Bumpy Beginnings

“What the shit is this?”
I barely had time to duck before the thick bunch of paper came whizzing past my head.
“Jesus Christ Bob!” I shouted.
“That, my friend, was NOT Jesus Christ,” Bob said smugly as he got up to get another Strongbow from the fridge.
“It’s my book.” I looked at the flurry of paper around my desk, “or rather, it was my book. You destroyed it.”

From behind the open refrigerator door I heard, “First edits, Skaggs. I did you a fucking favor. Your book was shit.”

And that was pretty much the moment I knew Bob was a complete dick. Well, no. Actually that’s not true. I’ve known for quite some time. But that was the first time I’d really seen his crassness turned toward me. You really have no idea how much fun it is to be staring at that bullshit aimed at someone else. A couple of cold ones..a nice pizza or hot wings…and Bob’s douchiness turned on the dickwad du jour.

Or as I liked to call it, Friday and Saturday nights.

“So what the fuck is wrong with is, Siskel?”

“Siskel was a movie critic for some paper in Chicago. That thing sure as shit wasn’t a movie. Dude, it was barely a book if I’m being honest.”

“Yeah, why not be honest? This sugar coating thing sure as fuck isn’t working out for you.”

“Simmer down, Hemingway. It’s not a bad premise. Other than the fact that it’s over done as shit. Your delivery isn’t bad.”

He plopped down on the couch and reached for a Sudoku book. One of many scattered through our tiny Uptown apartment. I headed over to my desk and started picking up the pieces of my bruised ego that had been so carelessly tossed about by my ‘friend.’

“I spent a lot of time on this, dick.” I muttered under my breath.

Without even looking up I heard Bob say, “then fix it. And make it worth a shit.”

I guess I wasn’t as good at that under the breath thing as I thought.

I guess this is probably the part in the movie where the main character stops to give some back story or insight. Either through poignant voice over or flashbacks to some childhood actor that looks something like them–or at the very least someone you imagine could have grown up to play the actor that you’re supposed to care about (otherwise, why the hell did you just give up $20 and 2 hours of your life?).

Bob’s wrong about one thing. This is a movie. Since I was a kid, I’ve imagined my life as a movie. Only it’s a movie where not everyone in the movie actually knew it was a movie. If that premise sounds familiar…it’s because they made a movie about it. Actually they made a couple of movies about that. And several books from what I recall.

This isn’t quite like that. I know my life is a movie. Or at the very least, more than just the three dimensions that occupy the worlds of most people.

I have never been like most people. From an early age, I’ve known that I see things slightly off kilter from most.  Unique, as my mom would say.

“See?! Dude it’s shit like that. The monologue to the reader. You can’t be doing shit like that. It’s so Joy Luck Club.”

“Dammit Bob! What the fu–Did you just say Joy Luck Club? Seriously? You went all Amy Tan on me? From Hemingway to Amy Tan. How many of those ciders have you had anyway. And just how the fuck did you get inside my head?”

“I’m not inside your head dumbass. I’m in your manuscript. The one you’re writing right now. You need some kind of alter-ego plot device to bounce your philosophical ramblings off of. Some kind of contrast so people buy in to this whole ‘you know the secret of the universe’ torch you’ve been carrying.”

I stared at Bob dumbfounded.  I have only been speechless four times in my life. This moment made five. I sat the jumbled heap of papers on my desk and went to the fridge. It was Miller time. And if it wasn’t, it was about to be.

“How did you do that anyway?”

“Wasn’t hard. You’ve known ever since you read ‘Sophie’s World’ that the concept of a book within a book where the reader is the unwitting author and passive observer rolled in to one was a brilliant play. And the perfect headgame for someone like you who thinks they are smarter than most.”

“I am.”

“And yet, here we are. Budding author with his plot device—you haven’t had a roommate since college, you twat. And the reader, we can’t forget about them.”

“I haven’t forgotten about them.”

“No?” the can crumpled as he set it on the coffee table and walked in to the kitchenette to stock back up. “You haven’t forgotten about the readers? Good. Then I don’t have to remind you that talking heads are only interesting in a movie. You can’t have two people in a 2 bedroom apartment for your whole fucking book.”

“Why not?” I really wasn’t being a dick this time (although he had pissed me off). I had mapped out most of the message of the book and conversation seemed like the best plan. I wasn’t anxious to resort ot the bullshit of spending four pages extolling the virtues of well…whatever one bullshits about when they’re trying to make someone see their point.

“Dude. Talking head movies barely work in the movies. Period. You have to really like the actors. And lets face it, Sunshine. There ain’t but a handful that even know you write on a somewhat regular basis to begin with. You just don’t have that kind of star draw my friend.”

And again, my suspicions were confirmed.

Bob was a dick.

“Unless one of them is a vampire with homo-erotic tendencies. Then you’ve got New York Times Bestseller shit right there.”

“Alright Bob. Jesus, I get it. I’ll start working on the re-write in the morning.”

“Bullshit. You’re already working on them in your head. All it’s going to take is one slightly longer commute or a few extra minutes on the crapper and you’ll have mapped out where this book is going.”

“Bob. Are you ok? I mean, compliments. That must have been painful.” How did my beer empty so fast? I smiled at Bob as I got up to get another cold one. It was like I had eyes in the back up my head, I ducked a crumpled cider can. It fell with a sticky thud on the cheap linoleum floor.

“Dude. Why couldn’t you at least pen me in with some better aim?” Bob seemed genuinely irked.

“Because it’s my book. And if you’re a tool with great aim then you just remind me too much of the juice-heads from high school. And I don’t need my book causing undue flashbacks.

“Fine. Can you at least make me a total ladies’ man?”

“We’ll see,” I said as noncommittally as I could muster.

And with that, a plot device was born.


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