Gregory George lived with his mother. During the day, he worked as a bookkeeper for a small business, receiving an even smaller paycheck. But at night – ah, at night! Gregory George was the equal of a dozen swashbucklers, three private eyes, or an efficient cleaning woman. He was a writer.
He sat at the kitchen table Tuesday evening, thinking that if his mother would quit scraping the cast iron skillet, he could force out an idea. (Ideas for novels generally came from somewhere near the pit of his stomach. This idea was a short story one, however, filed behind his right ear and to the side.) Gregory George began to feel unhappy, as he did every evening when his mother washed the dishes. The resultant clatter seemed to drown his writing inspirations or aspirations in sudsy dishwater.
Gregory George went to bed.
Friday evening Gregory George sat at the kitchen table. His mother had already done the plates and the glasses, and now the silverware was rattling in its bath. He considered paper plates. How quiet they were!
He smiled at the sheets of notebook paper in front of him, which he always used for a first draft, and picked up a carefully-sharpened pencil. His idea for a story, a triple murder with fourteen suspects (a filler, but it would pay five dollars) began to edge out from the cobwebs.
And then his mother picked up the cast iron skillet. To his horror, Gregory George remembered they’d had bacon for breakfast. She began to scrape the congealed fat and curing sugar loose from the skillet with a pancake turner.
Gregory George went to bed.
Monday night he sat at the kitchen table and stared at the leaves printed on the plastic tablecloth. He felt he should be writing down his grievances, sharing them with his public. If his mother washed the day’s dishes tonight, she’d be imperiling his sanity. And then he decided as a crazy Gregory George, he would wander the neighborhood, making rude remarks to the retired cleric who lived at the corner of his street. The poor cleric would likely sigh and ask why this new visitation of troubles had come to him. Gregory George would then have Heavenly Approval for being insane.
Her tv program over, his mother walked through the kitchen heading for the sink, and Gregory George went to bed.
He continued his staring in bed, but it took more concentration since he’d buried his head in his pillow. Gregory George addressed himself. “And not,” he thought, chuckling, “as an envelope.”
But his enjoyment of such witty humor vanished as he considered various aspects of his current life. He was thirty-two years old. Were he to set down his situation and then see it in print, people would be unkindly critical. “Thirty-two years old, and still living with his mother?” they would ask. “Well, you know what’s wrong with him. No guts.”
Gregory George knew that after an insult like that, even his favorite hero-detective would flinch. He flinched.
And then he knew, he KNEW, without any further consideration, Something Had To Be Done. Just as he reached a solution, someone snored in his ear and Gregory George woke to sunshine and bookkeeping.
Three months later, on a Thursday evening, Gregory George sat at the kitchen table and smiled at his birthday cake. There were thirty-three candles on it, and his mother smiled back at him over the tiny flames. “You know, Gregory George, ever since you made all that money writing those true confession stories, you’ve been like a different person.”
“I know, Mother,” Gregory George agreed, and listened contentedly to the comforting sound of the dishwasher in the kitchen as he blew out the candles.
The cast iron skillet was hanging on the wall, in an artistic arrangement of artificial ferns and flowers.