I was coming home from a night out on the town with Carol Ervin and Lindy Moone. The limo pulled up to the curb outside my little corner of Boardwalk and Park Place where I fell unconscious every night, surrounded by the other top hats and thimbles. When I got out, there was someone there, standing under a light.
I figured it was another executive at Amazon, here to beg an extra week so they could cover my latest royalty check, but it was just some punk kid. A guttersnipe. A rapscallion. A cur. A scamp. A tramp. Just some nipper tyke nestling stumbling and trying to fly before the rats ate him. Yeah.
“Whaddaya want, kid?” I said to the little imp.
“Mr. Monk…words cannot express–” he began.
“Yes they can express, don’t tell me my business,” I said. “So you gonna tell me what you want or am I gonna have to ask you politely? And kid, if I gotta ask you politely, you’re gonna think you died and gone to Hallmark Heaven.”
The squirt gulped and shook his head no. I guess words couldn’t express after all.
“Come on, kid, spit it out, I ain’t got all semester like you.”
The little runt smiled nervously and said, “Uh, well, sir, I was uh, that is, erky, uh, I mean, uh, the thing is…”
I waited to see if he repeated himself and to his credit, he didn’t. I was dealing with a writer. Of sound effects.
“Cut with the punctuation and get with the pronunciation, kid. If I miss Breaking Bad I’m gonna make like Heisenberg at the door. Understand?”
The little runt nodded once and gulped again. Fluids. He needed fluids.
“Sorry,” he said. “I was hoping you could tell me the secret to becoming a great writer.”
It seemed like every day someone was asking me that. It wasn’t always that way. My eyes unfocussed as I remembered that first time.
It seemed like only yesterday…
“Mr. Monk, no!”
“You almost had an unnecessary flashback!”
He was right. I wiped my brow and tossed him a grudging nod. He’d done right by me.
“So you wanna know how to be a big fancy writer, huh? Get to ride around with broads like Ervin and Moone, is that it?”
His head bobbed up and down so fast I worried he’d crumble the sidewalk. Well no, not really. It was just a metaphor.
“The trick to making it in this business,” I said, “is you gotta break the rules.”
He looked at me, confused and blinking.
“What…uh…break the rules?”
“That’s right, you gotta break them. You know what a preposition is?”
He laughed like it was a silly question and said, “Yeah…”
“End any sentences in them?”
He shook his head.
“Well start,” I said. “And split your infinitives whenever you can. Drives the broads crazy.”
He frowned in puzzlement.
“But my teacher said you should never split infinitives. And never, ever end a sentence in a preposition.”
“And i before e except after c, too, right?”
“Kid, I ain’t followed an i with an e in ten years. What’s that tell you?”
“But Mr. Monk,” he said, not ready to give in so quickly. “What about adverbs…and run-on sentences?”
“Adverbs shmabverbs,” I said. “Sometimes all I write is adverbs. What’s the best way to fix a passive sentence?”
“Adverbs,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding enthusiastically. “I see it now–oh thank you, thank you John L. Monk!”
“So we’re square? For the flashback thing.”
“Yes, oh yes, absolutely. I’ll never follow the rules again!”
I watched him take the sidewalk to the corner and wait for the light to change. He looked back at me and waved.
I shook my head in disapproval and made shooing motions. He looked from me to the red light and back again and threw me a thumbs up. Then he crossed the street against the light…but didn’t make it. That semi came out of nowhere.
Writing’s a tough business, and the competition’s murder.