Monday, November 21, 2005

house rules


Sitting in Casey's study. His writing group. More a support group, I suppose. What did you write, then? Nothing, really. In those days, stories of the fantastic came easily, like tall tales from the lips of a drunken sailor. Just as false. Every bit as empty. Casey, locked in the illusory world of accidental fame and fortune, wholeheartedly encouraged such pursuit of mediocrity. He saw how easy it was to make something from nothing. To take a second rate collection of words and feed it to the gluttonous masses. Have them eat it up. "You can easily pay your mortgage with the undiscerning over-consumption of others," he said. He had faith in his system. He walked his talk.


Then the critics came. At first there were only a few. A less-than-favourable review in this journal, an antagonistic article in that paper; damage control was easy. "So I've a few bad reviews," he said. "What great man does not attract a handful of detractors? Let's have another look at those sales figures, shall we?" Then came the flood. A mob of critics emerged on the horizon wielding their grotesque weapons. Rushing forth, ravenous, they tore poor Casey apart. And to see you scurry, as fast as you could go, as far away from Casey's fetid corpse as you could get. It was precious, really. Everyone feared the taint. His body was battered so beyond recognition, that his funeral would be held with a closed casket. Not that anyone would actually show up for the viewing, anyway. In fact, no-one would ever see Casey again in any shape or form. The critics swarmed on. Devouring. dismantling. Destroying.


A new life now, like that of a participant in the witness protection program. Placed in a nice suburb. Barbecue out on the back deck. Nights spent in the hot tub beneath patio lanterns. You shield your eyes from the sunlight, and peer out into the afternoon blue. A smile comes as you think of Casey's ghost. "Successfully convince others that you're a writer," he said, "and you are one. Play the part well, and you'll live well, but drop the guise even for a second, tip your hand, and they'll tear you apart. Blackballed. You'll never be forgiven." It was through Casey's own implosion that you finally learnt something. Something about essence. Something about substance. Or at least the impression of substance. That's what it is, isn't it? All a big game. No-one really knows anything. We'll make up the rules as we go along. Alter those fake rules to suit our own needs. Boil down those modified fake rules as is convenient. House rules. No-one ever wins, no-one ever loses - except for guys like Casey.

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