THE WRITER’S LIFE
Flicking through my San Francisco Writers’ Grotto Bible, it suggested I describe a meeting using only dialogue. The book provides just one page to write longhand (300-400 words), so I adopted the brief literally and tried to fit a self-contained story on a single sheet.
Just dialogue then. In the puritanical sense, that allows me no introduction, background or filler; no description of surroundings, character features or mannerisms; no context of dates or places; and no room for narrative or description beyond the speakers. I have to be a playwright, sans director. No explanation or qualification, leaving the reader to do the heavy lifting. The return of the cracked actor for a three-minute audition on a naked stage. Self-contained fiction and the story of the process, a writer writing about writing.
THE ACT OF TALKING
“On Schrödinger Street, behind very door.”
“There may or may not be a home.”
“Nor indeed, a person.”
“Or at least someone who’ll come to the door. Please, come in.”
“Thanks. Because if you hadn’t answered, I’d never have known.”
“If anyone was in, or if this was even where someone lived.”
“Then I’d have just gone on to the next.”
“Seeing as you’re here though, take a seat.”
“Thanks. Can I move this chair?”
“You can, but I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
“Because these surroundings are all of our own imagination. We’re on Schrödinger Street, after all. If I wasn’t here, you’d only be able to imagine what here is like.”
“Then I wouldn’t need you.”
“But you needed me to let you in.”
“I’m grateful you did. It’s nice to talk to another human.”
“Ditto. I don’t get much human contact. A lot of people walked out on me when I got lost a few years ago. That’s how I ended up on Schrödinger Street. I found my way back but it can be a bit lonely at times.”
“But if I may posit, by inviting me in, there’s now a place where no-one lives here, and which doesn’t exist any more.”
“Indeed. Not where we are now, but another place was created the moment I let you in. As soon as we met, that other place became where we never did or will. Somewhere I can’t know you.”
“That’s a place only you know, where no-one else can see, including you. A mirror only truly reflects one way.
“By the way, do you have a cat?”
“I did. I think she went out when I opened the door.”
“If she’s anything like my moggy, she’ll be visiting the neighbours, seeing who’s in and who’ll feed her. This chair’s comfy by the way. Mind if I borrow it a little longer?”
“It’s actually the cat’s chair.”
I was out of space in my longhand journal, with no room to explain what kind of chair I couldn’t describe. A throne, a deckchair, someone else’s back just to rest against? Did my guest choose to stay seated? What might the cat bring back, if indeed she exists? Will her seat still be there?
I hung my coat on the hook I created, pondering my notes. When I’m transcribing on the typewriter, I can load more paper.