At this week’s bored … er, board and staff meeting, the IT guy got really exorcised about us creatives not writing long enough content to really justify even posting it to Facebook: “If you’re only posting a two-sentence quote, whoever’s gone up to Facebook will read the entire blog right there. They have no incentive to click the link and find the rest of the story or blog or article!”
Well. Seldom, indeed, are writers and other creative assorts told they’re writing too skimpily. So, herewith, I offer one solution for today. Enjoy. And if you enjoy reading this tale, please leave a comment. It’ll make the IT guy happy. And if you really enjoy reading this story, definitely comment. There’s a book in the future with other odd stories for your delight.
A Writer’s Dream
“In the beginning…” Daniel wrote, with the blackest of inks on the whitest of heavyweight rag-content paper. “Hmmm.” Then he added, “There was the word.”
“No,” after a pause. “I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere before.” Daniel X (a very famous writer) carefully placed his favorite pen on his desk top and stood up. He began pacing, always his best thought-provoking mode.
“In the beginning, it was a dark and stormy night.” Ridiculous. What had happened to that great, dreamed idea, the one destined to be his next best-selling novel, the very one which had tap-danced on his headboard at precisely 3:47 a.m. Wednesday?
“It’s got to come back,” Daniel said, and resumed pacing. “In the beginning…”
Using the soap, he printed the words on the black tile surrounding the tub. “In the beginning…” What was the subject, the verb, the completion of the sentence? “It will be back, it will!” He gritted his teeth and scrubbed furiously at the ring around the tub as the bath water swirled nervously down the drain.
“Innnn the beginnnning…” he intoned, using the syllables as a sound mantra while seated in the lotus position. He would empty his mind while meditating, and the words would then well up, rushing in to fill the vacuum with his next book – or was it to be a play?
Minutes allotted to meditation over, Daniel filled the green plastic watering can and charged at the houseplants. “In the beginning, Mike wasn’t sure the busty blonde perched on his desk was telling the truth.” He filled one pot to the brim, watching tiny bubbles come up around the edges of the sand as the cactus gasped for air. “Serves you right, you slimy little succulent,” he hissed.
Over the next few days, his mental state became as erratic as a South Bronx summer. “In the beginning….” He cut himself shaving. “In the beginning… dah ah dah ah…” he danced, Astaire-like, across his living room floor. “Slow, slow, quick-quick. The rhythm of the dance burned in their veins as their passion smoldered in their shoes.”
Daniel threw himself headfirst into his favorite armchair, burrowing his face into the cushion, hearing the rasp of his sprouting beard catching the upholstery threads. He moaned, then groaned. Inspired, he howled. Louder and louder he howled, until Mrs. Browne next door beat on the apartment common wall with a book. He leaped out of the chair, staggered with momentary vertigo, and then ran to his desk in the corner. “In the beginning, the play’s the thing.”
Daniel next sat on the floor, brooding, watching the small fragment of sunlight gleam across the dusty carpeting. “In the beginning…” he whispered, sliding towards his cat. The feline ceased licking its left front paw and watched him, ears gradually flattening as Daniel approached. “The jungle creatures knew him only as Little Frog,” he told the cat – and then screamed horribly. “I gotta get outta here!”
The cat screamed too, and raced alongside Daniel as they ran towards the front door. Wrenching it open, Daniel screamed again as the cat ran across his bare feet, leaving long scratches and generous portions of stress-released fur. It vanished into the janitor’s apartment down the hall. Mr. Gus watched as the blur of fur raced past his boots. The cat was seeking a known haven; it stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Gus (no one ever successfully pronounced their entire last name) when Daniel embarked on a writing tour. And Mrs. Gus would indulgently feed it, talk to it and care for it, he knew. Let it stay. What was its name? Something inordinately clever. Not a pun; more intellectual than that, surely. Catcan’t du? He clutched the doorknob of his own apartment’s door. What was the cat’s name? Cleocatra? Bob? Mike? Miss Kitty? Access to his memory was being denied. But he never used a computer to write his first draft. His bestsellers always began playing out their plots and choreographing the characters with him acting as stenographer, as secretary, mere scribe, watching the scenes unfold, recording them, ink and heavy paper, writer’s cramp and blurred vision at the end.
Daniel wasn’t eating, he wasn’t sleeping; he wasn’t shaving, bathing, dressing. He sat in his armchair and stared at his knobby knees showing below the frayed hem of his bathrobe. “I-n-t-h-e-b-e-g-i-n-n-i-n-g…” he tapped on the chair’s arm like a telegrapher at his key. He jumped up. “Look, Cap’n! The Great White Whale!”
The room grew very dark. Daniel whimpered in the corner, pulling his knees and bathrobe closer to his body. He heard himself; disgusted, he shook his head and stood up. “I – will – beat – this – thing! It’s just a little writer’s block.” He marched into the kitchen and fixed a high-protein meal, with two vegetables and a serving from each of the other food groups. He popped three fish oil capsules. Feeling much better after eating and preventing senility or Alzheimer’s, he showered, shaved, and dressed in a crisp, clean shirt and nice slacks.
Striding into his office, he cracked his knuckles and stood in front of his computer, ignoring the chair. “In the beginning… the desert was quiet. R2-D2 and C-3PO kept their locomotion modes functioning, even in the sand and unbearable heat.” He stared at the screen. “Always idolized them, haven’t you?” he sneered, and pressed the backspace key.
“In the beginning-” he highlighted the phrase, bolded it and then, as an added fillip, italicized it. “Looking good,” he encouraged himself aloud. “Keep going. In the beginning, there was Edward Bear, coming down the stairs, bumpity-bump.” He turned off the monitor, not saving anything.
“I’ll sleep. I’ll just re-dream the whole thing, the plot, the characters, everything.” Daniel slept, snoring loudly, sleeping deeply. He awoke at 9 a.m. as Mrs. Browne’s ancient vacuum cleaner snuffled the tacks from the carpeting on her side of the common wall. Her cleaning day. Tuesday.
It was Tuesday, then? Was this Belgium?
Why could he no longer think nor write in anything but clichés? Why had his creative fountain, his waterfall of talent, his river of facile words turned into a baked-dry dust bowl? Here it was Tuesday, and Daniel had those gone-but-not-forgotten-blues. He held his head in his hands. “In the beginning…” but what came next? What finished either the phrase – or – or him?
This was it. A duel, a fight to the end of the sentence. A battle to save his words and his sanity. “IN THE BEGINNING!” he roared at full lung power. Mrs. Browne’s vacuum cleaner stopped.
We never saw Daniel X again. We found a sock, lying in the hallway, but couldn’t tell whether it was pointing in the direction of the man’s last steps. It did have a very large dot of black ink at the top, adding an oddly jaunty fillip to its stolid whiteness. Someone recalled that Daniel had once said he had very sensitive feet, and any dye irritated the skin. Hence, white socks. Always. But what he didn’t disclose was that he placed a black, indelible ink dot at the top of each left sock when he brought a bundle of new socks home. That way, he could wear the dotted sock on his left foot for the first use, and then on his right foot for the second. His sock drawer was carefully subdivided to allow this, and the socks wore evenly, month after month.
Finally, after a year or so of him being – well, vanished – there was a timid movement toward some sort of a memorial or something. After all, he’d been a famous writer. Why, he’d been on three talk shows, mentioned in a Jeopardy® category and number three reference when someone Googled ‘famous writer’, all in the same week.
His fans and friends came quietly to the apartment during an open house. The cat refused to attend, remaining with the janitor and his sturdy, honest work as opposed to the wispy mirage of the writer-as-genius.
“Wonder if this was important?” a man asked idly, nudging a pile of crumpled papers behind the wastepaper basket with the toe of his sleek boot.
The girl accompanying him swung her hair out of the way and reached down. She pulled the wadded-up paper balls apart, gently, using just her fingertips. “It must have been bits of his New Book,” she said reverently.
Daniel’s Memorial, a tasteful bronze plaque placed on the corner of the apartment building was dedicated on a heavy-coat-and-sweater-underneath day. Daniel’s former cat came to the window of the janitor’s apartment and hissed at the people huddled and humbled on the sidewalk.
The plaque read,
Born 1950 – Ceased Writing Too Soon
“In the beginning…”