Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Writing Beetle

I have been contemplating restarting my book writing for a while now. And today, I decided to take some action. I'm revisiting my story in order to continue it and finish it. It's the first step towards becoming a published author - by finishing my book. After all, if I do want to sell the movie rights to my book, I first have to have a book.

So, as a tribute to the restarting of my writing, as a tribute to my efforts to make the writing bug bite me again, I am publishing a short story that I wrote a long time ago. I planned to extend this short story some more, but I felt that any extension to this story would start drawing it out and make it a bit forced. I like the way it's ending right now. Enjoy!

Warning: Long Post!

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Self Deprecation

“If there ever is anything on the face of this earth that is more worthless and parasitical than me, then it is yet to be discovered. I am the worst disease to have afflicted mankind – useful for absolutely nothing. I use up far too many resources compared to what I put back in. Air, water, money, food, time, everything that I am using should be going to someone else. More for them plus the added bonus of not having to deal with slime like me. Insecurity and guilt abound in me. When I walk, I always keep my head down with my chin almost buried into my chest. It may give me the look of a person deep in thought, concentrating very seriously and contemplating his next move, maybe a strategic business deal. The truth is I don’t want to look into their eyes, I can’t. It will give me away. Eyes have a tendency of doing that. One look into my eyes and people will find out what a fraud I am. I have to keep looking down and continue walking – to nowhere.”

Z lounged about in the aisle, letting his eyes drift over the books. There was a demeanor about him that looked lazy and bored, but a closer study might have revealed a different, more insightful picture. Z had spent the last 2 hours in this book shop, allowing himself to just be. He had slowly walked through every aisle glancing at every book with a feigned interest. The ones that seemed even remotely interesting, he had picked off the shelves and had leisurely absorbed the comments on the jackets. After a while, he had realised that just about every book in the shop was a bestseller, at least that’s what the New York Times said. Z was impressed. After all, if one couldn’t trust the New York Times, then who could one trust? Now, after having spent the entire evening in this bookshop in the gainful activity of lounging, Z felt like an expert on books. He felt like he could write a book himself, and he even knew by heart what comments were going to appear on the jacket of his soon-to-be bestseller.

Z also felt tired. It isn’t easy to spend an evening with the most prolific and profound thinkers and writers on this planet, all of whom have written bestsellers (according to the New York Times), and expect to get away without feeling mentally exhausted. Z needed to recharge his batteries and the neighborhood pub around the corner seemed like the perfect place to do the same. It was late evening. The sun was well into its descent and now looked like a ball of fire low on the horizon. The evening sky was doused in orange with a few smoky wisps of clouds floating around, almost like he himself was.

Z looked around him. He was right in the middle of a busy, bustling city. People were walking around with their heads down, not looking left or right, and taking short quick steps. They must be busy people. Traffic was jammed, vehicles were blaring their horns, and everybody’s tempers seemed to be on the shorter side. They probably wanted to go back home quickly, to their families and loved ones. Z ran his fingers through his hair, gave a look that is hard to describe, shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, and turned his feet in the general direction of the neighborhood pub he had intended to visit in order to recharge his drained batteries.

There was a perceptible change that Z felt as he walked through the door. It took him a little while for his eyes to get adjusted to the dim lighting, too dim in his opinion. However, he immediately smelt the difference between the cleaner air outside and the alcohol and smoke-laden atmosphere inside the pub. Z clumsily groped his way in, affected more by the lack of light than his feeling of belonging. He made his way to a bar stool and ordered his usual beer. He then swiveled his chair slowly surveying the scene and its characters. Z didn’t look too out of place. He was wearing a crisp white shirt, unusually crisp for this time of day, and light beige flat-fronted trousers. With a stubble a couple of days old, he looked like a man who didn’t need to look good, yet made the effort to present himself well. Either he was consciously well-groomed or he had had a little too much free time on his hands. Z completed his swivel and came to face his beer again when he suddenly became aware of a figure sitting on the adjacent bar stool. The pot-bellied man wore clothes that could have looked good if they weren’t so faded and old. Z even thought he detected a tear or two. A shave and a hot bath couldn’t have hurt the man too much either.

“Tough world”, said the man, almost knocking Z over with surprise. “A man makes a decent buck and he can’t keep it. He has to spend it on society instead. That’s the only way to show everyone that he isn’t money-minded. Either which way, he is going to lose all his money, the poor bastard.”

The man looked like he would have liked to drain his beer, but instead took little sips. Z figured that he didn’t have as much money as compared to the time he had to spend here. Instead Z drained the remainder of his beer, paid and left.

Z didn’t like this kind of talk. It made him feel guilty and he didn’t like that feeling. Z was a businessman, head of a leather export company. The company was doing very well, evident from Z’s fine taste and ample time.

Z turned off the main road, away from the bustling traffic and into a little lane almost obscured by thick creepers. As Z walked under that arch of creepers, he felt like he was entering a completely different world. The noise started fading away and the city with its constraints was soon left behind. The lane was poker straight and had little houses on either side, evidently remnants from an era gone by. Each house presented a modern face though, with fresh coatings of paint and a car or a bike standing vigil in front of a little gate. Colourful faces of bright blue, red, yellow, green and a myriad of colours that Z could not even identify peered onto him as he ambled down that little pathway.

The houses soon ended and so did the lane which had started tapering down into nothing more than a well-worn path. Z continued walking. The shrubbery started gaining prominence. Soon, trees appeared in ever-increasing frequency until Z found himself in a little wood. It was so quiet that Z could hear the grass grow under his feet and the clouds slip by overhead. He felt blissful.

Z’s reverie was broken by sounds that, although perfectly complemented the surroundings, were very alien to the city-trained ears of Z. Birds chirped in the branches above. Twigs and dried leaves crackled under his feet. Z stopped and looked down. Twigs, grass and dried leaves greeted his eyes, but no path. Z looked behind him. Even more twigs, grass and dried leaves, but no path. Z looked around him. As far as the eye could reach, the ground was carpeted with twigs, grass and dried leaves. Trees abounded. There were no signs whatsoever that might have helped show Z the way back to civilization. Z turned around and went back the way he had come. However, soon it became quite obvious that he was lost.

2 comments:

Carpe Diem said...

May I ask the reason for the choice of name or rather the absence of one, in this piece?
Anyhow, quite nice. Like I have said before, it is a very unusual style and very few and can hold a reader's attention with details on descrption - be it of the character or the surroundings. You do that well. Every line has earned its place in this story. I like that.

My favourite lines - “A man makes a decent buck and he can’t keep it. He has to spend it on society instead. That’s the only way to show everyone that he isn’t money-minded. Either which way, he is going to lose all his money, the poor bastard.”
AND
"It was so quiet that Z could hear the grass grow under his feet and the clouds slip by overhead."

Suggestion - The very last line, can it be re-phrased? Sounds very different from the rest.

Send this to 'The Little Magazinbe' na.

Rags said...

@ Carpe Diem:
When I started writing "Self Deprecation", it was a rant. This is encapsulated in italics at the start, and hence the title. However, the story started on a similar thought and then evolved into its present form. I like the last line because it brings a very sudden and abrupt end to the story. It feels incomplete, and yet it's complete.

Thanks for the feedback. I'll seriously consider the suggestion of "The Little Magazine".