It’s funny how the universe works. I ask, “Should I be doing this now? Should I still be trying to get this book together? Or, should I give up this dream and find more gainful employment?” I sacrifice the requisite number of goats, and — with all the bravado of one who clearly knows nothing about the universe’s sense of humor — I clear my throat, push out my chest and say, “Give me a sign.”
The engine goes up in the Explorer.
The interesting thing about signs is they’re hard to read — both when one is a half-blind octogenarian attempting to drive down a one-way street and — as is the point in this case — when one is expecting to hear an answer from The Beyond. See, most people would assume that little trick meant I was clearly barking up the wrong totem pole. They’d argue that the high cost of replacing said auto, or its pricey broken bits and pieces, would clearly require one to abandon all hope. They’d tell me the gods are obviously frowning down upon this household — on one member in particular — and that I should remedy the situation immediately. For a moment, I kind of thought that too. For a brief, sweaty-panicked instant, I could even hear those gods’ voices in my brain.
“Donneth thy visor and get thee to McDonalds!”
Yeah. Maybe not.
But, the universe was indeed telling me something. “Get going,” would be the polite way to put it. “Stop fucking around,” would probably be more accurate. In the light of this I’ve done what any other normal, cowering peasant would in the face of an angered mass of imagined, yet feasome, gods — I did what I was told.
The short story — entitled Toothless, for the curious among you — was electronically submitted to the Writer’s Digest competition after about a hundred heart-pounding re-reads. Committing to actually pushing the ‘send’ button was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve done so far — the simple act of sitting at this desk and clicking the mouse suddenly turned me into the guy in the bunker getting ready to turn the red key. Happily, though, I survived, and am well enough to finish off and submit to magazines the second short story in the queue. But, the best of all is that Resonance is done. Yep. I actually mean it this time. I’ve turned my back on the endless parade of revisions and am now working on getting the plot outline and synopsis written. By the end of May, I’ll have had the first round of queries out to agents.
I suppose it takes a kick in the ass now and again to keep us on track. It gets easy at times to fall into complacency, to become comfortable saying, “I’m a writer,” while spending half of the day surfing the net, watching the cats sleep and taking trips to the refrigerator. The world outside is scary — and I remember it well. That big, ugly mess beyond the safety of my front door is what drove me here in the first place. But, in here there is nothing for me but the promise of an eventual cobwebby, cat-gnawed corpse propped in a no-longer new desk chair, desiccated fingers still clutching the mouse because they weren’t given anything more substantial to hold onto. Here seems safe because there are no goals to worry about failing to achieve. Yet, here sucks because there are no rewards — unless there’s some random trophy out there for a record number of times in a week a wool rug has been maniacally vacuumed. And the suckiness of Not Being outweighs any perceived safety of that cocooned existence any day.
So, I asked and I received. I said, “Is this right?” And the wise universe gave a roll of its eyes and an irritated snort, and then said, “For the last time, yes. Now hurry up or I’ll break something else.”
The car should be fixed by the end of today. We might have been able to swing car payments again. But, I like it that my old friend will be coming home. Others might look at my late-model, blue Ford Explorer with the dented hood and see just another of a hundred thousand exactly like it that have cruised the highways in the past eight years. I’ll look at it and know that beneath the fading paint and the slightly rusted ding rests a shiny new engine — an engine that signifies not a new start, but an extension of a beginning already granted, an engine that will now take it farther than it thought it could ever go.