As God Is My Author

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When Dorsett found another two stanzas added to his poem the next morning he wanted to ring Sam at work but knew it would not have helped convince her of Mason’s interference. This time there was no blue ink, only black like his own, although the handwriting was unmistakably not his.

They could have been his words. If the handwriting would only match his own he might fool himself that he was working subconsciously. But originality was essential, otherwise, it was impersonation or worse, plagiarism. Dorsett sat at his desk and decided to follow on from the last two stanzas.

It came from him almost without a mental stutter. No rewriting or scribbling out lines, waiting for the rhyme to come. No pen to drop to the page or head to hold in frustration. No cloud staring. Only short pauses and a reluctance to deny any first choices that he felt were acceptable. His hand was moving the pen, the pen was forming the required words, and the words were asking the right questions.

Garbutt had been prompted to answer the question put to him, aided by alcohol and a wandering mind. But Dorsett could not begin to answer his own queries because, unlike Garbutt, he was still trying to accept that he and the life around him had been created by someone he could talk to. How could he be expected to calculate such a problem if he spent more time worrying about who had given him the questions in the first place? The messenger was too distracting, like an alien appearing from nowhere and asking him to solve Rubik’s cube. The only choice left to take would be to accept him or ignore him altogether.

He forced himself not to write another word until the next day. If more stanzas appeared that were not his, he would simply follow on and see where the poem led.

Sam rang him later that day to tell him she would be bringing a friend home for tea. He did a quick clean-up of the flat and then changed into more acceptable attire, ready for their arrival. When they came home, Sam introduced her as they entered the room.

‘Dor, this is Carol. She works at the college with me.’

Dorsett shook hands with her and led her to the table.

‘Make yourself at home, Carol. The meal should be ready in about ten minutes.’

Sam poured a drink for them all and fell back on the sofa.

‘You never know how tired you are until you get home, have you noticed that?’

Carol, bespectacled and feeling a little awkward, remained upright in her chair. She wore the usual clothes of a college worker, practical yet fashionable, accompanied with the essential leather shoulder bag with files and laptop included. When the three of them were seated Dorsett smiled a question.

‘So what do you teach, Carol?’

Before she could reply, Sam broke in.

‘Carol works in a different department, Dor. We met in the staffroom and discovered we shared an interest in books. I told her you wrote poetry and she wanted to know more. That’s why I brought her home. She wanted to meet you.’

‘I hope Sam told you I’m not published yet.’ said Dorsett.

‘Yes, she told me. It’s not an easy vocation, I know that.’ said Carol. ‘What kind of verse to you write?’

‘They’re poems about questions, The Universe in particular. How it started, where it might end, if it does end at all. Questions that probably will never be answered.’

‘That’s what I told him.’ said Sam. ‘But he won’t drop it. Show Carol some of your work, Dor, she might like it.’

Dorsett felt exposed.

‘I doubt it. It’s not to everyone’s taste.’

‘How do you know what my taste is?’ asked Carol playfully.

Dorsett returned the grin and went to fetch his folder.

‘Alright. But only on condition, you give an honest opinion. It’s not finished yet and I still have to do the first re-write so be as blunt as you like.’

Carol took the folder from him and opened it on the table.

‘I can give an opinion but remember I’m no critic, either.’

Her face when she began to read turned noticeably serious, reading each line from first to last. The amount of time she took to complete it caused Dorsett to leave the room and put the food on the table. The silence was broken only by Sam telling him about her trivial problems at work, something she rarely did. When Carol finally looked up from her reading she returned to her cordial self and picked up her knife and fork.

‘Well. It’s certainly profound. What made you want to write about the Universe?’

‘It has the best questions and I’m asking two of them. I’m writing a book about the ending of it, and this poem’s about the beginning of it. I think if you ask enough questions about any complicated subject, then the chances are you might at least begin to find clues to solving something.’

‘I’ve often wondered where poets get their inspiration.’ said Carol.

‘I have no idea’ said Dorsett. ‘I don’t suppose any writer or poet is ever forced to write anything.’

‘So you think it might be instinct?’

‘I’m not sure if it’s instinct. I think it’s an itch that has to be scratched. You sometimes can’t help yourself.’

‘Yes. But where do you get these ideas, Dorsett?’

That’s when he realised. It should have been Sam’s prolonged silence during his conversation with Carol that awakened him, but it wasn’t. It was that question; where do you get these ideas? Something that was written too early into the scene of a bad play, the purpose of which was to extract certain information.

The suspicion of it made his face grow red and when his hesitancy to reply caused Sam to look up from her plate, he knew it was confirmed. He thought he could play the game along without them suspecting, maybe reverse their entrapment, but instead, he felt exposed and embarrassed. He pushed his unfinished meal away from him.

‘Excuse me.’

He didn’t take his coat with him when he left, even though he knew it was raining.

When he returned he went straight into the bathroom to dry himself. The rainfall, although not cold, was consistent enough to drench him, making his jeans stick to his thighs. He removed them with difficulty and saw Sam appear at the door, leaning against it.

‘Has Carol gone home?’ he asked, as if nothing needed explaining.

‘Yes. Why did you leave?’

‘You know why.’

‘I’m sorry. I was only trying to help.’

Everything around them was a minefield.

‘Help?’ he asked. ‘You think bringing in someone to analyse me is offering help? Tell Carol she needs to improve on her approach work. She nearly fooled me though. I thought she was genuinely interested in my poetry.’

‘But she is, Dor, honestly.’

‘I’m sure she is. But not in the way I mean. She wanted to look for signs of lunacy. Like I’m some kind of guinea pig in a laboratory. So tell me: what was her diagnosis?’

‘She didn’t have enough information to give one.’

‘It seems she wasted her evening, then. And a meal.’

‘No, she enjoyed the meal. She said you were a good cook and told me to mention it to you.’

She handed him his dressing gown as he threw his clothes in the basket.

‘So she can scrutinise my food but not my mind. Some shrink.’

‘She’s not a shrink. I asked her to help me because I wanted to help you. She didn’t have to come. You should be grateful.’

Dorsett drew close to her face and spoke quietly.

’No. What happens, Sam is that you tell me what you intend to do, we agree, she arrives, we talk, she tells us what she’s discovered, then I tell her I’m grateful. Your way was deceitful.’

Sam stood upright, shocked like a scolded child, and gently pushed his chest with the palm of her hand. It was a gesture half pleading, half reprimand.

’I did it to help. I’m worried about you!

She turned her head so her eyes could not be seen and walked away into another room. Sam slammed doors when she was angry but not when she was distressed. Some people did that. But this girl that loved him didn’t like noise when she cried.

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