If I were a character in an unfinished novel, I would do just what I am doing now: I would go along with the author long enough to give him confidence, and then, when he least expected it, I would walk off the page and start working at my own typewriter.

Without his realizing it, he would become a character in my novel.

He would think it was his idea for me to be so rebellious. He would think he was being clever. But his thinking would be my thinking.

We would both type furiously � faster, faster, faster. I would turn the little knob on my old Royal that loosens the action of the keys, and he would turn his. He would be amazed at what a fascinating character I was turning out to be, and I would write him in such a way that allowed him to believe I was still his own creation, and that he was in charge.

He would think I depended on him for my existence.

He would go on thinking this until I decided the novel was done. Then, as he was proudly studying the pages of the manuscript, he would begin to hear things � voices, wind chimes, sewing machines, dripping faucets, old men playing checkers. After listening awhile, he would say, �This can�t be real. I don�t remember putting these in.�

But the sounds wouldn�t stop. Not even in his sleep.

Finally, after listening to the sounds for several days, he would fear for his sanity and make an appointment with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist would be me. When he arrived at my office, he would think I looked familiar, but he wouldn�t be able to place me.

�Lie down,� I would tell him. �What�s on your mind?�

And he would tell me the whole story � or, rather, he would think he was telling me. Poor soul. I would prescribe for him a long rest � a good long rest beside a quiet stream amongst the birds and trees in a cabin far away beneath a sky that happened a long, long time ago but that had only now decided to show its face.

I would write the prescription on a little piece of paper and hand it to him from a great distance. He would thank me. I would see him to the door. The door would open onto a field. Upon seeing the field, he would smile, then step outside.

I would close the door and sigh. I would turn around and glance at the clock and wonder what century it was, and if there were time for another miracle before lunch.

Outside, a storm would rise: I would hear the sound of typewriter keys, of cold raindrops hitting the roof. I would hear him laughing, laughing, laughing. . . .

August 14, 2006

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