I’m back! (Yes, I know you didn’t notice I was gone.) But it’s been a while. I went away to write a book. And despite every obstacle and distraction I merrily threw in my way, I did it. Wolf Music, a NaNoWriMo project, is a few chapters short of a novel just yet, but I did fulfil the brief by writing over 50,000 words between November 1st and 29th, and therefore will be blowing my own trumpet until the proper musicians on TV take over around Christmas.
To herald my return to Thursday blogging (which may also be Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, or Museday, depending on how contrary I feel) I have another in the Why You Should Never Live With… series. Unreliable Narrator here. Chick-Lit Heroine here. Cop From A Crime Novel here. Young Adult Protagonist here. And now we have the Literary Fiction Hero. Bless him or her. You just know it’s never going to turn out well, don’t you?
Why You Should Never Live With A Literary Fiction Hero
The door of your ultra-modern house opens soundlessly: silent as the unspoken vitriol between you and your mother thirty years ago, and the love you bore for that person who is dead now. You walk with heavy step towards the kitchen. In another universe, you would be alone with your thoughts. But unavoidable reality takes the form of somebody in the kitchen. It’s your housemate. All the lights blaze – even from the oven and the fridge – and yet, it is dark. So dark.
You: Hey. How was your day?
Lit-Fic Hero: I met a woman in the park this morning. She wore a cloche hat and lace-trimmed gloves. She had the beginnings of a stye in her left eye, yet somehow that made her more beautiful. When she looked up, I saw she was crying. I wondered if she’d just been jilted. But she told me she was weeping for the crisis in that war-torn place which also serves as a proxy for the conflict within. I didn’t know what to say.
You: I’m sure you didn’t. But c’mere, what were you doing in the park this morning? Isn’t your office on the other side of town?
Lit-Fic Hero: I had a dental appointment.
You: It’s not like you to do something so pedestrian.
Lit-Fic Hero: Actually, I’m always doing routine stuff which serves as a metaphor for something else.
You: That’s true. What was the meaning of the dental appointment?
Lit-Fic Hero: Man’s struggle for unrealistic perfection, and the fact that I used to smoke.
You have a bag of groceries with you, and begin to put them away. When you open the cupboard above the sink, you get a nasty surprise.
You: Where’s all my food gone? This cupboard was full when I left this morning!
Lit-Fic Hero: It was the only food in the house. I remembered at lunch that I hadn’t eaten in seventeen days. I’d been thinking too much to notice I was hungry. Going out for bread felt too meaningless, so I had to forage in the wasteland of my life instead.
You: But weren’t you at work…? Oh, never mind. You were never very location-specific, anyway.
Lit-Fic Hero: I got a letter today.
You: This is going to be a long story, isn’t it? All right, shoot. I have no plans, and definitely no opinions.
Lit-Fic Hero: Scarred white envelope. Gentle, trembling hands: the cold of the knife, edging ever further – lifting the lid – paper cut. Life’s essence running out.
You: You know I hate it when you talk in adjective-laden staccato. This is not the Pulitzer committee. If you don’t form a proper sentence right now, I’m going upstairs to watch internet porn. Who was the bloody letter from?
Lit-Fic Hero: I’m in charge of the puns here, thank you.
Lit-Fic Hero: It was less than I believed my life would deliver, but so much more than I expected. I stared at it for such a long time. How had it happened? Was it my fault? Had the thoughtlessness I’d been accused of all my life – ever since I was eight years old, when the incident which ended my innocence happened on the edge of the forest – finally brought this upon me? Upon everyone near me?
You: I’m not sure I follow. Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to follow, but I’ve come this far, so I may as well see it out to the end.
Lit-Fic Hero: I dropped the letter as though it burned me.
You: That reminds me. We never replaced the Fire Blanket after your last disaster.
Lit-Fic Hero: But I couldn’t run from it. Even if it did lead me to the dark. Even if it leaves me there, until I forget who I am, and how it was I came to be.
You: I could leave a few buckets of sand around the place, I suppose. You do burn things fairly regularly.
Lit-Fic Hero: I have faced the darkness before.
You: Although buckets of sand won’t be much use unless I’m around to use them at the crucial time. Maybe I should get a few more Fire Blankets.
Lit-Fic Hero: Are you even listening?
You: Absolutely not. I’m only still here because I get points on my Intelligentsia Loyalty Card for every soliloquy you do.
Lit-Fic Hero: I am alone. Solitarily, achingly alone.
You: Are you going to tell me who the letter was from? And I’m warning you, if you don’t finish up with either a killer one-liner, or a truism that’ll be plagiarised by six politicians before the weekend, I’m going to slap you.
Lit-Fic Hero: It was the figurative story of my life, I suppose.
You: [sighing] Go on.
Lit-Fic Hero: A final demand for the overdue electricity bill.
You: I’m going to kick your arse.
Lit-Fic Hero: That kind of earthy language won’t win you any prizes, you know.
You proceed to kick the Lit-Fic Hero’s arse. You don’t win any prizes for it, but it’s more satisfying than anything you’ve read in years.
Then the lights go out.