Saturday, 21 September 2013

Writer's Block

This short story was originally published as part of an anthology of the works of several writers and artists in the Medway towns: 'NEW ART FROM NORTH KENT' (Urban Fox Press, 2004.) I've since tweaked and polished it up a bit (because that's the kind of thing you can do as time goes by and you learn more stuff about writing.)

There he was. Pompous little twerp. Well this time, he wasn’t going to just ignore her. This time, he was going to listen.

 Voluptua Angelface drew herself up to her full height – all five-foot-five-in-high-heels of it – and marched up to John’s desk, primed for confrontation. There was no response; his lizardy little eyes remained fixed on the strings of text swelling across the screen as his stubby, nicotine-stained fingers pattered across a keyboard gritty with old pizza crumbs and coffee stains. This was what John did for many hours of the day, many days of the week. For the past three years, he had spent all of his time tapping away like a hamster running on a wheel, determined to produce the bestseller of his dreams. Because John was a writer...
Well, an aspiring one anyway. He had yet to actually finish any of his great literary works. But this latest one, the one he was working on now, was going to change everything. This was going to be the one that launched his career, and so it had become the focus of his entire life. A fact which did not sit well with Voluptua, who could already feel her blood bubbling up to boiling point as he remained oblivious to her presence. This was precisely why everything had gone so horribly wrong between them. Well, enough was enough.

 "John Hadley,” she cried, thumping her tiny, manicured fist on the desk. “Look at me! Take your eyes off that bloody screen and look at me, damn you!”

 It took at least a couple of seconds before he responded. Blinking as if he'd just been woken from a dream he'd have preferred to finish, he peered at her in confusion. There was a hint of recognition in his face, but it was obvious he wasn't certain he even knew this angry young woman seething beside him. Typical. Voluptua rolled her eyes in despair.
"It’s me, you utter plank – Voluptua!” she spat. “Remember me? The poor, silly bitch whose life you've completely screwed up?”

 Voluptua?” He actually had the nerve to look shocked. Squinting, he turned his head sideways, as if looking at her from another angle might somehow change her into something different. Something he'd undoubtedly be less annoyed to see. “No - it can't be! You're not supposed to be... how the hell..?”

 “Shut up. I’m doing the talking now – and, just for a change, you’re going to listen."
She took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eye. "I’ve had enough, John. Ever since you began this wretched novel you’ve been treating me appallingly, and I’m here to tell you that I won’t stand for it anymore. I've been loyal to you; I stuck by you and supported you, even when everyone else just laughed at your dreams - and all you've done in return is ignore my needs and treat me like shit. I deserve better and you know it.”

 John’s mouth dropped open like a haddock’s. Voluptua continued her tirade. “ When you first met me, my name was Sarah Watkins. It was a perfectly nice, sensible name that I liked. I was a brunette, I was studying law at university and I bought all my clothes from ordinary high street shops. I was just like any other girl of my age. But that was never good enough for you, was it? I was never good enough for you. So rather than accept me for who I was, you tried to change me into your dream woman.
"And like an idiot, I went along with it. I let you change me. I started wearing the designer dresses and raunchy lingerie you put me in, and I didn't argue with you when you made me bleach my hair and gave me this ludicrous boob job..." She cupped the enormous breasts spilling out of the top of her tight little tank top like a couple of flesh-coloured basketballs. “I even gave up my law degree, because you thought it would be more fitting for me to just sit at home by the pool all day, drinking cocktails and having manicures. But even that wasn't enough for you, was it?  In the end you even hated my name. So now I'm bloody Voluptua Angelface - I mean, for God’s sake, John! What kind of a name is that for a woman?”

 John shrugged dismissively. “Sarah Watkins didn’t suit you anymore” he said flatly. “Especially not once you'd had all that work done. You're bloody gorgeous now, thanks to me. And a sexy bird needs a sexy name, so that's what I felt you should have. You ought to be grateful.”

 "Grateful?” Voluptua shrieked. “You’ve turned me into a -  a living Barbie doll, and you expect me to be grateful?  Why couldn’t you love me the way I was? I may not have been glamorous, but I was smart, I had my self-respect, and – ” her voice faltered, and a lump rose in her throat. “I was happy.”

 John gave her a withering look. “You were plain and boring. I fixed you, Voluptua. I turned you into someone sexy and exciting – face it, there's not a man on this planet who wouldn't want to screw you now. It’s not my fault you’re not happy. You bloody well should be - most women would kill to live your life, you ungrateful little cow.”

 “What do you mean, it’s not your fault I’m not happy?" cried Voluptua. "It’s entirely your fault! Ever since you became obsessed with your bloody novel I’ve been through more trauma and humiliation than most people endure in a lifetime!” She glared at him coldly. “I still haven’t forgiven you for trying to drown me in the Jacuzzi.”

 John looked at her with the reproachful gaze of a schoolmaster. “Well, you were having an affair with the gardener.”

 “An affair you engineered! You made me feel neglected and unloved, knowing I was bound to get lonely and frustrated! Pedro could see how desperate and unhappy I was, and he was there for me when I needed him. Admit it, John - you drove me into being unfaithful.”

 John threw back his head and laughed. “You’re so melodramatic, Voluptua. I didn't actually drown you in the end anyway, did I? I just hurt you enough to make you suffer for your infidelity. I mean, I couldn’t let you get away with it, could I?”

 Voluptua shot him a look of pure hatred. “And what about poor Pedro? We ended our affair, so was it really necessary to have him blown to smithereens in his Fiat Punto?”

 “A tragic accident, as far as anyone else will ever know. Divine intervention, you might say.”

 “Oh, and I suppose arranging for me to be kidnapped by those Peruvian terrorists was ‘divine intervention’ as well, was it?” Voluptua shuddered at the memory. “Ten days holed up in an abandoned warehouse in Chingford in nothing but skimpy underwear, held captive by a bunch of ruthlessly evil but unfeasibly fit kidnappers! I mean, for heaven’s sake, John - Peruvian terrorists with six-packs! Do you honestly think people are going to buy that one?”

 John grinned. “They will when they find out you seduced their leader” he sniggered. “And then agreed to bang all the rest of them as well, in exchange for your freedom.”

 Voluptua squealed in horror. “You can’t tell them that!”

 “Yes I can, Voluptua – I can tell them anything I bloody well like.” John was looking at her now with the forbidding countenance of a father who was growing tired of a spoiled child’s behaviour.  “You'll be whatever I want everyone to believe you are - because I own you. I've made you everything you are today, and you know it."

 Voluptua gazed forlornly at her reflection in the window next to his desk. She took in every aspect of her appearance; starting from the peroxide blonde hair with dark roots, the heavy mascara around her Betty Boop eyes and her blood red, collagen-pumped lips. She continued the depressing journey downwards past her inflated fake breasts and orange perma-tan, the tight, short miniskirt that only just skimmed her liposculptured buttocks and her ridiculously high white stilettos - and her heart sank as the truth hit home. Yes, John certainly had made her what she was today, there was no doubt about that. She turned back to face him.

 “I don’t want to be what you’ve made me, John,” she said softly. “I never did. I’ve only ever wanted to be Sarah Watkins – the girl I was when we first began this. What was so wrong with her? Please, John – let’s go back to the start. Let me be Sarah Watkins again.”

 “No!” John finally lost his temper and spun round to face her. “Jesus, you just don’t get it, do you? I’m writing this bloody book! Not you, not Pedro or anyone else. It’s my story, so I call the shots and decide what sort of character you’re going to be. Okay, you may have started out as clever little law student Sarah Watkins... but it just wasn’t working. My public don’t want to read about a worthy little smartarse, Voluptua!  They're after a sexy whore who gets into dangerous situations and gets out of them by stripping off and banging everything in trousers. That's what sells these days, and that's why I had to rework you, so just shut up whining and deal with it. Now, if you'll excuse me I've got a novel to write - and lots more adventures for you, believe me."

He turned back to his monitor and resumed pounding at his keyboard, an expression of grim concentration on his face. Evidently, as far as he was concerned, the discussion was over. Voluptua stared down at him dejectedly. So it was true then. He'd never really cared about her at all; he was just using her to launch his writing career. And he was prepared to ruin her life to do it.

 Of course this presented her with a rather large quandary. Her survival depended on John continuing to write about her - if he stopped doing that, she would cease to exist. But did she really want to live as Voluptua Angelface, a vacuous caricature with a preposterous life? The past three years had been bad enough – did she really want to be frozen for eternity in such a miserable existence?

 She glanced down at his desk, considering her options - and her eye fell on a large paperweight, polished and heavy-looking atop an untidy pile of paperwork. She picked it up and held it at eye-level, gauging its weight in her scarlet-taloned hand as she watched John at the keyboard. He looked like a wizened old man, hunched over his desk with his spindly little fingers drumming their frantic tattoo on the buttons, his tongue poking stupidly out of the corner of his mouth.

No one would miss him, thought Voluptua to herself. And certainly, no one would miss his book. The plot had more holes than Swiss cheese and the characters had become more clichéd and ridiculous as time went on. His spelling was appalling as well. To be perfectly blunt, it was a pile of crap; even if he finished it, no-one would ever want to read the thing.

 Was a life of cliché-ridden melodrama and embarrassingly awful sex scenes really worth living? After three years of hell, John’s long-suffering heroine made her choice. She swung the paperweight high into the air, her gaze zooming in on the back of his skull.

 “Time for some Writer’s Block, John,” she said as her arm swooped down.

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