Rafael Heart leans on his living room apartment window. He is thirty floors up and overlooks a glittery downtown skyline. The iced cubes in his glass right this very moment are swimming in Blanton’s Gold Edition Whiskey. For those who may not be connoisseurs, that is like skinny dipping in the Sultan of Brunei’s gold plated Jacuzzi. It means you have gone far, and your perfectly squared iced cubes anyway have good company.
Frank Sinatra is crooning in the background. His voice paints a scene: The lovers are exchanging glances. They are seated at separate tables across the dance floor. The supper club is really hot tonight, but for the past few minutes they have only had eyes for each other. Their respective spouses seem not to notice. The fat wife is more interested in licking the butter off of her lobster shell than in her old man’s roving eye. The fat man across the vast floor is stabbing a fork at his bread pudding, and so his little lady’s roving eye does not concern him, either. For now, anyway, the lovers are freed to indulge their glances. But they’re both wondering back in the coatroom of their daydreams: What really are their chances? After all, when Ol’ Blue Eyes finishes with his dooby dooby doos, they are not leaving with each other this evening. They can exchange glances, but not their phone numbers.
Normally, this schmaltzy supper club scene is enough to do the trick, well, that and a glass of Blanton’s Gold Edition. Rafael will find the hook in his mind: An amorous stare, a soft touch, the rustling sounds her dress makes when she tiptoes down the staircase. Then, he will return to his typewriter, suck one of the whiskey coated iced cubes, and get that nasty writer’s block behind him.
It is not going to be so easy tonight. He is on his second or third glass of the white man’s burden. The Chairman of the Board seems to have lost some of his old command. Oh, his voice is still there, all that Guinea charm as always, but right now it is not doing the trick. Where is the fucking hook? Rafael has no idea. In his mind, he sees Brenda about to step into that steamy bathroom. Bobby is in there. He and his chiseled abs and his red pubic hairs are about to step out of the shower. Brenda finally is going to see Bobby in all his glory. She has been dreaming of this moment, since she first saw him in the supermarket. He was buying discounted baby formula. The hunk is not only dreamy, but practical. The hunk is also very likely married, or at least has a skank baby mama back at his home. If only Brenda can have him, just for a moment, she can get him away from all his underwhelming domestic chores…
Maybe, the real problem is that Rafael has written about Brenda and Bobby over a hundred times already. The names change. The pickup scenarios alternate from a chance meeting in a supermarket to a meet and greet at an office Christmas party. But the abs are always chiseled, and the pubic hairs are always red. Always. That is because the cover art is set in stone, and blond pubic hairs do not catch the eye as well in market research.
Rafael presses his forehead against the window. He looks down. There are those blinking red lights again. For the last week or so he has stared down at night on a road construction truck that never moves. What the hell is it doing? Why does the damned government take months to do a project it could have done in a matter of days? He knows the answer, of course, or at least like the scene in his head he is able to grasp at some of the details. There is a city councilman waiting for his graft. There is a union thug knocking at some kneecaps. A couple of Mexicans in hardhats are turning in their workers compensation claims. A lawyer is about to file his claim about a pothole that the crew never covered up. All these little details take time to work themselves out. It is like getting passed writer’s block. When finally all of the scene elements come together, the work will be done within a matter of hours, and mailed off to the publisher the next morning. Until then, the blinking red lights just do not go anywhere.
Rafael sighs. He has finished his glass of whiskey and is too lazy to walk back to the bar to pour himself another one. He drops the glass by his side. It is thick and sturdy glass, so it does not even chip. One or two iced cubes jump out, but they will melt and evaporate before morning. When he wakes up from his daze, and starts to rub the kink in his neck, he will wander back into his living room like always. He will see the glass on the floor, and wonder how in the hell it got down there. Depending on how sick he feels, he may pick it up, or leave it for Maria to pick up when she gets there that afternoon to clean. Then, he will buckle on his pressed trousers over his T-shirt, slip on a pair of his loafers, and head on over to the Pantry for sirloin, eggs, and A-1 sauce. The girl over there will be pouring his coffee before he steps inside.
Turning away from the window, Rafael starts toward his bedroom. He only manages a few steps, a little more wobbly than normal, and then eyes something a bit out of place by his typewriter. Most everything is as it should be: There is on his card table an old, cigarette stained, avocado green Smith Corona. Beside the clunky wordsmith is an ashtray with a picture of Doris Day on the base. It is from about the time she did “Pillow Talk.” There are two dead Marlboros smudged indelicately on her all American smile. There is the lighter his uncle gave him the Christmas before he died of lung cancer. Poor bastard. His emphysema was so nasty by then he could barely hand it to him, and yet he had managed to tie a little red bow over it. Rafael still has the bow on his nightstand.
So everything seems normal. Maybe his mind is fucking with him. He is tired. He wants to switch on the Late Show, slip beneath his covers, and fall asleep before the opening monologue gives way to the 976 Hot Talk ads. For tomorrow is another day. Fiddle-dee-dee. Vivien Leigh will join us for tea…
Instead, Rafael sits on the folding chair in front of his typewriter. The three-way lamp is on the lowest setting, and he cannot read what is on the paper. He had lowered the light to set the mood. After all, Brenda is not going to walk in on Bobby with the light as bright as something a North Korean interrogator would flash into her eyes. Even if this is going to end as a hot and steamy sex scene (not sure yet her position when he finishes inside her), it has to start with subtlety. This is romance.
Rafael switches up to the highest setting. He winces. The whiskey is a bitch tonight. He will not be picking up his glass from the living room floor at dawn. If he does not feel better than this, he may not even walk across the street for breakfast.
What he reads is not very good. Still, he can see a few more sentences now forming inside his head. He can edit the shit stuff when he retypes it all tomorrow, but for now he wants to preserve on paper what is emerging from the dark hole. It may not be Hemingway material, but it will pass muster with the fat housewives in leotards who devour his softcovers while waiting at the laundromat. If the next few lines stick, then this means he is turning the corner on his writer’s block. It is like if the blinking red lights outside actually move up to the intersection. The road crew down there may not be the ‘Arsenal of Democracy,’ but they are spreading around asphalt a little faster than the WPA. That must count for something.
Why all those FDR references? Rafael likes to sprinkle anachronisms into his material. The editors always remove them. They blather that the fat housewives will be turned off by innuendoes or catch phrases they do not already know. ‘Familiarity is sexy,’ the editors like to say. Well, fuck ‘em. Brenda works better if she is a bit less innocent and a bit more femme fatale. After all, she is about to step in on a hunk she first saw in a supermarket buying baby formula. How can anyone paint on paper the femme fatale without making one or two references to the Greatest Generation? It is like writing a Mafia restaurant scene without a Guinea ordering pasta and meatballs.
Rafael types: “Brenda braces herself by the door. She can smell the hot steam glistening on Bobby’s pubic hairs. Are they red? She wonders with a devilish grin on her flushed face. She imagines she is Lynn Bari. She is a harmless hybrid of regal and homespun. That is, until she puts on her bedroom eyes. Then, she is the man-eater in Bobby’s dreams. The dame he can see inside his eyelids while Maggie is fussing with the baby. All she has to do is to open this door. Stroll into his dreams. Can she do it?”
Rafael stops. He reads what he has typed. Not exceptional, but not half bad. It will sell, even if the editors remove the Lynn Bari reference. He made Brenda a little sexier, and he made the sixth reference thus far to Bobby’s pubic hairs. The contract says he has to mention the pubic hairs at least a dozen times, so if the line sticks that will be the halfway mark.
Rafael reaches instinctively for the pack of Marlboros. It is not there. Perhaps, that is what had caught his eye earlier. He sighs. He promised the doc he would limit himself to two packs a day, and if he goes over to the bar to fetch more cigarettes he will be opening up his third pack. Promises, Promises, and all that jazz. The problem is that he is now on a roll, and he needs to light up to get Brenda inside of the steamy hot bathroom. Who ever heard of a man typing out a sex scene without a smoldering cigarette in his mouth?
In less than sixty seconds, Rafael is back on his chair, smoking on a Marlboro, and typing out schmaltz in a mad rush. The scene is ridiculous. The words are garish and sickly sweet, like an oversized wedding cake decorated with sparkling unicorns. Whatever had made Brenda and Bobby vaguely real characters is tossed aside in an ecstasy romp of forced caricature. He sizzles the hamburger. She melts the cheddar cheese. He squirts icing on a cake. She licks up cream from a sundae. Somewhere, a dog howls, because all of creation is groaning for the coming of his cum. It is really that powerful. Kinetic love dust in her eyes. Clydesdale hooves on her heart. If there is a flag worth adoring, it is his wet, wife beater T-shirt flapping on her clothesline.
Perhaps a bit too proud of this material, Rafael does something he has never done before tonight. He double spaces in between his lines, and quadruple spaces in between his paragraphs. He is visually setting aside this sex scene like it is special. It is not, and when he reads it again the next morning he will recognize that. He made that line spacing decision, though, and is sticking to it. Let those goddamned editors try to figure out what he had intended when they get the final manuscript from him.
In the end, Brenda is bent over the sink, and Bobby finishes from behind. He steps back, grins like the Cheshire cat, and flicks the love icing off of his ruddy pubic hairs (seventh reference). Brenda turns her sweaty head back, smiles like Doris Day handing Rock Hudson a newspaper, and says in her best Mae West voice, “Ya know where I live, honey boy. Why don’t ya come and see me some time?”
Rafael puts out his cigarette. He leans back on his folding chair. He will need to make some edits in the morning, after returning from the Pantry, but the writer’s block is gone. Also, he only smoked two cigarettes into his third pack, so that should count for something too.
He switches off the lamp. He strolls triumphantly into his bedroom. If he had a girl in there, she would think he was on the prowl, and she would pull up her silky nightshirt accordingly. Since there is no girl, the pillow will have to do. He wraps his arms and his legs around it, and he falls asleep without switching on the Late Show.
* * *
Lou Schlatz is holding up his forehead at the Pantry counter. He really should have stayed at home. His headache is pretty bad, and he is not all that sure he will be able to keep down his sirloin, eggs, and A-1 sauce.
Marla Mertz is on duty this morning. She is Lou’s favorite; probably because she is like one of those anachronisms he slips into his romance stories whenever he can get away with it. She is not a figure from the Hollywood Golden Age, which Lou would prefer more than anything, so much as a buxom Jayne Mansfield but with the softer face and demeanor of a Jackie Kennedy. She has that Jackie Kennedy whisper that annoys the customers who are hard of hearing, but that pleases Lou to no end. Most importantly, she is very attentive. His black coffee is always piping hot and at least half full.
While holding up his forehead, Lou turns around briefly to look out the front window. Something had caught his attention. He is not sure what. All he sees is busy morning traffic made worse by the fact that one of the lanes is closed for the endless road construction. It seems the Trans Authority is putting in a new lane, but in order to do so they need to shut down one of the existing lanes. Lou refers to this mayhem as a “fuster cluck.” No one gets the joke except for Marla. That is another reason that he loves her more than all the others.
Lou turns his back to the front window. He takes another sip of his coffee and smiles appreciably as Marla pours more A-1 sauce on his sirloin and eggs. Marla has just the right touch.
Lou is about to say something when his cellular phone rings. He is not in the mood for an extended chat, but he sees that it is his agent. As soon as he answers it, he is “Rafael Heart.” Lou taps into that character on three occasions: Whenever he is typing away on his Smith Corona (or struggling like last night with a particularly bad case of writer’s block); whenever he is promoting one of his books before a gaggle of fat housewives at a convention; and whenever he is on the phone with his agent. His “Rafael Heart” voice is less Jewish sarcasm and more radio baritone. His is the voice of a late night DJ playing the strings of a woman’s heart. Smooth, soft romance with just a hint (okay, more than a hint) of naughty. Brought to you by the Red Pubic Hair Book of the Month Club (not the real name, of course, but Rafael thinks it should be).
The gist of the phone call is that the editors want his manuscript a full week earlier than planned. They will give him a bonus if he can deliver. Rafael is happy to oblige, because he made good progress the night before. He is pretty sure he will be able to finish off with Brenda and Bobby in time. He just needs to figure out how his femme fatale is going to dispatch with Bobby’s wife, Maggie.
Lou feels a little better when the phone call is over. He finishes off the sirloin, eggs, and A-1 sauce, leaves Marla a hefty tip, and heads back across the intersection.
* * *
Rafael lights up a Marlboro. He thinks about pouring himself a whiskey, but it is not even noon yet. He is no Hunter S. Thompson, and does not aspire to be him. He is pretty far “out there” compared to the average office worker toiling away inside of a cubicle, but he still has his limits.
Rafael takes his seat before the Smith Corona. The final page of the sex scene is still inside the typewriter. He rolls up the page so that he can read the last several paragraphs more clearly. He has learned that it is always best to reread first what he had written last. That will be the material he typed when he was most ready to call it quits for the night. Most of the dumb errors will be found there.
Before he sees anything else, he notes a sentence that is repeated in dark red ink in each of the lines he had skipped as a result of double spacing. These are lines on which he normally would have typed material but on this occasion he had left as blank. The repeated sentence is:
So you’re a big fucking asshole double spacer now?
Rafael sits up in his chair. What is this? He must have been more inebriated than he remembers, since apparently he typed over and over again the same insult to himself.
He checks the other pages that are beside the typewriter. The repeated insult starts on the first double spaced blank line of the sex scene.
He stands up, walks over to the bar, and pours himself a whiskey. It is not yet noon, but given that creepy “Twilight Zone” theme song now playing as a loop inside of his head he really has no choice. He does not take the time to savor the gold liquor notwithstanding the price. He needs a buzz as soon as possible to get this unsettling episode behind him. He must have gone a little mad last night, and that is disturbing.
Before returning to his seat he grabs a small container of the whiteout he has in his kitchen catchall drawer. The one good reason for using a computer is the ease of correcting errors. Lou would use a computer in a heartbeat; but if Rafael is going to be sincere about holding on to a romanticized past, then Rafael cannot retire that avocado green Smith Corona anytime soon. That means brushing away errors with the slow and smooth hand of a Japanese gardener trimming a Bonsai plant. Though tedious work, it is also relaxing in a way, and Rafael has imagined whole new plots and characters for future stories while brushing away the errors in a current story.
Sometime before finishing with the whiteout he returns to the bar and pours himself another whiskey. This time, he takes the bottle back with him. He is going to dispense with the etiquette of a gentleman alcoholic and just get himself sloshed for the work ahead.
And drunk he is by the time he drops the rest of the whiteout on the floor and proceeds with his story. Now it is Bobby’s turn to step in on Brenda. He shows up at her apartment with a bouquet of red roses. The rose thorns are painted crimson red to emulate the blood from their pricked hearts. The door is open, and he steps inside without bothering to knock. He puts the bouquet in a vase, because even though the man is one hundred percent hunk he is also a softie with a heart of gold. He searches for Brenda in the back rooms of her apartment, and it is then that he hears the water flowing in her bathroom. He imagines the hot rivulets pouring down her flesh, as he starts to disrobe. He removes his clothes in the slow motion of a hot hunk in a Calvin Klein commercial, because that is what he is when he is this close to her. She literally brings the Calvin Klein commercial out of him. He hears her turn off the shower, and he plays with his own red pubic hair (eighth reference). He opens the door when he can no longer contain his lust. She screams in terror, but then drops her towel when she sees who it is. She sways side to side, and meows like a cat, while opening up her arms to take his face into hers.
And thus commences another sex scene. This one is even steamier, especially when Bobby carries Brenda into her bedroom. There is a pool table beside her plush velvet bed (how convenient). Bobby puts Brenda’s naked flesh on the pool table, and together they discover artful ways to use cue sticks and balls.
By the time Rafael has finished with Brenda and Bobby it is dark outside. The whiskey and cigarettes are wearing off, and he is aware of just how hungry he is. He digs through the refrigerator for anything not yet consumed by mold. What he finds has started to change color, but it is microwavable. He figures that will kill off what may be growing in there. He takes his hot bowl into bed, switches on the boob tube, and lets his mind wander aimlessly while Vanna White flips letters on her big board.
* * *
Rafael fell asleep with the bowl still on his lap. When he awakens at dawn he thinks he had peed in his pants. He realizes what really happened when he observes the bowl on the floor beside his bed.
He wanders into the living room. Everything is clean and tidy. The glass that he had dropped onto the floor two nights before is gone. Maria must have come and cleaned, while he was immersed in the latest adventure of Brenda and Bobby. Maria is the perfect maid: Seen but not heard, and sometimes not even seen. If he ever has a child, he hopes it will be a little Mexican girl from a poor village like Maria Rosales.
He lights up a Marlboro, and sits in front of his Smith Corona. Normally, he is on his way to the Pantry at this point, but he is anxious to read what he wrote, since much of it is forgotten already. He really needs to cut back on the whiskey today, or he will be in no position to lift his nose at a guy like Hunter S. Thompson.
What he sees nearly stops his heart in his chest. He had resumed the double spacing between lines, and the quadruple spacing between paragraphs, though he cannot now say why. What disturbs him, though, is the insult line repeated in dark red ink in every one of those double spaced blank lines. The repeated line starts at the beginning of the first sex scene, and continues to where he had stopped typing last night. It is wordier than the prior one but just as much a punch to the face:
Hey, big fucking asshole double spacer, when you skip over the second line you turn what could have been a typed line into a blank space. It is like an abortion, and so are you.
What the fuck is going on? Rafael grabs for the whiskey bottle next to the old typewriter, but in his rush all he does is knock it over. It smashes into bits. He thinks there is another one in the bar, but he is too rattled to stand up from his seat. He just sits there with his palms pressed up against his eyes. If he can recapture his breaths (not so easy a task given how much he smokes), then maybe this nightmare will fade away like his memories from last night. Maybe, he will open his eyes, glance down at his typewriter, and see that that repeated sentence had been all along a dark figment of his imagination. Just maybe…
But it is not. When he looks again the insult lines are all there. He is going to need a lot of whiteout to remove them all from his manuscript. He imagines a vat of whiteout larger than what he can fit inside his living room.
Frankly, it will be easier just to retype the pages. He is about to do just that, but then decides first to head across the street for a bite to eat. He needs at least a semblance of control over himself. He is slipping hard and fast, and he hopes a cup of Marla’s piping hot coffee will help him to settle down.
* * *
Marla was not at the Pantry this morning, but the coffee was hot and plentiful enough to calm his nerves. Clearly, Rafael had been out of his mind the day prior. He can think of no other plausible explanation for the sinister joke he played on himself. Whenever he ventures off the reservation with a bottomless bottle of whiskey in his hand, he opens himself to a scathing sense of humor that is bitter much more than funny. If he had had a girl hanging around at the time (Maria does not count in this regard), he would have slapped her around with his choice words. Instead, with no alternative he apparently slapped himself with this repeated sentence. Really must have been shits and giggles then. Now, it is unnerving, and since he is working on a typewriter it means an afternoon lost in retyping everything from the first Brenda and Bobby sex scene.
The one silver lining in a forced retype is the editing. Rafael decides to keep the whiskey locked inside his bar. That means he will not populate his own double spaced lines with weird insults. That also means he will be clearheaded enough to notice his own fuckups.
The one downside is that without the whiskey he smokes two to three times more Marlboros, but cigarettes do not unleash bad taste. If anything, he is grouchier and super focused on his manuscript. He really has no patience for self-deprecating, flippant wisecracks when he is burning smoke stains on his lips.
As he starts the retype he briefly thinks about returning to his old practice of only single spacing between lines and double spacing between paragraphs. There is a soft voice in the back of his mind (the same one that urges him never to step under a ladder or to crack a dressing mirror) that tells him to do just that. Do not ask why. Do not fight it. Just go back to the old practice, so that his world again aligns with the stars and balances the scales between heaven and hell.
He stares at the Smith Corona for sometime while pondering that point. He is well aware of the role superstition plays in the life of every writer. The storyteller is a magic man at heart, and his words are incantations. When all goes well, the reader takes a naked dance around the bonfire once or twice before putting down his book.
He is also a man of his times. Yes, he loves certain anachronisms, and he will never fit totally into the social norms of the first half of the twenty-first century. He nevertheless prides himself on his mind and, even more so, on his capacity for self-control. He can play with the demons, but unlike those other writers out there who were found dead naked in an alleyway he is not about to be taken by them.
Rafael finishes his cigarette, smudges the dead butt on Doris Day’s face, and decides that his self-control trumps his superstition. He is going to double space in between his lines, and quadruple space in between his paragraphs, because he will not believe that there is a typewriter demon somewhere playing a prank on him. If he continues with these dark jokes, then he may need to see a psychiatrist, but he is not about to acknowledge the necessity of an exorcist.
The rest of the day goes pretty well. His edits are sound, and he progresses the story almost to the point where Brenda catches Maggie with a lover of her own. Once Brenda snaps a few Polaroid pictures, and shows Bobby that his forlorn baby mama is a whore, then Brenda can have Bobby for herself forever. Bobby will drop those illicit pictures into the trash, wipe away his tears, pick up Brenda, carry her in his arms into her bedroom, and commence a third and final sex scene. Since Brenda and Bobby already used her cue sticks and balls in the prior sex scene, Rafael thinks he will put a swing set inside the bedroom where the pool table had been. The plan is for Bobby to notice the new swing set and to look down incredulously at Brenda. She will explain coyly that she had the pool table replaced with a swing set because “when I’m hot enough I’m a swinger.” With the implication that they may share kink together in the future, Bobby puts Brenda on the swing set, and licks his sweet lips…
That is all for one day. It is getting late. Rafael finds a TV dinner in the fridge, microwaves it, and enjoys his meal with a few more cigarettes on his bed. He opens up the whiskey later that evening, but since he is done writing for the day he knows he will not be typing any weird comments where his double spaced blank lines are.
* * *
Rafael awakens from his nightmare. He has forgotten most of it as soon as he opens his eyes, but there is one scene that remains. Brenda and Bobby are seated on the swing set in Brenda’s bedroom. They are facing each other with Brenda on top of Bobby’s lap. They are naked, flushed with sexual intensity, and totally enraptured in each other’s eyes. Brenda and Bobby kiss each other’s faces ravenously. What starts off as sexual turns into hunger, starvation, then mad despair. Their kisses transition into bites as they use their blood draped teeth to rip skin and muscle off. They chew mouthfuls of human flesh with the delight of two Vampires at an orgy. Even as they are crunching each other’s eyes, they continue to stare with their blank eye sockets at their counterpart like there is nothing else more beautiful. In the end, the lovers are a pair of skulls scraping at one another with jagged teeth.
Rafael sits up on his elbows. The TV set is on in front of him. He looks blankly at an infomercial about how to get rich in real estate. The huckster on the screen is a rat-faced bastard with red hair…
Red pubic hair, except his pubic hair happens to be on top of his head…
Rafael remembers that he is one pubic hair reference short. He needs to have twelve in his story to fulfill that provision in his contract. He still has to write out the last sex scene, so he can work it in there.
He lies back down on his pillow. He stares at the ceiling, but cannot fall asleep no matter how many sheep he counts up there. He switches off the TV, but that does not help either.
Well, turning off the TV does not help him to fall asleep, but it does help him to hear what is happening in the living room.
Is that what he thinks it is? Rafael knows that that is impossible, unless a man broke into his apartment.
But is a man going to break into his apartment for the purpose of typing upon his Smith Corona?
Rafael steps away from his bed. He walks over to his bedroom door, opens it as quietly as he can, and pokes his head out into the hallway. He cannot see into the living room from here, but he can hear the typing much more clearly. There is a kind of robotic tempo to the sound. Each key is struck with the exact same intensity, and the time between key strikes does not vary. This is abnormal, because a person will speed up or slow down naturally as he types out his words. Whenever the sentence is done, there is the sound of the carriage moving back to the left margin, followed by the clicking sound of the roller moving the paper up.
Rafael walks down the hallway. His heart is pounding hard against the inside of his chest, and he is grasping for his breaths. Though he smokes too much, he can feel how this is the result of the cold fear now coiling about his spine.
When he reaches the living room, he places his left hand against the hallway wall in order to keep his balance. He is about to poke his head around the corner to look into the living room, when the three-way lamp beside his typewriter suddenly switches on. He gasps, and clutches his mouth with his right hand. Clearly, there is a man in his living room, and he just made enough noise to let the intruder know that he is right where he is. He braces himself for the assault he expects at any moment.
Except for the robotic typing, nothing happens. If the intruder heard him, he does not care enough apparently to stop with his typing. Just perhaps, the intruder did not hear him. Whoever he is seems pretty focused on typing, so perhaps Rafael remains undetected where he is.
Rafael drops his hand from his mouth. He is about to hyperventilate, and he can feel the floor beneath him starting to spin. He should return to his bedroom and lock the door behind him. He cannot remember if his cellular phone is in his bed at the moment, or if he left it beside his typewriter. If it is in his bed, then as soon as he has locked his bedroom door he can dial for the police. If not, then he can try to find something that would work as a weapon, and curl up in a corner. Either way, he has to get back because it is untenable for him to remain at this spot.
And yet that is not what Rafael does. Instead, he manages to grasp his breath, and then pokes his head around the corner.
The Smith Corona is typing itself. So far as Rafael can see there is no intruder.
Rafael walks up to the typewriter, while it is continuing to type. He wipes out the cold sweat in his eyes, and he leans on the back on his folding chair. He takes in a deep breath, and looks down at the typewriter just as it finishes.
On every double-spaced blank line the Smith Corona has typed out the same cold-blooded promise:
Hey, big fucking asshole double spacer, I’m going to kill you.
Rafael shrieks. He steps backward, and again clutches his mouth. He looks in every direction like he is not sure where he is. For a moment, he loses what remains of his tenuous hold on reality. His instinct kicks in, and he staggers backwards in the general direction of the hallway. The throbbing heartbeat in his ears, and the sweat pouring again into his eyes, are enough to knock some sanity back into him. He sees where he is, and he turns to run forward into the hallway.
The Smith Corona slingshots across the room. It rotates a few times, before it strikes against the corner of the hallway. Rafael views it coming out of the corner of his eye, and he ducks in time. The Smith Corona falls to the hallway floor and strikes his right foot. The pain is a hot charge of adrenaline that pushes Rafael forward from that spot, and as a result he is able to run into his bedroom and to slam his door shut before becoming aware of just how injured he is.
Rafael stumbles to the foot of his bed. He grabs his right foot, and he looks all around for his cellular phone. Before he can find it, or even conceive what else to do in response to this inexplicable situation, he hears the Smith Corona striking against his bedroom door repeatedly.
As Rafael returns to his feet, he hyperventilates, and his bedroom spins. He is totally disoriented by his raw fright when the door suddenly snaps off its hinges. He sees the Smith Corona slingshot through the doorway and into his chest, but at that moment he has no conscious idea what is happening. His lungs burst from the solid impact, and he passes out. The force from the projectile pushes him through the big floor to ceiling window behind him.
* * *
Rafael falls onto the new lane on the street below his window. Since no truck, car, nor pedestrian has yet to move across that lane, Rafael’s blood splattered corpse turns out to be the first “content” to appear on that blank space. His smashed flesh is a kind of scrawled message. The crime scene investigators who soon cordon off that horrible scene cannot decipher much from that message except to say that it is more disgusting than most. The romance writer’s last sentence turns out to be vandalism.