Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19.
Have I finally found God?
Walk along any shoreline in Istanbul and you will often see men fishing. In fact men fish from anywhere here: boats, bridges, beaches, banks, trees. I even once saw a man fishing from his moped. When I walk with the Halfling down by the sea we often exchange a few words about the men fishing.
David: Look. Fishering.
A couple of weeks ago, because I’m basically a good dad, I blew last month’s royalty cheque from Amazon on a 6ft bamboo cane. (It’s only money.) The type people use for constructing runner bean frames back home. I thought the little chap and I could go ‘fishering’ together down at the seafront. I fixed a length of string to the end and off we went hand in hand. We had fun. Because we didn’t have a hook or bait we didn’t catch anything. But it didn’t matter. It was all about the taking part.
Last Sunday it was raining. We didn’t go out. David wanted to go ‘fishering’. I had a good idea. I set him up on the sofa and spread out some of his toy cars on the floor and then I attached one of those massively over-sized paper clips to the string of his ‘fishering’ rod. I encouraged him to fish for his cars. He cast (He’s not bad. Might make a good fly fisherman one day.) and I crawled around on the floor hooking cars on the paperclip that I’d bent to enable such. Then he would ‘strike’ and reel them in. We had a lot of fun and he was thrilled with the activity. I’m so creative.
After an hour of this I was getting a bit bored and my knees were hurting. I decided to have a bit of fun with the lad. Next time he cast I scrambled around on the floor with my back to him. When I turned to face him I had the paperclip in my mouth. Like he’d caught me. His little face lit up. He let out a squeal of delight and before I could react to the wicked glint that came into his eye, he yanked back hard on his fishing rod like the compleat angler he is becoming.
They said they heard my scream four floors up. And this is a well-insulated solid concrete apartment block.
My howling and thrashing about on the slippery laminate flooring seemed only to encourage the little ‘fisherman’ in my son, much as, I suppose, a real fisherman is encouraged when he has a big fish on his line. David sprang down from the sofa still clutching the rod in his pudgy little fists and started for the door. I had little option, as I didn’t want half my face torn off, but to go after him on my hands and knees as fast I could. The corridor between the lounge and the end bedroom is a good fifteen metres and over fifteen metres the Halfling is pretty quick.
I was shouting at him to stop but to be fair to the boy, with a mouthful of over-sized paperclip and blood I probably wasn’t being too clear about it. I like to think that if he had understood the pain I was in and my terror at not being able to keep up with him as I scrabbled along like his leashed pet chimp he would have stopped. As it was he seemed to double his efforts, and his cruel mocking laughter echoed down the hallway.
In the end bedroom he soon ran out of room, if not steam, and I quickly closed the gap between us thereby taking some of the tension out of the line. Because I no longer needed my hands to propel myself along the floor I was able to grab the line and yank the rod out of the boy’s fists. He immediately began to howl. (Turns out he got a splinter, but that’s a story for another day. Yeah, I know, a splinter from bamboo. They don’t make those canes like they used to.)
I rushed to the bathroom to assess the damage in the mirror. There was a lot of blood by this time. The face that stared back at me with the metalwork sticking out of one cheek reminded me of an aging punk-rocker I’d seen somewhere.
The paper clip came out easily enough. Thank goodness I hadn’t gone as far as fashioning the end of it into a barb. No doubt a hospital visit would have been necessary. And embarrassing.
Start to finish my ordeal lasted only about thirty seconds but the skin-chilling horror of what could have become of my ‘best side’ has plagued my dreams all week. The puncture wound is barely noticeable now. I still have some rather nasty friction burns on my knees, however. (I was wearing shorts.) They needed some explaining.
Last week I blogged about having a German translation of Rope Enough/DOVER (The First Romney and Marsh File) listed on Amazon.de. Daniela and I had decided to give it away for the weekend. By Sunday evening it was number one in all Kindle categories for free books. That was a strange feeling. Very encouraging. We’re charging for it now and it’s climbing the paid chart, and it’s got two five star reviews.
I’ve really been thinking about the craft of writing this week and it’s because of the current project I’m involved in. (As a writer, shouldn’t I be thinking about the craft of writing more often than that?)
When I started this book I thought I was looking at a labour of love that would span years of my life and hundreds of thousands of words (I honestly think that the concept could survive it, if I pursued the detail) – something I would work on between other books; something I would attack sporadically and then leave to fester before another burst of feverish activity. But I can’t write like that and more to the point I don’t think that I want to.
There’s nothing puts me off reading a book more than seeing it’s several hundred pages long. I just know it’s going to drag. I just know there’s going to be sooooo much to retain and most of it will be stuff the book could have done without (says me). It’s going to take me weeks to read it and I’m going to end up resenting it for that. I like to read a book in a short space of time – a couple of good sessions on the sofa, or a week of bedtime/commute reading, for examples, something that I can get deeply into the narrative and stay there for a devoted, concentrated short burst, as it were.
Some memorable reads that spring to mind that were not long reads: Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, The Old Man and the Sea, Heart of Darkness. (Why do I always mention these titles when I talk about books? It’s always the same ones.) These are books that stay with one for life. (Maybe that’s why.) Imagine the pleasure to be taken from writing something that stays with a reader for years, and that is doubly impressive because it was short.
And so my thinking progressed to, what if I could tell a really big story in as few words as I possibly could but still retain the enormity of the idea. So much would be left unexplored by me, the author, but the reader would inevitably (bit presumptuous) want to consider the untold aspects of the story. Is that what I would want as a reader? Finishing a book with questions crashing into each other in my mind? (I don’t mean cheating the reader out of information, like having a murder mystery and not revealing whodunit.) Or do I want everything I read to be neatly tied up and explained so that I just forget it and move on? I don’t imagine my thinking is anything original. The point is it’s new for me.
And so it was that I found myself finishing the first draft of this current project, exactly eight weeks to the day after I wrote the first line – the one I shared on this blog that week and that does NOT now have the ‘f’ word in it – ‘the blockbuster’ aka ‘my magnum opus’… with only sixty-two thousand words on the clock. (It’s officially my shortest book by over ten thousand words.) It worried me at first. But then it didn’t. A week later, after time to reflect, I still feel positive about the word count aspect. Good things come in small packages and all that. And really, when a story is told, it’s told. It’s just the story I’m not sure about. One for the bottom draw, maybe.