December 04, 2004
I agreed to do this, and I made my deadline, too... even though I am vacation-depressed and a walking snot-factory from the cold I brought home with me. I take deadlines seriously, but Eric really did back me into a corner with where I could go with the story. But that's the Marine in him.
Here is chapter one.
Here is chapter two.
I don't write about heros. I write about flawed people.
So, I submit my chapter:
James awoke sweating and trembling. The dreams were back and sleep was frightening to him now. Blood and death, the hospital, the pain, the noise and the smell, every night. He lit a cigarette in the darkness and waited for his heart to resume a normal beat. He needed a drink.
He threw the stump of his missing leg over the side of the bed and thought about strapping on his prosthesis, but he didn’t have time for that effort. He wanted a drink right now, so he grabbed his crutches and hobbled over to the kitchen counter, where he poured three fingers of straight vodka into a dirty glass and drank it down quickly. The liquor burned at first, then began to spread a soothing warmth outward from his belly. His hands stopped trembling. He felt better. He felt so good that he followed the first shot of vodka with a second.
What day was this? James wasn’t certain, but he thought it was Thursday, so Maria would be by shortly to clean the shack and do his laundry. Christ. If today was Thursday, he had to meet Griffith at noon to discuss progress on the new book. The publishing house had paid him a nice advance after the success of his first novel, “The Road to Dogwood,” and he told them the second one would be easy. All he had to do was pick up where he left off and keep going.
But the words wouldn’t come. Getting out of Belize and into Costa Rica was a great idea at the time, richly supported by certain Belizian authorities, and one damned expensive lawyer. James ran, but he couldn't hide. He didn't have another book in him and he knew it. He had a lot to think about.
James rode his crutches to the bathroom and took a nice, long leak. He didn’t fall into the commode, so he felt that he made a good beginning to the day. But then he made the mistake of looking in the mirror.
Good Gawd! When was the last time he shaved? When was the last time he bathed? When was the last time he brushed his teeth? He couldn’t remember, but he KNEW that the face staring back at him was enough to send little children screaming.
He looked like Fido’s ass. It was okay for Maria to see him this way, because she was accustomed to it. She knew that she was dealing with a crazy American, but she got paid on time, so she never bitched. Griffith, on the other hand, would shit his pants to see his star writer resembling a homeless person. That image just wouldn't do.
James sniffed one of his own armpits. Yep. He smelled like shit, too. He turned on the water in the shower and removed his clothes. He managed to sit in the bathtub and wash himself. In fact, he fell asleep in the shower and didn’t wake up until the hot water ran out. Whoa! That was the kind of shock he needed to start the day.
Of course, by then he needed another drink, so he crawled out of the bathtub, turned off the cold water and walked, still dripping wet, on crutches back to the kitchen. He had a glass full of vodka almost to his lips when Maria arrived.
She always walked in unannounced and this time she caught James standing wet and naked in the kitchen, balanced on his crutches, and a glass of vodka ready to chug in his hand. James just smiled at her while Marie stood there staring.
“Good morning, darling,” James said, and he drank the vodka. “You can start cleaning anytime you want to. The dirty laundry is in the hamper and you can throw away anything that’s not on my desk. I’m gonna get dressed.”
James hobbled off and left Maria to do her job. She was only sixteen years old, but James liked her. Maria had two sisters who were prostitutes in a local massage parlor. She was trying to go straight. James paid her well, and also threw a few bucks into a mysterious family fund when they needed extra money. He wanted Maria to do well in life. He didn’t care that she saw him naked, legless and drunk. Hell, if she had never seen a nekkid man before, it was about time she did. And James was drunk all the time anymore.
James shaved, combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and donned the state-of-the-art artificial leg the US government gave him for free, after about 180 days of therapy when, after the explosion, his original leg went flying like a boomerang, spinning through the air, so that it went far away but almost curved and came back to him. James missed the old leg and still felt pains in it sometimes, even though it wasn’t there. But the fake one wasn’t bad.
It was a damn fine fake leg. James liked it whenever he wore it, but he preferred going legless most of the time. He didn’t need a leg to write. And he didn’t need a leg to drink. James stood up by himself and felt proud.
Then, he slipped on a pair of pants and a shirt and felt like going downtown. After one more drink, of course. He’d leave Maria her wages on the kitchen table and catch a taxi to town. He would think about what to tell Griffith during the ride. Let’s see… “I haven’t written a fucking WORD!” probably wouldn’t be the way to start the conversation. “It’s coming, but coming slowly,” is a lot better. I’ll tell him I’ve been sick. I’ll…
What the hell. James nested his head against the back seat of the taxi and fell asleep. He would think of something to lie himself out of this situation.
He always did.
But he did wonder... just a LITTLE... how he was going to produce another novel when he didn't write the first one?
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