Monday, February 28, 2011

The Trials of Leon Jackson

Here's another extract from the original draft of Booker's World which did not make it through the editing process.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

“I did a spot of editing today,” as they say in language posh. As I rummaged through a box today, I came across a story Leon wrote six years ago. I remembered it for one reason. It was the only piece he ever showed me personally. I recall the night.
Life wasn't offering much to me, but the comforts of home were the best money could buy. Leon called over. He looked a little weary, but I had seen him worse. He wanted my advice on something. He took a folder which he held between his arm and side and gave it to me.
“Read that,” he said, removing a small bag of grass from his pocket. He rolled one up into a joint that deserved a place at the centre of some bohemian art gallery behind a glass frame.
I took three pages from the folder and began to read. The short story was written by hand. Three pages of, well, I'm not sure what it was. I definitely laughed. I remember that. But it disturbed me and frightened me also. When I finished I was not sure what to say to him.
“What you think?” he asked.
I'm nobody to be giving critique on anything, never mind anybody else's writing and that's the view I gave. He handed me the joint before frustratingly saying that for once in my sorry life could I remove myself from the fence and actually have something to say.
I shrugged my shoulders and he left. I smoked what he had left me and read it again. In my own mind I felt it was something I could read more of.

One week later Leon was back. He told me he had wrote the story late one night after an argument with a girl he was living with at the time. He admitted he was both drunk and high as well. It became a little clearer to me then.
“Just give me a straight answer,” he asked. “Did you like the story?”
I told him I did. He then told me he was giving up all his vices and was really going to pursue a career in writing.
‘Join the fucking queue,’ I said to myself.

His three main vices were drink, women and weed, in that order. He informed me he was going to give all three up, one by one over the coming week, and then begin what he hoped would end in a novel. I wished him well.
Like every career paths, it can be all just the roll of a dice. Who says the dice can't roll your way, even if it is just once. First to go was Jane.
Leon and Jane had been together about three months. She allowed his infidelity on the basis she had studied 'Men' as an obscure degree subject for a year in some fake on-line college. She dropped out after the end of the first year content in the knowledge she had learned all that she needed to deal with them. Jane was an eclectic type, the initial intrigue, drawing Leon into wanting to spend more than just one night with her. In hindsight I think Leon was drawn to women like Jane in his unsuccessful pursuit to find a way to live his life. Women who challenged him, but understood his failings.
In fairness it went well for a short time. It had to have for them to move in together. But soon it was falling apart.
Jane didn't mind infidelity, but she still wanted to be held after sex. Leon did not do holding after sex. His excuse always the same. He had to rise at 6am for work. There was no time for such folly.
Jane hung in for as long as she could before walking out on Leon the very night he told me of his plans to write a novel. I'm sure Leon planned it that way. After all, it was Valentine's night. He had spent it in my house, helping me celebrate my birthday with a crate of beer I had bought. She was gone when he got home. He changed his phone number the next day and never heard from her again. Last I heard she had re-enrolled to continue her studies. In a real educational facility on some humanities buzz.
By the middle of the week Leon had finished his bag of weed. Not content with finishing his reserve in a social capacity, he opted to lock himself in his bathroom, a white tiled reflection of bleakness and smoked what was left in one sitting. Soon he was close to something that complemented the colour of his surroundings and enjoyed the cold feeling the rim of the toilet bowl gave him between bouts of sickness and scenarios that bent his mind. He lost a little weight that night.
The drink was not as bad as it could have been. A couple of nights of sweats and shakes. On the third day, after an encounter with a figure that looked like John Candy with horns he was over the worst. In the last week of February, a shiny new laptop had been purchased and he sat down, rearing to go.

But nothing came. Day after day of thought. Crunched sheets of naked paper, born from frustration. He chipped a tooth chomping pen tops. But not one word.
The days turned to a week and nothing happened. Nothing came forth. It was at this juncture Leon decided he needed a stimulant. He settled for a muse first. Her name was Daisy. Abandoned by love, Leon's whispered words were music to her rather large ears.
It didn't last. Cuddling issues! No, a muse would not be his inspiration.
She left and Leon returned to the weed. For a few days he felt it might work. His head raced with ideas about many things. Great ideas. His body however wouldn't move. He just could not make his fingers tap the keys.

By morning his ideas were gone through memory loss and thoughts of space trekking hippies ploughing their way through the cosmos were replaced with thoughts of multiple rejection letters and meetings with executives who used him as the source of amusement to get through their day.
The cycle repeated itself until he knew weed was not the answer.
He returned to the drink but well, once he was drinking there was no time for writing. It was always a revolution of drink and suffering sleep. The laptop gathered dust.
It was at the tail end of this binge that he confessed to me that he needed all three in his life if he was to get back to his novel, but he had to find levels which would provide the ingredients he needed to write about the things he wanted to write about. Each of them had the power to suppress somewhat the weakness' the others plagued upon with. And somehow, in some freak twist of evolutionary fate, that's what Leon felt would work for him. He failed of course; gauging levels was never his thing.

I wonder how other writers express themselves when it comes to wrangling with words. I'm sure not all need anything more than what the quiet can offer. But then I know of others, insane from substance, some so far gone they found their final solace down the barrel of a gun.
Could it also be possible to label writing a disease, just like alcoholism? For it's bleak daring addictive properties?
Is there even a case for them to be studied jointly as part of a degree course? A double major. Could there be a great thesis within their study? Or even a PhD ?
Sure as hell won't be me writing it anyway. The only thing I'll be writing are these last few words that you are now reading... at this very instant. Good Night.

Sonny Strange novella, free download here.

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