Mike didn’t feel different, waking on 1/1/11. While at Starbucks, he heard a few people, even the garrison of the grumpy elders by the doors, whistling about this coincidental number arrangement. In front of the screen, he longed for paper. And another sip of his mocha.
In this new year, he thought, new material. More character-focused. Perhaps even a slight, or sublimely significant, pullback on the vino throttle, both in consumption and with the vinoLit philosophy. The Literary roots of old, much by him missed. The song that played brought samples of rolling waves blended with a classic guitar, over a reverbed lazy rhythm. He imagined the characters that would be at his wine bar, what they would wear, what they talk about in this reality of a new year.
His character, Kelly, picked at his creative strings. But she, strangely, wasn’t enough. Not this morning. He needed another. Diving into one of his older journals, he found notes on Erlycia, a character barely past the list-of-qualities/traits stage. She would be similar to Kelly, but the contrast needed in order for pages to progress profitably--no, BELIEVABLY. Mike thought about her dark hair, eyes, adorable occasional pessimism, u-turning in naysay.
Pulled from his lazy reflection by the stealth reminder, in post-it form on the “wrist-rest” area of his laptop, of a writer’s meeting tonight at 7p, at Monti’s. He had nothing for tonight’s gathering. He didn’t even want to go. But what a horrible way to start the new year, he thought, especially if he wanted to Self reshape into more a Literary creature.
“I just couldn’t stop writing. I mean, it was like I was a tornado of awesomeness, you know?” Susan said, sipping her tea, looking through her pages, so pleased with self. Mike never could stand her, the constant shameless plugger. “Did you guys buy my chapbook that’s at North Light, yet?”
Mike heard a song begin its decent onto the table that reminded him of his wine bar visions. Monti’s itself, always served as terrific template, propulsion. His spot would look something like this, he thought. The flashbacks were also prompted by the pages in front of his ice water with lime and mint leaf. 1000 words he rushed today in dread of the appointment with the group. “The group,” he hated that phrase, what it embodied. They hardly ever workshopped, discussed Literature, theory, character development. All these people, or most, ever did was gossip, pitch their flabby manuscripts, actually trying to get money from group members. Mike thought this was gross. Sell your words in the street, he thought, not to those you can pressure and guilt into open wallet. So why did he keep attending? He didn’t know.
“So what do you got, there, Mike?” Steve asked. Steve, the consummate essayist, the only one there who actually lived off his writing. Mostly self-published, a marketing whiz with his words, some pieces published in various Lit mags like the Iowa Review, zyzzyva, even the New Yorker. He, Mike respected, looked forward to seeing. Steve also taught Creative Writing seminars at SF State, in the MFA program, Berkley, and Foothill College.
“Some stuff I rushed this morning, and a little in the afternoon. It’s not that good,” Mike said, sipping.
“So why aren’t you drinking wine tonight?” Susan asked, as the cop in interrogation of suspect.
“Just felt like water. Why?” Mike felt embarrassed. But why? He didn’t owe her reason.
“So tell me about your new manuscript,” Steve said, setting his pages to the side.
“It’s just about a character I kind of forgot about. Her and I are talking in a wine bar. Stupid and simple.”
“Don’t say that. Why do you say that?” Steve asked. He picked up his beer, but didn’t sip.
“Why is there always wine in your stories? Does it interact with the characters?” Susan posed, not looking at Mike, but at something of hers, in her purse.
“They drink it. They’re around it. Why?” Mike said.
“I like the presence of wine in fiction, to any level or significance, especially the way you put it on your pages. It seems like you have a handle on blending people and wine,” Steve said. Mike handed him the pages, watched his eyes as they ingested the ink characters. Mike was relieved to have them read. He didn’t care about the reaction, whether it were favorable or sour.
“So I haven’t seen you in, like, forever. How are you?” Erlycia said, releasing him from the hug.
“I’m good, I’m good. Not teaching anymore.”
“Really? Why? I thought you loved teaching. Just found it wasn’t for you, or...” she said, sitting down in the booth, across from him.
“No full-time positions, and I’m more into wine, and writing about wine, wineries, and all the related. How about you?”
“Well, I just graduated grad school, finally. Took me a little over two years, but at least I got out, what I think. Now, I just need to find a job, somewhere.”
Wondering if there is such a thing as the perfect job. She wants to find a job, she’ll find one, but then what? I know what’s for me, what’s right for me in this new year. Just went outside, to clear the remaining evidence of Fall 2010 from his--I mean MY--car. Been writing fiction all morning, that’s what happens. All becomes part of the story. That’s part of what I need in this year new. Capture everything. EVERYTHING.
-Thinking I like CAPS more than explanation marks.
-Tonight, a Dry Creek Zin, not from the new winery.
-A tad perturbed with meager monies. All the more reason to Self-pub.
-Tossing the list of New Year’s declarations; what’s more preponderant, unplanned tendency.
Sailing through songs, he stumbled with an old instrumental he made back in 2008. “’08,” he thought, “damn.” Why was time so merciless. He closed the monster, moved the pen again a stiff paper piece.
What followed was a list of wish so extensive it pulled a dozen laughs from Mike’s engineering.