November 09, 2005

I'm writing a novel because I want to

Because it's National Novel Writing Month I'm writing a novel about a high school teacher who survives a school shooting, moves to New York to become a magazine writer, and uncovers a grand conspiracy lurking behind a popular brand of military-themed toys. You know you want to read about that, right? Right? Right?

It begins like this:

Scribbling quotes in my notebook, I licked the hole in my inflamed gums that I couldn’t afford to fix unless I sold this article about feeders and gainers to my best friend at GQ magazine. My blood tasted like the corroded contacts on a car battery, shooting off tingles inside my puffy jaw. “You really should get a dentist to take a look at that,” said Josh, the "feeder."

I squirmed under his blue-eyes, and stared at the grease-smeared plate of 12 sunny-side up eggs, 12 bacons and 12 sausages that he cradled like a puppy as he fed it to his "gainer" wife. Pretending to write down everything he told me, I swallowed an hour’s worth of revulsion the way I imagined a good journalist should. All this sympathy from a man who got off feeding his wife until her clothes split open; all this from a five-foot shrimp with red hair gone rusty after 20 years cooking his brain with kids’ cartoons.

“Tell me about the show,” I asked him instead. “How long have you written for the Army Guys cartoon?” Josh sniffled and licked his lips in a way that had nothing to do with eating. “I’ll tell you when I finish feeding my wife,” he said.

He speared a chunk of sausage with his real-silver fork, rubbing it in ketchup before he plunked the meat into the sagging mouth of his 600-pound wife. Big as a grizzly bear, Susana licked the long fork clean, chomping the silver tongs as it slid out—it was pure animal punctuation, the ding of porcelain teeth on silver. Susana growled with the fork inside her, a sound that made my groin ache.

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