Once, I wrote something that could be called a part of a novel. It’s been dead for a while. It’s not publishable. But I liked it. I grew close to it. I slept with it like a security blanket, editing and writing and caressing the beginnings and ends late at night. I might as well excerpt some of it. The not-bad parts. Like the good parts, but not quite.
Genius doesn’t occur often anymore. The more mankind tickles the threads of time and space, the less freak ripples of the bizarre come to surface. Henry Killbride was certainly the last of the bizarre.
The book was called Wooden Circus. Henry Killbride didn’t know this yet. He sat in a folding chair next to his desk in his studio apartment in Poughkeepsie, idly drawing pictures of light bulbs that were reminiscent of women’s breasts. It was his thirtieth birthday. Poughkeepsie was the closest city outside New York that he could afford to live in. It was just two hours away by train. Outside, a black and blue storm was stirring the winds that made the trees flop awkwardly beside his window. His hand was covered in smudged ink and he cursed the gods that he, like roughly twelve percent of the population, was born left handed. Lewis Carroll was a natural lefty, but Lewis Carroll was also a natural pedophile.
Technically, Henry was born right handed, but converted at four when he broke his right hand in a freak elephant accident. This was all unbeknownst to him, of course, a boy who had only marked the occasion in his memory with images of a cast scrawled over with an aquamarine felt tip pen. His mother, Angela Killbride, had weaned him off his endless sobs with ice cream. Henry weighed 65 pounds at the age of five and would remain just under what Angela called “husky” for another forty years after.
Angela had been a good mother to Henry, though most Killbride biographers would blame his mental instability on the fact that she was certifiably insane. The few who had known Angela before her son’s descent into the public eye referred to her as a bit of a loon. And so what if she had gone off the deep end? She was a sweet, soft-spoken woman with heavily rouged cheeks and unnaturally thin lips that curled into a dimwitted smile. She never worked a day in her life, rather, spent her time painting sloppy watercolors on the kitchen table with a child’s paint set. Angela painted the same scene over and over, hanging picture after picture of a blurry beach around the clapboard house, though she had never been farther South than Delaware. Her hands were permanently stained pale blue, her finger nails navy. She had married young and given birth to Henry on her twenty-third birthday. She became a drunk by twenty-seven and was dead at forty-one.
Henry rose to go wash his hands and smacked his head on the bare light bulb above him. An idea flashed through his him so quickly it winded his lungs and he had to sit back down, dirty hands and all. Outside, the wind howled like a wounded animal.
Henry grabbed his pen and filled seventeen unruled marble composition books with the scribble that would later be called the great American novel of the 21st century. Genius flashed through him for twenty hours. He was slapped, backhanded, across the cheek by it. The brilliance magnified his pores and caused his pupils to dilate. His mind quivered and quaked in its gray matter while folds of brain tissue spooned. Currents of genius pulsed under his skin, forcing the loose flesh on his forehead to twitch. When he was finished, he clutched a roll of duct tape that served as a paperweight and stared passively out his window.
There was a sudden calm in the storm as the wind’s moans began to fade.
Outside, a tree collapsed hastily.