Whiteout Meetings are held one Sunday afternoon per month. Two or three people submit stories via email, and the group offers everything from line comments to more global evaluations such as, "Mitt, you are a genius," or "Jolie, I am humbled to be in your presence," or "Nina, this doesn't suck as much as the story about fruit flies breeding with giraffes -or the one where your character set fire to the mall so he could see exactly which products were flame retardant and it turned out to be an elaborate metaphor for homophobia that was completely not funny, but we suppose we'll let you live. Oh, and no more haiku submissions. Thank you."
No official business takes place until everyone arrives (or until we decide that we no longer expect Alana to show up). We fill the time until then talking about movies, reviewing each other's wardrobe selections, commenting on each other's hair, and perhaps discussing what we have read lately. Someone always brings snacks. Someone else always brings drinks. Jolie's husband often bakes us a cake.
Then Alana arrives, and after she has been fed and had a few drinks, we review stories. Some jackass (named Nina) will demonstrate a way of re-punctuating a whole paragraph such that it means something completely different from what the writer intended, and then someone else will remind her that it's impolite and pointless to screw with someone else's punctuation just because you can, and then we all say what a genius the writer is and move on to the next story.
This is all great fun.
Moistly torso corduroy spunk, one day Luca had one of my stories in her hand and she looked anxious and displeased.
"Nina," said Luca, "I demand that the word 'torso' be removed from this story." Just to say the word made her flinch.
"Why?" said I.
"Isn't it obvious?" said Luca. I looked around the room. Jolie and Alana clearly knew what Luca was talking about. Mitt and Jerry did not, or would not, register a facial expression imbued with... never mind.
"No, I don't get it. Why no torsos?"
Jolie shrieked, and Luca shrank to the floor. Mitt looked up from his beer and said, "Did you just pluralize 'torso'?"
I was stunned. "Yeah, I did. So what?"
Alana then plucked a Cheeto from the snack bowl and said, while licking the Cheeto, "Saying torso is about as gross (lick lick) as what I am doing right now." Then she held the Cheeto denuded of cheesy powder out for all to see. Then she said "Pluralizing torso is about as gross as doing this"- and then she tossed the Cheeto back into the bowl.
Jerry dove into the bowl and retrieved the spitty Cheeto.
Jerry said, "How you feel right now? It's how other people feel about the word 'torso' - not me, mind you, but other people, clearly.
"Ok," I said. "I give up. Somebody splain it to me."
Jerry said, "Jolie, tell it like it is. I'll draw her a picture."
Jolie, straightened her skirt and crossed her cowgirl boots at the ankles. Then she began.
"When you use the word torso, you are specifying by default the absence of a head, arms, and legs. In other words you are mentioning a slab of organ filled flesh that is automatically dead and has no agency or intentions - "
"Well, damn, I hope not - " I interrupted. Luca tossed a hunk of brie at me.
" - and even worse is the word itself. The word implies the violence. The first syllable, tor sounds rather like the past tense of the verb 'to tear,' doesn't it? Yes! It does! So the word not only specifies a slab of organ-filled pointless deadness - but it also suggests the manner in which the slab was denuded of its constituent parts. Consider, also, whether this non-being, this rectangle of "thud" is male or female. Consider that at least on one side of it, there is a legless butt. And don't even get me started about entrails. Do not do it."
By this time, Jerry had finished his illustration. He handed it to me.
******* IMAGE ADDED AS REQUESTED BY H-B ********
I stared at it for a suitable interval before saying, "That's terrifying." Then I passed the drawing around.
I considered - and then said, "Let's shift our focus to the word "leg." Does saying "leg" automatically imply the absence of the rest of the person? "
Alana crunched down a few cheetos. "Nope," she said.
"Comparison not applicable," said Luca.
"Torso might be my most unfavorite word in the entire English language," said Mitt.
I opened a beer and sat back to think. No. It couldn't be.
"Are you all just completely fucking with me? You can't all unanimously agree that the word - "
"DON"T SAY IT AGAIN!" shrieked Jolie.
"Ok," said I. "Let's go around the room and all say our least favorite word. Let's all agree to ban the number one most hated word in the English language from our reviewed work for the remainder of the life of this group. All ready?"
People needed a few moments to think, so we argued for a few minutes over whether Jennifer Aniston has bigger boobs than Sarah Jessica Parker. I did not mention that to even THINK of a boob unattached to its owner was violent and malicious because I had clearly already lost that argument.
Finally, all agreed to reveal their own personal word-ban.
Luca: Torso (obviously)
That's right: my banned forever from Whiteout Writers' Group word is "Corduroy."
Anyone care to guess why I banned corduroy? If not, comment regarding whether "Cheeto" is a proper noun, meriting a capital letter. (I am conflicted about this). (About Cheeto). (Not about corduroy).