Saturday, Late September
The tapping of steel on stone, followed by running footsteps, drew Jan to the porch railing as a spotlight illuminated the strange statue on the lawn. After scanning the darkness for a moment, the light switched off, leaving only the full moon to illuminate the scene below. When the moon-cast shadow detached itself from the statue and slid across the lawn, Jan’s rational mind dismissed what he saw as a trick of the light, but a seed of fear was planted deep in his subconscious.
He heard a muffled curse from the ancient Crown Vic cop car that was the source of the dazzling light. More indistinct mutterings cut off as the driver’s window rolled up. Exhaust fumes blurred the taillights of the cruiser as it pulled away, descended the hill, and disappeared around a bend. Jan’s eyes followed it, then tracked further down the hill to where the moon reflected off the waters of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Wind-blown leaves, their fall colors turned to shades of grey by the moonlight, danced around the enigmatic statue standing proudly on the lawn. Like a magnet, it drew his eye. As he had many times before, Jan wondered about its origins and why it seemed more alive than simply a chunk of granite.
Damn, it’s getting cold.
He rubbed the gooseflesh on his arms and suppressed a shiver.
I hope that Tomlin couple is done, well, “coupling”, so I can get some sleep.
Turning to his laptop sitting on a table, which had long since gone to sleep itself, he sighed and closed it. The new novel it contained just needed a final polish before going back to his publisher.
I’ll wrap that up tomorrow after I head home.
Scooping it up, he re-entered his suite and stopped to listen. The century-old floorboards in the Mackey House bed-and-breakfast announced hurrying footsteps in the hall outside, which were followed by the squeal of the Tomlins’ door closing, then some rustling and murmuring, the squeak of bedsprings, and ultimately silence.
If they start up again, I’m going to bang on their door. Maybe they’ll let me join them.
He chuckled to himself. It had been two long, lonely years since he returned home from a writing retreat at this very bed-and-breakfast to find an empty house and divorce papers on the kitchen table.
I should write more, now that I’m up, he thought.
But he had nothing to write. He should be drafting his third novel, now that the second was nearly finished. His agent talked about his growing readership, and her expectation that “the next one” would be a bestseller. Her encouragement was a much-needed boost to his chronically deflated ego, though he knew the reality of his “success” was but a shadow of the publisher’s expectations.
I can’t. I just can’t. I’ve got nothing to say anymore.
Each time Jan sat down to write, his mind wandered. When he forced himself to reread what he had written so far, he ripped it apart and littered it with comments and corrections. As edits piled on top of edits, he realized the story was tedious and worse, boring. His agent insisted his growing fan base would eat up whatever he wrote. The book contract that launched his second career, and probably saved his life, led to a second one and a third. Even though this third novel was barely begun, his publisher was already pestering him for progress reports.
It’s crap. Everything I write now is crap. It was all luck before, not talent.
What he couldn’t explain to his agent or publisher, though, was that his previous stories had evolved in his head for years before he put fingers to keyboard. They’d still be floating in there if he hadn’t lost his wife, his house, and his job in the space of a month. He couldn’t just spit out another one. So, he fled to here, where this new career that he had sacrificed everything for had begun, looking for inspiration.
At least here, in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, he felt a semblance of peace. In the past, in this place that was the antithesis of his “real” life, he had the solitude he needed to capture his dream life in words. Not this trip, though.
Perhaps it was the company of his fellow guests, the strange Tomlin couple whose noisy sexual antics in the suite next door had driven him out onto the chilly porch an hour ago. Jeff’s loud, crassness and Naomi’s tittering, faux-girlish laughter set Jan’s nerves on edge.
Jan looked to the bottle of bourbon on the sitting-room table, then tilted his head to listen.
Silence. I guess they’re done.
With a goodnight wave to the bottle, he turned into his bedroom.
I’m leaving tomorrow. Maybe when I get home, I’ll be able to write something, or at least get a decent night’s sleep.