Marcus sat down to write. He stretched his hands reflexively and looked at him. It was the conflicts that were the hardest part to write convincingly. Oh, not for the children’s books, he’d been writing them for years and had been successful in his way. He remembered the publishers picking illustrators, some poor, some who could make is stories come to life and sing through the imagination. Those were no problem. It was the conflicts in longer books, the novels and short fiction that always presented him with a problem.
For one thing, Marcus knew that despite his wishes, he would forever be an optimist. In doing so, he had a hard time trusting his characters to be able to think their way out of any problem that would prove too difficult for him. It’s funny that way, he’d think. It shoudn’t matter what kind of problem I put in there, so long as I remember that I can get them out.
After all, someone I write can get stuck in a life and death situation with no time to think, but I have the luxury of time. I can act between the words on the page to find a solution. But this was the problem. In children’s books, the problem had to be direct and solveable, but just hard enough to make the audience think. With fiction directed toward adults, the problems couldn’t be too obvious or people wouldn’t believe the characters.
He remembered somewhere reading that it was the challenges faced or the villains fought that defined a hero. What did he know about that? What the hell could Marcus tell anyone about anything?
He remembered being a boy, but how to write that without seeming like an adult. Marcus had been a logical kid and remembered people calling him an “old soul” or letting him work through problems on the farm usually reserved to older kids. Of course, he was an only child, so he got the favoritism of the youngest and the assumption of responsibility of the eldest all rolled into one. Besides, he’d been writing about childhood for children and Eva died, he didn’t have the taste for it.
His work wasn’t anything to speak of. He’d really only done two jobs off of the farm before getting to his writing. No one was going to read stories about itenerant painters painting stationhouses. Sure, maybe as a short story he could write an anecdote or two, but that wasn’t really the same.
Marcus stood up and felt his joints creak. They didn’t hurt, thank god, but they grumbled a bit when he got moving after he gave them some rest. He walked over to a picture on the fireplace mantle. It was Eva. She wasn’t doing anything romantic or special, just walking by the river. Her hair was tied up behind her and the wind blew some whisps of it.
By the time color film was readily available, her hair had gone gray. Marcus smiled at that. It had been one of her little jokes, the kind that get told often over the years. Not really funny, but comforting and a part of the woman he’d loved.
Staring at his wife wasn’t going to get a story going. Marcus had read a fair few potboilers and romance novels, but he never felt like the audience. Besides, their romance lacked all of the hallmarks of good literature. Their parents approved of their choices, no religious or political quarrels to speak of. The war kept them apart of course, but even so, that hadn’t been too hard. They’d both been too distracted by what they were doing at the time to go looking for other potential partners. Hell, their marriage even looked tranquil compared with some of the sitcoms.
Marcus suspected this was because neither he or Eva had been the sort to make a fuss, when work would see you through. It was only logical too. Networks sought sitcoms based on “the average nuclear family”, a bit more polished and with no cussing of course, but basically that. Life couldn’t get too real otherwise you lose the comedy and nothing could get put out of place becase it had to be as clean as the set that looked like a suburban livingroom by the end of the episode. That meant that the drama had to come from the mundane, from small misunderstandings that any adult could resolve by asking a question or two.
Now by the coffeemaker, marcus put the pot to boil. He didn’t have much time for this nonesense anyway. There was work that needed doing. Eva had been gone for months and there were other things that needed doing. After pouring the coffee, Marcus walked to the fridge, held the door open with his foot and grabbed the cream from the shelf in front of the light. He poured the cream and placed it back in the fridge.
The problem of what to write had been on his mind for awhile and an idea was starting to form. Not an idea for something to write, that would be asking too much. But an idea about why he wasn’t writing now. It wasn’t that there were other things he needed to do, those were excuses- he’d made enough in his time to smell them a mile off. They were seductive in their own way, because these were dressed up in bits of truth, like the fact that he did need to be doing other things. Marcus was getting an inkling that he was having a hard time writing because he didn’t know who his reader should be. For the first time ever, he had no ideal reader in mind.
Before Jack had been born it had been Eva. Her love of stories, and insatiable appetite for books was rivaled by Marcus’s own. After Jack had been born, he had no problem finding things to write books about. He just had to look at the problems his own son was going through and write something that was just distant enough not to feel like a lecture, but similar enough that Jack could apply it.
Who the hell was he going to write for now? Writing for himself seemed unecessary. After all, he could just think the stories in his head. Writing them down presumed an audience and he had none.
Of course, this was just as true as the part about having chores and work to keep himself busy and might just be an excuse that was a bit closer to the heart of the problem. Marcus sat down at the desk in front of his typewriter and looked out on the snow. He was getting close to his deadline. The one Eva imposed on him. The date when he would have to start writing again or for the first time he could remember, break a promise to his love.
Marcus clenched his fists. He’d spent his whole goddamned life trying to make himself the kind of self-sufficient person who could handle any situation and make anything he needed to survive. The kind who could protect his home and the people in his care from any outside threat. That’s probably why in the end, it had been his loved ones own selves he couldn’t protect them from. In the case of Jack it was the hatred of bullies and desire to do the right thing that had done him in. In the case of Eva it had been worse. Her own body turned against itself and fought every means the doctors had at their disposal, even as her desire to live kept her alive longer than they had been told was possible.
Marcus’s eyes itched and his vision blurred. He rubbed his eyes and took a measured breath. This was foolishness. Marcus walked outside and despite having several cords stacked and dried and ready, he went to the woodpile and went to chop wood.