Opus 100. By Martin Green.
Outside the rain was coming down. He looked at his writing hand. Number one hundred. It wouldnt be easy. The pencils were sharpened. The blank paper was ready. He looked at his writing hand again. A slight tremor. It had never been the same since the wound. Youd be fine, theyd said. Yes, that was what they always said. Thats what theyd said to Valesquez after the bull gored him. The politicians, the promoters, the men with the long, impressive words. Where was Valesquez now? Dead. It was nice to think that things would be fine. He noticed the tremor had increased. He steadied himself and wrote the first sentence. He looked out the window. The rain kept coming down.
No, you have to do better than half-baked Hemingway for the one-hundredth. Lets start again . . .
* * *
Writing number one hundred would be like hunting the great bear, the pen scratching out the inevitable words while outside life went on as it always did and always would, the Indians hunting down the Negroes, the white planters supplanting the Indians, the river surging over its banks. the epitome and apotheosis of the South, and then a family called the Snopes . . .
No, Faulkner was just as bad. Youd never be able to finish that sentence. Hows this?
* * *
The airplane reached its cruising altitude. He took out his laptop and tapped out his title. September 11, a Prelude to Terror. The striking blonde seated next to him gave him a speculative glance. Youre a writer, I see. She scrawled something on her napkin and handed it to him. Call me. I might have some interesting stories.
Ill do that.
He looked across the aisle. Rostov was sitting in the aisle seat three rows down. Hed seen Rostov when he boarded. The former KGBs hair had been died blonde and hed cut off his beard but there was no mistaking him. Why was he on this flight? What was he after? And the Arab gentleman seated one row ahead of Rostov. Theyd given him only a cursory inspection as they didnt want to be accused of racial profiling. But what was in that briefcase?
The flight attendant whispered discreetly in his ear. The captain would like to see you, Mr. G----.
No, that wouldnt do either. Youd have to write at least another thousand pages. One more try.
* * *
He was in his rundown office. He put a piece of paper in his rundown typewriter. Outside, a siren sounded, as mournful as a lost soul, as a cops car sped down the mean streets of Roseville. He looked at the chessboard. He moved his hand over a pawn, then stopped. He heard a buzz. A fly batted at the grimy window, in a futile effort to escape.
He looked up. The blonde had entered without making a sound. She was expensively dressed. Her legs were as long as a California freeway. She had hard blue eyes and a pouty mouth. Rich girl used to getting her way.
Marlowe? she asked.
Thats me. Ten dollars a day and expenses.
Im in trouble. I havent been a good girl. Blackmail. I agreed to turn over ten grand tonight. I want you there. She threw a card on his desk. Meet me at midnight. You might bring a gun. Then she was gone.
Marlowe looked at the card. A Granite Bay address. This broad had dough. There was more to this case than a little blackmail. He looked at the chessboard again and moved the pawn. The fly was still batting against the window. He heard the noise but before he could move a building fell on his skull. He was falling down a deep well and then all was black.
No, Chandler was old hat now. Well, that was it for the day. There was only one thing to do. Write
The End (to Opus 100)
And go on to 101.
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