Short Fiction

The Unknown Writer by Douglas Robbins

His studio apartment sits downtown. It’s late morning. He puts on blue jeans, a black T-shirt and sits in his writing chair, his only chair. With no socks on, he looks down at his yellowed toenails. He prints out his three completed manuscripts. He walks over and clears off the mahogany wood table he picked up cheap. It has served him for writing, eating, and mail. His futon mattress is only a few feet away. He moves the table into the center of the room scraping it along the floor.

His shortest manuscript is 372 pages about a girl he loved though religious beliefs got in the way. He places that on the left side with great care. His 423 pager is about the old neighborhood, his friends and music they played while cruising the streets at night—fights they got into and running from the cops. His 603 page epic historical novel is about honor and blood that is placed on the right side. He makes sure they are all neatly stacked and equal distances apart. The white edges of the paper look like rings of a tree, revealing time and memories. No page is sticking out.

He looks at the crisp white paper and tight prose. He rubs his finger gently across each cover page: The Girl of God; The Boys of Past Dreams; Blood and Honor.

No agent is interested in them, in him, he believes. The stories would have touched many. The words and ideas had touched him as God had graced these pages, the character arcs, the longing to love and be loved.

He stares at the work that took him years to complete. The many nights with only a bowl of soup to eat: the low paying jobs: the numerous nights alone: the sacrifices. Writing was his pride, his wife if you will, for he was married to her, to the words that consumed his mind instead of going the route his friends took: marriage, cars, houses, kids, love.

From the closet he grabs the thick rope he bought at the local hardware store. He tests its strength by wrapping it around each hand and yanking. The muscles flex on his sinewy arms. He pauses and looks out the window. The view is of a solitary red brick building on the backside of his walkup. Nothing to see. Nothing to stimulate. No beauty to behold.

He pulls the chair back. He grabs his cordless drill and drills a heavy I-bolt into the rafter above. The bolt is rated up to 1000lbs. His cell phone on the desk does not ring to save him. He is alone. Consumed by aloneness.

He drapes the two-inch-thick rope around the bolt and pulls down to test it. He gets onto the chair and stands erect. Chin up. A part of him screams in fear, another part screams in love. He doesn’t listen as the tears come, the pains and reminders.

The flowers and sun will live on, he knows. Art will live on, but his pain will not. “I did it for love,” his voice softens. “I did it all for love…Forgive me.”

He kicks out the chair and hangs next to the table with his gaze upon the pages. He dangles. His body convulses. His eyes tear as he claws at the rope around his throat.

His crisp white manuscript pages are full of life. His characters are alive, if only someone could hear them.

As he writhes in physical pain and mental torment, Malcolm Milroy, a character from Blood and Honor shouts, “Don’t do it, lad. Me and the Mrs. love you too much…Without ye we would never have stood tall.” The unknown writer is not unknown to his characters.

Choking, with tears in eyes he struggles to reach the desk and get his feet under him, swaying. He does so and releases the knot from the I-bolt and the rope from around his neck. Collapsing onto the futon he sobs and convulses. Tears run down his cheeks. Malcolm continues, “Aye, mate. That ain’t the way. Mary will make you some soup.”

Douglas Robbins


6 thoughts on “The Unknown Writer by Douglas Robbins”

  1. Hi Douglas,
    There aren’t many writers who can change my mind within the last couple of paragraphs – You did. I tip my hat to you but hate the fact that I have really enjoyed a writing story, this is a first!!. You twisted everything that you took me along in and caught me with the ending!


  2. Hello Douglas

    This is both an effective metaphor and an accurate description of just another day at home. If you don’t feel disappointment keenly, then you really don’t mean it. There has to be the danger of the things you create coming back to destroy you, as well as save you, or they aren’t worth a damn. Well done.


  3. All the lonely people where do they all come from? I think Paul McCartney asked that. I’ve heard of writers who spent a lifetime on one book that never was published. The line between commitment and obsession is thin. Beyond my understanding. How about self-publishing?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In a crowded world of loneliness, self-belief and trust may slip away. The way the fictional character emerged in the writer’s mind was a psychological motif that confirms how every writer brings them to life. I enjoyed this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Saved by his characters! At least someone cares. Geez, I wish I had this guy’s writing motivation, but really, he’s got to get a life…. saying that in the dark humour spirit of this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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