From the Department of Communications.
Lance Mannion has fallen under the melancholy and grumpy influence of the poet and novelist Jim Harrison again and is wishing that in honor of Harrison he could spend the morning writing.
Not blogging. Not twittering. Not replying to email or updating his status on Facebook. Writing.
Not a poem, necessarily, although he would love to be able to write a poem. Harrison begins a poem like this, but Mannion can’t begin a poem at all:
My dream of becoming a Mexican singer
is drifting away.
It reminds me of the etching on my journal
of a naked girl
grasping the cusp of the moon with
She's surrounded by stars. No one is strong enough
to hold the moon for long.
No, not a poem. Just some prose of the kind he used to write when that seemed like a sensible way to spend his time.
Something like this.
Lawrence Merton was thirty-three years old and still playing juveniles in touring company productions of Shakespeare. The last humiliation he’d added to his resume before leaving New York was the role of Banquo's teenage son in the Scottish play. He’d been given the part so that the fifty-eight year old stars playing the bloody thane and his somnambulating wife didn’t look ancient compared to any actual children on stage.
But, mood he’s been in lately, the urge to write upsets him, makes him irritable with himself. It strikes him as a regression, an impulse of psycho-spiritual atavism. He might as well be thinking he could spend the morning outside with his friends, playing ball in the field behind the neighbor’s backyard, the one the old man who owns it sometimes chases them out of and sometimes welcomes them into and stands with his dog to watch them play, as if he’s two old men, twins with opposite temperaments, and maybe that’s what they are, brothers, but not having to be twins, because one old man can look exactly like another to ten and eleven year old boys, unless one of them is your grandfather, except that when you’re that age it’s amazing how many old men look exactly like your grandfather, and that gets confusing in a crowd.
So he won’t be writing, the same way he won’t be playing ball with his friends or, more relevantly, perhaps, the same way he won’t be spending the morning in bed with a pretty girl in his apartment in Boston, the one in Back Bay near the Public Garden, where he and she will walk over to later with sandwiches bought at the market where the mayor comes in every day with his dogs, golden retrievers, and drinks his coffee while standing there talking with the clerks and the other customers who are the mayor’s neighbors as well as voters he needs to woo, a scene the young Lance tells the pretty girl as they sit by the pond with their sandwiches and watch the ducks chase the swan boats for the bread crumbs the passengers throw, he will have to work into one of the stories he is writing to send off with his application to grad school.
No, he won’t be writing, unless he were to count this as writing, which he won’t because it’s too much like what overly clever college students turn in for their first assignment in freshman comp, an essay on how they couldn’t think of a topic to write about for their first assignment, students he got a kick out of when he was a young teacher of freshman comp because he knew what they were trying to pull, how they were showing off both their talent and their indifference, because he’d done it himself, something like it, in high school and college, several times, and once or twice gotten away with it because the teacher or the professor probably had also done it in her day too.
This isn’t writing. It’s procrastination. The way he’s going to spend the morning---the way he should spend the morning, at any rate---is by doing small chores around the house. Bundling up the newspapers and taking them to the dump, for instance. Replacing the cartridge on the kitchen faucet which leaks when you don’t lift and turn the handle just right.
At least he doesn’t have to mow the lawn. It’s raining.
All right then, it’s the newspapers then the faucet then he’ll think of something else. But first…
First, he’ll spend the next half hour or so wandering back and forth to the living room window with his cup of coffee to look out at the trees that have leafed since last weekend and the water dripping from those new leaves and at the drooping heads of the blown daffodils yellow as butter still but with a burnt brownness coming out in them bouncing lightly from the soft blows of the rain and at the puddles with their surfaces agitated like the coats of dogs combed backwards with your hand as the breeze blows across them.
And maybe one of these times, instead of going straight back to the window, he’ll take another cup of coffee into the bedroom where that pretty college girl is relaxing and reading the paper and tell her, as if it’s news more important than the day’s headlines, “Still raining,” and assure her that any minute now he’s going to get at that leaky faucet.
The mayor and his dogs have been long since forgotten.