More rubbish about my personal affairs, reproduced here so that in days to come, when I want to look back and figure out Why What Did That, I shall have a better idea of the chronology. —T. S.
Since my last letter, I have been laid up with two maladies that do not sort well together. For one, I have been stubbornly working my way through the early side-effects of yet another antidepressant, Pristiq by name. This drug is said to cause insomnia, and in fact it does make me uncommonly wakeful for a short time a few hours after I take it. The trouble is that before and after that, it makes me groggy and sleepy. When I began taking it, I found myself sleeping at least fourteen hours a day, so that my doctor had to put me on a half dose. Fortunately, these side-effects are said to go away, in most cases, within a month or two, and I am already beginning to feel that Pristiq has shot its bolt and will henceforth allow me to remain awake through the day. The second malady, unfortunately, is the blinding headaches that come from the arthritis in my neck (aftereffects of falling down those stairs last year); and these headaches are made worse by lying on my side, the only position in which I can sleep. So I have been sleeping until the pain forced me to get up, and then staying up until the grogginess forced me to sleep again; and I have accomplished almost nothing whilst doing this.
Just in the last few days, I have recovered enough to let ‘Smiggy’ out of his cage, though I am somewhat abashed to see no comments as yet. It is an uncomfortable feeling for a writer to get no response to a piece of work; our natural insecurity makes us interpret it as the kind of hostile silence that occurs when somebody breaks wind in a crowded lift. And this has stifled me to such an extent that I am writing to you, Theophilus, instead of working on ‘the Orchard of Dis-Pear’, as I ought to be.
If this letter were written on paper, you would probably detect a strange unpleasant smell coming from the envelope; a smell compounded of brimstone, flop sweat, and an abattoir in hot weather. That is the smell of impending disasters; I use the plural advisedly. I trust you will allow me to unburden myself; if you like, you can skip on to the end of the letter, and then chuck the unread portion in the fire (or the Recycle Bin).
First, I am filled with doubt about the undertaking to write the ‘Orchard’. In principle, a serial is a good way to attract an audience and to build up a body of published work quickly. I just don’t know if this serial will be of interest to a big enough audience to pay any of the bills. Not all of my 3.6 Loyal Readers will, I suppose, be interested in war stories about exorcists fighting demons; and the stories themselves are so ignorantly binary, so unfashionably simple-minded, as to actually contain Good and Evil, to say nothing of such antediluvian things as Men and Women. This will militate against its finding any significant readership outside of the 3.6. Then, too, I am informed by one Expert in the Field that the proper thing is to do at least eight episodes to a serial, and release them weekly or biweekly; whereas another E. in F. insists that there must be six episodes, no more, no less, and that they must come out monthly or not at all. Faced with this conflicting testimony, my reason tells me to please myself; but all of my instincts rebel against the idea that my self ought to be pleased, and consequently I am in what is known as a fine taking.
Second, I find myself without a cover artist, just at the moment when I am going to need six (or eight, or more) book-covers done in a hurry; and I have no money to pay a professional to do the job. This is a considerable handicap. One of our mutual friends cheered me up almost to the point of despair by pointing out that she has had a finished book awaiting publication for something like two years, because her cover artist threw up the job and she cannot release the book with a blank cover. And I do not trust my ability to choose an artist if I did have the means, or to tell what is a good cover design and what is a shrieking horror. These things fill me with dread.
Third, and almost an afterthought in the circumstances, I do not know where my next month’s rent is coming from. My father’s trustee, who has been paying the greater part (but not all) of my bills through my various illnesses, seems to have disappeared. I cannot seem to reach him at any of his telephone numbers, and at this time of year, he may well be out of the country. He is a well-to-do fellow who seems to spend about half his time running his (inherited) business, and the other half at his condo in Mexico, or on business junkets to Italy, or fishing in Alaska. I would not blame him if he cut me off without another dollar; but even if he does not, I have a sharply limited time in which to find him and get enough money to keep the wolf at bay.
I do not know what to do about any of these difficulties, except to pray; and since I do not strike myself as an object whose prayers are likely to be heeded, to ask for the prayers of others. Ora pro nobis, and all that. Meanwhile I shall try to keep a lid on my panic and not do anything foolish. It does not seem to me as if my remaining alive is much good to anyone, but my dying (or being evicted) would cause an unholy mess, which I would not wish upon anyone. So for the moment, I shall follow my own advice to those who have reached the end of their rope: Tie a knot and hang on. Other suggestions are welcome.
Yr. obt. svt.,
—THE USUAL SUSPECT, F. V.