A note to my editor:
March 14th, 2007
I see that you’ve agreed to approve the funding necessary for the trip to Arizona for that story on the working woman’s fitness weekend to Mike’s Mile-High Ranch. Chances are that no serious damage will be done to the expense account but I appreciate the investment and the vote of confidence nonetheless.
As you know, things of late have bordered on crazy. My day job consumes my waking hours and the corporate grayness touches skies everywhere. It doesn’t help that I have 4 or 5 people who think I report to them; all that matters is that they are all equally greedy weasels, horny for lap dances and sales revenue. They should be put to sleep, Pam, violently, if it comes to that.
But never mind that, let’s focus on the story. I’m convinced that the angle this thing must take is not that of a fitness article but rather a misguided romp in the desert with unexpected perils often at the risk of dismemberment in ugly accidents involving chains, WD-40 and road rashes. It seems practically required in order for it to work and be marketable. However, it seems that I’ve written myself into some kind of terrible trap.
Understand that I’ve tried all the usual tricks of the writing trade: profuse amounts of alcohol, wandering around on public transportation and sleep deprivation. Jesus, I’ve tried flash cards that I took from some lost biology major that I met at dark bar the other night; things are getting desperate and pretty creepy, even for me. I haven’t gone so low as to wallow in a local Starbucks but I’ll admit to having wandered past one and in a moment of weakness I looked inside and saw the teeming hoards of souls who write to be seen, less proud than I and more willing to discuss the merits of their Macs and Timbuk2 messenger bags. At least it gave me the strength to know I didn’t want to go down that road.
What I have been doing instead is typing during my day job under the auspices of management emails and status checking while I watch the prying little eyes of the executive leprechauns who keep tabs on my billable hours like starving animals in the Savannah. What I do seems to satisfy their corporate wet dreams enough to keep them off my back, so it’ll do for now.
Still, I find myself sitting in a car in an empty Marriott parking lot, half spent and waiting for the heavy rain to subside enough to sprint my way through the lobby without making eye-contact with any of the locals or at least without engaging in conversation with them. In the meantime, I am staring at a blank page just now that is spattered with the shadow of dozens of raindrops thrown by the parking lot lampposts through the open moon roof of the rental car. I am weighing my options. There is sense in somebody dying in this story, possibly the very journalist who writes it …
But how do I kill him?
Inside the car the keys rest, thrown on the passenger seat and I’ve turned the lonely radio off. There is no moon and the lightning prefers to come in through the angled windshield. It distracts me to no end in this dark silence, like some strobe-lit banshee in the vast sky. The rain is staunch and thick and it hammers the roof and the hood like a heavy windless mass. The air is weighed down, so thick and muggy during the storm that even the thunder is muffled amidst the vast pines of the Midwest.
Cars and buses zoom in the wet reflection of rain on the road next to which I am adjacently parked. The semaphore turns yellow, pauses slightly too long to go unnoticed, and then turns red, all out of the corner of my eye. I continue to stare at the empty page, wondering how to kill a man I haven’t even named yet.
I have half a mind to base this practically dead journalist on a man I know who happens to be one of my bosses in a life different from this one, where I write. I figure this will make him easier to kill later, when the story calls for it. While this is fine since he’s not my only protagonist, it’s already difficult because the thing of it is that when it really comes down to it, he’s a character quite apart from others. Aside from the relentless emails he sends and phone calls he makes at absurd hours of the night, he is a fidgety ferret of a man, replete with insecurity issues and self doubt. When the executives fly into town for board meetings and the like, he and his minions scurry for purpose and status reports like hungry raccoons and stammer like bumbling children. Can you imagine him romping through the Mexicali desert with ten fifty-year-old women on ATVs? He’s perfect.
The photographer, on the other hand, I’m convinced wears a hat, perhaps something like a fedora, even in that merciless yellow desert. He despises the journalist for all the right reasons, including some that I’m sure will come to me at the time I get to writing this thing. He finds him pretentious, like most writers, and unnerving, not to mention a political hazard as far as these magazine gigs go. But he’s the quiet type.
Obviously there’s more work to be done, more development that will certainly occur pre, during and post flight to the Baja region, and some maybe on the cold desert nights while the story unfolds. The old girls will, after all, be gassing up ATV’s 300+ miles from across the desert to the Ranch, and flight attendants aren’t all that reputable for their thick skin outside of their tin cans, although some will surprise even a cynical villain such as this reporter. At this point I can only imagine what riding in one hundred ten degree dry asphault is like with the company of ten middle-aged women who are just giddy enough to endure the trial in order to arrive at a weekend spa in the middle of a desert they despise. My god, it occurs to me that they may snap and just burn the place down when they get there; I have no real way of knowing.
After all, women are nutty enough, particularly women in this phase. Christ, just last week some aging menopause-stricken dame came at me out of nowhere in a liquor store just north of Houston. I was trying to get some bourbon for my coffee sometime after 10 pm in that place off of a highway 249 exit when I was suddenly hit in the back of the ear with a rolled up magazine that I would later learn she had brought in herself. She was sweating viciously and grinding her teeth while yammering some nonsense about me having borrowed her sister’s car 2 years ago and only returning it last week reeking of gin, mushrooms and immigrants. Madness, of course.
I showed her a slingshot I carried for these occasions and told her to get back in her fungus car and drive away or I’d have the manager of the premises (a cohort of mine) put her in a cage in the back where we’d take turns poking her with a sharp stick. Naturally I was gone by the time the cops showed up but then again, so was she. What is the world coming to?
On another note entirely, I spoke with that staff writer from the Examiner that I told you about, Trevor. You remember, the one who bailed without pitching in for the cab that night at North Beach in San Francisco? Well, he says he’s not surprised, given the sheer volume of booze that flowed that night, but that he’s sorry for the feeling of malcontent that he generated (his words, not mine). He also said that he has no inclination to write for some attention-craving liberal arts major who’s itching for a promotion to validate her student loans just because she’s too busy to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend and get laid. Also his words, not mine.
Don’t worry, though. I’ll talk to him again.
Marriott Parking Lot in Houston, TX — March, 2007