AT MY SHOULDER • by Ron Capshaw

Writer’s block. I never thought I would have it again. But days passed, and I would type out a sentence and edit it down to two words.

It’s the pulps, I told myself. A penny a word — by now, thanks to the popularity of the Count Lupin series, I got three cents a word — and oh how you stretched that word with needless adjectives and dangling modifiers.

Anyone writing for the pulps had to by now know that the stories weren’t written for posterity. They existed to make the readers momentarily forget the Great Depression. And when that was accomplished, the magazines went into the trash.

I was trying to ditch Lupin, the brooding former musketeer who avenged his beloved, murdered by devil-worshippers, by traveling the earth and slaying them.

The readers loved him.

I didn’t.

Writing about him was lazy. Payment for the stories unearned.

Despite imploring letters from the editors of Strange Tales, the magazine I grew up with as a writer, I refused to bring him back.

I could write other things. Not just flashing blades and tormented ex-soldiers and red-robed devil worshippers.

Despite my success in the pulp game — I made more money than even the mayor in Mullin, Texas — I still got rejection slips. Out of the eleven stories I submitted since my last Lupin, only one was accepted. A boxing story.

Boxing was what I did in my off hours. Earning the respect of the oil field toughs I waded into, proving that not all writers were sissies.

I leaned back in my chair, looking at the over-edited sentence, and then out my window into the Texas night.

I had an epiphany that I should have realized much sooner.

I needed raw material to work with.

That was why my werewolf and vampire stories were rejected.

Count yourself lucky you bought the right typewriter.

Lupin was like a drug. I knew that. I felt guilty about it.

Just one more story, I told myself.

I put my head in my hands, criss-crossing them the way the pawn shop owner instructed me to when I bought the typewriter in San Antonio.

The typewriter glowed.

In the shadows of my room, I heard a rustling.

“Come,” I said.

And out of the darkness he came, his booted spurs making metallic noises on the floor.

Count Lupin.

Raw material.

He placed his gloved hand on my shoulder.

The words came faster than I could type.


Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida.


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