At one point, kitties and chillerns, the budding artist completes the first WORK. I’m talking specifically the first serious attempt at a masterpiece. Completing the piece ushers in a new stage for the artist, separating a daydreamer from the apprentice.
We lived in this wacko apartment in South Lake Tahoe at the time. I’d just turned 15 and was the most awkward, goofiest, vaguest youth one could come across. Seriously. I mean, strung out on hormones and low self-esteem and searching for something I certainly didn’t know what. My whole existence was comical (still is to a great degree) if it wasn’t so tragic. I had no father; my mother worked 10-hour days as a domestic at a local tourist motel on the strip near Stateline, and my brother and I had to forge for ourselves the aspects of adolescent social graces without any adult supervision. I learned about adultery while mixing it up with a 19-year-old sweetie who was lonely and married to a man in jail (just ask me about being chased through benighted streets at 3am half-nude and in below-freezing weather by a psychopath with a penchant for shotguns). Once I’d been approached by a pedophile at the school bus stop offering “3 bucks” to perform some lewd, sexual act upon him. Yeah, and I’m male. *shudders* Thank Gawd the bus arrived and spirited me away from the creep who was forced to run off into the nearby forest for cover.
The apartment we lived in was haunted. Like, yep. Haunted. Spectral writings appeared on the walls at times; objects were moved about; and general mayhem could ensue at any time. Certainly an interesting time in my life, if not perilous. Drugs at South Lake Tahoe High School were so common to come across, certain teachers could be found hitting up my dealer-friend Matt for speed of “black beauties.” I stayed away from drugs, which was no small feat, considering I was a pansy by my schoolmates for being so virgin. I found solace in my writing. I was enamored of Peter Benchley’s works, specifically The Deep. I wanted no more than to be a treasure diver in the Bahamas like Mel Fisher searching for the Atocha, so much, in fact, I began to daydream about my future avocation by writing a novel about such an endeavor.
Galleon was completed on a Royal electric typewriter found in my closet, left by a previous tenant. It was a benediction of sorts, I suppose. The plot involved a young man named Michael Palmer, a SCUBA diving instructor working for a resort in the Bahamas who finds a gold doubloon on the beach after a raging hurricane. The find lured him into a suspenseful adventure involving modern-day pirates and something I’d never written before about: SEX. Yes, SEX. The SEX. My libido had found an outlet through writing! The girl was a blonde 19-year-old tourist (not unlike the object of my adulterous affair) named Catherine Mitchell. There were guns, violence, explosions, and lots of gold. An adult work for a teenager struggling through his Freshman year in high school.
Writing this great WORK was heralded by a spectral dream, a visitation by my muse. It seemed I was standing on a beach near Ocracoke, North Carolina, looking for sunken treasure and there she was – a cute teenage something with focus in her blue eyes and a sweet smile. “Will you be my partner?” She asked me, as if already knowing the answer. I was beside myself with excitement. In her hand, she held a container of pencils. With her behind me, every day became an adventure searching for Galleon, with the clacking of my typewriter keys. Today I can still smell the oil of the machine and lament how much I miss it. A heavy device, the typewriter was discarded at one point later and never seen again.
No, the work never reached revision stage. Though completed with THE END at the bottom of 241 double-spaced lined pages, the manuscript was boxed up and never meant to be seen by professional eyes. I read over it in the years to come, discarding it day-by-day as bolder and greater works replaced it. For me the novel was inadequate – a daydream of epic proportions meant only to realize the wish of being a treasure diver in a far away sea. At one point, during my years of lugging about, it vanished altogether. I looked for it, called it by its name, even, in the dead of night when the artist in us wshes to hold our creations one last time. It had vanished. It had died, and it had taken with it, a portion of that inside me that had been childhood.
We are forever bound to our younger selves, are we not?
Yet, even now my muse is still with me, her belly perpetually round and pregnant with tomorrow’s masterpieces.