/Whois - Chapter 9 - The Mind Muscle
During all of this drama and the subsequent impromptu vacation, Otter and I never stopped our daily e-mail writing. We'd moved on from the spy vs spy novella and had adopted a singular short story format. Taking turns, we'd issue a challenge in the form of a topic and then offer critiques on the work.
Otter had recently challenged me to come up with a short story that involved the question, "If I could be any animal in the world...what would I be?" I sat at my desk, drumming my fingers on the top as I considered one scenario after another...
I would be a hawk. But I didn't' just want to say, "I would be a hawk." I wanted to show him what it was like to BE a hawk.
Sometimes I worried about my skill at writing. No...I am not being honest with you or myself. I worried a lot! Otter set such a high standard and I was truly in awe of his ability. I'd never met somebody with such an incredible imagination...flexible, agile...he could turn a story around on a dime and have it re-emerge as something entirely different and totally plausible.
When I write...I go into a sort of fugue state. I talk...with my fingers...just like I do in IRC. The thought comes and without thinking about it, it travels down some inner freeway and exits at my fingertips. Since I type by touch, it isn't hard to close my eyes momentarily and allow my mind to travel somewhere far away. I see...I smell...I hear...I touch...I taste...I FEEL. I reach out with every sense I'm capable of...only with my mind...and then it just appears on the page in front of me. Which is why I do a lot of those dot dot dot things. The words just flow like a river and I let them go where they wish.
I became the hawk...
It was probably one of the best pieces I've ever written...but since I sent it via email, wrote it on that email page and hit the send button so many years ago...it is lost forever. Except for in my memory. I remember bits and pieces of it...slicing through the currents of air and diving toward my prey...holding the field mouse that was paralyzed with fear in my talons...feeling its heart beat an erratic rhythm...
I let it go of course. There was a real dinner waiting for me at home when I returned...why dine on a rodent?
Otter asked me after that piece how long it took me to write. I shrugged and told him...maybe an hour at most. It's hard to tell how much time really passes in that fugue state I mentioned. Sometimes it's less than that...occasionally more. And then there are times when I'm so disgusted with it all that I have to get up and walk away. There's nothing worse than having to force words.
Otter: Sno? Are you serious...an HOUR?
Snobird: Yeah...sometimes I get stuck on an idea and it takes me a while to find just the right words.
Otter: Do you know how long it takes me to write something?
Otter: It takes me DAYS, Sno...DAYS!!! And all the while I'm worried that you won't like it...that it isn't good enough for you. So don't give me this fuckin' hour shit...okay?
I simply never knew. I took it for granted that his genius came easily...it seemed that effortless. And I told him this. He seemed mollified a bit by the fact that I sweated his opinion too.
Otter was good for me in ways I had only begun to fathom. Trapped as I was in the real world, I'd completely forgotten that imagination is always an escape hatch. It's a muscle. If you don't exercise it...it grows weak. Mine had pretty much atrophied. Luckily, like muscle it seemed to have memory because it was growing stronger the more I used it.
I think it worried Otter a bit...although I could have told him it was a needless worry. He knew before I did that I was merely just beginning to flex my muscles...and that perhaps he couldn't keep up. Seeking to reassure him...I picked a topic that would flip flop our relationship completely and send it on a dizzying course down a road we never should have taken and that I regret deeply to this day.
Snobird: Ready for your assignment, piscavour?
Otter: You don't scare me...give it your best shot!
*Snobird grins evilly*
Snobird: I want you to write a smut story...
Snobird: Ha! I knew you couldn't...it would probably be something about dirty trout or whatever...
*Otter smiles slowly at snobird...*
Otter: Okay...but first we have to have some rules.
Snobird: Rules? What rules?
Otter: No RULEZ, sno...no rulez...that's the rule...and...
Otter: Friends first...and always...
Snobird: Friends first...no rules...gotcha...
Otter: Are you sure sno?
To be honest, I was curious more than anything else. Could he? Would he? What kind of smut could an otter write? We were always so childlike in our relationship...would it involve cooties...a first kiss...sweaty palms...I wanted to know.
It arrived the next morning...and I nearly spit my coffee out onto my keyboard during the initial reading of it. After that, I worried briefly that my computer would melt... Otter hadn't written smut, he'd triggered a nuclear accident. Labeling it erotica would be like calling Tyrannosaurus Rex a lizard. I'd never read anything like it in my life. It was that good...
But what really knocked me off my feet were the characters he had chosen for his story. Otter and Snobird...or more appropriately...the people behind Otter and Snobird, which was a very big difference.
I hit the print button...and then ran off to take a shower, a VERY cold shower before heading out to the office.
I read it several times more over the course of the day. At one point, Janelle, a co-worker, happened to notice my inability to focus on the work at hand and grew curious about the piece of paper I kept opening and reading...smiling...and then re-folding.
"Okay...what gives...what is so darn great about whatever you are reading?" she said trying to catch a glimpse over my shoulder.
Janelle was a good sort. She pretty much knew about my friendship with an Australian otter and thought it was pretty funny. So...I showed it to her. It amused me to see her have a hot flash. Her jaw dropped, her eyes bugged out...and then she smiled. "Your otter is very talented, isn't he?"
"It would seem so...." I replied.
I wasn't worried that Janelle would tell anyone...not after I'd caught her doing something rather naughty with our supervisor. They just forgot I was working late that one particular evening. Janelle was very talented with her mouth...so I figured she was talented enough to know when to keep it shut.
This was not something I wanted to get around since Jerry and I both worked in the same place. He worked the next building over in the automotive repair shop, while I had a nice comfy office in accounting. Downstairs, my father-in-law worked in sales....so it would never do to have something like this become common knowledge.
"So...what are you going to do now?" Janelle asked with avid curiosity.
I shrugged. To be honest...I hadn't thought about the repercussions yet. While this type of writing certainly seemed to have some merit, there was a small voice inside begging me to shove this particular beast back into its cage and never let it roam free.
"I really don't know...it's Otter's turn."
Otter: Soooo...you liked my little story huh? Well turnabout is fair play. It's your turn...and I want a snobird smut story. Btw...do you realize if we ever had kids...they'd be snotters?
*Snobird shakes her head*
Snobird: You are a disturbed little critter...and you are going to regret challenging me. It's so on piscavour...
Otter: We'll see sno...we'll see...no rulez...remember?
Snobird: Screw your rules Otter...or no rulez too...for that matter. I'm going to melt your little overalls...
And I did. I wove a web of seduction around my friend....drawing from a favorite childhood spot at a nearby lake where my grandparents had a cabin...and sucked him in. Obiwan would have cried...no, he would have been screaming, "No! Don't!" But I was too drunk with my own power to heed that warning...
Like I said, imagination is a muscle...and I flexed it, oh baby...did I ever flex it.