The Writer’s Edge

The writer sat in front of his laptop in a comfortable ergonomic black office chair and poured three round pills into his left palm. They read Tylenol-4 and they came from a prescription bottle that sat above his mouse pad. He swallowed them with a sip from a can of Diet Coke that sat to the left of the screen.

He did his best work on opiates. They covered his nerve-endings like warm honey — like anodyne for his anxiety. On opiates, he wrote with lucidity and candor. He didn’t type words, or sentences or paragraphs; he simply uncovered feelings in a rapid, two-finger attack.

In the velvety stupor, his thoughts raced across the screen in an enfilading fire of creativity and intuition, and the words were scarred in underlined spelling and grammatical corrections that he fixed later.

Opiates were his magic pills. He won his first literary award with the New England Journal for a 3,000 word short story he wrote, while high on Percocet. He also had a first submission appear in the New Yorker which was almost unheard of in literary circles. It was a tale about a faithless imprisoned Cartel Henchman that took six hours and 360 milligrams of codeine. His first novel, a family drama set in the Deep South, was nominated for an Edgar Award. He wrote it in six months on Vicodin, Darvocet and Oxycontin. In east coast cocktail parties tossed by the big publishing houses, his name was being mentioned with the likes of John Cheever and James Thurber.

When he wrote without drugs, he felt stifled. During a three month period of sobriety he’d show his work to a trusted circle of readers and their responses were tepid and unenthusiastic. Writers develop an uncanny ability to gauge the true opinions of their readers and he knew they hated the work. He submitted a few pieces to well-renowned literary publications and got nowhere. In literary circles, no news is bad news, and his submissions weren’t even drawing rejection letters.

“I’m telling you, every writer goes through this,” his fidgety agent Maury said, after reading a lifeless, boring piece he’d written about a prelude to the second Civil War.

“You need to take a break. Go see Europe, Barb will love you for it and you’ll come back invigorated and full of ideas.”

“I don’t know Maur — I swear it’s the drugs.”

Come on, that may be true, but if you go back on them, what are you gonna do — last another year? You gotta pace your addiction. Yeah, I admit you wrote good stuff high, but I’d like to think you’ll write twenty works, not three or four. Why don’t you become an alcoholic like Faulkner?”

“Maur, I can’t write when I drink, or when I’m stoned for that matter. When I do opiates, I’m relaxed, things just seem to flow.”

“Have you ever tried meditation?”

“Makes me too relaxed.”

“What about a normal food addiction?”

“No, junk food satiates me, but I have no creativity.”

“So are you gonna become a heroin addict?”

“No, heroin scares me, besides I don’t think my doctor would prescribe it.”

“You’re sick.”

“I know.”

Six months later

He was in his opiate zone, typing furiously at 7 AM when he heard a knock at the door. He stopped in the middle of sedulous prose, walked downstairs and looked through the peephole. There were two men in matching windbreakers.

“Yes, who are you,” the writer asked through the door.

“We’re Federal agents; we have a search warrant and need to ask you a few questions.”

He let them in. He was glad his wife was away on a visit with her sister.

“We work for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency and have noticed some suspicious activity related to purchases you may have made to an illegal drug supplier we’ve been monitoring in Canada. We have a Federal search warrant.”

“Is this the point where I say I need an attorney,” the author said, beginning to feel sick.

“That’s fine, no problem. But first, we’ll need to search your house. Here’s a copy of the warrant,” the agent said, handing the author a single sheet, signed by a Federal judge in Louisville.

“Please remain seated while we look around.”

Several agents entered the house and a friendly looking Hispanic man of medium build with a cropped goatee sat next to him on the couch.

It didn’t take long for the agents to find several bottles of Tylenol-Codeine and Xanax in his office. He’d received them from an online supplier out of Canada. The process was easy. He completed a brief health questionnaire, agreed that the statements were accurate by checking a box at the bottom of the form, and within a few hours, a man who spoke broken English with a Middle Eastern Accent called to verify the medical disclosures. A week later he received an unmarked package with no return address in the mail that contained 270 Tylenol Codeine #4 pills and another bottle with 300, 2 mg Xanax capsules.

“I’m sorry but we’re going to arrest you for possession of illegal narcotics without a valid prescription.”

“But I have a prescription, I completed it online,” the author said.

“The company you bought these from is based in Thailand and distributes through Canada. I’m sure you know they weren’t issued by a licensed U.S. physician which makes it a Federal felony possession charge.”

“How was I supposed to know?”

“You’ll have to ask the judge. I’ll need to handcuff you. Please put your hands behind your back. When we get to our office, you can call an attorney.”

“So I’m being arrested for possession of a drug that I obtained through an online prescription service? This is bullshit!”

“Like I said, tell that to the judge. We’re just doing our job. Are you going to come peacefully?”

“Of course, but I still think it’s bullshit!”

The author lied about having an attorney. He called his agent, Maury Rosen.

“Maury, sorry about this, but I’ve been arrested for possession of a bunch of Tylenol Codeines and Xanax I bought online a few weeks ago. Do you know an attorney?”

“Yeah, I can find one. Where are you?”

“I’m in the DEA district office in Louisville, uh, he can ask for agent Stan Simpson who’ll tell him where I’m being held.”

“You okay?”

“Stupid question.”

Three hours later, Attorney Burt Cochrane showed up at the holding room where the author was sitting at a table with his head in his hands. He’d been crying.

“Hi, I’m Burt Cochrane, I understand you being held for possession of narcotics you purchased online.”

“Yeah, how was I supposed to know it was illegal? I answered a bunch of medical questions and a guy called me back. He said he was a doctor.”

“So what do you have?” Cochrane said turning to the two agents who entered the room.

“We’ve got a guy who’s been buying narcotics online without a U.S. prescription. According to our records, it’s been going on for over a year.”

“You know, you guys got nerve, first of all, my client isn’t a forensic expert, he bought something from a service that presented itself as a medical facility, and to his knowledge, what he was doing was perfectly legal. If this is all you got, we’re walking out of here and will see you in court.”

“I gotta get that cleared,” Agent Simpson said, leaving the room.

One Year Later

The Edgar Awards are given each year to the best mystery writers in America. They’re held in late April in a swanky New York Hotel and are so named after Edgar Allen Poe. The author was nominated for Best First Novel and was attending with his agent Maury Rosen. He’d been separated from his wife for six months after a near fatal altercation with her that included gunshots, and a bloodied butcher’s knife. No charges were filed and the author moved to an apartment in Soho where he continued his prodigious body of work. “Crimes in the Dark” was being hailed as the next literary masterpiece, and he’d written it on smack he scored twice-weekly from a dealer in Lower Harlem.

Maury escorted his deteriorating, emaciated author to their table which sat midway into the large banquet room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street.

“So what’s the doctor say about the weight loss,” Maury said, politely pulling out the seat for his esteemed client.

“He knows the score. I tell him I’m not looking for condescending judgment; I just want to make it through the week. I guess he’s not happy about my heart, but then again, he doesn’t write. I do.”

“You’re killing yourself,” Maury said, reaching for garlic twist and a sculpted butter rose.

“We’re all dying Maur, I happen to like what I do.”

“How can you like what you do? Have you looked in a mirror? For God’s sake, you’re turning into a skeleton. What do you weigh — a hundred pounds?

“I don’t weigh myself, or look in the mirror.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not who I am.”

You’re fucking nuts — of course it’s who you are.

“No, the body and the skin and bones and blood are just tools. You might think the tool is dull, but it’s not, it’s sharper than ever, in fact it can cut through steel.”

“You need to spend some time on a soft couch with someone who understands insanity.”

“You think I’m nuts?”

“No — nuts have an ounce of fat. You have no fat.”

“Tell you what Maur — if I win this thing, I’ll start eating pizza again and we’ll go to Yankee games and eat hot dogs and drink beer.”

“And if you don’t win?”

“Dark Horse and needles.”

One Year Later

Maury Rosen was one of the most sought after literary agents in New York. He never missed a Yankee home game. He had fantastic seats, three rows behind the first base dugout. He went to every game alone. In the seat next to him, he always placed a novel. It was written by the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

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K.W. Bowlin

Southern California native. Passion for history, particularly big, ugly battles. Loves all stringed instruments. Never hit a good 2-iron in his life. Writes like a fiend. Married to his best friend, high school sweetheart and crack photographer Mary, and has four fantastic, grown kids and a Lhasa Apso puppy named Coby.

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