The writer had finally run out of things to write about and at first he felt as though this meant he was royally screwed. He couldn’t do much of anything else very well. He couldn’t fix a car. He couldn’t sell anything. He even struggled to make breakfast for himself most mornings. So this new development, this whole “running out of things to write about” thing, was a fairly significant issue for the writer.
Because he’d spent so much time during his celebrated life stringing words together in a poetic manner, he’d never taken the time to learn other, more useful, skills. In fact, he couldn’t do anything practical in the least, and that fact weighed heavily on him for many years. He couldn’t change a tire on a car, nor fix basic plumbing under the kitchen sink, nor even remember to check the lint filter on the dryer each time he used it. Because he was generally useless in daily life, he placed all of his self-worth in his talent for the written word, and feared the day said talent would evaporate.
When that day finally came, he felt as though he was royally screwed.
It hadn’t happened gradually, like he’d expected. He was getting older, after all — mid-50s, chubby, vaguely greasy — and he figured that his talent, which had carried him so valiantly during his youth, would sort of fizzle out over time, like the arm strength of a once-great quarterback. The writer could have lived with that: at least he would have seen his demise coming. It was the suddenness of it all that he felt he couldn’t handle. He’d simply woken up one morning, made a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer to churn out a few hundred words on his new novel, when all of a sudden — SPLAT! — nothing.
He’d simply woken up one morning, made a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer to churn out a few hundred words on his new novel, when all of a sudden — SPLAT! — nothing.
This wasn’t writer’s block. He’d experienced that before. Writer’s block was a temporary affliction that could usually be alleviated with more coffee (or less coffee, depending on the day), some exercise and a willingness to, above all else, just put words on the godforsaken page. But now, Christ, he couldn’t even do that. He’d tried everything to make things right. One day, he drank eight cups of coffee. The next day, he drank none. Another day, he ran a couple of laps around his quaint adobe in the New Mexican desert. Another still, he did push-ups — so many push-ups. He splashed cold water onto his wrinkled face, here and there. He read David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon and J.D. Salinger, in an attempt to drum up literary inspiration from The Great Ones. None of it helped. It was a week later and the white page continued to glare at him like the abyss.
He had no wife, no kids. He’d never married, he figured because he’d never been the marrying type. A loner by nature, as it were. Both of his parents had died a couple years back from causes that don’t need to be explained in depth here. He did have a dog — Albert, a sweet old pit bull — whom he loved very much. But Albert was 12 years old, and his hips were causing him problems, as hips are wont to do to dogs of a certain age. Albert slept at the writer’s feet every night, and the dog’s presence on the bed had always filled the writer with happiness. But it was only a matter of time.
Two weeks to the day after the writer found out that he could no longer write, he resolved to stop trying. “Why keep bludgeoning a dead horse?” he thought. “Better to carry on with reality.” He didn’t come to this decision lightly. Writing had given him purpose, a sense of self. He’d been prestigious and prolific. A couple best-selling novels — A Yokel’s Dream and The Giving Pipe — had made him rich, and a near-flawless collection of essays entitled Burning the Golden Oat had solidified his place as one of the most distinct scribes of his generation. Certainly, if nothing else, he was on par with a Wallace or a Salinger. He’d even dabbled in serious journalism, writing the definitive piece on the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020, entitled It Came From China. The piece, which was brilliantly written and exhaustively researched, revealed that the virus had been genetically engineered under the watch of Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose end goal for the virus had been to cut the world’s non-Chinese population in half to set up a global communist takeover. The writer, naturally, had won the Pulitzer Prize for It Came From China.
Living life without documenting it via the written word initially felt as awkward as riding a bike with square tires. “I need a buffer,” he thought, one month after he’d stopped writing. “The world is too bright, too complex, to simply experience it.” But he eventually got over that feeling.
Despite all of his accolades, the writer knew in his heart of hearts that his writing days were over. “I will give it a rest,” he thought. “Only a fool refuses to see when it’s time to move on.” So he did move on, even though it hurt him immensely at first. Living life without documenting it via the written word initially felt as awkward as riding a bike with square tires. “I need a buffer,” he thought, one month after he’d stopped writing. “The world is too bright, too complex, to simply experience it.” But he eventually got over that feeling.
The further removed he became from his writing, the less he missed it. He’d watch a sunset, and actually watch the sun set, instead of attempting to discern how he could describe it to a bunch of people he’d never met, and probably would never meet. He learned how to change a car tire from his neighbor, Jose, who happened to be a mechanic — a fact that the writer had been ignorant of for years, because he’d always been too busy working on this book or that to actually socialize with the people around him. He traveled to Rome, where he spent a month walking the narrow streets at night positively aflutter with wonder. He kept making breakfast for himself on Saturday mornings, though he still routinely burned the eggs. “Oh well,” he’d say, laughing to himself. The urge to write never returned to him, and as he continued to live his refreshing new life, he thought: “This is as good as it gets.”
Albert died late one April, about a year after the writer had stopped writing. The writer held the dog’s paw as the vet administered a lethal injection of pentobarbital. As the life drained from Albert’s eyes, the writer’s cheeks were drenched in tears. He kissed Albert’s nose, and in a trembling voice whispered: “I will never forget you, good friend. Wherever you’ve gone, I hope you will be happy.”
As the writer walked out of the vet’s office, the orange sun was disappearing behind the horizon of a red New Mexican desert. The writer opened his lips to say something, but quickly closed them. Then he took a deep, healthy breath and smiled at a young woman and her dog as they walked past.