October 15 th , 2008
Day started with a promise of sun. But promises are made to be broken and so it is cloudy. Dark. An afternoon of light rain. A little sour today. Fighting off the tireds. Trying not to think too much. But trying not to think too much only makes me think. And what I don't want to do is think. Not now. Not anymore today. Not at all.
Little Man's playing with his wooden train set. Eating one of S.B.'s homemade chocolate chip walnut cookies. Getting the most out of his spooky Sleepy Hollow cartoon. Multitasking the best way a two-year old can. Fun, fun, and more fun.
S.B.'s wrapping up her tough day. Non-stop teaching, hall monitor duty, and lunchroom duty. Doing three jobs but barely getting paid for one. She will be exhausted when she gets home. Filled up and needing to get things out in the open so that she can breathe. So that she can feel better. Relax a little. Sleep. So, I'll get to work on the chicken. Make sure she's got a glass of wine waiting. And it won't be long before all of us will be at the table. Eating supper as a family. The way it's supposed to be.
I'm having an afternoon beer. Wondering when I'll hear back from the company I interviewed with last week. I was sure I'd hear something by now. Good or bad. Yes or no. But so far, I've heard nothing. In the meantime, I've applied for a few more jobs. Started to structure the new short story book. Learned that “Pilgrim's Bay” is now available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
So now, the whoring begins. Time to write an email and send it to my family and friends. Time to make up a few fliers. Maybe post them around town. And time to open myself up to interviews, discussions, whatever is available so that I can somehow put one foot in front of the other and begin carrying the load. Buck up. Stop being a hermit. Get the words out there. Because writing it, publishing it, sending information to people, is not enough. If this thing is ever going to get off the ground I need to live it. Breathe it. Get back to that fire I had years ago, when I was in my 20's, drinking my way through college, but sure that I was going to put my mark on the writing world.
“ You're not Hemingway,” Mulhauser said.
I was standing at the pool table. Drinking a beer. Waiting my turn to shoot pool.
“ And you're not Fitzgerald,” I said.
One of the girls we were shooting with bent over, took her shot, then went over to her friend. They looked at us. Smiled. Talked quietly to each other.
“ And that's not Zelda and that's not Mary,” I said.
“ Fair enough,” Mulhauser said.
He cocked his cigarette to the side of his mouth, leaned down, made a smooth easy stroke. Knocked in two balls.
“ Nice shot,” I said.
“ Thanks, Hem!” he said.
“ No problem, Fitz!”
He shot again, but missed.
The other girl stepped up. She was blond. Top heavy. Had a cherub-like face.
“ What are you two talking about?”
“ Don't mind us,” Mulhauser said. “Big K here just likes to make boozy literary references after he's had a couple.”
“ That's right!” she said. “We saw your pictures in the paper. What's the book you wrote?”
I leaned over. Took my shot. Knocked in a ball. Moved to shoot another, but missed the ball completely. Mulhauser gave me a wink.
“ Looks like you girls got a shot to win it here,” he said.
Cherub face leaned over. Rested her boobs on the table. Made a glorious shot. Then followed it up with a nice run. All that was left was the eight ball.
“ We play here twice a week,” she said.
The other girl stepped up. She was short. Thin. Pale and dark haired. But had the prettiest eyes I'd seen up until then.
“ But we never see you guys here,” she said.
Me and Mulhauser looked at each other. I took a drink. Let him do the talking.
“ Usually, we're working. Writing stories. Making contacts. Doing what we can to get this new book, Corvallis Road, out into the world. But tonight we're celebrating. Since the article came out in the university paper, we've been getting a lot of positive feedback. Things are on a roll. Everything seems to be lining up in the cosmos and we're beginning to reap the benefits of our hard work. We...”
He went on talking. But I was watching the blond. She was stretched over the table. Biting her lip. About to miss the eight ball. I could see she was not lined up properly. That she was going to drop her elbow. That the only chance she had was if she hit the ball too hard and it went in another pocket by way of slop. But I didn't say anything. She was doing it her way. Looking confident. Besides, I didn't want to interrupt Mulhauser's bull session.
She shot hard. Missed. The eight ball bounced off two rails and rolled within inches of the side pocket.
“ ...we're planning a little tour this summer. Up north in our hometowns and then swinging down this way to do signings at bigger bookstores. Should be a blast.”
The pale girl was smiling at him. All wound up in his dark eyes and dark hair.
“ It's your shot, Fitz,” I said. “Let's put this one to bed.”
“ I'll end it here in a minute, but first a toast!” he said.
We all raised our glasses.
“ Big K, the honor is yours!”
And I looked around the place at the bottles and glasses, the bodies and smoke, and I felt as if I was writing it all. That all of it was more real than anything that could ever be dreamed up and put to paper. That one day we would make it into a book. Me and Mulhauser. The unknown girls. The drinks. The pool game. The feeling of being lost and found all at once in the middle of a bar.
And it did make it. To pages 19 and 20 of “Pilgrim's Bay”. The novel that took root somewhere back there. In memory. Moments long gone. Faces forgotten. Time drank up and pissed away. And it's here with me now. A thirty-five year old married man. Still writing stories. Reaching out. Keeping at the keeping on because I believe in words. The feeling behind them. And that even if the words are not read, bought and sold, they mean something.
“ To playing the game!” I said.
And I believe it now, as I believed it then. A man must do whatever he can to get in the game. Play as well as he can. Make sure that his efforts are not for him, but for those around him.
So as S.B. drives home and Little Man anticipates her arrival, I thank God that I have something to fight for. People to take care of. A family to call my own.
And on that note, I'm out. Time to get at that chicken.
If you can, please buy my book.
Best to you and yours.