Chapter Two

   I think -- no, I'm positive -- that there is more than one "reader." There is the reader -- you -- the person reading this at this very moment; and there is the reader, or readers, who I dealt with previously; and then there are other readers, readers I can't see, you can't see, past readers, future readers, and they all have an imprint on what I write. How, you ask, could people who have never read this, never seen this, people in the future, have an effect on what I haven't written yet, haven't even thought of yet? Well, when you stop to think about it, of course, they can't. It's implausible, preposterous.
   Sorry, I got lost. Where was I? Jim. Jim. Is my name Jim? That's what Maureen called me. Jim? Not Jim for James... James M. Reynolds?... I'm not James M. Reynolds am I? How could that be? If that were true, and the Reynolds shoelace-tying machine was invented in 1924, then that would make me at least ninety years old, so I'm not James M. Reynolds. But who am I? Excuse me, the phone.
   "Hi. It's me again."
   "Maureen? I was just thinking about you. What's new?"
   "Mr. Katz said you can have your old job back. If you're still available."
   "I'll be right there!"
   "No, no, they're not open today, Jim, it's Sunday. Tomorrow. You can start tomorrow."
   Well, let me tell you, after I got off the phone I was floating. I was giddy. I was in Nirvana. I was in the best neighborhood in Nirvana. I was so happy I forgot to turn the oven off when I left the apartment. I went outside, looked down and, wouldn't you know it -- a five dollar bill was lying there, staring up at me from the sidewalk. I could almost hear Lincoln, in that squeaky voice of his, say, "It's yours, you idiot, pick it up!" And I did.
   Now, I know, I know, I owe you a story, I didn't forget, but, aren't you just a little bit curious about what happened after I left the oven on? No? Okay.

   It's the middle of nowhere. And it's hot. Oh, is it hot. And dry. And there is no one, nothing, anywhere. Just some steep cliffs pocked with holes. The sun, from its angle, suggests that it's about four-thirty in the afternoon and -- what do you know? -- my digital watch reads "4:38." I decide to sit down and rest. I need some time to think, sort out what's happened, and what's happening, and what's about to happen. I put down my small pouch filled with dried meat and gum, and then it hits me -- I left the oven on back at the apartment! I catch the next bus home. It takes forty-two hours, but I get there. I race upstairs, open the door, sprint into the kitchen and turn off the oven. It was hot as hell, but no damage done. I flopped down on the sofa for a much-needed nap. What a day, I thought. And then, it hits me -- I left the pouch back in Colorado!

   So, what do I do? Stay here? Go back to Colorado? Or, just dump the whole thing altogether?
   Okay, enough dilly-dallying. My name really is James M. Reynolds. I changed it, legally, to James M. Reynolds before I ever heard of the other James M. Reynolds, the inventor. Now, maybe, you can understand my interest in the man. I came across him in an old book about offbeat inventions and inventors, Necessity is Not Necessarily the Mother of Invention, a treasure-trove of weird and wonderful information about a segment of society that is totally ignored -- people for whom "a little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing." I stole that quote directly from the dust cover. Reynolds, of course, had a brief mention in the book, and ever since I've been trying to track down anything I can about him. I traveled all the way to Youngstown, Ohio, to Euclid Street, and looked for the address he left with the U.S. Patent Office back in 1924. But there was no such address, at least according to the Youngstown Hall of Records. So, it seemed, I was stumped.
   Meanwhile, after Maureen called I decided to get a haircut and buy some new duds to wear to work. I admit it, I'd let myself go lately. Didn't change my clothes for weeks at a time. Didn't bathe. Didn't go out of the house. Didn't answer the phone. Nothing. Just read magazines. And wrote. I wrote most of this before she called. Now I don't know when I'll find the time to write again. The hours at Kopy Katz (I just got it! Cats, Katz, copycats -- Kopy Katz!) are long, and since I don't drive, and the bus takes an hour-and-a-quarter to get there, the whole day is gone before I get home. And I don't want to go back to sleeping on the floor behind the Xerox machine. Oh well.
   Now, as for you, the reader, or readers. I bet I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, How is he going to resolve this? How is he going to break out of this spiraling literary abyss? When is he going to get to the point? And, what is the point? And, there must be a point or they wouldn't publish it, but then again, when you look at all the crap they do publish, and so forth and so on -- am I right? Of course I'm right!
   Let's go back -- weeks, months -- to before the time I plopped my face down on the cold cold glass of the Xerox machine in a failed, and futile (and stupid! -- Ed., the real Editor -- really! More to come. In the meantime, back to him.) foolish -- and fateful -- attempt to impress this female co-worker who, up to that moment, had never shown any interest in me at all except the usual compassion one would show any aberrant person who was coming on to one. Let's go back, then, back to when my life made some sense, when it had some purpose -- when it had a linear, direct, clear-cut, well-thought-out, straightforward, staid, bland, boring, predictable, depressing, dirge-like direction to it. Back to a time when everything was cold, and dark, and dank, and still. Let's go back to that meaningless epoch of nothingness, to the void, to the -- wait -- why would I want to go back to that? Why? Why am I asking you?
   I guess I'm not back to normal just yet.
   "Doctor Farley will see you for just a few minutes -- if you can come in now -- please?"
   "Yes, nurse, I can." I walked in with the casual air of someone who had nothing to lose, although I felt a gnawing anxiety I couldn't explain. Doctor Farley, not a real doctor but an actor you would recognize from TV, told me to relax and, when I was relaxed, to start talking. It took a few minutes, but I was able to calm down and speak rationally, and at some length.
   "It's hard to know where to begin. Do I go back to my childhood, my earliest memories, or do I tell you where I am right now at this very moment?"
   "Tell me about right now, at this very moment," the doctor replied, checking his watch.
   "Okay. Recently -- might have been today, or maybe even a couple of years ago -- I was trying to impress someone at work and stuck my head inside the Xerox machine. Well, the next thing I know I'm in New Mexico in the Eleventh Century, living with Indians in a cave inside a cliff -- and then I'm back at work again -- and then I'm waiting for you -- and then I'm watching TV -- and then I'm in Maine and it's World War Two -- and then I'm back here -- and then I'm -- shall I keep going?"
   The doctor didn't answer, in fact he didn't say a thing. He just stood up, and walked out. No explanation, nothing. I waited. I waited for hours. After about four hours I couldn't keep my eyes open, so I lay down on the couch and took a nap. I must have been exhausted because I slept right through the night. The next morning I was awakened by the phone.
   "Hello... " I was half asleep.
   "Doctor's office?"
   "Who's this?"
   "Who's this?"
   "I asked you first." Great -- a wise guy. "Look, the doctor's not in. No one's here."
   "You're there."
   "I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule."
   "Oh, a wise guy."
   "Look, pal, I don't work here. I had an appointment yesterday afternoon, I fell asleep on the couch and your call just woke me up. By the way, what time is it?"
   "It's time for you to tell the Doc that if he's not in his office in thirty minutes and gives me what I want, I'm going to do something really nasty to that pretty nurse of his. You tell him that."
   And he hung up. There was violence in his voice. He meant what he said. Then I heard a key turning in the front door. It had to be the nurse. Now what? A homicidal maniac's on his way over to pick up -- money? Drugs? And he's prepared to mess up this nice young woman if he doesn't get it! Should I tell her? I was totally freaked out when I stepped into the reception area. She was startled, but not too.
   "Hi. What are you doing here?"
   "I must have fallen asleep. But we don't have much time. You better call the police."
   "The police? Why?"
   "Because a guy just called and said he was coming right over and if the Doc doesn't give him what he wants he's going to... he's going to... "
   "Going to... what?"
   "I'd rather not say. Just call 9-1-1."
   She picked up the phone and hit the buttons, and waited. And waited. And waited. Then, through the frosted-glass window in the front door appeared the shadow of a figure. Was it him?
   "Hello? Police? What? I did? You're kidding! Thank you." She giggled, and hung up. I couldn't believe her attitude, given a serial killer was about to enter.
   "So? Did you reach the police?"
   "No, no, that wasn't the police," she said, wiping away tears of laughter. "I must have dialed seven-one-one, the number for emergency phone repair."
   It wasn't that funny -- and then the door started to open. Whoever it was was about to enter. My heart was racing. Something had to be done.
   "Call again," I urged her. "Call again!"
   "Call again! Call the police again! Call!"
   "All right, all right, don't have a fit, I'll -- "
   "Good morning everyone. And -- good morning, Mr. Reynolds! What a surprise to see you here so bright and early." It was Dr. Farley, or at least the actor who plays him.
   "It's you, Doctor! I must have fallen asleep in your office last night. But that's not why I'm here."
   "Then what's the problem? You're not having trouble sleeping -- we know that!" He laughed, slapping me on the back so hard it knocked my glasses to the floor -- and I don't wear glasses! "Come on, Mr. Reynolds, tell me, what's your problem?"
   "Well, the phone rang in your office this morning, just a short while ago, and it was this guy, and he made some very threatening statements. Said he was coming right over."
   "Mr. Reynolds, give me a few minutes to wash up and get ready and then I'll be glad to talk to you a little bit later about all of this."
   "A little bit later? Look, I really think it would be a good idea to call the police since this guy said he was coming 'right over' and it sounded like he wanted something from you, like maybe money, or drugs."
   "It's just a delusion."
   "What? A delusion? How could it be a delusion?" I was starting to get really pissed off at this "doctor." "Don't you understand? He's coming over here to do something really ugly -- his words -- to your nurse! Why don't you do something?"
   "It's fiction, Mr. Reynolds. A story."
   "Yes, of course, I know that. A story that you and I happen to be in, and this story, for us, this story is all there is. There isnothing else. This is the whole enchilada!"
   He just stood there, smiling cryptically.
   "Say something!"
   "I can't," he finally said.
   "What do you mean you can't? You just did."
   "That's not talking. That's not dialogue. Dialogue comes from character. And character comes from imagination. And there isn't much of thathere."
   "Where's 'here?'"
   "'Here' is here."
   (Editor's Note: I've just come aboard, so don't expect much perspective from me, but obviously a breakdown has occurred, and in order to keep you, the reader, interested, something has to change. I will do my best, and hire somebody immediately.)
   Suddenly the door burst open, revealing a deranged man wielding an ax -- no, forget the ax -- but he was deranged, and practically foaming at the mouth. He stepped toward me.
   "You the doctor?" he growled.
   "Uh... yes," I volunteered. I was surprised at my courage, or stupidity. Why was I playing the fall guy?
   "You have something for me," he stated emphatically.
   I nodded. Without looking at the real (fake) doctor who, in keeping with his character was saying nothing, I stepped over to the cabinet where the tongue-depressors and bandages are kept, and started fumbling my way through the supplies, pretending to look for something. The nurse came to my rescue.
   "I moved them," she said, stepping in front of me. Opening a different cabinet, she pulled out a small tin box and handed it to the man. He seemed satisfied, and grunted.
   "Thanks. I'll be back next week." And, with that, he was gone. What a relief! I started to thank the nurse when the man suddenly returned.
   "Excuse me. What do I do now?"
   "You leave," I explained. "This isn't a play. Get out. Go home. Hibernate. Scram." And he left. For good. I was quite pleased with myself. (Note to Editor: I don't need your help, thank you!)
   The doctor laughed. "Nice going, Mr. Reynolds, but your work isn't done." He took out a crumpled, faded newspaper clipping and showed it to me. Under a picture of Abraham Lincoln was the headline, "LINCOLN SECRETLY WORKING ON SHOELACE-TYING CONTRAPTION."
   "What? No, not Lincoln -- it's Reynolds, James M. Reynolds!"
   "Reynolds? Oh, I'm sorry."
   "Great. Now what -- a visit from the Editor?" (He's right. I'm new, but understand, Mr. Note hired me to rein things in, to bring things back into focus, to smooth things out. The imagination can produce wonders, but when ideas are left undeveloped, when context and story and style and logic are simply thrown out the window, repeatedly, what else is there to do? What would you do? -- Ed.)
   (My Note: There is a shadow reality, existing in the imagination, that parallels the "real" reality and sometimes, even, intersects with it. This is one of those times. Think about it: When I address you, it is in the voice of the ultimate, final authority, the core of this thing, not some interloper who just showed up. [He means me -- Ed.] In fact, I don't know why I have to defend myself. The obligation here is yours, to trust me, to trust that the odd twists and turns and detours are all planned, all worked out ahead of time. Well, some of them, at least. But I'm in charge here, not You Know Who. But -- back to the novel.)
   "Where did you get that newspaper?" I asked the doctor.
   "Well, I -- "
   Just then the door burst open, revealing a character more depraved, more craven, more horrific than anything I'd ever imagined. Not so much a man as a monster, a monster that could only exist in the depths of a perverse imagination. A frightening figure, to be sure.
   "Who are you?" I asked.
   "Who am I?" he growled. "I'm the reader!"
   "What? You are?" He was? (He is? -- Ed.) "Prove it."
   "All right. Let's see... You're a disoriented character named James M. Reynolds who, trying to impress a female co-worker, stuck his head inside a Xerox machine, shattering his reality into so many pieces of Turkish taffy. Shall I go on?"
   I was stunned. I'd never met the reader before, at least as far as I can remember. What an ugly puss on this guy! Looked like he just stepped out of the sewer. One thing bothered me, though.
   "Excuse me," I asked, "but -- if you're the reader, then... who is reading... this?"
   "Here's how it works," he started. "There is a shadow reality, existing in the imagination, that parallels the 'real' reality and sometimes, even, intersects with it. This is one of those times."
   "Wait a minute -- I wrote that."
   "You did?"
   "Yes, I did, and not too long ago, either. You probably just read it."
   "Well, I don't know where it came from, but that's not the point. The point is... hell, I forgot what the point is." And with that, he waved his hand derisively, and walked out.
   "Good riddance to bad rubbish," the doctor said, as the door closed.
   By now I was working on a really bad headache, and getting a little dizzy. The nurse took a cool, wet towel and gently placed it on my forehead.
   "Thanks." I was about to ask her what was going on -- was I sick? Was I having a bad dream? Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a voice pierced through everything.
   "And... cut!" Everyone relaxed -- everyone except me, that is. The doctor lit a cigarette. The nurse went over to her desk and took out a half-eaten sandwich. The lights dimmed. I had the eerie feeling of being on a movie set. But where were the cameras? And who said, 'Cut!'?"
   But I digress, and how. Let's get back to Maureen at Kopy Katz. I call her Maureen because that's her name, her real name, her given name. But when I first met her -- my first day at Kopy Katz -- I jokingly called her "Maureen" without even knowing her name was Maureen! It's the only time that joke has ever worked! (It worked for me once, too! -- Ed.) Her reaction was to keep as far away as possible. She'd use crazy excuses, like, she was being watched, or, I was being watched, or the mob was after her, or whatever. But, over time, and after a series of embarrassing but ingratiating little stunts, I was winning her over, when... it happened. Oh well, you can't cry over spilt reality. Besides, like I said, things are going great right now. I am in the bubble.
   Actually, the bubble burst. Yup. The whole thing. Blown apart. There's nothing. It's all a lie. Not one thing was true. Not even my telling you it wasn't true just now. Not even my telling you that I told you it wasn't true. And that last statement as well. It's all baloney. And all the baloney is baloney. Everything is baloney. And, if everything is baloney, and nothing is true, then where does it exist, this world of baloney? What do you say?
   "I told you, don't worry about the unknowable -- it'll only drive you to distraction. Deal with the small, the tangible, the details. Reality as we know it."
   I'll think about it. Seriously, I will. No I won't. Who am I kidding? It's all baloney. Baloney. Baloney.

   Or is it bologna?

   "Try context."
   I know. I lack context. And boundaries. And walls. I need walls, barriers, limits. In a world of infinite possibilities there are no possibilities. I see what you're saying. You're saying that if I limit myself to one theme, one set of characters, I'll find a context, and story -- story -- will follow. Of course. Good. Thanks.
   "What? I'm sorry, I was distracted by something going on in the other room. What were you just saying?"
   Oh, great. You're sitting there, this book in your lap, open to this very page, your eyes reading these very words, and, what? -- somebody drops a shoe in the other room and you're distracted!
   "What? I'm sorry, again you caught me off guard. There's a fly on the table next to me and... if I just sneak up on it... I can... Dammit!"
   Hey. Excuse me. Hello? It's me. Down here! On the page -- about a third of the way down -- just after your pathetic attempt to swat a fly. Can you see this? Hello?
   "I'm back."
   Good. I'm thrilled.
   "Look, I paid for this book. I can do what I want with it, can't I? I can rip this page out if I want to. I can go up on the roof and rip all the pages out and tear them into small pieces and let them float to the ground like so much confetti, and people could pick up the pieces and read them and it would probably make more sense than what you've got so far."
   You know, you've reminded me of something. I've heard that if you jumped off a tall building and, on the way down, never gave in to fear, or the inevitability of hitting the ground -- just smiled and waved and relaxed and told jokes or whatever -- that you'd land on your feet, without a scratch.
   "You really think that's true?"
   I don't know. Let's find out. You go up on the roof, and I'll --
   "That's enough! I'm closing the book, and taking a bath."



   Anybody there? Hello? Where'd you go? Reader? Where are you? Reader?
   "I'm in the tub!"
   Hey -- don't get me wet!
   "Don't worry... "
   The ink will smear, everything will change its meaning.
   "Really? Why is that? Why would your words change their meaning just because the ink smears? Is the ink your words?" (I'd like to cut in here in order to express my frustration at being completely left out of the writer-reader equation -- Ed.)
   Look, you, the tub is no place to read a book.
   "Says who?"
   It just isn't. What if you fall asleep? They say that over forty thousand people drown every year as a result of reading in the bathtub.
   "That's ridiculous. Where did you get that statistic?"
   I don't know. Where does anything come from? Where do thoughts come from? Or ideas, stories, characters, like the characters in this book -- where do they come from? They don't exist, not in reality. We can't physically see them. Each reader has to provide his or her own interior cinematic image to go with the text or else it will be only words, words that are only letters, arranged in a kind of code -- a very imprecise and messy code -- slapdashed together over centuries to communicate -- what? Thoughts? Imaginary, and abstract thoughts, with no texture, or taste, or smell? Or fiber?
   "What the hell are you talking about?" the reader now asks me, but I do not answer, having shifted to the narrative form.
   Silence. It feels good.
   Now, I really should return Maureen's phone call. It's been at least a week and she's probably forgotten my name, whatever it is. But, if I'm going to prove to her that I'm mature and responsible, this is how to do it.
   It's ringing.
   "Hi. It's old scatterbrain again. How are you?"
   "Jim? Jim Reynolds? Is this really Jim Reynolds?"
   "Why so surprised?" I asked. She acted as if I'd been away for years, in a cave.
   "Where are you right now, Jim?"
   "Me? I'm by the phone."
   "A pay phone?"
   "No, of course not. This is my phone. I own it."
   "Where are you, Jim?"
   "I'm home."
   "And where is home?"
   "Home is where the -- oh, come on, Maureen. Why the third degree? Or is it the fifth degree?"
   "This is the strangest... "
   She fell silent. I waited.
   "Where are you?"
   "I don't know. I'm somewhere in the Van Allen Belt between fiction and hyperfiction."
   "You're not making any sense, Jim."
   "When have I ever made sense?"
   "Before you stuck your head in the copier."
   "Those were the days, weren't they? Say, do they still have that machine?"
   "Yes, but they've moved. The old store became a dry cleaners, Jim Dandy Dry Cleaners, and then it became a video rental place, and now it's empty."
   "You mean I could buy that store and open another copying place?"
   "Yes, but why would you want to? The neighborhood stinks. It's filled with creeps."
   "Creeps who need their important documents copied."
   "Do you realize this is the longest discussion we've had since the, uh -- "
   "The accident. I know. I think things are leveling off for me. I'm coming out of the mirror. Focus. Context. I think I'm thinking clearly again."
   "What are you going to do?"
   "I don't know. Write."
   "Any subject matter that grabs you?"
   "I was thinking, maybe, a western."
   "A western?"
   "Yeah, but a psychological western, a study of why the gunslinger goes around killing people. You know, what motivates him."
   "Sounds boring."
   "I don't think it's boring."
   "Well, that's what makes a horse race. How's your aunt?"
   "Your great aunt -- the one who plays the lottery all the time."
   "Oh yeah. I made her up."
   "Go on. You did not."
   "Okay, I didn't."
   "Get it together, okay? Get into the present tense."
   "You sound like Mr. Butler."
   "Mr. Butler?"
   "My boss at the bank."
   "I didn't know you worked in a bank."
   "It was just the information desk. A nothing job. A joke."
   "Which bank?"
   "First Federal Security."
   "First Federal Security? Where's that?"
   "It used to be downtown."
   "First Federal Security, First Federal Security... Wasn't there a big -- "
   "Yeah, a couple of years ago. A guy went berserk and shot up the place. Total maniac. Paranoid schizophrenic. They never caught him."
   "Were you there at the time?"
   "No. Nowhere near the place."
   "I meant, were you working there at the time?"
   "No -- I mean, yes."
   "Jim, I have to go. Remember what I said. The present tense. I'll talk to you soon. 'Bye."
   She hangs up. Now what? I wonder. I've never written in the present tense before, as far as I can remember. Oh, there was that one time, years ago, but no, not since then...
   You know what this is like? This is like riding in the first car of a roller coaster, seeing everything just a millisecond before it happens, getting as close to the present as you can possibly get without actually being in the present. Like traveling in a train at the speed of light while someone riding in another train that is going slightly slower than the speed of light passes you. I never understood that one.
   Here's something else I don't understand: Why aren't I hungry? Why don't I go to the bathroom, or shop for food, or clothes, or take a walk, or eat, or fart, or sleep, or sneeze, or breathe? Why? Is it that obvious? Am I missing something here?
   "You're only what I imagine you to be."
   Oh. Uh-huh. So?
   "Well, if you're described in such a way as to make me imagine a scattered, paranoid, confused soul, then that's what I'll see you as -- a scattered, paranoid, confused soul."
   I don't even know who I'm talking to. Who am I talking to?
   "You're not talking to anyone. You are writing, one word after another, and the words are forming this dialogue between two disembodied voices, one yours, one mine."
   Gee, you have a way with words. Have you ever thought about writing?
   "No sarcasm, please."
   I'm not being sarcastic. Sincerely, why don't you write something?
   "Right now?"
   Well, no, I didn't mean this second. Whenever you want to -- I don't know -- that's up to you.
   "What would I write?"
   That's also up to you.
   "But, I've never written anything longer than a letter."
   You're doing all right. Keep going.
   "This is writing? This?"
   Yes, this.
   "I don't call this writing."
   What do you call it then?
   "Aimless meandering on a typewriter."
   Some of the greatest works of modern literature have started out as aimless meandering on a typewriter.
   "Why limit it to modern literature?"
   Well, they didn't have typewriters before eighteen something.
   "Oh. All right, in any case, if this is great writing "
   I didn't say it was.
   "All right, if it is even good writing... "
   It's okay...
   "Well, then, I guess I just don't get it."
   You don't "get" it?
   "It's not my cup of tea."
   Not your cup of tea? What is your cup of tea?
   "I really don't know. History."
   Great... Listen -- where'd you buy this?
   "Book store near me. It was in the 'remainders' bin."
   "Cost a dollar."
   Ouch! And, is that all you bought?
   "No. I picked up a copy of Lincoln: The Man, by Ethan Childress, for three dollars."
   Three dollars? For that godawful bio of Lincoln?
   "I haven't read it yet. I wanted to finish this first. But now I may drop this and start that."
   Go ahead, see if I care. By the way, in case you're interested, Childress theorizes that Lincoln's lifelong battle with migraines was due to an unusual mandibular disease -- a theory that's been totally debunked. The migraines were very real, but separate from the jaw problems. Lincoln, by the way -- and you may not have known this -- was a great admirer of Napoleon.
   That's right. And it was to Lincoln's great consternation that he grew to such opposite physical stature as his hero. Six-four in his stocking feet, Abe was. And what a brilliant political tactician! We think of Lincoln as this great, mythic figure, a man for all time, above the hurly-burly mean-spirited gutter hardball played by common politicos -- but that is incorrect. You still there?
   "Yeah, yeah -- this is fascinating. Where'd you learn all this about Lincoln?"
   Learn it? I taught it. I taught Childress everything he knows. Imagine my embarrassment when he came out with that sappy Lincoln bio. Right in the 'remainders' bin. Along with this, alas.
   "Tell me more about Lincoln. What was he like -- as a young man?"
   As a young man? Well, Lincoln, at the age of only ten, defended a man who had been arrested for robbing a -- hey, wait a second. How much did you pay for this book?
   "One dollar."
   "And what?"
   What do you think?
   "I like the stuff about Lincoln. That's all I usually read -- history, biographies. I could do without the rest."
   Well, I could do without you, to be honest. I'm bored. I'm bored with you, I'm bored with the other readers, I'm bored with having to cater to you -- and all at the expense of getting on with my own life, albeit a fictional one. You can understand that, can't you?
   "Sure, sure, I hear you. So? What's stopping you?"
   Well, if I get back on that old nine-to-five treadmill I'll go crazy -- and I'll lose you, the readers, my most precious asset, outside of my magazine collection.
   "You've got to face something, my friend. You are not real. You do not have to conform to the same standards as real people. You only exist in the minds of those readers who are reading about you, and as such, you can do or say anything you pretty well please. But -- you better start saying things that will pretty well please this reader, and soon, or I'll be putting you down fast -- and picking up Lincoln: The Man!"
   Aha, I see. You've gone to the direct threat. Well, two can play at that game, I believe. Let's see, when Lincoln was twelve he borrowed an ax from his father, and went out into the dense woods of Illinois and spent the next twenty-four hours doing nothing but chopping wood -- something Childress never mentions, because I never told him! He chopped wood, without stopping, for twenty-four hours. Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop... it went on all day, and all night. His mother and father normally would never ask their headstrong and precocious son why he was doing anything, but in this case his mother got concerned and told Abe's father to go out and ask their famous son why he was chopping so much wood. Abe's father approached him cautiously, as the brilliant orator was all wrapped up in thought while continuing to chop away at log after log after log. Finally, his father got his son's attention, and, for the first time in twenty-four hours, Honest Abe stopped chopping wood. "Why are you chopping so much wood, Abe?" his father asked our sixteenth President point blank. After reflecting on it for a short while, the Great Emancipator turned to his father and said...

   "Yes... ? Said what?"
   You'll keep reading?
   "Yes, so -- what did Lincoln say to his father?"
   What did he say? I don't know. And it wasn't in his father's memoirs because his father couldn't write. But here's a startling fact: None of t?@&! %*$#$%% !*$&)(%^E.
   "What? What was that?"
   None of t?@&! %*$#$%% !*$&)(%^E.
   "I don't understand. That's gibberish. Isn't it?"
   "What? What's going on here?"
   "What is this?"
   "What are you saying!!!?"
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!

(This ends Chapter Two.)

Chapter Three