Me? I was taken quite easily. I guess. Well, they kicked me in the shin, grabbed me by the still incredulous shoulders and led me out of my hazy room, smoke from my cigarette lazily going in circles. “Art?” – they asked. Whatever. And that’s it. I must have been at the point of reluctant and imperceptible sloth-suffocation, yet I still managed to mumble something. In protest. Something really quiet. Indecipherable, illegible. Something ridiculous, of course. Well, what do you want?
- Nothing to do, eh?
- What is this all about?
- Ever heard about one house?
- A house?
- The house.
- The house? No, I haven’t. But my legs – they hurt.
- We will take you there - to the house. You will write, you will live. You will live for writing, you will write for living. Is that pathetic enough for you? Well, what do you say? Will that do? Your legs still hurt?
- What was it you wanted, anyway?
- Yes, but…
- Indeed. You will get money, obviously. Enough money. Food will be duly delivered, we will take the pains. Blank paper. Only there’s one thing.
- What? – It was at about that point that I saw the house. And for the first time in my life my eyes were actually open. – What is it? – I begged, wiping away my burning and bristly tears.
- You will write something every day. One original work – each day. Is that clear?
- And if you fail.
- What? What if I fail?
- Then you will have to leave the house, naturally.
- What? Like that? For good?
- Back to your idle room. There are others, you see.
This was pretty crazy, now that I actually got it: one work each day. I knew I could, even considering that other q-question. Pretty crazy, still.
- You mean short stories? Poems?
- Could be novels. Your call. – They pushed me inside and locked the door. - Could be anything. Art. – I heard them say.
The very first thing I did was checking whether I could open the door or not. It turned out – I could. I could. I could leave the house right away and no one would say a word against. Or for, for that matter. Then I heard some heavy tickling behind my back and turned around to find out what that was.
And then I actually saw the large black clock hanging on the wall and covering, like, half the space of the room.
Having heard a sharp sound of a siren, I awoke from my foamy frothy sleep and, grabbing my few papers from the table, rushed out of the study. I slipped the seven sheets through the tight slot at the bottom of the door and got an instant reply. In the form of some crunchy notes, albeit quite different from mine. No, I was not dreaming. But was it all really happening?
I squeezed money in my hand, as tightly as I could without decomposing it, and thought about my story. It was good, no doubt. Inspirational and thus rather religious and apparently overseen (spiritually) by old masters. Rather poetic, also, but then it had in fact been long premeditated. Which meant it was going to get harder from then on. (Later it would sometimes boil up to a heart-attack manner, this art-application. I recollect a couple of – earlier, naturally – cases when I did the handing in in the last minute time, stuffing the trembling papers into that cesspit of a slot – can I say slut?) It was only stage one, you see. But the story was good, there was of course that to consider. I conceived it many years ago while listening to the rain pleasantly eavesdropping on my autumnal roof. There was that distant time when I could actually feel inside things (unlike here), feel their whole essence. The essence of rain – the story was all about the essence of rain. Rain essence – simple and striking. Godsend.
I got back to the study, sat on the sofa and started silently contemplating the perfectly mute type-writer standing on the table. So dark and unimportant near the curtained window, so cold after some time. Was it even morning? I had no idea as I fell into an avid sleep. No longer a sleeping pill worshipper, no longer an insomaniac, which was hardly a bad thing. Which was even hardly comprehended at that point of mental and physical exhaustion.
As I was typing away my enflamed mind and enslaved imagination (I would look at some object, any object, and start milking it mercilessly), I kept thinking about many unrelated things. Obvious things. I was thinking about what my work amounted to but the fly-blown hole in the wood. Yes, those men looked mighty serious, but then so did I. And every one else. Also, there was a question of my health, and I don’t mean refrigerator. There were virtually no problems with the latter, somebody diligently filling it during my circumstantial bouts of sleep (to say nothing of my dreams). The choice? Not something a gourmet could stomach, but no complaints, really. Now the trouble was that I couldn’t actually adjust to my passionate time-table, whose beginning coincided with its end: the siren. The bloody thing was the only sign proving that the chaos around had any meaning to it (when in truth it had none). Besides, I was hardly walking out at all, there was no way getting around it. I had no time for any considerable motions, let alone walks. Besides, nervous system down the drain (no rest, no air, not a moment of even vague safety). Besides, stories. I guess I’m in stage two (any work of art consists of atoms). First, at some point of my stay here they started coming out unintentionally long. When I tried to cut down on some parts, others were suddenly going Procrustean. Secondly, it was rather bland and insipid mannerism. And when the author’s admitting that, it’s actually in the papers. Rain became some handy and tamed waterfall. One could argue about those 99 percent of perspiration, but then I was in fact only a 99 percent man. I mean, inside that house. I mean, what would you say to these titles: “Love”, “Hate”, “Women”, etc.? The stories were actually really well-written, weighty, serious and refined – I would give me that, but it all seemed like cashing on earlier successes (God, was there any?). Classic, but by-the-book classic. Even the most powerful wave is proceeded by a gentle moment of calm – a scientific fact. The fact that the stories were so vividly deteriorating (quite soon I even took up the shameful habit of not rereading them – to say nothing of, Christ, revising!), was the most painful thing by far. Which was hopeful. Helpless yet hopeful. But, hell, wasn’t I, like, thinking about a thousand distracting things as I was pounding away my goddamn life?..
I began my minute outdoor walks, getting some fresh air and rather reflexive and even catching the moon once in a blue – – hell, I hoped I was already done with that second stage. Why wasn’t I leaving the place altogether? I don’t know, must be some moral obligation. Doing something good, finally. Other than that, I was actually enjoying it all in some grand perverse way. It was art, remember, and I was hungry. Art, whatever. And I was in. Me and no one fucking else!
Pretty soon I was moving into some romantic bullshit, all bloody, rosy and outrageously outspoken. At that point, a smart move, a career move (what career?). No, no, I’m serious. Thirsty tend to drink. I was going seriously sentimental – you should have seen me then, letting out all the undercurrent secrets of my former experience, leaving no stone unturned. Gorging on every gorgeous skirt and dirty detail, making it all so lyrically overblown that it was either beauty or the actual beast. Both, I believe, but don’t you believe the poet. I knew that my despair was causing all that, like I knew that my despair would put a logical realistic end to all my egotistical detours and deviations.
But however risky and pretentious I was getting during my stay in the house, the money came pouring down. In fact, through the hole in the door. Sure, I was working like crazy, clockwise, but that’s not saying that none of my writings looked like some rotten fruit. Soon enough they all looked like that, in a way. I couldn’t tell. And yet the money was piling up on my table and on the floor – wherever my lifeless hand would mind to drop it. Come on, were they actually paying attention, were they really selling all that?
I don’t seem to describe the actual house. Well, it’s because I had no time for the house. I worked in it. The house had no master or mistress – other than the siren. It was good – that house, no doubt. It looked like everything. Whatever I needed, whatever I didn’t need at all… The clock, I’m talking about the clock. The big black round clock covering half the space of the house.
I had a visitor, once. A young man with a strangely old face and strained talk, which proved that my ways still had that proverbial human touch. This man, pretty much the only living being I saw in a long long time, save for occasional blurred glimpses in the street. I was not really spending time outside, not yet. But this man, was he ever nervous. His chaotic knocking interfered with my story and thus marked some inner changes, of which I’ll speak a bit later. Me, I was so enthusiastic about his unexpected coming that the ensuing disappointment at his totally unreserved refusal to step inside really got me going. And, so it seems, had quite far-reaching consequences, but I’ll get to that in due time. We had a conversation, still. All really bizarre.
- You… you live here? – that peculiar tone, pale and arty.
- No, no. Reside.
- Well, I work here.
- What kind of work?
- Writing. I’m writing here. I guess.
- Oh that’s what I thought! That’s exactly what I thought. – But his initial enthusiasm soon subsided and gave way to a sympathetic stare.
- Well? – I said.
- Take care, man. You take care. – And so he started retreating, soon fading away in the dark.
- Take care? What do you mean? Just what do you mean?
And that’s our conversation, with all my “come on, friend!” and “mind to come inside?” and “enter, for Christ’s sake, please!” omitted. I was bursting with frenzy, what can I say?
Soon I returned to the house, getting down to stage four. Stage four: no mercy. Stage four: venom, revenge, blood, rage. Stage four: truth.
Also, I would like to get this off my chest: I like writing, I just don’t like waking up right in the middle of my muddled dream fearing that my blank mind and embarrassingly naked body will be exposed to the piercing shriek of the siren. If anyone was going to actually step in, it’s her. In a way, I came there for her. In a way, I was staying there for her.
I was getting even more detailed. Man was getting it, finally. All his misery, all his small ways and talks. It was not satire – it was all severely straightforward. And serious. Blame it all on cheap environment, take it or… it will take you. I was working like an engine that consumes air (closed air, mind you). I was recollecting everything, and everything I recollected was a mess. I put that on paper, I put the paper in the hole, where they were ready to put another batch of money. That’s Beckett’s Molloy for you, that’s reality for you – the circle that still stubbornly circulates around money. Martin Amis’ money, Roger Waters’ money, their money, my money, your money. Jesus, and you thought you were unaffected? That’s reality for you, and it won’t leave you just standing there, wondering: “Okay, what the hell?..” But yes it will, eventually. The money is always there, right between the nadir and the zenith. I had no use for it, yet it kept coming, like a devoted dog. Proving that it’s still everything, that it’s still right there, with you. That’s your money for you.
And then I wanted sleep. I wanted rest. I wanted women, cell phones, drinks, Internet. I wanted life, this way or another. Stage next was the groundbreaking, the revolutionary, the breakthrough, the oh-so-new one. I said to myself, looking at the latest moneyfist: I’ll do something. Boy, I’ll do something. I’ll show them new flesh. Long live new flesh.
I became defiant. They were scoffing me, no doubt. Now what I wanted was to scoff them. And so one day I stopped writing stories and took up crap. The crap could be pretty versatile, it turned out. To give you an example, I even tried my hand at blemishing the sheets (those were constantly on the table, as promised) with random words that were just popping out of my head. I wrote disjointed letters, I painted pictures, I practiced pornography, I did one-liners, I even got away with one word once (you know the one)! If you ask me, it was as far away from decency as it could possibly get. How they tolerated crap? It must have been selling like cold fakes, but your money just kept coming. And I thought: use it?
And so I started making use of it. Immediately after the siren ceased its bloodthirsty bang, I went to the study, typed some utter inanity (part of genius, remember – if questions, I would throw that into their faces; “you don’t see”, - I would add) and went out surfing through bars, brothels and Internet cafes (the latter two are essentially the same thing, of course). Modern life - it was all increasingly good, but that didn’t make me forget about the house. Like deaf, dumb and blind, I returned there. To my seducer, to my trap. To my crap.
A side note: was this profanity or just a different way of saying something new and important? I challenge you. Me, I was confused at the time. I am confused now.
I grew so insolent and rebellious that at some point I made a mistake of playing a trick on them. A tease. I continued lying on the sofa as the siren sounded. The familiar foursome prepared to throw me out (“there are others, you see”), but on seeing the inked papers near the typewriter they settled with a heavy beating. I’ve no hard feelings – after all, there’s caution and then there’s the wind. What can I say? Don’t tease moneymen, especially those seeking blood.
These different stages I’m talking about have a natural flow to them, I figured out that bit. See for yourself: first temperance, then love. First love, then reality. First reality, then super-reality. You could go on with them stages, I won’t.
Oh but this is the final one, brothers. This story I’ve just finished, it’s called “Inside the House”, as you well know. Should I have entitled it “Self-indulgence on Parade”? Or “The Ship of Fools”? Your call. Is it good or is it bad? I don’t have a vaguest idea after all this time of foolery and fakery, but yet again I will leave that to you. Is it the last hurrah? Hard to say, but I did put some effort (rather acerbic it is, eh?) into it. At least. But then maybe this here story is only a poor amalgamation of every thing in the world and is therefore no good. Allusions, fabulation, even some shades of black humour – that sort of thing. Maybe just no good at all. I don’t know. What is good?
You could argue that it’s all some autobiographical self-pity. Me and my house. But consider, please: is it me, and is it my house. Did I say “consider, please”? Was it done in an attempt to communicate with you, my so-distant-and-having-nothing-to-do-with acquaintance?
One interesting speculation. We could probably state that the previous stage was death, right? Wasn’t I, like, murdering all through that fidgety time? Thus with the next stage we have something like, well, post-death. But what is post-death? Quite possibly something that always keeps repeating itself? Or could it be something that never ends? Or, after all is said and done – post-death is in fact non-existent? I mean, who knows? Or, you could reiterate: who cares? Worthless speculation then.
But maybe you know and maybe you care. That’s good for you then, you could try your luck here, inside the house, for this I fear is my last story. I’ll either have to repeat it (but the work should be original, don’t you dare to forget that!), go on writing it forever (big chance) or just conclude that it doesn’t exist. After all, that’s how post-death works. So maybe you will come here tomorrow, see this here type-writer, see these here blank sheets. Do so. And I won’t say a word against. Or for, for that matter. I will just say to you “take care, man”, “you take care”.