Today’s exercise stretches our imaginations just a little bit further. It tasks us with picking a well established genre. Then flipping it upside down. The example it gives is of George Lucas setting a western story in outer space. In my case, we’re going to pick the Romance genre, but make the protagonist an inanimate object.
. . .
800 pages is a lot of pages. No wonder the pimply boy discarded the novel by chucking it across his room. It was a happy novel, contemporary, with nothing but optimism filling its insides. Totally opposite of how the outside world saw it.
The earliest thing the novel can remember is how it came bundled along with its siblings in a box. Before that felt just one long dream of being opened up and read from cover to cover.
Unfortunately, as soon as it arrived to the bookstore, a bookseller slapped a fat red sticker on the novel’s face. Then, after a couple of weeks of being ignored, it went from the shelves at the entrance, to a big sales bin. Next to toys and gadgets, the novel prayed every morning and every night, twice a day, for someone to fish it out. Other objects, other toys made their way into hungry hands. But never the novel.
If only they would remove that stupid ugly sticker from its cover. Then the cover would get someone to open her pages. Not to mention, thought the novel, as soon as that special someone (that lucky someone!) would read the first line of the first chapter, then it would surely lead to a mutual happily ever after.
Many months went by, though. Many objects were taken up, some even thrown away. So the novel was grateful for not getting chucked, at least. Until, one day, a young man full of pimples, with his buddy, another youth full of zits and warts, thumbed through the sales bin. The novel had waited long enough! It wasn’t time to be choosy, but time to be chosen.
The novel, taking advantage of the sticker’s deterioration, let it fall off. As the boys pawed inside the bin.
They gawked and giggled at the cover. Nudity, semi soft core. Juicy opening first line, and all the normal stuff of a Romance novel. Finding the warmth of the first young boy’s body, the novel snuggled between two waistlines of pants and underwear. As the boys took her out of the bookstore undetected.
They certainly read her first line, and first page, and first chapter. Stopping on the lines that even the novel was proud of containing. The boys did what boys do when they encounter such delicious naughtiness. They ignore it for the image. While staining the cover, they crumpled the inner pages, or rubbed the ink of the lines with their sticky fingers. Not in any nice way, but it must be the cost of being rescued from the sales bin.
What hurt the novel the most however wasn’t how the boys drew immense unreciprocated pleasure from it, but how they wouldn’t continue reading after the first few pages. There was a lot more to the novel than the sex scene on page two. And yet, weeks later, came the worst blow. The second boy, tired of borrowing it only while he was at his friend’s place, eventually asked to take the novel home.
For one reason or another, of which the novel could not untangle, the two boys started throwing fists. Suddenly, the first boy agreed, but only after he tore off the front cover. The tear came as a shock, shreds of paper floating into the air, and a ray of light that cut through the bedroom window. But the novel didn’t cry, for it couldn’t. Instead it found itself in the front pocket of a backpack belonging to the second boy. Who could only mutter to himself about what he would do to the back cover.
Sure enough, the first thing the second boy did when he got home was tear off the back cover. He did what boys do five times in one day, never once considering what the novel felt. After a moment the novel hit itself against the edge of the far wall along the boy’s bedroom. He was done with her. So there, on the floor, besides a pile of dirty laundry and a banana peel, the novel lay.
Later that day the boy’s mother stopped by the bedroom, to clean it up. Naturally she found the novel. Maybe her, thought the novel, hoping against hope that it could (at least!) attract its target demographic. More concerned with the appearance of the novel than with the lines inside, the mother pinched the dinged up corner of the novel and placed it in yet another box. This box wound up outside. In the rain. Where, along with other junk and useless toys, the novel couldn’t help but notice how things had come full circle.
For three days and three nights, despite the brutal conditions of the outside world, the novel actually experienced the greatest happiness she had ever known. A stuffed animal — the novel couldn’t tell what it was beyond something aquatic, for how damaged the animal was — sat opposite of the novel in the giveaway box. Because a passer-by had opened the novel randomly only to toss it back inside, the novel had gotten opened up part way. This left it open on one of the most moving passages, which the stuffed animal sat looking at. There was a faint hint of a smile on that doll. The doll was smiling. It was faint, but it was definitely a smile. Beautiful. And the novel passed those three days and three nights knowing the deepest pleasure a book could ever know: having someone frozen at the most important section, for a long time.
On the fourth morning a simple man came to the box. Looking inside, he picked up the doll and the novel. The novel he read from first page to last. The doll he repaired, in order to gift to his daughter, who loved goldfish. The novel found its most important moment, just before being shelved forever, when the man who had picked it up from the box spread her open on that important section, and reread it at least twenty times. He needed inspiration for the novel he was working on. And he had found it.
Shamelessly, and quietly, he borrowed that section, almost word for word, of course adding his own DNA to the scene, eventually producing the final climax of his work in progress. Which, as far as the novel was concerned, was like birthing a baby with a reader. It could pass away into infinite obscurity now, without anxiety or pain.
Years later, his very successful published novel began being studied and admired on all levels of society, with due attention given to that acclaimed climatic scene. With the artistic sampling almost going unnoticed. Except for a scholar who quietly made the connection between the celebrated novel and its parent story. A single discovery, which caused the scholar to shiver with excitement and memory. That is because he had masturbated to that very original story back when he was a kid. One of the few people in the world to have read that long smut from front cover to back.