When it came it was sudden.
There had been a bunch of false alarms and near misses.
Paul Buckington had avoided the inevitable for as long as he could and at some points he thought perhaps, Providence played a part, and at others he credited himself with simply persevering against daunting odds.
It was quite surprising, then, to be the one at the end of the pep talk.
All those years of leading the charge, directing his young troops, inspiring others to take action to get in the fight – now here he was in a crowded coffee shop being told who he was and that all he needed to do was right the ship.
It was a surreal moment. He felt like a boxer being told by his corner that not only was he losing the fight but that he was getting embarrassed in the ring.
They stopped talking about strategy and just tried to buoy his spirit and it felt sad in a way. Sad in the way when you know it’s over. Really over. The dream. The vision. The long battle. It was finally done. It was a lost cause that was not worth pursuing. Something new needed to fill the space. But what?
Paul had usually felt somewhat safe and confident that things were going to work out. Rarely did life cooperate, however. He felt as though the meat grinder was always going to miss him even while he could feel the wind of the metal rotors blowing right in his face.
Maybe he was a fool or maybe it was his fucked up upbringing or his unique ability to compartmentalize and ignore reality – he wasn’t sure – all he knew is that he now suddenly found himself deep in debt – in a difficult marriage – with a failing business that was once successful, with middling health and very few viable options.
Another person might be swinging from a rafter or going postal right about now, Buckington just had a feeling that things were going to be OK somehow – he just wasn’t sure how. He also wasn’t really sure he believed that – but he might as well because -why not – you know?
Paul was as low as he had ever been but he had fought back plenty times before and that gave him reason to smile and then he took a moment to remember all the blessings in his life and then that familiar feeling washed over him.
He would go back to making lists and working angles and he would reach out and try to pick himself up – again. Because that’s what you just have to do.
And he thought of his secret fantasies and they inspired him too.
He started to write because while he never could make enough money at it – that just did not seem to matter – because the feeling that charged through his body – rushed through him as he typed – was his salve – and he knew it did not matter if no one read his words.
He knew that his writing was his secret and if others found him out it did not really matter.
The moment for him was the rush he felt as he typed away and the ugliness and fear slowly dissipated.
Maybe one day, I’ll get published, he thought for the millionth time, only to ultimately dismiss his secret wish as a foolish indulgence. He was a tough critic – especially of his own stuff.
Buckington would go to bookstores and open a book and flip through the pages and know instantly if he had hit Pay Dirt or stumbled onto more shit. Another faker. Another terrible writer. Another cute talker. Another person in love with their words and not aware they are strangling the page.
It was so easy to spot good writing, Buckington thought to himself. It grabs you. It forces you to want to keep reading. By the flow, the melody and the story telling. Good writing feels fresh and accessible and funny and sad and real and invites you in.
Bad writing is none of that. It prances around foolishly like an absurd clown. A charlatan in gaudy rags made up of false words and pretentious phrases lacking heart, or guts or humanity or humor.
A good piece of writing is like good music. it engages your senses and works on all levels. It just works and you know it and you appreciate it when you see it.
After he finished his short story, and hit the coffee -pot for a re-fill, Paul Buckington started getting to work on a new “to-do” list, the wife was due home any minute and there was sure to be a lot to discuss.
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