|Degrees of Success
Author: Crimsonoaks PM
Plagued with chronic writer's block Kathrine struggles to complete a story to submit to a writing contest. Confronted with men, quirky friends, strange neighbors and frighteningly dirty dishes her chances of meeting the deadline are questionable.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 10 - Words: 52,559 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 01-01-10 - Published: 05-24-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2676601
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I sit there staring at the glowing computer screen with writer's block. So I play a few solitare rounds hoping it will help, but a few hours later I am yet again staring at the screen. Well at least it's now on the word processor. Let's give cheer for progress.
Glancing out the window I see a butterfly, and a small, almost insignificant idea pops in my head. Maybe.....
The little butterfly flew across the flowery field. It flew down onto the hand of a little girl and slowed its flapping wings. The girl looked at the little butterfly and giggled her rosy cheeks getting even rosier with her joy. Her eyes twinkled with the innoncence of little girls.
"Hello little butterfly, how are you today?"
The little butterfly looked up at the girl and waved his antennae. She giggled again and her face shone like sunshine. The butterfly walked across the back of her hand and tickled her skin as he walked.
"My name is Samantha. What is yours?'"
The little butterfly waved his antennae again and jumped off her arm. Samantha's face fell before he landed on her hand again. She watched the butterfly flap slowly and loved his bright colors and pretty patterns. She wanted to give the butterfly something to eat. She reached over to a flower right next to her and placed it on her hand with the butterfly.
"I don't know if you like this flower but I got it for you anyway."
The butterfly waved his antennae and suddenly stood up on two legs. When he turned around Samantha saw that he wasn't really a butterfly. He was a fairy. He had black skin just like when he was a butterfly. His antennae were gone and he had grown hands and feet instead of the little stick legs he had before. He flew up and faced Samantha.
"Samantha, you have been very kind to me so I want to take you to the Fairy Kingdom."
"Oh golly," she replied.
"Follow me. I'll show you the way."
"Umm, what am I supposed to call you now that you aren't a butterfly," she asked shyly.
The fairy laughed a little and said, "My name is Sparkle."
The little girl giggled again with pure joy. She had finally made a friend. She followed Sparkle into the thickest part of the field. Finally Sparkle stopped and motioned her to follow him under the flower heads. Samantha stood there nervously and shifted her feet. Sparkle flew into the flowers before noticing she wasn't there. He flew back up and landed on her shoulder.
"What's wrong Samantha?"
"Oh Sparkle, I'm too big to go under the flowers like you can."
He looked at her for a little while. Then he said, "Would you like me to turn you into a fairy?"
Samantha jumped with joy. Sparkle waved his arms and she shrunk down to his size and grew the prettiest wings ever seen. When they got under the flowers she saw a beautiful world of fairies. Everything shone and she saw many different colored fairies flying around. Some stopped to stare at her beautiful wings, but she was too shy and modest to look them in the eye or even reply to the compliments. Sparkle looked at her and smiled.
"I'll take you to the Queen. She-
Oh wow does that suck.... The more I write the worse it gets. Fairy Kingdom? A Fairy Queen? And Sparkle? What the fuck kind of name is Sparkle? It sounds like something I wrote when I was ten. I quickly close the document and click the don't save button as many times as I can before the box closes. This leaves me once again with a blank, white, glowing screen. It's not the blank, white, glowing screen that holds potential. No, its the kind of screen that takes my writing carreer and crushes it right before my eyes.
The doorbell rings and I shut down my laptop with more pleasure than I would ever say out loud. I really don't think very many people want to know about that kind of pleasure, especially when it comes from something as simple as pressing a button. The doorbell rings again and I run across the room nearly tripping over the rug.
"Open the damn door. I know you're in there. Don't make me kick down the door, you know I can do it."
I swing the door open fast enough to break a few sound barriers. "Jesus Jen, no need to get so feral."
"Are those teddy bear slippers?"
I glance down at my feet and two bear heads smile up at me. I look back up and keep a straight face. "Yes."
"They help me write better."
She breaks into a crooked smile. "So you're going through the whole world famous writer in training thing again?"
I punch her in the arm hard enough for her to scream a good hearty "shit".
"There you go, get all that pent up anger and frustration out. Really work those vocal cords."
Jen glares at me and growls, "So how many pages do you have so far?"
"Ten." I'm a good liar.
"Bull shit. I bet you spent all day playing solitare and staring at your computer screen."
Okay, so maybe I'm not that good of a liar. I try to salvage the situation by saying, "I didn't do that all day."
It sounded as whiney and pathetic to her as it did to me. Still she is a good friend so she asked, "Okay, so how many hours?"
"How long have you been awake?" Jen asks slowly.
She eyes me with such suspicion that i feel some kind of cosmic obligation to fidget and do the tale-tell shifty eye act. Still, I am made of some pretty strong stuff. It takes me a full thirty seconds before I give in.
I mumble, "Three hours..."
Her eyebrows jump up in mock question and she asks, "What did you say?"
I drag each syllable out as slowly as possible, reluctant to say it again. She laughs long and hard. I actually start timing her just for kicks, and honestly I'm a bit surprised she hasn't keeled over already. I know humans are supposed to breathe more than that. Finally she calms down and her laughter fades away to just the echos in the hall.
"Six minutes and twenty-four seconds," I tell myself under my breath.
"Huh? What did you say?"
She eyes me again and that cosmic obligation urges my eyes to start twitching. On cue my eyes dance left to right with eyelids leaping about.
"Um Jen, I tthink we've gone through this little ordeal before."
"It had amusing results but you're right. Well come on, get your coat and let's get a move on."
I grab a light jacket and on an impulse grab my laptop as well. The possiblility that I will get any writing done is slim to none, but my dellusion is much more pleasing. I hurry out the door, tripping on the rug for the second time today. I really should get rid of that rug. We make our way out of the housing complex and into her car. Naturally she turns on the music and begins her sometimes funny but mosly painful singing. She has an interesting combination of screeches, voice cracks, off key melodies and a volume that makes my throat hurt just hearing it. I clutch my laptop and find my happy place. This gives me time to think of a new story idea but soon decide that the lesser of the two evils is Jen's singing. Who would have guessed?
Soon we get to the coffee shop that we go to at least every weekend. Every now and then I run short on money and try to cut down on my coffee intake, but it only ends in less food and more caffine. Us Americans love our coffee. We sit down and Becky gives us our drinks. We've ordered the same thing so many times that practically the entire staff knows what we get. After taking the first wary sips of my drink I look across the the small table at a very absorbed Jen.
"You think you have enough sugar there?"
She dumps another packet in ther cup and shakes her head. Jen doesn't mess around with the small stuff, she goes straight for a caffine and sugar high. I'm just not hardcore enough to keep up with her. I sip at my own not quite so sweet coffee and glance around the room. A couple near the door are gesturing rather violently with their scalding drinks in what looks like an attempt to cause some "accidenal" second degree burns. Intrigued by their lovers querrel I whip out my laptop in an impressive show of motor skills and turn it on. As I'm waiting for it to boot up I sip again at my coffee. Jen is still adding sugar to her black, extremely strong, ground beans in water coffee. She is into some serious shit.
"What about Julie? Yes, I know about Julie!"
Wow, those two are really going at it. My computer is still giving that spinning wheel thing that doesn't really help the wait at all. Finally it is alive enough to start a word processor and I begin to type furiously, which is to me fifteen words a minute
She walks into the room and finds the love of her life panting on top of another girl.
"What the hell!"
Jake jumped and quickly pulled away from the girl. "Honey, I can explain." he pleads, scrambling to get off the bed.
"I don't want to hear your pathetic excuses. I can see what this is, but with Julie? Of all people why with Julie?"
"Maggie, baby, darling, please-" he croaked trying to put his boxers back on.
"No, I'm out of here," she screams.
The door slams behind her and Julie swings her feet around onto the floor. Standing up she pulles her panties back on and searches for her other clothes. Walking to the other side of the bed for her shirt, Jake comes up behind her and slides his hands onto her breasts.
"What's the hurry?" he whispers into her neck.
Julie represses a shudder and replies, "You're girlfriend just walked in on us. I think it's time I leave."
Jake brushed his fingers over her nipples and pulled her closer to him. Her back arches as she tries to lean into his hands and the hard cock behind her at the same time. With a gasp of pleasure she gets pushed back onto the bed.
I gaze at the screen and groan. I quickly close the laptop so I don't have to look at my writing. I give the expected ugh's and arg's and rub at my eyes in frustration. Then, just for good measure, I slowly bang my head on the table. The people at the table next to me give me funny looks.
Jen says apologetically, "She's an aspiring author."
Amazingly enough they nod in understanding and continue with their coffee drinking festivities. I rub my head and wince as I feel what must be an ostrich egg sized knot in the middle of my forehead. In a panic I urgently ask Jen, "Is there a bump on my head?"
She holds my gaze with serious eyes and says gravely, "It looks like your brain is bleeding, I'll have to rush you to the hospital."
She gets a particularly withering look for that comment. "Hardy har har. You should really work on your sense of humor."
Jen smiles lopsidedly and gently asks, "Crap story?"
All I can do is shrug. "It's a bit cliché, but I might be able to make some readable material out of it yet. I need to get some privacy first."
"Well it started to get a bit graphic and I'm in a coffee shop," I explain. "When it comes right down to it I need some sex."
Jen laughs but stops before I can get my stopwatch set up. She adds another packet of sugar to her coffee and stirs it slowly. I watch her not knowing what to do because she normally laughed at least a good two minutes. I open my mouth to ask what's wrong but she speaks before I have the chance to.
"You''ll be an author, don't worry."
I try to hide my confusion by saying a simple "Thanks." but she doesn't stop there.
"I know we haven't been friends for very long, but I know you're going to do something great. Katherine, I want you to know that I'll be here for you as long for as you need me."
I get that strange tingly feeling along my arms like when you catch a stranger watching you or find yourself in the middle of an argument. I just can't shake this weird tingling.
I mutter, "Thanks Jen, that means a lot." I don't know what it means a lot of, but I've been writing long enough to recognize sentences filled with some profound idea. I'm quick enough to pick up on it but not to know what it is.
I go back to my coffee and there is an awkward silence surrounding our table. The silence stretches on and it only gets more awkward, and I'm not even sure I want to break it. Thankfully, the couple's argument reaches an all time high. Coffee spills over the table and the guy's pants. The girl panics and tries to help, but when he goes to the bathroom to run cold water on his burns and dry off his pants her mouth curls with a smile.
"Point goes to the girl in the left corner. Ding, Ding, Ding."
Jen laughs heartily although it wasn't that funny. Sometimes her reaction is a bit over the top. I start timing her again, but since we're in a coffee shop she stops in only a minute and fourteen seconds. It's one of her shortest bouts of laughter ever since I've met her.
Looking at my watch I notice that it's already one o'clock. I shut down my computer and throw back the dregs of my coffee. Jen is, for reasons beyond the human imagining, adding another packet of sugar to her coffee.
"You need to take it easy with that sugar. You know what, I'm cutting you off."
I reach to grab the sugar packet and coffee cup, but she clutches them as if they were her children.
"I'll tell you when I've had enough, and right now I haven't had enough," she growls.
I chuckle a bit but try to keep it short just in case a long chuckle would seem like an invitation for her to give her own long chuckle. Jen's face breaks open with her crooked smile. The clock on the wall says 1:05 so I grab my things tighter and inch towards the door .
"Yeah, I really have to go I'm sorry."
Jen's face falls a little but she replies with a cheery, "Okay, well I know where you live so I'll just drop by."
"Sounds good, bye."
Her "have a nice day" follows me out of the door. It gives that same tingly armed uncomfortable feel. Oh well, I should ignore it, chances are it's only the caffine enhancement of my body systems. I walk down the the end of the street and wait for my ride. It doesn't take long for the old white car to pull up to the curb.
"Hey baby what's up?" the man behind the wheel calls out.
"Brian, for the last time don't say that," I say with exhasperation dripping from every word.
After I've climbed into the car he smiles at me and asks, "Well what am I supposed to say?"
I climb in the car and respond, "A nice hello would be nice."
"But baby you know you like it. You know you can't resist my manly hotness."
"Manly hotness?" I question while buckling my seat belt.
He laughs a little while saying, "Don't give me that raised eyebrow look, and yes you heard me right. I said manly hotness."
"Okay well how about you and your manly hottness get us to the bookstore already."
"Aye aye Captain."
I snuggle in my chair and close my eyes. This is going to be one of those busy days where both the people and activities are taxing. Although in a way having interesting characters around can make the time go by faster. I have the entire day completely packed with no lay over time in between. I would drive myself, but considering that everywhere I'm going I have someone else with me and that I usually take the position as chauffer for the day, I decided to carpool with everyone else.
"So Rinny, what book are you going to get?"
"I'm not sure, he has so
many and with a two book limit for signing it's kind of hard to
He frowns a little in thought and questions, "You've read all of them already right?"
I nod and turn to look out the window. Call me a mushroom eating emu but I don't like talking in the car. I always feel like I'm distracting the driver with my tittering. Lucky for me that my friends know this and don't mind a silent buddy in the seat next to them. I don't like the silent buddies, especially if they are in the back seat. Yes I admit it, I'm a hypocrite. I just can't stand being the driver and having everyone quiet in the car, it just creeps me out. Brian, though, never really shuts up no matter what.
"So, is this author signing going to inspire you to start writing again?"
"Oh, I've already started the whole trying to be an author thing again."
Brian smiles. "Any particular reason you started it again or was it just those plot bunnies you always refer to?"
I have to laugh at that. I remember when I first mentioned the plot bunnies, Brian was so confused and amused that it was like a bad limerick. I answer, "Neither. There is this competition thing and if I win I get my book published."
"Damn Rinny, here is your chance!"
"Yeah," I say softly.
"So how far have you gotten so far?" I cough a bit in embarrassment. He's been around me long enough, not to mention he is a bit of a writer himself, so he knows what that means. "You haven't written anything yet have you?"
I look at him imploringly with the cutest, kicked puppy look that I can muster. I think it is a pretty damn good kicked puppy look.
"Aww, you try so hard but still can't pull of the puppy eyes. Your failure is so cute."
Okay fine, it isn't good at all, but still in it's own way it works. I mean he said it was cute right? Brian reaches over and ruffles my hair. He is younger than me and yet still ruffles my hair as if I am some little kid. Suddenly he kisses me on the cheek.
I look at him in surprise and scream, "Hands, steering wheel, now!"
He laughs a bit and returns to driving. He has kissed me on the cheek before we've been friends for one hell of a long time. This time it was somehow different.
I sigh and mutter, "First Jen now this."
"What about Jen?"
"I was a bit unhappy with my failed writing attempts and she started saying how she believed in me and shit."
Confusion rings in his voice as he says, "It's good to have friends covering your back. You never know when those bunnies will get violent."
I smile a bit but still respond with a serious, "Yes but it was weird and a bit like that foreshadowing stuff. I don't know, maybe I've been staring at the computer screen a bit too long, but I swear something was off about it."
Brian glances at me before returning his eyes to the road. That quick glance makes me feel the same uncomfortable tingly feeling as earlier. Maybe I'm developing some kind of a sixth sense, but to the best of my knowledge I haven't been bitten by a spider in a while. It seems like Brian and Jen are using a morse code or cryptic language of words and looks that I can't seem to understand. I'm so far out of the loop that I don't even know where the loop is, not to mention what it is. Well if anything has gotten me through life it's my determination to get what I want, and right now I want to know what the hell is going on, or at least what encoding system they're using.
"Hey Brian - "
"This is my favorite song!" he screams loudly into my ear.
Oddly enough it's my favorite as well, so we turn the volume up until our ears throb. Oh yeah, the hearing aid industry will be booming with our generation. Within a hundreth of a second later we're belting it out like rock stars. When we stop at a red light an older couple in the car next to us stare at us in disbelief. I guess it's not every day you see a twenty-five year old man singing and dancing to chick rock. Then again they might just be the old fashioned kind of people. We pull away when the light changes and drive into the parking lot. We quickly realize that we won't be finding any parking spots anytime soon.
One car has it's tail lights on and begins pulling out from the spot. Along with three other cars, we jockey for position. The scary old lady in a car the size of my apartment bullies into the space. In defeat we circle around the lot a few times. I guess a few times is an understatement considering we rocked out to two more songs, complete with dance moves and everything, and still had some time to circle.
When we finally pull into a space and stop the car, Brian says angrily, "The city planners need to be shot for putting one parking lot for the entire shopping area."
"I thought you were into the hugging the whales and shit."
"I'm for the environment, not for hugging whales. Something tells me humans can't stay under water that long."
With smiles all around we walk the mile or two to the bookstore. The inside is just as bad, if not worse than the parking lot. The line for the book signing wraps around the shelves in the beautiful serpentine form of mind numbing boredom and promised death to all arches. We quickly buy our book and get into the line with excitement, the first stage of the Law of Lines. By the time we get to the magazines we've moved into stage two with the typical symptoms of irritation and foot tapping.
"Rinny, are we there yet?"
"God, let's try not to act like we're two years old."
"Actually most toddlers can't speak clearly in complete sentences when they're two years old," he explains.
"Ugh, you get my point."
We desperately try to fight off the anger of stage three. Often by the time a person waits in line long enough to reach stage three, not only do they become loud and in need of anger management, but their feet hurt so bad they are on the verge of fainting. A common method of preventing stage three of the Law of Lines is to distract yourself with a game or engaging conversation. Naturally, I opt for playing I-Spy.
"Okay Brian, I spy with my little eye something that is blue."
Thirty-two games and five championships later things begin to fall apart.
"What the hell! That isn't round it's oval!"
"It doesn't fucking matter!"
"It does matter when I lose the match because of it."
"You lost because of the lightbulb one."
"Okay now that one really doesn't count. You can't even see the fucking lighbulb!"
"Yes you can! Here you little dumb-shit look at that light over there."
Brian turns and looks up into the light to find the lightbulb. He draws back, hissing in pain and covering his eyes. Cackles bubble out from me resulting in a bad imitation of an evil genius style laughter. He wheels around to give me a hateful glare complete with dialated pupils and squinty eyes.
"Damn you to hell. What the hell are you trying to do making me look into fluorescent lights?"
"Hey, I didn't make you do anything. It was your own crack-brained idea to look straight into it."
"You fucking told me to look into it. It's your damn fault!"
"Like hell it is!"
I whip around and snatch the nearest book. I'm not going to throw my own book, but the rest are up for grabs. Raising the book to a good throwing position I bask in the satisfying wide eyes as Brian sees it getting pulled back for the best force. Just before I let the book soar from my hand, he breaks into a silly smile. Confused, I slowly lower it and give him a puzzled look. His lips curl in a sinfully amused smile.
"Nice book you have there," he whispers making his voice husky.
I bring it up to look at the
cover, wondering if it is another one of those encrypted messages. I
really need to ask Brian about that. I don't have to raise it too
high before recognizing it. In a joy so profound that it makes me
stand there open mouthed, I feel my blood rush through my body in a
second. I have to check the section to make sure it really is the
wonderous section and not just a mirage.
"Brian, do you see what I see?"
"If you're going to say erotica then yes, I do see it," he replies joyfully.
Oh the messiah that is erotica. Bringing us back from the peak of stage three it reoccupies our time, and who can argue over it?
"Hey is that even physically possible?"
Brian looks at it for a second or two and shrugs. "Well, they got the people in the picture to do it, so I guess so."
"I don't think I want to do that one even if the models could."
"Oh, then what do you want to do?" he asks with a sly smile.
I just laugh and move to a diffferent book. It is a bit more...well visual, but done very well. The pictures aren't shoddy or just shoved in the book. All sexiness aside it's actually rather amazing. I nudge Brian but he only grunts and continues to read.
"Hey, look at this, it's absolutely beautiful."
"Yes, I know..."
"No you dont, you havent even looked yet."
He turns around and grabs the book. The second his eyes touch the page they widen and he stares a bit in awe. I can't help but smile triuphantly. In my opinion this is a win for me. I don't win often, so I'm going to take what little victories I have and this is definately one of them.
"Wow, it is beautiful. We should buy it."
He flips the book over and searches for the price tag. I lean in and watch my dreams crash and burn.
"What the hell? forty dollars?"
I take the book back and return it to it's place in the shelf. We stand a moment in silence, mourning the loss of beauty, erotica and all that is good in the world. The line moves into the science fiction section and we follow dejectedly. Stage two comes back into effect and Brian starts tapping his foot so hard he could kick a hole through the floor. Maybe it's not that bad, but god that is some pretty hard foot tapping. By the time we get to the section with workbooks and dictionaries, I just can't stand it anymore and stage three takes hold again.
"Stop tapping your damn foot already."
"Do you have something better to do?" he snaps.
"No, but I'm not stomping around!"
"You're fucking impossible," he spits out.
"Yeah well you're not a walk in the park either," I say with equal venom.
Brian growls wordlessly and turns away. If he is going to be that way then I'm not talking to him. As our anger fades and we continue to stare at the floor, stage four takes effect. Stage four is probably the most dangerous of all the stages. It starts out as staring at an object but soon the mind can't take it anymore and it breaks. The symptoms are easily seen in the people at the front of the line, but not close enough to see what they're waiting for. Since I know the signs of the Law of Lines I can recognize the glassy stare and expressionless face gracing Brian's features. I look up from the floor, which isn't that interesting anyway, and see the signing table.
"Brian it's the signing table!" I yell pointing and jumping up and down.
He raises his face and I can see him coming out of stage four. We wait with renewed vigor and just as stage two is about to make a thrid appearance, we get to the table. I see the real, breathing, carbon-dioxide producing author and have to fight the urge to do the screaming, jumping, flashing, blabbering, and general stupidity of a fan girl.
"Hello, what's your name?" he says, looking a bit tired.
I almost melt but manage to squeeze out a controled, "Katherine. Um, how has your day been?"
"My hand is cramping, but I'm a writer so I'm used to it."
I smile and almost die of relief that I didn't start giggling. I hand him the book and say a polite, "I'm a big fan of your books. I wish I could write like you, but as of yet I haven't had any luck."
He looks up with an "I have to have good publicity", well constructed look of interest. "You're a writer then?"
I laugh and it's only a little bitter I swear. "Well I seem to have chronic writer's blook syndrome and it may prove to be fatal, so that is debatable." He smiles and I can't tell if it is in genuine amusement or to cover up a grimace of pain. "Yeah, I'll stop talking and just let you get through this mass of people."
He signs his name with a quick flourish and replies, "Eh, it's okay. You haven't screamed or jumped or babbled yet."
"Sorry about that. Thanks for taking the time to sign these books for me."
He smiles and jokingly says, "Will all this good press make you buy my next book?"
"I'd buy it anyway."
"In that case it's fine with my agent."
Some woman in the back screamed, "What's the hold up?!"
He shakes his head and mutters, "There's one in every crowd. Anyway good luck with your writing."
"Thank you very much. Have a nice day."
I step out of line and into the safety of an empty eisle nearby. Brian joins me in just a few moments with a big smile.
"I got a signature! From him!"
"Yeah I did too, isn't it awesome?"
Brian smiles wickedly at me and says, "So did I see the mating ritual of authors back there?"
I redden instantly. "No it wasn't," I protest.
Brian continues to make fun of me as we leave the store. I deny it to the very end, but who doesn't wish that someone they admire was flirting with them? I let myself have a yummy little fantasy about it and then promptly push it from my mind. Besides, who wants to be with someone who is a million times better than you at what you're trying to do? All this speculation is also ignoring the fact that he is a celeberty for god's sake. We climb in the car and nagivate through the parking lot. We finally pick up speed and are cruising a good five miles per hour in stop and go traffic. Oh yeah it's getting dangerous now.
"So Rinny, you looking forward to the party?"
"No," I answer in a deadpan tone.
"In all the years I've known you, you have never liked parties."
He has a point there. "All too true, but it is Matt's party and it's just bad form to not show up."
Brian nods and we lapse into a rare silence. Once we reach the open road, or as open as it's ever going to get, Brian turns up his driving music which involves a lot of singing and some pretty impressive dance moves considering he is behind the wheel while doing them. We drive for a good half an hour before we get to our destination.
Matt owns a nice home which at the present moment is blaring some not so nice music. In other words, it is loud enough to pop a few eardrums. Brian and I leap out of the car and trudge up to the door. We squeeze through the crowd and I now know what a salmon feels like while migrating up stream.
Poor little salmon.