Thursday, April 24, 2008

Please Please Please Shut Up

"So how's your girlfriend," asks the fat man I barely know. We'd met him at a party last November. [Oh please shut up.] "Well," I say, "she broke up w--"

"Man, she was gorgeous! Gorgeous!!" [For the love of God, please please shut up.] "Best-looking woman in the room." He laughs, claps me on the back. We're buddies somehow, long-standing pals. "What the hell was she doing with you anyway? I told the wife later on the way home, I said to her, 'Honey, you look like that and we got no problems, in bed or anywhere else!'" [Another word and I will kill you. I swear to God I will!] "Tell her I said hi when you see her!" [I will tear your heart out with my bare hands and feed it to the squirrels.] He turns, walks away. My insides are on fire, melting, running down my legs and into my shoes. I am turning into a puddle; I need a crack in the earth to flow into, to disappear.
The fat man's wife is standing a few feet away; she wears the saddest smile I have ever seen.

Here's installment 14 of Wasted Miracles.

And then there was The Book. Four years in the making, laboriously typed on a third-hand Underwood, reread and rewritten a half-dozen times. It should have, could have, made him famous. Late at night in the basement of his house, as he pored over possibilities and played with conjunctures, he fell to pouring shots of brandy into his coffee. It helped him relax and he discovered that the liquor seemed to loosen his thoughts. He never drank excessively, brushed his teeth before coming quietly to bed so as to not awaken his wife.
When the book was done, 800 pages cut down to 450, he found a small Chicago publishing house that offered him nationwide distribution but no advance. Five months later, he became a bonafide author.
The work’s meticulous research was praised, there were short mentions in both Newsweek and Time and the more literary editors at the Post said of both his writing and style that there indeed was a talented young man whose career should be watched. Then the book had died in the stores. No second edition, no film rights, no nothing.
He opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling. His wife had moved away, then there’d been the divorce. There was irony in that. He’d been sober a year-and-a-half when it happened, when she walked into their kitchen and said simply, “I can’t take this. I was sure I could but I can’t. I never thought I’d say this, Colin, but I liked you better when you were drunk.” She’d left that night, the kids behind her each carrying a suitcase.
Colin stood, went to the kitchen, found a large clear plastic container he’d filled at the Giant Food salad bar three days earlier. He scooped out two fistfuls of green and orange stuff, dumped it into a wooden bowl, added fat-free Ranch dressing. He ate, rinsed out the bowl and fork in the sink, thought briefly of earlier and better meals. Outside it had started drizzling softly and the sky hung low. He wondered if he should follow Joe’s advice and paint the place, make it maybe a bit more hospitable. But if he did, more people might want to come over, and that settled that.


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