Thursday, 26 May 2011

Caritas - friday flash

It was for charity. A good cause. The best.

The award winning author had donated his renown to raise money and I had snaffled up the chance to be immortalised by him in print. Cost me a pretty penny, but everyone, including the charity was a winner right?

Though it had all been pretty tense in the auction. I tried to keep my powder dry, but my excitement had got the better of me and I'd declared my hand early. Turned into who could piss highest up the wall contest. All in the name of literature. And charity of course.

After the auction I met the great man himself. He was inordinately charming and witty as you'd expect, but I was a tad disappointed that he didn't seem to be taking me in head to foot with those intelligent dancing eyes of his. Sizing me up, getting a sense of my physical being for my character. But hey, he was the creative genius not me. I was just giving, lending him my name. He would do what he would with it.

But it was established that I would appear in a sex scene in his new novel. Nothing wrong with that at all. Way better than being a nameless stiff bumped off by a serial killer. A quick, disposable death does nothing for one's chances of immortality. Besides, we're talking about a man of letters here. He didn't write tawdry thrillers. He was an artist.

Then the great waiting period ensued. While the man composed his opus. I was dying to know how he was getting on, but I would have to wait for publication day like everyone else. No sneak previews. No proof copies. Idly I checked my e-mail daily, just to see if he'd contacted me wanting to raise a question of detail with me. But of course he never did. He was a professional and any plot or character lacuna, could be magicked away just through the prodigious power of his imagination.

Yet during the interminable hiatus my own imagination set to work. Of course I tried to picture all sorts of sexy scenarios the fictional me might be indulging in. But that threw up the occasional anxiety. What if it the sexual act was unutterably perverse? What would my work colleagues think? What would my mother think? I would be in for some merciless teasing. By my work mates that is, not my mother, she would just be appalled. Yet it was likely to be entirely manageable, after all it was just fiction and I would still be a character in an award winning writer's work and they wouldn't.

Worse perhaps would be if my character suffered from performance anxiety on the printed page. That would entail a more unflagging ribbing and might be harder to salvage any prestige. But the illustrious writer wouldn't do that to me surely? I had given the money to a good cause, a cause we both shared in and one neither of us would want to sully. There could be no doubting of anyone's motives.

My life and my reputation in his hands. I had ceded them so recklessly.

So my unbounded imagination continued to run wild. What if he was struggling with the pressure of his deadline? I was a contractual obligation, or a moral one anyway. Yet what if this book too was a contractual obligation with a publisher he was desperate to escape from? That he would just deliver up the most cursory of novels, then fly the coop and disown it as his parting shot? Consigning me to obscurity and a treatment within his pages that was little superior to a tabloid newspaper's salacious kiss and tell. The ones when you examined them, actually said nothing at all and only insinuated lewd acts because they were careful to avoid being sued for libel. I had to pull myself together. I had to banish all the nightmarish scenarios and trust to his professionalism.

Time to reassert the glorying in the scenarios I might actually be playing a part in. The sexy scenarios. I wondered about my female partner. Not to put too fine a point on it, I fantasised about her. Then I worried about the practicalities of doing just that. Here were my fantasies, only they were being conjured by somebody else's imagination. That made them more akin to his turn ons not mine. His fantasies involving me. I felt dirty. I tried to reason that there was nothing but dispassionate exercising of craft involved on his part.

Then I became troubled by the notion of paying for the privilege and pleasure of such fantasising. How close was that to an unorthodox (to say the least) form of prostitution? Without even a real flesh and blood body for my pains. Had I just paid a Charity to commission some personal pornography for me? I was beginning to regret the whole endeavour however nobly intended.

But then the day arrived. Notification of the publication date on the publisher's website. All my original enthusiasms were rekindled at a stroke. I scrutinised the thumbnail of the book's cover for a clue, but of course there was no reason to expect that it gave any indication as to my depiction within the pages (page? maybe I would be only granted a single paragraph). Expectation built.

At least the critical noises coming out about the book dispelled my crazy notions of contract filler and the like. The writing appeared up to his usual splendiferous standards.

Except in one respect. The annual Bad Sex in Literature awards had nominated the book for its lone sex scene. I couldn't understand it. I went out and bought his previous novel. Read it cover to cover. It was true. As good a writer as he was of the human condition, he couldn't write about sex for shit.

He could survive it by being a great artist. Me, I'm a laughing stock.

All in a good cause.


Etymology from

1125–75; Middle English charite < Old French < Latin cāritāt- (stem of cāritās ),

equivalent to cār ( us ) dear (akin to caress,cherish, Kama, whore) + -itāt- -ity


Virginia Moffatt said...

Brilliant. This is SO funny and truthful. Love it!

Sonia said...

LOL Funny. Loved the build up. But what sex scene did he show up in?

li said...

That's an interesting (and humorous) take on the idea of prostituting oneself. But the narrator can take heart. As my rejection slips imply, the fact that a piece is not so good or 'not a good fit' doesn't mean the writer is bad. So the fact that the scene was poorly written doesn't mean our sad friend is a loser in the sack. :) (Unless, of course, the illustrious author had some inside info.)

Linda said...

Quite wry take on whoring oneself. I love the way your poor protag IMs his way through all the different scenarios, never once imagining a horrible sex scene, the toughest scene of all to write. Peace...

Helen said...

An interesting and funny read. The angst the character felt about being portrayed in all those different scenarios was very recognisable! But what was that sex scene I wonder?

John Wiswell said...

Tripping all over his privilege and situation. Did you know "but" appears twelve times in his narrative? He's overlapping his own experience, which suits.

Jason Coggins said...

I'm a sucker for just-desserts and this pseudo was certainly served up a fine portion of 'you get what you deserve.' The build was perfect but I have a nasty aftertaste is niggling me with the suspicion maybe the narrator was more masochist than narcissist.

Anonymous said...

Definitely got what he deserved.

Jen Brubacher said...

Ahh, this is terrific. I love the thought-process descent into semi-insanity. Not that I wouldn't have been just as awkward. I love it when he wonders if he's somehow commissioned porn. And I didn't see the ending coming.

I think this is one of my favourite of your pieces. Excellent. :)

Deanna Schrayer said...

*Snort* This is hilarious Marc! I too love how terribly anxious he is, as if he feels himself awfully important. Just great!

Anonymous said...

This is good. I enjoyed the story.

But from a craft point of view, the consistency of voice is impeccable. Builds well, turns away from the obvious well and then, just when you think the character has had a revelation, back to the worries and niggles and doubts.

As I said, enjoyable read, fantastic craft.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I love how fast the sheen wears off, and how quickly he comes to regret it. Interesting metaphor for the guilt and regret that comes with a quick fumble in the back of a cab, only to find one's private life splashed across the papers.

Matt Merritt said...

Damn funny stuff. And I really want to read that scene.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

I bet "being a nameless stiff bumped off by a serial killer" is sounding better about now.

ThomG said...

Wicked funny, Marc. I, too, want to read the sex scene.

Tony Noland said...

Ooh, too bad! What a rotten way to be immortalized.

Eric J. Krause said...

Maybe he should have just donated the money to charity without being immortalized. Funny story! Great build up to his ultimate disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious piece! How he was first excited about the prospect of appearing in the novel and then quickly became focused on everything that could go wrong and obsessed about it. That is definitely something many of us are quite familiar with! Great job. :)

Adam B said...

A great delving into fear and self-loathing, and the need for indulgent narcissism.
Adam B @revhappiness