Write Answer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Tom Dillan sensed there was something different about his new workmate Dave Barrett. He would be showing Dave the new computer system. Dave would show Tom everything that the world of literature had to offer.

‘And this is Tom Dillan.’

Tom turned in his chair to greet the new member of staff.

‘Tom,’ his manager said. ‘this is Dave Barrett.’

Tom stood and shook his hand.

‘Dave is going to be working with you this week. I want you to show him the ropes. Denis in estimating will be taking him on when he gets back from his holiday in the Orkneys.’

In the office the new starter stood out from the rest of the workers. He looked like a university student on day release. He wore his shirt collar open and his tie yanked down a few inches. The other men had their buttons done and ties knotted tight. He had long scruffy hair and thick glasses. He reminded Tom of a geeky version of Jim Morrison.

‘Take a seat.’ said Tom. ‘and I’ll show you round the system.’

‘Lay on, Macduff.’ Dave grinned.

There wasn’t much small talk made throughout the morning but Tom found Dave to be an intriguing if slightly eccentric character. At lunchtime Tom showed Dave the staff canteen.

‘Cool. I’m gonna have my butties and read my book.’ Dave waved a dog eared paperback.

‘I usually just eat at my desk and go on the internet.’ shrugged Tom.

The afternoon passed quickly. Tom found that Dave picked things up quickly. By the end of the day he was able to do most of the tasks required of him. As they were packing up for the day and putting their coats on Dave asked if he fancied going for a pint in town.

‘Yeah, why not?’

Thirty minutes later they entered a tiny real ale pub just off Deansgate. Tom ordered a pint of American lager while Dave opted for a pint of ale called Ringo’s. They found a free table. Dave took a swig of his pint. He sighed. Tom filled Dave in on the office gossip as they sipped their drinks.

‘What are you reading at the moment?’ asked Dave.

‘I don’t really read books.’ replied Tom.

Dave shook his head. He down the last of his pint.

‘I’ll get the beers in and then I’m gonna tell you a thing or two.’

Dave returned with fresh drinks. He plonked the pint glasses down.

‘You really should read, man.’

‘The only thing I read these days is Facebook.’

‘You are missing out. Books have it all. When you’re reading you’re not in Salford any more. Books will take you wherever you want to go. You could be on a tall ship fighting off pirates. You could be an undercover cop infiltrating the Mafia. You could be on board a rocket ship to Mars.’

Tom simply nodded, bemused by his new colleague’s enthusiasm.

‘Take a trip to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Go across the universe with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You can even visit Roman or Tudor Britain. These are such fantastic writers out there. And not to mention the Bard.’

‘Isn’t Shakespeare boring?’

Dave almost choked on his pint.

‘Boring? Not at all. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s boring. His stories are brutal. Hamlet. The prince of Denmark. His dead father appears to him and tells him he was murdered. And by none other than his mother’s new lover, the new king. Romeo and Juliet. Lovers from warring families. That’s the stuff of the Sopranos right there. Macbeth gets told by three witches that he is going to be king. And so, with Lady Macbeth, they kill the king. He takes the crown only to descend into madness.

‘And he had a way with words like nobody else. You think Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue is catchy, you should check out some of Shakespeare’s stuff.’

‘It does sound interesting but I’m not really into books.’

‘What’s your favourite film?’

‘The Godfather.’

Dave waved his hands excitedly.

‘There you go. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo. The best films are all based on books. Have you seen the Shawshank Redemption?’

‘Love that film.’

‘Originally a Stephen King short story.’

‘You might have something.’ Tom laughed.

‘Dead right I have.’

‘But it doesn’t always prove true. What about those awful Jack Reacher films? They were based on books.’

‘True but that also proves my point. Jack Reacher is built like a tank. And yet Hollywood gives us tiny Tom Cruise. Moral of the story, read the books. Mind you, to be fair to Cruise, author Anne Rice, objected to him being cast as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. After seeing his portrayal she took out full page adverts in the papers apologising and telling people to go and see the film.’

‘How did you get into reading?’

‘It all started when I was a kid. Road Dahl. George’s Marvellous Medicine. That book blew my mind.’

Dave took a swig of his pint. He checked his watch.

‘Drink up. We need to get a move on.’

‘Where are we going?’

They crossed St Anne’s Square. Tom followed Dave into the bookshop. Dave grinned as he moved into the library like hush of the book store. As he walked Dave ran his fingers lightly along the spines of the books. He pulled a small bottle of whiskey from his coat pocket. He took a hit and offered the bottle to Tom. He took a mouthful.

The way Dave moved through the shop was almost reverential. He was in awe of the books all around, on shelves and piled high on tables. It was as though he was in a place of worship. Maybe he was, Tom thought. He stopped. He rubbed his jaw in thought.

‘Where to start?’ he mumbled.

He clicked his fingers and dashed down the aisle. Tom tried to keep up. Dave pulled a paperback novel from the shelf. He flicked hurriedly through the pages.

‘This is Harper Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird.’

‘I’ve heard of that.’

‘She hardly wrote anything else. Apparently she had said all she had to say in this novel. Listen to this. This is the little girl, Scout, talking about her father, Atticus Finch.

‘“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”’

Perhaps it was the words of the classic novel, perhaps it was his workmate’s passionate delivery, but Tom had to admit the hairs on his neck were standing on end.

‘See, man, books are intoxicating.’

He pulled another volume from the shelf. Tom spotted the title. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Dave gave a wide smile. He read aloud in a booming voice.

‘“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit light-headed, maybe you should drive.’ And suddenly the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car.”’

He snapped the book shut.

‘You can almost see those bats, can’t you?’ Dave asked.

‘Yes. Yes, I could.’

‘Gotta love Hunter S Thompson.’

He looed around at the thousands of books on display. He then dashed to fetch another book.

They spent the next hour going round the bookshop. Dave would recite extracts from the books deemed worthy of mention. They drank from the whiskey bottle as they went. Tom’s head was spinning with it all. They passages being quoted varied from Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be soliloquy, Pip meeting Magwitch in the graveyard in Dickens’ Great Expectations, to Irvine Welsh’s Choose Life speech from Trainspotting.

The book store closed up for the evening. The lights were turned off and they were turfed out into the cold dark just before the shutters came down.

On the pavement outside Dave turned to Tom.

‘Fancy a drop of whiskey back at mine? I should warn you, I’ve got more books back there.’

‘Yeah, why not? Choose life, and all that.’

As they entered Dave’s flat Tom asked him a question.

‘What’s your favourite book of all time?’

‘Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. Winston Smith sees through the lies the system tells him.’

‘I’ve seen the film. That’s the futuristic one isn’t it?’

‘Futuristic but it’s happening now. Orwell wrote it in the Forties. He wanted to call in Nineteen Forty Eight.’

Dave showed Tom into the living room. Tall shelves crammed with books lined the walls. Dave fixed them both a large whiskey. He put a vinyl record on the player, placing the needle down carefully. Pink Floyd launched into the Dark Side of the Moon.

Dave grabbed a spiral bound note pad and a biro pen from the bookcase. He put the pen and paper down on the coffee table. He pushed his sleeves up and fixed Tom with an intense gaze.

‘What do we do now?’ asked Tom.

‘We write.’

‘Are you a writer?’

‘I’ve written over a hundred stories.’

‘Fantastic. Are you published?’

‘It’s not about getting published. It’s about the writing. It’s all about the art. Writing is a journey not a destination. Dylan Thomas wrote a poem detailing why he writes.’

Dave got to his feet. He raised his whiskey glass in salute.

‘In my craft or sullen art

Exercised in the still night

When only the moon rages

And the loves lie abed

With all their griefs in their arms,

I labour by singing light

Not for ambition or bread

Or the strut and trade of charms

On the ivory stages

But for the common wages

Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart

From the raging moon I write

On these spindrift pages

Nor for the towering dead

With their nightingales and psalms

But for the lovers, their arms

Round the griefs of the ages,

Who pay no praise or wages

Nor heed my craft or art.’

Dave wiped a tear from his eye and took a sip of whiskey.

‘And there you have it.’ he sighed.

‘What do we write about?’

‘Whatever you want. That’s the beauty, the magic of it. What kind of story will you write? There are no limits. Imagine making a film with the greatest cast in the world and an unlimited budget. That’s writing. Ray Bradbury would get an idea in the morning and by the evening he had written the story.’

‘But what should I write? I’ve not written a story since high school.’

‘And that is the tragedy. Free your mind. Let go. This is imagination. This is creativity. This is art. There are no wrong answers. Write your story. Write the story only you can write. Get it down on paper. The two of us, sitting here right now, this could be a story.’

Tom took a gulp of whiskey. He grimaced as the liquor burned his throat.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘I think I’ve got an idea.’

Submitted: November 09, 2016

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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Brilliant, CT. There are so many people out there who never look at books outside of school or college, and even there it's becoming less book orientated. Reading, and writing -- instant access to a whole different life, one that you choose to be a part of.

Sat, November 12th, 2016 5:59pm

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