One night Jack Brady was seated on the mattress in his second floor apartment. A stack of rejection letters huddled on the nightstand under constant scrutiny of a nearby candle. He lifted a bladder of boxed wine to his lips, carelessly spilling red lines down his chin. Then placed it beside a stack of overdue library books and stared out into the darkness.
This was an important night in Jack Brady’s life because he decided, after much consideration, not to end his life. He planned on chasing a bottle of prescription pills with several liters of wine. Fall asleep and let shadows suffuse.
At the last moment he changed his mind. Dashed the handful of tiny spheres across the floor and turned on the radio. Trilling violins sent tremors over his flesh. Massaged them into his shoulders and thighs and stretched his arms. Reached for the wine and mouthed the spout of the bladder once more before resting it on the stained sheets.
Brady climbed from bed and stood with his bare feet on the cold hardwood floor. Legs stiffened contracting fever. An anxious sweat devised his face. Right hand flattened against the grain of the beige wall feeling the drum of a headboard next door vibrate his fingers before letting his arm drop to his side. Walked to the bathroom and cupped his hands underneath the faucet for a stream of water. Splashed his unshaven face and turned on the light. His eyes dragged down his cheeks by racks of flesh. He rested his hands upon the sink and inspected himself closely, peering up into his nostrils, sniffing and blowing, jiggled his index fingers inside his ears and then brushed his teeth voraciously, spitting gobs of toothpaste and blood into the rusted drain.
Removed a lone towel from the rack and wiped his mouth. A spider ruled an unwavering line, divided his face vertically in the mirror. He sighed gently against the line watching the pendulum sway in certain circles from side to side, the spider delegating an invisible crag before pedaling upward toward the ceiling.
Brady walked over to his only window and raked his eyes over the infectious animation below. Wrestled open the window and propped it up with his radio. Voices in the street broke like glass against dance clubs and late night jazz dives. Bodies shifting in shadows bore no explanation for their footsteps. They treaded laughter and applause irrecoverably into action. Flickering lights jabbed through darkness.
While the night bawled into the past, Jack Brady’s life was going nowhere. He made a meek living writing and creating greeting cards, distributing them for sale at various shops in the area. His specialty was staining 4 x 6 sheets of poster board with wet tea bags. He’d let them dry onto the board, the string threaded out beyond the border of the paper. The manner in which they rested on the page reminded him of message bottles romantically rushed ashore. Beside them he composed short verse, mostly lines stolen from published writers, hoping that someday someone would purchase one of his greeting cards inevitably awarding him triumph and success after his many grueling years of pedaling baubles to the masses. But this prostitution was wearing thin his patience. He wanted nothing more than to be a successful writer, but as each day passed he became more and more convinced of its intangibility.
What little money he had slipped quickly through his fingers on paper and supplies. He tried gambling on dogs like some of his idols, but quickly abandoned it after several losses. He also tried gainful employment at a number of positions: hotel clerk, waiter, janitor, department store assistant, but each one seemed to drag the soul from his very fingertips leaving him stifled, aggressive, and resentful of a day poorly wasted on false kindness and a pathetic paycheck. Though impoverishment was a lifestyle he had no ambition of surviving, his will to pursue the distinguished road of his predecessors became so pervasive that his reality allowed little else entrance.
Brady had been on rinse and repeat for about eight months. The alarm went off to the same three DJ’s squandering their wilted ethics over the best call-in sound effects contest: honk, gobble, and moo. He opened his eyes, interrupted from dreams of his ex-girlfriend, the sex they rarely had, her manikin body, unresponsive and resistant. Shower and dress and leave, splinter morning with irresolute mobility, spend money on something, anything at all, anything to gauge contribution, then return home and wait by the window until it was dark enough to drink wine without guilt, read and sleep and begin again.
There was nothing spectacular about him or his life and this, he felt, was the reason for his rejection. After his girlfriend left him, he had acquired enough rejection slips to wallpaper one wall in his apartment, which is exactly what he did. From small presses to large publishing houses he decorated his apartment with unoriginal lines from various editors who found his work unappealing or, while occasionally “exciting and emotional,” unsuitable at this time. Most of his excitement came from examining his body in the mirror each morning and debating whether or not shaving his chest and pubic hair would inspire great literature and opportunity.
Tonight, however, was different. Tonight and every day after this night would be forever changed by his actions. He realized that by killing himself he would deprive the world their god given right to the great American novel. And while he had no qualms about pushing daisies after the fact, he had not yet accomplished this feat.
What he needed was a female lead. Someone to share protagonist adventures, the mystery and eroticism of a fond love affair. He needed a story so compelling, so honest in its right it would be irrefutable to the critical eye. Brady paced the floor for several minutes, gnawing at the flesh around his fingernails, feeling the anticipation rise from his bowels to an inspired glaze over his eyes. Always told that to write a truly brilliant novel, one must write from experience. To write a tragic love affair one must have a tragic love affair. To write a murder, one must commit a murder.
Walked out from the bathroom beside his mattress and dropped to the floor. He began exercising voraciously, doing pushup after pushup, followed by a succession of crunches. He could feel his muscles resisting under tear and strain but continued forcing his body to exceed its expectations. To accomplish his goal of becoming a great American novelist he would have to experience horrible things, take actions he never thought possible.
Brady stood and walked over to the window. A group of girls dressed in dramatic club attire pirouetted through the smog and stench of hotdog vendors and alcohol ignited streets. A man in a hooded sweatshirt walked a dog at a hurried pace as if he were expected. Hundreds of others carried along fracturing the night to pieces with laughter and idiocy, heartbreak and lust.