I’ve mentioned many times that I do most of my first draft writing in a coffee house early in the morning. I add the researched material later at home, often weeks later when I am editing the text. I thought I would post some of the raw, unadulterated first draft here.
So this piece I wrote on Saturday morning around 8.40 through to 9.30. It was quite busy in the coffee house by the time I left but I managed to get something down ‘on paper’. The scene is where the narrator, Bobby Olsen, a PI in New York in 1960, is trying to talk down a client’s son-in-law who is threatening to jump from a bank building. He’s in money trouble. It’s nothing very action-packed or a wonderful piece of writing, just the raw first stuff that comes out of my head.
‘What about Tommy?’
‘He’s in hospital. Busted ribs, teeth missing, fingers mangled. Told he’d get worse when he gets out. Unless we pay up.’
‘But he’s your buddy. You can’t bail out on the guy. Stand together, like troopers on the beach, in the jungle, like a crew on a Flying Fortress, the flak burst all around. Your’ll leave him to face it all alone.’
Seconds went by quiet. I waited. Let Earl realize he had no good answer to my statement. Only a selfish one. To jump. To quit. I had never talked anyone down from a ledge but I had gone face to face with many who saw only a brick wall when they tried to deal with their problems. Often they needed another voice to say things they weren’t strong enough to say themselves. I played Earl’s reflection in the mirror; the mirror he probably stared into an hour ago before walking out his apartment.
‘Let’s go visit Tommy, tell him you stand with the guy, then we meet up with Linda. You forgotten your wife? How’s she gonna go on without you?’
I wondered where she was. Perhaps she couldn’t face the situation. Maybe the cops kept her back in case she screamed her husband off the ledge, either with words of undying love that drove the guy crazy or words of blame that made that one step into empty air seem a blessed relief. Or had the bad guys jumped a step on the list, taken her early to apply extra pressure. Did they know Earl was about to jump ship, going to face up to the big guy outside the pearly gates with the book of reckoning rather than the small guys down here with their debt numbers scrawled rough on old receipts from a take-out restaurant.
‘She’s got insurance, she’ll be…’
‘Don’t think they pay out for jumpers, Earl.’
A horrible thought crossed my mind. Had Earl ever thought of pushing Linda into the Hudson and claiming the insurance to clear his money problems? Maybe the idea had occurred to him and that was why he stood here.
‘I gotta go, Mr Olsen, I’m going…’
But he didn’t move. I began to guess he wouldn’t.