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The Write Stuff

by John Rodat on August 3, 2011


INT. NIGHT – A messy home office

THE WRITER sits in the glow of an inexpensive plastic desk lamp. We can just make out in the darkness that the room is a crowded one; in addition to the desk and chair, the room is packed with cheap and overburdened bookshelves. There are also books, magazines and papers stacked in piles on the uncarpeted floor. The room is seems both frenzied and precarious.

The desktop is similarly littered: a beer bottle, several rocks-style glasses, a coffee mug share the space with a laptop computer and a large external monitor, on which glows a single typed character, “A.”

The Writer gazes at the monitor for long unblinking seconds. Above the screen there is a small framed black-and-white magazine photo of Hemingway, firing a shotgun. He hunches forward and stares intently at the single onscreen letter. With an exhalation that is half sigh, half groan, he presses the delete key.

INT. NIGHT – The Corner Bar

It’s a familiar neighborhood dive. The jukebox strains to play something audible—it might be old Dolly Parton, it might be a novelty jingle for a forgotten brand of beer. But it’s something sad, cracked and warbled.

There is one slumped silhouette at the far end of the bar, which is otherwise empty. THE BARTENDER is, therefore, free to read his paperback and sip his coffee. After a page turn or two, the door jingles open and the Writer enters. The bartender looks up, smiles and nods in recognition, and pours a shot of whisky and begins pulling a draft beer.

Bartender: Hey, it’s our own J.K. Rowling. How goes the writing life?

Writer: Ugh. Really? Rowling? Good thing you poured first.

Bartender: Oh, come on. You could do worse than be compared to her.

Writer: I am doing worse.

The Writer sits, downs the shot in gulp and indicates he wants a refill.

Bartender: Slow going?

Writer: You could say that. What’s that you’re reading, there?

Bartender: Murder-mystery thing. There’s a whole series. Nothing too brainy, but I like ‘em. They’re real popular. You ever thought . . .

Writer: Don’t.

Bartender (laughing): Not your thing, huh? Too low brow?

Writer: No. Nothing like that. There’re genre writers I like. It’s just not a thing I can just decide to do because there’s a market for it. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be a thing. It’s just not my thing.

Bartender: Hey, on that subject. I don’t think I’ve ever quite gotten that outta you. What is your thing?

Writer: Well, that’s just it. I can’t really sum it up. I’m trying to do something that doesn’t fit a label on a chain-store or airport bookshelf. Something . . . new.

Bartender: Sounds tough. You know what they say, “nothing new under the sun.”

Writer: It is. It is tough. At times it’s just torturous. But that’s how I know I’m on to something worth pursuing, something . . . well, something true. Something with force and substance and impact. Yeah, something with impact. It’s not meant to be just an artifact or a monument, it’s got to be a living, breathing, bleeding . . .

The door jingles open again, and three men enter, chatting and laughing. The Bartender greets them and moves to serve them as the sit at the bar. The Writer stares, briefly transfixed. A look of elation lights his face. Then, in a sudden rush, as if a shock has gone through him, drains his second shot and the remaining beer, recklessly throws money on the bar, shouts a half  “good-bye” and charges out the door.

INT- NIGHT – The home office

The Writer is back at his desk. He is looking at a blank page on his monitor, but counter to the misery of the earlier scene, this one has an air of triumph. The glow from the desk lamp is rosy rather than dismal. The Writer looks heroic in this glow. He types, smiling, and we see the words appear onscreen:

“So, a priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar . . .”