if all else fails write
That was his mantra and it had gotten him out of a lot of jams. Mental ones. His name was Royston Kidrick and he suffered from severe bouts of depression. The gloom would set in and surround him like a thick and heavy fog. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do when it took hold. Except to write. Which he couldn't do when depressed. Contradiction.
By the age of 33 Kidrick had written six novels and several dozen short stories. Not a word of his had been published.
But he kept trying. That was one thing about Kidrick, he wouldn't quit. "You were persistent as hell as a toddler," his father, Lawton Kidrick a wealthy industrialist had told him.
It was late Winter 1993 and Kidrick was sitting at his typewriter trying to squeeze out some words. It was like trying to force a bowel movement when constipated. Painful and frustrating. Maybe he’d taken too much Xanax. Kirdrick wasn’t sure how many he’d popped, keeping track of details wasn’t really his thing.
Trying to write while depressed was like trying to fuck with a flaccid dick, Kidrick told people. Yeah, it was futile and depressing. But not trying to write while depressed made the depression even worse. Damned if you did, damned if you didn't.
So he paced. He walked to the picture window and back to his desk. Repeat. But no words were willing to come and he was feeling worse with each passing second. Life was utterly and completely horrible. Where? Where was the answer? Or the end? Maybe it would come to an end and that was the answer. Who could say anymore? Kirdick had endured years of frustration trying to find meaning and a cure for his melancholia. Psychedelics hadn’t helped. Neither had yoga nor meditation nor exercise nor religion nor psychiatry. Especially not psychiatry. Just a whole lot of mental masturbation. Made it worse. None of the meds did a damn thing, either. Maybe a wank now would help. Do it while staring out the big window let the neighbors have a gander. Just a thought, if a crazy one. He had lots of crazy thoughts.
His wife, Rula, from India was a gorgeous woman, tall, intelligent lusted after by everyone, only 21 (some people said she probably married him for his dough and oh by the way he had inherited a lot) She was in Manhattan for the weekend visiting her parents and doing research for school where she was studying sociology.
How shitty that Rula is away. Miss her.
Maybe a swim, backyard pool. Maybe a wank in the pool. Maybe call an escort service, maybe call a friend, maybe go on a bender. Maybe read a book — better to try to write one. But those words were not coming anytime soon as far as Royston Kidrick originally of Framingham, Massachusetts could figure. Yeah, I'm from Framingham. What of it, he thought as if someone had made an issue of it. Now he lived just outside of Boston, in Brookline.
Not going back to the catholic fucking church, Royston thought. That was the worst. He'd been raised Methodist. His big brother Allie, a pediatrician, was an active church member. Royston had only tried catholicism for a couple of months but boy did it do a number on him. Wife was raised Hindu but he hadn’t tried that nor Judaism. Buddhism yes. Royston Kidrick’s fallback was atheism. He was currently between religions, philosophies or beliefs. Next maybe nihilism or Mormonism. That cracked him up. Felt good to laugh. Could call up Buddy Drake (nee Bruno Darrenofsky). Great friend, a professional comic. They could crack open a good bottle of scotch and laugh about all the shit the world was forever dealing in large shovelfuls. Why not?
Buddy didn’t pick up. No message. Why bother. Why.
Then a more powerful wave depression washed over him, roiling through his body. Bubble bubble lots of trouble and oh the pain of it deep in his intestines and his brain and his heart and ow, ow, ow. Yikes. Royston actually quivered with the pain. Maybe just swallow a bottle of Xanax. That'd do it. Thought of suicide a lot lot lot lot lot lot. But not not not not not not going to do it ever never ever never ever never. Just not an option my friend.
How about that scotch? Hated drinking alone. Save it. Buddy might call back. Didn’t leave a message. Called again. Left one this time. Sat down big frown out of town tried to write something out of sight not this night. But it was day. Still light out not night out. Out.
Deep long sigh the pain settling in deeper. Slowing down now. Sitting at the typewriter. Eked out a few words, not so much as a sentence, barely even a thought. Wow that’s bad. Bad. Sad. Please call back, Buddy. He was staring at the phone. Deep in. Pain seep(ing) in.
if all else fails write
But when the writing fails? Oh shit the tears coming now the utter complete and total anguish. All that money was bullshit. Didn’t do Royston Kidrick any good at all, not a bit. Soft somber tears. No buying his way out of this depression — it was soaking him. Drenched in the awful pain.
Distractions. Wash the dishes. Done. Pay a bill over the phone. Done. Fold the laundry. Done. Check the mail. Letter from Brown and Deakins Publishing Company. Great. Another rejection, no doubt. This will make, what 43? Wow, he would reach 50 soon. Tore open the letter. "Dr. Mr. Kidrick, We received your novel, Faith and Clarity and are very much interested in publishing it, pending minor modifications. Please…"
For the first time in his life Royston Kidrick fainted.
To Royston it had felt like hours later that he came to but it was actually only four minutes. The letter was still in his right hand, clutched tightly. This was a new one on Royston, an acceptance letter. He hadn’t gotten one since high school when he was accepted to Northeastern University. The feeling was overwhelming and utterly unfamiliar. It was a feeling in direct opposition to the depression that had been in him. Had been him. Euphoria now replaced misery. From despair to joy. Victory over defeat. Instead of the same old shit, a new chapter. Wow, life.
Hardy said it. "Dude, the dope that black people smoke smells totally different than the bud we smoke. It's so funky."
His friend Langston agreed. "I know it's like it smells dirty. Why is that though? Don't we all buy from like the same people?"
Carson said, "it's not like there's weed that's just sold to blacks and then some that's just sold to whites."
"But Carson, don't you notice it, man?" Hardy asked.
"Yeah, I totally do," he replied.
"Have either of you smoked with a black dude?" Langston asked.
"I have," Hardy said. "But it was from my stash."
"Yeah, I remember smoking with Devin Thomas and some friend of his. Totally your stuff," Carson said.
The three stood silently for awhile contemplating the mystery of why the marijuana African Americans smoked smelled different. Hardy went to the fridge and pulled out a six-pack. He handed his two friends a Budweiser and took one for himself. He hoped what they'd been talking about wasn't racist. He sure didn't mean it to be. Shit, his mother was what they called a person of color and in a way he was too. Hell, not in a way. He was. Hardy got along really with African Americans, even though none were among his best friends.
They were in Hardy's house, down in the carpeted basement that was sort of a playroom but mostly, since Hardy and his sister Eileen had entered their late teens, a place to hang out with friends. Eileen was at college now attending UC Santa Cruz and Hardy was a senior in high school. Langston and Carson were classmates of his at Berkeley High. Hardy's mother, Rula was a professor of Sociology at Cal and his dad was a successful author but also a man who'd been in and out of mental hospitals for 20 years. In the Fall Hardy would be going to college back East in Massachusetts, where he'd been born, at Tufts University.
"I don't wanna just sit here getting a buzz and talking shit, let's do something." Hardy insisted. It was a Friday night. There were usually parties somewhere but none of the boys knew of one this night.
"We can drive up to the hills and drop acid," Carson suggested. But the other two insisted it was too late in the day to be taking LSD, what with them having a lacrosse game the next day.
It looked like a dull night. Hardy was glad he wouldn't have to go it alone. He hated dull nights at home alone. His parents were out of town for the evening, down in LA where his mother had presented a paper at some seminar and his father had met with the producers who were making a film out of his latest novel.
"Hey Hardy, I tell ya I been reading one of your dad's books? The latest one?" Langston wanted to know.
"Man, don't tell me that. It's weird knowing someone my age, especially a friend, is reading one of my dad's books."
"But it's really cool. He's got a lot of sex in his novels and -- "
"Damn, man what'd I just say? I don't wanna know this kind of shit."
"Hey calm down, Hardy," Carson advised.
"Yeah, okay, sorry dude. But I just don't like to talk about it, okay?"
Langston nodded in an understanding he didn't have. Everybody liked Hardy Kidrick, but he was kind of weird about his dad.
Hardy had read some of his father's short stories a year ago and objectively thought they were brilliant. But for some reason he couldn't bring himself to read any more and couldn't even begin to imagine reading one of his novels, no matter how successful they were nor how often people told him what a great writer his father was. Hardy himself was a decent student who got good grades but did best in English, especially when it came to writing essays, compositions or short fiction. He liked to write. It made him feel good and seem to come naturally to him. His sister, who was a mediocre writer at best, was envious. Hardy had no clue what he wanted to do with his life but didn't discount the possibility that he might end up being a writer. Like his dad, but then not. Hardy wanted not to be known for being Royston Kidrick's son.
Royston Kidrick was the author of five published novels and two short story collections. He'd won numerous awards and his books had all been best sellers. One had been made into a highly successful film and his latest was in development with big name actors and a prominent director attached. But none of Kidrick's success had abated the demons that tormented him. Hardy was mortified by his dad's emotional instability, the frequent hospitalizations and all the medication he had to take. His mom tried to convince Hardy to be proud of all his father had accomplished despite his struggles but Hardy just couldn't see it that way. He saw a man who was not in control of his own brain and it seemed weak. His sister was totally different. She loved her father unconditionally and doted over him and sang his praises to everyone she met, just as her mother did. But Hardy didn't hate his dad, hell, he loved him. He couldn't get past the shame of being the son of someone with mental problems, nor could he get over the fear that he would be thus afflicted someday too.
The three friends finished the six pack and smoked a couple of joints but never left Hardy's house that night. They all slept in the basement swapping stories until the wee hours before finally being overcome by sleep. They went out for pancakes late the next morning. The waitress asked Hardy if his dad was Royston Kidrick, she recognized him from a photo on a fan site someone had made for the author. Hardy allowed that he was, though at the moment he wanted to crawl into a hole.
"You're so lucky," the waitress said. Hardy barely managed a smile.
"Dude," Carson said. "She's hot, you should totally talk to her. You've got an automatic in with her."
"Yeah Hardy, use it, man," Langston added. "She looks like she may even be in college."
Hardy wanted to change the subject completely so he said that maybe he would come back and talk to her another time but that right now he wanted to focus on their game which was only a few hours away. The fact was that Hardy did not want to take advantage of his dad's fame for anything, even scoring with a hot chick. It just felt weird and wrong.
Later that day their high school lacrosse team took a shellacking from a nearby private school. The trio took it in stride and had pizza with two other teammates after the game.
It was dusk when Hardy got home. His parents had returned a few hours before. When he entered the house Hardy found his father on the floor mewling and flopping around. His mother had just called for an ambulance. It would be at least one more night in the hospital for Royston Kidrick. Hardy waited with his mom for the ambulance. He watched as his father was taken by stretcher into the back of the ambulance and his mother got in with him. Hardy went upstairs to his room, flopped on the bed and sobbed. He was alone and miserable.
It was an hour later that Eileen called. Hardy sobbed into the phone as he told her what had happened. His sister assured him that it would be okay, after all this wasn't the first time. Hardy looked out the window into the dark March night. Rain began to fall. "Fuck it," he decided. "I'm not going to let myself be miserable anymore." Hardy Kidrick blew his nose, went downstairs and made a sandwich and waited for his mom to come home.
Meanwhile, Hardy decided, I'll write.