Windows by D.I. Jolly

“Chapter 47.”

Ben paced up and down his office repeating the words to himself out loud while contemplating the nature of a novel. What was too long? What was too short? and what was that old myth about size not mattering? Size definitely mattered. He returned to his desk and stared at the words on the top left corner of the page.

“Chapter 47.”

He said it to himself again, then sighed and turned his attention to a cup of stale coffee and then to a sealed liquor bottle. He’d always had alcohol in his office but never actually felt like drinking it. He knew it was what writers were supposed to do but, he’d just never fallen in with the idea, so he took another sip of the coffee, winced and stared at the words again.

“Chapter 47.”

Was it too long, who the fuck wrote forty-seven chapters, where his chapters too short may be, was that his problem? Or was he just waffling? He got up again and stalked over the window, grabbing a bottle of something along the way. Maybe not being a cliched writer was what made his writing so cliched. It had to be one of the other, maybe, he wasn’t sure but after spending three weeks staring out the window at the brick wall his office faced thinking about chapter 47, he didn’t really care. He clenched his jaw, went back to his desk, spun that cap of the bottle of what turned out to be a reasonably priced bottle of gin and took two large swallowed and put his hands on the keyboard.

“Fuck you Chapter 47,’

He thought.

‘I’m coming for you.”

He then closed his eyes and looked into the deep darkness to find the words. He was never sure where they were but knew that they always came.

“Chapter 47.”

He said to himself again, then opened his eyes, took another large swallow of gin, and started writing. By the time he gave up for the day, he was halfway through the bottle and at the end of Chapter 51. He wasn’t sure if it was better than what he usually wrote. He wasn’t even sure if it was good at all. But it was, and that was important. It had been more than he’d written in what felt like a lifetime, and that mattered. If it was bad, he could fix it, later. He then took himself off to bed and tried not to think about Chapter 52. In the afternoon he woke up with a dry mouth, a hangover and an impression of his watch in his cheek. But he didn’t care, it was nothing painkillers and a shower couldn’t fix. Besides, it was a one-off thing. Just to break the block. He went about curing himself and feeling he’d done a good job the day before took himself out for a burger as reward That night he sat down at his desk and said to himself.

“Chapter 52.”

He said it again a week later as he stared out the window at the wall. Then he screamed it and took himself out to a bar. If he was going to get drunk to work, he’d get drunk with people where it was safe. The next morning, he woke up on the floor of his bathroom with a worse hangover than before, clothes that desperately needed laundering and the words, ‘Chapter 52’ curiously written on his forehead in red lipstick next to a bright red kiss.

A very long shower, coffee, painkillers and dry toast later Ben decided that if he was going to do it the wrong way, he was going to commit. Two weeks, 6 bottles of gin, uncountable beers and, on one special occasion, a shot of tequila later. He typed the words. ‘The End.’

He stared at the thing, finished, at last, the product of years’ worth of work, of thinking, of brain cells. It was finally finished, and he couldn’t even remember what he’d written since typing ‘Chapter 47’. He didn’t know if it was, good, bad, brilliant or unusable. He was also too scared to check. The idea of having wasted that time, effort, money and liver scared him more than the idea of having not written at all. So, he packaged it up and sent it blind to his publisher, while telling himself it was time to detox. Telling himself that he’d get clean, get healthy, take some personal time and recover. Not just from the alcohol, but the stress of the whole thing. It had weighed on him and he could now put that burden down. He hit send and got up to go stare out of his office window, think things over as he had done so many times before. He felt the weight of the stress lift and take his energy with it, and suddenly he felt very tired and weak. His blinked long and didn’t see the discarded bottle underfoot. He slipped and fell against the window, then against the wall on the other side of the window and began to fall. The world above him seemed to slip away as he descended towards the alley behind his building and in a final moment, he realised that he lived on the 47th floor and that maybe if he’d just jumped in the first place it would have been ironic and probably boosted book sale.

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