The Strange Story of William Flumay
by William Michaelian

The hardest thing about being a writer is when you’re writing and this character keeps popping up who doesn’t belong. You can be going along just fine, and all of a sudden, there he is, wearing a silly grin and demanding all the attention, even though he has nothing to do with anything, and probably wouldn’t exist if you weren’t so tired. For the last couple of months, I’ve had problems with just such a character. His name is William Flumay. In fact, only a little while ago, I was trying to write a story when he intervened and said he had been kidnapped by aliens. When I told him to shut up, he acted hurt. “Sorry to bother you,” he said. “Say, how’s the work going, anyway?” “None of your business,” I said. “Beat it.” Then I typed in several sentences about a man who was depressed because he was broke all the time, and about how he had lost his job and was contemplating suicide. While I was reading over what I’d written, Flumay broke in and said, “Cheer up, for crying out loud. Don’t be so gloomy.” Then, before I knew it, he had launched into a big speech about how the aliens had wrapped him up in bandages and siphoned out his brain while he was completely conscious and watching everything on a big screen in their space ship, which had landed in a nearby state park. Naturally, I asked him how he could have remained conscious if his brain had been removed. “Ah-ha,” he said. “That’s the very same question I asked them. If I understand it correctly, the brain, contrary to current science, has nothing to do with consciousness at all.” I found this fascinating. “If consciousness doesn’t reside in the brain,” I said, “then where does it reside?” Flumay’s answer was succinct: “In the nose.” To register my disgust, I hit the backspace key several times, then wrote a few more lines about my depressed main character, who, as it turned out, had a long history of bad things that had happened to him, not the least of which was being born. “Anyway,” Flumay said, “according to the aliens, consciousness is way overrated. And you know what? I’m inclined to agree with them.” I thought about this. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t even know what consciousness is. Like, you’re awake, you’re aware of yourself, and so on, but what is it, really? Might it not just be some random brain — or nose — activity? An electronic-chronic version of having gas, in other words? “Quite possible,” Flumay said. “Not that it matters.” Then I asked him if having his brain removed was a very painful operation. I liked his answer: “Paradise. I heartily recommend it.” Once again, when I realized what was happening, I hit the backspace key several dozen times. This time, my wife intervened. “What’s going on in there?” she said from the other side of my closed work room door. “It’s Flumay again,” I yelled. “I’ve got to kill him before he kills me.” To make sure I was okay, my wife opened the door a little and looked in. “Maybe you should take a break,” she said. “How about a chocolate chip cookie?” Well, nothing irritates a writer more than his wife telling him he needs a break — especially when she’s right. But the cookie did sound good. Of course, nothing is more detrimental to a writer’s career than a chocolate chip cookie, because it’s impossible to eat one of the darn things without eating another, and then another, until your fingers are covered with goo and you need to have something to drink to wash down the delightful cookie buildup in your mouth. Not to mention the fact that after awhile you can no longer fit into your pants. Because, there’s one thing you should know about writing: it’s hard to do if your pants are too tight. No joke. Try it sometime. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I said finally. “Just let me get a handle on this new story.” My wife sighed, then closed the door. “A wonderful woman,” Flumay said. “You know, sometimes I wish I were married. By the way, how are the kids?” “Shut up,” I said. “This is not your story. It’s mine.” And I quickly typed in a whole paragraph. But the paragraph was so gloomy I knew it wouldn’t do. Once again, I hit the backspace key. “Aargh!” I said. “I hate you!” Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that my window was open. I heard something move and looked outside, only to see an old couple out for their walk. Both looked frightened as they hurried away. “Flumay,” I said, “damn you, enough’s enough. Thanks to you, my neighbors think I’m a madman.” But Flumay only laughed. “You always have to blame someone,” he said. “Now, if you’d have your brain removed, like me, things like this wouldn’t happen.” Then he showed me one of the aliens’ business cards, which said, Brains Removed, No Appointment Necessary. I’m telling you, it was tempting. But I had to make one last attempt at my story. So I typed, and I typed, and I typed . . . until my wife found me asleep about an hour later, slumped in my chair. Together, we looked at what I had written. “Looks like he won this round,” she said with a smile. “Now. How about that cookie?”

William Michaelian’s newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelian’s other books and links to this site’s other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

Title Page & Copyright      E-mail Your Comments      Top of Page      Previous Story      Next Story