Forgotten bills lay scattered on the kitchen table, surrounded by banana and orange peels. The room stank of rotting fruit and the sickly sweet smell of plants that have been shut up inside for two long without any air-flow. Ants crawled along one wall, sniffing out the grains of sugar that were sprinkled all over the counter and carrying it back to their nests in orderly lines. The lamp, left on for so long, flickered feebly, not quite yet burned out, but definitely getting there.
Robert L. Cove sat at the table, unmindful of all this. He had a typewriter in front of him, and his fingers were hitting the keys madly. Every few hours, one of the keys seemed to break and he would growl in frustration and take out his specialist’s kit. He had to fix it right away, or the words, the people, the story in his mind – all of it would disappear. He couldn’t type on anything else. He couldn’t write with pen and paper. It had to be this particular typewriter, the one that his grandfather had given his mother who had given it to him. It was superstitious to think that it was the secret to the Coves’ success, but Robert L. Cove couldn’t help being superstitious in this instance, even though he openly laughed at anyone who fear black cats or walking under ladders.
It had started with a dream; all his books had started this way. He would wake up and remember the dream in its entirety, know that he would have to begin writing now, immediately, or else he would lose it forever. He had been writing for six days almost non-stop. When he got up to get food or go to the bathroom, he spoke aloud to himself the sentences that he was going to write the minute he sat down again. The naps he took were no longer than twenty minutes every few hours, because anything longer would erase his memory of what was coming next. He also didn’t want any other dreams intruding on the one that originated a story.
When he finally finished the draft, usually within some two weeks of the dream, it was as if he was waking from a trance. He would be disgusted with his own smell, with the way his apartment looked, with the invasion of bugs that seemed, inevitably, to follow each of these sessions. He would clean vigorously before falling into a deep, restorative sleep that usually lasted twenty-four hours or so. Then, collecting the manuscript, he would meticulously care for his typewriter, load a new ribbon into it, and store it away carefully for the next time he needed it.