He went home and wrote his book to the end. His hands were cramped and shaking by the end; finger tips stained with typewriter ink. But he felt the satisfaction of a hard job done well. It had been worth the sacrifice of an evening out with his friends.
The next day at work he realised that he’d made a mistake in the first act of the story and that its pacing would ultimately derail the whole narrative. He resolved to … resolve … the issue. He realised he’d been in trouble two words into that previous sentence and wondered vaguely when he’d started narrating his own life story. The day passed, eventually, like a kidney stone. But that evening he was there at the typewriter, feeding it his time and blood and sweat and every last ounce of creative energy he could wring from his knackered flesh.
But then it occurred to him in the shower the next morning that he had been a blind fool to go back to the first person, a blind, stupid fool. Sorry boys, gonna’ have to ‘ixnay on the five aside tonight – the muse is trembling in my bosom. He didn’t notice the unresponsive … response… from his colleagues.
The next day he left work at the very second his contracted hours were up. No post-work drinks for me; I’ve a book to write. And the next day he did the same. And the next, until it was done.
He was excited then, at the end, so he sat back and lit his cigar he said, ‘Martha, now, how about that…’ but before he could finish, he had a revelation – it’s not a third person narrative at all; it’s a dramatic monologue. He went to bed with the dawn chorus for a power nap before work.
And so it carried on, through the changing seasons and almost as many drafts as demurred invitations: I’m sorry guys, another time, how about on the 6th, not tonight; sorry my only and dearest brother, I can’t come to the wedding, I’ve got to re-edit the climax – it’s so close, but not quite right.
Over time the invitations dwindled then stopped completely as, one by one, his friends came to the realisation that they’d lost him to addiction, that cruel mistress. It would almost have been better if he’d had a mistress, even a cruel one. At least he would have left the house occasionally.
Eventually the invites stopped coming, but he’d long since stopped noticing them in any event. The years went by, one draft following another – what have I been doing, it’s been right under my nose all this time – it’s an epic poem.
His weight plummeted – he was too busy to eat. In time, his pallid skin hung loose from his cheekbones, and his once proud mane of hair first became straggly then started to come off in huge clumps. The drafts would come and go – here a witty take on the book-ended structure of Madame Bovary, there a playful homage to For Whom The Bell Tolls. The hipster’s typewriter became an executive’s MacBook Pro, then a desktop PC because an artist’s tools need not be a statement. And then back to the typewriter, the one true implement of the writer.
Finally, after decades of work it was finished. His masterpiece. His baby. NOW he felt the full satisfaction of a hard job done well. He scrabbled in the dust for his phone, before remembering that it had died for the last time back in 2039 and he’d not had time to replace it. That was during his ‘second person phase’, which he remembered with the sort of wry disregard one normally reserves for an ingratiating but wildly destructive king charles spaniel. He felt a dull ache in the long-disused lizard part of his brain and a twitch he’d not felt in all the years since he’d decided to rule out including a saucy scene in the book. Hey Martha, he called out, how about that sex? Silence.
He found her decomposed corpse in the kitchen. She’d been there 15 years last May.
It all came crashing in at once: the nights out, the weddings, funerals, get-togethers, reunions, anniversaries, date nights; all abandoned to feed the insatiable appetite of the typewriter. He felt bitterness then – the return home after a difficult commute only to hear the typewriter’s guttural chant: feed me, feed me. His body shook with the surge of long-suppressed tears, he tasted ash in his mouth and let out a savage roar that caused the neighbour’s cat to go into hiding for so long her owners thought she had passed away. He smashed and crashed his way through the kitchen, an open wound, a primitive maelstrom; a writer unwritten.
Eventually he gathered some semblance of control over himself and staggered back to his typewriter. Use this. Use this, use this, he whispered to his racing heartbeat; this could be the real masterpiece. One letter at a time, he began to type.