Chapter Four

   Going for weeks without sleep, or food, the growling of my stomach drowning out the clackety-clack of the keyboard, I dozed off and stepped into a ghoulish nightmare, the very thought of which even now sends chills down my spine. Of course, this is now and this is the nightmare.
   ("A sometimes amusing journey through an imaginary world that's being made up as it's being described" -- Kirkus Reviews)
   ("Like a dream you can't remember" -- Publishers Weekly)
   Now, the concept of a two-dimensional world existing on the page, on this page, confined to the narrowest of space but with no conceptual boundaries whatsoever, a world, a universe really, of the mind, now that -- that is one hell of a digression, and I'll explore it later. In the meantime, let's go fishing!
   Greg, Sonny, Ben, Farley n' me went every summer, soon as school let out in June till it opened again in September. Can't say as I 'member much 'bout the fish we caught, or what kind, or the name of the crick we fished in, or the biggest one I ever caught, or even if I ever caught a fish, or ever went fishing for that matter in my entire life, or ever even knew anyone who went by the name of Greg, or Sonny, or Ben, or Farley. I can't say as I'd remember any of these things lest they really happened, but of course they just did, in a way, at least for awhile. (Don't get so pedantic! -- Ed.)
   What? Which one are you? (I'm the same one -- Ed.)
   You are? You mean, you've been reading all this time, and not one peep? I'm flattered. (Well, I didn't read it all, I scanned -- Ed.)
   Oh. (But it's getting better -- Ed.)
   Really? Well, that was nice. Now, where was I? Fishing. Fishing as a metaphor. Hemingway, Melville -- by the way -- can you just buy a good Kirkus review? And, who reads all those books? And why do they lavish praise on every one, without exception? I don't get it. But then, there's a lot I don't get.
   "Like what?"
   Like what? Like, how about the fact that water drains clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. I know it has something to do with the Earth's magnetic poles and so forth, but --
   "It's the other way around. But you're right about the poles."
   Yeah? Funny what you remember from eighth grade science. By the way, to whom do I owe the pleasure?
   Who are you? What's your name?
   "Oh. Abraham Lincoln. And you?"
   Very funny.
   "I'm not being funny. I am Abraham Lincoln, the fifteenth President of the United States."
   "I meant sixteenth."
   Come on. Who are you?
   "I told you. Abraham Lincoln."
   That's impossible.
   "Not at all. I have proof. My driver's license."
   Driver's license? What about your Visa card? This is ridiculous. And I should have seen it coming. Once you open things up to the general reading public this is what you get -- you get nudniks. I knew it. Not everyone is a serious critic. Not everyone is reading the words for what they are -- words. Most readers are like most people -- and most people are nudniks. Most of them don't have the patience, or the time, or the intelligence, or whatever. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.
   "Are you finished complaining?"
   "Because, in addition to the waste of paper, and ink, and labor (of possibly thousands of tradespeople and factory workers in related fields) that went into the production of this book, this page -- in addition to all that -- you are wasting my time. And that's a shame."
   Why is it a shame? Who are you? Really.
   "Really? Napoleon."
   Terrific. (I'm getting in here, I'm so upset. I don't know. What's the point? Should I go on with this?)
   (Who's that?)
   "It's me. Maureen."
   (Maureen? You're back? I meant to ask you, where is the new Kopy Katz located?)
   "I'm having trouble hearing you, Jim. Why don't you come out of there -- it's not doing you or your writing any good hiding inside parentheses. You'll lose control. I'm warning you."
   (All right, I'll come) out. But, why are you so concerned about me, Maureen, after all I've done to you?
   "Good question. But let's not get into that right now."
   Okay. And what did you mean when you said I'll 'lose control?' Lose control of what?"
   "Of this."
   This? I don't want control of this.
   "You don't? Why not?"
   I can't control something that isn't mine.
   "An engineer controls his train, a conductor controls his orchestra, a coach controls his team, I just thought the novelist controlled his novel."
   All right, all right. What's your point?
   "My point? I'll tell you, but I'm speaking now as a character in this book, not someone who is reading it for the first time, not someone who is always looking over your shoulder throwing sarcastic darts -- oops -- but, honestly Jim, you need to get off the local and catch an express, know what I mean? Get off this stop-and-go jag, it'll kill you. There, I've said it. I'm done. 'Bye."
   Well, thank you. I guess. I don't know. I don't know what to say. Or write. Can we take a break? Too early for a new chapter? Hello? (What? Sorry, I was taking a nap -- Ed.) Can we take a break? There's no one reading right now. What do you say? (Is it up to me? -- Ed.) It's not, really, but I thought you'd know a way I could sort of put things on automatic, let one of the readers take over for a while, or Maureen, or someone, so I could get some shut-eye. Ed.? Hey! (What? What is it? -- Ed.) Answer my question. (No. Forget it. Go back to where you were and leave me alone -- Ed.)
   Great. Some help. No editor. No Maureen. No readers. All gone. Hmm. Okay. Good. I kind of like it. Freedom.

(This ends Chapter Four, mainly to give the author a break, a chance to rest and regroup and, maybe, re-discover some of his enthusiasm for what has become, with each passing page, with each passing paragraph, a progressively more contrived and convoluted exercise, wearing down the patience of the editor[s], the reader[s], and just about everyone else involved in the literary food chain. Go have a sandwich and I'll see you in Chapter Five.)

Chapter Five