He had to scribble fast. They had just hung up, and he knew if he didn’t write fast that he wouldn’t remember all she had said. The Bushmills would see to that.
Claire had been giddy, so excited about tonight’s lunar eclipse. Sean envied her joy in life; he envied her for many reasons. She had called – despite his churlishness last time – begging him to watch the eclipse instead of Must-See TV. “But it won’t happen again until September 1997!” she had implored. “Stupid ‘ER’ will be on forever!"
He hadn't watched the eclipse: Julianna Margulies had captivated him as he toasted his revered Emerald Isle he would never see. Later, between pensive drags on Salem Lights, he scrawled this week’s column on a legal pad. It wasn’t the first time he had pinched Claire’s ideas.
Rewriting Claire started 14 months before when he called to tell her about Renee, the gay divorcee. Indulging a sadistic impulse, he admitted why he had really ended things; it was an exercise in perversity. He later felt a bit guilty, but not much. The Bushmills saw to that.
After listening to her cry, he wrote down her words – as much as he could remember. With the precision of a surgeon, he cut apart the conversation. He took this phrase, that clause, and a truly original metaphor or two and crafted them into a column on deception and corruption, tying it to the recent scandals at City Hall. The piece took first place at the state awards that year. More awards followed.
Once a week, he dug out the clips for review. Smudged newsprint hid nothing. In black and white smears, there were Claire’s words. Page after page of stolen stories, tales he had no right to.
Sean had once been a gifted writer; now he was a plagiarist who couldn’t remember the last column that was his own. Maybe it was the one about that 99-year-old seamstress who once made the townies’ wedding dresses. Poetry was in every stitch, weaving together life after life, year after year. When was that? He couldn’t remember. The Bushmills saw to that.
He liked to believe if Claire found out about his transgressions that she would be flattered. Mostly he thanked God she lived three states south. If she did find out, he’d say she was his muse. Any woman would like that.
There. He was done. It was a sweet piece that made him sound like a nice guy who loved watching the night sky. Jay Leno swam before him. Was it that late? The bottle was empty, his cue for bed. He would sleep long and hard – and without any dreams. The Bushmills saw to that.