Henry Stiller’s Writing

A fiction piece by Camille Boulay

“Whatever you do, just keep writing. Just keep writing,” he kept repeating to himself, rocking back and forth on two legs of his chair. His pen ran across the page frenetically. He did not mind that the words made no sense next to one another. He did not mind that he was not dotting his “i’s” or crossing his “t’s”. There was no punctuation, but he did not mind about that either. He did not know what would come if he stopped writing, he just knew he could not. The once innocent white pages, raped to a blackened pulp, now littered the floor, engulfing him. He scrambled around in the crumpled charcoal sea, covering any leftover space he might have missed.

He had made sure to lock his door before he began; there could be no interruptions. He had hesitated to put a “do not disturb” sign on his door, but then decided against it, knowing all too well, that this was precisely the kind of publicity that would welcome the curious to knock and the malevolent to misbehave. No, if he kept his door closed, most inhabitants of the household would just assume he was out on one of his many daily walks. So no one interrupted, and he continued to blacken the pages, running down pencil after pencil. He had no clock, but the sun had risen and set and he was now writing by candlelight.

Suddenly he ran out of paper. There was not a page left in the room where he could squeeze in another word. He dropped his tiny pencil on his desk and leaned back in his chair, setting all four legs on the floor. He looked around, taking in the raven avalanche surrounding him. He let out a long, deep breath, finally certain that he had indeed, just barely evaded the eminent danger that could have knocked the life out of him. His heart rate began to slow down, and his eyelids heavy upon his eyes. He dropped his arms along the side of his body, his hands almost reaching the floor. His breathing was regular. His head snapped forwards. He was fast asleep.

To the untrained eye, it was always difficult to tell whether any of these writing exercises that Henry Stiller put himself through, were actually of any use to his real writing. That is, the very successful series of novels he had so far been able to publish once a year. He was most convinced that any writing, published or not, was necessary writing. Did athletes not keep running, even if they were not competing? And did humans not keep dining, even if they were not entertaining guests? It was in a sense a completely rational way of thinking, but somehow the sight of the leadened paper monstrosity, was more often than not, a sight too many for Henry’s housekeeper, who was responsible for cleaning the room the next day.

One time, Henry had decided he needed to write outdoors to communicate with nature, but as it turned out, it was a very windy day. “No matter” he argued with his housekeeper, “all the more reason to write outdoors. The wind will carry my words around the garden!” And that was how the housekeeper, two other maids, and a gardner had spent an entire afternoon picking ripened pages off the trees, the bushes and the grass. Henry was an eccentric man, that is for sure, but no one could deny his novels were sheer genius. And so it was the general consensus in the household that Henry Stiller would have his way when it came to his writing habits.

Holger Drachman, Danish writer, painted by P.S. Krøyer

What he wore and what he ate however, remained entirely in Lady Stiller’s control, as she felt that it was only normal that one should exercise equal power over the life of the other when united under the sacred laws of marriage. Henry had brought Lady Stiller to this dreadful countryside and requested that she keep to herself twenty one of the twenty four hours they lived together. The three hours he allotted her were usually the hours they spent over breakfast, lunch and dinner in the common dining room. They would sit at either end of the long table and stare at each other for a good ten minutes before finally nodding a greeting, as though they were only just recognizing one another every time.

Despite the seemingly irregular relationship and communication habits, Henry and Lady Stiller got on splendidly. Although it was never directly implied, Henry and Lady Stiller actually worked together. While he randomly scribbled notes down on all the virgin paper he could lay his hands on, she would sort out through the previous days’ hurricane and bind the words into a cohesive manuscript that she would then promptly walk over to the printer’s office down on 32 Morse Alley in town. So you see, there was really no need for more than the three allotted hours with Henry over meal time. Lady Stiller was quite busy enough already.

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