Aidan 12

By Asa Montreaux 

During her first day she hardly moved from the bed. She had hardly been awake until 1 pm, and then I heard a stirring upstairs. I had been sitting there working on writing some things. She moved not so gingerly but rather heavily as if she was incredibly stiff. Each move smacked heavily on the floor above me. Though it was off a ways, the vibration was right above me. Then I tuned my ear to where it was coming from. She was still in the bedroom. I suppose she was getting dressed. I thought all of the sudden, ‘Ew, gross.’ I was listening to my own mother getting changed.

I went back to what I was doing, and then I had suddenly been struck by crashing noises in her bedroom. I understood after a second that she was just having some difficulty getting her drawers open. She was only trying to dress herself, and in something other than her robe. She wasn’t feeling the greatest, not displaying the greatest vitality, as she seemed to have difficulty breathing as she was doing this, wheezing every few minutes.

There wasn’t any reason to call to her, as she would completely be unable to respond to what I was saying. It was an inability. She was not better yet. Well she was only home now. 

Ten minutes later she had made her way slowly down the stairs and entered into the kitchen and started rummaging through the fridge. She was pulling thing after thing out. After a few minutes I seemed to realize she wasn’t quite finding what she wanted. Maybe I needed to help her. So I headed into the kitchen and I stood back watching her for a second. She had taken quite a few things out but didn’t seem to quite know what she wanted. She grabbed the eggs out of the fridge and moved them to the counter. She opened them and looked at them, though she didn’t know what to do with them. I think she was just nervous about trying to cook them. She clearly wanted something tasteful. I went beside her and slowly picked an egg out of the container, and then grabbed a frying pan, and starting making her an egg.

She stood near her compilation of things, while I fried the egg, though as he stood with my hand occasionally moving the pan, she slowly made her mind up to come over near me, and observe me making it. Her eyes were wide. She didn’t look quite depressed, but awake and alert following a long while of being asleep and really not experiencing much of anything. An egg wasn’t very interesting. But after a long experience in a dwindled, perhaps decreased state, it perhaps seemed fascinating. I looked at her and I felt pity, and my eyes were wet. But she didn’t glance at me. She was only experiencing the simple pleasure of the something, the smell, the yummy look of the eggs as they neared a cooked perfection, and the anticipation of the warm taste of the eggs as she had the pleasure of eating something outside the hospital since two weeks ago. When it was almost done she moved closer to it, and bent down towards it a little, looking for the perfect amount of softness and cooked through perfection that would make her mouth water. 


‘Alright, all done.’ I said, entirely not expecting an answer. 

And she did not reply. Though I felt her desire too, maybe. It seemed she thought language was something that we could use to express a gratitude, that we wanted to express freely so.

And so, for the first time maybe, since being shot, she sat for a real breakfast, or that any other kind of breakfast was necessarily unreal, but that it was a substantial item, something not served from the hospital, something tangible and fresh as well.

She looked at her fork, as if gauging it, then she picked it up with her right hand, her fingers lightly grasping it, and she took hold of it. It seemed to be slightly heavier to her than to other people, and maybe it was. She was so weak, right now. She was able to grab hold of some eggs with her fork, I had cut it up for her. She brought to her mouth and chewed slowly.

She took her time with it, even staring off into the distance, having a private thought. It was if she was easing up, thinking about something else. It was as if she was alone, though she was not. I was sitting with her. She continued to eat slowly. 

I watched her though at a certain point I pulled out my phone and surfed through the news. I didn’t have any text messages. Janelle had been oddly incommunicative. Well, she hadn’t text me or written me an email or called me in maybe a month. I was starting to become anxious about the whole process. 

She finished nearly half the egg, so I suppose that constituted breakfast. She was looking down after she placed her fork back on the table. It occurred to me I hadn’t gotten her any water. I got up quickly to get a glass for her. I filled it with tap water, making sure it was cold, then I brought it back. She vaguely looked in my direction, though not quite at me at all, and she actually took the glass of water in her hands. 

She drank it with appreciativeness and was soothed by it visibly. Though by the time she had finished half the glass and put it down, similar to how she had eaten the eggs, she seemed solemn again, and her eyes returned to their position off to the right, near the window light, her head turned, and she was lost in her own, sad, searching, thoughts.

After a while I started cleaning her dish and the glass of water. And she remained there for some time. After I was done I walked over to her, on the side she was staring off in the vague direction of the window, and I stopped just before her gaze.

‘Maybe you should go on back up to bed’, I said.

She seemed to have not responded right away, though I registered a slight change, her eyes widened after a second. Then suddenly she looked down. After another moment, she spread her hands and grasped the table, lifting herself up. I had pushed her chair back, and then she shuffled off, back up the stairs, to her bedroom.

There she went back into bed in her clothes, and after I heard her get cozy, and hadn’t heard any movement for a while, I imagine she went back to sleep. I only heard soft breathing and the occasionally hard release of air.

I sat down in the living room and suddenly I pulled out my phone. I opened the notes as it had occurred just before then I had to try and figure out what was going on. What I knew was that I had only received two checks, my advance, and the one for 50,000 dollars. Since then, they hadn’t sent me anymore. It was peculiar. I could see online on the bestsellers lists that it was still making sales. Substantial enough ones for them to send me more. If they weren’t going to keep sending them, how was I going to get paid anymore off of this. How was I going to afford a place for myself? How was I going to get away from these suddenly sour memories?

I thought back and wondered if I’d heard anything like this before, an artist not receiving pay? I suppose musicians, actors, received low pay at one time in history. Before they could argue their own worth, given the huge revenue these arts brought in for corporate industries. It had not occurred to me ever writing was anything but a royalty. I guess it could have been a lesser percent in previous eras. But I wasn’t sure. I had heard they used to pay using the net of profits, meaning they paid the artist the percent of what they made after all costs. So that was really only one percent. If the book sold for ten dollars, then perhaps the booksellers cut was five dollars, and there’s was five dollars. Printing probably didn’t cost much, but per book the packaging and shipping cost was probably two three dollars, and then there advertising costs. After that you were probably only getting ten cents per sale instead of a whole dollar. And I suppose in 1950 or 1960 the books might have been just one, two dollars.  So that wouldn’t have left you with anything more one cent per book sale. So, inflation was something to consider as well.  

I had vaguely heard of a studio not paying a musician or an actor, holding out, due to low revenue or poor performance, maybe due just to a lack of respect, but surely that was the minority of situations, instead of the majority. And these were usually all resolved, at least so I thought. I didn’t think any of these things were occurring in my case. But maybe I was in a situation where I was going to get stiffed a bit. 

Here I was, only twenty-one, not a very good negotiator. And though I had an agent, she wasn’t communicating with me. It occurred to me that if they all wanted a larger cut, they may try to take quite a chunk out of my pay. They may withhold in order to increase their pays. That would probably only be theft. They wouldn’t be able to get away with that, I’m sure of it. Though someone may have been keen enough to try it.

So I needed to call her and find out. But I wondered if she was responding at all. I mean if I contacted her and not the reverse, would she answer at all? As it was one thing onto to reach out, but another to avoid. That could even allude to that aforementioned building guilt.

So I composed a message then asking simply if she had any cheques to send to me or any money to deposit in my accounts whatsoever. As I signed regards, Aidan, I figured she may never, and likely would not ever, respond.

I looked back and tried to judge Janelle the first time I met her, and the over the course of getting to know her. She seemed so cool, and practiced. If she was a con, then she must done this a thousand times. Filling a writer with the hope of selling a million copies and then letting them down while they not pay you and take off with your money, perhaps only add it to the revenue, and then on to the next writer. Unless you want to go ahead and try again, and they be happy to steal some more. But after your third, or fourth, I suppose it go away. Maybe at that pint there with any paper or magazine that disparaged you, though it will surely come with the sweet tones of someone who once said they believed in you. Fallen out of favor for no readily explicable reason, despite all the promise you thought you had, and all the work you were doing to make everything perfect. To stay good and stay fresh. To sell, and to well-reviewed. To write and make money. But then all of the sudden to do neither, I suppose.


In the days that followed I waited for a response from her. I thought about writing another email, but she wouldn’t respond to that one either I figured. So eventually I sat down to call her and, well, see if she would even answer. 

I dialled the New York city area code, 212, and then her number. I waited as the rang began, and then it rang, and rang, until the end, when I got the answering machine. Hey, this Janelle Rudy, please leave a message and I will return your call when I can. Beep.

Hi, this is Aidan Soars. I haven’t heard from you in a while and I was wondering if you received my email. I was hoping you’d respond as I was figuring it was an urgent issue. But maybe not? I’m sure you’re getting around to it. Give me a call if you can. Bye.

As I hung up I wondered if I was going to get a response from here, but I was not sure. The more it festered in my mind, the more I doubted I’d ever receive the fully pay, or even more money, for any of the work I’d done.

What was writing a novel? It was a testing experience. At the least. Sometimes, it was agony, staring at the page. And the pain only increased the better you wanted to write. There was no greater malady than trying to write the great novel. There was no height that you could soar to that seemed unachievable, no level of poeticism that seemed out of reach. And yet the harder you pushed to ascend the heavenly mountain, the harder every sentence was. Perfection was impossible. Flaws were the way of life. And the flaws only ate at you. I suppose the only way to get through it was to synthesize. To combine the smooth style of bad writing, of writing for money, and the slow intellectual bleeding of words.

In the end, if you wrote nothing you failed. But the point was, for all that work, it could have been six months, or six years. But what was the point if you were not even paid? Well then there was no point. None at all.

I suppose I had not come up empty handed from my endeavours. But the compromise between these two different styles is the result of years of labor and study. It’s the result of a degree, or a nearly finished degree. It’s the summation of all of the books I’ve read since I wanted to be a writer, since I was a little boy. It’s a summation of all the thoughts I’ve had about writing and style, all rolled into one. Writing, in this way, is a craft. It deserved pay, and I suppose I was. But I wasn’t sure right that second whether I was a carpenter or a lawyer, as my pay could have been a lot higher it seemed. To do all that, for only 60, 65 grand. Didn’t seem that great. If the book had sold more… And the thing about books is it was hard and always hard to get them published. You could only publish one every couple of years. Maybe every year, if you were a mystery writer. And I wasn’t.

If you really wanted to get into it I suppose I could get a pen name and then write a mystery every year two. Those wouldn’t be very difficult to write. And then I’d have the pay from those. But at what point are you just being used by the industry?          

At the point where you’ve earned significantly less than what you deserve for what you produce. Earning 120,000 for two novels when you should have earned 300,000 is not fair. That sounds, well that sounds not bad. It sounds respectable. Maybe I should offer more work. It was something to think about. 

I thought about when I might actually write something again at all, but right then I had no idea when that might be. It seemed it would feel agonizing, trying to write a whole novel, without the idea of being compensated. The illusions of a virgin writer, gone. The industry was mean, and rough.


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