I’m almost finished with the self-edit of my novel. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to post an entire chapter to my blog. Not much context is needed, for this chapter can almost stand alone as a prologue, but I recommend reading the novel’s teaser I posted before it if you haven’t already. WARNING: Although the offending material is in the minority, if you’re deeply religious, or offended by vulgar language and/or explicit sexual content, I highly advise you to keep scrolling on (also sorry for WordPress’s strange formatting). Enjoy!
Who is Walter Huxley?
“I am equipped with the tunnel of life. Through it passes new life into this world, into this dimension! I am equipped with a portal to another dimension. Vagina! Vagina! Vagina! Do you hate me because I refuse to be fruitful, to multiply this dimension? Is this why you scream, you bleed, you pain me so? Oh my vagina, vagina . . . VAGINA!”
“Okay thank you Avery,” the group’s moderator Raymond smiled plastically like a Christian camp counselor.
“But I’m not finished yet!” Avery responded angrily.
“As I’ve said before,” he said cautiously, “we have a limit of ten minutes per reading in order to allow time for everyone.”
Avery’s narrow face compressed behind her glasses, then exploded, “Fuck! Shit! Cunt! . . . d-d-dick sucker!…” Raymond kept his plastic smile on as she rattled off a torrent of obscenities.
The regular attending Octo-owls all knew Avery had Turret’s, although no one was brave enough to confirm that with her. It was just one of the many elephants that sat amongst the cluttered cluster of chairs in the cafe. Everyone had their elephant. Walter imagined however that the young poet did exaggerate the severity of her syndrome in order to be limitlessly exonerated from calling whosoever whatever whenever she felt like it. He liked her for that. Often what she screamed out loud he screamed in his head.
A few hands clapped politely as Avery walked hurriedly with her head down from the lectern back to her seat. Her small feet scurried like field mice under a long black dress. Her arms crossed over a binder she always had clung to her chest like a security blanket. There was a tautness of mistrust in the language of her string-beanish body. Given the disability, her past was most likely saturated with ridicule. Her eyes remained toward the floor as she sat. Two large ears poked out like satellite dishes through her straight black hair. Walter, although not particularly wanting anything more, had a strange fascination about nibbling on those ears. No other ears had evoked this feeling in him but hers. For some reason, those ears were the most beautiful he’d ever seen.
“I’m sorry to put you through this,” he said turning to Lola. “Are you sure you want to stay?” Lola laughed quietly.
“Yes. This is quite entertaining to say the least.”
There were many entertaining types amongst the Octo-owls. Writers generally are misfits and the group had every shade. The Octo-owls began as a group of eight struggling writers who defecated their bad writing on one another every Tuesday night at the Sit n’ Stay Café in order to purge their minds of it. One of these writers, Raymond Troy, wrote a moderately successful romance novel and he attributed it to these sessions. Inspired, he decided to open the group to the public in order to help other struggling writers. Although the membership now fluctuated above and below eight, the name stuck. Each week those who read their works out loud, no matter how bad, were credited with a week of writing. Consecutive weeks of writing were rewarded with progressing benchmark tokens: first week, one month, three months, six months, a year and so forth. In plain language, it was Alcoholics Anonymous for those suffering from writer’s block. This was where Raymond, also a recovering addict, adopted the structure.
Although Walter didn’t wholeheartedly believe in the meetings, he figured he should take advantage of them as they were less than a block away from his soon to be former home. The meetings were encouraging only because typically everyone else there was much worse off than he was, whether it be financially, giftedly, or in most cases mentally; he often felt like a well-able runner competing in the Special Olympics. There were a few bright spots however, such as the regular attendee Wyatt Stroud, a heavily Hemingway-influenced novelist who Walter had become friendly with. He came from Texas originally and always wore what is sometimes referred to as a Canadian Tuxedo: a denim jacket and jeans. He had a thick build, beard, and Texan accent.
The other regulars fell somewhere under the loose label of what Raymond defined as writers. There were novelists, poets, songwriters, copywriters, screen and play writers, speech writers—it seemed any title addended with the word writer was invited. There was even a cookbook writer named Thomas Tucker. Tom’s inclusion was debatable, but the group seemed to look passed this as he filled their bellies every week with food. His food, unlike their writing, was remarkable. It was a symbiotic relationship of sorts; Tom provided them with nourishment—for many of the Octo-owls were starving artists, while they provided him with taste buds.
Some other notable regulars were of course the vagina-obsessed poet Avery Hynamen. There was James Riggle, lead screamer for a local hardcore metal band, Death is What She Breathes. Every week he’d come up and scream out a fresh set of lyrics, most often about his on-and-off-again girlfriend Jezebel, scribbled onto pizza boxes, napkins, or once an old pair of her panties. With the exception of his multicolored tattooed skin tone and gigantic earlobe plugs, he resembled and spoke like a white rapper more than the suburban trust fund inheritor he was.
Then there was Layne Grimey, an Octo-owl original. He was an unemployed middle-aged comic who thought being unnecessarily honest about his insecurities and misgivings was the ticket to fame. Walter much preferred to hear Avery’s nonsensical vagina monologues to Layne’s unpleasant rants about a small penis, suicide attempts, and a cheating spouse who left him over ten years ago. More often than not, his standup ended in a bath of tears and awkward laughs, but he came devoutly every week as if it was the only thing keeping him alive.
Lastly there was the Christian erotic fantasy writer Louis Bonner, who somehow, in impressively wild and creative fashions, justified the perverse fantasies of his prolonged virginity in the eyes of God. Walter always looked forward to his readings, a favorite being the story of the passage of God’s seed to the Virgin Mary through a line of diversely intercoursing angels from Heaven to Earth. For the regular members of the Octo-owls, including Walter, the meetings were more for therapy than penmanship training.
“Walter, I see you’ve brought a new friend . . . What kind of writer are you my dear?” Raymond said in his nasally squeamish tone.
“Oh no, I’m not a writer,” Lola said uncomfortably, “just a supporter.”
“Oh, well we’re glad to have you…” Raymond flimsily held out his palm, indicating her to finish.
“Lola. What a pretty name. So you’re supporting Walter huh?” She looked at Raymond dumbfounded.
“No I just sat next to him because he’s cute,” she said with a sarcastic snare.
“I want to fuck his brains out too!” Avery blurted in agreement from the back of the room. Everyone’s eyes shot towards her and she quickly tucked herself behind her binder like a turtle retreating into its shell.
Well then, big yummy ears here I come! Walter thought excitedly.
“Well Walter, would you like to give your reading for this week?” Raymond said sternly to bring the attention back on himself. Walter began to feel clammy.
“And did you do your own writing, or did you opt for the assignment?”
“Okay then, tell us, who is Walter Huxley?”
Walter stood from his chair and gingerly made his way to the lectern near the front window of the café. He grabbed it like a teenage boy feeling breasts for the first time. Breathing deeply, his eyes stayed glued to the paper in front of him. “Relax Walter, we have no judgments here,” Raymond said.
Sure, not outwardly, Walter thought, knowing the many unavoidable judgments he passed on others who stood behind this lectern. However, it was not the Octo-owls he was concerned with, it was Lola. In this gathering of nutcases he was tame, but Lola would be the first person of full sanity to hear his work. He took a deep breath and began:
“I’m sometimes hard to understand because I unconsciously start speaking in metaphors. My train of thought often wanders after budding from an idea as it has to bend and twist around the soil of my brain, but it will almost always bloom into a destination. On the rare occasion it does derail itself from too much momentum and mass, I apologize for the casualties, but my train was never intended to carry passengers . . . In other words, I babble. But hopefully you can find the beauty between my babblings, or at least get some odd enjoyment out of my odd enthusiasm.
“I sometimes also make up eloquent sounding words—being fully aware of my lexical violation, but artful linguistics sometimes requires it. Also Shakespeare made up his own words so fuck off. Speaking of comparing myself to Shakespeare, you could describe me as arrogant, self-absorbed, promiscuous, impulsive, reckless, narcissistic, irrational, contradicting, charlatanic, satanic, insecure, indecisive, self-loathing, self-loving, or just down right confusing, and at times, you’d be absolutely correct because at one time or another I probably was. But in the process of choosing an identity one must try on all their available masks.
“I try to guide my life according to the quotes of no one but myself, but often discover someone may have said them better before me. This is what I call inspiration, and for the sake of sanity, it’s always welcomed to know I’m not alone. Great philosophy is like a puzzle made from a broken mirror; once you peace together its brilliance, you realize it’s only yourself staring back.
“The greatest writers are always the greatest liars, but within their lies is a beautiful truth we call philosophy and this is why we forgive them. However, as much as we writers like to lie, it’s only a covering to expose our darkest truths; our most revealing insecurities so you’ll understand the reasoning behind our philosophy: our insanity. Carefully concealed in our pages you can find every perverse thought inscribed on the bone of our skulls like day markings on a prison cell wall. But it is this vicious honesty that balances the pendulum of our characters; the reason why you hate us, love us, pity us, worship us, and immortalize us; and the reason why you see yourself within us. We sacrifice sanity for the salvation of others’.
“I am Walter Huxley and I am one of the loneliest people on earth; I am a writer. I have friends, but not a best friend. I have lovers, but no one to love. I do however have writing, my wonderful and tortuous writing.
“I presume I have sparked your interest because I did my best to scare you away, or at least lose you—that’s what I was trying to convey with the whole train metaphor thing if you didn’t get it. Anyways, I only ask if you’re going to step inside my head, please wipe your feet before doing so because it’s already filthy enough.”
Walter’s eyes came up from the paper. The look on everyone’s face was not one of satisfaction or dislike, but confusion. Shit, shouldn’t have looked up, Walter thought to himself.
“Uh… eerrum…” His eyes became lost in the words on the paper and slipped like someone trying to find a footing on ice. He closed them until the dizzy spell passed. These dizzy bouts of anxiety had become a common occurrence lately. When his eyes reemerged, the confused expressions still remained.
“Walter are you okay?” Raymond asked finally.
“Yeah . . . I just haven’t had much to eat today.”
“Here, eat some of my honey-baked cornbread!” Tom excitedly rose from his chair with a slice.
“Thank you Tom,” Walter said, gratefully taking the offered piece. His face lifted with joy as it entered his mouth.
“Well?” Tom asked beggingly.
“Oh Tom, fantastic as always!”
“Oh goodie!” He squealed with delight and clapped his hands.
“Please sit down Tom. Are you finished Walter?” Raymond didn’t like when things were out of order.
“Yeah I think—no wait, I’m not. I’m sorry, that was a piece of shit.”
“Aww… what?!” Tom panicked. “I knew I should’ve used the blueberry honey over the clover—stupid-stupid-stupid!” Tom repeatedly smacked himself on the head. Although debatable as a writer, Tom certainly was an artist, this display of self-abusive perfectionism an emblematic mark.
“No Tom, not your cornbread, my writing. That was the most disorganized clusterfuck of thoughts to be put on paper. It just reeks of pretentiousness. That’s what you do when something sucks, just lather it up with a lacquer of pretentiousness so nobody can look into it and see it for the piece of shit it truly is.”
“Walter come on, that’s not true. It’s a diamond in the rough,”—Raymond’s favorite consoling comment and the metaphor he used like a truck stop whore throughout his entire novel.
Walter tried to continue reading but couldn’t, so he just stared through his audience blankly. “How did I get here?” he said thinking out loud. “This isn’t what my life was supposed to be. I had everything I wanted and I threw it away, for this? Please someone tell me I’m not a fucking writer!”
“That’s not true. You are a writer, you’re just a—”
“Yes Raymond, a diamond in the rough. I get it, but you can only polish a turd so much. Maybe I’m not being clear enough. Let me strip away the cryptic metaphors so maybe you all can understand—I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I was a rock star—or at least very close to one, and now I work at Guitar Center. In addition to my experience as a professional musician, I also have a degree in physics, and even a few years of managerial experience, but still, the best job I can get is Guitar Center working with high school kids. I’m in debt to my eye balls and it keeps growing every day because once again, I work at Guitar Center. Everybody wants money from me and I’m forced to pay them back—whether it be by law or lawsuit—before I can even feed myself. My bank, because almost every debt can be forgiven except for a student loan; my band and label—correction my former band and label—because I decided to back out on being a rock star, and for what? To be a writer? A skill that I’m so brilliant at that I can’t even put together one page!” Walter paused, his breath pulsing rapidly. Whether he liked it or not, everything was finally spilling out.
“Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much if it wasn’t my songs, my ideas, and my work that brought those assholes to stardom anyways. And now they’re suing me?” His eyes couldn’t help but direct themselves toward Lola. While the Octo-owls had some understanding of his past, only she knew fully. “Granted they are in their right to do so. A band is a relationship and signing a record deal is like signing a marriage certificate and I bailed on the honeymoon. I guess I could fix all this. I could go finish the one album I promised. The problem is I can’t. Two people no longer exist in this world on account of me and every time I sing those songs I’m reminded of this.”
At this point the waterworks began and his voice strained somewhere between a scream and whine. “Can dreams only come true once in life? Is there no coming back after abandoning your entire life’s work at twenty-five? Is it too late for me? I don’t know and that’s the scariest part. With my first dream I was always so sure, but now I doubt myself every day. Every time my pen touches paper or my fingers to a keyboard something tells me I fucked up. But yet every time I think to go back, something pushes me back towards writing. It’s so frustrating being stuck in the middle and not making any progress in any direction. In fact, it’s what I hate the most; not being broke; not having to move in with my grandmother; not my degrading job; not losing everything I worked so hard for; but being stagnant! I have a dream, but no direction.
“It just wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be my silver year; the silver anniversary of my birth. While technically it still is, I just thought the celebration would be a little more grand; I thought I’d be on top of the world, not crushed beneath it. I guess I just like to be miserable and broke because every time I’ve managed any sort of stability in life, I have an irresistible urge to throw it all away. Why can’t I be like everyone else and just settle into a nice and cozy life?”
He then took his lathered piece of shit and began tearing it in a puerile fit. “Why-why-why-why…”
“Because you’re a writer,” Avery squeaked from beneath her binder. “We’re the loneliest and most miserable people on earth—you said it yourself.” The perplexed faces transferred to Avery. They were used to her fits of shouted vulgarities, but a coherent, cohesive thought? This was a first. After a moment’s pause she shouted, “F-F-FUCK YOU! Suck my dirty clit you cum-sucking retards,” to scare away their stares.
“You understood what I was saying?” Walter said feeling touched.
“Uh-huh.” She smiled sweetly.
“You’re right,” Walter said, “I am a writer. But I’m not miserable without a purpose; I’m miserable because I want to change the world.”
“What do you mean you want to change the world?” Layne Grimey, the sad comedian asked.
“Well like you Layne, although not so… vividly, I funnel my misery into my writing in the hope that everything that’s ugly now will someday be seen as beautiful; that it will all be worth it in the end because I changed the world.”
“But that’s just absurd, who just says they’re going to change the world? No wonder you can’t write; that’s a lot of pressure.” Layne looked as if he was chewing on a piece of gristle trying to mull the idea over.
“But doesn’t every artist hope that their work will have an impact on people?” Walter said to the entire room. The Octo-owls looked at one another then slowly nodded their heads. “Then you too, in some way, want to change the world.”
“But you say it so bluntly,” Louis Bonner, the repressed virgin added. “I mean it sounds really egotistical and crazy when you say you want to change the world. Jesus teaches humility.”
“You don’t think Jesus was ever called crazy or egotistical? Do you think he brought Christianity—purposefully or not—to the world by being passive?”
“So you think you’re Jesus now?” Louis said dignified. Walter and he had stumbled into many debates on faith in the past so Louis’s objection was almost expected.
“Don’t put words in my mouth Louis. I’m simply trying to say if everyone was meek the world would never change, so thank God for those who try.”
“Well, I guess I can’t say I disagree, so Amen to that.” Suddenly many hands with questions went up throughout the room. Walter was beginning to feel the subject of a press conference. He pointed to his friend Wyatt Stroud, the Hemingway novelist.
“Why do ya wanna to change the world?”
“I’m not sure exactly. It’s just programmed into me. Some people grow up wanting to be doctors, firemen, football players—I’ve always just wanted to change the world. I thought being a rock star would enable me to do so, but I found it not to be the case, at least not in the way I want to change it.”
“So you want a revolution then?” James Riggle the screaming suburbanite stood from his chair. “Fuck yeah! This country’s gone to shit. It’s about time someone does something about it. I’ll join you.”
“Thank you James, but no. I don’t want a revolution, and certainly not a war, but more of a renaissance. As you know, two people have already died in the name of my pursuit to change the world and I don’t want anymore. Life is special and I want people to realize that. I want them to ponder and poke at the phenomenon of it because maybe then they’ll appreciate what a rare gift it is. Nothing puts that in perspective better when you realize that Earth is but one of hundreds of billions of planets in the galaxy, and our galaxy is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. The earth is insignificant, and while I’m certain life exists somewhere else in the universe, it is rare, and intelligent life, extremely rare. So how lucky are we that we exist? That the winds of energy that control the cosmos happened to deposit matter in the form of the human race? Regardless of how you believe that came to be, there’s no need for theology to tell you how special it is. If we humans realized this more, I think we’d start behaving differently. We’d start looking out for ourselves and this world better because right now as a species we don’t particularly have a universal view of existence; it’s extremely shortsighted. We only have one Earth and our survival is dependent on preserving it along with the other life forms we share it with. We’re resting upon a fragile tower of life built from the microbial levels up, and each piece pulled from this tower only brings us closer to our own demise.
“Also I feel the time in which we exist is one of the most important in history, particularly in American history, but hardly anyone seems to realize it. Thanks in part to the social leveling of the Internet—much analogous to the social leveling seen after the creation of the printing press, America is experiencing a midlife crisis of sorts in which we’re finally starting to turn away from our youthful, imperial arrogance to embrace an economy built on the sharing of information and the empowerment of all individuals; a symbiosis of humanity and capitalism for the betterment of both. Although these seem like conflicting concepts on the surface—”
“Okay Walter. I let you go a few minutes over, but I’m sorry, your time is up,” Raymond asserted his lasso over the meeting again.
“But I want to hear what he has to say d-d-d-dick sucker!” Avery contested.
“I’m sorry but the program must follow certain rules and guidelines in order to work.”
“I’ll gladly give up my readin’ time to hear him out,” Wyatt said with his Texas charm. “I love it when Walt starts goin’ on about space and time and all that other stuff.” Agreements went around the room like a bombing brigade.
“You don’t want to do that,” Raymond smiled uneasily, squirming in his chair, “you’re getting your three-month token today.”
“Fuck my token!” Concurrence resonated again and the room became noticeably louder.
“I’m sorry that’s just not how things work! If we want to be better writers we must follow the program. Walter please take a seat.”
“Why because it worked for you?” James Riggle the screaming suburbanite proclaimed. “Not everyone learns the same way.” Walter was pleased in the way this meeting was going. Apparently he wasn’t the only one holding in a dislike for Raymond and his program; maybe the Octo-owls weren’t as hopeless as he thought.
“Yeah, here’s someone we’re tryin’ to help with their writin’ and yer program is prohibitin’ us from doin’ so,” Wyatt added. “Isn’t the whole point of us meetin’ here every Tuesday to help each other? Who the hell cares about tokens and time limits. I vote to get rid of both!”
The room shook with agreement. “This isn’t something that’s up for a vote!” Raymond retorted. “The program works fine just the way it is. Its design has been proven.” Raymond’s shell of authority was beginning to crack and fall around him.
“Proven? The only person it’s worked for is you,” Walter joined in. Suddenly a pride in being a writer rose up within him—although he had yet to prove himself as one. “We’re writers; we don’t like structure. We learn on our own terms!” The Octo-owls began to holler and bang their fists on anything nearby.
“And that type of reasoning is why you’ll fail. You need structure; this is why you all came to me!”
“We don’t come for you, we come for each other, our fellow Octo-owls, right fellas?” Wyatt’s booming voice cut through the noise while Raymond’s shrills struggled to find footing.
“If you don’t agree with the program you can leave, but the Octo-owls is my creation and I am the only one allowed to change it!” Raymond’s sincerity was revealing itself to be all but a perfunctory measure to the fulfillment of his ego.
“Fine we’ll call ourselves somethin’ else. That name doesn’t even make sense anyways.”
“You idiots can call yourselves whatever you’d like, but it won’t be here! Good luck, I highly doubt any of you will do anything with your lives, much less have a career in writing,” Raymond said pointing to the door.
The uprising came too quickly to realize that the group formally known as the Octo-owls were now without a home. Raymond’s sister owned the café, and only through him did they have access to it after hours.
“My house is only a block away,” Walter said. “We can go there for now.” The group looked around apprehensively, not sure what they had just done like someone coming down from a blind fit of rage. For some this had been a ritual for years; their entire life’s focus was aimed on getting their next token.
“I can’t!” Layne screamed frantically. “I can’t leave. I need this too much.”
Raymond smiled sinisterly. “Anyone else? This is your last chance.”
“I can’t do it too,” James said sitting back down in his chair. “I’m sorry guys, but it sounds like a lot of work starting all over again.”
Louis still seemed to be at a draw. “I need to pray; I need to let God decide.” He picked up his things and left hurriedly.
“I’m going to stay too,” Tom folded. “I just need mouths to feed and it looks like most of them are staying here.”
Wyatt and Avery went to stand by Walter’s side. Lola was still in her chair on the verge of laughter. Having no vested interest, she could objectively sit back and see the hilarity in it all. She was also a little drunk from the whiskey she’d been drinking earlier. “Wow you guys take your little book club, or whatever this is, a little too seriously,” she said finally giving over to laughter.
“Avery Hynaman, Wyatt Stroud, Walter Huxley, and Lola whoever you are, you are officially banned from the Octo-owls! Leave immediately!” Raymond executed like a judge.
“Oh no, I can’t be in your club; I’m so sad!” Lola said mockingly. “Whatever shall I do with my life?” The refugee Octo-owls joined her in laughter and continued to do so as they all exited.
As the group of four took the short walk to Walter’s condo, Lola stared queerly at Walter. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing. This night just isn’t what I expected it to be—but when is anything ever as expected when it involves you? I guess I’m starting to realize really what a strange life you lead Quarky, even by my standards.”
“Well strange moments are what I adore most in life,” he said with a proud smile.
The group gathered together atop the sparse furniture left in Walter’s condo. “This is all I have left, sorry Wyatt,” Walter said placing a paint bucket upside down on the floor. Avery sat awkwardly on the beach chair—binder still clutched, and Walter joined Lola on the broken cot.
“Ah, it’s okay Walt.” Wyatt’s voice bounced around the walls of the empty and tile-floored condo without coming to rest.
“As you can see I’m moving out soon—in fact tonight is the last night I’ll have the place, so we’ll have to find another place next week, or whenever we meet next. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend as regularly as I have.
“But who’s going to lead our meetings?” Avery asked afraid.
“Who said I was the leader?”
“Well, I just figured since you kind of spearheaded this whole thing.”
“Why? Just because I was the guy behind the lectern when we decided we had enough of Raymond? We all decided this on our own. How about we have no leader? We’ll just keep everything very democratic. Plus, I don’t know how great of a leader I’d be right now. I’m at a very . . . unstable point in my life.”
“Well, should we at least have a name?” she asked.
“We don’t necessarily need one, but I’ve got a nomination.” Walter smiled. “The H-Bar.”
“The what?” Wyatt blurted. “What’s an H-Bar?”
Walter laughed. “Umm… how to explain this?” Walter had the name stored away for some music project or an actual bar, but never thought of how to explain it in layman terms. “Well in quantum mechanics there’s something called Planck’s constant—”
“How’d I know it had something to do with physics?” Lola sighed.
“Hear me out. Really, it’s a cool concept, and the more I think about it, it actually fits us well. As I was saying, in quantum mechanics there’s something called Planck’s constant, and in calculations, it’s represented by a lower case h with a line slashed through the top of it—an h-bar. Quantum mechanics was birthed from the discovery of Planck’s constant because it determines the size of individual units of energy, mass, and other constituents that make up the subatomic world. For example, an individual unit of light is called a photon. In order to calculate how energetic a red photon is versus a blue one, you have to multiply the light wave frequency of the color red or blue by Planck’s constant. From this you’ll find a red photon is less energetic than a blue photon. Planck’s constant is also used to determine the mass of particles, electron orbits, and much more. It gives us the framework we need to work around a world that we cannot see.” Bewilderment hung on their faces. “Sorry, it’s kind of tough to sum up so briefly.”
“So if I wanted to calculate the energy produced from the eight-thousand nerve endings of a female clitoris during an orgasm I could use Planck’s constant to do so?”
Walter tried not to laugh but couldn’t help himself. “Well, if you wanted to use subatomic units for your calculation, then yes . . . I’m curious Avery, please forgive me if I’m wrong, but I assumed you had Turret’s, but you’ve yet to have a single tic since we left the café.”
“I do—or did. I’ve had it under control for some years now though.”
“But what about all the—”
“Dick suckers, cunts, and fucks?” Avery finished.
“That’s just me using it as a cover to keep people at bay; to allow me to tell them what I honestly think.” She smiled acceptingly. “That’s why I like what you said about writers being overly-honest liars. It really spoke to me. I embellish my syndrome to be overly honest with people.” Walter secretly celebrated that his guess had been right. The others looked at her more baffled than they were before about her.
“Anyways, I’m still not gettin’ all this. How does Planck’s constant, or the h-bar apply to us?” Wyatt asked.
“Well I always thought, how cool would it be to actually see the quantum world in person? What if we were able to shrink down to the world in which we can see Planck’s constant in action? In the quantum world, things are very strange. We could disappear and reappear in another place, walk through walls, be in two, three, or as many places as we’d like at the same time; basically a world with infinite possibilities and realities. Granted, I don’t know how in control we’d be of these possibilities and realities, but it’s still a place I’d like to visit. I often imagine this place as a bar—that I’ve aptly named the H-Bar—when I do thought experiments in my head. Anyways, writers—like the H-Bar—are typically strange. We don’t always fit into reality, so we create our own; we explore the dimension of time as if it were a room, and that’s why the H-Bar is our kind of place, a place with no such thing as time or reality . . . I don’t know, what do you think?”
“It’s beautiful!” Avery said starry-eyed.
“I still don’t get it exactly, but I like it,” Wyatt added, then presented the name for a final vote. “All in favor of the name the H-Bar say yay.” The group of four responded in agreement. “All right, welcome to the H-Bar everyone!” There was a short celebration and then silence.
“Now what?” Avery asked.
“Well I don’t know about you, but if this is a bar I’m having a drink,” Lola said heading towards the kitchen. “Anyone care to join?”
“Great idea!” Wyatt concurred and everyone followed.
Lola searched through Walter’s empty cabinets without success. “I guess all we have is this one glass,” she said holding up the glass she drank from earlier.
“Fuck it, let’s just drink from the bottle,” Wyatt said, eyeing the bottle of Jack Daniels thirstily. “It’s the best way to drink Jack anyhow.”
“I like your style,” Lola eyed Wyatt keenly. Walter took the empty glass and filled it with water from the tap. “What are you doing?” Lola asked puzzled.
“I need a chaser.” She laughed.
“Maybe you’re really not cut out to be a rock star after all.”
“I’ll need a chaser too,” Avery said meekly.
“I guess you and I are the only real drinkers here Wyatt. I’ll let you have the first drink.” Lola tipped the bottle towards him.
“Thanks, but I feel like we should be toasting to somethin’—any suggestions?”
“How about we toast to time?” Walter suggested.
“Why do I feel another physics lesson coming on?” Lola rolled her eyes.
“Let’s celebrate this place in space and time, because in the real world, we’ll never be able to come back. While our future is infinite, our past is zipping up right behind us, closing its doorways forever. May this moment someday become a treasured memory as the beginning of something great!”
“Cheers.” Wyatt took a mouthful then handed the bottle to Lola.
“Cheers,” she said and passed it to Avery.
“Cheers.” Avery warily took a small sip with a grimacing face. She coughed and reached for the glass of water. “Here you go,” she said passing the bottle to Walter. He stared down its orifice.
“I really hope this is the beginning of something great because I could really use some great right now. Cheers!” he said then dove into a generous drink.
“Damn Walter,” Wyatt said impressed. Walter came up from the bottle coughing and extinguished the burning the best he could with the remaining water.
The group spent the rest of the night how most people envision writers spending their free time—getting fucked up. Eventually separated by their vices, Lola found herself alone drinking with Wyatt in the spare bedroom, and Walter found himself smoking with Avery in the living room.
“This is the first time I’ve seen you without that binder clung to your chest,” Walter said to Avery while they sat on his cot.
“Because I feel relaxed,” she grinned puffy and glossy-eyed.
“Good . . . Do you mind if I do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time?”
“I-I-I guess that depends on what it is,” she said nervously.
“Just tell me when to stop if you don’t like it.”
Walter’s eyes locked onto those beautiful ears he had so often fantasized about. He combed her hair behind the right one and took in its full magnificence. God, I am so weird, he thought before slowly leaning in. His open lips hovered over the ear, breathing softly into it. He took her low moans as a sign to proceed and gently bit down on her lobe. A scream grated across his ear drum.
“What?! Should I stop?”
“No-no, keep going!” she pleaded. He tugged more aggressively at the ear. “Uh… Uh… Uh—Ahhh!” Typically a woman screaming in pleasure was a good thing, but he hadn’t even kissed her yet and she was blaring like a siren. Walter suddenly felt awkward, but pressed forward as most young men would. His hand found its way up her dress and began climbing up her thighs. By the time it reached the promise land however, her underwear was soaked and she was coming down from what he estimated to be at least three orgasms. Never being in this predicament before, he was confused as to what he should do next.
“Um… are you okay?” he asked.
“Use your Planck’s constant to calculate that,” she said emphatically.
She then grabbed his head and kissed him forcefully in gratitude. All right, two girls in one day; I haven’t done this since I was on tour, Walter thought as her kiss seemed to signal she was ready for more. But to his surprise, she took his head and clung it to her chest as she so often did with her binder. Still holding his head, she then laid down on the cot and proceeded to go to sleep. Walter tried to remove his head but she clutched to it tighter. At this point he was too exhausted, high and drunk to fight her, and he too dozed off.
The next morning Walter awoke to a hammering headache exacerbated by the noise of a lawnmower outside his living room window. In a haze, he was slow to realize that he was alone. All that was left of Avery was a still wet stain on his cot and a jarring pain in his neck. Peculiarly, he felt a little depressed. She didn’t even offer a customary phone number or goodbye.
“Good morning dear,” Lola said coming out from the hallway in her underwear and Bob Dylan shirt. “Remind me to never pass out on a tile floor again.”
Walter sat up. “And remind me never to volunteer myself as a human teddy bear again.” She sat down beside him on the cot and immediately shot up.
“Is that what I think it is?!” she said looking at the stain. Walter laughed. “Fucking gross.”
“Well at least someone got off last night,” he said wryly.
“What, did mousey not reciprocate those howls of pleasure I was hearing from her last night?”
“As much as I’d like to take credit, not much talent was required; she finished multiple times before I even got her dress off. In fact, it never even came off.”
“And then what? She left?”
“No, she fell asleep.”
“And she didn’t at least have some sleepy sex with you?”
“Yeah, you’ve never taken a girl home that was too drunk to fuck, so she just lets you hump her while she passes out?”
“Not that I’m aware of. I like my partners to be at least conscious while I hump them,” he said looking at her cynically. “She made no effort to return the favor, instead she just cuddled me very aggressively.”
“Ah, the old spooning blue ball move—typical bitch. How some girls can sleep with an awkward boner in their ass crack all night beats me.” Lola’s brutal honesty was such a gift at times. The insight she gave to the other side of a sexual transaction had proven itself invaluable to Walter.
“No,” he gasped through laughs. “I was unwillingly made little spoon. She cuddled me like her binder, and she’s surprisingly strong; my neck is killing me.” Lola laughed barkingly in response. “So how’d you fare? Where’s Wyatt?”
“Two words: whiskey dick. He felt so ashamed he left last night.”
“So that makes three strikeouts and one goal.”
“I think you’re mixing up your sports, but yeah. Want to go to breakfast?”
“Sure—wait, let me check.” Walter opened the last remaining moving box and took out a jar half-full of pocket change—all that was left to his worth. But at least now he had hope. Avery, as perplexing as she was, was a small spark of confidence in his writing capabilities. His writing had meant something to her.
—Or so she said, one of Walter’s inner voices began. Maybe she just said that to get you in bed. I mean, she just up and left without even a goodbye or number. You’d think if she really felt a connection to your writing, she’d at least want to hear some more . . . Was I just used by Avery Hynamen?
The voice of doubt was hard to silence once it started, but he tried:
No. Maybe she just saw the stain and got embarrassed like Wyatt. Yeah that’s it. Come on Walter give yourself some credit.
“Walter!” Lola shouted.
“Yes?” he asked dumbfounded.
“You’re talking to yourself again aren’t you?” His eyes went down in embarrassment.
“At least not out loud this time. How could you tell?”
“You think I can’t tell by now when you go into that little head of yours? Come on I’ll pay today,” she said slapping him on the butt. “Even though you’re not technically my client anymore, we’ll be discussing business so I can write it off.” Walter was in too dire straits to refuse a free meal.
“Getting wined and dined by the label again, just like the good ol’ days.”
They returned to the Sit n’ Stay Café for breakfast. “Raymond practically begged me to ban you from the café, but my little brother’s club is supposed to bring me business, not take it away,” Susie, the Sit n’ Stay’s owner and Raymond’s sister said. “I didn’t put up with his little ego trips when we were kids; I don’t know why he’d think I’d put up with them now. The regular for you dear—the Elvis right?”
“Yes Susie,” Walter said as she jotted down his order.
“And for you beautiful?”
“Ah no need to flatter this one Susie; she’s just a regular.” Walter often brought his catches from karaoke night to her café the next morning for breakfast.
“Thanks asshole.” Lola scowled. “The Mediterranean sounds great.”
“All right I’ll put that in for you,” Susie said and collected the menus.
“So have you thought about it?” Lola said to Walter.
“Thought about what?” He pretended not to know.
“The show! Aren’t you tired of not having enough money to even eat? And you can finally write everything off for good: no more of me hounding you, no more lawsuit, no more Perfect Crime. You can finally focus on just being a writer.”
“You really think that I can just write off Quinn Quark with one show? No, here’s what will happen: I do the show, the record of course sells and my debt goes away, but instead of you and the label hounding me, I’ll be hounded by the media and the fans for an eternity about another show, a reunion, or another record. I won’t be taken seriously as a writer because no one will get passed my music, and I’ll turn into a miserable drunk and die in my late twenties like a reincarnated Jim Morrison. Are you willing to kill me for this show Lola?” Walter said with some shaded sarcasm. She sighed.
“Oh fuck off. Stop postulating the worst will always happen and maybe it won’t.”
“Oh yeah, because my life has just been a fountain of good fortune lately. Excuse me for not being a little more optimistic.”
“Here’s your coffee guys.” Susie returned to the table. They both took the break in the conversation to pantomime annoyance of each other with petulant facial contortions. “Food will be up soon.”
“Thank you Susie . . . Besides Lola, even if I wanted to do the show, you know I can’t sing.”
“Stop fucking saying that because it’s not true!” Lola’s frustration sprayed over the sleepy café, causing everyone to look briefly in their direction. She then softened her tone. “Only in your head does your voice not work. It sounded in perfect working order last night when you were singing and playing guitar for your little mouse girl. Can you at least meet with the band in a rehearsal studio and just see what happens? I’ll even bring along Minnie Mouse if that’s what it takes.”
“Am I sensing a little jealousy Lola?” Walter said, playfully smiling. Lola let out another throaty sigh.
“You’re not going to do it are you?”
They remained silent until the food arrived. Walter hungrily began to stuff his mouth while Lola stared at him in disgust. “Aren’t you the least bit curious as to where the show would be?” Walter, unable to respond verbally, shook his head no. “Oh too bad, I mean you always talked about how much you wanted to play the Greek.” Walter choked on his Elvis.
“The Greek Theatre?!” he said with his mouth still full. “Yeah right, Perfect Crime could never fill the Greek. That’ll just put me more under water.”
“I don’t know, have you looked at how many downloads and plays your online demos have received lately? No wonder the label is so angry they can’t cash in on it. Your enigmatic, J.D. Salinger-like persona has done nothing but spark more interest in Perfect Crime.”
“I have been getting recognized a lot more lately,” Walter said pondering. “And if I do the show it’s only going to get worse.”
“Okay, just thought I’d mention it,” Lola said and began eating. She could tell by the look on his face the voices were battling inside his head. Walter spoke so much of how badly he wanted to play the Greek on the two’s many visits to the Griffith Observatory. Both rested in the same municipal park, Griffith Park, nestled into the Hollywood hills (quite literally the Hollywood Sign overlooks both). He always said one day he’d play at the Greek in addition to also being a guest astronomy lecturer at the observatory’s monthly lecture program, All Space Considered.
“Who’s going to play bass?” Walter asked as casually as possible.
“Some studio guy named Flea,” Lola responded in the same casual tone.
“Flea?! The same Flea who played with The Mars Volta?”
“And The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Yeah that Flea.” The voices began to spat so much he couldn’t keep focus on his food.
“Okay I’ll try.”
Lola coughed. “You’ll what?! Did you just say you’ll try?”
“Yeah, I’ll try. No promises, but I’ll meet up with the band and see how it goes.”
“Oh Quarky!” she sat up and kissed him. “I know you don’t believe in him, but I’m going to take this as proof—thank God!”