I began writing the novel in 1988. I know it may seem obsessive to many, but since my typewriter clacked the first letter, I didn’t leave the house. It was a story unlike any other. I knew…was certain…it would topple Tolstoy, humble Hemingway, and even (dare I say it?) surpass Shakespeare. It was, --to put it humbly-- the pinnacle of perfection. I worked late into the night and early hours of the last morning and it was complete. Twenty-five years in the making, but, you can’t rush genius.
At times during my work, the typewriter sounded like a chorus of machine guns, snapping out over the trenches, the cling of the carriage barely audible. At other times it felt like a forty pound albatross hanging around my neck, pecking at me as I pecked at it in an attempt to break free. I ordered food in. I wore my clothes until I couldn’t stand to be in them. I spent my inheritance. Some bills I paid, although my electricity was shut off in 1993. Still, during sunlight or moonlight, through blissful pain and excruciating joy, my vision of my masterpiece never wavered. It burst forth from my fingertips day after day, night after night, for two-and-a-half decades.
I looked upon the mountains of pages, satisfied and anxious to rush it to my agent. I hand washed a shirt, shaking it out to dry. I had become so thin I had to use a lamp cord to hold up my pants. I didn’t shave because my beard had grown so long, it would have taken far too much time. As I prepared myself I paused, trying to remember the last time I spoke to my agent.
If memory serves, it was in 1997. He stopped by my small house by the small lake. I opened the door --just a crack-- in answer to his knock. I poked my head outside and peered around, making sure no suspect stranger waited to force himself inside to steal my epic work. My agent stared, one eyebrow arched quizzically, the other narrowed down rather judgmentally.
“I wanted to see how you are,” he said. His gaze shifted from me to the lake.
“I told you before. The novel is coming along nicely.”
“You told me that three years ago,” he said. “I’m worried about you. No one has seen you. No one has heard from you. Are you okay?”
“They stopped my phone. I don’t remember when,” I said. “But the book is coming together. I should have it done soon.”
“You told me that three years ago as well,” he replied, “And three years before that.” He stood on tiptoe, attempting to look around me. I pulled the door a bit closer, obscuring his view.
“Look,” he said. “I’m honestly worried. You’re becoming a recluse. When did you last talk to your family?”
“Yes. Well, it took some doing, but I finally persuaded them to leave me to my work. Far too many interruptions.”
That odd expression appeared again and I began to suspect perhaps he might attempt to steal my work. He stood silently for a time and then sighed.
“Okay. I guess I’ll leave you to it then.”
“Thank you. Thank you. I’ll have the book completed very soon.” I shut the door then opened it again, just a bit, and watched him walk away, placing his hat upon his shaking head.
Now the epic novel was done. I lifted the stacks of manuscript and placed them into the boxes I had saved for twenty-five years. It occurred to me that it had been years since I had owned a car, but I remembered a wheelbarrow tucked away in the shed behind the house and I rushed to get it.
The wheelbarrow’s tire was cracked and contained very little air. Harder pushing it, to be sure, but it wasn’t far into town and to my publisher’s. Maybe three miles. I had no doubt that in my excitement I could get it to him. I mounded the file-boxes of manuscript into the wheelbarrow. The tire was now nearly on its rim, but I set my teeth and pushed.
It took time to get into town, which had grown since my last venture there. New storefronts lined the streets and I saw few I remembered. However, I knew where my agent’s office was and I smiled, picturing him reading, a look of awe on his face as he encountered supreme literary genius. I put my last bit of energy into rounding the corner to my agent’s.
It wasn’t there. I looked back at the corner street sign. Yes. That was correct. I looked around again. His building was gone and in its place a glassy storefront with an oddly figured green sign: Starbucks.
My head spun, trying to find something recognizable. Then I saw the small printing shop I remembered from years past. I left the wheelbarrow at the curb and ran in.
“The literary agency that was over there. Where is it?”
“Oh,” the proprietor pointed. “He was bought out by Acme Mega Publishing just down two blocks.”
I hurried, pushing the wheelbarrow full of manuscript to that mountain of a building. I parked the wheelbarrow at the curb and rushed in. I stumbled to the front counter, panting.
“I have my book,” I pointed. “It’s finished. I have it out front. There.”
The young, blonde girl looked up from a glowing square.
“I’m sorry, sir. We only accept submissions via email or our online submission site.”
“What? I’m sorry, but can I talk with an agent or publisher?”
“Again, I’m sorry sir. You’ll have to go online. We only consider manuscripts submitted via our website submission form or email system.”
I turned away. The floor seemed to slide from under me. My vision blurred as I watched two kids run up to the wheelbarrow, knock the lids off the top boxes and gleefully throw the papers into the wind.