BLANK by Morris Freeman

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62

Alone in the house, in an upstairs bedroom that had been converted into a study, the middle-aged man sat at his desk gazing at the blank computer screen; it had been that way all week. Now and again his head tilted to the left, listening out for the voice that usually kept him company, annoying though it often was. There! Here it comes.

“What are you doing?” “Nothing”

“I can see that. What are you supposed to be doing?” “I’m in the process of writing a short story.”

“Well what’s stopping you?” “I’ve got writers’ block.”

“Huh! In order to have writers’ block you have to be a writer first.” “I am! I’ll have you know I’m a published writer.”

“That’s a laugh. Third prize in a local library’s competition does not make you a published writer.”  “It’s a start. I think a cup of coffee will help.”

“No it will not! Look at your desk there are four cups of coffee, of which you have drunk two,half drunk another and let the last one go cold.” “Perhaps I’ll go for a walk.”

“You’ve already been on two walks today and anyway it looks like it’s going to rain. What are you doing now?” “I’m looking out the window and admiring the scenery.”

“You are looking at the young girl across the road. Is she undressing in front of the window again? ” “No she is not!”

The young girl had moved in across the road a few months ago. She was very attractive, slim, with long black hair and small breasts. Not that he was looking too hard. Her bedroom was on the second floor almost directly in line with his study, but just a little bit to the left.

He found himself staring at her window almost unconsciously; he became aroused by her daily striptease early each morning before she went off to college or work.

His enjoyment had come to an abrupt halt when one day she looked across the road and saw him blatantly staring at her. Quickly she held one arm over her breasts while the other pulled the curtains across the window. He could see her mouthing some words at him, which did not require any lip reading skills on his part to interpret.

He had felt acutely embarrassed being found out doing the old man perving on young girl routine and worried that he would get into trouble. In anticipation of any trouble ahead, he made a joking reference about the incident to his wife. She had given him one of her ‘Silly old fool’ looks as if she expected nothing better of him.

The girl must have thought better of lodging a complaint about him, because if he was perving on her what of her own exhibitionist behavior? Nowadays he made only the briefest of glances in her direction and kept well away from the window when he knew she was at home.

The whole episode had been oddly exciting when compared to the boringly staid life he had led. ‘Always does the right thing’ was as good a description of him as you could get. There were no black marks assigned to his name anywhere, not even a speeding ticket or parking fine.

How did he think he could become a writer with a background like his? Writers should have worldly experience, traveled widely and suffered much emotional turmoil in their lives. His life had been boringly conventional from the time he had been born right up to now.

“So you’re back then? Disappeared off the planet there for a while. As I was about to say.” “You still here? Anyway, the girl, she’s going out now. By the look of the little case she is carrying, she won’t be back for a few days.”

“Where are all these brilliant ideas for stories that you keep telling people you have?” “Probably gone into hiding. I’m tired of all the stuff I usually write about, I need to find something vastly different, even amusing.”

“That would make a change. Do you think you can handle amusing, without having most of your characters dying off in unhappy circumstances?” “Of course I can. In fact, I think I feel an idea coming on now.”

“I‘m surprised you can still recognize an idea after all this time.” “Well I’ll show you.”

The man’s fingers started to tap at the keyboard, the words appearing on the screen in a steady stream then stopped.

“Well let’s see what you’ve written.’It was a dark and stormy night’ Oh my god – Is that it? I think I’ll go back to sleep.” “You do that! I’ve had enough of you.”

The man tilted his head to the side again; when he was satisfied he could no longer hear the voice he sat up straight and let his fingers return to the keyboard. Still there was something missing as again he waited but this time. for a feeling, a sort of itching, tingling sensation, which once started would grow rapidly causing a rush of excitement to fill his whole body.

There it was! He felt the excitement racing down to his fingers, which waited impatiently for permission to start tapping the keys. He knew what he was going to write. Nothing about people dying or unhappy childhoods, it would be about a happy middle-aged man just like himself. Why couldn’t he be the hero in one of his stories? There he knew his writing power was back.

So let’s get the ball rolling.

His fingers started to dance around the keyboard, going faster and faster though always seeming to be much slower than the ideas that were flowing through his brain. At times, his fingers seemed to work independently of his mind pausing now and then to back track on what he had put down, substituting a word here or rephrasing a sentence there. He was aware that he had an expansive smile on his face and probably looked ridiculously happy.

Time was slipping by and he ignored a nagging thought that was trying to remind him about picking his wife up from the railway station. The deterioration of the weather into thick black clouds and vicious sprays of rain against the window ignored. Apart from the bit about his wife there was another thought trying to get his attention but with no success.

He loved this feeling of ideas charging through his brain with no distractions. He felt good all over almost as if he was having an orgasm; that’s if you can have one of those by just writing. That the room had darkened considerably in the last few minutes made no impression on him; only the light from the computer screen mattered. At last, the loud tapping of large raindrops on the window caused him to look outside, just in time to be momentarily blinded by a flash of lightning that seemed to come right inside the room.

As his eyes were adjusting from the flash there followed a loud crash of thunder that seemed to roll around forever, causing him to jump up from his chair. He looked outside again in wonder at the rapid change in the weather, admiring the wildness of it all before realizing that the room was dark; the power had failed. He sat there in darkness for about five minutes before the power came back on and the computer hummed into life again. He rebooted the computer and returned to the file he had been working on.

The phone rang and he reluctantly picked up the receiver. He expected the torrent of abuse, so he nodded his head in agreement at everything his wife screamed at him. The abuse ceased only when she slammed down the phone at her end; he replaced his receiver gently, as if in compensation. There would be no welcoming home sex tonight, of that he was sure.
Standing up, he walked to the door on his way to the station to pick up his wife, at least forty minutes late. She did not like being waiting; even a minute was too long by her standards.

He paused and looked once more at the computer screen which glowed, brightly but completely blank. It was like his mind, which could not recall a single word of the story that had given him so much enjoyment in writing. He had forgotten to save his work as he went along.

He softly muttered terrible language to himself as he went out the door. Then he heard it – the voice, laughing.