Thursday, March 1, 2012

You Would Think


 Before the circumstances and subsequent need arose for you to move from your previous lodgings to your present home, you’d been in residence for eleven years, a significant enough time for you to have amassed a number of troves of handwritten notes, printed-out versions of manuscripts, and a large file of manuscripts for short fiction stored on that relic from past generations of computers, the disc.  This was in addition to an enormous hive of books, journals, and story-related materials in a two-car garage that had been converted to an office.

In yet another building on the property, called The Water Tower because, well, because it was at one time in the past just that, a tower-shaped building on top of which was an enormous wooden tank into which water was pumped for distribution about the grounds.  The converted garage managed a look of shabby propriety, thanks in some measure to three florescent light fixtures, numerous imported shelves and even more numerous wall-standard shelves.  Since you became acquainted with it, the water tower had the look of a sprung sofa.  In time, it also had the smell of an elderly sofa.

Your move to this penultimate place, 652 Hot Springs Road, was precipitous, the circumstances, after twenty-two years of residence and no small amount of acrimony, left little time for a systematized sorting of papers, records, and published materials, many of which went directly into The Water Tower without further sorting during its eleven year storage there.  Meanwhile, the converted garage was quickly acquiring its own rat-pack-rat atmosphere.

And indeed, even in these relatively smaller confines at 409 E. Sola Street, there are some files that speak to organization at last, but in mitigation of that state, at least two piles of handwritten notes and artifacts having to do with story-in-some-kind-of-progress.

From time to time a thought or memory or actual event will remind you of a particular project, causing you uneasy uncertainty.  Did those notes make the journey from Danielson Road to Hot Springs?  Did they survive the move from Hot Springs to here?  This angst is no casual one-size-fits-all uneasiness.  Some projects have in fact made the journey.  They have been put to use and perhaps even copied with the scanner that made the trip, meaning they are in the more manageable electronic storage than what you have come to think of as the kitchen pile or the reading chair pile.  You noticed last week that Lupe, the maid, has begun a pile of her own on what you have come to think of as The Reading Table.  You are uneasy about the possibilities that pile may contain.

Sometime in the past, by which you now mean the before moving from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara past, you came upon a short, remarkable piece written by Dashiell Hammett, which you remember tearing from its magazine host and placing in what could have been The Santa Monica studio pile, but might have been the Hollywood Hills pile, or even the Crescent Heights pile, and which you search for from time to time on The Internet.

The piece was a forerunner of post-modernist essay, a numbered series of sentences, twelve in all, you believe, in which Hammett wrote of his life as a Pinkerton operative.  One of the twelve sentences had to do with his being assigned to track down a man who had stolen a Ferris wheel from a carnival.  You are reminded of this entire concatenation every time you meet the individual who at one time was the CEO of the Pinkerton Agency.  You met him today at one of the two places you have ever met him over the years you have known him.

You did not expect to find the Hammett piece among your worldly goods, but you had some thought of and interest in finding a short story you wrote as a series of numbered sentences, the protagonist of which was a former student whose blog you followed and from which some of the numbered sentences in your story made their way.  You did not find a draft of the story, either in the kitchen pile nor the reading chair pile (where you thought it might be) but as a demonstration of how cosmic a reach this pile process of yours has, you did find an inscribed copy of the student’s latest book of poetry, alluding in the inscription to the protagonist of your story, which means you’d at one time showed it to her with the offer of destroying it were she to feel it had in any way invaded her privacy.

You were thinking of another stack of handwritten notes, a solid second or third draft of a biographical sketch in which you sought to nail down in specific events some salient information about the protagonist of the novel you have in progress, set in an upmarket senior retirement center. Your assessment of “solid second or third draft” is no idle boast:  this material is actually the opening chapter of the prequel to the novel in progress.

With all this potential for mischief and loss, you’d think you would be more disciplined about converting your notes to electronic files and some filing system in which to store and access the material when your curiosity and need dictate.  Given the inexplicable loss of the first manuscript to what has now become The Fiction Lover’s Companion, and the need to reconstruct its 600+ printed pages from scratch, you’d think yourself to be disciplined and careful as well.

You’d think.

In the same spirit, you’d think by now you’d have been able to dig up the paper work on a short story in which an elder in a Cro-Magnon group is trying to marry off his daughter to an entrepreneurial sort would have showed the fuck up, but failing that, you’d think that talking Brian Fagan into writing a far-reaching and informative book on the Cro-Magnon would have produced more than a page of two of character names.

You’d think.
 

 


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