Thompson looked up from his keyboard and into the soft brown eyes of his wife, Claire. Thompson looked back down and continued to pound on the keyboard, hoping that their rattle and roll would frighten her into doing something else. Alas, that plan, like so many others Thompson had recently, failed miserably.
“What’s the matter Honey?” Claire asked. “You in the middle of something?”
Thompson continued to pound at the keys, but the prose was drying up quickly under the withering heat radiating from those soft brown eyes. To be fair, the prose had never really turned on today, but Thompson was hoping a little, or a lot, of free writing might help him get over the hump.
As the staccato of the keys slowed in tempo to a larghissimo, the silence between key strikes strangled Thompson’s fingers, eventually halting what could barely be called progress anyway. Thompson turned to face his muse and daily distraction. “What is it Claire?” he asked. “Can’t you see I’m working?”
Claire looked at the computer screen. “The frog felt like even the flies were mocking him. In that moment he wished he was a toad and could just leave this pond for good. That and the idea of giving that little red headed boy a set of warts didn’t sound too bad either,” she quoted. “Yep, that is some great literature right there.”
Thompson minimized the window. “It’s a first draft,” he said. “Once it’s done and polished it will be ready.”
“If you polish a toad, it’s still a toad,” Claire said.
Thompson stood up and began to walk out of the room. “You never support me. You think I’m just some hack writer.”
Claire wouldn’t let him go. She kept up right behind him, thwarting his escape. “You know that’s not true. I think Gargatua is brilliant. You know how to write Honey, you just don’t know how to finish,” she said.
Thompson stopped and spun to face her. He was comfortable having this argument. It was like that old friend that you never called, but always welcomed when they came over. Thompson could barely keep the smile off his face. “Gargatua is not finished. It has a weak middle and the end is so loose that I marvel that nothing had fallen out of the story yet,” he said.
“Don’t hand me that crap again,” Claire said. “I sent it to that agent and he begged you to allow him to represent you.”
“I never asked you to do that,” Thompson said. “And that want to be writer wouldn’t know good prose if the words themselves came off the page and crushed him anaconda style. The book is not ready.” Thompson had to resist punctuating that with a foot stomp.
Claire firmly placed her hands on her hips and struck the pose so hard it almost made Thompson’s heart stop. “So why don’t you work and finish your first novel and then start up another?” she asked.
Thompson decided retreat was the better part of valor when facing the pose, so he immediately headed upstairs to his bedroom, closing the door and locking it just before Claire was able to force her way in. Thompson put his back to the door and slid to the floor amid the pounding from Claire. “Thompson Michael Smith, open this door right now. We are going to talk this out like adults.”
Thompson shook his head, then realized that Claire couldn’t see the motion. “Nope,” he said. “That’s not going to happen. You can’t make me.”
One last thud made the door shudder. It was higher up and more in the center. Thompson could almost imagine it must have been Claire’s head. He was about to say something, but like usual, Claire beat him to it.
“Thompson, I can’t take this anymore. Honey, I want a divorce,” Claire said. She sounded so defeated. He heard her slump to the floor on the other side of the door. “This just isn’t working out. I love you. I think you’re an awesome writer, but I can’t be the only person who believes that. I put so much energy into that, and I’m tired. I’m tired, and I just can’t do this anymore.”
Thompson heard her get up and walk away. He waited and listened. He was sure she would be back. After ten minutes or so he got up and opened the door with his eyes mostly closed, waiting for her to rush in since this must be a trick. It wasn’t a trick, but that left Thompson even more depressed. Claire was in her room packing a suit case.
It had finally come to the tragic ending he had predicted when they had first married eight years ago. Claire had always believed they could pull it off, but Thompson was more of a realist. Nobody deserved to go through life weighed down by him. The best he could do was help her on her way. Maybe once free, both of them could flourish.
Thompson leaned against the doorway of her room, letting the house hold up what little he had in his life at that moment. “Look, I’m sorry. You’re right. This isn’t working out, but well, is there anything I can do?“ he asked.
Claire looked up at him. “There is one thing that will make this whole thing easier,” she said.
“Sure, anything I can do,” Thompson replied.
Thompson stared at the screen in front of him, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. His novel was now a best seller. It was number four on the New York Times fiction listing. It was already optioned for a movie starring George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Helen Mirren. Everything was going his way, except for one thing. The author of record was that of his ex-wife. That’s all she wanted from the divorce.
Thompson brought up his newest novel. That frog was going to get his wish. It was going to experience life, warts and all.