Author Unknown (Pt. 4)

July 12, 2020

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Promoting yourself made you as many enemies as fans. Haters relentlessly trolled you online calling you untalented, vainglorious or worse. Colleagues wondered if you were paying more attention to your novels than your job. Your wife thought you were chasing windmills. To some extent they all were right. But the genie was out of the bottle; you simply had to keep trying. Something would click. You would have the last laugh.

One morning, you saw a complete stranger reading your novel on the “El” in Chicago. Small sample, but no less thrilling, it was all you could do to keep from introducing yourself to the reader. In terms of validation this rare sighting would have to do.

Much later, your daughter’s high school art teacher read two of your novels, one after the other. During that relatively long period of time, he had constantly told her how good they were. Your daughter respected her teacher and by him praising your work you knew she respected you. Any glimmer of awe she had towards you was significant. Especially given how you’d fallen from her pedestal. This would have to do.

The accolades you received for copywriting, the wealth it provided, ego trips. For many, that would have done quite nicely. For you it wasn’t enough. Like Icarus you’d reached sublime heights, until your wings got clipped and you fell to earth.

In the end as in the beginning, a writer writes. Writing for its own sake, without the obsession for income or outcome. A writer writes. This, too, will have to do.

(If you’re interested in any of my books please click on the links right side of this blog. Thank you!)

The Lake (5)

May 11, 2020

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My Michelle

It was as if the two of you were co-starring in a divinely written play, a pairing far removed from the inglorious hook ups taking place in the muscle cars behind you. You didn’t know if you were being watched and to your delight you didn’t care. Rex and his ilk did not matter. Michelle would remain your fantastic secret for as long as possible, that day anyway.

You walked with Michelle, holding hands, which for once did not feel strange, and arrived at an empty apartment she said belonged to her mother. Inside it was cool and dark. She left the shades down and led you into her bedroom.

To recite what transpired there would require a poet’s gift, lest it sound obscene. The two of you swallowed each other whole. Satiated, her head resting on your chest, you both drifted into a deep sleep. You didn’t know it then but this would be the only time you would ever fall asleep in a woman’s embrace.

Like a pristine bubble dangling precariously from a child’s wand, it would not last. The nirvana of that afternoon did not follow either of you into the relationship. Michelle revealed herself to be insecure and vain. All too aware of her exceptional physique and its effect on men, she vacillated between flaunting herself and retreating into a pouty shell. She liked dancing and disco music and the culture surrounding it: the clothes, nightclubs, older men, black men – all of which made you uncomfortable.

To be continued…

The Lake (4)

May 6, 2020

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My Michelle

Nearly 40 years have passed since that druggy July afternoon and you can still remember the details vividly. Not just her body but everything on it: her pink velour running shorts, the canary yellow tube top, a stretchy headband, reflective aviators.

You do not rise. Michelle sits down on the grass beside you. Tiny beads of perspiration dot her upper lip. When she smiles a rivulet forms on her flushed cheek. You watch the droplet encroach places you would kiss.

“I know you from the neighborhood,” she says. “I knew I would find you here.”

That didn’t make sense. You’d never seen this girl before in your life, save for in your dreams. How did she know you? You don’t ask. A gift like this you receive without questions.

While you remember particulars from that day at the lake, the vision of Michelle, the strange miracle of her coming to you, it would be disingenuous to reiterate the dialog you shared. As if under the rapture of Psilocybin, you only know the conversation flowed like a clear stream over smooth rocks – the actual words as elusive as silvery trout slipping in and out of the sunshine.

To be continued…

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Years later. These woods. The fading sun casting long shadows. In this moment on that bend on a slope you envision your ideal death. You imagine a mountain lion. The beast still existed and in these very woods, albeit rare. They were still here. Avoiding extinction, through guile and guts. Still here.

Again, you hear the rustling. Could it be the wind? No. Everything about you is motionless. Most likely it’s vermin scuttling within the leaf bed. Or is it the great cat, with claws and fangs and yellow eyes?

Could it be?

It comes from deep inside, almost like a prayer, a fantasy or even a nightmare. In a way it is all of those things. Let it be a cougar that takes your life, right here and now, pouncing on you and ripping apart your throat, feeding upon your flesh. You would welcome the pain as penance for everything you’d done. Dying in the mouth of a lion. Such a magnificent death! Your body becomes a sacrament. Something holy. No more fearing the end like everyone else: how it might happen, how might it hurt? Between his claws you would make your peace. Then fall backward onto the ground, bleeding into it, as the lion tore out your heart.

Only a squirrel.

Chattering, it scurries across your path. Unless you slip and fall, you will not be dying on this trail. Your magnificent death remains a waking dream. Yet, you feel an odd lightness. You’ve discovered an idea of death you can live with.

New chapter soon…

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You are rounding a bend on a slope. The trail has become thin from lack of use, the rains having nearly washed it away. A vague impression persisted but it was enough. Beneath your feet, the decomposing leaves smelt of wetness and earth, pine needles and moss. Death was here but not death. No sadness to it. No fear… You detect a rustling. You pause, still as a deer. Something was out there. Escaping you? Stalking you? You had no way of knowing. But you are not frightened. You ached to see it. Wishing whatever it was would come out to face you.

Many years ago, you were driving in the woods at night. It was late and it was completely dark. You’d rented a cabin with ______. Coming home from a roadhouse, drunk, attempting to find it. Turning a bend your headlights met two eyes. A deer? You stopped the car. A giant white owl stood like a ghost, staring right at you. Only for a moment. Then it was gone, disappearing into the darkest night. Such creatures were rare, even as far north as you were. Sometimes you think it was a vision. In time ______ would forget all about it. But you never did. You’ve been looking for that sacred animal ever since.

To be continued…