A Parable

This is from a forthcoming, but not yet written, novel tentatively called The Rise of the Impotence Class or The Charge of the Light Brigade, depending on the length.

Philip Dander needed a room to write. His home had become too familial and his wife too tawdry. If Philip Dander retreated to the bedroom to write, his wife would lure him away with the promise of a Ben & Jerry evening that Philip mistook for a lustful rendezvous but instead consisted of a pint of New York Super Fudge.

As a journalist he was accustomed to words and no longer gave them any thought besides the odd headline and habit-forming alliteration. But he’d given his daytime job in for afternoon naps, TV watching, jogs around the supermarket after the coupon items, and an hour before the iBook madly Googling a lead that he’d come across about a porn star who had once fucked 250 men. And so Philip Dander was committed to a life of fiction.

He realized the Great American Novel would not get written unless he located a room to write beside the one he already had. It was imperative, embolden, progenitorial, coitus reservatus, in vitro, and other archaic and arched words that most readers’ eyes glaze over and that only scruffy academics grab up in their jaws and shake until dead.

He took out a personal ad in the local paper: “Young, talented writer looking for a well-endowed room with dimensions of Katie Price.  Must include a desk — preferably big and with enough room to spread out naked on.”

He got one reply from a woman in Presque Isle, Maine.

But no room or desk.

He began to write letters to the editors of magazines, imploring them to locate a room with a desk and print it in their next issue. He copied dozens of wanted signs and hung them at the police station: “Wanted: Large room with a history of violence. I’m a writer who is working on a thriller.” He took out ads on Craigslist under the job section: “Writer looking to hire dependable room and desk with a good work ethic. Must be flexible and have many drawers. Pay dependent on how many words I write in a day. No broom closets or public bathrooms, please.”

Nothing except the one phone call from a lunatic who thought he was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.

Things were getting desperate. He’d only written one word in a month and then had accidentally deleted it. When he tried to write in his favourite recliner, either the cat or his wife or the strong smell of fear prevented him.

Philip Dander started taking extreme measures when after two months he had missed too many baseball games and the stack of magazines and newspapers filled every chair in the house.

He suddenly began to miss dinners. Was late for his baths. Never showed up for church — and he was the son a preacher man, but not the one Dusty Springfield sings about. And rarely showed for coitus and when he did overwhelmed his wife with lewd suggestions of writers’ positions.

Desperate now to the point of plagiarism, Philip Dander broke into other writers’ houses and for a few brief, stolen moments sat at their desks in their rooms. But he couldn’t keep it up when the writer’s block set in. It kept him in bed for months, the paper with the word “It” typed on it pinned to the headboard.

Things began to deteriorate after this. Philip Dander only came home to look up a word in the dictionary. He was out all day, snatching what he could at park benches, cubicles in big corporate offices, principals’ offices, desks at furniture stores. At night he visited seedier places with stained desks, rented one-room hotel rooms with decades old stationary, haunted trailer parks until he sighted an unused desk, loitered around strip joints until he could snag a table under the brightest lights.

After a year of this Philip Dander was in a bad way and he’d only written one page of his novel and most of that was headlines from newspapers and captions from magazines.

One morning, after spending a rough night sleeping on a curbside desk destined for the trash heap, Philip Dander, unshaven, delusional, uncommunicative, and dressed only in his boxer shorts depicting the faces of his favourite writers, smashed the fingers on his typing hand in the drawers of a behemoth desk at the library. With a sudden jolt of creative productivity, he typed an ecstatic “He said,” and then almost fainted away from the pain in his broken fingers that had miraculously, as if muse driven, written the words.

But it was not enough. Later that day eye witnesses saw him trying to suffocate himself inside a famous horror writer’s desk. Unsuccessful at that and blinded by tears of rage, he fell over a cord and smacked his temple on the side of the desk.

He was confirmed dead by the horror writer well before the ambulance arrived.


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