This is a story about a guy Giles, who knew a girl Janet, a long time ago. He’d make her laugh. She particularly loved his Morrissey impersonation. One evening she gave him a lift home. When they arrived outside his flat they sat silently in the front of her car. Was she waiting for him to kiss her? He didn’t know. He never knew. Too scared to carpe the diem. He just said goodnight weakly as he fiddled with the car door handle and scurried out.
The years went by. She went to London to work in publishing. He did something vague in horticulture. They lost touch. Sometimes he’d think back on that moment when he didn’t kiss her. Then one night, sitting in front of his computer, infused with red wine and middle-age ennui he googled her name, and realized she’d moved back to Dublin. And lived close by. According to her website she operated her own proof-reading and editing services from home. Scrutinizing her photo he noticed she had changed — then again he had changed, horticulture does that to you — but he still felt an attraction towards her. And she still had the same surname. Maybe she was single. Like he was. After a few long-term car crashes.
He devised a strategy. He would contact her under the guise of seeking professional expertise. To do some editing for him. Which meant he had to write a book. A book that needed to be edited. Which meant an extra long book. What could he write an extra long book about?
Meeting someone was so complicated.
Apart from aspects of horticultural science and the core economic fundamentals of the agribusiness sector, his one area of expertise was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He knew all about Irritable Bowel Syndrome — personal reasons. But could he write a book about it? A lengthy tome? Is this the type of topic he’d want a possible future romantic partner to pore through and edit? Maybe he could make it a light read — he already had a title and the publisher’s tagline — “An Extreme Case of Flatulence, Giles Wardrop’s enchanting blend of fart and fiction.” He was good at titles and taglines. Spent his days fantasizing about bestsellers he’d write and the blurbs he’d concoct.
But he was no writer. There was no way he could create a mass of words, one after the other, in the right order that made some sense and kept a reader engaged. However much he hated it, he had to accept that his world would always be a world of plant cultivation.
Then he remembered his old friend from college. Bob.
Bob spewed out trilogies. Sci-fi noir. His very own genre. They were hugely successful online. About a space-travelling private investigator, Bertram Cosmos. Bob’s most recent book, Death Comes To Cosmos, had been picked up by some big name publisher.
The situation was explained over a smoothie. Bob’s bi-annual detox.
“The longer the better. The more work she has to do, the more consultations we’ll have to have. This means more time to communicate with each other. Who knows where it will lead.”
“Giles, I think I have just the thing for this lady. Ever hear of Thomas Pynchon? ”
“He writes dense, complex novels. I went through my Pynchon phase when I was twenty-two. Wrote a 900-page novel called The Something of Something.”
“The Something of Something.”
“Yeh. She’ll have her work cut out with that one.”
“Thanks, buddy. Oh, by the way, there’s no porn or erotica in it, is there?”
“Of course there’s porn and erotica in it. I was twenty-two.”
Giles picked up the manuscript the following day. He’d unpacked fertilizer bags that were lighter. He hadn’t planned to flick through The Something of Something but was slightly concerned about the porn and erotica content. After twenty impenetrable indecipherable pages, completely exhausted, he placed it aside.
Why the book subterfuge in the first place, he thought in a moment of clarity while emitting loudly some, not trapped but incarcerated, wind. Why not just email her? Or ring her? All her details were on her website. Better still, go to her local coffee shop and ‘accidentally’ bump into her.
It was a week later. He was sitting opposite Janet in ‘Noshington’, a coffee shop in town. And since he had decided to email her after all, he felt he actually did need to give the proposed meeting a business pretext. Hence, the bag-of-fertilizer-sized package on the coffee table.
“I’m really impressed. I always knew you were artistic. I can’t wait to go through The Something of Nothing.”
There was a pause. Giles smiled at Janet.
“Thanks for the kind words. But remember, I did write it years ago. It’s probably puerile, maybe a bit obscene in places and much too long.
That’s why I need your help.”
“Don’t be over-critical. It’s some achievement writing 900 pages.”
She looked at the cover page.
“Robert M. McFadden. Good pen-name.”
Giles had left Bob’s name on the manuscript. Outwardly he remained calm. Inwardly he performed self-loathing hari-kari.
They chatted for some time. She told him she’d been married and divorced, had a son away in college in Sunderland and was enjoying life back in Dublin. He talked at length about arboculture, fogponics and mechanical weed control.
Coffee over, he offered to carry the manuscript to her car.
“Thanks, Giles. Listen, I’m going your way, have to pick up a few things. Can I drop you home?”
Soon they were outside his small red mid-terrace house. Sitting silently in the front of her car. There was a long pause. A certain tension. Was she waiting for him to kiss her? After twenty-five years, would he finally carpe the diem? He looked at her. Was about to lean over when there was a long powerful explosive sound.
Not trapped but incarcerated wind.
Karl MacDermott is an Irish-born comedy writer. He has written many articles for The Irish Times and online publications like Pure Slush and Literary Orphans. He has written two humor fiction novels — The Creative Lower Being and a new novel, Ireland’s Favourite Failure, which is available on Amazon Kindle. He is currently writer-in-residence at his home in Dublin.