I was calling him from a pay phone with some residue on the receiver.

Probably decades of ear sweat.

There was a burned-out bronco across the street

and a light on, in the apartment above.

“Can I come up?” I asked.

“Sure.”

“It’s not too late?”

“No.”

I knocked on his door.

He opened it

in a white beater

with cigarette burns

hair

and lipstick

blotting his chest.

There was a green writing lamp

on a massive wooden desk

where a typewriter

sat.

“I don’t want to interrupt your writing,” I said.

“You’re not interrupting—Pull up a chair.”

When I sat down, it squeaked.

It wasn’t wire springs.

I stood up

and ripped the seat cushion away.

A mouse ran across the floor.

That’s when I noticed whiskey bottles.

“Are you sober?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. What do you want?”

“How do you write the way you do?”

“How’s that?”

“Without fear—it’s like you don’t care. The world might end, but you would keep writing, even if there was nothing there. Why do you do that?”

“Any action taken to an extreme is madness, and I prefer my own.”

“Do I have to be crazy to write well?”

“No.”

The curtains were dusty, the window cracked.

“How long is this interview going to take?” He asked.

“I just have a couple more questions.”

“Well, make it fast, because Betty is coming over, and she isn’t wearing any panties, under her tight-fitting dress. Say, why does a Mormon boy like yourself, want anything to do with a guy like me?”

“I’m not Mormon,” I said self-consciously. I adjusted my shirt collar. “I trust what you write is real.”

“How can you tell?”

“You blend ugliness with beauty. Nothing you write is too pure. You don’t need anybody.”

“Writers who need readers, don’t write very well,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because they have something to lose. Now, Betty will be here any minute, so I need you to go.”

“Can I call next week?”

“Okay.”

I left in the middle of the night, and it felt like morning.

5 thoughts on “My Mentor

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