Jewel and Myron sat at the round, glass-topped table, munching on their steak sandwiches. Jewel was reading Myron’s story about Curtailer and Smones, and as she flipped each page, Myron picked it up and re-read it himself. He read the pages more quickly than she, since he had written them and knew them well, but she was reading them for the first time.
“Oh, that’s good,” murmured Jewel. Myron peered at the page in front of her. It was the bit about Curtailer and how his ancestor had established the family name. Myron had known that would get her–she liked that kind of factual crap, James Michener and all.
Across the room, the television was on, and the talking heads jabbered about the presidential election in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court had just ordered a recount of the undercounted ballots, even though the deadline for certifying electors was only four days away.
Myron thought his steak sandwich was very good. He had made it himself, with thinly sliced flank steak, extremely rare, and lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on toast. He took another bite. It didn’t matter if he got mayo on the pages, this was just a first draft.
Jewel finished reading. She handed him the last page.
“Very good,” she said. “I really like the part about John Irving.”
Myron smiled, self-satisfied. She didn’t know that he had lifted the name ‘Smones’ straight out of The World According To Garp. She hadn’t caught that. It was from the chapter, near the end of the book, where Garp goes to the chapel just before his father-in-law’s funeral, for the purpose of instructing the organist what not to play, per his wife’s instructions. And he finds himself in the midst of an earlier funeral, of a man whose family has not seen him since his childhood, when they had feuded–Garp had bitten their dog’s ear right off. And when he finds himself sitting next to the widow, who does not recognize him, and she asks his name, he doesn’t want to reveal his identity and make a scene, so he stumbles between ‘Smith’ and ‘Jones’, and it comes out ‘Smones’.
Smones. It was just another example of Irving’s cleverness, his inventiveness, which Myron admired and wished that he, himself, possessed. But he didn’t. So he had decided to steal the name from Irving and build a story around it.
“Where did you get the name ‘Curtailer’?” asked Jewel. “And the information about its origins? On the internet?”
“No. I made it up.”
“You made it up?” She laughed in disbelief. “Amazing.”
“I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” he admitted.
There was something else Myron admired about Papa John: Irving insisted that imagination was always more interesting than fact, and that writers should make things up rather than thinly disguise their own experience. Myron had deduced this was a red herring on Irving’s part, just a sneaky way for him to conceal the use of autobiographical material in his own novels. It was the subterfuge which he admired. It made the books more interesting, more daring. Yes, that Irving really had balls.
The television commentators droned on about chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads, chads hanging by two corners and so on. This whole election thing had turned into a media feeding frenzy….
Later that night, in bed, Jewel thought more about Myron’s story. Myron was sitting up in bed beside her, reading the New York Times Book Review.
She admired him for his perseverance. Even though he was over fifty years old and had never published a word, he still kept doggedly on with his writing. He always had some project or other in the works. She respected that persistence. And it made him more interesting. It was something she could be proud of in front of her friends. ‘Myron is writing a novel,’ she would say; or ‘Myron just finished another poem’. He was like jewelry. She liked to show him off. He was ornamental.
“What is it going to be?” she asked.
“Your story. What is it going to be?”
“No idea,” he said.
“Is it another novel?”
He turned and looked at her, his eyes twinkly behind his old-fashioned horn-rimmed glasses. “Sure. Ok. A novel. Maybe I’ll call it The World According to Smones.”
“No!” she said. “You can’t.”
“Why not? Irving can’t stop me.”
“He could sue.”
“Nah. You can’t copyright a title. Yeah, that’s definitely it: The World According to Smones.”
[TO BE CONTINUED]