I will once again flag this as NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). Sam is a very creative writer – Simon

CHAPTER 16

 

Charles finds his touch

 

Charles knew a hobby was something one did in their spare time that gave them pleasure.

He also knew that anything sexual was out as his hobby.

“Does walking the dog count as a hobby?” he asked Max, as readied his faithful dog for a long walk where he would think very long and hard about finding a hobby for himself. He took a small pad of paper and a pen out of his desk drawer so he would not forget writing anything down that was worth remembering.

Then he remembered all the missed calls and texts that he had to answer.

This made him think of his therapy session.

This made him think of Dr. Emma Everly Hancock.

This gave him a boner.

So, he did what every sexually active male does when there is no female around to please a hard penis.

He took an ice cold shower.

“Watch-out world. There is a new Charles Craig Curtis to reckon with.”

After he changed into his clothes, he took out a piece of paper and made himself a note to return phone calls and text messages. He taped it to his computer screen and started out on his walk. Best piece of writing I’ve done in a long time, he mused.

The walk did him good, but he couldn’t come up with a hobby.

“It’s as bad as my writer’s block,” he texted Dr. Hancock.

“It will come,” she replied.

 

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“Maybe I should be a dog-walker?” he asked Max, who shoved his head into Charles’ side to not only give comfort, but get attention, too.

“I know,” Charles said to his empty house, I’ll ask others what they think would be a good hobby for me. After all, they know me!”

This cheered him up, and he poured himself a big glass of Pinot Noir, slipped his reading glasses down from the top of his head, went to his small balcony overlooking the Charles River and took out his iPhone.

Charles started to scroll down his contact list, stored so perfectly and made possible by some genius computer programmer who was hired by Steve Jobs to make life so much simpler… and all at his fingertips.

“This is so much better than an address book,” Charles told his oldest son, when his son was uploading his old contact list from his Blackberry into his iPhone, along with showing him all the new goodies that his new phone featured.

“What’s an address book?” his son asked.

Charles went to his desk and produced his ratty, old, beaten and worn out, black leather address book that still stored his friends, foes, and family members’ addresses and phone numbers.

“Time waster,” his son scoffed as he leafed through the old book.

Charles agreed as he tossed the book into the garbage. After all, the names had already been uploaded into his new iPhone.

“So long old-timer,” he said.

Now he stared at the contact list and took a sip of wine. It was time to text message those whose opinions he respected about what type of hobby he should bestow on himself.

It was time to let others have some influence on him, after all he mused of late, and he hadn’t been very good at influencing himself when it came to doing the right thing.

He took off his glasses and watched the action on the Charles River and the river walks on both sides. He finished his glass and poured himself another. He opened the refrigerator and noticed he didn’t have a lot to eat and decided to order a pizza. He called the pizza place that was down the street, and the young woman who answered the phone told him that he could now order his pizza on-line!

“Wow!” he replied.

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“And you get your pizza faster,” she told him.

“Double wow!” he replied as he thanked the girl and went to his computer.

“Damn it!” he yelled out, as he realized that he had left his reading glasses on the balcony where he left his iPhone. He went to fetch his glasses.

He returned to his PC and typed in the web address that the young lady had given him, and he followed the very simple instructions and completed his order online. The confirmation number was given to him with a note that the pizza would still be delivered to him ‘the old fashioned way’ and would be there within 45 minutes.

Maybe I should make pizza delivery my new hobby, he mused. He quickly dismissed that idea when he thought about delivering pizza during the winter.

“But think of all those women you might meet,” he said out loud.

“Nah, the winter weather and the Boston traffic would drive me crazy,” he said to Max, who looked up and wagged his tail. “Besides, the doctor said women cannot be my hobby and I’m thinking about becoming a pizza delivery boy in order to meet women,” he said as he slid his reading glasses back to on top of his head.

I bet the tips suck, too, he thought, as he went back to his balcony and picked up his iPhone. He plunked his glasses from the top of his head onto the bridge of his nose and decided to call his children before he started bothering any of his contacts about ideas for a hobby. He noticed his wine glass was empty and poured glass number three.

He knew better about calling his children when he was a bit buzzed, but he also knew that once in a while it was a lot of fun to do so given the caveat – – that his children were all over the age of 18 when he did.

“They understand drunken talk better, now,” he had reasoned long ago. “And besides, it isn’t fun or fair to have a drunken conversation with your children when they are young.”

They were all over 18 now and he began his calls, hoping one of them or even all three of them would reach a group consensus on what his hobby should be.

He called them all and (naturally) no one picked up.

So Charles did something that he thought was okay to do with your grown children but not with friends — he left very drunken and sloppy voice messages; oozing of charm, love and wine.

Then his doorbell rang.

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“The pizza!” he screamed out in delight.

He paid the delivery boy and tipped him $25 for a pizza that cost $9.99.

“Can I be your personal delivery person?” the young man asked.

“But of course,” Charles said. “Where do I sign?”

The delivery boy told him that he would take care of it and pumped Charles’ hand so hard that Charles had to stop him. Never realized twenty-five bucks meant so much, he mused as he went to attack the pizza.

He ate two slices and thought that this particular pizza tasted even better than the pizzas he had devoured when he was stoned all those years ago.

This made him nostalgic, and he got sad for those years gone by. He stopped the sad thinking by feeding Max a piece of pizza, poured himself another glass of wine and went to the iPhone to contact a few people from ‘those years ago’ to pick their minds on what hobby he should look into.

The first contact he came to was his good friend from his college days — Andrew Bast. Andy had gone on to become a very successful entrepreneur.

“Surely a man who has created wealth out of thin air will have an idea for me,” Charles rationalized.

He sent Andy a text and it was immediately answered.

This is what it said: “This is an automatic response from Andy. I am out of my office and my home for thirty days. Have taken the wife and kids on a real live African safari.”

Andy in Wild Kingdom? Charles thought, as he then thought about taking up hunting as a hobby.

Then the thought of owning a rifle, shotgun or pistol scared him into reality.

Charles Craig Curtis had nothing against people owning guns to protect themselves from intruders, zombies, and their government.

Charles Craig Curtis hated the idea that people could buy more than a rifle, shotgun and pistol.

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“I mean, if owning a small arsenal is your only way of feeling safe, join the military and stay in there for life,” Charles once said in a radio interview he was asked to give after the success of Domestically Wild.

This comment prompted gun loving groups to boycott his books.

That boycott lead to people with sane views on gun ownership to buy more copies of his book.

“Do me a favor Charles,” Gary Harte begged him.

“What’s that?”

“Keep bloody politics out of your interviews. Focus on the book!”

“You know I can’t influence myself sometimes,” he replied. “I was thinking I should have said something like if we could buy grenades legally, and people tossed them at each other, would we then say ‘Grenades don’t kill people. People kill people.’”

“Try it, you might like it,” said Gary. “Not the line on grenades, but trying to influence yourself a tad bit better.”

///

His next contact was also in the letter B part of his contact list. It was another friend from his college days.

“Wonder what Richie Bellows’ advice for a hobby would be?” Charles asked Max, when it hit him that Richie was a huge fan of The Grateful Dead and was probably still a roadie for the band sans Jerry Garcia, and the others from this very original group of musicians who started in California.

Charles thought that ‘Casey Jones’ was the best song ever written about the drug cocaine, which he had consumed, way, too much, back in the day, as they say.

Charles started mouthing the lyrics he best remembered from the song:

‘Trouble ahead

Trouble behind

And you know that

Notion just crossed my mind…’

“No lyrics ever captured what the cocaine buzz was about better,” Charles said to Max.

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Max thumped his tail and rolled over on his side, so Charles would pat him. Charles obliged his dog and remembered how, when he did a line of coke all he could think about was, when was the next line coming (trouble ahead), how quickly the last line went up his nose (trouble behind), and that no matter when that was it was all he could think about (notion just crossed my mind).

Glad I’m into wine and not drugs now, he thought, as he topped off his glass of wine and made a call to Richie Bellows.

The line rang for a long time, and Charles was just about to hang up and move on to the next contact on his iPhone, when an obviously (to Charles) much buzzed Richie Bellows answered.

“Hey man,” said Richie.

I bet he answers the phone like that all the time, Charles surmised.

“Hey Richie, it’s me, Charles.”

“Hey man,” Richie repeated. “Do I know you?”

“Yes. We were in college together. Hell, we roomed together one semester,” Charles reminded his very stoned to the bone old friend.

“Oh, right man,” Richie said. “What’s your name again?”

“Now it is Charles Craig Curtis!” Charles screamed into the phone.

“Hey man, don’t yell. I’m in a good groove. I just don’t remember your name. You a cop?” Richie asked suspiciously.

Of course he doesn’t remember my new name, and he hasn’t read a book… ever! Charles realized. “Think I’ll have a little fun,” he said to Max with a wink.

And Charles Craig Curtis started bringing up things from Richie Bellows’ past that Charles hoped would make Richie think he was a cop.

There was a problem.

Richie was so zonked out, from all the drugs he had been doing over the years, he didn’t remember anything that Charles was saying. Charles realized this and remembered what Dr. Hancock had lectured him on.

He stopped the kidding around, and told Richie, that, of course, he didn’t know the name Charles Craig Curtis.

“Why is that man?” Richie asked.

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“Because you knew me as JI Bernard Giuseppe,” Charles reminded him.

“Oh, wow man. We shared a past together or something, man,” Richie said.

“Or something,” said Charles.

“College, right man?” Richie said.

“Correct,” said Charles.

“You looking for an alumni donation, man?” Richie asked.

“No. I’m looking for help,” Charles Said.

“I can help you with anything man. Weed, ludes, uppers, downers, tootski. You name it, I can find it, man. Hey, aren’t you famous or something, man?” Richie said.

“Or something,” Charles repeated.

“If you’re famous, man, why do you need me to get you some drugs?” Richie asked.

Charles was getting nowhere with his zonked out friend; although, for a brief moment, while he listened to Richie babble on about all sorts of things, he toyed with the idea of drug dealing becoming his hobby.

Think of the possibilities when it came to getting laid, he thought. As his own mind was wandering, he didn’t hear what was really going on with Richie. At some point, wherever Richie was talking to him from, was raided by either another gang, another group of roadies, another band or law enforcement, and all Charles could hear was lots of yelling where the principle phrase seemed to be, “…lay the fuck down…..”

Charles Craig Curtis didn’t need any bad press, and he quickly hung up.

“On to the next contact Max,”

He was still in the letter b and scrolled down to one Paul Brumagin. Again, another friend from college, but one that Charles kept in touch with much more frequently than the others.

“He lives in Boston,” Charles said to Max. “He is into politics; he will have a suggestion or two or three.”

Max yawned.

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Charles went over to his dog and started wrestling on the floor with him. The dog loved it and so did Charles.

I wish I would have coined the phrase ‘man’s best friend’, Charles thought, as he returned to the task at hand — getting help to find a hobby.

“Maybe I should become a dog walker?” he asked Max. He took a sip of wine and quickly tossed that idea out of his mind because he would expect all the dogs he walked to be like Max, which, in the world according to Charles Craig Curtis, would never happen, and that would make him a crappy dog walker.

Paul Brumagin was one of the few people that Charles kept in contact with on a semi-regular basis who was into politics.

“Or rather, politics is into me,” as Paul once told Charles.

“You love it. You always did,” Charles pointed out.

This was true.

Paul Brumagin was the president of their fraternity, the Greek Counsel, the student body and went on to hold similar positions at Boston College Law School.

Everyone who met Paul during his college years thought he was destined for a career in politics.

So did he.

But the people who met and came to know Paul thought a career as an elected politician was in the cards, as they say.

But Paul was smarter than them all.

He chose a much more lucrative political career.

“As a lobbyist, I tell the elected officials what to do, where to eat, and most importantly – – how to vote” Paul had bragged to Charles after the Tea party landslide elections in 2010. So strong was the movement, that even Republicans did well in Massachusetts.

“That impressed me the most,” Charles told Paul.

“What impressed you the most about the Tea Party landslide?”

“That Republicans actually got one vote in Massachusetts,” Charles said.

“We actually won some seats at the local and state level, Charles,” Paul pointed out.

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“You mean there is hope for a viable two party system in the Bay state?” Charles asked.

“Someone remembers Poly-Sci 101. By the way, no fucking way,” Paul said.

“I always thought a two party political system was not as good as a three party system, but better than a one party system,” Charles said.

“It is a one party system! The party in power versus those who want power,” Paul said.

“Right, when the Democrats control everything, the Republicans want them out and vice-versa,” Charles said.

“Not quite, my friend. Both Democrats and Republicans who are incumbents are the party in power. They don’t like anyone running against them in the primaries or the general election. Don’t be so naïve about the men and women who are in power. On TV, in the papers, on talk radio, and at their stump speeches they come across as hating the other party. But once all the attention is over and they retreat to their private offices they are all about themselves staying in power, together.”

“I don’t think I like that,” Charles muttered.

“You shouldn’t. But the only way you change it is by doing something, and that usually means running for office or starting a movement. Interested?” Paul challenged.

///

Well, maybe now I am, Charles mused as he called Paul up.

“This is a surprise,” Paul answered.

“Why?”

“You only call me around election time,” Paul said. “What’s up? You want to write a political thriller?”

Charles laughed at that, but for far from the reason that Paul imagined. “No, but I do need to pick your brain?”

“Don’t tell me you have joined the dark side?” Paul said.

“Dark side?” a perplexed Charles answered.

“Are you joining forces with the media elites?” Paul asked him.

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Charles broke out laughing. He wasn’t a big fan of the media either, but recognized why – – not only did he need them, but why politicians and their minions did, too.

“Had me worried my friend. Do you want to meet for drinks and some late night food?”

Charles looked at his glass. He thought he wanted more, but took a look at his full belly from the pizza and declined, but filled his glass up. “You hard up for company Paul?” Charles asked him.

“Well politics is a funny game. It’s all late nights, weekends, no time for family; watch what you say and who you say it too. Then, when I do have some time off, I don’t realize how late it is and end up being out with the people who I spend all day with or the people I didn’t want to see, from the other side, who live the same sort of life that I do,” Paul said.

“That would make me a late night drinker,” agreed Charles.

“So what’s up?” Paul asked.

“I need a hobby,” Charles said.

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“You still there Paul?” Charles asked.

“You want me to help you find a hobby, is that right Charles?” Paul asked.

“More or less.”

“I always heard fiction writers were weird. What is this, your JD Salinger moment?” Paul said sarcastically.

Nailed me with that one, Charles thought as he pondered if he should tell the ultimate political animal the truth or lie about why he was looking for a hobby?

He took a sip of wine and lied.

So much for Dr. Hancock’s influence, he mused.

“I’m bored,” he lied.

“How can a rich and famous author who is single possibly be bored?” Paul asked in disbelief.

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“It happens after such a huge success. I need to get my creative juices flowing again and I thought doing something, that wasn’t about inventing characters and plots, would help,” Charles said, thinking that, at least, he told a teeny truth.

“Well, we always need writers; but you said your creative juices were on empty. Do you want to make phone calls for candidates and causes?” Paul asked.

“Not my idea of a hobby. Sounds more like a job,” Charles said.

“A terrible job,” Paul said. “How about signature gathering?”

“What’s that?”

“A job, too,” Paul said. “How about coming up with propaganda material?”

“They actually call it propaganda?” Charles asked incredulously.

“Not at all. We call it advertising,” Paul said.

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,” Charles said.

“Sure you don’t want to join me for a few and talk about it in person?” Paul asked, hoping Charles would, in fact, do just that. “I have a big-time donor who owns many brown paper bag factories. Maybe you could write witty sayings on them?”

“Let us get together some other time. Let me think of some hyperbole I could write on those bags,” Charles lied.

They said their goodbyes. Instantly, Charles Craig Curtis knew that politics and anything to do with it were not going to help him at all.

“Hell, the votes are probably all rigged anyway,” he said to Max. He made a note and stuck it by his computer. It was a note reminding him to text Paul a thanks-but-no- thanks and then inviting him over for some drinks in the near future.

Back to the contacts he thought as he randomly let his right index finger scroll down. It came to the letter m.

And the first contact was mom and dad. This made Charles cry.

///

It had been about three years since his parents had both died in a freak automobile accident that even Charles Craig Curtis said, after he got over their deaths, “belonged in a fiction novel.”

Charles’ parents were atheists.

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“Big time atheists.” Charles told Gary.

“They had to be to love each other,” Gary said. “After all, a Jew and an Italian would have to give up something to meet half-way.”

“I knew it wasn’t sex,” Charles said.

“That’s disgusting, talking about your parent’s sex lives,” Gary said sarcastically. “But obviously they did it once, right?”

“Oh no, at least a million times. My dad said this was his form of foreplay. He would come home from work and yell ‘honey, I’m home’!” Charles said with a laugh.

“I now know where your uber sex drive came from,” Gary Harte said with a sigh. “On second thought, oh vey!”

Charles’ parents were driving home from one of those Sunday drives that they liked to take, especially when they got older. They would pick a direction and drive 45 minutes, get out and walk around, wherever that direction and 45 minutes had taken them. Find a place to eat and talk, talk, talk.

“Other than cooking and sex, they talked a lot,” Charles told his daughter.

“When they talked, I listened,” she said.

Hope I have that influence on her, Charles thought.

///

On that fateful Sunday, Charles’ father and mother had driven north east to Marblehead, Massachusetts.

“Hey, they named a town after all the politicians,” Charles’ dad pointed out.

“I didn’t know there was a town named asshole and morons,” Charles’ mother answered.

“No, look, Marblehead,” Charles’ father said, as he pointed to the sign that announced that they were entering Marblehead.

“Rim shot,” Charles’ mother responded.

They were returning home from their trek on one of those old two lane roads that were made when people drove horse and buggies, when they spotted a man ahead motioning for them to slow down. Charles’ parents were the only ones on the road.

“Looks like an accident,” Charles’ father said.

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“Hope no one is hurt,” said his mother.

Charles’ father slowed the car down to almost a complete stop, and they were soon next to what looked like a terrible accident.

“Oh god!” exclaimed Charles mother.

“Honey you’re an atheist, you can’t say god,” Charles’ father told her.

“Not for me, those people all wandering around. Their god. Look at what it says on the van, dear,” Charles mother said.

There was a name on the van that had crashed, had rolled over a few times and was overturned on its roof.

“How can you read the side of the van — its upside down?” Charles’ father said.

“I turned my head upside down, putz,” she said.

So Charles dad did what his wife had done.

This is what it said on the van. The Church of Saint Sebastian. There was also a huge cross next to that name.

“Wonder what denomination they are?” Charles’ father asked his wife.

“The denomination of hurt. Let’s see if we can help,” she said, as she undid her seat belt and got out of the car. Her husband did likewise.

“Hey, they are Catholics,” Charles’ mother told her husband.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“I asked one.”

It was a van carrying 15 Catholic priests that had crashed. Although, this wasn’t your typical field trip for such a group nor was it the Catholic priests’ charity softball team. They were on the way to turn themselves in after being hit with subpoenas from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Thirteen of the priests who were milling about, making sure the driver of the van and two other priests were as comfortable as possible, had been charged with child abuse. The two priests who were badly hurt were not charged, and were there to make sure that the 13 turned themselves in and then report all the facts to the Cardinal.

Charles’ parents had no idea about the scandal associated with the 13 priests. They just wanted to help and informed everyone there that was their intention.

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“Do you have any blankets in your car?” one of the soon to be defrocked priests asked.

Both Charles’ parents then walked back to their car to retrieve what they could from the trunk of their car. Charles’ father opened up the trunk and started to hand the items he thought would be helpful to his wife when he saw the fast approaching vehicle bearing down on them.

He tried to push his wife out of the way, but she saw it coming too and grabbed onto him. She wasn’t going to leave him this way.

They were killed instantly.

The soon to be defrocked and disgraced Catholic priests performed last rites over the bodies of the now dead atheists.

“Not a good way for atheists to die,” the family lawyer told Charles when they went over the will.

“Not a good way for anyone to die,” Charles added.

///

Recalling their deaths, trying to find a hobby, suffering from writer’s block and too much wine made Charles Craig Curtis feel very melancholy.   However, two things quickly wiped the melancholy from his mind. One, he had their voices on tape and two, he remembered cleaning up his parent’s house when he came across a big box of books. When he took one book out, he was shocked to find it was a copy of his very first book. He dumped out the rest of the contents and found over a 100 copies of his novels before he was famous.

My parents would make sure I was never at the bottom of the Amazon sales ranks, he thought.

They also bought enough copies to make sure Charles could get a few shirts dry cleaned.

He went down to his tiny basement and found something that he thought would cheer him up. It was an answering machine that he used to have hooked up to his old rotary telephone and then his old push button telephone. Both the rotary and push button telephones had long been thrown into the garbage. But the answering machine still meant something to him. It contained his parent’s voices with the last message they ever left him. He went back upstairs and plugged in the device and started playing his parent’s recorded voices over and over.

He started to ball his eyes out.

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He stopped when he ran out of tears.

He unhooked the answering machine and went back down to the basement to put the device back in the box when he saw what the device had been laying on top off.

“Look at all those pictures,” he said to Max who had, of course, followed him to the basement. Charles put the answering machine on the small table and picked up the box full of pictures that he had forgotten about.

He dumped the pictures in the middle of the floor. He made the lights as bright as he could and told Max they would be in the basement alone with their memories for a while.

“A trip down memory lane ought to cheer me up,” he said to Max, who was happy to be receiving so much attention, he walked over and plunked himself down on the bulk of the pictures that Charles had just dumped onto the floor.

Charles laughed at his dog, petted him and started looking at the pictures. The pictures of his youth, college days, his children, his family, and other places, and people long forgotten brought nothing but smiles and laughter to Charles until he gently pushed Max off the pile he was on and discovered something rotten.

Someone had taken very sharp scissors to the pictures that he frantically started sorting through. And the person that did the cutting only had one target.

Charles Craig Curtis’ face had been cut out of most the pictures that were now scattered before him.

How the hell did that happen? he pondered.

If Max could speak he would have told his master “It was your ex-wife, you putz.”

“Whoever it was, doesn’t like me,” he said out loud. “Now, who doesn’t like me? Who would take pictures that I am in and deliberately cut me out, but leave the picture? A stalker, naah,” he said as his eyes found the answer in the pictures that he hadn’t scooped up to look at.

“Of course! My fucking ex-wife. What a low down, mean, gutter-living-chicken-plucking thing to do!” Charles yelled out and immediately apologized. Because, he had done something worse to her while they were divorcing, yet still lived in the same home.

Charles was an early riser and would walk down to the corner deli for his coffee. He didn’t buy a cup for his soon to be ex-wife. Instead, he put a pot of coffee on with one slight alteration.

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He urinated in the tank that water was supposed to go in. His wife drank coffee out of that pot for three weeks until they sold the house and went on their separate ways. Charles was happy to come home one day to see that she had packed the coffee pot to take with her.

“The bitch got me back,” he said, and he started to laugh like crazy at karma. When he finished laughing he didn’t know if he should throw out the pictures that he had been cut out of or salvage them.

He decided to salvage them and went upstairs to go to the bathroom, get scissors and another glass of wine. While he was pissing, he spied a book that he had in the bathroom on Modigliani’s paintings and suddenly had an idea.

“It was like the proverbial light bulb went off over my head,” he texted Dr. Hancock.

“That’s usually a very good thing,” she texted back.

Charles not only got another glass of wine, the scissors and the book, he found some scotch tape too. He thought he had a great idea.

He went to the basement and sat down on the floor. He opened the big picture book of Modigliani’s paintings and started cutting out the pictures that his wife had butchered up and taped them around Modigliani’s work creating a wild looking abstract collage.

“A hobby has been found,” he texted Dr. Hancock.

He didn’t get another reply, because it was late. But he was very happy.

He was about to pass out when he came up with an idea to make his collage even better. What if I cut and paste all sorts of things to make a popular culture statement? He wondered, as his head hit the pillow, knocking his reading glasses off the top of his head.

///

Lucky for Charles, the last thought he had when he passed out was the first thought he woke up with (along with a piss hard-on for the ages).

He looked at his phone and damned himself for not having his reading glasses nearby. He then went into the basement trying to remember where he left them. Then he remembered and cursed himself.

“That’s it, I’m buying 20 pairs of glasses and scattering them all around the house,” he told Max, who gave Charles the ‘it’s time to take me for a walk’ look.

This was ok, because he wanted to buy an armful of magazines and start on his new

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hobby and then announce it to the world. Then, after the hobby helped break the writer’s block from hell, he was suffering from, he would do some ’new’ writing. Simple, he thought. The only simple item was finding his reading glasses, and reading Dr. Hancock’s response. “I’m excited to hear about your new hobby,” she texted him back.

“I can text you what I’m up to,” he wrote.

Oh no! She suddenly thought, remembering their first session.

///

Charles brought the magazines. He had bought every magazine and tabloid that was on the racks at the local grocery store, a lot of scotch tape, another pair of scissors and 15 reading glasses. He dumped it all down on his dining room table and went to work on his first collage after he spread the glasses around his house. Then, he started to laugh like crazy, because he remembered doing something a kin to this years ago that he had confessed to Dr. Hancock after he showed her the Land-O-Lakes trick. Charles was laughing at remembering cutting out the face shots of girls he wanted to bed and pasting their pictures over the faces of the naked models that appeared in the nudie magazines that he masturbated over.

He ripped out the portrait of El Zuavo as painted by Modigliani, from a big old book on art that had been gathering a lot of dust at the bottom of his stuffed to the brim book case. The painting looked like a modern day Chinese Red Army soldier, and Charles was going to cut out all sorts of capitalist versus socialist stuff and place it around the portrait.

It took him a lot longer than he expected, but he was impressed with the final product. He took a picture of it with his IPhone and sent it to Dr. Hancock and his children.

Dr. Hancock texted back ‘I’ am impressed’. She also gave him a date for their next appointment.

This made Charles smile. He noticed his phone’s battery was dying and plugged it in. It was time to see if he could write after starting on a hobby.

“I’ll write a few pages, pen a letter to Gary with what I have, and find a date, a book signing, then be back in Boston in ten days to see Dr. Hancock,” he said to Max.

He sat down in front of his computer and yelled out “Who turned in Anne Frank and her family and friends?”

 

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He opened up Pooping, re-read what he had written and wrote a very long page that was gibberish.

It was about what some people called others who were always scratching their assholes in public (while they were dressed). Charles had someone say to Larry Loop (who was always scratching his asshole in public with his clothes on) ‘what are you doing Larry, digging for gold’? And when Larry went to sleep that night he asked his father “Why do they call it ‘digging for gold’?” Larry Loop’s dad whose name is Harry Loop retorts “I don’t know son. I was always told that if I went to bed with an itchy bum I would wake up with a smell finger.”

Charles Craig Curtis printed out what he had written so far, and paced back and forth in his home reading it out loud and feeling like he had reached into his own asshole and produced this shit. He ripped the stuff up and threw it in the garbage. He then went over to his computer and sent the offending document to the recycling bin.

He then realized he now had nothing and owed his publisher another book or he’d have to tell the truth, and send back the advance money – minus the little expenses that he had incurred.

He decided to let Dr. Hancock’s hammer of truth hit him on the noggin. He went to the refrigerator and took out some Gouda cheese and a fresh tomato. He sliced the cheese and tomato very thin and poured himself a glass of Pinot Noir. He fed Max and returned to his PC. He pushed his reading glasses down from his head onto his nose and began a long letter of the truth to his agent Gary Harte. “This has to be done!” he screamed out as he began the best writing that he had done in months.

In the letter, Charles told Gary that he had produced the worst writing of his career and was embarrassed by it. He was suffering from the worst writer’s block ever imagined by any writer. How he was living a lie by coming up with excuse after excuse after excuse about his novel to not only Gary but himself. However, he was happy to report some progress because of a chance meeting with Dr. Emma Hancock. The letter went on to describe how his therapy session had not only helped him to recognize he was being dishonest with everyone about the book, but that he was covering it all up with his sexual appetite (Charles also spent a few paragraphs detailing how he had the hots for Emma… he couldn’t help himself.) Charles also enclosed a few of the collages that he had finished with a personal check in the exact amount of the initial advance the publishing house had given him for Pooping.

Before he sent the letter out, he re-read what he had written nine times. He was satisfied with it. But what really made him happy, was that he could write a personal check for the amount he did and it would actually clear his checking account!

202

Charles Craig Curtis kept to his routine and started to feel a lot better about himself. He kept up creating a lot of collages and keeping the talks just to his children. In three days, he received a text message from Gary. It read “Most urgent! Top secret! CALL ME!”

So Charles Craig Curtis called his agent and cringed as soon as the number started to ring.

“Are you sitting down?” Gary asked Charles.

“No,” replied Charles.

“You need to.”

So, Charles sat down and his heart leaped into his throat. He knew he was in for a tongue lashing at best and being let go by Gary Harte at worst.

“You really had me fooled,” Gary began “I actually thought you had been working on that book of yours until I received your letter. Why didn’t you tell me? I’m hurt that you didn’t confide in me Charles.”

“I couldn’t,” Charles said softly.

“You couldn’t or wouldn’t?” Gary asked.

“It’s more couldn’t than wouldn’t. Heck, Gary I have been lost for months. Now, I feel found. Are you dropping me?” Charles said.

Gary started to laugh hysterically. “Why do you think I asked you to sit down?”

“So I wouldn’t fall down as far when you lowered the boom,” Charles pointed out.

“Your honesty and what that shrink is doing for you couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment,” Gary said.

“Huh?” a bewildered Charles responded.

“At first, I thought you were playing some rather stupid joke on me. Then I started remembering all the excuses you had been telling me about how Pooping was coming, and I realized that you were serious and sincere in the letter you sent. I bow to your honesty and not only coming to grips with your problem but actually getting help. I did some research on your shrink. Besides wanting to fuck her after she cures you, do you know anything about her?” Gary asked.

 

203

Boy, it’s easy to figure out why he is my agent, Charles mused. “She owns and operates a very neat bar in Brookline.”

So, Gary Harte proceeded to tell Charles Craig Curtis everything about the history of the Hancocks’.

“Wow. I guess if you’re not into sports you miss a lot,” Charles said.

“Certainly in America, probably the world. I think it has something to do with soccer,” agreed Gary.

“So that’s why you had me sit down?” Charles asked, disappointed that there wasn’t something in the story of the Hancocks that would knock him off his feet; although, the acid trips and how Mitchell died and the amount of money Emma received were interesting.

“Drum roll please! I have great news for you Charles Craig Curtis, the collage author,” Gary announced with fanfare.

So, Charles did his best to imitate a drum being beat.

He wasn’t very good at it and Gary told him so.

“I’m a writer, not a musician,” Charles said.

“Wait till you hear this music,” Gary said.

“Come on, this type of suspense isn’t good for a man in my frame of mind,” Charles pleaded.

“I made an appointment with the people who were so eager to publish Pooping and showed them your letter, check, and collages. They fell in love with your collage work, and out of love with Pooping,” Gary said excitedly.

“Did they rip up the check?” Charles asked.

“No. That they kept. However, they want you to come up with a picture book of all your collages. They want it to be social commentary,” Gary said.

“Do they want captions underneath the collages?” Charles asked.

“Of course. They will talk money when you send them the first copies. I’ll work on the financial side depending upon how much they like the work. They want to see something in 90 days,” Gary said. “Think you can do it?”

“I have to,” Charles said, hoping that he could rise to the occasion.

204

“Get going then,” Gary said. “Don’t fuck up.”

“Gary?” Charles asked.

“Yes.”

“Thank you very much,” Charles said meekly.

“You’re welcome. This is one of those instances where that old cliché comes to the top,” Gary said. “By the way, don’t fuck up.”

“Which cliché?”

“Truth is stranger than fiction.”

///

Charles Craig Curtis was feeling very good about what had recently happened, but at the same time sad; because he knew he hadn’t been cured of his writer’s block. I guess the therapy will take care of that, he hoped.

He went to his PC to check on his emails; he noticed that there were way too many junk emails in his inbox, that should have been filtered to his spam section or just blocked, and texted his oldest son, who was the most tech savvy of in his family, to come home soon and clean up the old man’s PC.

So, as he was deleting the stupid messages promising zillions of Eurodollars or petrodollars, gorgeous Russian supermodels who just wanted to be loved, a larger penis, Viagra cheaper than in the stores, and most importantly, a cure for hair loss he spied an email from one of his past conquests that had the alluring subject matter of a book signing.

Charles smiled — the chase was on.

He had received an email from Paige Jordon. Paige was the first woman he slept with after Anne Snowe. She lived in Caribou, Maine.

Caribou’s nickname is “The most northeastern city in the United States”. Charles always laughed when he thought of that nickname.

“There are more people in the Back Bay than in Caribou. How can you call it a city?”

“In Maine, 9,000 residents is a big city, Charles,” Paige would say.

 

205

Paige was one of Charles more interesting friends. She had never been married. She owned and operated a successful quarter horse ranch on 300 acres of land that had been in her family for generations. She was an avid book lover and survivalist fanatic. She was inviting Charles to come up for the weekend to read his novel and sign some books for her book club which had 35 members

“Hey, that’s almost one percent of Caribou’s entire population,” Charles noted when he called her to make the plans.

“I run a good club,” Paige said proudly.

“That’s why your first name is Paige,” Charles joked.

“Rim shot,” Paige said with a laugh.

 

If you missed the earlier Chapters you can find them here.

Simon Barrett

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