Saturday, August 4, 2012


Writing is hard.
Like, not just the sitting down and making stuff up for five to ten hours a week. It's the part after, when you have to figure out what to do with your book. I planned to spend a week or two writing a query letter and a synopsis and all that, spending a couple of weeks coming up with a list of agents, and querying. I really, really don't want to.
I don't even want to.
I put so many hours into writing this thing that no one's interested in reading; why waste more time to wind up getting rejected?
That's the hard part about writing. The rejection.
I absolutely LOVE Mindtrip. But I have no confidence that it'll grab anyone. Does anyone else have that problem? Is that a common thing? Writer people: how do you deal with it?

Here's a story I wrote a few years ago. Maybe it's based on a real person. Who knows!

The first time I saw Leo, I figured he was an accountant. Squat, toad-like, nearing 60, and balding, he wore large pants with no belt loops. He reminded me of Danny DeVito’s rendition of The Penguin. He was nebbish.
Four days after he started working at my company, Leo approached and said:
“So. You’re one of those good tree-hugging left wing hippie liberals, aren’t you?”
I looked up. “Uh – I don’t know.”
“I mean, you ride a bike, right?”
I nodded.
“Do you recycle?”
“Do you think it does anyone any good?” He pointed out the window. “Look at that dumpster! Full of plastic water bottles.” He laughed loudly. “It’s just a trick! Designed to make you feel good!”
Sure enough, the dumpster was full of plastic water bottles. It was the recycling dumpster, after all. I sat down at my desk and started working again, only to be interrupted a little while later.
“Watch this,” Leo instructed. He wound up a toy and then released it. It wriggled across his desk.
“What do you think of that? You have to have a little fun around here!”
“What… was that?” I asked.
“Don’t you know,” he said scornfully, and sure enough, it was a wind-up sperm. Leo carefully placed it next to the Mickey Mouse wizard and the stuffed pink flamingo lined up on a shelf next to his desk.

            He decided that I was his liberal nemesis. From the fact that I rode a bike. Over the next few weeks, he began forwarding me anywhere from two to five emails every day, most of which were complaints and lengthy quips about lazy welfare liberals. In his signature line: “Have you made God smile today?”

I never saw him do any work. As far as I could tell, he came in late, left early, and spent the rest of the day playing solitaire and sending forwards. He was a hero. Here are some of my favorite Leo stories.

  • September 9th: A woman nearby says “Happy Tuesday!” and Leo yells “HAPPY NEW YEAR.” The woman pauses, and then cautiously says, “I think it’s still a little while before the new year.”
  • September 11th: I discover Leo has a handicapped license plate, despite having no discernable physical handicap. However, I do learn that he has sleep apnea. He also enjoys pushing buttons on his phone. I listen to him press buttons for two solid minutes.
  • September 19th: After Hurricane Ike, we are off work for a week. When we return, Leo spends two days on the phone with FEMA trying to get the contents of his refrigerator replaced and trying to get them to pay for the meals he ate in restaurants while the power was out. He reports that he bolted the windows on his apartment closed so that intruders couldn’t get in.
  • September 26th: Leo asks me if I support PETA and their attempts to get cow’s milk replaced with human breast milk in certain ice cream companies. I tell him no. Later, I hear him on the phone with his estranged wife, crying.
  • September 29th: I am talking with a coworker about the weather in Texas. Leo walks by and says "Every year, just for laughs, I pull out the barbeque on New Year’s Eve and fire it up. Just to tease my brother who lives in the north. But he laughs at me when we have summer here."
  • October 7th: Leo emails me about economics. Later, he tells me that “even a liberal like you has to admit that you have to keep the people at the top happy!” Every time I walk by his desk, he is playing solitaire. Later, he scolds me for having a library book. “You have the money!” he says. “Libraries are for people who can’t afford the books. You’re cheating the system.”
  • Later, the same day, I hear him having the following conversation with his ex-wife:
Are you as depressed as your mother says you are?!
(long pause)
(fake hearty voice): Okay!
(long pause): Okay!
(long pause): I understand that.
(long pause): I really do.
  • October 8th: Leo shows me I find that he is a regular poster under the name Leo III. Later that night, I search for him on Myspace and find him. His profile describes him as “5’6” / Some extra baggage.”
  • The same day, Leo calls a grocery store and asks for a Watermelon Boat. He is transferred several times, then asks to speak to “a manager who can at least speak English.” He speaks rudely and demands that the store create a Watermelon Boat “Or I’ll just go to Kroger’s and get one!”
  • October 10th: I ask Leo why I didn’t see him the day before. He snaps “Because yesterday was Yom Kippur! I’m always gone on Yom Kippur!”
  • October 14th: “Jesus Christ, Leo just farted loudly.”
  • October 16th: Leo tells me that everything is my fault, then sends me an email about drowning “coon asses” in New Orleans. I notice that he seems to get into work around 9 every day and leave around 2.
  • October 17th: “Leo is making me sad! He's talking to himself and laughing loudly. Maybe there's a person paying attention that I don't see or hear.” Later, he has this conversation with a coworker:
Leo: Jared! Do you feel like no one loves us any more?
Jared: Yes. I do feel that.
  • October 17th: My coworker Leslie announces that Leo has asked to see her tattoo. Later, Leo tells an exciting story about an old friend who is terrified of midgets.
  • October 23rd: Leo has a conversation on the phone in which he tearfully says, “You drove me away, but that mistake put me over the edge.” Then he asks if the other party could talk to him about an incident over the phone, or if she’d need her counselor’s permission.
  • October 27th: Leo tosses a brownie on my desk unexpectedly. I scream.
  • October 28th: Leo’s ringtone is “The Monster Mash.” When he comes back from lunch, I say “Welcome back!” He looks sad and angry. “Was I gone?” he asks. “Some days, I can’t tell.”
  • October 29th: Leo spends two days on the phone with Comcast in a wild heat fury.
  • October 30th: Leo sends me a forward about soldiers serving their country. Rebecca proceeds to edit it into a filthy pornographic mess.
  • November 3rd: Leo asks me what will happen if Obama is elected and it turns out his birth certificate is a fraud. I shrug.
  • November 6th: Leo tells a story that ends: “I just wanted to say, ‘THIS IS EXACTLY THE REASON WHY I WANTED TO STOP BEING MARRIED TO YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.’”
  • November 7th: Leo hits on my coworker Leslie and tries to get her to go to lunch with him. When she says no, he leaves work for the day. This happens repeatedly over the next two weeks.
  • November 17th: Leo coughs loudly for the entire day and then leaves early.
  • November 19th: Leo offers me a shot of cough syrup. “It smells of Fritos,” he muses. “Even though I can’t breathe, I can still smell Fritos.”

Leo was gone from work for nearly two weeks. When he came back, he told me that he had bronchitis and asked if he’d caught it from me. Then he forwarded me an email saying that anyone on welfare should have to take a urine test before they can get a welfare check.
I listened to him on the phone all morning telling someone about how he was visiting his girlfriend’s parents’ house, only one of her seventeen year old nieces told a Holocaust joke so he left in a huff without telling anyone why. His girlfriend was apparently still confused and distraught.
Midway through the story, his boss came over and asked if he could talk to Leo. They walked away, and when they came back, his boss said, “Sorry it didn’t work out. You can put your belongings in this box.”
Leo took fifteen minutes to pack up his Disney merchandise, and then he left, escorted by a bear of a man.
I still miss him.

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