Friday, June 09, 2006

writer's block

Rough Draft Part 1
Not quite drunk enough but still too damn sober, I sprung out of bed and wiped the blood from my eyes. It was late evening or early dawn. I found the half-empty bottle of vodka at my bedside and took a swig.

The parrot in the corner fanned his wings and squawked and rattled the door of his cage with his foot, stopping briefly, pleased with the sound of his own dissonant notes.

I touched my dripping temple. A gunshot? No, I’d be fertilizer by now. A knife wound? Perhaps, but not likely. Maybe some wiseacre just clubbed me, it’s happened before. In any case the gash spurted blood over my face and hands, and if I didn’t patch it up pronto I’d have a snowball’s chance of surviving ‘til sun up.

I ran a fingernail over my eyebrows, scraping off stubborn flakes of blood. I grabbed a washrag and scrubbed it from my forehead, then bandaged the wound with gauze I kept in the medicine cabinet. A few pills of codeine rattled in a bottle spinning on its side on my bathroom counter. I shook the bottle next to my ear before gulping down the remainder with a mouthful of vodka.

Memories returned in flashes: a leggy broad in lacey guarders, a hundred-year-old wax cylinder, and a single name -- Buddy Bolden.

Chadwick Twitchell ripped the page from the typewriter, contemplating its fate. Shred it, burn it or cast it into the sea? His editor would hate it. Chadwick’s characters, particularly his protagonists, were never sympathetic enough. In past novels Chadwick assigned tragic flaws to each of his private detectives, making some of them single dads, cripples, orphans or amputees. He was only inches away from giving his latest creation a malignant tumor just so he didn’t have to listen to his editor’s well-practiced dissertation on knowing one’s audience. It’s a sad day when a creator hates his creation.

He threaded a blank page through the typewriter, imagining a new scenario.


“What were you doing in the wash closet last night?” My mother asked over a freshly brewed pot of Colombian java.

“Vomiting, I think. There was some blood in it this time. I should probably stop accepting sex as payment from my leggy, blonde clients all of whom are politician’s daughters with hips wider than the Rocky Mountains desperately seeking revenge against old flames who have compromising photos in their possession.”

“That’s nice, Dear. You didn’t get any on the curtains, did you?
Chadwick crumpled the page and lit it on fire. Time to get serious.

Chadwick remembered something his editor had said. “Did you know that most ‘scan’ buttons on most car radios switch within four seconds. Four seconds, Twitchell. That means a song has to grab one’s attention inside four seconds. This is a sound bite culture, and we’re a nation with ADD.” He was referring to Chadwick’s sprawling, run-on sentences, which required pruning before any major publishing house considered him marketable.

“Oh, yeah, what’s with the whole ‘human dilemma’ bit, Chaddy? I thought we’re in the business of selling books. Consider ratcheting up the gore a crumb and cutting that heady, academic bullshit. Remember, they love guts and carnage, not radical self-indulgent rambling. Of course you’re the artist, but think about it, okay?”

Chadwick took a familiar book from the cedar shelf. It was thick, about 650 pages give or take with microscopic print. Chadwick’s novels were always between 210 to 230 pages with indecently large typeset. The back cover compiled some glowing reviews of the novel most of which tossed around words like essential and classic. A stunning indictment of American pop culture, went one review by J. Roberts Stevenson, Jr. Both cathartically hilarious and concisely morose. This capsule of Spanish-American life is easily swallowed.

Needless to say Chadwick owned one of five copies ever published. All this book needed was a protagonist with a malignant tumor and an appearance on Oprah’s book club for it to be a mainstream success.

“Keep the killings abundant and the sentences short,” his editor had said, “and you’ve got a best-seller.”

1 comment:

Ming said...

Disturbingly indicative of what the masses want, which is probably why a little over half of Americans who voted allowed Bush in twice.