by: James Burr
The Writer continued to stare at the blank screen, as she had done, frustrated, for the previous two hours. Words refused to flow and her ideas remained stillborn, seemingly loath to join her in the cold and damp of her squalid bedsit. It was then that she remembered a way of triggering creativity, an old Surrealist game, where one would cut the words out of an old newspaper then rearrange them at random, the old words and symbols creating something new and improved.
So she dug out an old copy of the local free newspaper and then with an oversized pair of scissors she set about hacking at the news stories, the tales of new gym openings, charity fun runs or disgraced local Councillors just waiting to be made into something fresh. She then took the words and started rearranging them, creating phrases, then sentences then finally new stories, of a sort.
Eventually she sat back, satisfied with her new tales, some nonsensical but all telling new, unusual but undoubtedly refreshed narratives. But her creative satisfaction was short lived as a night train rattled by, shaking the mouldy windows in their frames, drawing her attention back to her bedsit– the damp patches by the ceiling, the soggy wallpaper held up by Blu-Tack, the cigarette-burnt carpet that fell some six inches short of reaching the skirting boards.
And it was then that she realised that the pedestrian mundanity, the sheer mediocrity of her squalid home could also be improved. So gingerly, with some reticence as she had never attempted this before, she took the scissors and started to hack at her room. Firstly, she cut out the television, Casablanca distorting on its screen, as she peeled it away from the void beneath. Then she cut around the edges of her lamp, the bed, the windows, the door, half of her wardrobe….. She continued to hack and cut and then, satisfied, she started to rearrange the pieces into what she hoped would be a new, refreshed whole. She smiled as Mr Tiddles, with Humphrey Bogart’s face endlessly intoning “Play it again….play it again….play it again….” slinked from his litter tray. The top half of her bed now looked out onto the street as rain pelted upwards against the panes, and the door apparently lead up either somewhere into the attic or out into whatever was now outside. One bedroom lamp was embedded in her bedroom wall where the window had once been, the other window replaced by the base of her wardrobe, a plastic fern lying sideways along its top edge, like a hat.
The Writer glanced around her bedsit, content with her new, collage creation.
It was then that she saw her podgy thighs, untoned despite hours of jogging, her pot belly, flabby and round despite the yoga. She paused for a moment, irritated that the unyielding nature of her body should upset the creative harmony of her new work before remembering that her body too could be a work of art, an expression of creativity, if she so willed it.
So she reached for the scissors and started hacking at herself, cutting and slicing, in this last creative game and final act of self improvement.
Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton while serving as the US vice president. James Burr is the author of the collection Ugly Stories for Beautiful People and is currently putting the finishing touches to his second collection, State of the Nation, and a work of non-fiction which will, he is sure, make him richer than his wildest dreams. When not deluding himself about future success, he can be found at: http://www.james-burr.co.uk/.
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