Chapter Seventeen

   It's funny. You think you have it all figured out, all the pieces are in place, all the ducks are lined up, and then -- pow! -- you're hit by a cab. I don't know, it just seems like such a waste of time. What's the point? What's the object? Is it to finish? And how do you know when you're done?
   "You're done, pal. Stick a fork in yourself. Heh-heh."
   You again.
   "Yeah, me again."
   I thought I got rid of you.
   "I guess you didn't."
   Why are you still here? You find this entertaining? Uplifting? Informative?
   "No, no, and no."
   Then why are you still reading this?
   "Maybe I'm not your average reader."
   No? Well, then what are you? I mean, you're not the writer, I am. Aren't I?
   "Yeah, you're still the writer, but -- here, let me give you a few clues: Beach chair, summer reading, the Hamptons -- "
   Wait. Beach chair, Hamptons -- aha! It's you! But, where's Maureen?
   "She's still there. (I'm still here -- Maureen) "I'm reading this on my vacation and I have to tell you that, from what I've read so far, I'm going to recommend canceling your deal when I return to the city at the end of August."
   What!? You are? But -- does Maureen agree with you?
   "I haven't discussed this with her, although I think she's too close to you to be able to render an impartial, objective opinion." (Oh really? -- Maureen)
   You know, I haven't even finished writing it yet. It's not even half finished. Can't you wait to see where I'm going with it?
   "Wait? And kill the rest of my summer? Forget it. I've got a stack of first novels this high (five feet) that I have to read. It's true, many of them probably are as bad as this one is going to be -- but at least the authors of those books were considerate enough to take into account the large blocks of time I devote to reading their tomes, and, as a small token of gratitude, they usually send me a little note, enclosing a small, but generous donation."
   What? Are you asking for a bribe to continue reading this? Did I hear that correctly?
   "Bribe? Bribe? Who said anything about a bribe? Where did you come up with that one?"
   You just said that other authors were compensating you for your time to read their books. That's what you just said. Right, Maureen? (Right -- Maureen)
   "Let's change the subject."
   No, let's not change the subject! I don't think you realize just how difficult this is. You have to begin in the middle of nowhere, without a plan, or an outline, with no plot, no characters, no ideas -- a blank computer screen -- nothing! And from there, to get to here, to this point, after having woven a rich tapestry of people, places, concepts, and then, to push forward, to the future, which is now the past, or, oh -- who can explain it! (You're doing fine -- Maureen)
   "Look, I understand your disappointment, but you'd be much better off writing a short story for a college literary magazine. At least then you might get published. This thing, from where I sit, is a fart that won't disperse."
   I'm cut to the quick.
   "It's 'touched to the quick'. Shakespeare."
   (You're wrong. It's Robert Browning -- Maureen)
   Maureen! Atta girl!
   "Look, I have to go. It's been nice, good luck, see you at the big meeting in September, Maureen."
   September? (He's right, Jim, September -- Maureen)
   Then I have until September to make a case for myself! I must win them over! (Atta boy, Jim! You can do it! -- Maureen) Or else!

(This ends Chapter Seventeen, and I'm not stopping!)

Chapter Eighteen