Here’s one of my favorite chapters from The Factory Line, I hope you enjoy.
“Ah, don’t be so predictable!”
That was Gary ranting. Now Gary claimed he was an Italian, but his last name was St-Aubin. I don’t know, that didn’t sound very Italian to me. He’s married to an Italian though, or so he said. And he was real’ macho about it too, but me and the guys figured he was in way over his head.
“You want to know about love?” he continued, “I’ll tell you about love. Love will drown you my friend, and you can’t escape it. It’ll drag you down and suck you dry of all your money and your guts and your fighting spirit. It might take an evening, it might take a year. You can take a loan and it’ll take two more, but it’s inevitable – ” A few of the guys laughed. You had to hand it to Gary, he was funny to watch. “- you pay for the drinks and the hotel and the food and the bills. It’s all the same, every time, all the time, goddamnit! You never count. And when you hit the ground, then you’re the slob, the slacker, the loser, who talks like a loser, and acts like one.”
I loved to watch Gary in action, he always got theatrical. And when you get theatrical all the time, no one takes you seriously anymore. I mean, could you believe the guy? He was in his late forties, his hair was already all turned to white, his neck was bent from not doing any exercise and working too much. Remember the guy smoking next to the propane tank this morning? That was Gary.
He’d take out the pack from his breast pocket, pull out a smoke with his mouth, straight from the pack. Then he’d shake his lighter twice vigorously before lowering his head and lighting up the cigarette. Then he’d take a drag and lean over the gigantic propane tank. He’d blow out the smoke, read the “no smoking” panel and laugh about it a little. The whole place could go to hell but those things never blow up he’d say.
He always wore some old grey suit, all messed up and the shirt never really matched the colour of the coat. He was standing up as he spoke like he was some great orator and every time he made a point, he just leaned forward towards someone and pointed at them with his hand sideways.
“And then,” he continued, “She’ll take her high heels and long smooth legs out the door and leave your sorry ass to a bottle of hard liquor or a dive bar to find relief in and rant this to the guy on the next stool who’s twice your age and still feels the same.”
“Is everything OK at home, Gary?” one of the guys asked. The others laughed.
“What, the hell?” he answered and he sorta chuckled, “You want to know about it? Give me a drink son, I’ll tell you all about it.”
“All we got left in the tank is Heineken,” I said.
“I said, all we got left is Heineken.”
“Great!” he shouted, “That’s just my day”
“Who the fuck bought that shit anyways?” one of the guys asked.
“It probably was the new kid.”
“It wasn’t the new kid,” I replied.
“Hey, where is the new kid?”
“He got fired.”
“Seriously? What for?”
“Drank all the Molson Ex,” Sonny continued.
“Well good for him then, but what about the Heineken?”
“I bought the damn Heineken,” someone finally admitted.
“Why would you do a thing like that?”
“Well, I’m sorry,” the guilty party replied.
“We should throw it away and get some real beer up in here.”
“¿De qué Habla?” Ignacio asked.
“La cervesa, Heineken,” someone replied.
“Hey Gary. Here’s a Budweiser,” Stanley said.
“Tastes like piss, but it’ll do.”
“Hey, guess what?” I said, “Sonny pays a solid 8 dollars for a Bud.”
“Really?” someone said. Sonny looked at me sideways, I simply smiled. He’d get me back someday, so it was all ok. “Why would you do something like that?” the guy continued.
“Women,” I said.
“Women will fucking kill ya,” Stanley added.
“You got that right,” Gary continued, “You know my old lady? First she wanted the fancy private school. Catholic and traditional, with the suits and all. So I had to work overtime for that and now she wants to get the kids into college. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t even go to college. Hell, I don’t even have a decent suit. Who the fuck needs college anyways? Just sitting and reading, drinking and acting like a goddamned faggot on some campus.”
“Hey!” Stanley objected, “I went to college. Sonny did too.”
“Yeah,” Gary continued, “Well, if my kids want to go to college, they can pay for it their own damn selves. I’ll get them a job in here and maybe they’ll start appreciating every god damned thing I buy them. The movies and the TV and now they just need a brand new phone, you know? And the car, the goddamn car! The oldest brat smashed it the other day!”
“Smashed it into a pole,” Gary said.
“Is the kid alright?” Sonny asked.
“The kid’s fine. But it’ll cost me my vacation.”
“I’m rebuilding my old car,” the guy next to me told me.
“Yeah?” I answered him.
“ Three-forty, four barrel.” the guy said.
“What model? The barracuda?”
“Really?” I asked.
“I’m too old for this shit,” Gary kept on ranting.
“Good looking car,” I said, “but a real gas hog.”
“I know,” he said, “Just the other day I took it to the tracks, filled it up cost me eighty-six dollars. Did a few quarter-miles runs and the tank was completely dry.”
“Shit! Maybe you should switch to a small Asian car. A Hyundai maybe?”
“Please, I don’t even fit into them cars.”
“The economy’s in turmoil,” I continued, “you should save up some cash.”
“I’m ok. I got some money in the stock market.”
“I don’t want to tell. But I’m up sixty-two percent.”
“You better cash in while you’re ahead.”
“Nah, I only invest in sure shots.”
“Like a thirty-five year-old barracuda,” I said.
“Exactly,” he replied.
“God this beer tastes like shit!” a guy shouted on the other end of the table, “Anybody wants this?”
“The Heineken?” I asked, “I’ll take it.”
“Won’t be my first today. I’m low on moonshine,” I said, “A desperate man will resort to anything.”
Gary kept on talking, “She just goes ‘I can’t live like this, I’m the laughing stock of the congregation, just look at the ceramics, and the potteries and the tiles. It’s disgraceful. I’m Italian for god’s sake’ But I told her, I’m telling ya, I told her.”
“You ain’t told her shit, Gary,” one of the guys said, “She’s got you totally whipped.”
“So pussy-whipped,” I said.
“What do you mean pussy-whipped?” Gary shouted.
“Oh! Come on!” the other guy continued. “You’re about to get divorced over a simple case of ugly tiles, Gary?”
“What am I supposed to do? I’m as broke as a nigger in forty-eight!”
“Hey, hey! Easy there on the nigger.” That was Jean-Baptiste who was busy reading Guns and Ammo magazine.
“No offense,” Gary said, and he felt bad for real, “I meant – ”
“Just cool it!” Jean-Baptiste said as he kept on reading.
“Well, I’m sorry.”
“You know you could change your tiles for free,” one of the guys said. It was GP, I think. One of the skinny guys that drove the forklifts.
“Yeah?” Gary asked, “How do you work that?”
“It’s easy. You just go in, and ask for a sample, you know? You say it’s because your old lady wants to see how it looks like with the lights in the kitchen and everything.”
“That’s got to be the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard,” Gary said, “How the fuck are you gonna get enough samples to change an entire bathroom.”
“I did every store in the city.”
“What?” Gary continued. “I’m not going to run every hardware store in the city to get free samples. The gas money alone will be more expensive than the god damned tiles.”
“No, Gary. I just take one every time I go to a hardware store. I don’t go there only for the samples.”
“And it works?”
“Yeah, it works. I got one right here in my pocket.” GP took out a small piece of tile. A two square inch, minuscule, ridicule white tile and he handed it to Gary.
“That’s a fuckin’ sample?” Gary shouted.
“How long did it take for you to collect enough to do your bathroom?” Stanley asked.
“Two years?!” Gary shouted. “My old lady’s not gonna wait two years.” He emptied his beer, “For Christ’s sake.”
Get the novella here :
So I wanted to be a self-published author.
I have recently graduated from Creative Writing. Hell, They haven’t even shipped my diploma yet and here I was, thinking that I was going to make the motherload in a minute. There were gonna be readings, parties, Harvey Weinstein…
But lets be realistic for a minute!
I have self-published ONE novella, which most people have not bought although I had some feedback from people who did buy it saying they liked it OH! and “you forgot some spelling mistakes in there.”
“Shit,” I told myself.
But since nothing is set in stone, I can luckily change, adapt and learn. And learn I did.
I was bummed out that I wasn’t making any real sales over this, but then I looked at some hard facts and here’s how I figured it out:
I can honestly write 1000 words an hour. If you leave me alone in a room with no one to bothe me, that is my average. Let’s say I we’ll take an average of 800 words to factor in coffee making, piss brakes and all other necessities of work (I don’t smoke, that 150 more words per minute for me). following that word/hour average, a 70 000 word novels should take me 87.5 hours to write the novel.
“But what about inspiration, preparation, research, editing.”
For inspiration : I have studied writing for year, I have received my diploma and therefore, I can be considered a “professional writer”. I no longer feel the need to expand on my own sentimentality and experiences, page after page in some self-righteous endeavour so that you can become my mommy and I get that cozy warm feeling inside that “I’m no longer alone in the world.” I am thirty fucking years old, worked warehouses and factories… I have a wife and a kid. I don’t WANT to write like that. I write stories to entertain the rest of us, and hopefully I find a balance between street smarts and shit I learned in college. Nuff said about inspiration.
So what about preparation? Look at your average novel, the chapters are between 6 to 12 pages long, the average page per chapter of Dan Brown’s Deception Point is 5,5 pages, give or take a few decimals depending which edition you read. So my own preparation goes like this: I know where I’m headed in terms of plot and characters. I find the beginning and the end. Then I figure out 30 chapters or so, plan an average of 8 pages per chapter (250 words per page) plus room for anything I’ll want to add later on… I have a 70 000 word novel you’ll pay 2.99$ for. I count maybe 10 hours for preparation, that is my objective estimate.
We are at 97.5 worked hours for a novel, not exactly a huge amount of work.
Ok, then there’s research. Most of my work so far has not required that much research. There was a time when writers had to travel and see the land, look for places, visit archives and libraries to do their research. All of that time is now spent on Wikipedia, google street view and online literary archives. I read magazines every once in a while and find inspiration there, but overall, if I need to know when Lenin died, I click on wiki… let’s say, 40 hours for research.
We are at 137.5 hours.
Editing : I counted my own re-writes in my writing time, but the more you write, the less you see your own mistakes. A good run through spell check and then a bit of self-editing, say 20 hours total. But you’ll want to get some external advice (I’ll get to that.) And then there’s publishing. You want to find a book cover editor/graphics designer. I have people I know and I am happy to work with them again. Say, a two hour meeting over a beer of coffee (hardly work).
We are at 139,5 hours. Updating blogs and facebook dosen’t count as work. (OK! OK! I’ll give you a half hour to set up the novel’s page on your wordpress account.) Total work : 140 hours.
The average work week is 40 hours, which means that if I was really working full time on my writing, I would have a brand new, edited novel every 3,5 weeks. Give it a month if you want a longer project, no overtime. That is not that much. The median income for Canadian citizens, according to wikipedia, was in 2007: 25363 if we divide that by 52, then by 40, then the median per hour income for Canadians is 12.19$.
So… say I want to reach the median income by writing novels : 140 hours * 12.19 = 1706.60$. That is the amount of money I’d need to make every month. On Kindle and Itunes etc… I get 2.09$ for every book I sell. Consider 500 dollars for cover design and editing. Publicity is mostly done on blogs or facebook…so I Need an initial sale of 240 ebooks to cover the expense, and an additional 816.55 books to cover the amount of time I spent on the novel. Once the novel is online, there is no upkeep costs.
If in MY LIFETIME I manage to sell 1057 books, I will have made more than the median wage most Canadians get.
That was a nice reminder of how we, as writers, artists or any other type of creative people, need to shut the fuck up about our situation and work harder. If writing is to be my job, then I need to punch in at the typewriter the same way I’d punch in at the factory. I can’t write full time yet but I know I will one day.
That is something great to look forward to.
My next novel is planned for May, until then, try the novella.
Thank you, Ian truman.
Stage Right in the Afterlife.
INT. RECEPTIONIST DESK – AFTERLIFE
Center stage is a simple desk, with lots of files and paperwork stacked in orderly fashion. There is an old fax on a small side desk. A secretary is sitting on a large comfortable chair. Her name is Francine – 36 – slightly overweight from sitting too much, experienced, uneasily moved and slightly fed up with her job. She has small reading glasses on the tip of her nose.
FRANCINE (Shouts) Luego, next. (Thick Anglophone accent) Suivant.
A man walks in from stage right, mid thirties, completely naked, still dripping water pearls as if he just got out of the shower. His name is not yet known.
FRANCINE English ou Français?
FRANCINE Ok! (Beat) Is it a Judeo-Christian death?
MAN I beg your pardon?
FRANCINE Is it a Judeo-Christian death. Are you either Jewish, Catholic, Christian…
MAN Well. I don’t really know. I was Buddhist there for a while during college.
FRANCINE Ok! But were you Buddhist at the time of death? Because if you were, their offices don’t open for another eight hours so you’re gonna have to wait.
MAN No. No. I guess I wasn’t at the time of death.
FRANCINE taps her hands on her desk in a satisfied motion.
FRANCINE GOOD! – Now, I’m going to need two identity papers, with pictures.
The MAN lifts his arms as to demonstrate he does not have such papers. FRANCINE looks severely at the man, putting her glasses at the very tip of her nose.
FRANCINE No drivers’ licence, Medicare card, death certificate…
The MAN nods no. FRANCINE sighs heavily, then leans over to one of her drawers, pulls out a form.
FRANCINE Which hospital or doctor signed the release papers?
MAN I wouldn’t know.
FRANCINE You wouldn’t know.
MAN All I remember is getting in the shower.
FRANCINE You were in the shower.
She puts back the form she had just picked up, annoyed, and picks up another one.
FRANCINE You know? You guys really aren’t ready for this. Now the Hindu, they come in ready to go right back out again, but you. (takes a deep breath to calm herself down) You guys are slacking lately.
She hands him the form and an ink pad.
FRANCINE Just put your fingerprint here, well verify your identity with our offices in Jerusalem.
The man presses his thumb on the paper. FRANCINE picks up a box of wet towelettes, hands it towards the MAN.
FRANCINE (as she is looking into yet more paperwork) You can wash off the ink with this.
THE MAN picks up one towelettes, FRANCINE puts the box back. FRANCINE picks up the form the MAN just filled, taps in a number on the fax machine and puts the form in.
It is an old fax, so it is reaaaaly slow and it makes a lot of screeching noises.
MAN Do you know how long this is going to take?
FRANCINE I don’t know. It depends, really. – It’s the busy season.
MAN Oh! Really?
FRANCINE Yes! We’re booked till then end of May. You know? There’s ice storms, swine flu, aids, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crime spree in Monterey. (beat) and then there’s that Ford recall we’ve been getting a lot of lately.
MAN What ford recall?
FRANCINE The one they didn’t do. (She pulls out three more forms.) While we’re waiting for this. (she makes a gesture towards the fax machine) We might as well get you started on the forms.
MAN More forms.
FRANCINE I know! It’s always rough the first time. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it.
MAN In three copies.
FRANCINE picks up a bic pen and points at different places on the papers with it,
FRANCINE Yes! One for you, one for us, and one for God, in this case. (She hands him
the bic pen.) I’m gonna need that back after you’re done.
MAN (takes the pen) Hum! You’d think heaven would have the latest technologies.
FRANCINE Hun! If we had their budget, we’d be covering the walls of this office here with gold.
FRANCINE crosses her hands on her desk.
FRANCINE You’re not in heaven yet, honey.
MAN Well, at least I’m not going straight to hell.
FRANCINE (With curiosity) You could be. Have you been pre-approved for a fast-track program?
MAN I’m not sure I understand what you mean?
FRANCINE A fast-track program. Disrespecting your father won’t cut it these days. Neither will adultery. But have you ever raped or murdered someone?
FRANCINE Have you ever worshipped idols such as squirrels or other small rodents?
MAN (laughs) No.
FRANCINE (quickly) Lemmings?
FRANCINE (quickly, again) Badgers?
MAN You mean like the boyscouts.
FRANCINE Oh! Boyscouts go straight to hell.
The man pinches his lips saying “oh well!”
FRANCINE Are you or have you ever been engaged in a homosexual act and have not received a pardon for it?
FRANCINE Have you ever had intercourse with another man? I mean, we don’t judge, honey. And from what I’ve heard it’s a hell of a party down there, but we just want to make sure you end up in the right place. (Beat) So, have you ever…
MAN No. Nothing like that.
FRANCINE OK! (Taps her hands again on the paperwork in a satisfied manner.) So you’re gonna have to go through the usual channels.
MAN Oh! Like the people over there.
The MAN points to the audience.
The MAN points to the audience, again.
MAN THOSE people, just sitting there.
FRANCINE looks to the audience, puts her glasses at the very tip of her nose.
FRANCINE Them! No. That’s the atheist.
MAN And what are they doing there?
FRANCINE (a bit irritated) They said there was nothing after death… Well there’s nothing after death.
MAN So they just sit?
MAN For all eternity.
FRANCINE Yes! I mean, I can’t process them. They don’t fit in any of the paperwork.
MAN And you’re not gonna do anything about it?
FRANCINE If they’re unhappy about their situation, they can take it to office. I don’t make the rules, dear, I just apply them. (Beat) You’re welcome to join them if you want.
MAN It’s a long waiting line.
FRANCINE Never moves. Just ask Nietzsche, he’s been there since 1900.
MAN (Thinks for a second) I think I’ll stay here.
FRANCINE pulls out a gigantic, phone book like, reference guide. She slams it heavily on the desk, starts flipping through the pages.
FRANCINE So! I assume you’re not Jewish. (beat) Unless of course, you didn’t?
She flips half-book to the catholic section.
FRANCINE Presbyterian Lutheran Baptist? Roman? Protestant? Episcopal? Jesus Christ of the latter-day saints?
MAN Roman catholic.
There is a fax coming in. Again, it is noisy and really slow.
FRANCINE Oh! Right in time.
They wait and wait for the paper to come out. She tears it out once it’s finished.
FRANCINE So! You are – Michael O’meara.
MICHAEL (getting cocky) Yes! You know you could’ve just asked.
FRANCINE No need to get cocky here, sweety, I’m just following the protocol. (She continues reading the report) Baptized at St-Vincent, mother and father both catholic, roman as well, confirmation was at St-Mary’s in NDG…
The phone rings. FRANCINE picks it up.
FRANCINE Francine. (Listens) Hey Jenny. (Listens) Hun-un! (Listens) Hun-un! (Listens) No! We don’t take new clients… (listens) Well… (listens) He wants to make an appointment! (listens, then sighs) Ok! Well, patch him through, I’ll see what I can do. (Listens) Yeah! You too. (Beat) Hello. (Listens) Yes. (She flips through her schedule book) I could find you a spot for the 6th. Would that work for you? (Listens) Hun-un! (Listens) Well, we are opened 24/7, it would be easier for us if you come in at night. Would that be OK for you? (Listens) You can’t make it? (Listens) The stations are closed. Well at what time does the station open? (Listens) 5 Am. (As she marks down the appointment) I’m going to mark you down at 5h15, that would work for you? (Listens) Ok! Five-Fifteen it is. (Listens) Ok! Bye-bye.
She hangs up.
MICHAEL Is there any way we can speed this up. I am naked over here.
FRANCINE If you feel the need to hide your shame, (she looks at his genital)
I can tell you, honey, you’re doing fine. (Beat) But we do have stores where you can buy some clothes, it you have the means to pay.
MICHAEL I don’t have anything on me.
FRANCINE (sighs heavily) I can provide you with a social services card to pay for everything, but you will have to pay it back it once you’ve been processed.
MICHAEL (getting irritated) PAY IT BACK!? How am I gonna pay it back?
FRANCINE I assume you will be seeking employment of some sort.
MICHAEL You mean, like get a job!
MICHAEL In the afterlife?
FRANCINE What? You thought you’d just die and it was gonna be easy?
FRANCINE I’m sorry, honey, there ain’t no such things as a free ride. (Beat) What did you do before you died?
MICHAEL (calming down) I was a doctor.
FRANCINE (disappointed) A doctor. Oh! I’m sorry, love, you’re gonna have to re-do all your classes.
MICHAEL (angry again) WHAT? WHY?
FRANCINE Well, you don’t treat people the same once they’re this side of the white light. But don’t worry, the economy’s pretty good, just fill this (she hands him one more form) and you’ll get a job in no time.
MICHAEL What is this now?
FRANCINE It’s for your medical.
MICHAEL (shouting) MEDICAL! I’m DEAD. Why would I need to take a medical? Are you kidding me? First I end up here naked like it’s a god damn trick to pull on somebody that just died. And then you have me fill all sorts of papers IN TRIPLICATE. Its like we didn’t have enough of this before and you would have me believe that it will be all the same for ever and ever and ever!
From that point on in MICHAEL’s outburst, FRANCINE will mimic his speech as if she had heard it all before.
MICHAEL What was it all for? Hey! What the hell was it all for? To live and try to behave and for who? I was a good man, yes mam! A good man, a DOCTOR for Christ’s sake. I saved people all my life.
MICHAEL notices she is mocking him.
MICHAEL Are you mocking me? I don’t believe this shit! I CAN’T believe this shit! – Let me talk to a manager.
FRANCINE adopts an arrogant stance.
FRANCINE I beg your pardon.
MICHAELA MANAGER! – I assume you have those here. Where is St-Peter?
FRANCINE For your information, Mr. St-peter has retired after 43 long years of services, this office is a union employer and we are proud of our benefits.
MICHAEL Well! I want to talk to who’s in charge.
FRANCINE crosses her hands on the desk and won’t bulge.
MICHAEL (screaming) NOW!
FRANCINE clears her throat. Nods towards a cardboard panel at the end of her desk.
MICHAEL (At the peak of his anger) WHAT?
FRANCINE takes a pen and taps on the sign rapidly. MICHAEL picks up the panel and reads it.
MICHAEL (exasperated) “No yelling, swearing or any form of threatening behaviour will be tolerated at this desk.” (puts the panel down.) Ah! (breathes in, calms down) Fine!
He signs the medical form. FRANCINE takes it.
FRANCINE And as for this! (she waves the paper in his face – Then puts it with the rest of the paperwork) It’s not because you’re dead that you don’t want to be healthy.
(stamps the cover heavily) LUEGO. NEXT.
If you enjoyed this piece, please visit The Mainline Gala for Student Drama facebook page here :
I just stumbled upon this website while revisiting my musical roots (F.T.T.W.). I thinks it’s a very good page/project that Toby has set up and I do hope it will bring a new generation of kids into the Straight Edge movement, maybe bring it in places that Hardcore has not yet reached.
Visit them here :