Harlan missed his family, the way it used to be--the closeness and the laughter. He missed how it was after he'd sold his screenplay: the new house and the brand-new-off-the-lot Subaru; the weekends out skiing and spa trips to Vegas; reading to Jake at night and the serious looks his son would give me at certain moments in the stories he read, Jake's face screwing up, asking "why doesn't the wolf just buy a steamroller and roll over the little pig's houses?" Then, after Jake had fallen asleep, Jess from the doorway in her nightgown whispering: "you're a good father, you know that?" "Yeah? What do father's get when they're good?" Cocking her head to the side, "Oh, I don't know." Then she'd saunter down the hallway to their bedroom swinging her hips--her "sexy" walk--and he'd stifle a laugh, and she'd join him and then they would make love as quietly as they could.
But the money hadn't lasted long. He'd tried to write something else--another screenplay, something great--but it was never the same after that first one, too many rejections, and soon he had to find a job that payed the bills. An old college buddy helped him get an interview for a System Administrator position for "this certain website", and, before he knew what the site was about, he'd showed up for the interview and they'd liked him so much (and he'd really needed the money) he'd taken the job.
Things were never the same after that; he was working all the time; his marriage went cold. His Oxycontin addiction--which he'd nursed quietly and evenly since college--began to zag out of control. In the pornography industry he could get his pills cheaply and easily. And he drank, coming home from work in an angry haze only to nod off a couple of hours later on the couch with the TV left buzzing in the dark living room. And Jess drank with him, her way of coping with the growing distance between them. And they'd fight, screaming at each other over things neither of them could remember later. And, sometimes, Harlan would glance over during one of these fights and see Jake sitting up on the stairs watching them. Later, in the early morning haze, he'd remember Jake's face--dismayed eyes, tight-lipped mouth, dark bags no 3rd grader should have to carry--and his heart would lurch painfully in his chest and he'd cry because he couldn't help himself, because he'd lost control of his life, because there were some things you could lose and never get back. Seeing his son like that, it was no wonder his son started that fire.
Not bad, right? And strangely relevant to the writer's life. Is there such a thing as Subconscious Amnesic Meta-fiction???
Don't worry, next week I have some true 'literary horror' to discuss. Just let me finish reading "Blood Meridian" again this weekend and we'll discuss some Cormac McCarthy...