Friday, June 19, 2009

On Writing

He wrote every day, but he knew that no-one would read it. He knew this because he screwed up what he'd written each night and threw the paper balls toward his unlit fireplace. He knew the day was coming when he would take a match and burn the paper and himself, and with a bit of luck, his neighbour below with her foul smelling dogs.

Sometimes he wrote about what that day would be like. Somewhere near the unplugged television were thirty pages all about the sound of a match as it struck the matchbox – the box with ‘Ed’s Place’ written on it, with a cartoon of Ed staring at him and smoking a pipe. He had grown to hate Ed’s face and looked forward to the day it burned along with everything else.

He rarely returned to pages once they were written, but sometimes, despite every effort not to, he couldn't help it. Occasionally he would feel an emptiness that he knew only inspiration could fix. He hated scrabbling around amongst the thousands of paper balls, searching for that one sentence that would put him back on course. Often he threatened himself, told himself that the next time he reached for one of the balls he'd just light a match, nevermind the schedule. In the end though, he knew that the schedule was unbreakable.

It was a bright summer's day when it came. He woke up as normal, following his usual ritual of shaving and standing on one foot in front of the mirror. It wasn't until the smell of burning toast reached his nostrils that he felt nervous. He finished his breakfast in the kitchen, the pieces slowly becoming harder to swallow, and walked into the living room. Like every day he locked the door behind him and put the key in his pocket. He sat down for his last day of writing.

His last day of writing mainly focussed on the way light hit the dust in his room and how seemingly unconnected particles moved with him as he shifted in his chair. He was pleased with that.

Towards mid-afternoon he screwed up the final piece and threw it towards the fireplace. It toppled down the thousands of other paper balls and fell back towards his feet. He picked up the matchbox and took a deep breath, shutting his eyes. He felt along the side of the box with his finger and slid it open. He didn't open his eyes until he had struck the match. As the match burned in his fingers he was annoyed at the words that popped into his head: "that wasn’t worth thirty pages".

He threw the match at the paper mountain and watched fascinated for a few moments as dust was sucked into the flames. He wished he'd written about that.

A lot of things surprised him about the fire that afternoon. He hadn't expected the television to explode or for his flesh to smell the way it did. He hadn't expected the pain in his lungs or the blindness to come so quickly. He hadn't expected the heat, despite the fact that he had once spent three full days writing all about it. His final thought, as he succumbed to the ashes, was: "cobalt green green green green". He hadn't expected that.

2 comments:

  1. Good stuff.

    Would make a good narrative that frames the active story line if you could expand it and, well, stick another story in it too. Maybe the protagonist's lead up to the burning?

    Or maybe he thinks he's a witch?

    Anyway, good stuff.

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