Mike was committed to productivity. Useful writing. “But what’s that?” he thought. Just having payed a couple bills, simple minutes ago, couldn’t remember which ones, or for how much, he was worried about money. At 32, he thought, how pathetic. He needed to write something that would sell. And he didn’t want it to be about wine. Did he? Wait... He could continue down the path of the “darker” [he hated that moldy modifier] stories he’d been writing; murder, mystery, psychological/phantasmagoric horror. He started typing, misspelling everything other word. No mocha yet, he realized.
He had his character, first couple paragraphs, descend into a cellar. Cooled, motionless stage, end of day, little light, amicably sinister. He, an intern from Australia--no, New Zealand--had to put away some racks, glass, make sure the floor by the destemming belt. He felt the temperature drop slightly, but such barely registered after a 14-hour+ harvest shift. From the corner of his eye, he saw someone standing down the row of barrels. Some of the modest light from the next row spilled into his nearness, barely. He couldn’t see who it was. Maybe one of the winemakers doing a final facility walkthrough before leaving. But he thought the winemakers left already, to a meeting in Napa, or St. Helena. “Hello?” he said. The shape didn’t move. No voice.
He turned and walked, almost too enfeebled to be frightened. But he was. He paced through the barrel maze, for the door that’d place him in the lab, in an area lit.
Steps behind him, escalated rhythm, like his. Maybe a bit faster. He started to jog. So did this other behind him, somewhere.
He thought the other’s steps ceased. So he, utterly energy-bankrupt, stopped to catch whatever fluttering oxygen tastes he could. Not wanting to turn around, he did. The same over-capacity desolation, loneliness, as a couple minutes ago. Must be some hazing thing, he thought. He’d experienced this in South Africa, and Argentina as an intern. And once in Oregon’s Pinot zone. “These nutty Americans,” he thought, “So into their jokes and bizarre gags.”
He turned. Solaced.
To see it.
Mike kept writing. And for the first time, in some surprising spurt of time, he was scared by his sentence sequence. Maybe he had something here. He hoped. “Time for that mocha,” he said to his new pages.