“…so, tonight we have the rising young, or should I say rising OLDER star, author of bestselling novel Broken Clocks, Ronnie FORDman.” said Marion Maestro, host of nightly entertainment broadcast, This is It.
*Speaker generated crowd noise*
Ronnie gazed into the crowd with a vacuous stare, the studio lights blurred out the people in attendance, he barely noticed Marion pronounced his name incorrectly, a common occurrence due to the phonetic similarities of the two, but this IS showbiz. You’d think he would get my name correct, Ronnie thought.
“So, is it ok if I call you Ronnie?” Maestro asked.
“Yes, sir” Ronnie replied.
“How long have you been writing?”
“A little over 7 years…I didn’t start until I was 40.”
“Did you imagine you would experience this much success, especially getting such a late in the literary industry? Broken Clocks is sitting at a million copies nationally and I hear you are in talks to sign a movie deal, is this correct?”
*Speaker generated crowd chatter*
“There’s been some interest in movie rights, but only prelim at the moment.”
“Tell us about your inspiration for Broken Clocks, I understand the title was inspired by your wife, Lana?”
“Yes. The short version is…I felt time stood still when I met her, in the best way possible, like a broken clock—”
“What exactly do you mean by that phrase? Time stood still…?”
“Um, it just means I felt such a deep love when I met her that the rest of the world ceased. She showed me a part of life I didn’t know existed. The Broken Clock title felt applicable knowing the book, is at its heart, a love story.”
*Speaker generated crowd chatter noise increases*
“I see what you did there.” Marion joked, “So, is the book title solely based off your wife or is there a correlation to the book premise or events, regardless, I’m sure you scored brownie points with your wife after that commendation?”
*Speaker generated laughter ensues*
Ronnie gazed into the crowd. The people are an amalgamation, ink-printed words on a rain-soaked novel page, their purpose less and less visible, HIS own purpose less and less clear. Is this emptiness what success feels like, he thought.
Ronnie refocuses on Marion, “Well, to be honest I started writing late in my life. I didn’t go through the normal channels of formal education, but I was always magnetized to stories and literature in general. My wife Lana urged me to pursue my writing passion, so any of my success I owe to—"
“Sorry to interrupt, Ronnie, but my producers are in my ear informing me it’s time for a sponsor break…We’ll get back to this in a sec…and now for our sponsor…” Marion Maestro cuts to break—
“Do you have trouble concentrating? Staying on task, maintaining linear thoughts? NeveHarm introduces the new medicine, ConstaFocus….ConstaFocus is not a stimulant, but can be harmful if you’ve taken migraine meds, steroid packs or anti-histamines within the last 24 hours…If you experience double vision, lapse in judgement, rapid eye movement, or the inability to focus on anything other than your phone, please contact a physician.
“How did it go? You looked great out there! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, Ron, you know this flu hasn’t let up.” Lana said.
“Wasn’t what I expected, if I’m being honest.” Ronnie said.
“Why do you say that? Did you enjoy yourself?”
“Initially…on the cab ride over. The idea of it all was stimulating. You think your work matters…you think people care…”
“Once I arrived at the studio, the whole setup just felt impersonal. Did you hear how Marion said my name wrong?”
“Yes. I knew that was going to infuriate you.”
“Of course, it did! I worked 4 years on that novel, for us, and Maestro can’t take 5 seconds to pronounce my name correctly. Are you kidding me? That’s not even the main thing, it’s how little I think he or his show runners or maybe any nightly, faux-entertainment television PROGRAMMING cares about the artistic efforts of their guests.”
“At least it will help promote your book. That’s all those shows are good for. Promotion.” Lana said.
“I get that. You know, I understand the disinterest if I was a guest on his show because I voiced a pissed off bird in some run-of-the-mill, animated sequel, but I, and I admittedly understand I am about to come off pompous, but I wrote a DAMN NOVEL! Not just any novel Lana, a literary work which doesn’t dumb down the audience, a work which respects the reader’s intelligence…a work which attempts to remind readers it’s NORMAL to still feel emotion in this droned out society…and most importantly it’s important to feel LOVE, which I was TRYING to not so successfully convey to the half-wit before he cut me off!” Ronnie said.
“Ron, calm down. You still have a book signing tomorrow, then you’ll be back home. Breathe…please.”
“You’re right. I wish you were here. Maybe no one will show up tomorrow and I can leave early.”
“Don’t say that. You’re probably just tired. Get some rest. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I love you.”
“I love you. Good night.”
“Mr. Foreman, we’re going to get you to sign the in-store books for about an hour, give or take, and then, there are one thousand unsigned copies we’d love for you to sign so we can distribute them nationally to all of our Lit for Life locations, if you don’t mind, of course.”, said Sarah Brunner, Lit for Life Store Director.
“No, not at all. I’m ready when you are.” Ronnie replied.
Ronnie checks his phone to see if Lana texted him. Life provided undeniable comfort when she was with him. As the store director escorted him to the store entrance, he could hear the excitement. Ronnie wasn’t a rockstar, but the people waiting for him cared about his work. Broken Clocks impacted them to some capacity, or they wouldn’t be here, right? When you are at home, in the comfort of your own office, or whatever designated workspace you’ve warned your family to stay out of when you’re in your “writing mode”, everything seems so simple. Writing isn’t simple, but the “creative mission plan” is. Connect with people. Let them know other people feel just like them and whether that feeling is good or bad, the feeling is ok, it is at the least understandable because what it ultimately means is we are all human. Lana reminded him of this. Her energy. Her love. And she was at home sick by herself because he had to be there for other people. The feeling seemed backwards…
“Mr. Foreman, they’re ready for you…”
A few of the fans shouted phrases of admiration, but for the most part they exhibited a mild, controlled anticipation, one in which most wanted their book signed by an author whose work they enjoyed and after the meet wanted to return to their normal lives. This might not be bad, Ronnie thought. A few of the more unhinged fans managed to squeeze through to the front of the line…
“Ronnie, when is your next book coming out?” fan 1 says, trying to overcome the crescendo of commotion.
“Ronnie, is it true your wife Lana is sick with cancer?” fan 2 asks.
“Ronnie, is it true this is the first part in a trilogy?” fan 3 asks.
The Store Director corralled the fans into the best version of a single file line she could manage. “Ok folks, Mr. Foreman will sign as many books as he can up until 2pm. After, you can mail your books to the address we provided, and he will personally sign anything you send him, at his earliest convenience. Thank you for your patience.”
Once order was regained, Ronnie signed books, posters, and whatever other merchandise the store produced to make a quick profit.
A young man, about 19 years old walked up to Ronnie and set down a tattered copy of Broken Clocks, the copy looked like it had been soaked in water and set out to dry in the midday sun. His dark brown hair was messy, his “Brave New World” t-shirt and dark blue jeans were wrinkled, as if today was the umpteenth day in a row he had to wear them.
“Mr. Foreman, thank you for taking time to come sign our books.”, the young man said.
“What’s your name?” Ronnie asked.
“Well, I appreciate the time you spent reading my book. It means a lot.” Ronnie said.
“I'm sure you hear this constantly, but your book changed me. It changed my life, Mr. Foreman. My parents divorced when I was young and home life hasn’t always been stable. My stepmom and dad don’t always get along and their animosity has an ill effect on my daily outlook. Your book reminded me that love still exists in the world. I know your story is fictional, but it was so well grounded…I want to find a love like Andre (Broken Clock protagonist) and Rose (Broken Clock protagonist’s love interest). Their love felt genuine because their problems felt genuine, felt realistic…And they both worked through them, which is what I need to know is possible. I appreciate your book so much, Mr. Foreman. Sorry for taking up so much of your time.”, the young man said as he set his dilapidated book copy on the table.
Ronnie thought back to his family. The young man reminded him of himself. Not an easy reality to face some days. Or any day for that matter…Ronnie motioned to Sarah to hand him a new hardcover version of Broken Clocks.
Sarah hands Ronnie the book.
“Thank you, Sarah. Can you grab me a second one as well, please?”
Ronnie inscribed his name in the first copy with the message, “To Joshua, Love makes life worth enduring” and handed the second unsigned copy to Joshua to use as a reading copy. “These are on me.” Ronnie said with a smile. "Thank you, Joshua. It’s been a pleasure. Good luck with everything and...keep in touch.”
Joshua perplexedly looked at Ronnie as he opened the signed copy to the title page. “Ronniesalwayswrite.Foreman@yahoo.com.” That’s your real—
“Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Keep in touch, buddy. Ok?” Ronnie shook Joshua’s hand and prepared to greet the next guest.
Ronnie obliged the remaining fan requests and exceeded the signing hours by an hour and half. This is why I write, Ronnie thought. Not for adulation, but for the people.
Back at home, the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was immediate when Ronnie walked through the door. Lana loved to burn candles, on all occasions, but especially when she felt down or physically under the weather. “The aromas regulated her energy” she would always explain to Ronnie.
Ronnie hurried to the couch where Lana lay, her crimson Oklahoma Sooner team blanket pulled up to her shoulders, her head poking out just enough to reveal her tousled brown and bronzed hair, halfheartedly fixed into a bun. Covering the living room table was an empty bottle of coconut water, a red and white Dixie paper plate with a juice puddle from her pineapple wedges and traces of toast crumbs, just noticeable, resembling tiny ants swimming in a sugary pool.
“Hey, love! How are you feeling?” Ronnie asked as he gave Lana a kiss before sitting on the edge of the sofa near her stomach.
“I’m phenomenal. I just ate the meal of a lifetime, as you can see.”
“I’m glad to be home. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to take care of you.”
“It’s just the flu, Ron. I’ll be ok. Your stepmom and Paul called, they said you wouldn't answer your cell.”
Paul was Ronnie’s publisher. He called Ron for two reasons and two reasons only, to talk about the last book, or talk about the next book. Sometimes both.
“Did my stepmom mention what about, was it urgent? She didn’t leave me a voicemail or text.”
“I kind of got the vibe she wanted to ask you about your This is It appearance. My phone has been blowing up about it as well.”
“I haven’t talked to her in weeks, something tells me it’s more than the show appearance.”
Ronnie kissed Lana on her hairline above her right temple. Even when she didn’t feel well, she still exuded beauty. He could never figure out her secret regarding that, he always came back to the thought process that when your soul is beautiful, your outside naturally radiates the same energy. “Do you need anything, love? I was going to call Carol real quick, make sure everything is ok.”
“I’m fine, Ron. Go do what you need to do. I love you"
“Hey, just now returning your call. Is everything ok?” Ronnie asked.
“Hey, wasn’t sure you remembered you still had family.” Carol replied.
“Sorry, just been busy with Lana and with work, what’s up?”
“I didn’t know you were going to be on the This is It show. Your Dad told me minutes before you came on.”
“Guess I thought everyone knew. I’ve been going through some personal stuff lately, it’s difficult keeping up with every—
“You knoq your sister Lucy is going through some issues as well, not just you. She’s having having a rough go with her 2nd trimester, especially with Carl not in the picture anymore.” Carol interrupted.
“What does she expect? He’s an abusive drug addict who’s been in and out of prison…I get people go through difficult times, obviously that is what I am trying to communicate to you, but to expect an individual with that number of problems to be reliable, let alone be a father, is ludicrous. Don’t you think?”
“You’re always so critical of her, Ron. I know you two have your issues with each other, but she’s changing. Give her a chance…”
“She’s 42 years old, how many chances does one person get without some semblance of a positive output?”
“She’s found God, Jesus…she’s started to read a lot, just like—“
“I’m sorry, but I'm not buying that hypocritical bullsh-t. Godly people don’t behave in the manner she does. She insulted Lana on more cases than one, way before the family had a chance to know her. Do you know how unfair that is to Lana?”
“This isn’t about Lana, this is about—“
“It’s about the respect this family has for my wife. If Lucy can’t respect my wife, she’s dead to me. Period. Lana would never do anything to hurt or disrespect our family and Lucy treated her like some homeless passerby.”
“Ever since your book took off, you’ve been different to the family.” Carol said.
“No, ever since my book took off, you guys came around more and it forced me to express my true feelings about everything. And you don’t—”, Ronnie said.
“I hope your next book is a dis—“ Carol said.
“You don’t need to say anymore,…typical example, you never listen to what I am saying. It’s always about you and Lucy, interpolating your sociopathic desires to be heard. You can’t be happy for me and Lana because you’re worried about the mess that is Lucy’s life. If Lucy had written a half decent page of words, you’d brag to the whole world…but when I write a book with a little bit of success, more importantly, when I took charge of my own dreams and taught myself how to write and followed through with a little incentive to complete a book, you have nothing but negative comments to interject, most of them entirely irrelevant to the reality that is my life. You and Lucy are only happy when everyone else is as miserable as you two. If that’s "Godly", count me out. I have to go—“, Ronnie hung up the phone before saying bye.
“Love, give me a few more minutes. I am going to see what Paul wanted.” Ronnie said to Lana.
“Ron, don’t call him with your emotions running high. You know that’s a bad formula for you…”, Lana said.
Ronnie dials Paul before Lana's advice can register.
“RONNieeee, don’t start getting big-time on me. You don't have time for your publisher all the sudden? I saw you finessing Mr. Marion Maestro on his This is It Show.” Paul answered.
“Paul, how are you?” Ronnie asked.
“Great, Ronnie. Great. Broken Clocks is REALLY catching momentum out here. Have you given thought to your follow-up novel? If we strike while it’s hot, you could become a mainstay in the literary industry.”
Paul always talked excitedly when there was money to be made.
“You could be my next superstar, Ron. I’ve got a great feeling about you. I do, I do, I do.” Paul said.
“First off, we’re not getting married Paul so cut the “I drank one too many MK Ultras” act.” Ronnie joked.
“Whatcha got, Ron. I can tell something is on your mind.”
“Regarding the next book, I think I'm going to take a break from fiction.” Ronnie said.
Paul didn’t say anything…waiting for Ronnie to finish his thoughts.
“I want to write an autobiography about me and Lana. About our life, our love. A dedication to her.” Ronnie said.
“That’s real sweet, Ron, but we’re trying to sale books here, not Couple’s Retreats.”
“Just let me do it my way, this one time.” Ronnie said.
“I’ll make a deal; you equal your sales of Broken Clocks with this couple’s therapy crap you’re writing, and we won’t drop you. If the new book bombs, you bomb with it. Deal?” Paul said.
Ronnie held the phone down to his leg and looked over at the couch, waiting for Lana’s input. She looked at Ronnie and softly mouthed the words, “DO what’s in YOUR…” as she tapped her index finger to the left side of her chest.