|Another damn day Matt thinks as his feet hit the floor. Sitting on the cot, he rubs the sleep from his eyes. Looking over at the boiler on the other side of the basement makes him think of his lot in life. Everyday the first thing he does is look at that rusted piece of crap, and it pisses him off.
The sound of the buzzer is an irritating reminder that the day is going to get worse. It is Mrs. Johnson again in 4D with a stopped up sink. While shoving the snake down the drain Matt looks at Mr. O’Mally sitting at the kitchen table in his yellowish t-shirt and faded boxers. He reads the Racing Form, in hope of making a fast buck. He could not cash a bet if he wagered that a crow would steal corn, Matt thinks.
Sweeping the accumulation of grime from the sidewalk in the front of the building, Matt looks up and down the block. A hundred years ago this was living high on the hog. Now it is nothing more than badly lit rooms stacked upon each other holding the dreamless in rent-controlled prisons.
Hearing the front door start to open sends Matt into the alley, he does not want to talk to them. After a few seconds he looks out and watches them walk down the block. Seeing Sherry in her tight white uniform and comfortable shoes holding the doll like hand of her little girl makes Matt’s heart drift between desire and remorse.
He always feels foolish when dealingl with Sherry. Her golden brown hair seems to do a slow shimmering waltz, which surrounds the delicate features of her face. Matt could not look into her light lavender eyes, for he is afraid she would be able to read his mind.
Women are a mystery to him. Why does a woman like Sherry who works all day dispensing compassion to the sick, a mother who can never do enough for her child, only let the worst drunken bums into her heart? He sees the jerks that come to take, leaving nothing but another crack in the soul of a woman who only fears loneliness.
He knows when she has men up there because the little girl will be out in front of the building playing games within her solitude, for there are no other children on this block. He watches her because she's not safe, out there alone. If Sherry knew he watches she might think him creepy.
Back in the basement Matt makes his lunch. The one bare bulb cast a greenish gloom over what he calls home. Every time Matt first walks in he is depressed, but this only last a brief moment. The hot plate warms his soup. The refrigerator is tiny, but what are we talking here; a couple of beers, bologna and some cheese? Besides I am just visiting anyway he thinks, as his mouth shyly smiles when he looks towards the curtain.
He pulls back the curtain and there it is, the dream maker. Where the rest of the basement is cluttered and disorganized, this little enclave is clean and precise. He places his lunch on a separate small table. He pushes the button like he is gently shaking his lover awake. When the screen lights up in deep blue he is no longer alone.
The first thing he does is open Microsoft Word and checks on his work. The three short stories are coming along. All the magazine articles, about this and that, are on the verge of being ready. His second novel is getting better and better, for he now has his rhythmically intoxicating style down pat.
After a few minutes, he can no longer put it off. It is time to find out about the contest, as he goes to favorite places and brings the Writersmeet.com page on to his screen. He glances at the home page for a few seconds, even though he has seen it many times. He clicks on the fiction section and then opens the contest page.
Fifth, how in the hell can my story be fifth? Can’t they see the magic within the words? Matt thinks as he starts to read the detailed critique.
“Choppy, spelling, more character development, over the word limit.” They just can’t see it. They are blinded by their own egos. Who are they to judge me? They try to appease me with their encouragement, but I know they hate me. The contest awards are nothing but gifts they give among themselves. I will get them, they will not get away with this injustice. These judges, these so called judges are nothing but obstacles of envy. They will not keep from me what I surely deserve, Matt thinks as his rage slowly surrenders to thoughts of the boiler and the bottle of Southern Comfort that waits in hiding behind it. After the forth glass he comes to the realization that this story is about to become a nightmare and it will need a plot.
Southern Comfort is always the sweetest going down but the next day she Is one bad bitch. He looks over at the curtain. There it is, like some gift from God, right on the Writersmeet.com home page. They are getting together for a convention and it is going to be in New York. He has sixty days to plan.
Time flies by, the day of reckoning is near. He can tell who is coming through the message boards. He has chosen four victims. He still is not comfortable with one being a woman. Oh yes, she was kind in her encouragement, but Matt can read between the lines. Her keyboard drips with poison. He entered a couple of more contests, they had a chance to save themselves.
Matt waits outside the hotel for a while. He will be charming. He will listen. He will flatter. He will find out where they live and personal things about them. Their ends will be painfully hideous; after all he is a writer.
Its after midnight when Matt leaves the hotel and he will never be the same. The woman is a little girl. Her parents brought her to the convention from Iowa as a present for her sixteenth birthday. One was a Minister with a very nice wife named Mary. She read one of his short stories. He could see the discomfort in her face as she searched for words that would not hurt. Another had been published many times. He had been all around the world. They had a couple of shots at the bar together. One was just like he thought; a pompous ass, but Matt had lost his lust for murder.
He wandered the streets for a couple of hours. The critiques are smashing and crashing inside his head. The advice and encouragement just adds to the pain.
He finds himself on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. He can’t bear to go back to that basement where he will grow old and die. He needs space to find something worthwhile. The west tower of the bridge offers him a sanctuary. As he passes each rung of the ladder on his way to the top, he cast off another broken dream.
Once at the top everything falls into perspective. He is no longer a Superintendent of a four-story walk-up in Brooklyn; here he has power. Here he is the Master of fate. He looks to the heavens; the stars are egging him on. Each stride to the edge brings him closer to a dream come true. The leap into space assures him victory. It is a shock, but only for a second, when he hits the cold water. As he slowly surfaces, he sees the stars once more; but this time they are laughing among themselves.
Matt feels no pain and he can’t move his arms or legs. I must have broken my back he thinks as he slowly descends into the greenish brown dinge. He is alone with nothing but his voices.
Imagination, do not cry. It is not your fault that you ran wild. I hear my Mind, begging me to save our life. This is all for you my Mind, you were the one who let me think my words would change the world. We counted on you to show us the way. Instead, you betrayed and led us astray. It was your trickery Mind, that has brought us to the point of no return. Mind, you have earned this reward of eternal darkness. Ha, ha, ha, look who’s laughing now.
As the water starts to seep into his mouth, Matt’s last thought is that the first taste is always the sweetest, especially when the drink is revenge.