Sunday, December 7, 2008


I have a confession to make; the reason I started writing this blog was that I was in the midst of the grip of writer's block. My first novel was completed in 1998 and soon after I began work on the second one. By 2005 I had a decent rough draft of an estimated 75% completed novel. Over the next two years, I found it nearly impossible to sit down and write because a sense of frustration had paralyzed me. In late 2006 I started take baby steps by the writing of my thoughts totally unrelated to the book writing process. Over the past 2 1/2 years I have written more than two hundred separate blog entries and recently, my writing soul has begun to re-awaken. The first thing I did was to sit down and read the unfinished novel and, in a word, it was boring. I spent months thinking about how to liven up the content so that the potential reader may find it more interesting or palatable. I came up with a couple of good ideas and I now work every day, trying to say things well and true.

Writing is hard for me, as it was even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.” That is exactly the way I felt during a period of dormancy which my blog-writing activity has helped to dispel (hopefully for the last time). I am "going public" by placing this information in this blog so that my commitment to accelerate my efforts to produce a work of value is on the record. In doing so, over the next few months I will also include certain selections from my ongoing work whhich I believe will serve as an added inducemnt to keep going, through thick and thin, so to speak. I appreciate the annention of anyone who takes the time to read from this point on, and I would certainly appreciate any comments that might arise as a result. Here is a just-completed example:

Richard Scrugg’s daily routine included reading the New York Times first thing in the morning. He read the online version of the newspaper because it was free whereas the print version was, as he put it, a drain on his economic resources. That and the afternoon delivery of the venerable paper when he would rather be napping were the two reasons he would give if anyone ever asked. No one had inquired so far, but he was ready if they did. He grumbled as he noticed on the screen that there was a rather prominent obituary section in the newspaper’s index. He hadn’t noticed that before. Why, he thought, did he happen to notice this for the first time this particular morning? He grumbled again. A lot of stuff like this was happening to him lately. His thrice weekly golf game was curtailed by Joe Emerson’s fatal heart attack while he was trimming bushes around his house two weeks ago. Some friend he was. The dollar bursting collapse of the housing market followed by the free fall of the banks and financial sector was another thing. He took these events personally.

“What time did you get up?”

His wife, Susan, stood at the doorway of his mall cubicle, wearing her ratty bathrobe and sipping her coffee.

He stopped reading, turned and rubbed his eyes. They were sore.

“Did you know the goddamned Times has a section on obituaries?”

“All newspapers have an obituary section. Why are you so interested in that?”

“Online? Why would they waste time to put something like that online? Doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“People, especially important people, who die are part of the news.” She rolled her eyes ceiling ward, then looked at him.

“I asked you what time you got up.”

Richard shrugged. “I don’t know. Early. I don’t look at the goddamned clock when I get out of bed.”

“Don’t get all huffy with me. I just asked a question.”

“Everything’s going to hell in a hand basket and you expect me to keep a stop watch on what I do. What do you want from me?”

“I know you haven’t been sleeping well. That’s why I asked.”

“What the ____ difference does it make as to what time I get out of bed?”

“I will not stand here and listen to that kind of language.” She turned and walked away.

“Crazy old bitch,” he mumbled as he turned back to the computer.


“Your wife says you’re having trouble sleeping.”

Doctor Edward Richter looked at Scruggs.

“She does, does she? That lady ought to mind her own damn business.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Doc, you’re as bad as she is. Haven’t you been reading the goddamned newspaper? The stock market is going all to hell and its taking every other goddamn thing in America with it. Let me ask you a question. Is there anyone with half a brain who can sleep with all this going on? Besides, I have to get up at night a couple of times to pee. If I stayed in bed, the wife would have me down at the Laundromat all day long washing piss out of the sheets. Instead she drags me here.”

Scruggs forced a smile through clenched teeth. Got you, you bastard, he thought. “Speaking of piss, the wife is just pissed at me for keeping her awake. Give her something for her goddamned snoring so I can get some sleep.”

Richter looked at the old man. His blood shot eyes were framed by dark circles underneath. His skin was pale and beads of perspiration trickled down his forehead.

“Your wife says you’re preoccupied with death.”

Scruggs sneered. “Hell, when you get my age what else is there to think about? Guys my age are dropping like flies, put them in the ground and two weeks later, no one remembers their ______ names.” He stopped to breathe, “They’re the lucky ones. Don’t have to worry about all the crap that’s going on.”

Richert studied the other mans face and waited. He looked into Scrugg‘s eyes.

“Have you had any thoughts about . . . taking your own life?”

“Is that what this is about? You’ve been dying to ask me that question, just beating around the bush until you could. Well, my answer is ‘hell no.’ It would make the wife too happy if I did.” He paused, “Can’t say it wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Richert thought about the recent visit to his office from the Upright salesman.

“I’ve got just the drug to help you sleep for the next couple of weeks. You’re right. A lot of people are having difficulty sleeping right now. I’ve had nothing but good results with this drug. Take one at night just before going to bed. Come back and see me in a month and we’ll see how you’re doing.” He reached for his prescription pad and started writing.

* * * * *

Scruggs took the Halycon pill faithfully at eight o'clock each evening. He bitched about it, but he was pleased that he was sleeping better. The past few years had been brutal. As long as he could remember, he thought, he'd spent a portion of each night laying in bed wide awake staring at a darkened room. He'd become accustomed to laying awake listening to the gentle snoring of his wife (if the truth were known, her deep breathing really wasn't snoring, but he would never let her know that.) As this happened, he'd think about things. All sorts of things popped into his mind; his children, middle-aged and married, who were to busy to bother with him much anymore. He thought that one through completely. Their neglect of him now was payback for his neglect of them during their formative years. He'd spent hours of sleeplessness ruminating about the Iraq war, his deteriorating golf game, the state of the economy, and the meal that his wife prepared for him which caused a certain abdominal pressure and too much gas. But, there was a downside to his new--found penchant for sleep. The fragility of the present, a sleep-filled night, took away cherished thinking time. Sleeping was robbing him of time as the days went by faster than before. His world had speeded up and he found this threatening.

"I'm thinking of stopping that damn pill," he stated to his wife over breakfast.

She looked up between coffee-sips and spoonfuls of strawberry-topped oatmeal. "You weren't sleeping. The pill is helping you sleep. Why stop?"

He hated it when she gave this kind of response. For once, why couldn't she just agree with him ?

"It makes me nauseated."

"You've been taking the drug for three weeks and now you say it's making you nauseated. I know you well enough to know that you would have mentioned it before now if it really did."

Scruggs pushed his bowl of oat meal away and stood.

"You're a bitch. I'm sick and you're telling me I'm a liar."

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