Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Part Four

Over the next week, Arthur ignored Chapter Fifteen and devoted himself to his new project. It didn’t have a name, but it was a closer bond with Jane, and as he wrote she seemed to jump off the pages. He could almost smell a certain perfume she favoured which on anyone else he would have loathed. It was pungent, like too strong incense, and made him sneeze. But mixed with her French cigarettes, it had a certain cachet. It clung to his suit jacket, though, and reeked, according to the children. Marjorie never said anything. She just looked.

One morning Arthur returned from giving Mungo his morning run and settled down to the laptop. It was such a relief to be able to write again. ‘You wouldn’t understand, Mungo, but there is nothing more fearsome for a writer than being stuck.’

Mungo settled down in front of the still smoking fire with a hefty sigh.

‘Staring at that bloody screen and not having the faintest flicker of an idea. It’s terrifying.’

Mungo open one eye and shut it, turned over onto his side.

‘I really think that despondent trough I’ve been in might be lifting.’ Arthur was faintly aware of mixed metaphors but couldn’t be bothered to change them. After all, Mungo didn’t care.

Arthur settled down and as he opened the document which he had so far entitled, ‘Jane,’ his phone rang. Arthur stared at it with distrust. Few people knew he was here – Rosemary of course, and his youngest daughter Libby. That was all. Or had someone else found out? Arthur picked up the phone gingerly.

‘Arthur? Rosemary here. Listen, I need to know how you’re getting on.’

‘Fine.’ Arthur shut his eyes against the lie. Why was he so frightened of this woman?

‘So. When can I expect the manuscript?’ There was a pause. ‘Arthur. You’re not writing, are you?’

Arthur shifted in his seat and cast a hopeful eye at Mungo. Save me, he wanted to say. ‘I – well, I got rather stuck,’ he said. God how pitiful that sounded. What had he become? A shrivelled up weakling, unable to even talk to his agent. A scrap of a girl. Arthur thought back to their last meeting, which had proved Rosemary to be rather more than a scrap. She was a Rubenesque redhead with, he suspected, a temper to match her hair. He made a vow then never to anger her. The thought was at once terrifying and faintly thrilling – had he been twenty years younger.

‘Stuck?’ From the way she pronounced the word, Arthur could tell that it wasn’t one in her vocabulary.

‘Yes.’ Arthur felt like a little boy again, caught stealing his friend’s tuck. ‘Stuck. You know. Writer’s block.’

Rosemary sighed and Arthur shivered, glad that several hundred miles separated them. ‘Listen, Arthur. It is vital that you get this manuscript delivered to my desk on time.’ A poignant pause. ‘Your last sales weren’t good. As you know.’

Arthur glanced at Gertrude. Oh no, he mouthed to the impassive cat. This is worse than being at school, with the worst report of the whole school. Gertrude blinked and stretched out a laconic paw.

‘Arthur. Are you listening?’

He jumped. ‘Yes. Sales – not good.’

‘I’ve been thinking, Arthur. Maybe you should have a break for a while.’

He shuddered. He was being put out to pasture. This was the end of his writing career. No words that a writer fears more.

‘It’s either that, or –’

‘Or?’ he grabbed the chance like a lifebelt.

‘Or we try something new. A different genre. Something completely different.’

Arthur looked out of the window at the grey November morning. At the steady rain that had been falling for the last month. Beyond the sodden garden was the path leading to the beach. Where Jane would gather driftwood and scamper back to the cottage with handfuls of rubbish. ‘Look, Arthur, look!’ And she would unload her biscuit barrel, miraculously unscathed. A mobile phone, one day. An old lantern that she managed to coax into life. A bedstead that she painted up and sold, with her other treasures, lined up against the wall of the house.

‘What do you think?’

Arthur tried to bring himself back to the present. ‘Something completely different,’ he muttered. ‘Like – er – what?’

‘I don’t know, darling. You’re the writer.’ Rosemary laughed, a sound that cast terror into Arthur’s soul. It meant your career is over. Do This or you Die.


Elizabeth Musgrave said...

This is riveting stuff. more please.

Elaine Denning said...

This is turning into something feels like it has a life of it's own.

Keep going!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Back to 1966: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Ferry Cross the Mersey. I was 6 and remember sitting in the very back of my mother's Rambler station wagon singing "Do You Want To Know a Secret?" I am enjoying this story very much.

Flowerpot said...

elizabethm - thank you very much! I'm quite riveted as well!

Flowerpot said...

missU - that's exactly how it feels to me. Very curious - but I have to go with it.

wakeup - I remember that number (I'm 2 years nearer 50 than you are!) - that's a really good one. Must make a note immediately!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if what Arthur is experiencing as a writer is meant to happen.

The name Rosemary. I am searching for a name and this one fits the bill perfectly. Would you mind?

Crystal xx

Flowerpot said...

Crystal - yes that's exactly what happened to me last week. And yes of course you may use Rosemary!

Akelamalu said...

Oh poor Arthur! More please.

Flowerpot said...

Ak - I'm still writing!