The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 19

closer to the desk. Shadows filled the room like panthers. Better. When his phone rang he jerked the chair against his bad knee. The grimace came up from his soul. Later he would blame that pain for making him answer the phone when he should have just let it ring. ‘Saul?’ ‘Emily. This is… I’m not…’ Emily was twenty years younger than Saul and liked to think of herself as his confidante, his release, that even when the doubt and unreality enveloped him like a choking gas he could talk to her. It pissed him off that she was right and he refused to have her privy to this moment. ‘I’m just getting out of the bath, can I call you back?’ ‘You don't have a bath, Saul.’ ‘The shower. I’m just getting out of the shower. I’m still dripping.’ Saul had interspersed his day with four separate corner shop visits - for kosher sausages, a Gatorade, apples, and finally more cigarettes - but just now he felt like he could lift a house. The side of his bookcase was covered with scrawled yellow post-it notes and he felt hyper-alert, as though all the preparatory work of the past month had sharpened itself into a point inside him. He would hang up but she might come over. He stood, still repeating the line in his head. ‘I know you,’ Emily said in his ear as he walked towards the kitchen, dressing gown flapping against his veiny calves. ‘It’s two am. You've been writing. Or trying to.’ She laughed. ‘You were probably sat blankly in your underwear half the day.’ Saul could make out clinking glasses and vapid murmurs behind her voice; she was in a bar, no doubt with her ‘actress’ friends. ’I bet you’ve gone through two packs of the Noblesse,’ she went on, ‘maybe you've even had another of your famous breakthroughs...’ Saul hung up and tried to keep down the rage. He felt inside the kitchen door and flicked on the light. Emily had been a necessary crutch while Evie was sick. She had a talent for inveigling confidences from him in weak moments, and as a result knew how to get under his skin when she wanted to. Not tonight. He slipped the phone into the pocket of his dressing gown, grabbed a glass and, turning off the light, paced determinedly back to his corner cocoon. His knee ached as he reached for the bottle of Otard on the bookcase. He spoke the line out loud for the first time. Mistake. It sounded flat. Lifeless. He needed to see it, black on white. Hopefully… He grunted. Damn woman had unravelled him in a shot. Smoking a post-coital Gauloises on his bed she thought him a peerless genius, but get her drunk and she loved nothing more than to remind him how flimsy his existence was, how devoid of meaningful relationships now that Evie was gone, how a life lived in books was by definition two dimensional. He tried to let it bounce off him. Yes, he and Evie had never had children, he thought, pouring himself a finger of the brandy. Yes, he didn’t have many friends and yes, fictional characters occupied more space in his mind than politicians, historical figures, actors. But only because that is the way of the world, Emily. He sat down and picked up his drink. Didn’t the life of the fictional Reb Yudel touch more people than that of his creator Shai Agnon, for example? Weren’t Don Quixote’s tracks deeper than Cervantes’? He swung the chair into the desk, determined not to let her derail the process. History is the accumulation of stories, it said on a post-it on his bookcase, and the greatness of a story is measured solely by its influence. Dry factual accuracy doesn’t come into it, Emily, even if it does have great tits. Saul typed his opening line and leaned back nervously. It looked ready to explode. He exhaled, relieved, then leaned in and carried on typing from that opening. And typing. In the opening his protagonist was paying to be bitten by a small venomous snake. He sweated as he came to the point of no return. Before long he had a rhythm; the words came into his heart from some place outside him, they flowed through his arteries into his fingers and the story grew before his eyes like a shoot breaking