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Monday, July 5, 2010

Meaning (first short story)

Daniel lived in his mother’s house. He liked to tell women that he had his own apartment but that was just code for living in the same room he’d lived in since he was fourteen years old. It wasn’t that he was lazy and had no higher dreams. Nor was it because his mother was an invalid and he needed to be there. He just simply couldn’t get onto his feet. He tried to move out once a year before but that ended in his water being shut off because he’d neglected to pay the bill. He probably could have had it turned back on had he not gotten into a fist fight with the man he spoke to at the water department.

Daniel didn’t accept this as his lifelong home but he certainly didn’t see a need to move out yet. He figured that the universe had a plan for everything. If he couldn’t find an apartment and the only one he’d ever lived in had been a failure then that must have been some sort of sign. It had to mean something. Then again, maybe it didn’t mean anything.

Daniel was a writer. He liked to put it that way. His overly proud mother called him an author which made him cringe. He’d tell her that authors have been published and have authored books. He was only a writer. Although, there was something more romantic in the word “writer” that just wasn’t there in the word “author”. Author was a career. Being an author meant signing contracts and working on schedules. Mind you, being an author also meant earning money which he was not opposed to. Still, there was something romantic about being a writer. Being a writer meant being an artist. To say he was a writer gave him the vision of actually putting pen to paper in the fading light of an oil lantern. Many women also seemed to get the same image.

Daniel romanticized things. That was his job as a writer. Some writers wrote the truth as sad or happy as it actually was. Some writers wrote of only the bleak and the horrible, fully demonizing everything and everyone. Those writers liked to write so that no one was innocent, or if they were they didn’t stay so for very long. Some writers wrote of everything as wonderful and romantic. They could take an illness and death and make it have a greater meaning. That was what he did. He looked for the greater meaning in things all the time. He tried to find meaning in his father having a heart attack at the age of thirty-eight. He tried to find meaning in the reason his mother had worked the exact same receptionist job for the last twenty years. He tried to find the meaning in why he was being kept in the same place in his life. He usually managed to find some kind of meaning, although a lot of it required serious leaps of faith. It got him through. Some people had God. He had “meaning”.

Daniel stared at the reality of being a writer. His computer sat on his desk beneath his Tomb Raider posters and next to a sandwich his mother had made him before leaving for the store. His old dog was lying on his bed and barely lifted her head when he came into the room. It was far less romantic than he liked to envision it, but it was what he wanted. He wanted to be a writer, eventually an author. He wanted to sit down at his computer and write something meaningful. He wanted someone to read it and wonder what he meant by a certain phrase or what a characters action meant. He wanted to affect people’s lives. He wanted to know that his life meant something.

Daniel sat down at his desk, scratched his dog behind her ear and switched on his monitor. A blank document stared back at him. That annoying little blinking line matched his heartbeat measure for measure. It waited for him to type and he waited for the words to come. Sometimes they did. Most times they didn’t. He had a whole file in his computer filled with poetry and another filled with half written novels. With the novels he’d gotten a hundred pages in and forgotten why he started writing. His poetry was, to him, marginal at best. Everyone else enjoyed it though, so he took some comfort in that. This time, he had an idea of what he wanted to write.

Daniel had seen this girl at the coffee shop he’d been to earlier that day. She wasn’t an extraordinary beauty or something. She’d had mousy brown hair that fell into her eyes and she kept biting her lips nervously. She was short and chubby and hardly anyone else around had noticed her. But her wild eyes and scattered freckles had sparked something in him. He didn’t know how, but she’d given him a story. It was as though he was meant to be in there for those five minutes she’d bustled in and out. He was supposed to write about her.

Daniel began describing her look, making her slightly more attractive while still maintaining quirky parts of her he’d been drawn to. He wrote about her living in her parent’s house, but she was a college student so she had a reason. Both of her parents were alive and well and she had an older sister. He had always wanted a sibling. The girl hadn’t had a job for a year but she figured that, what with the shortage of jobs, she was meant to not have a job so that those with families could have them and be able to take care of their families. The girl didn’t care about any of that anyways. She wanted to be a writer. She wanted to write about the truth of life. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the distressing. The life and the death. She wanted to write about it all.

Daniel sighed at the girl’s ambition. He’d always thought that those who wanted to write about life had no real vision for their art. But this was a quirk about the girl he had to write about. He wrote the girl into her room where she had to remove her little orange tabby cat from her chair before she could sit down in front of her computer. She moved to begin typing and stopped.

Daniel stopped typing. That was it. That was all he could do for her. He could do no more for her than he could for himself. He’d already given her both parents, a sister and an education. What could he do for her? Give her something to write about? He didn’t even have that.

Daniel stood, poked his dog to make sure she was still alive, grabbed the empty plate from his desk and walked out of his room. There must have been a reason he’d written what he’d written. It had to mean something. Didn’t it?

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