The doctor looked at me with a pained and worried look on his pasty white face.
“Um, okay, I don’t know how to tell you this, but…”
“Well, if you don’t know how to tell it, then maybe you should look at the notes you made one more time.”
“Yes, okay, tell about your major symptoms one more time.”
“Well, Doc, I don’t seem to be able to explain anything to anybody without using complicated metaphors, similes, or timely literary allusions.”
“That’s why you began, “It was the best of times and the worst of times?” When you visited the first time, I mean.”
“Yes, with somber Dickensian overtures to the grim details of the London streets in summer. I didn’t feel like myself, since I live in Texas.”
I grinned at him and continued in a sad voice.
“And what’s worse, when I go to sleep, I dream dreams where there is a horrifying beginning, a mysterious ramble in the middle, and I can’t wake up until I have achieved a satisfactory conclusion.”
“I see.” the doctor said.
“Yes, first I see, then I take what I saw, and use the saw with hammer and nails to build a setting. And then I stir up some doughy memories and add highly conflicted seasoning, stir vigorously, and then bake it all into a plot.” I grinned as I said that sadly.
“Did you try the medicine I gave you last time?”
“Yes, I did. I read what I already red while I was writing, and the red pills helped me spot where the plot’s crankshaft was wobbling. A minor revision with the blue pills of clarity, and then a huge dose of the green pills of proofreading. After a while the engine of theme and meaning was purring.”
“Do I detect a bit of pun infecting your system?”
“No, I took the read pill while reeding.”
“Okay, I get it. A bit of dyslexia perhaps?”
“Possibly. Or perhaps pernicious practical punnery.”
“Ooh! Let’s hope it’s not that bad. Please continue.”
“It seems I have a lot of voices in my head. They are constantly telling me things about their lives. Sometimes deeply personal things. This one voice is a young girl who reminds me distinctly of a student I had back in 1994 and 1995. She was a very strong-minded young woman who definitely got her head together around the time she was thirteen and fourteen. She may have had a slight crush on me. But she had a hard time with a number of tough hands that life had dealt her in the poker game for all the marbles. It was a sort of extended poker game with the old Devil himself. And she was losing. But with a little bit of advice from me, and a whole lot of life lessons from her to me, she learned how to beat the old Devil himself. And this time the Devil was not just in the details, but also at the poker table of Life. And he cheats. But she beat him anyway. And I found I had so many things and notes and story-parts from that, that I needed to write a book about it. And when I did, it was never enough. I had to write another and another.”
“Yes, I believe I am getting the whole picture now. By the way, that’s Valerie in the picture, isn’t it?”
“It’s supposed to be, yes.”
“I see. …But leave the saw on the table, Mickey.”
“So… so, what is the matter with me, Doc?”
“Well, I hate to break it to you like this, but you want me to be completely honest with you, don’t you?”
“Yes, just give it to me straight, Doc.”
“The bad news is, Mickey, that you are an incurable novelist. You can’t help yourself at this point. You are seriously infected with storytelling.”
“Is it fatal, Doc?”
“Probably. You will definitely have this disorder until the day you die. There is no cure. There is only editing, editors, and the joy of publishing that can help you now. You just have to take it one day at a time, one story after another, from now until the final chapter ends.”
After that, I felt better. There was no cure, but at least I knew the prognosis.