Celebrated (part one)

Celebrated (part one)

Novella

Celebrated

(part one)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is disappointed in the hope of regaining his lost health.

Week after week, month after month, year after year, he waits for the termination of his sufferings. He tries applying the remainder of his strength to such tasks as will tear him away for a time from his miseries. Yet he is denied even this poor source of relief. There is much awkwardness in the performance of a voluntary motion, even when the body is not racked with a conspicuous trembling. Liquid spills from the glass. It is remarkable how long this condition may last.

He endeavors by a great effort to shake off his old pernicious habit…

 

He’d found the book under a sofa. The sofa was not itself Victorian in vintage; the dormitory common room only a product of the twenties. His whole college of journalism only a product (by-product?) of the Great War. An endowment that would have gone to a son as a natural inheritance, went instead to an alma mater. It had been new, in those days between wars, this campus extension…the lecture hall, the housing, the furnishings. New, and cheaply bought.

The book was a prop, to a wobbly foot.

Yes…in that nice metaphorical sense…it had been, to its plagiarist.

Haverton Wilmot wasn’t a novelist by the least aspiration; had not, napping through his high school doldrums, composed fiction in his head, hadn’t wanted anything to do with newspapers. He’d been surplus to the school of botany, and even there, hadn’t applied caring about plants…only college, any kind…only draft deferral.

He hadn’t either borne that ironically tony pen-name. He was Tom.

 

His publisher: “T. Haverton Wilmot? Let’s get rid of the T.”

This was 1971, and the best-seller lists were full of sixtyish epicists, bearing trustworthy guy names like Herman, James, Arthur…and interwar babies, writing suggestive flashes-in-the-pan that hadn’t gelled into dominant genres…Love Story, The Exorcist

“Haverton…your real name?”

“Um,” Tom said.

“It’s old-fashioned right now…huh…yeah, but I get a gentleman spy sort of thing… You know, in fact, I almost catch an English voice in your work… What I’m saying, anyhow…old could be futuristic… It all comes back in style. Sometimes it’s good being a…whatayacallit…”

 

1

 


 

“Harbinger.”

“No.” Hand on his phone already, Dr. Motley’s friend. Always a do it while you’re thinking of it guy.

But no…any concrete sense of the future, any deity’s gift of that nature, would have nipped this enterprise in the bud.

Tom had a toking roommate, jealous of his weed, but profligate of his cigarette papers. One had been peeping from under the rug fringe. A conjecture suggested itself, a prank…a little stunt for laughs. He yanked off the seat cushion, found the cloth over the springs filthy, stained, rife with hair and crumbs (the very ticket, indeed, this bumper crop of grossity). Through a ragged rip, turned back flat like someone had ironed it, he could see the spine of a book, shoring the sofa’s rear left leg.

Well, here was another modest jest…one or two pompous asses pleasing to picture getting a jolt…preferably while the hand held a cup of coffee. He could remember standing straight, keeping cool, taking a studied look over both shoulders to be sure he was really alone. The right way to get at the book, he saw it, was by edging round the back, and he’d done that.

 

The boy genius of 1972, twenty-three-year-old Haverton Wilmot—a newcomer of mood Kafkaesque, by the outworn appellation of some boonie hack from Chapel Hill (but praise welcome, certainly welcome)…of sure-handed and compelling debut (Time)…a complete dinner party service collected of bold new voice(s)—met his maker in an 1860s treatise on alcoholism. He’d cracked it, naturally, for curiosity, walking across campus to the library.

Changed his mind when, checking the back, he saw it had come from there. Out since 1932.

“Seriously, I just picked it up.”

He could see the good deed of returning the book become his fault…the fine, astronomical. So Tom sat at the base of an oak tree, where once had spooned J.S. and O.M. Under their twinned hearts, he chanced, via bibliomancy, on a random, foretelling passage.

He is disappointed in the hope of regaining his lost health.

That real-time effect…

Tom with no vocabulary for literary stylings, perceived it anyway, and at once, that this patient history read like one of those books…

By which he’d meant Kafkaesque, if he’d known so much.

 

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Celebrated

Celebrated (part one)See more stories on Short Stories page
Celebrated (part two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2018, Stephanie Foster)

 


 

The excerpt below is from a genuine book, and was the inspiration for this story. The reader may compare Dr. Marcet’s actual words with Tom’s re-crafted version.

 

[he may endeavor by a great effort to shake off his old and pernicious habit; but, even if successful, he will not unfrequently be disappointed in the hope of regaining his lost health. Week after week, month after month, year after year, he patiently waits for the termination of his sufferings, and endeavors to apply the remains of his strength to such occupations as will tear him away for the time from his miseries, although usually he finds himself so weak that he is denied even this poor source of relief. There is often much awkwardness in the performance of voluntary motion, even when the body is not subject to a conspicuous trembling; thus, in the act of drinking, a liquid will be spilt from the glass; or a light will be put out instead of being snuffed. It is remarkable how long this condition may last]

 

(from Chronic Alcoholic Intoxication, W. Marcet, M.D., F.S.R., Moorehead, Simpson and Bond, 1868)

 

 

 

 

 

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