“Jason got up from his desk, walked to the edge of cubicle, and slowly peered around the edge. His mouth dropped open. This can’t be happening, he thought.” Tyler read the words on his screen aloud.
“What can’t be happening?” Tyler said.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he answered himself, “No. No. No. Not writer’s block again.”
Tyler closed his laptop and started pacing between the kitchen bar and the bay window, which served as his temporary writer’s nook. Outside the small window over the sink, the birds had begun their morning songs in the early dawn. He started to run through his routine: the plumber he called it. He could imagine a plumber, wearing a sweat-stained tee and the standard tool belt that tugged down on his worn jeans, making his way through Tyler’s brain with a plunger and a rooter, clearing out the blockage like hair from a drain. Tyler paced for a few more minutes and then made his way to the fridge. He opened the door and pulled out a gallon of orange juice and the last of the leftover blackberry pie. Tyler poured a large glass of juice and started in on the pie. Both disappeared within just a few minutes.
His appetite sated, Tyler walked down the basement stairs and fumbled for the light cord at the bottom. He turned the dial on the sauna to 30 minutes and peeled off his robe and pajama pants. He grabbed a towel from the shelf and stepped into the warming sauna. He poured a ladleful of water over the hot rocks and listened to the sizzle as the steam rose around him. “Come on Joe the plumber, surely this’ll get the gunk out,” He said. Tyler closed his eyes and waited for the timer to buzz.
At the sound of the timer, Tyler awoke with a start. He looked around and quickly remembered where he was. The heat had just cut off and the rocks were already beginning to cool. Tyler grabbed his towel and wrapped it around his waist. Sweat was forming little beads at his hairline, which slowly fell, carving tiny rivers that ran down his temple, over his jaw, and into the crevice at his neck. His blonde, curly hair was matted and drenched. Tyler stepped out of the sauna and started to wipe the sweat from his body. He pulled on his favorite pajama pants, the flannel ones speckled with Reese’s peanut butter cups. Hope this does it, he thought, Don’t make me break out the weights this time. He made his way back up the stairs, across the kitchen, and into his writing nook.
Tyler opened the screen on his laptop and waited the few seconds it took to wake up. There was his page. It wasn’t entirely blank. There were a few lines of a story starting to form, but when he read down to that last line again, he still felt stuck.
“What on earth does Jason see around that corner?” Tyler said.
The computer made the little popping noise that meant an instant message was waiting. Man, I’m working. Frustrated at the interruption, Tyler did what he always did when an IM popped up: He clicked the little box at the corner of his screen.
“A man in a mask,” the message read.
What? Tyler looked for the sender’s name. The letter “J” was the only identification in the little box.
Tyler typed back, “Who’s this?”
“J. a man in a mask. trust me,” the message read.
Tyler looked back up at his infant of a story and something clicked. Yeah, a man in a mask. That’s exactly what Jason saw around that corner. Tyler started typing away, describing the man in the mask: a spy sent to steal priceless computer files in the dead of night. Jason’s was a tale of corporate espionage. Click, click, click went the keys under Tyler’s fingers. He was on a role, falling into Jason’s character and developing the motivation behind the man in the mask.
Pop. Another message came up on Tyler’s screen. It read, “Why is Jason at the office in the dead of night?”
“Good question.” Tyler typed back.
He hadn’t thought to include this little fact and now he knew it would make his story much richer. Tyler scrolled to the beginning of his story and added the necessary details. He kept typing well into the afternoon, pausing only to read the messages that kept popping up on his screen. Each message pointed out a hole in his story. J was like his own personal editor, peering over his shoulder as he worked. At first Tyler was a little wary, questioning the source of the messages. As he continued writing, though, he came to rely on J’s feedback and started enjoying the unique process.
Beginning to feel an ending coming on, Tyler looked up at his screen and read the last sentence he typed aloud, “Jason cleaned the blood from his knife, rolled the spy over and pulled up his mask.” Hmmmm, he thought. Just as he was questioning that last sentence, Tyler heard the familiar pop of an IM.
“The End,” the message read.
“The End,” Tyler automatically typed on the page.
He clicked the save button and closed his laptop. He leaned back in his cracked leather chair, plopped his feet up on the desk, and looked through the big bay window. The birds had disappeared and the hot afternoon sun was beating down on the row of rose bushes that lined the fence in his backyard. He decided it was way past lunch time.
With a feeling of satisfaction, Tyler crossed the kitchen and swung open the pantry doors. He grabbed the first thing in sight: a bag of greasy potato chips, which he quickly emptied. Then he headed for the fridge, searching out that last bottle of Shiner he’d been saving. He took a big swig and let out an “ahhhhhh” worthy of a cheesy movie. Finishing the beer in just two drinks, Tyler thought maybe he would take a shower.
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