The 3 a.m. Litterateur by Tony Conaway

typewriterThe snow reflects the moonlight and the sound of my boots.  “I am,” I mutter to myself, “Zhivago, tromping from Yuriatin back to Moscow in the unforgiving Russian winter.”

She has a chain link fence around her place.  It’s little more than waist-high; meant to keep her dogs in, not people out.  In my condition, it only takes me about fifteen minutes to traverse it.  After several attempts, I manage to fall on the inside of the fence.

Now, how to awaken her but not her roommate?

I am incapable of action unless I’ve first read about it.  Words are my guide.  In stories with similar situations, the protagonist usually hurls something at a bedroom window to wake up the occupant.  For instance, in Brady Udall’s story “Night Raid,” the protagonist tears a tar shingle off of a doghouse and throws it like a Frisbee at a window.  There was also a goat involved in that story, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t throw the goat.

There’s no hard object handy, because there’s over a foot of snow on the ground.  It takes me a few minutes to realize I can use the snow.  I gather up a snowball and pitch it at her bedroom window.

I have to hit her window three times before a light comes on.  I’m not going to tell you how many snowballs it took for me to hit that target thrice.

“Deanna,” I shout, forgetting my intention to be quiet.  I go for Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski.  Instead, I sound like Woody Allen whining. “De-ann-uh-huh-huh!”

She opens her window, pokes her head out.  She is a vision of loveliness in her lingerie. (If you can call a high-collared flannel nightgown lingerie.)  The final snowball hit just as she opened her window; she tosses handfuls of snow out.


“Deanna!  I need you.  I should never have broken up with you!”

“I broke up with you, Tony.  And you don’t need anything except your typewriter.  That’s what you said, Mr. Profound-Observer-of-the-Human-Condition.  Now go home and write about rejection.”

“I can’t. I’m too drunk.”

“You’re not drunk.”

“Yes I am!”

“You start vomiting after three beers.”

“Which is why I had two beers and a Benadryl. AND a double espresso at Starbucks!”

“Great.  Caffeine, alcohol, and an antihistamine.  Stimulants and depressants.  In a normal person, they’d cancel each other out.”

“I’m not normal!  I love you!”


The houses were close together.  Apparently I’d awakened a neighbor.  I shouted back to him:  Dangerous Bolsheviks out here!  We’re going to overthrow the Czar!  Better call out the Militia! 

“Thanks, Tony.  Like I need more trouble with my neighbors.”

This wasn’t going according to plan.  In my mind, I searched through dozens of stories about drinking.  Maybe Robert Stone’s “Fun with Problems” would work.  The protagonist gets an alcoholic to fall off the wagon so he can sleep with her.

“Have a drink with me.”

“You know I give up drinking for Lent.  There’s no alcohol in the house.”

“We’ll go out.”

“It’s 3 am, Tony.  The bars are closed.”

“That after-hours club—“

“The private club?  They won’t let you back in.  You’re banned.”

“Just a misunderstanding—“

“When you found out the club didn’t have any black members, you stood on the bar and gave your Atticus Finch speech!”

“Did it work?”

“No, the club is still segregated.  But they got the local school board to remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the required reading list.”

This isn’t going well.  I try to think of something, anything.  I remember a line Lorrie Moore wrote: people will do anything, anything, for a really nice laugh.

I have a great laugh.  I give her one of my best, a full basso-profundo.  Santa Claus has nothing on me.

My laugh has the usual effect: it awakens every dog in the neighborhood.  Even Deanna’s own dogs, slug-a-beds though they are, can’t ignore this.

“Better start running,” Deanna says as she closes the window.

It’s fortunate that I’m wearing a winter coat with thick insulation.  I lose some of the left sleeve to a ferocious beagle before I tumble back over the fence.  On the way over, my face scrapes against something.

Then I’m lying face down in the snow, bleeding from a small scrape.  I search for a literary precedent.  Again, I think of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago: the young revolutionary, Pavel Antipov, is left bleeding by the slash of a Cossack’s saber.  Or was that just in the movie version?

Well, those beagles definitely had a Cossacky look to them.  I rise unsteadily. I’m filled with the desire to write.  My prose can make this a noble defeat!

Better yet, I’ll rewrite this as a victory.  Which it will be…if only I can remember where I live.


Tony Conaway

Banner Image: By -JvL- ( [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


5 thoughts on “The 3 a.m. Litterateur by Tony Conaway

  1. Neat little tale about a young upbeat alcoholic writer who is refusing the message his ex-girlfriend is sending with a high fence, dogs, a roommate, and a verbal breakup. At least the poor fellow can write his own story his way and who would not wish him well?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tony,
    A well written tale that we will all to relate to. Where to get inspiration? We only need to look at our failures!!
    An entertaining short.


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