Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Hack Writer: Idlers

NOTE: Don't remember what I was writing this one for. Nor when. But I see it as part of my hack writing evolution. I am indeed getting better. And better.

That odd feeling.

Like a chili dog with onions. Or liverwurst. Or that rotten bag of greasy french fries that caused his stomach so much misery. He showered with that feeling. Walked with it, sat with it, schlepped with it and slept with it. When he brushed his teeth it was there, mint-tinged and crisp as a rotten apple. When he moved his patch of lawn it was there, green and fresh as a compost heap.

He liked it a lot.

“There’s nothing better on a day like this than ice cream.”

His wife licked her cone, nodded. The dog begged for bits, sitting square on her bottom on the painted concrete floor. The parlor felt like a swimming pool. Concrete. Worn wooden boardwalks giddy with twittering children. From somewhere came the smell of wet towels mixed with honey-buttered bread, $1.50 a slice.

The ice cream supplied the chlorine.

He was so insanely happy.

What day is it?

His favorite question. Sitting on the toilet first thing in the morning, he liked to ask it. He asked the mirror. He sang it to his hairbrush. He whispered it to the dog, squatting outside the door. And he cackled. Because she didn’t want to know, either.

It’s no boon. I’m learning something here. It’s wholesome and valuable and interesting and educational and I don’t like it one bit, he said.

Ben, you’re not quite seeing the potential. Potential, Ben. A dreamscape filled with horizons reachable from a computer and a chair.

I see no horizons.

You’ve got to look for it.

Look for it, Marv? Look for it? That sounds in an idle fashion like something akin to work.

But it’s good for. . .

I don’t want to know what it’s ‘good for.’ You’re missing the whole point. My object in life is to be like this conversation.


Useless. See, I have my opinion. Haven’t worked a lick to get it. Just thought it up, in fact. But it’s mine and I’ll be damned if anything you say, no matter your eloquence, your reasoning, your supporting evidence, is going to sway me. Then there’s you. You have your opinion. Maybe you think you’ve worked for it and maybe you have. But maybe it’s someone else’s that you’re trying on for size and hell no you’re not going to budge because if you do you’ll have to go shopping for opinions again. So here we go back and forth, I say no, you say so. The waiters refill our drinks and those trees over there, Marv, those trees will turn color with the seasons and be covered with snow and green all over again just to brown and orange. Neither one of us will win. Not because deep down we don’t want to lose but because even deeper down one of us never really entered the contest in the first place. This isn’t even an intellectual exercise since my mind’s been elsewhere since my second beer. Speaking of which, waiter, seventhies!

Ben lazily sipped his seventh beer.

I don’t follow, Marv muttered.

Ben smiled. At last, you’re getting the knack.

He favors long drives, silent walks. Movie theatres. Malls. Beaches and biking trails and freeways and concert halls. Even the library. Especially the library. That’s where you got the stuff. That’s where you met the pros who’ve given up all the sins but golf.

He didn’t like the fat ones. Some thought they were gurus. If they had a beard, all the better. But there was work involved. More work than he liked. A regimen. Extra food to be purchased and eaten. Fewer cosmetics to be bought.

Ben is a purist.

His sins: glasses, a limp. Sandals and neatly combed hair that often put him at odds with those who congregated in front of the supermarkets, reading discarded tabloids. Purists had to have some sins because purity implies knowledge of the undesired. You can’t measure a weed with an unmarked yardstick.
He never shared that motto.

Not a motto. A blip; there one moment when he caught himself thinking on the road from Bone to Blackfoot. Music or not. Scenery or not. Drive on and the thought is gone. Like a fart. Just look at that road, that road. Steer. Gas. Brake. Signal. Ten-minute errands he prefers because they were blank and thoughtless outings into the back country, the fore country, and once 43 times around the block. Ten cows. Ten more cows. Two crows. A fire hydrant. A parking meter. Two fat men. A delicatessen. Sixteen hay bales. Two mini vans.



Rolling away.

And two hours blissfully gone.

The movies. They provide empty thought. He never felt better plugging in. Staring at the dancing screen covered with spitwads. Ninety minutes of blissful nothing, and all for $2.50 if he went to the right theater. And he always did. You had to be careful, though. Thoughts jump. Like rock climbers, they dangle on springy cords. They enlighten. They encourage. They interrupt. It’s better if he spends at least the first ten minutes -- once past the previews -- free-associating phone numbers that have number sequences in common with the number on his ticket stub. Or trying to remember what he’s seen that minor character in before. Or -- best yet -- waiting, often in the theatre before the next feature, before they started sweeping the floor and found his hiding place replete with snacks, night light and sleeping bag, for the sequel.

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