Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:23 pm
An old story excerpt
This is something I wrote years ago but it feels like someone else entirely wrote it. I don't remember a whole lot about what I was planning.
Just please let me know what you think, okay? It's called "Triplicity". (I should probably warn you, it's set in 1963, as you'll see at the end, so there's terminology that's only meant to be realistic to what was used at the time, not to be offensive.)
Also, this is literally all of it that I wrote, so there's no new updates on it, sorry. Fan-fiction is allowed, though, if you get any ideas.
“Writer’s block? Hardly reason enough to come to a psychiatrist, Mr. Thorne.”
Dr. Martin sniffed as he checked his watch. Had he spoken in a more snooty tone I might have resented this—as it was, I already felt intimidated by the look of his office. Hexagon-shaped, it reminded me of nothing so much as a cell in a honeybee hive—the walls were even painted the golden color of honey, and the frames on the walls encasing his myriad degrees were a straight black, giving the impression of a honeybee’s color. Upon first entering, I half thought of asking him where the queen was, but didn’t feel quite comfortable enough to joke with this man.
“Well, doc, it’s not just the writer’s block, it’s what it leads to,” I said, nervously wiping my sweaty palms on my pants.
Dr. Martin cocked an eyebrow—whether out of resentment that I was daring to make a statement with such conviction when my hour had just begun, or out of genuine interest I couldn’t tell.
“And what has your writer’s block led to?” he asked in a voice that was not unfriendly but not exactly warm either.
“Well….” I started, scratching my head behind my right ear, “…see, I’ve been having this strange dream lately—I don’t know if it’s one dream or more than one, but the same kinds of things keep happening.”
“I see,” he said quietly, closing his eyes.
“Well, anyway….” I began again, clearing my throat. “Like I said, I don’t know if it’s one dream or three—three things keep happening in it, and they’re all very different, but…somehow I can’t help thinking there’s some kind of connection….”
“I see,” said Dr. Martin again, opening his eyes and writing a single note on a pad of paper.
The doc was like that—he had degrees from every university I’d ever heard of (and several I’d never heard of at all), and was intimidating enough for that, never mind his shiny bald head, bushy black eyebrows, dark eyes that straddled the line between brown and black, and mustache that seemed to be trying to hide any evidence of a mouth. To say nothing of the giant mahogany desk behind which he sat, that dwarfed even him.
And yet something about him made me admire him, too—I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but the man was human somehow. When he checked his watch again, I began to feel that this was only a nervous habit, like my wiping my hands. And his hair (what there was of it) didn’t seem to be falling entirely in place—there was that one stubborn cowlick on the left that few people probably noticed, but I did. I didn’t know if he wanted anyone to know it existed.
Dr. Martin cleared his throat abruptly and spoke.
“You said you’re a teacher, Mr. Thorne, are you not?”
“Uh, yes….” I said, puzzled. What did me being a teacher have to do with anything?
“Yet you’re complaining of writer’s block.”
Don’t you want to hear about my dream? I thought. But as before, there was just something in the doc’s manner that put me at my ease, so that I didn’t feel resentment for changing the subject so drastically.
“The truth is, writing’s my real passion—always has been. I mean, heck, Mom used to save everything I’d written since the day I learned how to write. She never threw anything away, bless her, and now I don’t either.”
“But you’ve taken a day job as a teacher.”
“Well, yeah…. That started as a day job, so I could get a little money under my belt until I wrote something worth publishing.”
“But it’s no longer a mere ‘day job.’”
My hands began to fidget again, and I sort of absent-mindedly tugged at a loose thread sticking out of the seam near the right knee.
“Well, no, not really. I kept getting these ideas, and they satisfied me well enough, but…there’s just something lacking in them. At first that was the main problem, and I kept telling myself, ‘You’ll get better with practice.’ And I have, but—“
I tugged at the collar of my shirt and turned toward a particularly large diploma just behind Dr. Martin’s head, trying to see how much of it I could read. I was beginning to think I had a slight idea of how Vice President Nixon felt in that first debate with Kennedy. And yet I just knew the doc was trying to help me somehow.
“Well…. Thing is, I’ve come to find I have a natural talent for teaching—I know so much about English literature, and more to the point, I think I’m instilling my own enthusiasm in my students. I mean, this year I got students who were actually eager to start their classes with me—because my reputation preceded me. And that’s never happened before!”
“But it’s not making you happy.”
It wasn’t until hearing this that I realized my posture hadn’t been what it ought to have been—the words suddenly made my back stiffen completely.
But it’s not making you happy. I would have loved nothing more than to tell him he was wrong, that I loved being a teacher, and introducing all these high school kids to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Swift, Dickens, Stevenson, and their ilk. That I loved seeing their faces brighten like kindergarteners as they became excited about a subject they expected to find boring and do poorly in. But—
“No, I—I guess it isn’t.” I felt awful now—only after the doc had made his diagnosis did I realize the truth of that statement. I wasn’t happy.
“Mr. Thorne, this sort of thing is not uncommon,” said Dr. Martin in such a cordial tone that I was surprised he wasn’t smiling. “You’re torn between two impulses: on the one hand, you’ve got a steady job with a steady paycheck, and doing successfully in it from what you’ve told me. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of any high school-aged student entering an English Literature class with actual eagerness to learn.”
He took a deep breath. “But on the other hand, you’ve got your writing, which as you say is your true passion. It’s what you really want to do, but you’re frustrated at finding yourself unable to do so. You haven’t managed to summon a successful formula, nor, I presume, have you managed to secure sufficient funds to allow you to quit your teaching job?”
You know that feeling you get when you’re a kid and you’re surprised when a grown-up you don’t know tells you things about yourself—because you don’t realize your parents told him? That’s a near approximation of what I was feeling now.
“It seems to me, Mr. Thorne,” continued the doc, “that while your passion may well be in writing, you appear to have a subconscious fear of putting your writing out there for people to read. You fear failure, rejection, and so perhaps subconsciously you seek to deliberately sabotage your own efforts, thereby giving yourself the excuse not to publish.”
“Now wait a minute—“ I started, but he raised his hand in a “Let me finish” way. I gripped at my pants, squeezing the knees now. Who did this guy think he was, saying I was making my stories bad on purpose, just so I didn’t have to publish? I bit my lower lip as I waited for my turn to speak.
“As I said, you’re subconsciously sabotaging your own writing efforts, which not only gives you an excuse not to put your work out there for a prospective publisher to look at, but also allows you to retreat to the safety net of your teaching job, which is far more predictable in nature, and at which you’re already a success.
“But as you say, it’s the writing that’s your true passion, and since you won’t allow yourself to write anything worthy of being published, your creative energy is being locked inside your mind, unable to be freed. Hence the dreams, which might well provide fodder for your writing.”
My ears perked up again. “My dreams? But you haven’t even heard my—“
“Were I you, Mr. Thorne,” interrupted the doc, “I would make use of my dreams. If you can release your pent-up creative energy in one or more works based on your dreams, then you’ll feel less of a need for the dreams as an outlet—and I suggest you work hard at your writing and send it in to a publisher. The only way to conquer any sort of fear is to confront it. And perhaps you will be rejected—but if I were you, I would take such a turn of events as an opportunity to improve the story.”
“But doc, there wasn’t even any plot to—“
“Here, why don’t you borrow this?” said the doc, turning to one of the matching bookcases behind his desk and pulling out one of the countless volumes within.
“Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The man has a lot of great insights. I keep him in my bookcase next to my Jung section, as it was Jung who inspired Campbell. Even we mentors have mentors.”
Scarcely was the book in my hands when the doc began to show me the door.
“But don’t you want to hear what happened in my dreams?” I asked.
“No need—if you get your book published, I’ll be able to read it, won’t I? Anyway, I’m already late for my group therapy session for schizophrenics. If you need any further help, give me a call in the morning, but you shouldn’t need it.”
By this time I was outside the door and the doc had shut it. I stared at the book, looking at both covers and weighing it in my hand. It wasn’t really grasping my attention—I was still getting over the unexpected actions of Dr. Martin.
Man, when he wants to get rid of someone, he doesn’t waste any time, does he? I thought. Yet somehow—I had not the foggiest inkling as to why—I couldn’t bring myself to resent him for it.
That evening, after I’d finished grading papers, all of them A’s (which made for some boring grading), I sat down at my writing table with my typewriter. I’d brought a pad of lined scratch paper with me, along with some fresh pencils, my eraser, the pencil sharpener, and the book. I’d also brought a ham and cheese sandwich I didn’t much feel like eating.
Resting my elbows on the table, I buried my head in my hands. Where to begin? If Dr. Martin would have let me, I could have told him that there wasn’t really much of a plot to my dreams—just these women in distress.
Well, that’s something, at any rate, isn’t it? I said to myself. Write that down, and see if anything comes of that.
So I took one of my pencils and sharpened it, preparing to start when—
Taking another pencil, I tried again, winding it in the sharpener more carefully this time.
“There we go,” I said, even as I met some resistance—
I cast the second pencil aside and nervously took a bite out of the corner of my sandwich. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was that subconscious thing again, preventing me from writing down my dreams at all.
“Third time’s the charm, right, Josh?” I said to myself.
Setting down the sandwich on the plate and ignoring the crumbs that had fallen onto the table, I picked up a third pencil and sharpened it ever so carefully….
“That’s the way to do it!” I said in a self-congratulatory tone, beginning to think my personality was starting to split a little—that would sure give old Doc Martin something to diagnose, though personally I preferred my buddies’ diagnosis: I needed a wife.
At any rate, now I had my sharpened pencil, so I started to write.
Women (3) in distress.
One young, about 18-19 in age, respectable individual? But not quite Negroid in appearance.
One older, late 20’s to early 30’s. Shapely body, kind face. Motherly in appearance.
One elderly, perhaps sixty years in age. Wizened, shrunken, not very pleasant in countenance.
All in some sort of trouble, not quite sure what yet. Perhaps they know each other? But perhaps not—perhaps not even in same homeland.
The phone startled me out of my writing exercise, which hadn’t really been going anywhere anyway, so I was less upset than I sounded when I picked it up.
I rolled my eyes.
“Julian, you know I don’t like being called this late except by the school. This better be important.”
There was a long pause on the other end, which would stamp itself in my brain permanently once I heard what Julian had to say.
“The President’s been shot. They think fatally.”
It took me several minutes to realize the clunking sound that followed his words was the receiver knocking against the desk as I dropped it.
“I can’t believe it. I still just can’t believe it,” I said for the hundredth time as I sipped from my beer mug and stared at the television in the bar.
Julian put a fat hand on my shoulder—usually he did it so forcefully that I wouldn’t have appreciated it at a time like this, but this time he was gentle.
“It’s an awful thing, isn’t it?” he said. “Awful thing for this country. We’ll never have another like him.”
I took another sip and stared at the black and white screen. It had been minutes since Cronkite announced that the President was dead—how many minutes I wasn’t counting. I didn’t care—time had no meaning anymore.
The President was dead.
Julian sniffed and stared at my mug, as though wishing he wasn’t driving. But he knew I needed it more. Luckily tomorrow was a Saturday.
I didn’t understand it—here was not only a great leader and a great American, but a true gentleman. I’d thought everyone loved him—I knew I did. I didn’t even know the man—had never even seen him before—but I felt like I did. And Julian was right, we’d never have another like him.
“It just isn’t fair!” I shouted, slamming the mug on the bar. It wasn’t fair that a man’s life could be going just fine, so smoothly, and then suddenly the whole world turns upside down like that.
My tears mixed with the drops of beer on the bar as I fumbled to find my wallet.
“Here, I’ll take care of that,” said Julian.
“It’s my beer.”
“Come on, I’m driving—I’ll pay for it.”
Finally I let him pay—not because of what he said, but because I couldn’t find my wallet.
I must have drunk more than I’d thought, because I started hallucinating for the whole drive home.
And it wasn’t just any hallucination I was seeing, either—it was the same three women, running from some kind of trouble. First the young respectable individual-looking girl, who only stopped to glance at me before continuing on—at least, I thought she was looking at me. Then the 30-year-old matron, who also seemed to be looking at me before she ran off, and then the old witch, who glared at me before going on her way.
Somehow I was sober enough to know that these women weren’t real, that they were like the pink elephants you’re supposed to see when you’re drunk (but which I’d never seen)—and yet I was drunk enough that they looked real to me, more so than they’d done in my dreams. They looked frightened but somehow also bold. And they all seemed to want something from me.
“Look out!” I cried.
"We have to do this take again! HAL, do it with a LOT less emotion!"
"I'm sorry Stan, I'm afraid I can't do that."
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