Against the wishes of my family and my attorney, my priest and my neighbor Tony and his kids, Wanda and Monique, and some of their friends at school, I’ve decided it was time to come clean about the so-called “steroid” scandal that has been circulating in the media about me this week.
When I started writing Kick, the competition was quite fierce in the rankings on Amazon. Every day, someone on top came hurtling down, only to be clawed to pieces by up-and-coming indie authors like Carol Ervin and Lindy Moone. Fortunes were eradicated over night, families broken up, economies toppled, and empires reduced to rubble. These young authors were like the Huns against the helpless farmers in Medieval Europe. Who wants to read tame stuff like “Kick” ($2.99 on Amazon while supplies last) when they can fry their brains on Hyperlink from Hell or lose their hearts to The Girl On The Mountain? I’m only human, ok? I’m just as vulnerable to temptation as anyone. But I’ll be damned if my reputation is raked through the coals any more than I deserve.
Here’s what really happened:
So I was walking along one day, minding my own business, when I turned a corner and bumped into someone standing there.
“Excuse me,” I said, and started to pass.
“Where you going, bub?” the figure said.
“To the soup kitchen,” I said, “where I volunteer every day for the homeless.”
“And where you coming from, bub?” he said.
“I just finished a 12 hour stretch at the orphanage,” I said.
After first determining that the man wasn’t someone in need, I blessed him and wished him a jolly day, then continued on my way to the soup kitchen.
“Hold up, bub, com’eer,” he said.
I held up.
“I heards you’s a writer,” he said. “I heards you’s got a lot of competition.”
“Wheres did you heards that?” I saids.
“Never mind that. There’s uh, things…you know, that can help you with your, uh…shall we say….performance problem.”
My back straightened fractionally and I felt my face begin to redden.
“I perform perfectly well, thank you,” I said, and started to turn away.
“Not that kinda problem, wiseguy,” he said, laughing quietly. “How’s your hands today Mr. Monk?”
I looked down at my hands. Smallish hands, but honest and pure. They’d taken me through the good times and the bad times.
I popped up my thumbs: these thumbs had allowed me to hitchhike across country raising money for starving Tongans in the nineties. Back when nobody cared about the Tongans and Somalians were all the rage.
I poked out my index fingers: in 2003, these index fingers had helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity. It was my job to point out what the other volunteers were doing wrong so they wouldn’t mess up.
I clenched my hands into fists: fists I’d raised in solidarity with the miners in Columbia who’d been trapped without air conditioning or hot food for several hours a few years back…
Yes, these hands had seen a lot. But now…they were tired.
“How many words you typin’ a day, bub?” the man said, his voice softening.
I let my hands drop and looked at him.
“About a thousand,” I said.
“How many words does Lindy Moone type a day?”
My jaw clenched and then unclenched.
“They say she puts out 5000 words a day,” I said, wearily. How could anyone compete with that?
He nodded like I’d proved a point of some kind. He looked around shadily, like he was hiding something. Then he took out a small, plastic pill bottle and handed it to me.
“Try some of these the next time you go to write,” he said.
“What are they?”
“I know that,” I said. “What kind of pills?”
“The kind,” he said, “that when people ask me what kind they are, I answer back: the kind that help you write.”
And then it dawned on me what I was looking at.
Shaking my head, I said, “No! Absolutely not! I would never stoop so low as to use performance enhancing drugs to beat Lindy Moone at her own game! How dare you!”
But he was already starting to walk away, whistling a jaunty tune.
I shouted after him, “I’m going to take these and throw them in the trash. Do you hear me? The trash! Just as soon as I’m done volunteering! Damn you mysterious stranger!”
The truth is, I never did throw that bottle of pills away. I don’t know why. I just didn’t.
A few days later, I got my first rejection letter from a publisher. I’d been writing for 20 years and had never gotten a rejection letter before. Some would say it was because I was an indie author, so there was no one to reject me. Still others would say it was because I’d never submitted anything to an agent or a publisher before. It didn’t matter which was true. I’d gotten rejected…and it hurt.
I took a pill. Then I sat down to write. That night, I got out my usual thousand words before my hands started to ache and I was forced to give up. No pill works that quick, and these didn’t either. But the next day…I cranked out 1300 words. Still more the next day, topping out at 1500 before I fell exhausted from my chair, panting from the exertion. But I’d done it. I’d broken my previous record of 1400, a milestone I’d achieved briefly at age 15, shortly after coming into a stash of Playboys someone had left out to be recycled.
And it only got better. A week later I was beating so-called “Lindy Moone” by as much as 1000 words a day. Another week passed and Carol Ervin called me to gloat about how she’d racked up 9000 words.
“Oh yeah?” I said. “Well I got 9000 words today–before I ever got around to putting in the commas and periods and stuff.” She was all like “Yeah right” and I was like “It’s true.”
Then she hung up, never to be heard from again…
My wife was happy at first. I was writing like a demon. Publishers were begging me to come write for them. Agents were stalking me, saying they’d pay me 15%. Amazon.com started a whole new category called “Fiction without commas and periods and stuff.” I was living the dream.
Then, one day, while I was busily typing in the den, I heard a loud shriek. I knew immediately what it was–even before I found my wife sobbing in front of the opened downstairs closet door. The door I’d put a sign on saying, “Out Of Order.”
“Honey, close that door,” I said.
But it was too late. She’d seen it. Piled floor to ceiling were the busted up remains of over 100 plastic keyboards. My steroid-powered hands had destroyed them all.
“You…” she begain.
“Honey…” I said, trailing off a little at the end of it.
“You…” she said again. “You…you MONSTER!”
I started toward her, my mouth already forming the words that would bring her back, and then something strange happened. My right hand shot up over my mouth, clamping it shut. My left hand reached out and grabbed onto the door frame, holding me fast like I was welded to it.
Unhand me, you fiendish hands! I cried, silently.
If anything, they clamped on tighter, not budging. They needed their fix and were determined to stop me–never again would they go back to a mere 1000 words a day.
As I stood there listening to my wife crying and carrying on from the other room, a single teardrop fell from one of my eyes (I don’t remember which one) onto one of my hands (likewise), and lo and behold, that hand unclenched from whatever it was holding/cupping. Then the other hand got a teardrop of its own and it, too, released. Why, you ask? Because me and my hands remembered: I hadn’t been out volunteering at the orphanage or the homeless shelter or Habitat for Humanity for a very, very long time. All those homeless people and ne’re-do-wells, bastards and bastets–they’d been depending on me.
And I’d let them down.
Just then, two more teardrops fell from each eye (total two, one per eye) onto my hands. Then out of nowhere, as if by magic, my hands switched back to their normal size. Overjoyed, I ran to the other room to see my wife. She held off for a second on the crying and carrying on and looked from my face to my normal sized hands (now wetter) and burst into tears of her own, then flowed into my arms muttering loving words like “you’re the best” and “I knew your hands would get better” and “right on.”
I never used steroids again. The way I see it, Lindy Moone and Carol Ervin can dance with the devil if they want.
This writer’s keeping his soul.