Day 25 in my novel-in-a-month effort:

Chapter 21.1: A Novelist Sneezes

If you were the casual person passing by his office, you would have thought that the novelist was tearing through ideas quicker than a legislator ruins a budget. Scattered across his desk top, and even tumbling onto the floor, were dozens of pieces of paper, each crumbled and left for trash.

As the managing partner walked past, even he thought:

“Now there is a hard worker. Messy, yes, but at least he is generating some thoughts that will make this law firm successful.”

How wrong he was.

A closer look revealed not productivity, but massive uckitude. For those were not pieces of work paper containing words; they were tissues, containing, well, snot. He was not making progress; he was making phlegm.

Some of those who had to work closest to his office began hoisting paper airplanes into his space. When he opened them, he realized that they were Claude Dedrick’s old memo on pandemic preparedness. He got the idea. He knew he should really go home. But for now, he simply shut his office door.

His concern and despondency were growing. For he had a deadline looming, and now he was sick.

He admitted that his deadline – five days and counting – was arbitrary and relatively self imposed. He knew that no truly bad consequence would flow from missing it. And yet he thought back over his month of writing. Were all those late evenings to be for nothing? Was his neglect of his real work and his dedication to novel writing on company time to stand for a big fat zero? He could not believe that. He could not let that happen.

And yet here it was Wednesday already. He had stayed home Monday, but had spent the day sleeping fitfully and wishing he could write. He was out half of Tuesday, with the same result. And now – MIDWEEK – and still nothing done.

The trouble was a simple one: He really and truly believed that his head might explode at any time.

Was it the flu, or even the swine flu?

No, he had no fever or chills or nausea. This was just a cold. He knew, because he had procrastinated by reading all there was on Wikipedia about the topic. But the main thing he had gleaned from all that research was that (1) There was little you could do about a cold, and (2) never – EVER – search Google Images for nausea.

OK, so it was just a cold, hanging on with all its might. His head, eyes, jaw and back hurt.

But his hands and fingers? Did they hurt?

No, they did not.

So he ordered himself to lift his head off the desk, to wipe the spittle from his lips, to dispose of the disgusting tissues, and to sit up straight. And then to type.

And what would best get him out his lethargy? What topic would be gripping enough to yank him back into the writing moment?

That’s easy, he thought. How about something on the character of Claude Dedrick?

He began to type.

CHAPTER 22 is next.