Killian Street
Published in

Killian Street

The Writer Returns

Photo by J.S. Lender © 2021

I HAVE BEEN OUT for exactly 3 days. Three days and four hours, to be more precise. They told me that if I could keep my act together and avoid another episode in public, that I would not have to return. The drugs that they gave me at “the facility” are mostly out of my system now, and I am starting to feel more like my normal self again.

I had been in that place for 9 months, and during that time, I was so hopped up on Seroquel and trazodone that I could barely brush and floss my teeth in the morning, let alone keep busy with any important writing assignments. But I was thinking of good ideas for stories the whole time that I was trapped in there. I kept a mental list that is still with me, and now I am ready to get back to work.

Writing The Great American Novel won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. I know that I can do it, though, because everything else passing for great literature these days is pure garbage. I mean, it’s just horrible what is selling.

Today is Monday, December 22, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty.

Darlene’s Coffee Joint is close enough to my house that I can walk there. This is of great importance, because I don’t have a driver’s license anymore. I slept in until 9 AM this morning, but it is 10 AM now, and I am clean-shaven, well groomed, appropriately dressed, and ready to dig in. I write all of my stories on a yellow legal pad, because writers who use laptops are posers.

The place is not very crowded — just a few stragglers who are probably late for their boring office jobs. I grab a seat in the far back corner, so that I can see everyone. I carefully set down my yellow legal pad and my blue ink fountain pen, and go to the cash register to place my order. The young woman working at Darlene’s Coffee Joint is way too good-looking to be taking coffee orders. Regardless, there she is, eagerly awaiting my order. I order a large decaf, because I am not allowed to consume caffeine anymore. Decaf still has a little bit of caffeine in it, but probably not enough to set me over the edge.

The girl who is way too cute to be working at Darlene’s calls me when my order is ready, five minutes later. I say thank you and sit down with my fountain pen in hand, staring at my yellow legal pad. “The Badlands is no place for those with a timid heart.” That is a pretty damn good first line for my Great American Novel. It only took me thirty minutes to write that line, and I am pleased with myself.

I finish my decaf in about 20 minutes, but I am still thirsty. I go back to the cute girl at the counter, and this time I order a medium coffee, regular. I figure that if I mix enough half-and-half with the coffee, it should dilute the caffeine, and I should feel fine. I have to admit that regular coffee tastes much better than decaf, and I notice the difference right away.

But I am having a difficult time enjoying my regular cup of coffee, because they keep talking about me. They are looking and pointing at me too, but if you were to ask them, they would all surely deny it. I grab a copy of the New York Times that someone has left behind, and I hold it high up over my face, so they cannot see me. But somehow they still see, they still point, and they still laugh. The laughter is getting louder and louder, to the point that my eardrums are starting to ache.

I tell them all to shut the hell up and stop looking and stop laughing and stop pointing, but this just makes them pay more attention to me. It’s time to get out of here, even though I have not written anything more than “The Badlands is no place for those with a timid heart.” If I want to finish my Great American Novel, I will need to go someplace where I am not being bothered.

They are not going to let me go easily. As I bust through the front doors of Darlene’s Coffee Joint and into the street, there is rumbling and commotion behind me. I am still holding my cup of regular coffee, because I paid for it, and I need to get my money’s worth. With each sip, I feel increasingly invigorated, yet annoyed. I realize that it is difficult to run fast when you are holding a hot cup of coffee. The scorching liquid will always find a way to escape through the plastic lid and burn your flesh.

While the hot coffee is burning my right hand, my left hand is also slowing me down because it is clutching a large leather purse that must have belonged to some woman at some point. A man with a badge and a walkie-talkie is running after me down the street, but all I can think about is how much crap the previous owner of this large leather purse carried around with her on a daily basis. Seriously, this purse must weigh a good 20 pounds.

Walkie-talkie man is getting closer to me, a little too close for comfort. He keeps pressing a button on the side of his device, and he is obviously conveying secret messages to his superiors on the other end of the line. Russian KGB, no doubt. I knew that those bastards had been on my trail for months, I had just been unable to prove it, until now. Once I remove the lid from the top of my coffee cup and splash that hot liquid death into walkie-talkie man’s face, he screams, grabs his face, then falls to his knees.

The KGB sprayed a scent onto my clothes while they were at the dry cleaners, and that is how their hound dogs will find me if I try to hide in the forest. So I strip off all of my clothes, and a brisk winter air greets my skin, causing goose bumps from head to toe. For some reason, my kneecaps feel the coldest of any place on my body.

I am now wearing nothing more than my purple converse All-Stars and white gym socks. Purple has always been a fast color for me, and it is now time to give that royal color the real test that it deserves.

As I sprint through the forest with the obnoxiously heavy black leather purse slung over my right shoulder, I think long and hard about my Great American Novel. Its characters and plot will need to be nothing less than magnificent, and if I can just maintain this level of focus, the book will be finished in no time.

© J.S. Lender 2020

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J.S. Lender

J.S. Lender

fiction writer | ocean enthusiast | musician | author of four books, including Emma and the Starry Night. Blending words and waves…