Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and received about a dozen awards for his writing. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is the entire software department for Vala Sciences, a San Diego biotechnology company. Randy is the inventor of the "Snowflake Method," used by novelists around the world to design their novels. He the publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction. More than 1000 novelists read his daily blog, the Advanced Fiction Writing Blog. Randy's goal is to become Supreme Dictator For Life, and he may have already succeeded. Visit his site at www.SupremeDictatorForLife.com.
Congratulations! I Hate You by Randy Rooney
aka Randy Ingermanson
Somehow I’d thought fiction was supposed to say something important. ...
I was sitting on my back porch, glumly watching Sam the Plumber fix the pipe that had broken when Somebody Who Shall Go Nameless pulled too hard on the hose while watering the weeds.
After about ten minutes of work, Sam stood up. “We’ll just let that set a few minutes.”
He packed his tools and wrote me up a bill. As he handed it to me, he looked hard at my face. “Hey! Why the long face? That was the cheapest job I ever did for you.”
I sighed deeply. There was no way to explain to a guy like Sam. “It’s October,” I said in my most cryptic voice.
“Oh, right.” Sam thumped his heavy posterior down on the porch beside me. “And that bleeping Nobel committee passed you by again?”
As always, I was astonished at Sam’s powerful insights into the mind of the artiste. “Sam, I know I’m not supposed to feel jealous—”
“It ain’t jealousy you’re feeling. What you got is a bad case of envy.”
I scowled at him. “What’s the difference?”
“Envy is about what the other guy has. Jealousy is about what you got.” Sam picked up two slugs from the dirt and handed me one. “See, now we each got a slug. You’re envious of me because mine’s bigger. But you’re jealous of your own because you’re afraid I’ll steal it.”
I handed him my slug. “Okay, fine. I’m envious of that guy who won the Nobel in Literature this year.”
“Don’t be. After all, everyone hates him.”
“They do?” I wiped my slug-encrusted hand on my pants, trying to get the oozy goo off.
“Course they do. Look, if it helps, I know how you feel. I didn’t win the Drano King Award last year, and I hate the jerk that won.”
“There’s a Drano King Award?”
Sam gave me one of his looks. “You don’t get out much, do you? But anyways, look at that guy that won the Nobel. So he writes depressing stuff about middle class angts.”
“That’s what I said, angts. And N.U.I.”
“What the devil is N.U.I.?”
Sam sighed. “You’re the writer, but I got to define all the big words? N.U.I. is boredom.”
“Yeah, kind of like Amway, but don’t get me started on multilevel marketing.” Sam pulled a salt shaker out of his pocket and began liberally dosing my slug. “Look, if you want to win a Nobel, you got to write about angts and N.U.I. and your psychicological problems. But nobody wants to read that kind of crap.”
“Do you want to read about angts?” Sam poked at the slug.
It was writhing in his palm, a perfect picture of angst if I ever saw one.
“Course you don’t.” Sam dangled the other slug in the air. It hung there inert. “You don’t care about N.U.I. neither. You don’t care about some guy’s boring psychicological problems. Want to know what you care about?”
“I’m dying to find out.”
Sam tossed both of the slugs into the bushes. “If you’re any kind of manly guy, you care about exploding helicopters. That’s what you want to read about. And your wife, if she’s any kind of decent woman, wants to read about the girl getting the ring. Those are the things writers should write about, but you ain’t going to get a Nobel for it, cause there ain’t no angts in it.”
Gloom settled over me like a fog. Somehow I’d thought fiction was supposed to say something important. My latest book was due to come out in a week, and I thought it said something important. But apparently not.
Sam stood up and wiped his hands on his overalls. “Look, the last thing you want is to win one of those Nobel things. That just tells everybody you’re a loser obsessed with your own angts and N.U.I. and psychicological—”
“All right, all right!” I glowered at Sam. “You made your point.”
Sam’s cell phone rang.
He swore. “If that’s my broker, I’m not gonna answer. My hedge fund is underperforming and I ain’t gonna be able to retire till I’m sixty at this rate.” He studied his phone, and a strange expression crossed his face. He flipped open the phone and strode away. “Sam here.”
I sat there wallowing in angst. My plumber has a hedge fund. My plumber is planning to retire before sixty.
Two minutes later, Sam came bounding back with a smile as wide as Alaska on his face.
“Fixed that pesky hedge fund?” I asked.
“Naw, who cares about a stupid hedge fund? It’s only money.”
“Well, what then?” I’d never seen Sam in such an ebullient mood.
“You are looking . . . ,” Sam puffed out his chest and thumped his overalls, “. . . at the latest winner of the prestigious and coveted Drano King Award.”
My mouth dropped open. “Drano King Award?”
“This is the big one. It don’t get no bigger than Drano King.”
“C-congratulations,” I said. “But . . . aren’t you a little worried that everyone’s going to hate you now?”
“Hate me?” Sam’s eyes furrowed. “Oh, maybe some of the losers are gonna hate me, but that’s just how losers are. What do I care about them? Look, you got to live your life wide open—pedal to the metal—and don’t worry about what the losers think.”
I slumped back onto the porch. My head hurt and I thought maybe I’d skip writing this afternoon and take a nap—if I could find the energy.
“Well, hey, I got to go,” Sam said. “Lots to do, ya know. Probably got to do a press conference later on. You know how it is.”
“Yeah.” I had no clue how it is.
Sam grabbed his toolbox and lugged it around the house to his truck.
A minute later, he was back to test the pipe he’d fixed. “Perfect! But what do you expect from the Drano King, huh?”
I opened the bill he’d given me earlier and studied the numbers. Now I knew where Sam’s hedge fund was coming from.
“Hey.” Sam came closer and looked hard at me. “You don’t look too good today. You look like you got a bad case of angts.”
“I don’t care,” I muttered.
“Not to mention Sudden Onset N.U.I.”
Rage welled up in my gut. I was sick to death of Sam, sick to death of his opinions, sick to death of his stupid Drano King Award.
My hands curled into iron fists and I rushed at Sam, ready to punch his face in. A wall of darkness closed in around my brain.
Some time later, I woke up with a terrible headache. The room was bathed in soft light, and the smell of antiseptic had leached permanently into my brain.
“W-where am I?” My mouth felt like sandpaper.
My wife’s face swam into view.
“Is he awake?” Sam’s voice.
“I’m . . . awake.” Talking hurt, so I didn’t try to say any more.
“We got bad news and worse news,” Sam said. “Which do you want first?”
My wife leaned closer. “You had a . . . bit of a breakdown. You’re not well, but you’re going to . . . get better. We think.”
“Give it to him straight,” Sam said. “You went a bit loony there for a few weeks. You been out of it for months and months. You still ain’t better. And you ain’t never going to get better.”
I closed my eyes. My stomach ached and I could hear the blood churning in my head. I didn’t want the worse news, whatever it was.
“And your book got terrible reviews,” Sam said. “It didn’t sell at all. Your publisher already put it out of print. Looks like you already had all kinds of psychicological problems before you went around the bend.”
Somehow I was too tired to care.
Somewhere, far away, a phone was ringing and ringing and ringing.
Sam’s heavy footsteps thudded across the room.
A long and muffled conversation followed. Finally, Sam hung up.
“Who was that?” my wife asked.
“Don’t ask,” Sam said. “It’s just more bad news.”
My eyes flickered open. “You might as well tell me. I don’t see how things can get any worse.”
“Well you better brace yourself,” Sam said. “And don’t say I didn’t warn you, but that was some guy with a Swedish accent, and if I understood him right, from now on, everybody’s going to hate you.”