Death of a Dreamer… George E Davis
Baker Books rejected my favorite short story, the one about the detective with one leg longer than the other. I thought… still think Eben Wetstone would have made a great detective regardless of the length of his left leg… or right, depending on how you look at it.
Eben Wetstone is a fictional character living in Fairmount Maine, also a fictional Maine town. He is a private detective with an office on the second floor over Thompsonâs Drugstore. His office is sparsely furnished, mostly with furniture purchased at Goodwill and the Salvation Army surplus stores.
Eben is my brainchild, conceived in my imagination, in hopes of selling my story to a publisher.
Maybe my motive was wrong… possibly selling my story the main goal of writing. I put down my pen and pondered my intentions. The main drive, I guess besides money, is to write the American Pulitzer prize winning novel, become famous like Hemingway, Steinbeck or Hammett.
After downing three cups of very acidic coffee, my nerves taut as violin strings, I ate half a loaf of white toast, and overindulged in major cogitation. I woke from my reverie, realizing I was just an average writer. I could not envision my work being published, movie companies fighting over rights to film my story, publishers offering great sums of money in advance of my next endeavor. I had lost the dream… that terrible piece of paper with its sorry excuse for not publishing my story… âIt does not meet our standards at this time, lay untouched on my desk.â The atmosphere in my office as cold and shivering as a pauperâs wake. I will soon add that all too familiar letter to the wall in front of my computer, the space I refer to as the Wall of Rejection. It will fit nicely with the many rejection slips that now nearly cover the entire wall.
âDo you want a sandwich for lunch Dear?â It was my wife, without whose patience I would not be able to write.
âYes please… fried egg, nothing but butter,â I replied.
âComing up Dear.â
Some days I sit at my computerâs word processor and stare at the blank pages, waiting for an idea. Surprisingly sometimes I get a good idea… like Eben Wetstone. He is five feet ten inches tall, and weighs two thirty four. He has dark hair parted in the middle with a hint of gray showing, and he has a mustache on his upper lip which he keeps immaculately trimmed. The one outstanding feature of an otherwise… portly shape, is his right leg is one inch shorter than the left leg causing him to limp. The only thing Eben and I have in common is our height and weight.
I suppose, the truth be known, I did borrow some character features from Agatha Christieâs Hercule Poirot, the mustache and pot belly at least. I donât think Dame Agatha would mind my replicating some of her Belgian detectiveâs features and brillence at deduction.
A writer has to see the protagonist in his or her mind first before they become a character on paper, or a feature on an Ipod. I saw Eben Wetstone as a cross between Hercule Poirot, my grandfather, and yours truly.
âMove over… let me at that processor,â the stranger said. Or was he a stranger. He looked very familiar. How did he get into my studio?
âWho are you?â I asked, miffed he was interrupting my train of thought.
âI am Eben Wetstone, your brainchild as you call me… do you not even recognize your own character?â
I was losing my mind, or maybe my wife set this up… she is a practical joker of sorts. I rubbed my eyes, blinked several times… he is still here.
âHow did you get in here?â I asked.
âI can appear and disappear at will… see?â He vanished before my eyes. âHere I am over here,â he said appearing on the other side of the room.
âI donât drink or smoke weed… maybe its too much caffeine… thatâs it.â I closed my eyes, and when I reopened them, Eben Wetstone was again sitting at the computer typing.
âYou want a story that will sell donât you?â He asked.
âOf course… but… I am confused.â
âI can see why. It isnât everyday one gets to meet his alter ego now is it? I must say, I am more handsome… maybe you ought to consider a mustache… it will do a lot for your image.â
âI donât want a mustache, and remember I created you… I can uncreate you as well.â
âAhhh, but you wonât because I can make you a prize winning author. Just think you will actually make a living… you can plaster pictures of your checks on this wall instead of rejection slips.â
I looked over his shoulder at his work. He was already up to page fourteen. He typed too fast for me to be able to read his text, but I did catch the words Eben Wetstone several times throughout the story he was creating.
âHoney, can you come in here a minute?â I wanted my wife to see this apparition… make sure I wasnât losing my mind.
âIt will not do you any good… she will not be able to see me, I am visible to you, and only you.â
âSo what do I tell my wife?â I asked.
âTell her you have these eighteen pages of your first draft all done. She will think you are a genius… or a Hemingway. Thatâs what you want isnât it, to be a Hemingway?â
The door opened and my wife brought in my lunch. âWhat do you want Dear?â
âI want to show you what I have done so far… eighteen pages. Look.â
âLook at what Dear?â
âMy compute…â I was staring at an empty space, the bottom reading Page 1. I was baffled as I looked at Eben Westone. Now I know I am crazy.
âAll I see is a blank screen, Dear,â she said.
âI was only kidding… trying to be funny, but I guess I failed.â
âGuess you did,â she said as she left the studio.
âWhat is going on here?â I said to Eben.
âNo one can see what I write except you… I forgot. When I am finished you need to copy what I write and then it will be âyourâ story. I can almost guarantee a Pulitzer on this one.â
I watched as his fingers flew like a tap dancerâs agile feet on a marble floor, words appearing at lightning speed as page after page flew by. When he had stopped typing after, what seemed like, hours, the pages numbered one hundred and fifty four.
âHere you go… my story… your prize and money, all finished. You wonât, by the way, need to rewrite or make any corrections. Type it as I have written it. Okay?â
What did I have to lose, it was better than anything I had written judging by the first two pages I read aloud. âOkay… itâs a deal,â I said.
âEben…â I looked around to find my character had disappeared into thin air. I questioned, did I imagine all of this, or am I still asleep, I could not tell. I stared at the word processor to discover the words were still there. I hit page count 254. I sat down and began to copy the story word for word. It was the story of a great mystery that took place during the 1950s in a fictional town in Maine. The hero, Eben Wetstone, private detective wove an exciting autobiography, if thatâs what one could call a story written by a fictional character about himself, and his escapades. He was right, I didnât have to change one word, nor make any corrections. The story was an exciting fast paced page turner with more curves than a mountain road. Eben Wetstone penned a NYT best seller if there ever was one. The grammar was perfect, the plot fantastic, and every character he created was as genuine as my family from which he borrowed not a few names. His victim was named for my great grandfather and namesake, Amos Field, his wife Marcena was his girlfriend in the story.
I finished typing the story at ten oâclock that night. I filled out the publisherâs requested form, making sure everything was in order, and sent the manuscript to the email address on the form. I used, out of habit, spell check… not one word was misspelled.
I only had to wait until the busy agent read the story, and then I was sure I would be singled out as a grade A, top notch, first class author, in the same league with Hemingway and Hammett. With that thought in mind I retired for the evening.
Two months later and several feeble attempts at writing I received a registered letter from Markham Publishers in NYC. I signed for the letter and tore open the envelope, careful not to rip the enclosed letter. There before my eyes was a contract, and a check for two thousand dollars. The letter began, Dear Mr Field it is a rare occasion when a publishing company receives a story of this magnitude especially from a novice writer. Your entry is the best piece of fiction I have read in quite some time. The thought and time you have put into this masterpiece is, to me, an astonishing feat to say the least. We, at Markham Publishers, would be proud to place you under contract for another three stories of this same greatness… etc, etc.
âHoney… come quick… come see.â I was breathless.
âWhat is it Amos?â She asked. I showed her the letter, and the check. She was a woman with little show of emotion, she stood with her eyes wide open and a smile as wide as Brooklyn on her pale face. âWow!â
I put on my coat, drove to the bank before Markham changed their minds recalling the check, and deposited it in our savings account which had reached the dismal balance of ninety one dollars and sixty seven cents.
Two more weeks passed and not a word from Eben though I called out his name several times a day. Just when I began to believe this had all been a dream, he appeared one night. I woke at midnight, rolled over on my side and saw Eben sitting at the computer.
âEvening Boss… how did you enjoy the check you got?â He asked.
âIt came just in time. Where have you been?â I asked. âI have been calling you for days.â
âI come only when I am needed… like you write about me in your… ah… my story. You know when the antagonist was going to kill Marcena your girlfriend, I saved her?â
âThatâs a story, not real life…â
âWhoâs to say what is real, and what is fiction. Take me, for example, I live in both worlds. I must say I prefer the fictional world better… more exciting. I need adventure, not fried egg sandwiches with butter. I need to be detecting… wait is that a correct phrase? Maybe it should be active as a detective… whatever.â
âCan I enter the world of fiction as well?â I asked.
âNo, you are limited… writers can only imagine what they would like to do in their stories. They live out their characterâs lives through the stories they tell. I, on the other hand, am that character, and am not necessarily bound by my bossâs words… boss, thatâs you in this case.â
âSo what are you doing now?â I asked.
âI am doing part two of the story I wrote for you earlier. You did get some attention with that yarn didnât you?â
âWell, if my memory serves me correctly, you owe the publisher two more stories. Am I correct?â
âThen you go back to sleep and I will finish this story… have it done by morning for you.â
I fell back to sleep waking at seven thirty. I stared at the word processor. There were notes on the screen. Amos, here is your next installment… no need for correction, your creation, Eben Wetstone PI. The page count read 238. I spent the next two days copying the story and emailing it to Markham Publishers.
Two weeks went by and I got another registered letter with another check, this time the amount was twenty one thousand dollars and seventy cents. I shared the excitement with my wife, she again said, âWow!â
This happened two more times and I did not see Eben Wetstone for a long time. I was now a full fledged, dyed in the wool American novelist ranking with Hemingway and compared by People magazine to Dashiell Hammett and Eben his character, Sam Spade.
Eben and I are happy here on this island. Eben visits on occasion with his wife, Marcena Field the female character in my detective stories. She is as beautiful as I imagined her to be, blond, blue eyed and a figure like Marilyn Monroe. Eben is twenty years older than Marcena, but in fiction land I guess it doesnât matter because neither one of them will ever age. On the other hand I have aged thirty years since I wrote… ahhh, Eben wrote my first novel. I am now seventy four, but Eben… he is still forty four. He will live on long after I am gone, and never regret one minute of the life I gave him over thirty years ago.
I still am not sure Eben is only a figment of my imagination, but real or imagined, he has been company to me since my wife left me for that young sun tanned, sculpted native boy.
âHow was Amos killed, Eben?â Marcy asked.
âSome creep broke into his house and shot him while he slept.â
âI sure am gonna miss that old guy, Marcy. He created me on paper fifty years ago. I regret I have not worked in twenty years… not one case. But before I go on the shelf to live out my days collecting dust and mildew I will find Amos Fieldâs killer, I owe it to him.â