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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Friday, March 03, 2006

the job: a gamble

This is your job: every day you go to an office. You work entirely alone; no phone calls come in, no walk-in business arrives. You have no coworkers and no boss; no one reports to you. The work itself varies from moderately difficult to almost impossible. It is project work; it began almost before you can remember, and there is no end in sight. If people from other lines of work ask you what you do, you are tongue-tied because you don't fully understand it yourself. You get no feedback and receive no pay. The question of why you do it is the most embarrassing of all: there seems to be no adequate reason, indeed no reason of any kind.

This is a parody of the writer's life, but you know, it's not much of one. Lately I have been flummoxed in my efforts to return to writing; I can't seem to make myself do it. I can coax myself out of bed only by promising myself to do something other than writing. I have become afraid of my project.

The night before last I had a dream that I think relates to it. Here it is:

Thu 02 March 2006

6:30 a.m. Awoke at about 3:50 after a dream in which I'm at the racetrack clubhouse with Jackie. I have been doing some sophisticated handicapping, or perhaps I have important tips or some fancy new betting system. In any case, I have decided it's time to bet big. I'm still trying to get my things together, figure out exactly whether I should go through with this bet (I'm planning to bet $4,000), when Jackie says she also wants to bet big--$7,000, and would I go to place the bets.

I agree. I take her money and head for the wickets, turning to the set at the left, which is where the "large bets" wicket is. I feel some conflict because time is running out--it's almost race-time. Will I have time to decide on my bet and make it? Here it is fairly deserted; few patrons bet at this level. One person is just leaving the wicket, but I feel sure his bet is much lower than the one I'm making. I bet Jackie's $7,000, a sheaf of crisp new red $500 bills, mainly. The woman at the till, a fairly attractive woman probably a bit older than I am, in a suit, is impressed and treats me well, quickly fetching the ticket. It feels good to be a high roller.

I take the ticket back to Jackie at the little circular bar-table where we're sitting. I'm worried that I won't have time to make my own bet. As I sit against the wall to make my last-minute preparations to bet, a woman bustles to sit at the table next to us, maybe jostling me as she sits down. She is noisy and seems flustered about something. I am irritated and even alarmed to be interrupted as I'm preparing to make my big bet. Maybe I say something, but in any case the woman takes exception to me and mouths off, taking a swipe at our table, or making some move that bats my crucial document--a little slip of green-edged paper like an old-style bus transfer--off the table and across the floor. Alarmed, I get up quickly but nonchalantly to fetch it, not wanting to engage the woman, who is clearly unstable, any more than I have to. Losing this would mean I can't make my bet.

Not wanted to delay further, I head back to the wickets. Now they are in cleanup mode, with young men, Chinese, red-vested like busboys, cleaning the counters which are scattered with crumbs and scraps as though after a big dinner-party. I'm afraid I'm too late, but they start clearing the counter at the last, "big bets" wicket--they'll take my bet. I'm still just barely in time, if we can do this thing quickly enough.

I've already written in this blog that my project is a gamble. The bets don't get bigger than this.

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  • I love your description of the solitary unspecified job! I'm only partly a writer (and don't know how to explain that, exactly), but your description fits what I do (or don't do) beautifully! Thank you!!

    Steven List
    Co-Founder, www.BackOfTheRoom.com

    By Anonymous Steven List, at April 03, 2006 7:45 PM  

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