UNITED STATES—Graydon Miller was at the verge. He was on the very verge of the verge. He had not yet won the MacArthur fellowship, much less been nominated, much less did he conceive that there were more than two or three alive souls out there watching out for his artistic progress. But things were looking up. Definitely. Miller at this stage, was also nearing the far side of middle age just like Sam Delaney was when he began slacking off on doing headstands. What is middle age, if not that point when you can double your age, and come up with a figure that defies all actuarial odds?
By this time, Miller had utterly and totally relinquished that American ideal of success once dreamed of and courted as his birthright. It would offer no balm other than the comfort of a regular income for his heirs. That much Nor had “Mujeres con navajas” yet fulfilled its destiny of being popularly embraced on five continents and translated into 40 languages. The intensity of his despair was proportionate to the nearness of the prize. The thruster rockets had already been released and fallen into the sea, and the capsule of Miller’s glory was rising, rocketing past the cottony patches of clouds, well on its way to even earning the distinction of being banned in China, which was certainly as good, if not better, than being banned in prudish old Boston.
So possessed was he, at this point by getting the present work on paper, that he seldom came out of the jungle now. Though he occasionally slept and had dreamed of driving on the freeway, in the blinding sun, there he was in the humid, malarial land, and infiltrated and possessed by his characters. It was to the point that this saga of the Banana Axis, created out of that unhealing sore that came from what had been cut from his great novel that he, with the uneasy heart of every great creator, entertained fully. It was ruthlessly preposterous; it was the proposition was that his work might be great in the sense that the Great Depression, the Great Banana Strike were great and the Great War was great, but rather, unbeknownst to the mere mortals then, captives of their time, were but a prequel to a second world War, and to conceive of greatness as watershed of pain and suffering was a simple self-defense mechanism.
Miller had so much to share with the world, dammit, and to think that Los Angeles City College had turned him down as an instructor for English 101. Not, because of his unkempt hair, but rather that he lacked a Master’s Degree. The department head’s name was Sun Moon, and who’s keeping score. Let out the freakin’ poison, Bourdeaux mixture. Look, I’m gonna go out and have a smoke and a drink. Well, I ain’t white no more, and I ain’t black—just my heart—and I don’t know what the hell to think now. Only that the Times still owes me a raise, they still owe me a raise, Lord only knows, then again it’s a privilege, where else would he have come to be exercised the great gift for short and sobriquet bestowed from his publisher, the Wizard of Fiction, el gran Mago de la Ficción.
“How are things going at the newspaper?” Mom would ask.
“I just got another raise,” Graydon would answer with chipper nonchalance. “Seventy-five dollars.”
These were crypto-raises, and by now, after taking into account the previous $50 raises, Miller was making a symbolic $500 for every humorous story penned.
“It’s more money in the kitty,” Mom concurred. Graydon nodded.
Mom went to her reward believing this final fiction of her son’s success was true. A favor for all past times she had kissed a wound and made it all better. The child too wishes the parent can go, when the moment comes, in peace and comfort, and embark serenely on that last voyage.
To be continued. . .
Graydon is the Wizard of Fiction.