As God Is My Author

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He didn’t feel like submerging himself into the mind of Garbutt yet, deciding to continue with his work in progress. The first four lines came quickly and with little effort, which although pleased him, made him suspicious of the quality. He hadn’t the confidence to believe his creativity could flow so easily without brief intervals of thought. He told Garbutt to trust in impulse to find his solution to the Nonsense Question yet discovered he wasn’t able to do it himself in his own work. He decided to let go and streamed it out, reminding himself to edit at a later date.

It wasn’t Wordsworth or Keats, but it wasn’t meant to be. His intention was more Ogden Nash and a poor man’s Alexander Pope, curious and didactic. Dorsett was only certain of one thing: words needed to convey the meaning. They had to be understood and he wasn’t going to waste them on describing daffodils or clouds. As for the meaning of the rhymes, all he was doing was trying to explain the problem of where the Universe came from. He knew he would never solve it, but did have hopes that he might offer clues. Outlining the case might give ideas. How much could a fertile mind produce and was there a limit? Garbutt built from his alcohol-fuelled inebriations and he from his creative exertions in verse. Fortified from this viewpoint, he pressed on.

He read the words aloud, pulling himself away from the creative state to the critical. He did feel a jarring contradiction on the similar-sounding rhymes within both stanzas and he made a mental note that he would separate them further. Then came that careless abandonment he’d felt before, the attitude that was reckless and at the same time refreshing. Faith in instinct. It’s not impossible that countless couplets, poems, and other rhymes might have been lost to posterity because editors and other deniers condemned them to extinction.

Wish your words to blind the eyes of those who’d snipe and criticize.

Said maybe Pope.

When Dorsett returned from work the next day he prepared the evening meal. He placed four pieces of chicken in the slow cooking dish, poured the sauce on top of it, and threw in sliced mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. He set it on a high level and then changed into his more comfortable home clothes: Tracksuit leggings, crumpled cotton sweater, and trainers with laces undone. Writing clothes he’d got used to wearing, anything loose that gave free movement to his limbs. Then he sat at the table by the window and stared up at the sky. Clouds were a writer’s ballast, holding a mind steady while concentration moved to a point of reference, to a place that might dig deep into the head, like a microscope magnifying something blind to the eye.

He found his folder and opened it to discover an extra two stanzas he hadn’t written. Not only were they not in the same handwriting, but they were also not the same colour of ink. He always used black ink in his fountain pen and these new stanzas were written in blue. And they followed directly on from when he’d last worked on it. He read them in silence.

He could have written it, he decided, because it sounded like his work. The rhythm was not out of place and the subject matter remained faithful. The only uncertainty was the author of the words. But he was at least sure of one thing: Sam could not have written the lines because there was no blue ink in the flat.

She rarely wrote longhand anyway as she had a laptop and always took it to work as the college printers were free to use. This was not written with a fountain pen but a small-nib gel or ballpoint pen, one that didn’t use ink cartridges. Pleasant to use but not as flow-able as his own favourite, a sterling silver German Aspinal pen Sam had given him on his birthday.

So even though he would never accuse her of lying, she was cleared from his subconscious suspicions. The unlikely possibility that he was responsible was also dismissed because of the blue ink. Mason was the only remaining suspect and Dorsett was unsure what he wanted to find out more, why he did it, or why he lied.

He decided he would ring Mr Bensing first thing in the morning and complain of a headache. Then he would wait for Mason and demand an explanation.

When Mason arrived the next morning to see Dorsett waiting for him he didn’t look as surprised as he did before. Neither was he carrying his work bag containing his cleaning materials. He stood at the living room door and waited for the summons.

‘Come and sit down, Mason.’

When they were facing each other at the table, both waited for the other to speak first and Dorsett knew it would have to be him.

‘You know what I’m going to ask you, don’t you?’


‘Do I have to show you the poem?’

‘Not unless you want to.’

Dorsett took it out and placed it between them.

‘You didn’t even try to disguise it.’ he said. ‘It’s written in blue ink and you obviously know I don’t use it.’

‘I don’t know how you can write in black.’ said Mason. ‘Blue on white is far more harmonious.’

‘Black and white is more contrasting.’ replied Dorsett.

‘But not as pretty. Why shouldn’t a writer see a little beauty when he’s working?’

‘Because I’m not writing about beauty, Mason. I’m writing about important questions.’

‘I know. Like the Nonsense Question.’

Dorsett had that unfinished book locked away in another drawer, in a folder that Mason could not possibly have seen by chance.

‘How the hell would you know about that? What are you doing going through my things?’

‘I didn’t have to find it,’ said Mason calmly, ‘I know what it’s about. Garbutt has one question to answer, you have another. His is a search for the end of something, and yours, for the beginning.’

While Dorsett was deciding what to ask next, Mason explained further.

‘Think of it like this.’ he said. ‘You are a kind of son and Garbutt is my grandson. You’re as much a consequence of me as he is of you.’

Dorsett looked back at the poem and attempted ridicule.

‘So you’re my real father, is that it? I was adopted when I was younger.’

‘No. And you know that’s not what I mean. As you made Garbutt, so I made you. That’s why my help into your work is similar to the work you’ve already done. It’s written by the same person.’

Dorsett pointed a finger to emphasise.



‘You said you created me.’ he reminded him, ‘What about Sam: you made her too?’

‘Of course. Anything that relates to you, that is in you or surrounds you. This flat, your job, your ponderings, and imagination.’

Dorsett concentrated his thoughts, heard himself breathing, felt his mind throw thoughts around his head, felt himself swallow, and listened to the sound of it, probably for the first time. It was flesh and blood in action, life in operation. No person could ever write that. But he hated the fact that could feel no such feelings on Sam’s behalf or anyone else’s. He resisted the weight beginning to sag over him.

‘No, not Sam. She doesn’t belong to anyone.’

‘Don’t be upset.’ said Mason. ‘Remember, you made Derek and Isobel. Those two seem content enough. You made that happen, didn’t you?’

‘I wrote that story to try and find an answer to something,’ said Dorsett, ‘I did it for a reason, to talk to Garbutt.’

‘My reasons are also important.’ He said. ‘You needed time to write and so you have free time at home to try and find your solutions. You can go to Bensing’s whenever it suits you and you live here with Sam rent-free. It’s always been said that a writer can’t serve two masters and you don’t.’

Dorsett was hardly listening, still with the thought of loss.

‘Fuck you. I refuse to believe she’s a fabrication.’

‘Then you should thank me. I could have made her a selfish individual, maybe even cruel or malicious, but I didn’t. And you are lucky to have her. But you treat her well and your love for her, although clumsily expressed, is genuine.’

Dorsett continued to resist.

‘I’ll make you sorry if you hurt her.’

‘And would I do that? Unless I wanted to write a story infected with misery.’

Dorsett’s eyes narrowed like a threat.

‘Where is she now?’

‘She’s where she should be, at the college.’

‘I want to see her.’

‘Why? She wouldn’t come home early without good reason. Why should she now? Let me ask you a question: where’s Garbutt?’

Dorsett thought hard, hoping it would lead him out of the confusion.

‘He’s- I can’t remember. No; he’s in his pub, the Coach and Horses. That’s where I left him. He’s considering the question I gave him. He’s getting drunk.’

‘Exactly. And his life will go on as it did when you first brought him into existence. It carries on without you like a spin of a wheel that continues to turn and travel in the same direction until you decide otherwise. So the same for Sam. She’s at work, and the fact that you can’t see her or have proof that she’s there shouldn’t alarm you because you have no way of seeing her. You are the only one in this whole existence who knows of this secret between us. And though I have sympathy for you, you will know exactly what I’m talking about because you created an existence the same as I did. You had to make contact with Garbutt and you did it with the missing step on the staircase. I did it by interfering with your work. Even though it’s not interference, more of collaboration between writer and poet. Or author and character.’

Dorsett sneered.

‘And who writes your story?’

‘I have no idea. But people believe there’s a creator for each of us, even though mine has never spoken to me if he exists.’

‘Or maybe you think yourself too important to be the consequence of anyone’s imagination?’

‘You have parents the same as I do.’ said Mason. ‘You have memories of them because all characters whose lives are similar to their creators have no need to describe them unless required to do so for the benefit of the story being told. My story involves two questions and you are necessary to try and answer one. You created another story and your character, Garbutt, didn’t need to talk about his parents or any other specific memory in order for his search for answers to continue.’

Dorsett looked at the palm of his hand and then picked up a pair of scissors from the table as Mason watched him.

‘What happens if I stick this hard into my hand- will you be able to stop the bleeding?’

‘Allow me to turn the question: Would you help Garbutt if someone was drunk enough to shove a glass into his face?’

‘I wouldn’t do that.’

They both acknowledged the truth at the same time.

‘Exactly,’ said Mason, ‘you wouldn’t do it. There’d be no reason for it and it would have nothing to do with finding the answers you want.’

‘Well, guess what?’ said Dorsett. ‘I’m not going to allow Garbutt to find any answers. He can drink himself to death for all I care. He can rot in the place I left him and the story will be unfinished. He will have never existed. What do you think of that?’

Mason almost laughed.

‘You still don’t get it, do you? You’ve already set his life in motion. You’ve given birth to him as a creator. You’ve set his pattern and anyone who knows of it will imagine him living on in the same way as anyone would until his life ran out. The fact that you might not find the answers to your Nonsense Question or finish his story won’t matter in the least. He’s a normal character who, by the law of averages, will live until old age. Just because no one hears him or the voice of others in his existence won’t make any difference. You can return to change his fate if that’s what you want, but we both know there has to be a purpose in the story. Otherwise, what’s the point of telling it?’

Dorsett had the points of the scissors pressed against the soft creases of skin on his open hand.

‘And what if you left this place and never returned? What would happen to me? To Sam? Would we fade away and die?’

’No. You’d probably continue to live together as you are now. The only difference is that no one would know or care about it. Like Garbutt, your pattern has also been set. The imagination that created you takes for granted that you will continue to live on even though no more attention is paid to you. You’ll be oblivious to any audience and they will be oblivious to you. The often-quoted ending to an adventure that no longer has an audience, ‘Happily Ever After’, is no longer repeated to soothe. We all presume those who are left content will continue that way.’

‘Unless,’ said Dorsett.

Mason watched Dorsett clamp his lips tight together as he forced the scissors down into his open hand which resembled a large spider upturned and about to be impaled.

‘Unless the story is altered by the creator himself.’ said Mason, watching Dorsett’s open hand cup a small growing pool of blood. ‘It all depends on what kind of story you want to tell. Or what questions you want answering.’

When Dorsett lifted the scissors dripping blood from the stainless steel points, he mocked his observer’s detachment by showing him the thin red rivulet trickling down his palm and under his sleeve.

‘This is how stupid your argument is.’ he said. ‘You made me do this. Why would anyone who sets his character clear objectives allow this to happen? It has nothing to do with the story.’

‘Because I have to make the characters convincing, Dorsett. And you, unfortunately, are the kind of person who would do that.’

It was a claim Dorsett knew was impossible to deny.

‘Then why don’t you just make me some kind of intellectual mastermind who will get to your answers more easily?’

Mason conceded with a regretful nod of the head.

‘I can only create what my mind is capable of and I’m no genius. But you’ll find that most of the problem solvers in history were unconventional, a peculiarity that seems essential in the make-up of any creative mind. How that unconventionality shows itself depends on the nature of the individual, though I don’t think you stabbing yourself with a pair of scissors will help you find the answers we’re looking for.’

Dorsett lifted the scissors to his throat.

‘What about this, then? If I die, who’s left to find you your answers?’

‘I’d start again.’ replied Mason. ‘And Sam would be left distraught. Possibly even suicidal. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you, Dorsett?’

‘You’d let that happen, too, wouldn’t you?’

‘Don’t blame me. Like you told Garbutt, it has to be credible. She, like any sane person who’d lost a lover through suicide, might feel some responsibility. Her life would carry on with the memory of it always there. You wouldn’t want to burden her with that.’

Dorsett placed the scissors back on the table and took a tissue from his pocket to stop the bleeding.

‘For someone who wants answers to impossible questions, you seem to have all of them.’

‘Remember this, Dorsett. You have a responsibility to your characters the same as I have. You’ll have to return to them at some time to try and find out what you’re not sure of. The two of us are in a unique place to try and discover these solutions.’

Dorsett shook his poetry paper in Mason’s face.

‘And this,’ he said, ‘who writes it- you or me?’

‘You write it through me.’ he said, ‘I can’t do it without you. And you can’t do it without me.’

‘I write alone.’ he told him, ‘If this gets published there’ll only be one name on it and it won’t be yours.’

‘And so there should be.’ agreed Mason, ’No muse ever got a dedication. There’s no danger of me disputing it. And why did you say ‘if’? Have you no belief in your work?’

Dorsett ignored him and pressed the tissue tight against the wound.

‘By the way, you’re fired.’ he said. ‘I don’t like the idea of someone snooping around my things when I’m not here.’

Mason got up from the chair and seemed indifferent, straightening his collar in the mirror as he prepared to leave.

‘I knew that was coming.’ he said, ‘But remember: your character will remain in a state of inertia within the development of his life as long as you intend to return to direct his fate. As soon as you abandon him entirely, then his life will live on unnoticed, along the pattern you set for him from the beginning.’

When he reached the front door he turned to face Dorsett who was ready to lock it after his departure.

‘Don’t spend too long away from Garbutt. The sooner you return to him, the more productive you’ll become in your own work. And don’t tell Sam about our little chat, either. It wouldn’t be helpful.’

Dorsett shut the door loudly after him, hoping it would sound like his authority re-established. But he couldn’t help feeling belittled by the final orders he’d been given.

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