Layne splintered the door open and strode to the center of the lush office. Fitzsimmons, leaning back in his chair, raised his eyebrows slightly at the intrusion.
“I’m taking you in,” the gumshoe snarled. “Can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out.”
“I am innocent of any foolishness you believe,” the CEO said smoothly, leaning forward. “What is it you think you’ve figured out, old man?”
“I followed the money. I found out how you work the bribes.”
“All the dirty money the politicians have been taking all these years, it got pumped into media ads.”
“That has absolutely nothing to do with —“
“Just listen. So when people call for taking the dirty money out of politics, the media ignore it. They can’t lose all that revenue, they’d be cutting their own throats. You started to notice how many politicians who never worked an honest job were buying second and third homes.”
“You’re still not connecting any dots to me or my company.”
“OK, dot this. You used to have an army of sales reps going from doctor to doctor peddling your newest drugs, but it was taking too long to get rich and you had to pay all those reps, so you greased some politicians to make selling medicine on TV legal again. You fired the reps and turned the patients into your sales force. ‘Ask your doctor if this pill is right for you. Oh, it could kill you, but you’ll feel better and your skin will clear up.’”
“Oh, puh-leeze —“
“But that wasn’t enough. You wanted it all. So you and the state got married — you sell them the drugs, they give them out ‘free,’ and they make it a law to take them. Why not, it’s free, and you and your family could die if you don’t.”
“Are you serious? We’re saving lives here.”
“You’re getting filthy rich, filthier and richer than you ever imagined, and the media watchdogs — what a laugh — they’re laying down and shutting up anyone who’s onto you because politicians and drug companies are their two biggest sources of income.”
“This — conspiracy theory — is what you ‘figured out after all this time’? These absurd lies and misinformation? You foolish man.”
“I’m bringing you in, Fitzsimmons. The game’s over.”
The man at the desk began to chuckle.
“Oh, I don’t think so.” He pressed a button.
Three burly men entered the room.
+ + + + +
“…And that’s the real story,” the homeless man told the reporter. “Next thing I knew, I was out of a job and on the street. No one would believe me, or if they did, they didn’t have the guts to buck Big Pharma and the state.”
“That’s a lot of — I don’t know what it is, but it’s a lot of something,” said the reporter. “You got any proof, any documents, any shred of evidence?”
“It was all in my computer and my files,” the raggedy man said. “Erased and burned long ago, I suppose.”
“Right. Well, I can’t take this to my editors like this. It would make sense to the conspiracy nuts, but you have one thing right — all those drug and political ads pay my salary.”
“And to hell with the truth, right?”
“That IS the truth,” the reporter said. “People gotta eat. Gotta feed the family.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” the disgraced cop said. “Maybe I just thought I’d let you know what kind of people are paying your salary.”
“I guess I’ve always known,” the reporter said. “But it’s bigger than us. And I do like knowing where my next meal is coming from.”
“I hear you,” said the homeless man, turning to the door. “Have a nice life, and remember to take your pills.”
The day had come and gone without his notice. He had buried his face in the everyday and could not say whether the sun had shone all day or if snow had dusted the neighborhood. It was as if he had slept all day, but he remembered waking.
Outside, he knew, there was a cold colder than the coldest cold and a land anxious for spring, but he hadn’t glanced out the window, as far as he could remember, so he couldn’t say if the ground was softer or harder or ice-covered or some lingering grass was visible. He thought he may have communicated with the outside world but couldn’t remember the details.
It was as if the day was a blink. It was as if the day had never begun and would never end. All he knew was all he knew. All he could do was all he could have done.
He began to nod and caught himself.
“No,” he whispered. “Whatever else, not an early sleep. I am going to write something tonight. Let me wait this out. Play this out. See it through. Whatever.”
Whatever. He couldn’t even focus his eyes, let along his thoughts. He could even raise his emotion enough to feel bitter about it. It was just a day that had come and gone, like most of the others. And so it went.
“Here I am,” he said to the universe. “Do you see me? I can feel you out there, I can feel you in my chest, but do you feel me?”
He imagined the universe whispering back, “Of course I can.” But he didn’t know if he really imagined it or if he really heard the voice speaking.
Even a poem has a story to tell, he thought and wondered where the thought had come from.
Even a bird can’t fly all day. Even the runner must stop and rest. Even the lonely has company to keep.
And what is the why of it? he wondered. Why this compulson to put words to paper, why the urge to shout love into the wind, why the purging of hate in a scream – the purging of a hate he didn’t even feel? “I have no sins to confess today,” he said, “except the sin of pride to think I have no sins.” The thought made him hungry for a pretzel.
Wearily he lowered his eyelids and cursed the arrogance of the writer. “Such bilge,” he spat. “You torture your poor readers with nonsense. Nothing to say here, move along, move along, go on now, that’s it, thank you so much.”
And out beyond the windows that had been shut for months, he thought he saw a light, heard a rustling. He felt something out there – but now it truly was bedtime and it would have to wait, if it could survive the night.
The wind chimes are playing their random melody so loudly I hear it clearly through the window, so it must be cold and windy this morning. I haven’t paid attention to them in a while, and it shows in the flaccid coolness in my heart. When I listen, when I actually hear them, the chimes soothe the savage, as does almost any tuneful vessel.
Sometimes I will sit feeling empty, sure that I’m missing something, and I’ll put on some music and realize, “Yes. That was it. This is what I need.”
Music says what needs to be said when there are no words. It celebrates a grand universe where melody describes order — or, in the case of the wind chimes, it describes tones of peace so deep that order is not necessary. Wind can be a harsh, vicious force or a gentle breeze, but the chimes bring beauty with every beat, every collision.
Words are blunt instruments. Set to music, the edge softens and the hope snuggles in.
This is the day, here in the U.S. of A., where people spend some time talking and writing about how thankful they are, and a few million turkeys are consumed in a grand spirit of gratitude.
I’ve seen several social media friends get caught up in a challenge to write something they’re grateful for for 10 consecutive days or more, notwithstanding that it’s not the fourth Thursday in November.
It’s a healthy thing to be thankful. It’s a healthy thing to express gratitude. Scientific studies show that thankful people live longer and have cuter puppies. Or something like that.
I don’t know whether the scientific thing is real, but I do know I feel much better when I turn my thoughts toward reasons to be thankful, as opposed to thinking about reasons to be resentful or angry or sad or discouraged.
In a world where The Powers That Be seem hellbent on making people scared and unhappy and resentful, I am thankful that growing numbers of people see through the silliness and decide they’re going to be thankful and love their neighbors anyway.
I am grateful to be alive in this amazing era where I can make a few clicks with a keyboard and reach people thousands of miles away. I am thankful that there is a person and non-human family members within reach as I type this. I am grateful to be on this amazing world full of life. I am thankful to be able to look up in the sky at night and see a universe.
Life is too precious, and life is too short, to spend so much time being anything but awestruck.
So, yeah, the last six posts were reruns from 10 years ago. Two reasons for that. First, I recently rediscovered the pre-Wordpress edition of this blog, still hanging out there and containing stuff I’m glad I wrote, so I thought it would be fun to re-share and reclaim some of it.
Second, wow, I hit a wall. Wow, the walls you hit sometimes when you write for a living.
This is an odd one. I’ve been cruising along at the day job, type type typing away and getting ’er done, but sit me down with my journal and favorite pen, place me in front of a novel in progress, or even open up a blank screen to write a blog post, and blam! It’s an ugly sight. Or rather, there’s nothing to be seen. A vague scribble — OK, at least I write down the date — a blinking cursor after “and then she …” or simply a blank screen that won’t unblank. All during National Novel Writing Month; oh, the irony.
And so I peek back at what I was writing in olden times, and it seems better than whatever I might have written during this lull.
There is a time for every purpose under heaven, and there are times when the flow slows to a trickle and there are times when the flow is a raging river. Beat yourself up too much over the trickle — OMG OMG OMG I CAN’T WRITE OMG I CAN’T WRITE OMG WHAT IF I NEVER COULD WRITE IN THE FIRST PLACE OMG OMG — and the next thing you know, you’re over in the corner drinking Yuengling and watching Season 6 Episodes 7 through 11 of something you don’t remember 10 minutes later.
But beat yourself up too little over the trickle, and the trickle dwindles to nothing. Back in 2011, I wrote only one post between mid-July and the beginning of October. That’s what happens when you let it. At some point you have to say, “I don’t care if I write about not being able to write, I have to write something, anything, to get the flow back.” The alternative is three or four months go by and everyone, beginning with yourself, thinking WTF.
It’s a comfort to know “real” writers have moments like this, fighting The Resistance or The Dip or self-doubt in general, and not just wannabe shmucks like me. I imagine John Milton sitting at his desk with paper and quill thinking, “Who the bejeebers is ever going to read an epic poem about the devil organizing a revolution against God? For crying’ out loud, everyone knows how it ends anyway.”
Those are the times you get up and walk away. No, really. Get out in the air, take a walk, notice that the sky is still big and beautiful, the birds are still singing, and holy cow is it colder than it was a few days ago. And while you’re busying yourself not worrying about it, all of a sudden you have six ideas for blog posts, and not only do you know what she does next but you know how the story ends, and you can’t wait to get back to your writing station to get it all down.
The trick is to know the difference between the Yuengling-and-binge-watching stepping away and the rest-and-recharge stepping away. In a book I just read, Be a Writing Machine, Michael La Ronn said he sits up and takes notice when he dips belong a certain range of words per day for two days in a row. That seems vigilant enough: Everyone has an off day, but two days could be the beginning of a bad habit.
In other words, see you tomorrow with another something new.