WRITER’S BLOCK by Jack Bristow

Dallas Grady, thirty-eight, good looking in spite of a life of hard drinking, pill eating, and two divorces, lay on the motel room bed, cigarette in right hand, fumbling through The Yellow Pages with the other. He was working on his magnum opus, his novel, his written testament to counter the notion that his life had been a waste.

He had told the voice on the other end to bring him over a date with blonde hair and brown eyes—she had to have brown eyes, he instructed, more than once. The voice on the other end had been very accommodating. Dallas swore the man was from the east coast originally—something about the voice. He hung up the phone after giving directions to the room and took a swig from the Southern Comfort bottle, walked over to the typewriter and unwound.

The story was only twenty-five pages so far. It was about a war hero whose wife kicked him out after him having returned home from the war. The woman had blamed the man’s drinking on their divorce but the man had known better. His father had always told him, “Dall. You can’t change the past—so don’t you ever try.” The woman he had married—the naive, brown-eyed cheerleader from Detroit—no longer existed when he returned home from Iraq. In her place was this well-read and independent woman, who had gone to too many political rallies, anti-war, and met a lot of people. A lot of men.

Dallas cringed at the thought. Another veteran. Another goddamn veteran of the same goddamn war who had thrown all his decorations over the fence and onto the White House lawn. And Debbie thought that was just great. Wonderful.

And when he got home she’d wanted him to do the same thing. Bullshit. For what? For who? He had earned his medals—they were the only thank-you the man would probably ever receive for putting his life on the line. Why get rid of them—why throw them out on some silly, unfounded whim?

“Shit.” He yanked page thirty-six from out of the Selectric, red-faced huffing and puffing. That was the thing about us Irish, Dallas had thought miserably. We can’t ever hide anything.

He has having tremendous difficulty merging reality with art. But, goddamn it, he would finish the novel. He just needed some human contact. Some intimacy.

He smirked as he looked into the mirrored wall. His face was so different. No longer rosey and filled with life. Sallow. Rings under his pale grey eyes so dark it had almost looked like he was wearing mascara.

The man in the story had made a lot of friends. Chuck McAnderson. Sergeant Darren Thomas and Curtis de Wade. He had wanted to call them, to really tell another human being something but they, too, were in the past. The brave men he had served with no longer existed. Other men bearing those names were with their families now….

He’d hoped to God they’d at least had families who would miss them, that would be able to tell they weren’t the same people they’d left as. That was the thing about war—not wars, because all wars were the same—but war would keep you more in the past than anything.

He had been gone only two years. One tour. But it had seemed like a lifetime.

Knock knock knock on the door. Dallas hobbled off the chair and unlatched the four-chain locks and deadbolt. A grinning man stood in the doorway with a blonde dressed in cheap ivory colored spandex and fake fur. He had recognized the man’s voice from the telephone.

“Hi there. I am Clayton and this is Luicna. Your date.” And then he had told Dallas the rules. “You can do anything with her you like. I don’t care. She don’t care, neither. Back-door. Missionary. Go downtown. It don’t matter. Just no hitting, no punching. Absolutely no cutting and/or strangulation.”

Dallas nodded solmenly, as if this fine, upstanding gentleman were her father, and Dallas some acne-faced geek escorting her to the prom.

“Another thing. And this is mandantory,” the pimp explained. “I’ll be waiting out here for forty-minutes, but I’ll need some collateral first—something to know who you are, just in case you breach our agreement.”

“No problem.” Dallas handed the man his driver’s license. Expired. The face inside it had seemed a little more colorful and vibrant. But this man standing in front of him was Dallas Grady. There was no mistaking that.

***

Dallas looked into those eyes as he went to work on her. Brown. His body kept going up and down coolly, confidently until there was that unmistakable intense feeling, and then it was all over with.

Brother, he thought. Twenty-nine years old and you still make it like you were seventeen.

Luicna looked at her Mickey Mouse wristwatch— the only thing she was wearing. “That was only twenty minutes. You still have another twenty. You paid for it. Just wait and regroup. Most guys your age, it only takes ‘em what? Five, ten minutes? That’ll give us another ten minutes.”

Dallas grinned evilly. A considerate whore. Now he had seen it all. But he knew when she had grabbed his tricep consideration had had nothing to do with it. She had liked him. And only one of them had gotten their cookies.

“No thanks. Sweetheart. Busy night.”

He saw a mild sadness in the whore’s face. This had made him feel important. Wanted.

“Don’t worry, precious. We’ll have other dates.” He pinched her cheek.

***

At the Selectric now, pounding the keys furiously. His fingers barely able to keep pace with his mind. This was the way to do it—the only way you could write about Debbie without going crazy.

JACK BRISTOW has written for several zines, including Inwood Indiana, The New Flesh, Hobopancakes, and Indigio Rising.

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