(They say that, one day, words will cease to exist. All communication will be silent, transmitted psycho-kinetically, or through some kind of physical wave, or astral plane, or maybe some other way. Language, as we know it, will become irrelevant. And why? Because of novels like this! -- Ed.)
Okay, now, where was I? Did I tell you how great things were going? Being "in the bubble" is how I describe it, because, well, I feel like I'm protected, impervious to distress, unpleasantness, anxiety, sleeplessness, confusion, you name it. And yet, under constant scrutiny...
What? Is that Maureen? Where are you? I didn't hear the phone ring.
"I'm not on the phone. I'm just... speaking. Hell, you're the one making it all up -- how should I know where I am?"
All right, all right. What is it?
"I have a favor to ask of you."
Anything, for you.
"I'd like you to create a world for me where things aren't happening so quickly, a simpler time, with a slower pace, a place where one can stop and reflect, and meditate, in peace."
Sure. That's not too much to ask. Why not? You want peace and quiet. A simpler time. How about that Powloo scenario I was toying with earlier?
"No, no, your narrative lacked detail. And no U-boat dramas, please."
"And place it in the present tense."
Wow. That's a challenge. I have to think... of a story, get something going... I'm thinking, I'm thinking now about what I'm going to write next... turning words over in my mind, randomly, with no meaning, driven only by their sound as they line up, in no particular order, stumbling and staggering and slouching toward some yet-to-be-determined goal.
"Good. Keep going."
You like that? I'm surprised, because I --
"I didn't say I liked it -- just keep going. Maybe it'll get better. You can change it later."
You're right. Okay... I'm thinking... of words, words that form sentences, sentences that create thoughts, thoughts that make sense... please, make sense...
"Jim. Jim? Are you weeping?"
No, no, it's just that there's something in my eye. Where was I?
"Why do you call me Maureen?"
It's your name.
"No it's not. My name is not Maureen."
Then, what is it?
"I'm not sure I want to tell you."
Go on. (I can't believe her name isn't Maureen!)
"Who are you talking to?"
Nobody -- now, what's your name?
Hazel? You're kidding.
"No, I'm not. My name is Hazel. Hazel Blanchard."
I can't get over this, Maur-I mean Hazel. I mean, all this time I've been calling you Maureen and you're name is really -- wait a minute -- What about Mr. Katz?
"What about him?"
Mr. Katz called you Maureen.
"No he didn't."
Yes he did.
"No he didn't."
Yes he did.
"No he -- all right, yes, he did."
So, you told him your name is Maureen? Or Hazel?
"My name is Maureen. I was kidding just now."
I thought so. Because --
What? Who is it? Who's talking?
"Excuse me, but I just picked this up and started reading, and I notice you're talking to someone, but there doesn't seem to be any... any... point to it."
And who are you, The Times's literary critic? Get out of here, pal -- I was talking to Maureen. Maureen? Where are you?
"I'm still here."
Can you see this guy? Where is he?
"I don't know, Jim, but he has a point -- I mean, about this not having a point."
"Not only is it pointless, it's without... an author!"
I'm the author.
"If you're the author, then who's making this up? -- this -- right now -- at this very moment -- Who?"
I am! Ah, screw you. Screw all of you. I'm getting out of here. I'm walking right out of here, right on out into the...
(This ends Chapter Three, somewhat abruptly.)