The following was written in anticipation of my thesis. The final copy was heavily changed.
It was five in the morning, and he had just finished writing the happiest story known to humankind. For a literary utopia, it was brief. The usual pretentious wankery of a writer wasn’t visible nor was it even needed. All the writer had to show for himself was a pen and a paper and a smile.
That was the first sentence. Smile. It was also the last. In between there were 98 other words that when read together, made the reader feel like classical music really does sound like dancing and jazz really does taste like martinis.
At the time of its completion, a frog for a window creaked its usual celebration and a radiator banged out a rustic congratulation. A single flickering light hung some five feet from the ceiling into the middle of the black hole in which the man lived. Occasionally some light escaped, illuminating an undifferentiated mass of a room. Not much glimmered in the galaxy besides the paper on which he wrote his nirvana; it shined like a dove about to fly off a desk caked in coffee stains and medical gumdrops.
The man, who before was just a forty-three year old hermit with an overdue rent and indefatigable stench diffusing throughout his apartment, could be seen hurdled over the paper. Whatever strength remained in his hands was found clasping the literary origami at his desk. His shadow stretched grossly into the darkness.
No one else knew about the masterpiece yet. Even its author was a bit mystified when words stumbled in such a way to let him know he had completed everything he needed to. As quickly as he began, it ended, and finally, he was finished. Poof. That’s the sound he made when he realized it was all over.
He needed to tell someone, but who would he tell? His mother? Last time he saw her, she was truly an unhappy person wilting away in an old-age home. The man thought it was because she was getting old and she couldn’t do anything about it. Being sad was enough for her, he thought. That would all change with this story. He reached for the phone under a pile of old magazines, hitting the light in the middle of the room. It swayed back and forth, and for a while, the room waved gray.
Ring ring. Mother? It’s Gregory Oblakany. How is everything?
Great. Great. That’s great to hear, Mom.
Who is this?
Sorry for calling at such a time and all, but you must understand how pressing this is.
I don’t know who this is. You have the wrong number, I think.
You have the wrong number, kid.
Is this not the Wellington Retirement Home?
No. But it’s pretty much the same thing. This is a funeral home. Mauta’s Funeral Home.
Well I apologize for the confusion, sir.
No problem. Mr. Obla….
Mr. Oblakany. Wait a second…
Ah, so this is indeed the Wellington Retirement Home?
You’re the man whose family… I send my condolences, sir. I’m sure there isn’t a word I can offer that will help.
I think you have the wrong number.
I’ll try calling again, you know these damn things. Bye.
Wait Mr. Oblaka…
Click. The light had stopped swaying and two hours had passed and the man was still holding on to the phone. Cherry blossom kisses from the sun peaked into the room. As it turned out, Gregory simply forgot to put the phone down. He was stuck deciding to see if he should call the number again or not. He placed the phone down. He picked it back up. Repeat. With each movement, the light swayed again. Flicker. Flick.
It was time to try again, he was starting to feel woozy.
Ring ring. Mother? This is Gregory Oblakany. How is everything?
Gregory? Gregory is that you?
Ah mother. Great to hear your voice.
Gregory you are not well. You need help.
Great. Great. Great to hear you are doing so well.
Gregory. Where are you? I’ll come and pick you up.
Oh I must have the wrong number, sorry.
Gregory, don’t hang up.
Click. Gregory was surprised how he could forget his mother’s number so easily after everything. There was no other explanation; he must be typing in the wrong digits. But that wasn’t the worst part – he still hadn’t told his story. Six hours had said goodbye since its completion, and no one knew how the story had ended except Gregory. Some barely even knew it began.
Reaching for the telephone to try again, he fell on his knees into a pile of rotten apple cores. Normally, he would have gotten up, but his reactions were getting slower and slower with each passing hour. He expected that. Gumdrops, he tried to mutter.
Infuriated for not being able to do anything now, he found his way to the floor and planted himself gently among a pizza box and an old newspaper stack. He brought the paper with him to the floor, and with a pair of heavyset eyes, he cradled it to bed.
He was happy. He read it again and again until he could read no more. He was smiling.
Eden 2.0. The name fit perfectly.