Chapter Six

   Boy, did I need that break. I can't tell you how refreshed I feel! I feel great! Of course, you have to be careful, when you're feeling this good there's always the chance you'll overdo it, but, I don't know. Hey, Maureen's not around. Anybody there? Reader? Who's out there?
   "Uh, me. Can I... talk?"
   Sure. What's your name? It isn't Lincoln, is it?
   "No. My name?"
   Yes, your name...
   What's the matter, are you shy or something?
   "Well, it's just that I've never talked directly to a writer before."
   I envy you.
   "No, I meant that I've never conversed, communicated, whatever it is you want to call this, with the writer of the work I was currently reading. Does that make sense?"
   No, but -- so what? What do you think of it so far?
   "So far, well, I don't know. There are times when, well... "
   When it was getting really good?
   "No, no. There were times when I was going to return it, but since it only cost fifty cents, I -- "
   Fifty cents?!
   "It was in the -- "
   Remainders bin, I know. So, you almost gave up?
   "Well, that was before I, uh, 'met' you."
   Yeah. And... now?
   "Now? Well, now I'm not going to return the book."
   You're not? Thanks. I appreciate that.
   "I'm in it, right?"
   Well, yeah, you are.
   "This book, right now, I'm in it."
   Yup. And it only cost you fifty cents. Quite a bargain, eh, pal?
   "You can say that again."
   I can say anything I want again. I can make you say anything I want. I can make you eat anything I want. I can make you explode, or turn into a snail, or a pizza, or a tuning fork.
   "Yes, I understand that. But that's what attracted me to this book in the first place."
   It was?
   "Yes. The power, the control, the absolute authority of the writer. I want to write and I -- "
   Oh no! An aspiring writer! Spare me! Give me Abe Lincoln, anyone, but not an aspiring writer!
   "I'll remind you, this was your idea."
   Don't remind me.
   "But, I mean, how did you get started?"
   By picking up a pen, and writing. If you can lift a pen, you can write. That answer your question?
   "No need to be glib."
   Well, I'm sorry, but you've caught me at a very bad time.
   "I thought you were 'in the bubble?'"
   Oh, right. Well, I was "in the bubble." Until you walked in. (I thought: You write something, you get it published, it gets read, reviewed, and so forth. I expected bumps along the way, distractions, minor setbacks, but I never anticipated having to deal with the readers before I was finished with the writing! It makes you wonder who's in charge. I don't know, I really don't.)
   "I'll come back when you've got it a little more together, okay? Goodbye."
   Goodbye. And good luck. Why can't a Norman Mailer or a John Updike or a Don DeLillo read this? Or a J.D. Salinger? Or a Ray Bradbury? Or even a Dick Cavett? Hell, I'd settle for a Jackie Collins.
   "What did I tell you about being obsessed with your audience?"
   I don't know, what did you tell me? What did I tell you to tell me?
   "Don't be cute. Seriously. Can't you just write?"
   If I could just write I wouldn't be turning to my own characters, or my readers, for help!
   "But they're your characters, you created them, you created me, you created... you."
   That's heavy, Maureen. But, what do I write about?
   "Write about what you know."
   I know you.
   "What do you know?"
   I know a few things. Hell, I know everything, actually.
   "Okay, then, what's my favorite color?"
   "Beige. What's my favorite animal?"
   "Nope. It's an emu. Hey, no it's not! It's not an emu! You made me say emu! That's not fair!"
   All's fair in love and fiction, Maureen. Science fiction, too.
   "You're no fun!"
   Nonsense. I'm having fun. I'm having loads of fun. Some of it is at your expense, though, and I'm sorry for that.
   "A lot I can do about it."
   That's true. Wow. What a realization. I have control, absolute control, absolute authority. I rule. I am -- shall I say it?
   "Go ahead. Who's stopping you?"
   I am... God.
   "You and a million other wannabe's trying to get their first novels published."
   Who said anything about getting this published? I don't care if it's published.
   No, really.
   "Then, if it isn't published, what are you going to do with it?"
   What do you mean?
   "What are you going to do with all the... paper!"
   Well, I'll give it to friends to read.
   "Yeah? Like who?"
   Like... you.
   "Oh? And what makes you, all of a sudden, trust my opinion?"
   I've always trusted your opinion.
   "Tsk tsk."
   What was that?
   "Tsk tsk."
   How did you make that sound?
   "I didn't. It's just letters. Three letters -- t, s, and k. Don't use them if you don't like the sound."
   What else can I use?
   "Use your imagination, Jim. You know what? I'm getting tired of your whining, your indecisiveness, your lack of direction, your utter lack of self-confidence. I'm tired of it."
   So? Leave.
   "I will."
   She walked away briskly, though not fast enough to create a Doppler effect. I yawned, tiring of all this. I lay down and fell asleep. I snored, I'm told.

(This ends Chapter Six, zzzz-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z)

Chapter Seven