Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A bit of fiction - Sid's Story

Since this is a creativity blog - well, a place that I dump my creative bits, pieces, plans, and whatnot - and I am supposedly a 'writer' (whatever the heck that means), here's a short story I wrote while incredibly blocked on Valley of the Soul, or thereabouts.

It's not a pleasant tale (and it's really raw and unedited), so you've been forewarned.

Story below the cut

The first time I cut myself, I was seventeen and I did it for a girl in fifth period creative writing class. Amy? Angela? I can't remember anymore, watched me read my short and dabbed at the corners of her eyes. I was barely aware of the bandage over the bruise on my shoulder, but I could still feel the pain in the words I read.

That cut bled for days, but, hey, it was worth it. The lovely Miss A let me drive her home after school that very afternoon and graced me with my first blow-job as a thank you. After graduation, a poem created from my second cut convinced her to give me a different kind of ride. Summer ended and she went away to college; I, of course, went to work. Because that's what Lansing men do.

Lansing men also drink, but I'd had enough of that shit when I was still in grade school. Dislocated elbows courtesy of drunken fathers have a tendency to do that sort of thing.

Anyway, my dad got me a job at the plant, right there with him and uncle Marv, so I spent the next decade or so standing on a decaying rubber mat as I bolted blades in mower decks. Dad, Marv, and half the crew went to a neighborhood dive after work, except for payday when they went to the titty bars and watched naked college girls gyrate on poles. From the beginning, they dragged me along.

The servers quickly learned that a Jack and Coke order meant straight Coke for me - screw up that simple truth and no tip for you, sweetie - so while everyone else got plastered in preparation to go home and beat their wives and kids, I'd sit in the shadows and take notes in a little pocket notebook. I'd write how Uncle Marv's breath stank after two scotch on the rocks, how my dad would tweak the serving gal's right tit but never her left, how the chip in a dancer's heel made her hip shift awkwardly as she did her thing, even how corrosion on the metal chair legs matched the stains on the ceiling, nearly speck for speck. All those little details went into my notebook.

At first the guys wanted to see what I'd jotted down, but I'd close the book before handing it to them. The first few pages were padded with drawings of decks for the back of the house, grocery lists, or budget bullshit. After a drunken glance or two, they stopped asking and, sometimes, in the dark, those notes turned into stories.

I'd tried writing at the house instead of the bars, a little nothing bungalow on a dead-end dirt road, but there just weren't any words to be had. Was it writer's block? Hell if I know, I certainly didn't consider myself a writer then, but until I met Kristin home was a dry zone. No words, no muse, and definitely no blood.

I met Kris in the laundromat of all places. The third or fourth time I saw her she shyly mooched a fabric softener sheet, but we got to talking, one thing led to another, and about three months later she moved in. The little house became a home. She was an amazing cook, a wild cat in the sack, and it didn't take long for us to start saving for a bigger place, a wedding, and maybe even kids.

I was happy. For the first time in my wretched, filthy life, I was happy. You have to understand that. With Kris I didn't miss the words or the dark, hell, I didn't want them. I had nothing to escape from.

Until January seventeenth, three months and twenty-six days before we were booked to take a honeymoon in the Bahamas. It had been spitting snow for the better part of a week, temps hovering just below freezing, but that Wednesday afternoon it warmed up a bit and the flurries turned to drizzle. Kris was late but I was home, watching the news and trying to ignore the inviting aroma from her crock pot, when they showed the accident. Thirty-two cars crushed together on the interstate, unable to stop because the rain had turned to ice, and the dipshit that started it all laying upside down in the median.

Despite surgeries, machines, and I lost count how many transfusions, it took her three days to die. I never left her side for a moment she wasn't in surgery. Not one damn moment. When I couldn't cry, I wrote. It was shit, but I wrote anyway.

When it was over, when my Kris was gone and I was sent to a special waiting room collect myself and call her parents, I sat there a long time, staring at the scrunched and stained spiral notebook that had helped me endure the past days. A decayed corpse of black bones and moldy flesh walked in, shambling and smelling of rot. He sat beside me and introduced himself as Sid before leaning back in his chair, brightly aware eyes glittering in dead and grimy sockets. I didn't even realize I'd pulled my penknife from my pocket and had flayed my arm open as he stared, not until the green cover of my notebook had splattered red and Sid had licked it clean.

Writing is easy, I'd once heard. All you have to do is open a vein. Which I did, right there in the hospital. And no one noticed. No one except Sid. He merely moistened his dead, yellow teeth and waited for the next slash.

For days I wrote under Sid's eager stare. I wrote myself through the arrangements, through her burial, through sorting Kris's things with her mother and sister, Sid watching me all the while. If anyone noticed the bloody bandage on my arm - or Sid lurking in the corner of the living room - they never mentioned it. There was too much grief to go around. I cut myself twice more while working on Rusted Gates; on Kris's birthday - she would have been twenty six - and on the day we were supposed to get married.

I finished the book that weekend. A month later, at Sid's insistence, I sent queries out to ten agencies in New York. Seven said no, one asked to see more.

Six months later, my agent sold Rusty Gates, along with two other books to come, for an obscenely miniscule amount of money. Rusty Gates came out about fifteen months later, the week before what was supposed to be my second wedding anniversary. By then I was too tired and anemic to care. Completing Pennies Fall before deadline cost me a slab of stomach skin, a golf-ball sized divot in my thigh, and fourteen slashes across my right arm. Corroding Ice - revised while promoting Pennies Fall - literally cost me my left nut, and other unimportant parts and pieces. Whatever I cut, Sid devoured. Then and only then, I got words.

No one noticed, not even Dad and Uncle Marv who worked beside me five days a week. The drunken bastards often informed me that writing was a pipe dream but people always need lawn mowers. With my third book about to hit the shelves, I told Dad to fuck himself and transferred to another line where I worked alone bolting seats to lawn tractors. Sid patted me on the back, merely taking a strip of skin below my shoulder blade to celebrate.

Before Corroding Ice's release, my agent negotiated another three-book deal for considerably more money than the first contract. As a reward, Sid ate the middle toe of my right foot. In return, I sold a short story and made almost as much money as my first book sale. I limped, and I missed Kris, but I had words. For a while it seemed an even trade.

Corroding Ice hit, and hit hard, breaking the USA Today list. I quit the plant. Still giddy, I went on a small tour, told Sid to take a hike, and wrote The Thinking Leaves. It tanked, nearly costing me my contract. At home, surrounded by the last of Kris's things and Sid's baleful glare, I spent too much time alone, struggling to find book five. Just me, the laptop, and starving, staring Sid. At every ding from my email, he'd perk up. He'd groan and glance away at spam, chuckle at anything from my agent or editor, but the fan mail... I couldn't look at him when fan mail came. Seeing drool drip down his rotted bony chin reminded me of the day Kris died.

My deadline crept closer, and finally passed. I had nothing. No pages, no title, not even a loose outline. Nothing. I stopped answering my phone for fear it was my agent. Unplugged the laptop's wireless card so I wouldn't have to read the concerned emails. And I thought long and hard about driving to the store to get a bottle of something hard and fermented. Booze was good enough for Hemingway, right?

But Sid was there, stinking up the couch and flicking through reality shows on the dish. He didn't even glance over as I pulled my coat off the hook by the door. He just flipped from some show about cohabiting-has-been's to a home remodeling fiasco and reminded me the bottle would ruin my liver. Sid was right. A shot liver wouldn't give me words, let alone a whole book, in time to salvage my career.

I don't remember how long I stood there, but by the next morning I'd emailed my agent an editor an apology for being incommunicado and attached three chapters, a synopsis, and a full outline for a book called Feather Flaws.

It sold nearly three million copies its first two months on the shelf. Only cost my right leg below the knee and one ear. Needless to say, I declined a book tour. A grocery delivery service made sure I didn't need to leave the house for three years. I wrote five more bestsellers, paying for them with the muscles on my right shoulder, three ribs, the rest of my right leg, and that one remaining nut, along with other miscellaneous parts and pieces.

Folks came by to check on me now and then, but no one ever mentioned my missing leg, or fingers, or the sagging, empty places under my clothes. Most commented on my paleness but I didn't have time for their misplaced concerns. I had words, as many as I wanted, at least until the next payment came due.

There's a fine line between pleasure and pain, between the bliss of creation and the agony that brings it to light. I don't know how much more Sid can take, but I can't stop. Not now. There are contracts to fulfill, fans to feed... and Keeping Kris is nearly finished. Sid said the next payment would really hurt, but who needs a liver when they have words?

It's just...

I'm tired.

Oh, so tired.

I miss you, Kris.


"No other fingerprints? You're sure?" Detective James Asher juggled his cell phone as he slapped on gloves and pulled a smock over his suit. Phone wedged on his shoulder, he backed through the door leading to the M.E.'s exam room. Even the choking rot-stink was better than facing gaggles of reporters in the main hall.

"No anything," the crime scene tech replied. "No entry marks, no footprints, no hairs other than the victim, no weapon... Nothing. Even the splatter evidence was inconclusive. Any word on the PM? They're taking a long damned time for a simple autopsy."

"I'm there now," Asher replied, nodding a greeting to the new assistant M.E., a tall blonde he hadn't worked with before. "I'll let you know." Muttering an apology, he snapped his phone closed. "What are we looking at?"

She settled her goggles straighter on her face and stared at him, matter-of-fact seriousness in her voice and brilliant blue eyes. "He's dead, Jim."

When he groaned she laughed, blushing a bit as she held out her hand. "I've always wanted to say that."

James shook her hand over putrid remains. "I've heard it too much, but it's nice to meet you anyway." A gal who plays with corpses but quotes Star Trek can't be all bad. "Not to be a bastard here, but your office has been picking over this guy for days. Do you have anything?"

She flipped through a clipboard of notes. "Every examiner in this office has crawled over the corpse and we all came to the same conclusions. There are no injuries, bruising, defense wounds, contusions - other than the dent on his head when he fell - negative toxicology, no evidence of disease, trauma, or event..." She frowned slightly and met Jim's gaze. "We'd label it natural causes, if he wasn't bled dry."

"This man did not die of natural causes. His living room was soaked with blood."

She shrugged and handed him her notes. "No blood, but no entry or exit wounds either. None. Not even a syringe mark. Nothing. It's like it evaporated. Sorry."

"Blood doesn't evaporate." James scoured the notes, finding nothing out of place even as she led him through the autopsy. Other than incisions the M.E. had made to open the chest and brain cavity, the desiccated corpse was pristine. "Could the missing blood have disappeared during the month or so the victim lay undiscovered?"

"No, there'd be coagulate and darkening tissues as it settled. This man shows neither of those conditions. He had numerous scars, but all had healed," she said, pointing out several silvery lines puckering his skin. "He died from rapid exsanguination, but there are no wounds, internal or external." She sighed and accepted the clipboard. "We're still searching for a catalyst and method of bleeding out, but all of our preliminary findings indicate he wasn't attacked. He wasn't murdered, his blood just disappeared."

Piss. Why do I always get the odd-balls. "Do you have any idea who this guy is?"

The M.E. covered the remains. "Of course I do. Theodore Lansing, age 42, local literary celebrity." She laid her hand on his covered skull as if comforting it. "I've read all his books."

"And you're telling me to inform his family and weeping fans that we have no suspects."

"I'm telling you all we know. We'll keep searching, but we're running out of things to look for. Maybe the family has a unique medical history we're not aware of."

James cursed, and the M.E. said, "Hey, I'm just telling you what the evidence shows."

"Don't blame the messenger. Right." James nodded goodbye and headed for the door, tearing off his smock and reaching for his phone. He pushed a few buttons and waited while it rang.

"Metro mowers!" a chirpy woman's voice said. "How can I help you?"

"This is Polk County Sheriff's Detective James Asher," he said, sucking in clean hallway air. "I need to speak with Sidney Lansing, and I need to speak with him now. It's about his son."

Phone pressed to his ear, James shoved through the throng of eager reporters and out to fresh air.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Well shit. Just shit. And *hugs*