This writing came from two unrelated thoughts.
One was about where “inspiration” comes from, and the other was what the last journal entry would have on other people reading it. It wasn’t until I got to the end of Eric’s story that I realized that his creativity would have taken him to read so much into the single sentence he read, that he would start to believe his own version of the truth must be the real one.
Once again, this is a first draft, please accept it for what it is:)
Eric – August 3
His first wife, Monica, had suggested coming here. Of his four ex’s, Monica was the only one with whom he still had any contact. They had married when they were both 17, and full of youthful lust. The lust had lasted a year or so, the marriage not much longer, but somehow, after the divorce, they had become friends, and their friendship had grown stronger over the years.
It was after their breakup when they were still going through an uncivilized divorce that he started the ‘Elroy Blue, Detective’ series of murder mysteries. They were dark and humorless, much like his mood at the time, and they achieved a notoriety among a set of readers. When they were adapted for television, he became instantly famous, and just as instantly fed up with his “hero” as portrayed on TV. He tried to kill him off three times, and in the end agreed to a ghost writer continuing with the TV version of the character. It went on to run for seven series, and when he was depressed, Eric would search the cable channels for re-runs, just to show himself that nothing he could write would ever be as bad as that.
Much as he disliked the TV series, it had given him funds for the first time in his life, and he had gone into what he referred to as his hippie phase. He drank, took drugs, and wrote “spiritual” books under the name Grey Cloud IV. Why he chose that pseudonym he wasn’t sure, it had just been in his head one day when he came down from a trip, but it went well with the mystical feel of the books.
He was on a Tibetan retreat when he met, and quickly married, Angel Child. She at first seemed mystical and exotic too, and they tripped and meditated together. One day he suddenly decided he had enough of the booze and the pills, joined AA and got sober. He took to heart the slogan about taking what you liked and leaving the rest, and his next best seller was “Think Yourself Sober,” which was all about how to work your way out of addiction. His sudden sobriety was not what Angel Child wanted, and a clean and non-drinking Eric found her utterly shallow. When she served divorce papers on him, he discovered that her real name was Mary Smith, and she came from Luton, both of which facts made him laugh uproariously for no particular reason.
He met Julie in AA, who soon became wife number 3. When his book was published and became a modest success, he decided that he wasn’t a drunk, just someone who drank too much, so he went back to social drinking. He tried to persuade Julie that she should have a drink or two also, which led to arguments and eventually to divorce number 3.
His minor success with ‘Think Yourself Sober’ resulted in a string of self-help titles. The most successful of these was ‘Think Yourself Thin,’ which ran to four editions. The series soon ran its course, however, and ‘Think Yourself a Better Driver’ was rejected by the publisher, who was afraid of litigation if people took the advice given.
It was around this time that Eric hooked up with a young TV producer, Lucy, who was keen to get him on television again. Eric was OK with that and was also keen to get into Lucy’s bed. They started work on filming a new series, which included a location shoot in Las Vegas. One morning while they were there he woke to find he had wife number 4 lying beside him, although neither of them had any recollection of the night before. That lead Eric back to AA, but now his being sober was unacceptable to his current wife, and so the marriage ended pretty much before it had begun. The break up also marked the end of his short career in TV production.
And so he found himself with no job, a bit of cash not no steady income, and no woman in his life. He was pleased with the latter of these things. He’d had enough of the complications that came with relationships, and since he was sober again, he didn’t go to places where he’d be likely to hook up with anyone accidentally. His time consisted of going to AA meetings, meeting with old friends, and trying to write.
The trouble was, he seemed to be out of ideas. A lot of drafts had been started, but they all ended up abandoned due to lack of interest. Eric’s interest that is, and he thought that, if they don’t even interest him, what point was there in writing them?
He’d moved back to his old home area in London, but didn’t feel he belonged there anymore. Too many people with jobs in the City had moved in, and all the old places he knew had been taken over by smart wine bars and restaurants. Monica had never left the area, and they started to meet every couple of weeks for a meal, and it was at one of these that Monica had suggested Silver Oaks.
“A cabin in the woods in Norfolk? Not really my style I don’t think!” had been his first reaction. But he thought more about it over the next few days. Maybe a time with nature would help him get some perspective. And maybe being out there would spark some sort of creative thoughts that had been sadly missing lately.
He called, expecting them to be full at the beginning of August, but they told him they had just had a cancellation, so he found himself booking it, and now here he was, in a cabin in the woods in Norfolk.
He had to admit it was quite nice, comfy bed, a wide screen TV, and a pleasant enough view out of the window. He threw his suitcase onto the table, barely noticing that he had knocked a journal onto the floor as he did so, grabbed a change of clothes and was out of the door.
It was a beautiful area. The woods were pleasant to walk through, he found an easy path to the beach, and discovered a café where he could get a cup of tea. Inwardly he laughed at himself. Here he was, international best-selling author, one-time TV celebratory, in a run-down café in rural Norfolk, drinking tea. If only his friends could see him now.
That thought made him stop inwardly. Friends? Monica was a friend, yes, and maybe one of two other people from his youth. He tried to think of any friends he’d made recently, or even in the last 20 years but failed. Yes, he had lots of contacts, lots of people with whom he could network. But friends? Individuals who he liked to meet and that would be happy to see him, just for the sake of it?
His introspection was broken by the server, Dorothy he thought she had said, talking to him.
“I’m sorry, I was miles away, what did you say?” He asked.
“Oh nothing much,” Dorothy replied. “Just wondered where you were staying?”
“I’m up at Silver Oaks.” He replied. “You must get a lot of visitors here, is this your cafe?”
“Well, it’s a family place” Dorothy replied. “My son owns the property, I chat with the customers, and my husband is in the kitchen. He’s a good cook too, why not try one of these scones, made fresh this morning.”
Eric smiled and said yes to the scone, which was really good, and, chatted happily with Dorothy until another customer needed her attention.
He was still smiling as he paid and left and took a stroll along the path through the wood back to the cabins. He came to a bridge over a tiny stream, and stood for a moment, taking in the scene, before going o up the path.
He suddenly realized that he was content.
This feeling was so strange to him that it had taken this break from his routine for him to see it. Looking back over his life, he saw that he had been depressed, drunk, sober, high, in love, successful, and rejected. He had lived all his life in these highly charged emotional states, and he was familiar with them. But now, he was getting along, nothing much to worry about or be excited about. Nothing much of anything, really, just life, each new day much like the one before.
He got back to the cabin and started to unpack. He had a few clothes, but mostly he had brought books to read. He was old fashioned enough to prefer actual paper books to their electronic brethren, and so he had a section of old favorites and new titles, hoping that one of them would spark a creative thought in him.
He settled into a deck chair with the latest blockbuster novel which had come highly recommended. He recognized the style, and he could see how cleverly the authors was leading his reader along the path he wanted them on. That the book was successful was no surprise to Eric, it was extremely well crafted and had all the right hooks to catch the reader. However, the very fact that Eric could analyze the style made it impossible for him to enjoy it. He could see why people liked it but failed himself to become entangled in the plot.
He went back to the cabin and started to shift through the books he had brought when he spotted the journal lying on the floor where he had knocked it earlier. He began to look through the pages and then took it outside to read more thoroughly.
He was intrigued by the different handwriting and styles, but more that these few brief sentences were from real people, trying to say something real. Surely, he thought, from this collection of real life, I could produce something real, a happy, but true, summer love story. But then he came to the last entry in the book. One brief phrase that stopped him in his tracks. After all the happy tails and good times, there was just this one sentence.
“WHAT A TOTAL FUCKING BASTARD.”
He stared at the sentence for a long time. He tried to analyze why it affected him so. Most likely it was just some jilted lover, unhappy over a failed relationship. Nothing unusual there, his own life was full of people who probably thought of him in those terms.
His earlier thoughts came back to him about being content. Most of the writers in the journal seemed content, except this one. He realized that all his best work had come from unease of some sort. He had been depressed, or high, or falling into or out of love. All of these emotions had sparked an area of creativity in him. Maybe contentment and creativity did not make good bedfellows. Maybe he had nothing to work from, no springboard of pain to shoot him into the stratosphere of creativity. But perhaps he could borrow the pain shown in that one sentence as the starting point.
He looked back at all the journal entries before the last one. All of them were at least hopeful, many were completely full of joy, but none of them had inspired a real creative rush like the few angry words. Maybe others could write the happy love stories he read here, not him.
He got his notebook and started scribbling ideas. When it got dark, he went into the cabin and carried on writing, throwing idea after idea n to paper. He only looked up when he realized he was ravenously hungry, and looking up was confused to see it was light outside. Checking his watch he realized he had worked through the night, and it was morning.
He went to the local grocery store and stocked up on coffee, milk, and cereal. Back at the cabin, he slept for a couple of hours, then drank coffee while he read through his notes from the night before. At least two-thirds of them he just threw away, but here and there he found just enough to make him believe he was on to something, and he started into writing again with a new enthusiasm..
He was hardly aware of the knocking on the door, but when a key turned, and the door opened, he suddenly became conscious of his surroundings.
“Oh! I’m sorry Sir, I thought you must have checked out by now.” A maid was standing at his door, clearly dismayed at a room full of coffee cups, bowls with half eaten serial and screws up paper all over the floor.
“What? No, I’m booked in until the third. Oh, wait, what day is it now?” He checked his phone for the first time in days and realized he should have checked out a few hours before.
“Listen I’m really sorry, give me half an hour, OK? And I’ll be out of the way.”
The maid left to report back to the owners, and Eric quickly scooped up all his papers and threw everything into his car. He became aware that he hadn’t washed or changed for the last several days, but decided against a shower as he didn’t want the made to have to wait any longer. Looking at the mess of the cabin, he left a large tip on the counter, and then as an afterthought, remembered that he really needed to write something in the journal.
Cabin 22 Journal.
Thank you, dear July 25, if you ever come back here, I hope your pain is gone now.
I can hardly imagine the anguish you felt when you found you were pregnant after being raped by your uncle, but I am sure the arrival of your daughter eased some of that pain. I am sure it broke your heart to learn that that vicious brute was seeking to gain custody of the child, using the resources he had stolen from your late father’s estate.
Perhaps it is some comfort to know that your story will now be told, and the guilty brought to justice.
“Elroy Blue II”