So there’s a thing, he thinks:
A man carrying a toilet bowl, to where and to what purpose? But he lets it pass because here’s a strange country and things are more often than not other than they seem.
He hears a child scream with excitement, not in protest, nor out of need to be the centre of attention.
The fountain burbles. A small dog, head cocked, one ear folded back in puzzlement, surveys the scene, decides that it’s nothing he need either fear nor stand to profit from, and wanders off to seek out better things.
The water stops, the water flows; it’s all the same to both of them, him and the dog; its programmed regularity now perfunctory.
The café, bristling with student bustle, buzzes, and there’s something else he notices: the edgy vibe of family closeness.
The sun begins to dip behind this honeycomb campus; he thinks Neo-Soviet in design; a triumph of postmodern institutional functionality.
The day is warm but darkening. Autumn takes the stage, and with it carves a huge chunk from the year, entering in a haze of dappled glory, resigning COVID summer to the past.
Ha! He said he wouldn’t go there but he has.
Fuck it. The fucking Chinese Flu. To him it’s ballache; the biggest, saddest, baddest ballache of them all.
His thoughts turn to cold nights ahead when winter threatens like a madman with a knife, to bare his bones and numb his mind.
He thinks of anything other than that which he came here for his mind to dwell upon.
His mind is numb already.
Three months in Spanish paradise have yielded nothing.
No joy, relief or even gladness that it’s done and now it’s over.
Poor nothingness … poor, poor nothingness; no amount of effort could ignite that spark; instead, a vacuum sucking out his inspiration; in its place, a cold comfort void gnawing at his brain, taunting his once-proud ego.
Eleven weeks, and the sum total of his written output? Three thousand words.
Equate that to twenty-five words per day hombre, if you will.
Where does it go? This creativeness, this confidence, this certainty that plots will form and flow, that characters will shape like spectres with wondrous possibilities in his mind, that words will simply just appear there on his page? Where does it go?
Fuck knows, he says and lies down on the couch.
He reads for an hour – maybe two – and dozes.
Yes, he thinks, it’s got that bad. It really has. Better to read a badly written novel by someone else than shake this curtain of apathy free and crash out from the doldrums with my sails becalmed, blocked by a landmass of lethargy and indifference.
Crash out, he says out loud. Crash out and write my own opus magnum of mediocrity.
This proclamation elates him a bit, but fills him with no great confidence.
He has a shit.
He has a shave.
He sits at his desk and re-reads the last chapter for the twenty-millionth time.
He reminds himself that once he was the smartarse who dissed the very notion of writer’s block.
Bored with the screen, his eyes roam the room looking for inspiration … looking for anything.
And there it is.
High on the bookcase, alone and serene, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange sits, bought by his woman – incidentally, he recalls, for her daughters’ consumption – in Morrison’s Gibraltar.
That looks too fucking good not to eat, he thinks, but knows he shouldn’t for so many different reasons.
He eats six segments and that, he realises, is almost a quarter.
And although there still remains – should his choice be to replace the box where he had found it – almost three quarters, no excuse nor explanation other than the truth would atone for this … this theft. Perhaps too strong a word, he thinks, is theft. After all, he paid for it with his own money, but that, he understands is hardly the point.
Better to consume the evidence.
This he does in three swift gulps, and strangely – despite the sudden ingress of seven hundred calories – feels the better for it.
The Chocolate Orange? Missing in action.
He turns to face his laptop, expecting nothing.
But now the wind is once more in his sails.
He writes like there is no tomorrow.
Words flow to the page like money to a Texan oilman’s bank account.
Take me to the levee when the levee is dry,
And I will once more fill it, with chocolate.