anyway, The Poet is set from October 2015 to around the spring of 2016. Rand Wyndham is once again a librarian in Brooklyn and is a working artist with a small cadre of poet friends and a possible steady girlfriend. The book also has an underlying political vibe in that there's climate change issues and one Orange-Colored Billionaire running for president.
The chapter I'm posting here is one in which Rand is up early in the morning trying to write in his apartment building but is met with a number of distractions, neighbors, dogs, and distractions he's self-created. Hope this chapter amuses you and maybe makes you laugh.
Take Care Everyone!
I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
I’d been staring at that first sentence for an hour. Why did my character have a sick feeling in his stomach? Was it over a job? A woman? Was it over money? Had he too drank five double vodkas before passing out on his couch? How in the fuck did I know? I was only the asshole who’d sat down at five in morning, still semi-drunk, and wrote those eight ominous words with nothing to back them up. Why in the hell should I know anything? What a load of nothing the morning had turned into. And to think I could’ve been in Larissa Haven-St. Claire’s bed soaking in that strange flowery-sweat scent that her flesh had. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. No shit. It was called failure on all accounts.
I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was never getting anywhere when it came to fiction. And there were only so many poems that I could write about my job, about people on the bus, about sex and assholes at the grocery store, before I completely exhausted my own small and petty existence. I wiped sweat from my brow. Maybe our hero was worried about the orange-colored billionaire running for president, or climate change, considering it was getting toward deep December and I still had the windows open to try and get some air in the apartment. It was like September outside and kind of frightening. Climate change was enough to make one’s stomach sick.
Then that dog across the street started barking. More moments of my writing morning slipped away. I had a sick feeling in my stomach as the barking echoed all over the street. Maybe the main character was sick to his stomach because he knew that he had to kill that fucking dog. It was the only way for him to maintain his sanity. No Son of Sam shit but more an irritant that had built and built until it blackened his soul, and he went full psycho killer. Americans loved dogs. What could be more conflicting than a guy contemplating killing one?
I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I sat there and stared at that line. The words didn’t sound like genius. They sounded like a dead end. I gave up like I’d been doing lately with fiction, with poetry; forget even bothering with a short story. Carolina had those fuckers all over the internet, and I couldn’t even come up with one microcosm of an idea. Gigi had a new short story every week on her blog. They were full of teenagers saving the planet or government, or whatever bullshit those YA books wanted us to believe other than the fact that most teens were lazy slobs with their heads buried in their fucking cell phones. Jackson woke up and just had to write a poem every day. Even Larissa had a stock of poem prompts that she kept in a notebook.
What did I have?
I went online. I knew who my real master was at that moment. It was online porn. And what would it be that morning to keep me from becoming a literary immortal? Naked Latina women? Black chicks with big asses? MILFs? GILFs? Skinny punky EMO girls with tattoos who reminded me of Carolina from the past? BBWs? Transgendered porn? Transgendered MILF porn? The choices were endless.
Or would it be a celebrity that morning. But which celebrity? A film actress? A pop singer? That chubby but kind of hot comedian? The smart mouthed one who kept trying to take on dramatic roles? That family of reality television stars who had big, huge wonderful asses and were always taking their clothing off? Imagine if I put this much attention and emphasis on my own art. There’d be no stuck at I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I’d be giving the Godfrey Whitt’s of the world a run for their money. I’d be the darling of the New York Times. A Proust in my own beer can stacked room! In every bookstore there’d be a display with my ugly mug staring back at people as they shopped for self-help books and mystery novels. In interviews critics and fangirls and fanboys would ask me how I put out so much writing. Don’t jack off, I’d tell them in a sage-like manner. Instead I found leaked nude photos of that one blonde actress who made those dystopian movies. And away I went.
But then from upstairs the ominous alarm of my fuck-a-thon neighbor went off and I heard a bed squeak. There was an audible groan. A guttural yawn. Then came the pounding across my ceiling to where she, one Molly Brown, kept that heinous clock of hers. She beat the thing into submission with such wrathfulness I swear the four legs on her dresser made my apartment shake. I never felt for an inanimate object the way in which I empathized with that clock.
Molly thumped back to her bed and landed on the mattress with a thud. The muffled voices came. The giggling. Her boyfriend, Chico, a name I self-applied to the man, moved from his spot on the bed and started talking his muffled game. Shit. I started pumping my cock again, faster, staring at that photo of the blonde celebrity naked on all fours. It was a picture that she thought would remain forever private but was hacked in this big celebrity scandal. I begged for it to give me the utmost pleasure. I was running out of time.
“Fuck,” I said, to no one. The springs on Molly’s bed started to go. Then came the moans: Molly on tenor and Chico on bass.
“Fuck me, fuck me,” I could barely hear her say.
“You naugh…,” Chico said, through grunts. “Ah, your pussy, babe.”
I started pumping faster. I could feel myself maybe going limp. Even the blonde celebrity was looking at me with that come on, already, face. I started going, like Chico was going, like Molly wanted him to go. I had to beat that fucking guy. I was practically ripping my dick off, tugging at the fucker through the piss hole in my black pajama bottoms. Every oh and ah and thump from upstairs fueled my need and desperation. I wanted blonde celebrity girl like I’d wanted no one else. I’d never seen any of her shitty movies. I’d read an interview with her once and she sounded like a post-feminist twit who’d piss on Betty Friedan’s grave if given the chance. Blonde celebrity girl didn’t believe in feminism. It was hard to believe in feminism when you were pulling down twenty-five million a film. But she didn’t shave her pussy either. So whatever ethos she believed in was fine with me.
“Oh Christ,” I said, as I shot my load.
“Oh,” Chico moaned, at almost the same time.
Then it was silent save that asshole dog barking. I went to grab an old tissue to clean up the mess on the floor. Only there was no mess on the floor. In my race against Chico and time I’d managed to come all over the crotch of my pajamas. I woke up trying for art and glory and I ended up splooging all over myself. How in the fuck had I convinced Larissa to date me? Blonde celebrity was looking at me like, seriously, dude. She’d probably win another Oscar next year, while I’d be lucky to keep my job and hold my book of poems. As I sat there in my messy shame, Molly and Chico began turning their afterglow into the day’s argument. They fucked and then they argued. The radio started blaring mid-eighties pop from their whack-job next door neighbor’s apartment. Walls were pounded upon. It wasn’t even six-thirty yet.
“You bitch,” Chico said. Molly muffled something back and then pounded off of her bed. Chico followed and then came the scuffling, thumping noises that often serenaded me in the morning. The neighbor, Gerhardt, had something by Huey Lewis and the News going.
I looked away from cum-covered p.j.s, away from blonde celebrity who was so done with me.
“Come here,” Chico shouted. There was more thumping and pounding from upstairs. Molly muffled something and a door slammed. The Huey Lewis ended from the other apartment with what I could only describe as maybe the sound of a broom poking at the walls. A Starship song came on next.
The door upstairs opened and made a thud against the wall. Molly Brown muffle-screamed something to Chico like, You try this every morning. I’m getting sick of you putting it in my…Gerhardt pounded on their wall again. Chico gave a cursory pound on his as well, and the Starship music went up.
Another noise came from upstairs. It sounded like someone got body slammed on Molly’s floor. Without thinking I grabbed my trusty Bobby Bonilla signed baseball and threw it at the ceiling. The fucker came down and almost smashed my monitor. It would’ve been bye bye writing and naked blonde celebrities for me. I picked the ball up and threw it again and again, until Chico or Molly or whomever pounded on my ceiling. I got up from my chair and fixed myself for a fight. Something had to be done about those assholes because assaulting them with musical snippets from the 1980s wasn’t working. I made for my apartment door.
They looked like they were ready to spear each other in the hallway by the time I got to the second floor. Chico was in his wife beater and plaid shorts. He was holding a broom. Gerhardt was already fully dressed for the day in a white t-shirt and faded jeans, and that beat-to-shit Yankees hat he’d been wearing since Mickey Mantle hobbled off the field and forever into a bottle of booze. He was holding his broom too. Both doors to both studio apartments were open. Gerhardt’s radio was still blasting the 1980s. Everybody Wang Chung before the sunrise.
“What in the fuck is going on up here?” I asked. “It’s not even seven in the morning and I gotta hear this shit? I swear to Christ I know people who will turn you all into Soylent Green.”
“It’s him, bro,” Chico said. Though short in stature the guy was pure muscle and tattoos on his bronze skin. He had one of those spider web ones on his elbow, which was supposed to mean he killed someone in prison. I immediately regretted my decision to engage him in such a hostile manner. It was John Lennon who said, all you need is love and give peace a chance. And I loved John Lennon. And I loved not getting punched in the face by Chico’s with spider web tattoos.
“So, what the fuck, dude?” I said to Gerhardt instead. Gerhardt was maybe sixty-five, seventy. He smoked so knew I could probably take him.
“Who you calling, dude, you bum?” he said.
“Bum?” But a quick look in the blurry hallway mirror was all I needed to confirm his assessment: greasy long hair, pajamas ripped in the crotch, unshaved for two weeks now, blood-red wine stains on a t-shirt that was showing off the man boobs; I was a fucking bum.
“You were makin’ noise too, man,” Chico said. They both turned their brooms at me.
“But only because you were making noise,” I said to both of them.
“I wasn’t doing nuthin’,” Gerhardt said. He pointed a shaking finger at Chico. “Until those two started their morning jackrabbit bullshit.”
“Mind your own business, old man,” Chico said.
“Mind your own business, old man,” Chico said.
Molly Brown appeared in the doorway. She was dressed in a plain aqua robe that went to her thighs. She looked about as plump and oversexed as always when I passed her in the basement or suffered her cell phone rants while we were both stuck doing laundry. She was the kind for whom cherry-red lipstick and fire engine red hair dye would always exist together in a perfect symbiosis. I’d spent the first months in my apartment jacking it to her and plotting to make my move…until Chico moved in. “What kind of a pervert listens to people?”
“You think I wanna listen to you two?” Gerhardt said. He taped the wall with his broom. “These walls are like paper.”
“I can hear you downstairs too,” I said.
Molly gave me a dirty, disgusted look. Coincidentally it was the very same look she had in my head those times I mentally mounted her and went to town. She looked like she knew some shit the other ladies had missed out on. Chico looked a satisfied man, despite his mostly unfulfilled penchant for anal sex. “You sit down there listening to us too?”
“Yeah, I’m recording you for the government,” I said.
“And oh my God look at you.” She pointed down to the crotch of my pajamas that I’d forgotten were covered in my jism. It now looked like a grayish Pollock splotch. “You are a pervert.”
“You jerkin off to us, man?” Chico said.
“No,” I said. But they were all looking. Even Gerhardt looked. When we made eye contact, he frowned. “It…it was the actress from those films.”
Chico kept his broom on me. “What fucking movies?”
“The dystopia ones,” I said. That garnered a queer look from all present. “The ones where they battle for food in the future?”
“I love those movies,” Chico said. “And she’s hot.”
“Hollywood crap,” Gerhardt said.
“Um, excuse me,” Molly said. “But…cum-covered p.j.s.”
Chico shook his broom at me. “What the fucking fuck, perv?”
“I’m not listening to you,” I said. “I’m down there, yes. But I’m trying to get work done.”
“Work?” Molly said, like she’d never heard the word before. “What kind of work are you doing this early?”
“Writing,” I said.
“Writing?” They all said.
“Poetry and fiction; the occasional anonymous rant on some perky, flaxen-haired memoirist’s blog.”
All three of them laughed. And not like little snorts, but real belly laughter. Chico bent back so far he nearly scraped his broom off the ceiling. “Poetry,” Gerhardt spat.
“You a big artist, bro?” Chico said. “We got a big-shit artist living here?”
“I’m a librarian,” I said.
“Librarian!” They all howled again.
“You’re just making that up,” Molly said, coming up for air. She looked at Chico and shit got real again. “There ain’t no li-barians. The li-baries are all dying because of the internet. You know he sits down there jerking off to us. Look at him. He probably looks up teenage girls on Facebook and masturbates to them too. You think a guy like that is a poem writer and li-barian?” Molly turned to me. “I might not know your name, but I know all about you. I’ve seen you in the basement dumping all of those plastic vodka bottles and those magnum bottles of wine. Writer? Li-barian? Li-barian-writer my ass. You’re just a drunk, dude.”
“I’m currently partial to being called a rummy,” I said.
“Plastic vodka,” Gerhardt spat.
“At least I’m a guy who prefers his morning’s quiet,” I said.
“You need to get yourself a chick, bro,” Chico said. “Like get laid.”
“I have a sort-of girlfriend.” Molly rolled her eyes.
“Bum,” Gerhardt muttered.
This was not going down as I expected. Insulted for my art as well. Molly Brown’s words were like salt thrown on a gaping wound. I should’ve stayed in my room with my cum-stained pants and let those barbarians kill each other with fuck sounds and radio noise. Eventually the population would thin itself out. Or the orange-faced billionaire would become president and round us all up and throw us into camps where art wouldn’t matter anyway when we actually were fighting for food. America was a Hans Fallada novel waiting to happen. And what was wrong with plastic vodka bottles? We couldn’t all be Hiltons.
“Look, I get up every morning at five and write,” I finally said. “At least I try to. But usually there’s noise. There’s that fucking dog. Eventually there’s your alarm clock. And then whatever the fuck you two do. Then come the arguments.” I pointed at Gerhardt. “And then Wolfman Jack over here gets into the act.”
“I hate that fucking dog,” Gerhardt said.
“I’d fricassee his ass, man,” Chico said.
“But you see where I’m going with this?” I said.
Molly gave me another hateful glare. “Yeah, you want everyone in this building to tiptoe around you, Mr. Drunken Writer-Li-barian. So you can create.”
“I wouldn’t mind it if the three of you shut the fuck up, so me and the rest of the building could sleep in at times.”
“How noble,” Gerhardt said. “He’s a noble bum.”
Chico laughed. If anything, I was building an uneasy alliance between these people. “If you’re such a big shot writer why haven’t we heard of you?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” I said. “This isn’t pop music. Writing takes years and years, and sometimes you never really get anywhere.”
“Sounds like a waste of time,” Gerhardt said.
“Try selling wine,” I said. But he was most likely right.
“Do you even have a book?” Chico said. “Like Stephen King.”
“Can I buy it?” Molly said. “On like Amazon.”
“Not yet,” I said.
“You’re full of shit then.”
“Artist,” Chico said. He finally put his broom down. “You look like a fat faggot.”
“Poetry,” Gerhardt said. He put his broom down and waved us all away like a bad dream. He went back inside his carpet-laden apartment and slammed the door. The 1980s music finally stopped.
“Could you guys just be quieter?” I said.
“Whatever, bro,” Chico said. He went back inside the black hole of Molly’s apartment, leaving just her and me in the hallway.
“I used to draw,” Molly finally said.
“Then you sort of understand,” I said.
“When I was like fourteen I drew.” She went inside the apartment, with a quick flash of her ass, before she turned back to face me. “And then I had to grow up and get a fucking life.”
“I have a …” But Molly slammed the door in my face, before I could say anything.