It has been a while since Laurie’s last short story. And getting back to work by starting from scratch isn’t easy. The journey of a story is tricky. You draw a starting point and a destination on a map, and then you begin to sketch out your trip.
However, if you’ve had a long break from writing, you’ll feel anxious about embarking on that inner journey. Apparently, talents don’t go rusty, even if you keep them in the basement. But Laurie no longer has confidence in writing fiction. Whom does she write for other than herself?
Stephen King calls that person the “Ideal Reader.” She knows where her I.R. is hiding. She packs her bags and drives to Lübeck.
Laurie is knocking on I.R.’s door and hears a faint “come in.”
The door squeaks as she opens it. The hotel room is stuffy and reeks of cigarettes.
“Hi,” she says.
I.R. is sitting at his desk, scribbling something onto paper. He looks beautiful as ever, but the loneliness in that room makes him appear distant.
“I knew you’d come back crawling one day,” he says.
“I’m not crawling.”
She looks at the crumpled paper in the overflowing garbage bin, ignoring the guilt creeping up on her.
“You know things haven’t been easy for me,” she says.
“Same here. But you needed some space, and I respected that.”
He lights a cigarette and continues scribbling. There is a pile of paper on his desk.
“What are those?”
I.R. looks at her briefly and smiles for the first time since her arrival.
“Well,” he says, “these are ideas still locked up in the back of your head.”
“Yeah, with me inside.”
The chair squeaks when she steps closer.
“Don’t,” he says.
I.R. stops writing, and she thinks of an animal sensing danger. She stays put, accepting the shield between them–separating two worlds that have trouble reconnecting.
“How can I unlock it?” she says.
There are signs of fear and desperation on his face.
“Only I can open it,” he says.
He returns to his writing as if she wasn’t there. She is still standing in the middle of the room, unable to touch I.R.
Laurie remembers how they first met; they were eleven and became inseparable. Holding him accountable for writer’s block was her fault. And then, the lack of trust tore them apart.
“I’m sorry for pushing you away,” she says. “I didn’t mean to give up.”
He finally turns the chair to face her. His dirty blond hair looks half washed, just like hers. And it seems like they both haven’t been eating healthily. Maybe he has missed her too.
“I know.” He smiles.
He does miss her.
“You’ve just read Mr. King, didn’t you? Sort out your toolbox and get started.”
She’s trying hard to hide her grin.
“So, you’re still my muse?”
He gestures at the pile of paper on his desk.
“Well,” he says, “first, work on your language, improve your grammar and build on your style. They are appalling.”
“Your recent stories are good,” he says, “but they need a lot of polishing. I can’t unlock the door if you don’t start putting your shoulder to the wheel.”
He puts out the cigarette.
“Will you forgive me?” she says.
“You are writing this right now. You’ll make me forgive you. Do I have a choice?”
“Honestly…” he says, “don’t you know me at all?”
by P-chan 2010
(Inspired by Stephen King’s On Writing)