, the faster the hours pass, and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it. I recall my childhood and that last week before Christmas each year was excruciating; now we may as well keep the decorations up all year as it will come round again before we know it. Often it is all we can do simply to slow things down a little and commit a single thing to memory. Thus when you consider the odds of any one of us actually crossing paths in the first place, they’re pretty astronomical. Over the past three years I have made numerous fresh associations, many of which have unfurled into friendships, and eventually lifetime allegiances. Not bad for a self-confessed hermit crab. This wasn’t in the script you see, at least, not one I’d been shown when plummeting to the foot of my chasm. I was promised misery and angst, but all I got was love and support dagnabbit.
I would have made a rather wonderful cynic you know. God knows the world needs another one of them. Instead of spreading good cheer, I could have bleated on about how fucked we all are, and how much I don’t care if we all rot in hell. Instead, I’m all hearts and flowers, with buckets of can-do advice to impart, and not a solitary crossed word for anyone. It makes me sick, and do you know what the sickest thing is, said vomit tastes sickly sweet and doesn’t scald my oesophagus in the slightest. I’ve become a fucking care bear. How could you have let this happen to me? I trusted you to keep me evil and instead I frigging love you lot. How’s that going to look during my final judgement? I really fancied burning in flames too. Thanks to the Grueheads, it looks like I’ll be forced into learning how to pluck a harp. One thing’s for sure, I ain’t wearing open-toe sandals, my own personal cloud or not. Plus I plan to use my halo as a long-range throwing weapon and behead any do-gooders making their way up the heavenly stairwell. It’s not too late you know, there is still time to become at least half a bastard if I play my cards wrong.
Of course, this being good business does have its benefits. You see, I no longer wake up suffering from one-armed bandit syndrome. Minds out the gutter Grueheads as, for once, this has absolutely nothing to do with masturbation. One-armed bandit syndrome is when you first open your eyes, slip in your quarter, yank that crank, and pray for a row of those elusive Lucky 7’s. Chances are you will fall short of that quota and be left clutching at just breaking even. More often than not, we have to deal with a watermelon, cherry, and a shiny gold bell. Given that watermelon is practically flavorless, cherries look far more sexy than they taste outside of fondant, and there’s only so long you can chime a bell before it all gets dreadfully old, that’s a pretty lousy run by all accounts. Hence, no smile is forecast for the rest of that day, and we are well within our rights to wallow in self-loathing. The thing is, I’ve never really been much for gambling. It’s constancy that I hanker for most, a little continuity that doesn’t entail ten years of bad luck or a case of untreatable genital lice. Finally I’ve found that constancy and no longer need to roll those dice each morning. I request a smile, my face provides one, and I endorse that shit willingly as I’ve always been a sucker for dimples.
What is critical once we locate that smidgen of inner contentment is how we distribute it amongst our nearest and dearest. I look around me and can see only worthy recipients, some of the most stunning souls I have ever had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with and all under one deep red umbrella. I may communicate with but a handful of you in an average day but every last transaction fires my pistons. Juggling social media isn’t my strongest suit but, against all odds, I think I’ve pretty much got it licked at last. Every day I pop up and show my face, whether briefly or for a more protracted stay and I’m never less than bowled over by the kindness that comes my way. Naturally I bat that straight back out but not before committing it to memory, where the Crimson Quill can soak up any adulation at a later point. As for Keeper, I’m just plain old me in these moments, playful little scamp with nothing but happy beans in my pocket and every intention to pass them about for shits and grins. The simplest gestures can win me over and this is why Twitter appeals to me so. You have 140 characters to make your point and only need a handful of these to grab yourself a home run.
Excuse me if I don’t LOL, LMAO, ROFLMAO, or bust out all manner of text jargon. It’s all a bit too new age for me, although I do appreciate the sentiment. Alas emoji are a no-no also but not because I have an issue with smiley faces and love hearts. Given that I don’t possess a smart phone and the Blue Bird no longer allows me to cut and paste emoticons, the best I can muster is a <3 or a 😉 in sticks and berries and that’s about all she wrote. That said, should I be in impish mode and embarking in a spot of funny bone tickling, I prefer to simply close with a full stop and not point out the obvious. You have to love a bit of deadpan delivery and this is what truly makes me LOL. As for hashtags, in my opinion they can do little wrong. Just today I read the words #Gruehead4Life in a tweet and came away feeling like I had just been granted a full head massage. That’s the shit right there in the tiniest of nutshells and my day can be made by the most seemingly insignificant of gestures. Sometimes this really is all it takes.
The more I reveal of myself through prose, the more I feel a part of something truly monumental. We all know about my shady past by now and not a stone has been left unturned when washing my dirty linen in the most public of laundromats imaginable. As I have mentioned previously, this has helped me to learn so much about myself that I hadn’t previously entertained. However, it has also taught just as much about others and that makes it far more than a one-way deal. Forging a connection with another benefits both parties and affords you the opportunity to indulge in a pastime that I like to call sparking the fuse. Should I be feeling chipper, then I know precisely the voltage to administer, and stand a better chance of turning any frowns upside down and hopefully starting a chain reaction. Before I know it, three others are grinning like morons, and it becomes acceptable for me to proclaim that I just farted and it sounded distinctly like a balloon being let down slowly. Moreover, we all start tooting our bugles in unison before the Twitter medics come and drag us away for our bi-weekly psych evaluation.
Of course, for all the sunny outlooks in the world, there are always going to be a few less chirpy beaks looking to dampen our spirits and that’s okay too. I am a big believer in freedom of expression and everyone has their own method of engagement. Should that not be in-line with my own then I’m from the live and let live school of thinking. Granted, spineless trolls are always going to rear their ugly heads from time to time, but I happen to be rather partial to whack-a-mole, and that’s a hashtag just waiting to happen in my book. That’s right, I haven’t found a way of making money from my art yet so I’m banking on #WhackATroll catching on then living off the T-shirt royalties. Got it all figured out you see. Actually, fuck money in its piggy slot, right now it doesn’t need to figure into the equation. I may not be rich beyond my wildest dreams, but neither do I wish to be. That said, should a cool million drop into my lap, then I’m getting a Grue mansion built and inviting you lot for all-night eighties horror marathons and late-night skinny dips in our very own Grue pool.
From what I hear, money makes you miserable although I never really understood that one if I’m honest. There are many things in life culpable of piling on the misery but I’m not altogether convinced that being able to afford shares in Jim Henson’s workshop with little more than loose coinage is the fast-track to emotional desolation. If I were ever filthy rich, then I’d simply buy my way out of misery with a well-spent backhander or two and count my every blessing for just having my faculties and amenities. Money doesn’t make us miserable, we make money miserable. How do you think it feels to be ten bucks? Passed from pillar to post, slowly growing more disheveled, and likely destined to end up rolled up and shoved up a yuppie’s hooter – that’s no life now is it? No wonder it is so elusive. When I draw a crisp twenty out of the hole on the wall, do I ever bother to tell it how nice it looks? No I scuttle inside the nearest convenience store and break it on chocolate and energy drinks. I get that it is a necessity and all that but, all things said and done, it’s just currency. So while it may never make me miserable, neither will it bring me the kind of happiness that truly tickles my pickle. That stuff costs nothing. Which reminds me, you couldn’t lend me a fifty could you? I promise to have it back to you the next time the one-armed bandit pays out.
Ultimately the real kicker for me comes from calling myself one of the people. It doesn’t matter whether we are over 3000 miles away from one another, come from completely different social backgrounds, be lovers or fighters, possess innies or outies, find flatulence amusing or despicable, be upwardly mobile or wheelchair-bound, black or white, gay or straight, wilters or bloomers, post daily selfies or conceal ourselves behind fashioned identities – as long as we can all just connect. It matters not whether fleetingly or otherwise as it only takes one well-aimed rocket to light up the skies. If there is one thing I have learned from all this time in my fallout shelter, then it is that I’m actually a rather sociable fellow after all. Not so much learned that one as remembered as I never had a problem adapting and engaging, unless on a first date of course, in which case, I was at my most prone to verbal pratfall. The pseudonym Keeper of The Crimson Quill sounds mysterious and steeped in the peculiar and admittedly there’s some alchemy going down in the sub-basement that I’m not altogether sure of myself. But I’m as regular a guy as the next chump in line and far more content slumming it than strumming it.
Were you aware that Rivers of Grue now contains almost 1400 articles, with another hundred or so already scribed and waiting in the wings? When you break that shit up, that’s around 500 for every year I’ve been active or way over one a day. It boggles my mind that I have had so much to wax about and, when you break the stats down further to reveal that it equates to somewhere in the region of three million words, I honestly have no concept of how I have done it. Guess what Grueheads? I believe I’ve used the word hate on less than two dozen occasions the whole time. Anyhoots, my point is this, that would never have been possible had it not been for the connections I have forged along the way. Every last sparked fuse makes me more live wire and, at this rate, you’ll all be praying for dementia by 2018. I couldn’t even conceive of stopping now or even releasing my foot from the gas as I am one of the people dagnabbit and therefore qualify for normal person perks like love, happiness, and understanding. As far as I’m concerned, that’s my three Lucky 7’s right there. Told you I’d pay you back.