Forbidden text

I arrived early. I have always arrived early, at all places and times, it is a point of pride with me learned from my mother, and truth be told I shall probably arrive early to my very grave. But on the morning of which I write here, I arrived at the Federal Department of Licensing even further ahead of time than was normal for an arrival, for me.

It was an important day.

The building itself – the Federal Department of Licensing, I mean – was so entirely nondescript that I can think of nothing to say of it here despite considerable efforts. It was not even bland, for had it been, then I would have something to remark upon, wouldn’t I?

In a waiting room, eventually, a hood was placed over my enormous head and I was marched seventy-three steps to another room, where sounds echoed more. I took seventy-three steps to get there but ninety-seven steps, later on, upon my return to the waiting room. I cannot account for this difference. Whether I took smaller steps or the hall had grown longer somehow, I cannot say.

In the room of echoes, it smelled of stale instant coffee. I know that scent and very well, you see, so I am sure of it, always, immediately upon smelling it. My keepers shoved me down. I believed they were throwing me down and so I struggled against them but they kept right on shoving. They were only sitting me into a chair.

They must have removed my hood. My keepers and the chair and I were all in a room somewhat like a school gymnasium. Something like that. There was even a little stage at one end, and black curtains, too.

Of more interest to me was the table. One table with three people behind it. I think they were people. Their faces were blurry, blinking in and out like objects seen at the far edge of my vision or else like something stuck within my blind spot. In point of fact, for a moment believed they’d drugged me, but no, their hands I could see just fine. The table, fine. It was only their faces.

The one on the left might have been a woman. The one in the middle, a man, and bald, why not? The figure on the right wore a wedding band.

“Applicant 20285082126E, Ham-id,” said the figure on the right. When he said this, he pronounced it as in the pig flesh and the Freudian drive. I considered correcting him but thought better of it, sensing HAM-id might serve me better in my current circumstances than hahm-EED.

“Mister Hamid, do you consider yourself a writer?” said the one in the middle of it all, finally.

It took a little while before the words swished around within my enormous head and I realized I’d been spoken to. This happens, sometimes, with me. “Well, you see, I write a blog,” I said. “And also shopping lists. The odd email. And grant proposals for work, as well. I enjoy it very much.”

“Have you been published? Won any awards?” said the one who might have been a woman.  

“I wrote for my school newspapers,” I said. “There was also a section in a reference book about Native Americans once. I won a Versatile Blogger award online, and some writing awards for historical papers back in college.”

At this, there came a great shuffling of many papers as though something I’d said had set off alarm bells. In my head, I retraced my remarks for the offending component.

What was this historical paper regarding?” one of them said.

“I- I don’t remember,” I lied.

“It was about Eugene Debs, wasn’t it?” my questioner said.

The three of them came together then into something of a huddle, whispering like my mother and father once did, long ago, back when I was a child still too young to hear about the adult world and its assorted troubles. During this huddling of my inquisitors, I began to think about songs I liked and I even hummed a few bars of “Willow Farm” before reconsideration forced my stop.

“Mister Hamid,” the probably bald man said, “Executive Directive 114122124164 now prohibits unlicensed writing of any sort within this nation.” I knew of this, of course. Why else would I be sitting before the licensing board except if I was aware of the directive and trying to get licensed?

“I just wish to write in my blog,” I said, almost pleading now, and in the midst of my pleading, I went on. I must have seemed pitiful. “I don’t write anything political or religious these days, really. Like this one time, I wrote about a door key breaking inside of a lock, and another time, I wrote about walking around a revolving door…”

“Mister Hamid, this committee does not reach any judgment as to the content of your writing today because you do not even pass the first prong of the federally-mandated test for consideration of a writing license,” said the probably bald man.

“We don’t find you to be a real writer,” said the probably female figure.

“You can apply again next year,” said the probably married man.

They said some other things, too, after that, I believe, but I cannot attest as to what it might have consisted of because I was already lost inside of my own head, making plans.

And if someday, I don’t know how, you stumble upon this illegal story of mine, and if you somehow know how to read the words, then just know that many stories in the old days were far better than this one of mine. The best stories even had heroes who would overcome great adversities or discover new worlds or fall in love. That sort of thing. Really.

This story might not be a good story but this is what you have to try and understand: The thing is, I am not a real writer. 

Comments

  1. This story has shaken me to my very core. Oh, not because of your dystopian society's Kafka-esque requirement that all writers be licensed following a thorough but secret inquiry. No, it's your horrifying assertion that online BLOG AWARDS are worthless indicators of writing merit! SAY IT AIN'T SO!!! I've got a boatload of them and they're the only things shoring up my fragile ego. *sob*

    Ha ha, great story, seriously. My favourite clever line: "he pronounced it as in the pig flesh and the Freudian drive."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Debra. I guess I'm going to have to take those awards off of my professional resume now.

      Delete
  2. Now this is not some strange way of getting out of posting more - is it?
    I enjoyed this but not the idea of it actually happening. Please keep posting - if I'm a reader then you are a writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so. Writing these silly little things means way more to me than I am entirely comfortable admitting.

      Delete
  3. I wrote a section of a book on Native Americans, and by the gods, that makes me a writer! And there's no higher form of writing than the noble blog. We don't need no stinking licenses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell yes. Coming up with new ideas every week for something as disposable as a blog post seems like way more effort than it warrants, really, but here I am, doing it anyway.

      Because I'm addicted.

      Delete
    2. I so understand your comment

      Facebook does not fill the void

      Delete
    3. Hey, Allen. Facebook is great for bringing in traffic, though. I've been meaning to switch out of the Katy Anders facebook page, but it's my greatest source of traffic (along with you page, actually). So I'm still sort of Katy to the facebook world.

      Delete
  4. Being honest here, your story was awesome, brilliant even. What gives me the creeps is that you don't have to look hard to find individuals in this country that would cramp down on freedom of speech.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Beach Bum!

      I liked writing this one, and it came to me way more quickly than most of my posts do.

      It seems like something from the Fifties, but the threat of something like this happening never completely goes away, evidently.

      Delete
  5. Great, so what the hell am I supposed to do with these 27 Liebster awards I've got gathering dust in my desk drawer?

    You jest (or at least I think you jest) but the proper label of writer is such a murky thing. Technically, Snooki is a published writer. Technically, Lauren Conrad is a fiction author. Technically, James Patterson wrote his last 20 novels (even though his ghost writers might say otherwise).

    So I ask you, are they more of a writer than you or I? No, wait, don't answer that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was going to have one of the judges be a recognizable novelist I dislike, like maybe John Grisham or the 50 Shades woman. Neither of whom, I suppose, would consider me much of writer unless maybe they were spouting some kind of "Keep dreaming!" rhetoric for a writing workshop or something.

      Do you think the 50 Shades woman does writers' workshops?

      She's probably a tenured literature professor at Yale or somewhere now.

      Delete
    2. I just went to John Grisham's website for kicks, and this is the description for his latest novel:

      "From John Grisham, America’s #1 bestselling author, comes the most electrifying novel of the year, a high-stakes thrill ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State."

      Do you think he packs all of those cliches into his own synopsis, or did he have someone else do that for him?

      And E.L. James is actually British, so just remember that the next time you feel like holding English literature in high esteem.

      Delete
    3. I am confident that Grisham has the best promotional department that money can buy. It probably took seven guys to write that synopsis.

      Delete
  6. I know someone who has vehemently been declared by People Who Know, not to be a real writer. He has used the procees from his Not Real Writing to purchase a mountain, and is building a lair in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been accused of being "not a real writer," "not a real lawyer," and "not a real boyfriend" before.

      But I haven't earned enough money or praise for any of it to prove people wrong.

      People should remember that Hitler would have been a middling artist if people hadn't rejected him as such.

      Delete
  7. A Public Servise Announcement from the Cultural Marxism Revolution

    Executive Directive 1984-9-11 now prohibits unlicensed writing of any sort within the World Wide Web.”

    See - This Post


    GOODSTUFFs interview with Federal Department of World Wide Web Licensing


    Betty Friedan* - "Is it true that your internet profile states, and I quote "I am the secret love child of Popeye (the sailor man) and Miss Olive Oyl (the hussy). Just after that little incident in an adult theater, Pee Wee Herman (Aka Paul Reubans) became my special Godfather..." "

    GOODSTUFF - "Yes Ms Betty Friedan... I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam"

    Betty Friedan - "We don't want your kind on the World Wide Web! We hereby block your IP Address on Pinterest, Imgur and de-list your site on Google search! Furthermore, appeals will not be entertained!"

    GOODSTUFF - "Ye make me special parts so moist, when ye natter dirty"


    * Betty Friedan (nee: Betty Naomi Goldstein) the "founder of modern feminism" pretended to be a typical 1950's American mother who had a "revelation" that women like her were being exploited. What Betty Friedan didn't say is that she had been a Communist propagandist since her student days at Smith College (1938-1942).









    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can be writing pirates, shoving our posts into corked bottles and throwing them out on the high seas for unwary readers to find.

      Delete
    2. Tuesday, September 19
      International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2017

      Some way and some how I am going to play this one

      Delete
    3. Is it that time of year again already?

      Delete
  8. I thought I was the only blogger to receive the Versatile Blogger award, and that made me a real writer. Damn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's sort of like the National Book Award, I think. You've joined a very noble lineage of recipients.

      Delete
  9. If we blog, we write. So there Mr Ham-eed. You tell that inspector guy I said so. We don't need his pathetic little licence. It's probably printed on recycled paper. Golly I hope we never live in that fictional world you just described. It's nasty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somehow, my dystopian scenarios always get mixed in with my latent real life insecurities and fears. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with this one.

      Delete
  10. Surely being able to put to paper an apt description of your trials against your inner, faceless demons makes you at least somewhat worthy of the title Writer? No greater source of inspiration that the monotonous binding drone of crippling self-doubt. If you've got depression, an artist is you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only reason I'd ever dream of claiming to be a writer at all is that I start getting really edgy if I go for more than a week without writing anything. Oh, and II turn down social stuff in order to sit around and plan out something to write. So wither I'm a writer or else I'm a huge damn loser. Or both.

      Delete
    2. Edginess is one of the current most popular modes of self-expression and contrarianeering.
      No good book has been written in rowdy crowds.
      If a depressed artist is actually you, that's no bueno though.

      Delete
    3. What in the world happened to my last comment? Wow, that's a lot of misspelled words.

      "No good book has been written in rowdy crowds" is quotable and true. I can't even write with the television on.

      Delete
  11. This might be my favorite piece of writing, by you, I've ever read. It's real and deep, full of truths (that have often inspired me to slap a person or three). I've never understood why so many people believe that just because some of us choose to give some of our words (instead of selling them) that makes us less of a writer. Nonsense.

    Now, I'm very tempted to created A Real Writer Blog Award. I've never created a blog award. I wonder if I need a license...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I really like the immediacy of blogging. I've written novel-length things, but I enjoy this way more. So this is my thing. A post every week - some of them work and some of them don't.

      Delete
  12. So we'll end with a whistle
    And end with a bang
    And all of us fit in our places.

    I got interrogated once. By a special store detective they shipped up from San Diego to bust everyone stealing from the Montgomery Ward store where I worked. He had a folder, and in the folder he had a photograph of me carrying a box just outside the warehouse door. I pointed out to him that 1) I was carrying the box toward the door, not away from it and 2) the box said Shakey's Pizza on it, but he wasn't impressed.
    They charged my room mate (who also worked there and had a store credit card) and I with three felonies.
    The city (town, really, 25K people) of Eureka is a small-ish affair, and everyone within their respective fields tend to know one another, such as the legal field, where my mother had been a secretary for all of the best criminal defense attorneys (Kevin Underhill assures me that there should be a hyphen somewhere in that, but as I don't know where and I don't want to make it worse, I'll leave it out) for decades, which I guess is why when my last name showed up on the docket the public defender's office referred me to a court appointed attorney instead of one of their staff like my room mate got.
    The court appointed attorney turned out to be a man named Len Conry who previous to his private practice, had been the district attorney for the county of Humboldt for a number of years, and ,later went on to be appointed as special prosecutor for various other cases in various other counties.
    We didn't end up in any trouble which was nice, as we weren't guilty of what they charged us with.
    As Mr. Conry broke it down to me just before our arraignment: "Grand theft. Did you steal more than $500 worth of stuff? No? Embezzlement. Did you steal any money? No? Receiving stolen property. Now, see, to prove that you did that they would have to prove what you were thinking at the time, and as far as I can tell, they can't even prove that you were thinking at the time. You'll be OK."

    -Doug in Oakland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had forgotten I included the Genesis reference until you mentioned it. Jesus, these things are Rorschach ink blots...

      Here in Houston, at least, they can't run a bunch of defendants all charged with the same crime all through the Pubic Defenders' Office, so they'll farm out all but one to private attorneys who have agreed to go into the lottery wheel.

      I'm glad you got away scot-free. I don't run background checks on the people who comment here, but maybe I should. Who knows what kinds of nefarious figures are creeping around?

      Delete
    2. My background rarely gets any checking, but I bet that when it does it's at least not boring... Writers sort of just are, they don't seem very regulatable to me, until they do shit like start religions.
      One of my favorite bloggers just attended a "writing conference" where, among other things, she was informed "None of you in this room are the next Veronica Roth." How that was supposed to help her become a better writer, I'm not sure, but perhaps that's why no-one is paying me big bucks to host writing conferences...

      -Doug in Oakland

      Delete
    3. II don't believe I'd do well at a writer's conference. It seems like the sort of advice that would make me do exactly the opposite of everything suggested.

      Although picking up some basic marketing couldn't do me any harm...

      Delete
  13. Excellent story craze.It sort of soothed my mind though writing has nothing to do with me as for other bloggers here.Hmm great idea and excellent dialogues.Ha ha i felt pathetic when they refused to even acknowledge u as a writer.Sometime talent does not get recognised but it does not mean u r not talented.Just one of those crores is the lost,hidden pages of history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am going to try to push things a little farther in my writing from now on. Since the true stories don't get any page views or comments anyway, I might as well see how far I can push things. That will be its own reward.

      Delete
  14. Great story Harry! I always enjoy everything you write! Yes, you are a real writer! Like how I am a real artist!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I believe you might be a better marketer of your creations than I am, though. II think you're probably going to manage to get your stuff seen.

      The blog fills whatever need I have to write, for the most part. I don't think I'm quitting anytime soon!

      Delete
  15. In the Republic of Hindunazistan the punishment for unlicensed writing is to be mysteriously shot dead on your own doorstep by killers who arrive by motorcycle and use the same murder weapon (a 7.65 mm handgun which is somehow never traced or the killers caught even though they're on CCTV).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, well, if the writer is doing his thing without a license, though, it sounds like there's crime on both sides.

      Delete
  16. Replies
    1. Woohoo! I would love to be a horror writer, only I can't pull it off. Scaring people about bureaucratic writing licenses is as close as I'll ever get.

      Delete
    2. That's a bit like my dream of writing a romantic thriller about an accountant. Then I found someone else had already done it.

      Delete
  17. What the hell? I left a comment yesterday. Now, woof, it disappears. Did I disappoint the council? I'm so sorry, council! Ethel, I loved, LOVED your self-published Gary-Award-Winning 1,000 page novel about phantom limbs diddling phantom Civil War phantoms. The layers were impressive, like an onion, it made me cry as I peeled. Please don't shut me out, council! I'm not a scab.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can apply again next year. You almost passed this year, but your swimsuit competition performance was too controversial.

      Delete
  18. The Canadian Writers Union has taken the position, as you can see in the attached article in the New York Times, that one cannot write fiction about a culture other than that of the author.
    This is another piece of the Stupid. What it really means is that, in Canada at least, writers are officially discouraged from using imagination to produce novels. Notionally, this is not simply a Canadian matter. The Stupid is everywhere.
    Think about it: Under this rule, I could not write a novel with Chinese or Apache, or Masai characters. If this gets really restrictive, I might only be able to write about what goes on in my house so long as only white people live with or visit me.
    This means Homer may not write about the Trojans or the gods. William Styron could not write his books about Nat Turner or Sophie.
    Memoirs of a Geisha was written by an American who is a Jew from New York. The horror...

    the link - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/arts/editor-resigns-over-article-defending-cultural-appropriation.htm

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, Allen. Blogger is not letting me reply directly to your comment. Because blogger.

    I wrote as a gay woman for a while, and as a Muslim woman ostensibly of Pakistani origin for a while. I was a bit nervous about it at first. I even held off telling Bill the Butcher about the Nareen blog because, as I said it at the time, I was concerned I might be accused of "doing brownface."

    I don't know. Certainly, people writing as someone they're not is always going to happen in fiction, but it should not take the place of the lived experience of actual voices in fiction. I'm just going to do my thing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment