Stone of stumbling and rock of offense (wordweaverlynn) wrote,
Stone of stumbling and rock of offense
wordweaverlynn

Dangerous Words

Scene: Dishevelled bed of an American novelist. In addition to half a dozen books by other authors, a laptop, half a pack of cigarettes, a fine old Zippo cigarette lighter, a cell phone, and a small empty bourbon flask, the bed is inhabited by one snoring writer.

Cell phone rings loud and long. THE NOVELIST does not stir. This is repeated until finally THE NOVELIST gropes for it among the scattered possessions, picks up a metal object, and holds it to his face.

THE NOVELIST: Hello? Hello?

Cell phone continues to blare. THE NOVELIST looks at the cigarette lighter in his hand and groans. Then he finds cell phone, stares at the display, punches a few buttons.

THE NOVELIST (cheerily): Jack, how are you? Sorry I missed your call. I was writing. You know how it is when--

AGENT: Yeah, Frank.

THE NOVELIST: --when I'm writing, lose track of everything. I think I've really got it this time. Great characters, great plot, and the same taut, luminous prose the PEN/Faulkner Committee praised so much. I think this will be a winner.

THE NOVELIST lights a cigarette, sucks hard, and starts coughing.

AGENT: When can I see some of it? Your new editor has been asking. She's trying to clear up the old contracts.

THE NOVELIST: Putnam gave me a new editor?

AGENT: Penguin.

THE NOVELIST: Penguin?

AGENT: They merged with Putnam right after you signed the contract. You went to the party.

THE NOVELIST: Oh. Yeah, of course. Well, you know how writers are, can't remember what we had for lunch yesterday--

AGENT: In 1997.

Dropping the phone and the half-smoked cigarette, THE NOVELIST scrabbles in his sheets and pulls out a pint bottle of Old Crow. He unscrews the cap and upends the empty bottle over his mouth.

THE NOVELIST: Fuck.

THE NOVELIST flings away the bottle and snatches up the cell phone.

THE NOVELIST: Sorry about that, I had to-- I was just-- Jack? Jack!

AGENT: [silence]

THE NOVELIST (too fast): But the new book is really coming along now.

A wisp of smoke is rising from the sheets.

AGENT: [silence]

THE NOVELIST: Jesus, Jack, please don't hang up on me! I know I've been blocked for a while, but remember the first book? Sixteen weeks on the New York Times list. And the second really wasn't that bad.

AGENT: Thanks for holding on. Were you saying something?

THE NOVELIST: I'm making great progress, really. [Lights another cigarette.] Uh, I've forgotten some details-- Can you remind me how much of the advance is due on delivery?

AGENT: I didn't actually call you up to ask about the contract.

THE NOVELIST goes dead still.

AGENT: I just wanted to congratulate you. You're being included in a new textbook. They want to reprint the Las Vegas chapter.

THE NOVELIST: Oh my God, really? Really? Someone remembers me?

AGENT: A lot of people still love that first book, even if-- But if you do have anything new, that would be good.

THE NOVELIST: Yes! I'm coming back! I still have it! Nobody ever wrote like Franklin Hunter!

THE NOVELIST reaches into a bedside drawer and pulls out a new pint bottle. He cracks the seal and takes a healthy gulp. Then he sniffs the air uncertainly.

AGENT: I'd be thrilled to see pages. [mutters] Not to mention astonished.

THE NOVELIST: What's the name of the anthology?

AGENT: Minor American Novelists.

THE NOVELIST spills the rest of the bourbon. The sheets and THE NOVELIST go up in flames.

(This started as a comment on LJ.)
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