Tuesday, April 13, 2010


"This is a great pleasure, sir. I love your work-- it's inspirational."
"Most people love it." he replies, eyeing the elevator's digital readout with vague impatience. The concierge, a shiny and waddling coconut of a man, touches his beard-
"Just imagine! Me! Talking with the legendary writer. A Nobel laureate in literature! Three Academy Awards in as many nominations!"
"Two." Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five... He eyes the camera, wondering just how likely it is that he's being recorded for the benefit of future generations. He shuts his eyes and sighs inwardly. His hands are set on the luggage he refuses to have carried for him, preventing him from massaging his tired face and eyes.
"Ah, yes, but the third is a sure thing. I wager you'll not need to cross your fingers. The world is abuzz!"
"The premier isn't even for another three months."
"And in our own downstairs cinema, no less! Oh, these are such bright times, and not just for the hotel, not just us. You're starting a revolution in literature, sir- My son, in university, is taking a course based solely on your work!" The concierge shudders, a rupturing boiler of enthusiasm. Well, one can definitely feel the hot air.
...Thirty-three, thirty-four.... Ding. The microwave oven pops open onto the penthouse floor, home for the next three months.
"Allow me, please, sir!" Bubbles the concierge. Feet barely visible under him, he glides across the carpet to the ornate double door, whipping out a white access card and sliding it through the reader. The denial-red turns to a more peridot-green of acceptance, and the locks click open. "Your card is already inside, sir. There is one on the bedside table, and another on the bar counter. Your food has also been delivered---"
"---The, ah, manifest is on the refrigerator." The author maneuvers into the room, side-stepping the babbling hospitality employee. "So glad to have you with us, sir. May I help you with your bags? Get room service perhaps?"
"No." he says, sealing the man outside with a slam of the door.
Through the timber- "Ah. I look forward to assuring your enjoyment of your stay in the next few weeks, sir. A most productive day to you."

First order of business. He walks over to the fridge, ripping off the list. Twelve cases bottled water for rehydration, six cases instant ramen for starches, four bottles complete multivitamins for probable malnutrition, six bottles orange juice for colds, six of vegetable-clam cocktail juice for taste, twelve boxes generic soda crackers, four two-litre jars crunchy peanut butter, six cases graham crackers (no marshmallows or chocolate though), one case frozen fruit punch concentrate, six cases energy drink, twelve pounds unground coffee in a sealed container, two-litre container each hummus and baba ghanouj, twelve packages of pita bread, six loaves of whole-wheat bread (six more in freezer), twenty rising-crust frozen pizzas (ten deluxe, five three-cheese, five pepperoni), six jars green stuffed olives, six jars pickles, four pounds cured salami, seven pounds each havarti and pepperjack cheese...
Second order. He reaches into his knapsack, producing a cordless drill and a small box of screws. Forty-five minutes of work later, and the double-doors now have periodically spaced screws driven in at forty-five degree angles. The door barely jiggles when he pulls the handle. The drill is set aside. Mental note to dig out the charger at some point in the next few days.
Third order. The freezer's ice tray is dumped into the bathtub, which is then filled up with cold water, to be used as needed; the requested case of detergent soap is next to the requested washboard. He only has the one set of clothes anyway, of which only the jacket has been hung up in the closet, to be re-adorned in three months' time. His shaving kit is also emptied into the bathroom: straight-razor, strop, barber scissors, aftershave too noxious to imbibe, and a brush for soapy water. A small case of aerosol freshener has been provided, pine-scented, but he suspects he'll grow oblivious to scent after the first week. Still, he is appreciative of the earlier mental note to have added toothpaste, toothbrush, and moisturizing shampoo to this session's shopping list.
Forth order. His knapsack is opened, producing a small stack of his agent's cards in the event of interruption. An impressively sized bottle is also fished out, white child-proof cap on top of a dull crowd of round orange pills; amphetamines by prescription (somebody's prescription, anyway), to be used in event of loss of clarity, gain of lethargy, melancholia, etcetera. Writing utensils: one heavy Webster's Concise English, a hand-held Wikipedia device, and a Roget's Thesaurus, followed by a small pile of yellow highlighters, red/black pens, seven cases of Silk Cut cigarettes, a bottle of lighter fluid, and a pound's worth of sticky notepaper. The foldable whiteboard is pulled out onto its stand along with its dry-erase offspring those non-permenance has been triple-checked to avoid a repeat of last time. Mental note to go back to chalk, and simply bring a respirator mask.
Good-- no, the phone rings.
"Yes. What?"
"I'm very sorry to--"
"--have to call me, because I left specific instructions not to unless it was my lawyer, my agent, my wife, or the improbable apocalypse."
"Yes, sir, very sorry. But guests were complaining about what sounded like drilling sir, and we aren't renov--"
The phone is slammed down and unplugged. Mental note to slip lawyer's card under the door. As per the memo to his lawyer, agent, and wife, the phone would be available from 8-9 pm and on a first-call-first-serve basis (primarily because the wife tended to get home at 8:30 at the earliest). A fax machine is available in the closet, to be plugged in if absolutely necessary.
He returns to the bag. One copy Through the Looking-Glass (Illustrated), three hundred-fifty doses of (approximately), soaked in LSD beforehand. This he puts in a resealable bag in the freezer, in addition to a rusted electrical shaver, an unread aluminum-foil-covered copy of Dianetics to which a veiny Barbie-plastic dildo has been superglued, and a small signed photograph of Elvis. Thusly, less emphasis is placed on a suspiciously chilled copy of Lewis Carroll's book in the face of a more probable eccentricity/raving insanity. This is on suggestion of his previous mental note to only bring the clothes he wears. It makes things more easily defensible should it come to that. Hmmm, he sniffs. Mental note to include Old Spice in next session.
Good. Great.
Three months to write and nothing else of the outside world, which would be induced to frothing with the teasing churns and whisks of his publicists. The artists, the coffeehouse intellectuals, the bead-wearing psychologists, the greasy programmers, the desperate schoolteachers, the impressionable teens, the armchair readers, the paranoid bloggers and limp-wristed philosophes: all hip-twitching in anticipation of the next climactic product.
Well, to it, then.
The last item in the bag is removed, an oiled and ready electrical typewriter. Ink ribbon enough for a thousand pages, with two litres of black as a standbye refill with a fountain pen. Two thousand sheets of bleached letter-sized, and six yellow pads of lined tear-off paper stand ready for the drawn-out prodding of the abusable/disposable pens.
He sits on the leather sofa, unintimidated, and cracks his knuckles with vague anticipation. Words run to the tip of his tongue, where they dangle pregnantly over the waiting script. Outstretched fingers find their way instinctively to the home row on the keyboard, waiting for the mental gunshot to set them on their way. An entire skyline beams at him through the suite's window, where the sun leans with tired redness on the end of the day. Opalescent light streams through, and his mind is filled with the fire of it.
Only- there are sounds of fire--
He glances up, startled by the sudden klaxon.
"Oh, shitshitshitshit."
At the window, he cranes his neck around, finally spotting a black outrush of smoke from below, maybe ten storeys?
"Fuck! Fuck!"
A rush-charge of the door, shoulder-first, sends him rebounded and flying back. He screams out in pain, a dull shriek of a thing. One arm tears off his shirt, sending buttons flying, and revealing the swollen redness where once there had been an s-curve of left-side clavicle. Even twitching of his off-hand elicits a ripple of pain. Jumping to his feet almost knocks him down again with the dangling of his arm. He stabilizes it by ramming his left hand into his pantline, pulling the arm's slack tolerably taut. Options, options, options, there has to be something--
The drill! "Ah, no, nonono, fuck!"; There are too many screws to attend to. Ah- the hinges, definitely detachable, definitely doable. Biting down on his collar to distract from the disabling shoulder pain, he flips over the drill-bit to the flat-head, and depresses the trigger.
Mental note to dig out the charger. The drill bit sluggishly and impotently whirs a half-radian before coming to a dead stop. Oh.
No. Of course not. Goddammit.
The drill slips from his hand. Smoke begins to creep, in childish grasping tendrils, underneath the door. Only faint sounds of sirens from the streets. It's too late.
Jacket from the closet and sleeved on the good side, he pulls the Lewis Carroll from the refridgerator and tears off a pulpy mass of the porous paper, barely chewing before he swallows. He chases with a bottle of distilled water.
The bathtub's ice water is almost invitingly cold through the shivers. Pitch blackness is all that can be seen in the closed little bathroom. Freezing water burns and saps at his body, leaving only the shoulder even slightly comfortable. Burning pizza, mixed with refrigerator coolant sneaks into his olfaction, and he submerges everything but his lips. Hypothermia, hyperthermia, falling masonry: the end is imaginable. Breathing slows against the efforts of his cold-collapsing lungs as his neurochemical fail-safes start up the end-of-life experience spiked with hallucinogen and sensory deprivation.
Mental note to...
But there is nothing.

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