Reginald, what you need is a little discipline.” I squeezed the phone
tighter to avoid screaming. Reginald is a good writer, but he’s been on
chapter seven for about the last three months. “When you sit down to
write, make yourself a goal and then stick to it. If you’re shooting
for a thousand words, then don’t get out of the chair until you’ve got
those thousand words.”
“You don’t understand,”
Reginald said. “Things come up. Life happens.”
I knew I was about to be
treated to twenty minutes of complaints about all the “stuff” happening
in Reginald’s life. Whatever. He’s paying me for these coaching
sessions, so if he wants to rant the whole time, that’s his nickel.
I leaned back in my chair in
the shady spot on the back deck, took a sip from an icy bottle of Coke,
and surveyed the work on our new septic system. My plumber, Sam,
climbed out of the monstrous hole in the yard and trudged toward me,
his face alight.
“. . . need to understand the
ontological foundations of my story,” Reginald was saying. “Right?”
“Uh-huh.” I pressed the MUTE
button and went to see what Sam was grinning about.
“I don’t suppose you got some
Super Glue hiding around somewheres, do you?” he asked.
I felt a vein begin throbbing
in my temple. “Um, why do you need Super Glue?”
Sam grinned. “Well, you know
how some parts doesn’t always go together just right? Or else they go
together fine, but then you give ’em just a little too much POP when
you’re sticking Tab A into Slot B, know what I mean?”
Sam’s been working for me long
enough that I know exactly what he means. I sighed and pointed inside
the house to the utility room. “First drawer on the right. This isn’t
going to cost me extra, is it, Sam?”
Sam muttered something
indistinct and clomped inside my house.
I sat back down in my chair,
checked my laptop to see if any new e-mail had come in, turned off the
MUTE function, and said, “Uh-huh.”
Reginald was well into a
lengthy discussion of the epistemology of self-revelation within the
parameters of the fictive dream, a discussion that would not require
any input from me for another quarter of an hour, I estimated.
Sam clomped outside, thudded
across the deck, and went back to deal with Tab A and Slot B.
I clicked on the Junk folder in
my e-mail and began reading a message from a Reverend Peter David
Williams, who wanted to send me $8.5 million that he’d embezzled from a
bank he worked at in Nigeria.
Fifteen minutes later, Reginald
finished talking with a deep sigh and his standard stopping phrase,
“You know what I mean?”
Something snapped in my soul. I
was tired of this rot, bone tired. “Reginald, let me give it to you
straight. What you need is some Butt Glue.”
“Some what?” Reginald’s voice
jumped an octave.
“Butt Glue.” I knew I was going
to make him mad at me, but I didn’t care. He was wasting his time and
wasting my time. “Glue your butt onto that chair and finish chapter
seven. Before you get out of that chair, I want you to e-mail me that
chapter. All of it.”
“No buts,” I said.
“No ifs, either.”
Reginald didn’t say anything
for a minute. All I could hear over the phone was anguished breathing.
Though he couldn’t see me
through the phone, I shook my head. “Look, I don’t want any more lame
excuses, ever again. Finish the chapter. E-mail it to me. Don’t call me
back until it’s done. Got it?”
A long silence. “Got it.”
Reginald’s deflated tone that told me he didn’t get it.
I hung up and set the phone on
the table while I opened up my own chapter that I’d been working on all
“How much you got written
there?” A voice boomed in my ear.
I spun around. “Sam! Where’d
you come from?”
“I been standing right here
waiting for you to get done reaming out that feller on the phone.”
“I wasn’t reaming—”
“And did you know that there
was some kinda pressure in that Super Glue bottle of yours?” Sam held
up the tube. “So when I opened it, a whole bunch squirted out all over
Tab A. I hope we ain’t never gonna need to take it off Slot B, because
it’s on there real good.”
“Does it work? All I ask is
that this system is going to work for the next thirty years.”
“Oh, yeah, it’ll work. Super
Glue lasts about a thousand years, easy, unless you got the antidote to
take it off.” He leaned closer to peer at my chapter. “That’s a mighty
funny way to end a storybook—on the word the.”
“That’s not the ending. It’s
where I stopped writing on Monday, when I got a call from my editor
with a question about a sentence in my back-cover copy that she thought
was too long.”
Sam looked at his watch.
“Today’s Thursday. That musta been one heckuva long sentence.”
I shook my head. “Things have
been nuts around here all week. After my editor called, I checked the
mail, and there was a notice for a package at the post office. So I
went into town to get that, and while I was there, I checked my UPS
box, too, and found a royalty check. So I cashed that, and ran into a
friend at the bank, and when I got home . . . well, you know.”
Sam nodded sagely. “Yup, it was
Thursday. Musta been a real good friend.”
“Don’t be dense. I got home at
supper time on Monday.”
Sam just looked at me.
I scowled at him. “I don’t
write on Tuesdays. I worked the whole day on a software project. I put
in seven hours on it.”
Sam began pacing. “Last time I
checked, there was lots more hours in a day than just seven. Which
means you wasted a whole bunch of ’em not writing on that storybook of
told you, I don’t write on Tuesdays.”
“I expect you don’t write on
Wednesdays, neither, then.”
“No, I do write on Wednesdays,
normally.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. Sam just
wasn’t getting it. “But yesterday, I had a conference call that was
supposed to be an hour, only it wound up taking two and a half. Then I
had to get after the excavator guy digging the hole for the septic
system, and then my writing buddy called and we talked about writing
for a couple of hours.”
Sam was punching in numbers on
his pocket calculator. “I figger that left you a good three, maybe four
hours to write some on your storybook.”
yes, but I had an
appointment with my accountant at three, and that took longer than
usual, and then I went to check my box at the UPS store again, and then
I got home and took a quick walk to get my inspiration flowing—”
it was flowing pretty
thick by the time you got back. Seeing as how you’ve had it blocked up
all week. Probably built up a good head of pressure on that there
I shook my head. “Sam, I don’t
think you know how fiction works. I’ve got a plot structural element
that isn’t quite right.” Which actually meant that I needed a new way
to kill a jewel thief, but I didn’t want to tell Sam that.
Sam raised an eyebrow. “Well
howdy-do! Can’t ya just keep writing and figger it out while ya type?”
“No, it doesn’t make sense to
just write words when the structure’s all wrong. You need to think
before you type. So I walked for about an hour, and I worked out what
needs to happen next, in general terms, but—”
“Don’t give me none of them
buts,” Sam said.
“What?” I stared at him. “What
are you talking about?”
“That’s what you told that
there feller on the phone when you was reaming him out fer being lazy.”
“I wasn’t reaming him out.”
Sam pulled a filthy Q-tip out
of his pocket and fished around in his ears. He studied the massive
results critically for a long moment. “Looks like my ears is getting
pluggified again because it sure sounded like a reaming-out. Anyways,
where did you want me to leave this Super Glue?”
I shrugged and stood up.
“Anywhere. I need to take a walk, and then I’m going to finish my
chapter.” I chugged the last half-bottle of my Coke and tossed it into
the recycling bin.
“That’s just fine,” Sam said.
“I’m gonna finish up with yer pipes, and then you can call in that
escalator feller to fill the hole back in around yer spanking-new
“You’re sure it’s going to last
Sam tapped the Super Glue
bottle. “It ain’t never failed me yet.”
I took a walk out toward the
pond, still steamed by Sam’s philistine attitude. He just had no idea
how hard it is to write good fiction. When I got past the pond, I saw
that one of the kids had left the back gate open. I went to shut it but
decided that it might be nice to really stretch my legs and walk out on
the horse trails for a bit. An hour later, I came back through the back
gate, shut it, and headed up toward the house.
From a distance, I spotted Sam
sitting on my deck feeding the ducks that had wandered up from our
pond. I wondered if he planned to bill me for the time he’d been
feeding them. I wondered if he’d raided my kitchen to find something to
I stopped at the greenhouse and
took a long drink of water from the hose. When I came out again, Sam
I ran up toward the house.
Where had he gone? He’d probably seen me coming and realized his little
all-expenses-paid duck-feeding vacation was over for the day. No
matter. I was going to knock an hour off whatever he billed me.
Sam’s truck was gone when I
checked the driveway. I went back to the deck and plopped into my
chair. First things first, of course—I checked my e-mail.
A message from Sam was the only
thing new. It read:
“When you finish yer chapter, call me and I’ll bring the antidote.”
This cryptic message made no
sense to me. I tabbed through to my word processor. My chapter was just
as I’d left it. That was a relief. If Sam had decided to monkey with
it, I could undo the damage, but it would be a waste of valuable time.
The phone on my table rang.
I leaned forward. Or tried to.
For some reason, I couldn’t move.
The phone rang again.
I leaned forward, but I simply
couldn’t get out of my chair. It was like I was—
A third ring.
I grabbed both arms of the
chair and jumped it forward a few inches. A few more. And a few more.
My fingers found the phone.
The Caller ID told me it was
Sam, even before I pressed the TALK button. Sam’s voice boomed out of
the earpiece. “You finished that chapter yet?”
I screamed into the phone. “How
do you undo Super Glue?”
“That ain’t Super Glue; it’s
Butt Glue,” Sam said calmly. “You finished that chapter yet?”
“Sam, you get back here right
now because I’m going to wring your neck until you—”
“You finished that chapter
“No, I’m going to get started
real soon. But . . . right now, I need to go to the bathroom.”
Sam chuckled. “Hope you type
real fast, cuz it looked like you was taking a nice long drink down
there at the greenhouse just before I left.”
“Sam, next time I see you, you
are so dead.”
“You better hope that ain’t
true, ’cuz I’m at Ace Hardware just picking out a bottle of antidote
for that Butt Glue holding you in place while you finish yer chapter.
But if you prefer that I run fer my life . . .”
I took a deep breath and let it
out slowly, imagining fifteen different ways to murder a plumber. “All
right, you win. I won’t kill you, but I need you here right away with
that antidote stuff, whatever it is.”
“You gonna have that chapter
done when I get there? If I remember right, you was having some
problems with a plot structural elephant thingie. You got that fixed
I suddenly realized that one of
the ways I’d thought of to kill Sam would work just fine on a jewel
thief. “Yes, I have it fixed. I’ll have this chapter done in fifteen
No ifs, ands, or buts.