I was arm wrestling a Cajun bare-knuckle brawler at the bar last night after winning a lightning round of the Indian knife game against a mute prospector named Poncho, and a thought came to me as I wiped beads of sweat from my forehead with the grimy back of my free hand.
NEWS: A brilliant new book review and interview on THE GERONIMO BREACH with Simon Jenner. Worth a quick read!
“Gator,” I asked (his name was Gator, which was fitting given his bulk and general wash-and-wear demeanor, ‘Bear’ having been previously claimed by a spectacularly hirsute midget quaffing Chinaco with a gin chaser over by the stuffed burro), “do you think I could learn to have a more sane approach to writing than my OCD, all-in process? Something more like three hours a day in the mornings, and then more of a life with the remainder of my time?”
His battered brow furrowed from the strain of tackling my daunting prowess, and I could see him searching the scarred wooden bar top for answers.
“Your process is essential to your craft, right? I mean, you write like that because it’s what works best for you – for your desired outcome. It’s not because you’re under any deadline that isn’t entirely self-enforced, is it?”
I grunted and palmed one of the oversized shot glasses filled with meanstreak, and threw back the burning liquid as my gaze roved over the knife scar that ran from his left temple to his jaw, the white gash pulsing pink from the exertion of trying to win the five hundred pesos that hung in the balance, a fitting tribute in a contest of cunning and strength.
“But wouldn’t it be healthier to create in a less intense manner? More relaxed?” I asked, then twisted to add some heft to my domination of his trembling appendage, the prison tattoos on his forearm rippling from strain as lactic acid seared through his fatigued muscles.
“I think everyone’s approach is different, and as long as the final product is worthwhile to its creator and its reader, the approach is valid. Notions of right or wrong, or appropriate or not, are arbitrary and meaningless in anything but the abstract. Whatever’s right for you is just how you roll,” he hissed, glaring at me with his good eye.
Ignoring the affirmation, I saw my opportunity – a brief hesitation, a twitch of his ravaged countenance, a small but telling flinch I’d been awaiting. “Time to die, bitch,” I snarled, and heaved with a Herculean effort. His radius and ulna snapped with an audible pop and the blood drained from his face as he slipped into shock and lost consciousness, his last bleak impression my chortling face mocking him for his weakness, his inferiority in this manly exchange; the price for being found wanting a steep one. I stood, the bar cheering as yet another pretender to the throne was hauled away like yesterday’s empties, and nodded in mute acknowledgement as I scooped up the money and downed Gator’s shot, the lights of the working refrigerator’s Pacifico sign glinting giddily off the corrugated steel roof.
“He won’t be needing that,” I said to Conchita, the comely cocktail waitress who’d been admiring me with hungry glances all evening, my lime green man thong confidently in place as her greedy eyes caressed me. Emilio, my chimp companion, did a gratuitous back-flip on the bar top to hoots of approval as coils of anthracite smoke swirled from cigars brandished in triumph by my supporters, their greasy fistfulls of cash waved to an indifferent heaven in triumph.
The calls of “Russell” and “El Toro Bravo” followed me from the cantina as I made my unsteady way home, the dissonant melody of mariachi horns lingering on the warm breeze like a favorite lover’s scent, Gator’s truth reverberating in my consciousness like a really loud clanging somewhere kind of echoey, and I thought, perhaps he knew something after all. Emilio’s simian gait matched mine as we stumbled down the dusty road to our dwelling, the heavy clump of my work boots on dirt muffled accompaniment to his snuffling, the occasional baring of his canine incisors all the congratulations I required as an orange harvest moon scowled from between streaks of clouds in the inky night sky.
Back to work on BLACK, the first installment in my Hollywood detective novel, I resolved, the 20K word mark having passed beneath my bow earlier in the day. No rest for the wicked. My latest WIP, Upon a Pale Horse, which is a mindf#ck of a bio-thriller, had been put to bed, hopefully for release by month’s end, and these childish flirtations in the shadows of derelict watering holes were no way to occupy my time. There were novels to write, stories to tell, damn it, and I was just the broken-down carny barker to coax them into being, even if I did keep odd hours and occasionally burst into inappropriate bawdy song (the curse of being Irish and having a lovely singing voice).
Anyway, that’s how my weekend went. In case you were wondering.