by Sorin-Mihai Grad
translation from Romanian by Alexandra Sârbu [MTTLC student]
click aici pentru versiunea română
The young writer comes across the short story contest ad. He realizes he hasn’t written anything in a long time and that it is about time something drastic must change. Not to mention this is about a contest and awards are always welcomed, no matter who offers them and what they are made of, especially at the beginning of one’s career. Moreover, it is time he should publish something, anything, since they say a writer who hasn’t published in The Short Story Magazine is like a man who never appeared in People magazine. Or maybe like a gypsy woman without long skirts, something that doesn’t exist, but if it were so, it would nevertheless be a deadly sin.
So, he will write something for this contest. He has no clue what exactly yet, but there’s still time, two months for maximum six thousand characters meaning about one hundred key pressings a day, out of which at least fifteen spaces, as much as you would produce while whistling, hands tied behind your back and brain in a cast. As to the subject, he will think of something, he’s not worried. Not at all. If needed, he can elaborate an idea from his notes and fragments notebook, he’s been adding these ideas for years without doing anything with them, because it’s never been the right time. Well, if the story to blow the jury’s mind and bring the big award doesn’t come up, he would eventually use some of the things he put aside for rough times or for times when in the mood for work and something must come out of it.
The regulations of the contest forbid jokes, as if someone would ever write such things. How awful! Jokes are told, not written! says the young man, as happy as if he found a disagreement in the president’s New Year speech. However, you are allowed to write about imaginary events with real celebrity characters or real events with imaginary characters. He notices that the imaginary celebrity ones are not forbidden, but instead of being happy about it, he gets scared. How possibly could he stop on just one, when he has so many candidates? And on top of this, there’s the documentation process, lest he should contradict something in his story about what he knows regarding the chosen one. Too complicated. He had better open up his notebook.
Maybe it would be a good idea to write about the boy talking to a cactus. Or maybe about the casanovist who wants to sleep with women, each bearing different Romanian first names, but falls in love with an Alice and doesn’t know what to do next. There are some girls called Alice around here, but this ain’t a Romanian name, hence his dilemma. The young writer is amusing himself and turns the page. The next idea which draws his attention is great, but better suited for a novel, rather than suffocated in two pages and, continuing, this is hardly the place to talk about the anarchist who uses the fitting rooms from the stores to relieve nature; who knows who’s in the jury.
What if he wrote about something he saw or something that happened to him? Like that time at the stadium when the ball hit an almost seven feet tall, fat and over tattooed booster in the head who immediately started crying. Even the crone who was selling seeds laughed at that douchbag. The full-back may have hit the ball hard, but damn it, it’s better you fake dead than turn on the waterworks, especially if you’re as big as the moon and the first to bang someone out when the peace officers do not properly set the rival fan groups apart. He could also tell the story of the old photographer woman whom he went to in order to take some photos for his CV, when from the moment he walked in, he felt like in an Eliade short story.
He could also write about a dream, as he started taking notes after he found out other writers did and so he gathered a few really weird ones. Such a story doesn’t even have to make sense, the most important part is the images to be as odd as they can get and if possible, as impressive as you can make them. They don’t really have to be as in Avatar, it’s not like all good, but strange ideas in the world end there.
Anyway, he doesn’t have to get on with it just now. He still has two months left, who knows what can cross his mind until then? He could even combine some of the ideas he maintained as probable, like the boy talking to the cactus could become the pervert who pees in the stores and cries at the soccer game when his team gets the stick or when he gets hit in the head. But this was about a simple story, how can he stop at the right time on a subject which may become so wide?
A few days pass and the young author hasn’t decided yet. He even fished for some more ideas from a drawer with a couple of old notes. He still has one month, why should he be in a hurry? Two weeks, one, no problem, you can write a story in a blink of an eye, you don’t even need to take a water break. Finding the right subject matter is the complicated thing, the young writer would admit had he felt the need to discuss his current preoccupations with someone.
This is it, now he must start working, as there are three days left before the deadline. He will write it today, or at least start it, finish it tomorrow and he will make the last corrections and the shipping the day after tomorrow and after that, he can wait quietly for his award. Ever since he found out about the contest he did not write anything else, lest his talent and ideas should go to waste. However, he is ready now. Everything is all set, except for the subject, which is being looked into. The young writer looks out the window. Two crones pass by accompanied by the associated pooches. If these last two began fighting and running around the ladies, collars twisting around their legs, to bring them down like the heavy machinery in some old Star Wars episode, he would have before him a good start for his text. Still, those four legged caricatures are not just small and dumb, but also incapable of understanding the flow of ideas started in his mind, so nothing interesting happens in the end. He sees some cars, a few pedestrians, but nothing with the potential to end up in the story he is about to write.
The last day comes. The young writer hasn’t decided what the story he will send to the contest will be about, he only knows he will write it. There are so many hours left to write it in the end.