I promised my wife I wouldn’t write any more stories because when I wrote, she complained, I went all Hemingway and shit. She hasn’t read any Hemingway.
I wrote this story and other stories and I put them in the bottom drawer of the nightstand until it got full. Then I put the stories in a box and lifted three of the floorboards and put them underneath. Since the bed is on top of the opening and we are always in the bed, she’s not yet noticed. Also, I write when she’s at work with some paper that used to be the tax forms she used for work until they updated the forms.
I had promised to take them to recycling.
I did not recycle them. I don’t know how I’m going to write on the new forms. They’ve got dense 10-point text on both sides now, something my wife suggested to her boss. Her suggestion saved the federal government something like $17 million. My wife got a promotion. She travels more now which means (a) more time for me to write, and (b) more sex for me when she returns, so I’m good. Still, I think we should have been given a portion of that cash.
I wrote in the backyard for years, winter and summer, until that time last February when I was out there for a whole month (almost) and it got cold. You have to get warm. I lit a fire. I was a fire. She put the pages back in the drawer burnt like pirate maps all around the edges.
I decide it is afternoon because I’ve found the whiskey bottle on the nightstand open, although the glass is dry and empty. I pour half a glass and take the hammer out of the nightstand drawer where it’s served as a paperweight for the crispy pages for several months now.
I turn the hammer around and use it to pry up the floorboard closest to the edge of the bed, which I can do without moving the bed or getting out of it. The board gives way easily. I’m going to hammer the nails in better after I look this time.
I pull the pages out, stapled together and not burned at all because the stories under the floorboards cannot be touched by fire or time. I wrote just the words begging me to leave them behind on the paper. Also, I only know unfinished stories. This part is about where if I say its nasty name I have to drink for real.
Drink for real is drinking instead of eating.
I laid back on the bed to read the story to myself, except the dialog which I read aloud in their voices. I don’t hear voices, I make them talk.
The story began in a desert, and I kill the desert with a rainstorm of words. There were two guys besides me in the desert tent, and their names were Trent and Stephen which I was pretty sure at the time was pronounced like the regular Steven but now I can’t remember so I wing it.
“Steven,” I begin, in an Alabama accent that sounds like he sounded to me, “You are nothing and nobody here.”
“Get a grip, Trent,” Stephen responds, “the war’s over in a month tops and I’m going back to medical school and you are going back to cleaning toilets. [I raise Stephen’s voice louder than the gunfire I’m creating by my stomping my feet on the bed.] “You do a crap job of it anyway!”
I laugh and tell them both to fuck off in the story and just now, in real time. They are dead in real life but still alive in the story. I can read these lines again and scoff at their ambitions since I have none.
Still, I want to read through to the end of the story so I can get back home. I need to get my head back in this bed so she can get on top of me when she returns and push the feelings out of me again.
When Jennifer arrives home, I will ask her for plain paper. I could surprise her and finish something new instead of working on the old stories. I lie back down in the bed with the pages of my story spread around me on the bed and wait for her to return.
Jill Bronfman is a professor, a lawyer, and she shelters two practitioners of the dark arts of teenaging.