Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Writing Life

The author was in the midst of one of his 750-word stories when there was a knock at the door. He stopped and bit his bottom lip, pondering what he should do. No time for intrusions. Every minute, keystroke, brain cell spent, counted.

Pop-Tart crumbs, cold coffee with dead creamer outline at top, an unconscious cat. The act of writing, here before him in full-swing, as he deliberated. It was never the words but what was around them. They were secondary. But, in a way, it really was the words. Every word must be analyzed and counted.

Should he answer the door? There was another knock. Three short raps. Death knell knocks. On the other side: distraction, annoyance, death. Not expecting anyone today. It was rainy outside, a stiff breeze, an umbrella breaker. The cat stirred but didn’t wake.

The author did what any good writer committed to his work would do: he pulled out his gun. A Glock 9-mm with a full magazine and two extra clips. When you’ve got your rhythm, let nothing—NOTHING—stop you. He could shout, go away, but no one ever goes away. Everyone and everything wants a piece of your time. Especially when you’re writing.

He kept pounding away at the keyboard, birthing word after word. One hundred words became two hundred. At two hundred he hits a nasty bend and slows, becomes two hundred thirty-two, idles there for some minutes hitting the accelerator blowing off exhaust like a waiting car, then bursts into two hundred fifty-three and burns into the middle stretch.

He stood and went to the door, stealthily put his ear to it. The previous tenant had painted the peephole with shoe polish and no one had removed it.

Nothing. No sound. His gun was locked and loaded, ready to blast away.

He recalled the story about the novelist up in Ann Arbor who took hostages so he could write a novella. Regular life held too many distractions. Becoming a kidnapper removed them, made one focus on the here and now. He hammered out a seventy-eight pager in the midst of bullhorn negotiations, keeping an eye on his shotgun, and rationing food. Now, he’s probably doing life in the state penitentiary. Plenty of time and solitude to hammer out stories, novellas, and novels.

He leaned against the wall, felt his heart typing away at his rib cage. This was, by far, a waste of time. It kept him from writing. To him, these moments were like padding. Kind of like were you would stall and delay and drag things out so that somehow some way by hook or by crook you make it to the bitter inevitable end.

Another set of three knocks. The door rattled. It sounded like a strong determined fist. Solid knuckles, perhaps even brass ones. Did he owe the wrong people money? Probably—he couldn’t keep track of his debts.

He felt it. Away from the desk. This disturbance…right now he could be at word five hundred. He could be making his way to the end. Always he was somewhere in a story.

Perhaps madness was setting in. His dreams were filled with deleting one word, adding two, poring over page after page of a thesaurus, his brain spinning trying to find that word swirling on his tongue but never finding it. He would wake from his dream, find that he was still asleep, and then wake for real.

Right now, was he in between dreams? He didn’t know.

There was only one way to resolve this. He unlocked all four locks. His finger was primed on the trigger. He swung the door open and pointed his gun out the door. There was a loud female scream and the thumping of a body hitting the floor.

He looked down. It was his mother. She was lying in her own lasagna, the dish still in her hand, aluminum foil peeking out from under her body.

“Mom?” He reached down. Her wrist was limp. He checked her wrist and neck for a pulse but couldn’t find one.

This, he realized, presented a serious problem. Kneeling by his mother, he turned and looked inside. He could see the computer screen—some words, mostly white space. The cat, now awake, looked at him then turned away, indifferent.

He thought about the situation. Ambulance, hospital, surgery, paperwork. Or death, funeral arrangements, requisite mourning period, paperwork.

As he came inside for the phone, he mumbled, there’s always something, when does it end?

1 comment: