General Fiction posted February 26, 2012


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A writer and the Triad

Leslie T. Banks

by barkingdog


The contest suggests a word count of 2000 to 3500 words, maximum of 7000. There are 2195 words in this entry. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you.


 





The room was empty.

The room was empty.

The room was empty. The phrase kept repeating in my head.

I’d been sitting at my computer for I don’t know how many days, and all that I could type were the same four words. Pages and pages laid discarded on the floor; four words surrounded, trapped me to the task of pushing out a story.

Some time ago, a familiar voice had interrupted. “Come downstairs, dear. It’s time to eat.” 

Later, it came angry. “You’ve been in there too long, Leslie.”

Yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that … I can’t remember when … I locked the door, the voice pounded, “Let me in. Are you … crazy?”

 Possibly. 

Footsteps tap-tapped along the well-worn floor boards to disappear—clack, clack, creak, creak—down the stairs.

My eyes bulged and pulsated, staring at the screen's forsaken white space. Specks of sneeze took shape in the foreground, and the metronome, the ever present time machine, began in my head.

Resolute fingertips met the keys and pressed to compose: The room was empty. The light was on. My feet were cold. It was almost dawn.

I was back, off in a torrent of brilliance, or so I convinced myself. The problem was convincing anyone else. But this time would be different. It’d be like before. They’d see.

I continued, mulling over which way to go, which train of thought to take. There must be more to say about feet, dawn ...  light on. I sat, staring, eyes dry. Waiting for inspiration. I sat …

Blast! The infernal phone rang.  

The robo caller said, “This is an important message.” As if ...

It might have been a publisher about those book chapters, so I listened.

Okay, this better be good.
 
Infringing reality continued. “Is your health insurance doing all it can do for you? Or have you been denied coverage?” I slammed down the receiver.

Denied?  Of course, I’d been denied. Rejection notices were my life.

I was back to nothing, again. My spark had fizzled. My muse’s health coverage ... unrefutedly denied.

The Triad of usually friendly and helpful voices in my head began laughing at me, parrying words back and forth at my expense. Holding my brilliance captive. Kidnapping my future. Their incessant talking had become frequent and taunting.


“What’s the matter, Les?"

"What’s the matter ...,"

"Mister Big-Shot Writer?”


Leave me alone ... just, leave me alone.


"Eviction looms."

“Yeah Oscar, he wants us to scoot, skedaddle, high-tail it outta here.”

“Lenny, aren’t you being a bit trite? Try to be more metaphoric, less mundane.”

“Okay. Okay, Peaches. The fix is in; our goose is cooked. How's that, babe?"


I had begged the Triad—Metaphoric Peaches, Trite Lenny, and Oscar the wordsmith—to round up the others and get out of my head and onto the pages where they belonged. I was losing control. 


“The situation is irreversible.”

“Yeah. His ass is grass.”

 “Our inner city is crumbling, gentlemen."

“Duck, Peaches. Aneurism incoming."

“Crimson seeps from irreparable damage.”


Head splitting, I gripped my desk, and eye to eye with the screen, I saw that I’d typed the word ‘feet’ a gazillion times. There it was: an entire page of the word ‘feet,' then ‘crimson seeps.’ It made no sense.

A near rhyme? Perhaps.

I rested …
… but the voices did not.

 
"The jig's up."

“What do you ascertain we've done?”

“It was you, you clumsy shit, Oscar; you overloaded him with wordiness, and he blew a gasket.”
   
"Me, Leonard? Me you say? Loquacious? Moi?”

“Are you mental baboons tossing the gray matter again?”

“Peaches, Leonard’s trite, Neanderthal suppositions never inspire.”

“And your waving, self-important tentacles point to a maw of self- destruction, Oscar.”

 “Hip-hip-hoorah. Peaches wins by a knock-out ... come on baby, light my fire!”

“Flambé Royale ... just for you, Lenny.”


There was a moment of peace; the pain subsided. Then Fourth of July rockets burst behind my eyes..


“Grim are our circumstances when sesquipedalian is mistaken for garrulous, my pedestrian friends.“

“Whaaaat, Oscar? Sasquatch bit an alien?”

“Using long words and being a wind-bag isn’t helping matters. You're a headache, professor."

  
My body stirred. My fingers search to no avail for the keys.


“We’ve failed to unite in thought."

"Divided ... we deviate from excellence.”

"United we stand. Divided we fall. Right?"

 “Sigh, just as would many veiled windows, we diminish his light.”

“Creativity …”

“Productivity …”

 “… take a hike.”


I woke to a mish-mosh of words—random bouncing balls in the air-machine once called my head. The pain behind my temples had become a constant throbbing. I took a deep breath to pull myself together and made a final attempt to organize the internal confusion, on-going conflict.

I laid my hands on the keyboard and signaled its electric synapses to  fire—tappity, tap, tap, tap—thus transposing internal gibberish into meaning. A font army marched, line after line, onto the screen. My fingers attached and detached across the keyboard, magically composing a symphony of phrases and dialogue, an ebb and flow of spag free excellence. Whew!

 
Had the Triad decided to work with me again?


“I’ll send serendipitous magnificence.”

“Color me clever. I’m all in.”

“The ashes stir. Our Phoenix flutters to the call.”

 
Rejuvenated, I hunkered down, typing with inhuman speed. A new freedom surged. I was awake … back, truly brilliant!

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh … A knock at the door interrupted. Shit, now what?

 “Mr. Banks, it’s the police. Open up!”

Oh, that’s good dialogue. I wrote.

“There’s been an accident, Mr. Banks.”

Another good line. I typed it and listened for more but only heard mumbling and a twisting jiggle of the door knob.

“Unlock this door.”


“Or they’ll huff, and they’ll puff, and they’ll blow the door down.” A snarling clawed words inside my head.


The voice outside the door was much louder. “This is Detective Petrovnic. Unlock the door, Mr. Banks.”

Great dialogue. I typed; it felt right. I liked these new voices. They were clear, crisp and so ... so real. This should sell. Realism sells.

I reached down to re-adjust and scratch my balls. That tingling was always a good sign. I'm on a roll.

I tilted my head toward a scuffling in the hallway followed by a ramming against the door. Without turning, I felt and heard the door fall while a sweet inner voice had me write: ‘The rock rolls away from the tomb.‘


Warmth beside my ear said, "Mr. Banks?" And I typed.


A trite voice added to the page.

"The wolf in sheep’s clothing speaks."

 
“That was a good one, Lenny."

“Thanks, Peaches.”

 
A dark blue form, smelling of cigarettes and coffee, entered my peripheral vision.

“Sir, are you alright? There’s no heat in this place.” 


All of my attention was toward the screen as I listened anxiously, ready to type the dictates of the voices from outside or within. I was anyone's to command, as my obedient puppet hands quivered over the keyboard.

 
“And here he sits with his pants down, naked as a jaybird.”

“All his glory unfurled.”

“Kismet.”

“Kismet?  Shizmet? Oscar, you’re killin’ me. I never know what you mean.”

“Fate, Lenny. Predetermination.”

“A what will be, will be sort of thing?”

“Que sera, sera. The water runs to the sea.”

“Schmaltzy. Sweet.”

 
Suddenly, there were too many voices. Confused, I couldn't keep up. 

I jolted to a tap on my shoulder.

“Here put this on, Mr. Banks.” My arms slid into terry cloth sleeves, and I knotted a familiar belt. 

I wanted to, no, needed to—had to, type. My fingers moved, but there was no keyboard. Why am I walking on my feet, feet, feet?

“This way, sir.” 
 
I have a book to finish.

My voice begged, “Take me back.”

I can’t walk away from my purpose –- my pages.

My body moved, taking me with it.

“It’s all right. Come along, now,” authority spoke as a hand gently pressed to my back.

“Watch your step, Mr. Banks.”  Where are my feet going?

Those inside needed me to transcribe.
  
“His feet seek familiarity …”

“... and each touch is welcomed by a creak.”


I know, I know, now. I’m going down my stairs.


 
“Detective Petrovnic?'

"Yes, Samuels?"

 "The County Medical Examiner’s here.”

“Right. Thanks.” 

The hand stopped my step. My foot hovered mid-stair.

“Officer Duncan?”

“Sir?”

“Duncan, take over here. I need to check with the M. E.”

“Yes sir, Detective P.” A new hand grasped my arm. “Come along, Mr. Banks. I’m Officer Duncan. I’ll get you past this. Easy now. Big step around.”

The smell. Oh, the smell. Doris has forgotten to take out the garbage, again.

“Doris?”

 There you are. Why are you lying down? Get up, lazy bones, and take out the trash.

“Doris ... something’s rotten in Denmark.” Did I say that?

“What, Mr. Banks?”

“Denmark … I mean Doris… you know, something … about Doris? She’s always napping.” Though the foot of the stairs does seem like one of her more peculiar locations. “Lazy, dazy Doris. She’s getting old you know?”
 
“Yes, I see, Mr. Banks.” Officer Duncan's face was blurring, but I’d recognize the strident voice of an eager publisher anywhere. I straightened my jacket pocket and tie, hoping I looked presentable.

“Upsy-Daisy, Doris. We have company.” I clapped my hands. She must be very tired today. I stepped over her. She really needs a bath. “Mr. Doubleday, I apologize for Doris. She’s usually very cordial.”

“It’s Officer Duncan, Mr. Banks. Remember? I’m Officer Duncan.”

 Isn’t it just like a publisher to garble his words?  I can barely understand him over this insufferable buzzing. I smiled and straightened my tie again, though it seemed rather difficult to find.

Why is he hurting my arm and hurrying me toward the door?  Ah, he’s taking me to sign a contract. We must have a deadline to meet.

 
 An eye looked out through mine, and voices lined up inside.

“Incarceration?”

“Hospitalization.”

“Termination.”

 
I could see that Doris' cheerful, tiffany-glass design of bells and roses had been shattered from the entry door and crunched under my nosey neighbors' feet. Their bobble-heads gawked at me from behind a strip of yellow caution-tape across our doorway.  

 I heard the infernal, early-Saturday-morning lawnmower-cowboy wheeze, “How could he not have known?” 

 His wife, But-Her-Face, stood in a puddle of Kleenex. “The poor dear, she fell and broke her neck.”

“ … at least a week ago,” Cowboy added.

Something was wrong. I felt a sudden weakness in my knees.
My vision was trippy. When I moved my head … oh, my … the room took a second to catch up. Dick Tracy’s face was distorted. The publisher was gone. Why am I wearing a robe? Whoa … dizzy.

 
 “A red river rushes through the canyon.”

“Peaches, head for the high road.”

“I say, dodging an explosion is not my preference."

 
 I heard. “Call the paramedics.” It was Officer Doughnut, yelling in my ear.
 
I wondered what was happening. My headache was much worse. Doris, be a dear. Run upstairs and get my Advil. Where’s Doris?       

"Doris?"

 
“He’s fallen, and we can’t get up! “

“Don’t panic, Lenny.”



“I got him. Peters, get the Doc in here, ASAP.”  

I heard footsteps hurry away. Strong arms held me, and I could see that the crown-molding needed painting.

"Doris." ... I love you.

 “Hold on Mr. Banks.”

 

“Sir Duncan’s assuring tone belies his trepidation.”

“Say it, just say it, Oscar … He knows our body's a-gonner."

 
 How about some Excedrin, then? Can’t anybody hear me?

 
“Peaches, our captain is going down with the ship.”

“Sigh.”

 “And he’s taking us all with him.“


 
The bobble-heads' comments faded in and out.

“Look … him. Skin … bones.”

“ He’s … e … maa … ci … aat … ed.”


 
“We’re emaciated?”  

“Man does not live by fonts alone.”

“Where’s the beef?”

“Nails … we’re the nails in his coffin.”


 Then I heard the unexpected. “Doc, I think he’s gone. He grabbed his head and collapsed.” 

 I can still wake up. I know I can.


 
“Slip slidin’ away.”

“Time‘s run out.“

“The hourglass is shattered.“

“Big Ben struck midnight under a moonless sky.”

 “Au revoir.”

“Farewell.”

“See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya! Just kidding. Stay cool. I’m outta here. Catch ya on the flip side.”

“Ciao.”




******
 
 Just inside the doorway, an ambitious young reporter reached into his inside pocket for his lucky, unsharpened, yellow number-two pencil. Its familiar groves snapped in place between his teeth. Moving to a corner away from the hustle and bustle of death, he slouched over his iPad to note:

 Front Page Submission:

Poverty Kills Pulitzer Winner, Leslie T. Banks

‘The room was empty. All of Mr.Bank’s rooms were empty … ‘

 Desperately, with his hands sweating, his overbite clamping tighter and deadline-fever holding his mind at a standstill, the reporter thought: Man, I could sure use some frickin’ help here, or my job’s T-O-A-S-T.

His head rang.

 
“Hey there, Mister Big-Shot Reporter.”

“Emerson, Smith and Jones,“

 "The Triad …”

 
Ambitious eyes glazed over. Resolute fingers arched over the slick, font surface.

 
“… at your service.”


This Sentence Starts The Story contest entry

Recognized


I would like to thank Angelheart for her art 'Unspoken Thoughts,' the company in my head who continually tried to up-stage one another, and you the reader for joining us.

Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.
jamais (French)- never
Flambe Royale- in this case it would be Peaches Flambe Royale; a dessert that is flamed before serving.
sesquipedalian- some one who uses long words
garrulous- an overly talkative person; (slang)a wind-bag
belies - covers up
trepedation - fear
schmaltzy - exaggerated sentimentalism; corniness; mushy sentiment
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