Breaking the Point

by on February 3rd, 2015
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“I don’t need your approval,” I took another sip; “I can do just what I want!” I slammed the glass onto the counter. I wasn’t drunk per say, but I was drunk.

“I can do whatever the hell I want, and you just can’t stop me.”

The green eyes looked at me, analyzing each inch of my face. It wasn’t a pretty one at the moment. My eyebrows were attacking in every direction, my lips chapped and starting to crack and my face was covered in filth. I pushed back my oily hair and sniffed in the sour smell coming from me.

“I don’t think you understand what I’m saying here Henry,” he said, “I just want you to consider exactly what you are doing here. I’m sorry to tell you this but you are a failure. It’s too late for you now! It’s over. You just need to accept that and realize that it’s never going to happen. You can’t try to share this ‘gift’ you call it to the world! You need to settle down and get a real job. You will never be a writer!”

I looked at my half empty glass. Why? Why did he have to say that? I went to spill it onto the counter, but pulled it back at the last second. The amber liquid spun in my hands and I brought it up to my face. Even though it was a crowded bar, between just the two of us we were all alone. The music, the other people talking, it wasn’t there, it was just me. And Charley, sweet lovable Charley whose words could turn milk to cottage cheese.

It had started long before this. I was only 4 when I began reading, about 7 when I wanted to start writing. These books I was picking up, why couldn’t I do that? I fumbled with my pencil, labouredly laying the pencil to the thickly lined paper, sharpener nearby. I would write until the pencil was so dull the dot on the “i” became a line. Then I would sharpen it again and start again fresh.

If I wasn’t writing a story or a poem, I was practicing my signature, Henry Thoreau M.

I never liked my last name. It just wasn’t me.

That was when I met Charley. He was in the library and we fought over the same book. The librarian came over and broke us up and took down another copy of the same book.

Charley got to keep the first one.

I ignored him then as I tried to do today. I looked at him again and he looked away, almost ashamed of me. What I had become. I was nothing more than a drunk now was I? A drunken failure as an author who can’t even get a job sitting in Starbucks. He? Who was he? He was the great Charley L. T. The best damn book critic this side east of the Mississippi. Did he write creatively? No. Was he funny? Definitely. He took everything he knew from the good books and put it in a form more people would want to see.

“Give it up,” he said again, “I’m saying this as a friend. Your friend. You don’t have a chance.”

He touched my shoulder, as if that was all it took to convince me. Poor Henry, doesn’t even know he can’t write.

But I can. I know I can.

“I don’t care Charley. This is what I was born to do, and I’m going to do it!”

He took his hand away and wiped it on his pants, like my failure could spread onto him. Or maybe my stench.

I wrote in middle school, high school and my degree in college involved many creative writing courses. Everyone loved my work. Everyone that is, except publishers.

Not one person wanted to take my story. I sent in a novel and they told me it was too long. Sent in a shorter one and they told me it wasn’t interesting. I sent a few to some magazines all over the country and I didn’t even make it into the town newsletter. No one wanted them. From fantasy and dragons to the more mundane stories of life and even a few romances there were no takers.

Some people suggested making it into an e-book, but by that time I had nothing, not even enough money to stay in my own house. How could I afford software to make an e-book? Five books, full-length novels, all ready for the printing press, yet it would not take.

Stressed I spent more and more time in libraries and got a job offer by the librarian, but I foolishly said no. I just needed more time to focus on my writing.

Which is how I landed here, nowhere. Stories flowed out of my fingers yet stopped after the paper.

I gave it to some friends and they loved it.

I put them on note cards at Starbucks and they were worn out and torn within a day, stolen within a week. Yet I handed them to a publisher and they told me, “We don’t need another creative writer right now. Would you like to apply for a more realistic position? Maybe one as a sports reporter?”

How was I supposed to write about sports when I couldn’t even tell you how to hold a bat?

“I need this Charley, I need this writing. What am I doing wrong? What’s missing?”

And like that he was silent. I could always count on Charley. He can tell me it’s wrong but not why. And never, not once, could he tell me what was good.

He fumbled for the words like I once had with the pencil, trying to write on the paper, but the point was already dull, and I could see that he needed that sharpener. He mouth opened and closed but no word could come out.

“Tell me what’s wrong Charley and I’ll fix it. I just need one chance, one more chance.”

I said it but even as the words spilled out my mouth I knew it was over. I was done, a failure. I should just get a job now, would you like fries with that?

“You’re words, Henry. They just… I don’t know.”

“You’re the expert here, not me.”

I said it but I knew there was something weird. His green eyes dulled and he looked at the table. His glass was half full.

“Tell me and I’ll fix it.”

“I’ve spoken with some of the people you’ve sent your works to Henry and well … They loved your work.”

“They why the hell didn’t they publish it?”

“I said no.”

“No?”

“You shouldn’t be in this type of world Henry. It is far too cold and cruel for you. You shouldn’t be here. You’re a softie and a looser. You never could be confident in anything that you did.

“You never asked anyone out even when you saw their eyes glistening and inviting you over. You waited for them to come to you and even then you couldn’t step forward. In high school you showed everyone your writing, but never a teacher and your essays were about as bland as Wonder Bread, setting out the cookie cutter format you thought was desirable. You were scared that if you showed the real you it would get turned down.

“So when I heard you were trying to get into writing, I called the first person you called and told them to turn you down. I thought that you’d just give up. But you didn’t, so I kept calling. And because I can write a good review for another of their clients, they kept agreeing.”

He looked at me and I saw the guilt in his eyes.

“You are a great writer Henry, but you just can’t endure it.”

He put some money on the counter and left, and I took another sip from my cup and went for another one before I saw that it was empty.

Could I really publish a story or even a novel if I couldn’t take harsh words like that?

I will not be soft. I reached into my satchel and push my hair out of my face once more and put on the table, a notepad, a sharpener and a pencil, starting at a point.

I put the lead to the paper. And started to write.


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