Chapter Twenty-two

   Twenty-two? Twenty-two chapters, already? Hey, that's amazing. Of course, not as amazing as what's about to happen. Remember, when we left off I had lost control of things completely. Some larger, more powerful "voice" had taken over and was forcing me to write the words "perpendicular porridge" over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
   So, be forewarned. I will now step aside and turn over this manuscript to -- drumroll, please -- MR. BIG!
   Thank you, thank you. You know, sometimes we write because we have a message to deliver. Sometimes we write to foster acceptance, or to satisfy a hammish urge to entertain and be recognized, or simply to get attention. Or, we write just to write. There are many reasons. Mine are not that clear. You see, I started out trying to depict the thought processes of the writer, to get inside the head of the writer, but what I seem to have created instead is a hodgepodge of half-finished thoughts and characters and fragments of stories that would need considerable "fleshing out" if they are ever going to be accepted as coherent prose.
   The use of the neurotic James M. Reynolds came out of an almost random selection process, plus a fear of a closer connection with the characters. But things got a little carried away. The abstract voices started to take shape, much to my surprise. Maureen, especially. She served as my Candide, taking every absurd and unpredictable punishment I could dish out, but always coming back for more. And, recently, standing up for her very own uniqueness and individuality and stepping away from the story altogether. I miss her.
   "You do?"
   Yes, I do -- Maureen? Is that you?
   "Hi, Jim. There is no MR. BIG, is there."
   Of course not. If there were a MR. BIG, though, I'd be him.
   "I'm sure you would. I'm hungry. How about treating me to lunch?"
   I know just the place.
   We entered the luncheonette holding hands. It was the first time we'd ever held hands, and I think we each had a case of the goosebumps.
   "What'll it be?" asked the lady behind the counter. I'd describe her, but she has only two lines of dialogue and isn't very interesting.
   "I'll have... " Maureen couldn't make up her mind, so I ordered for both of us.
   Two goose liver sandwiches, on pumpernickel.
   "Goose liver? Ugh!"
   You'll like it, Maureen, trust me.
   "Anything to drink?" the waitress asked, uttering her final line.
   "Yes. A lemonade."
   I'll have twenty-two iced teas, please.
   All in the cause of anarchy. So, what brings you back? I asked her, knowing the answer, as well as the next question and the answer to that too.
   "It was the strangest thing, Jim, the strangest thing. I was alone, in the middle of the strangest landscape. Nothing was clearly defined, it was really sort of dreamlike. In fact, it felt more like a cartoon, like I was inside a cartoon, or maybe just a single frame of a cartoon, just the backdrop frame, the scenery -- but without a Bugs Bunny or a Daffy Duck or any of the other cartoon performers. Oh, they might have been there, in the back, in their dressing room, or trailer."
   Yeah, yeah, go on.
   "Well, I'm standing there, when all of a sudden there's this tremendous cloud or shadow that blots out the sun, the sky, everything is pitch black, and then, after a few seconds, it goes away."
   Hmm. Was it an eclipse?
   "Well, if it was, it was an awfully fast one. I mean, it only lasted for a few seconds, but for those few seconds -- wow!"
   You know what? You were in a cartoon. That's it. You were in a cartoon. That would explain the brief period of darkness. It was the artist, or the cartoonist, blocking the light source, like a lamp. Yup. That's probably it.
   "How could that be? That's absurd."
   Yes, it is. But plausible.
   "No it's not."
   By writing it -- thinking it -- that alone makes it plausible.
   "No it doesn't. It's only plausible that you wrote it or thought it, not that it's plausible in and of itself. I couldn't have been in a cartoon!"
   You're sure?
   "Yes, yes, of course I'm sure. And, really, what does any of this have to do with the work at hand? What does any of this have to do with -- anything? You're crazy, Jim, and you're driving me crazy. Do you know that? Do you?!!!"
   Yes, I think I'm aware of that, Maureen, and I'm sorry. What would make you happy?
   "I told you what would make me happy a long time ago."
   You did?
   "Yes, in Chapter Three."
   Three? You remember that far back? I can't even remember the beginning of this chapter.
   "You promised me you'd create a world where things aren't moving so fast, a simpler place, in a simpler time."
   Oh, yes, I remember now. Well sure, why not?

(This ends Chapter Twenty-two, a good time to take a break, go out for a sandwich, some Laura Scudder's Sour Cream n' Onion Flavored Potato Chips, and a refreshing Diet Seven Up, and then come back and settle in for a delightful children's story. In exchange for the mere mention of the above-named products, a very small fee has been provided.)

Chapter Twenty-three