”Jump in” my Dad said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world— as though I was an idiot for not just clambering up myself.

We were standing around the back of an industrial park, in front of a skip.

No doubt they’ll be some people who don’t know what a skip is, other than pleasant enough sounding word. Perhaps you’ve been known to walk with a skip in your step… maybe you’ve tried a Skip, a delicious prawn cocktail flavoured corn snack… quite possibly you’ve seen Skippy the Bush Kangaroo on TV and know sometimes she’s referred to as ‘Skip.’

None of those definitions match the skip I was standing in front of. If you were standing there you’d most likely refer to the skip as a dumpster.

Yes, my Dad wanted me to climb into a dumpster.

Not just any old dumperster, but a dumpster full of corrugated gold: cardboard boxes. We’re moving house, we need boxes. Where else would we go but a dumpster at the back of an electrical supply store?

It was a low point, but from each and every event there are infinite possibilities. One of those possibilities was that it would end up being a mildly amusing anecdote to lead into a TNB post about the infinite possibilities of existence.

Whilst in the skip rooting around for decent sized boxes I slipped and fell. I hit my head on the side of the skip. But it could have been better or worse. I could have stepped on a different piece of cardboard and avoided a pratfall altogether and merely have just found some boxes in a skip. At the other extreme I could have stood on a different piece of cardboard, fallen much harder and shuffled off the mortal coil in a fashion only marginally less embarrassing than David Carradine hanging himself in a cupboard and wanking into oblivion.

This is a world of infinite possibility. My actions in the skip could have led to events that eventually culminated in a world war. I mean, it’s highly unlikely, but at the same time World War One began because a guy in Sarajevo got a bit peckish before lunch.

On the morning of June 28th 1914 somebody decided they were going to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand as he paraded through the streets. That somebody wasn’t Gavrilo Princip, who is perhaps best known for that time he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand causing the outbreak of the first Great War which saw a failed Austrian painter called Adolf join the army, and later the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party who had taken a particularly strong objection to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which brought a formal conclusion to WWI. This in turn led to an eventual rise to power, the breaking of many of the terms of the Treaty and a deeply flawed attempt take over the world and exterminate the Jewish race, which ended with failure and numerous film adaptations. 

World War Two was driven by hunger for revenge and supremacy. World War One was driven by a hunger for a delicious mid-morning snack.

This wasn’t a total coincidence. Princip was already pretty bent on somebody using something to kill Franz Ferdinand, and was in on the whole ‘let’s try and kill him on his parade’ scheme which failed miserably when somebody fired something a touch too eagerly. The grenade intended for the Archduke exploded behind the car and only managed to kill a few pathetic pedestrians that weren’t worth starting a war over. The car sped off in case there were any more hecklers in the crowd.

After this incident Princip went off to a cafe to get himself a post-failed-assassination-commiseration snack, whilst he presumably cursed ACME for their unreliable weapons and vowed to concoct an even more elaborate scheme to murder Ferdinand at a later date.  

By pure chance the driver of the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn on a diverted route. He realised this and broke suddenly.

Right outside the cafe where Gavrilo Princip was spitting out a fresh mouthful of coffee in disbelief and quickly concocting a new assassination plan which essentially boiled down to pistol whipping someone out of the way, going up the car and shooting Franz Ferdinand/changing the course of history forever.

It’s a funny old world.

I’ve been thinking about life changing moments a lot recently, particularly since Brad Listi’s recent post on Why We Exist.

Okay, I’ve been thinking about my life changing moments a lot recently and about luck and fate and all the other things you need to succeed in life beside either talent, good looks, luck, or a willingness to give blowjobs to well connected guys who really want to help you become a star…

Writing is something I’ve done since I was quite young, and I’ve always been told I’m quite good at it. Alongside breathing, repelling girls and cooking potato wedges it’s one of the few things that I’m really, really good at.

However, I never saw how I’d make a living off it. I knew that somehow I’d have to get a degree, and then a job and all sorts of other boring responsibilities that make you wish you could be eight years old forever and just spend all day in your underpants eating cereal and watching cartoons.

When I was a teenager I was shopping with my Mum. That’s the cool kind of guy I am— shopping with Mum, scavenging in dumpsters with Dad. We can’t all go to Disneyland. Anyway, I was happily picking up the usual stuff I read. At that time it was mostly crime fiction, and not very good crime fiction at that. My Mum presented me with a book, a bright orange book where the title was scrawled and the cover was a cartoon. She had only one recollection of the book: that she’d read it. That was it. I looked at it and decided it might be pretty cool.

And through that book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was introduced to Hunter S. Thompson and the notion that writing wasn’t just a sad pathetic thing that boring people did in Victorian times. Writing could be fun and exhilarating and really quite cool.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Los Angeles there was a guy who had recently written hundreds of sentences, which when read in chronological order told a story as good as any novel.

In fact it was so good that it soon became one of the ‘any novels’ that excellent unpublished novels rated themselves against. The only problem the author had was in selling as many copies of his book as possible. Then there was also the fact that he’d recently heard about the ancient mythical Japanese ‘Page of Many Voices’* and wanted to create a real version of it— on the internet if at all possible. It was a dream that would have been almost impossible, were he not living in a world of infinite possibility.

After some period of time I was in my bedroom writing about things. Through a MySpace group dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson I’d come across a guy from Scotland living in Korea who was willing to publish something I’d written. I’d also responded to almost every classified ad asking for writers willing to write for free. Of all of these Kerb Magazine became the one I got the most out of/put the most into. I was writing, and I was writing a lot. As well as writing savage indictments of political figures I was also writing screenplays and started novels about Vegas based cops with dark pasts.

All of these were abandoned.

I got a message from a guy in America who’d just published his first novel and he was inviting me to join his literary community. And that guy was…

Jonathan Evison.

Why, who did you think I was talking about?

Well, to cut a short story shorter, I didn’t take up the invitation. I was a busy man writing doomed to fail novels. I didn’t have time for literary community nonsense.

And later when I got an invitation from another debut author inviting me to read his blog I took a quick glance at that day’s entry, replied and exchanged around three messages. I liked the guy. His profile picture was of his face, which was a pleasant and friendly looking face.

This led to first the Brad Listi MySpace blog, which was really quite popular. This in turn led to Brad’s blog which wasn’t on MySpace, and it was really quite popular. And it was here I was tricked. It seemed as though Brad had blogged again, but the link took me to a different site. It certainly looked similar, but it was clearly different. It looked a lot like the old version of this site, which is largely due to the fact that it was.

This could only have happened in the 21st century. And along the way there were infinite possibilities at every turn. As well as the many things that worked towards me getting here, there were an unlimited number of circumstances which could have taken me somewhere else, got me here a different way or ended with me being murdered by a talking bear in a clown costume. I embarked on a short and dismal career in stand up comedy at one point between getting here and becoming one of Brad’s many MySpace readers. Again, that could have ended in any number of ways.

I only got really into TNB commenting because I was alone and a bit depressed at university. Had things worked out better I wouldn’t have left so many comments and wonderful people like Gloria, Becky, Tawni, Ashley and Tammy wouldn’t have urged Brad to make me a contributor. And I only qualified because I’d been published— in Beatdom. I didn’t know at that time that David Wills was a TNB reader and he joined the site the day after I did.

And now, to get slightly sentimental, I think about how dull and empty my life might have been. Because more than the opportunity to not only write, but have wonderful intelligent people read it and then say nice things about it, it’s a wonderful place to be and to interact with people.

I think about infinite possibilities a lot. Also I think about the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, except behind each door is a complete alternate timeline instead of a boring romantic comedy. A world where Hitler got into art school and didn’t mind the Jews so much… a world where she said yes and not no… a world where scheduling conflicts with Magnum P.I didn’t prevent Tom Selleck from playing Indiana Jones… a world where I just ignored another first time author trying to make a name for himself…

Infinite possibilities… One guy might eat a sandwich and get indigestion… another might eat a sandwich and end up causing a global conflict…

And somewhere in a world of infinite possibility there is a version of this post with a much better ending…

*This isn’t real. Or is it?**

**No, it isn’t.

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James D. Irwin is a British writer based in the Hampshire countryside. His work has appeared online, in print, and on stage. He can be contacted at [email protected]

41 responses to “The Dumpster Of Infinite Possibility”

  1. New Orleans Lady says:

    I truely believe that everything happens for a reason. It has to. There is no way for me to rationalize some of the fucked up shit in my life but to say just that.

    Plus, when something fantastic happens, the thought that is was SUPPOSED to happen to you, makes it a little sweeter. …..someone up there or something out there must love me….. <3

    I liked this piece. Shows off your ADD and your sentimental side.
    And best of all, I’M MENTIONED! Woo-HOOOO!

    • The more I think about it the more I believe in fate…. or maybe shit just happens as people live and you can find patterns in anything.

      But I prefer fate.

      This came out of blind panic and a little bit of sentimentality. I’m moving on Thursday and I’ll be offline for at least two weeks and I wanted to post something before I was cut off AND I was getting all sad about losing touch with all you wonderful people, even if it’s for just a short while…

      And the thanks to everyone mentioned is long overdue, and to show that I’ve not forgotten. Jesus, I love you people!

  2. dwoz says:

    James, you are a PITA.

    I need you to reveal whether it was the tetanus or the mild concussion you received in the skip, that led to your unravelling here.

    Otherwise, I’ll not get a wink tonight. Please, that’s not fair.

  3. Becky Palapala says:

    Shucks, Irwin, I’m happy to have been a part in the Universe’s relentless shoving to get you dialed into TNB.

    And I’m proud, too, particularly because of posts like this. Because you’re funny and concise and sneakily profound, and your turns are always, always squeaky clean and dreamy.

    I wish, of all the alternate realities out there, I was living in the one where I never lept over a huge bonfire in the dark, totally fucking wasted, blowing out my ACL and needing knee surgery.

    I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but that was probably the most expensive of them.

    Then again, that’s more like regret and less like possibility. Though it is a possibility, too.

    • I like ‘sneakily profound.’ I wasn’t trying to be, but I’m glad I was. Because otherwise I’m just writing nonsense about bears in wigs killing me.

      Yeah, I’d probably go for any reality where I didn’t need knee surgery too… although I’m not really sure if there’s anything in my life that I would change. Oh— I’d go for the reality where I hadn’t made a mess of my student finances. Man, I’m totally screwed there.

      Infinite possibility… every chance that there is at least one version of reality where for whatever insane reasons you decided jumping over a bonfire was a dangerous thing to do and that maybe sitting down would be more responsible…

      Of course that does lead to the concept of fixed points in time. Immovable events that have to happen to keep some sort of organization in the vast expanses of space and time….

  4. Gloria Harrison says:

    Irwin, you are consistently god damned funny.

    I’m so pleased you’re posting again.

    And yes, we’ve all pretty much established that we’re here because Brad Listi went through a brief period of prostitution on MySpace.

    This post is hilarious, my friend. Wonderful.

    • Thank you. I’m especially glad because on this occasion I was going out of my way to try and be funny, which is absolutely terrifying to post.

      I’m pleased I’m posting again, because for a long time I was kind of in a pretty unproductive rut. Good to be back… and sucks that I’m moving this week and going offline for at least a fortnight…

      Listi’s post inspired this, because it kind of hit the theme I had planned and it meant I could write about myself again…

      • Gloria says:

        I love the word fortnight (which is approximately the period of time between moves for you. Seriously, do you even take shit out of boxes anymore?)

        Happy moving!

        • I don’t often use the word ‘fortnight’, but I did because of Steve’s recent post.

          Haha, no. Seriously, I brought a suitcase and a rucksack home with me and they’re pretty much where I put them down. I opened one to get some books out, but that’s it.

          On Thursday we’re going to house sit for friends in Redhill, where I lived between the age of 6-13. We stay there for a week and then finally get to our new house.

          I’ll be living there for about three weeks before it’s time to move into my new house in Winchester. I feel like I’m on the run from the cops…

  5. Matt says:

    Large chain bookstores are an excellent source of cardboard boxes. Call them and they’ll likely set some aside for you. That way, you won’t have to dumpster dive, because the universe only knows what you might end up stumbling over in there.

    It’s always nice to see the way a confluence of events can add up, isn’t it? And to think, if that Scottish dude living in Korea had rejected you for publication……well, were would you (and he) be then?

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I’ll remember that. But there aren’t anywhere anywhere near here, so the only other choice was the dumpster…

  6. Zara Potts says:

    I’m so glad you’re here, Jim.
    You always make me laugh.

  7. Simon Smithson says:

    I will add my voice to the chorus of ‘Glad you’re here, Jim!’

    Which I am.

    Now, about these potato wedges…

    • James D. Irwin says:

      and what a pleasant chorus it is…

      potato wedges are easy. which is why they’re pretty much all I ever cook…

  8. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    I wasn’t aware that there was a campaign to lure you in, but I would have been on board with that to ensure more James Irwin hilarity. And if there is a world in which Tom Selleck got to play Indiana Jones I never, ever want to go there.

    • It wasn’t a full on Presidential style campaign, although I did make a half hour film on why I’d make a good TNB contributor…

      That world was so very nearly this one.

      Loads of famous actors auditioned for the role of Han Solo, including Al Pacino. But George Lucas had a wacky idea. Unlike the wacky ideas that unleashed Jar Jar Binks into the world and the one that saw terrible CGI make it look like Greedo shot first this one was quite good.

      He decided to get his carpenter to play the role…

  9. Joe Daly says:

    Nice work, James. It’s funny, but with one or two exceptions, I have no idea how people ended up finding TNB and beginning to write or comment there. Given how tight the community is (while also welcoming new faces rather easily), it’s sort of strange that I don’t hear much talk about it. Maybe it’s because I’m still pretty new myself.

    Anyway, it’s nice to read something so well-written, and at the same time, sincere. And funny, in view of the David Carradine line, in particular.

    Yeah, fate sure is bizarre. This piece caused me to look back on a couple highly-charged experiences that led to very pronounced forks in my personal road, though I didn’t understand it at the time. I guess the trick is to keep doing what you do, no matter where you’re at, and just follow the ride to the end.

    Wish I could have met up in the UK, but next time for sure. In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoying your contributions on here, and talking lots and lots of football and music.

    Rock on…

    • To be honest I only just discovered how many people came here via the SS Listi MySpace Blog. It was like the Mayflower of the online literary community…

      I like it when writers turn up and it doesn’t feel like they’re new. You, for example. Simon and Duke arrived around a month after I did, but I just assumed they’d been there since the beginning. It’s rarely ever questioned where people came from, we’re just glad they’re here.

      Thank you very much. I know it sounds like an acceptance speech cliche, but it means a lot to hear that from people. The main goal of this was to be funny, in a new approach I like to call ‘playing to your strengths and not trying to be the cool writer you’ll never be.’

      It’s also the second time I’ve referenced Carradine’s death in three months. Both pieces were well recieved, so I’m going to assume it’s a lucky charm and mention it in everything I write from now on…

      I like thinking about fate and alternate realities etc. Another possibility: the same shit happens to different people everyday. Eventually a ‘coincidence’ is going to occur. i.e. shit happening can look like the work of the Gods.

      You’ll probably be in the UK again before I ever make it across ‘the pond.’ I’d like to do a EuroTNB Live event, but I’m not sure there are the means or numbers over here. Yet.

  10. JM Blaine says:

    Two bumper stickers
    One says
    Shit happens
    the other
    Miracles happen

    Fate and faith
    sort of lie in the balance
    I believe.

    Dust in the Wind, dude.

    Dumpster diving with your dad?

  11. Slade Ham says:

    You’re right; without the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand there would have been no WWI, or WW2. Nor would there have been Hitler. Germany never would have risen to power and thus never been overthrown. There would have been no Soviet controlled area and no Eastern Bloc.

    The Berlin Wall would never have been built and therefore never could have been brought down. Which means Jesus Jones never would have written Right Here, Right Now, which played my senior year of high school at a dance, when I was turned down by this girl named Melissa.

    THAT is probably what turned me into this slightly misanthropic, highly sarcastic and defensive comedian that you know today.

    You can totally blame the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

  12. sheree says:

    You’re brilliant.

  13. Tawni says:

    I love this. Million dollar title, too.

    “We can’t all go to Disneyland.” HA. So funny.

    And a shout out! Thanks, chum. I quite often think about how many cool people I’ve met (and continue to meet) through Brad’s MySpace blog. It’s like MySpace was a pane of glass at which Brad through a rock, and the cracks continue to break along the surface. Still going. (: xoxo.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I struggled with the title. Initially it was going to be ‘Gavrilo Princip and the Sandwich of Doom.’ I nearly used it because it slightly spoils the skip/dumpster thing at the beginning. But it’s too good not to use.

      I think I may name the sort of in-progress novel I’m writing ‘The Dumpster of Infinite Possibility.’ It’s better than the working title…

      I love Brad and what he’s done here with TNB…

  14. Gavrilo Princip is my third favorite assassin name. Just edging Leon Czolgosz

  15. Uche Ogbuji says:

    (Disembodied voice) No, none of this is real. You are a solipsistic entity trapped between the parallel mirrors of your existence. Carry on, though.


    Nicely laid out, except I missed the iconic resolution of the skip. In my micro adjustment of reality, when you slip, you find lying by your head one of the following:

    1) The Thompson book
    2) Listi’s business card
    3) A discarded PC from the electrical supply shop, which turned out to work, which you took home, and turned on, and the home page on the Web browser happened to be…TNB

    Everyone else has these cool multivariate stories about their journey to TNB. Mine is bog simple. Erika is sole spinner of my fate. She told me about this Web site. She told the don of said site about me. Hookup accomplished. Everyone else I met subsequently.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      That would have been cool, although possibly too much like a surreal dream. In that version of reality Brad would have to be a talking flamingo with a top hat and monocle and the computer would be powered by a steam engine, mice in wheels, and sandwich crusts…

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