Chester is drinking his beer from a Styrofoam soda cup.
"Pure writerly moments," I say.
"What is it?" he asks. "I'll listen now. I'll listen longer for another beer."
"I made a choice not too long ago that I couldn't write a novel. Life was too haphazard, too short, too random. I needed a project that captured that randomness."
"What about the Treasure of New Mexico?" The lutz had been listening.
"I got rid of it. Gave it away or threw it out. Best not to be sentimental."
"What about that other one you wrote. The one about that day at the beach with Helena?"
"I posted it on my blog, emailed a couple of friends, and then I moved on."
"You gonna get to the point, kid?"
"I'm 35, but I feel like I'm on that death bed with you. I feel like I could go any day, and even if I were to live until I was 80, every day I'd die a little with the weight of the knowledge that nobody was reading what I'd written, that nobody cared. Even something like my 4th-grade short story Treasure of New Mexico which by all measures was my greatest popular success -- it's nothing but a faded memory now. So, I write. And I find a process where writing is the end. I write and I try to forget."
I take a beer from under my chair, crack it up, and take a long pull from the can. I don't bother to hide it in a Styrofoam soda cup. If I get fired, then fuck it. What was one more fictional job anyway?
"You newbie. You college student. You weak fucking piece of shit." His face turns red. "I thought you were better than the rest. I thought you had thick skin. This game isn't for the weak, kid. So, yeah, lay in this death bed with me, if you like. But it wasn't your poor health that put you here, you put yourself in the bed. You don't have to write fucking Grapes of Wrath, but don't let some shitty pissant critics stop you from doing what you want to do."
And with that, he pees his bed. "See what you made me do. Now clean that up."
I get up. Chester was always the best of teachers. He was more than some stereotypical mentor on the hero's journey. He was an asshole when I really needed an asshole.
He was based on a real person, by the way -- Lester Goran. He wrote some amazing books, including The Paratrooper of Mechanic Avenue and Bing Crosby's Last Song. I'm not sure anyone reads those books anymore, and that is a tragedy too. Read one of his books if you get a chance.
"Where you going kid?"
"I got a novel to write."
"Ain't you gonna clean this up."
"Naw, you're right. I can't keep putting myself in the hospital bed."
"No really, kid. You gotta clean this up. I can't have another nurse or living assistant finding me with a bed full of urine and a beer. And besides, I'll blame you for this catastrophe."
A smile at him. "Thanks, Chester. And by the way, we're not in trouble. You're just some character in a novel. And there's a real me in the real world with a novel to write."
He doesn't smile. Both he and I know that he's more real than I'll ever care to admit. And he really does want me to clean up his piss.
But I can't. Frivolous, ambitious, temporary, wonderful, transcendent writerly moments await me. They are pure and honest, even when they're covered with piss.
YOU ARE READING
Pure Writerly Moments (The Best of Goodreads Blog Posts, 2008 - 2018)Short Story
Some moments just have to be written. Sometimes, a simple story, essay, or journal entry becomes more. What are these moments? They are pure. They are essential. They are writerly. This is a collection of short blog posts on Goodreads...