My name is Carroway Flanagan, and I’m a hack. No, not a hacker, just a regular, garden variety, everyday hack. Every single document I open turns to wrack and ruin, possibly on account of me being a useless, pathetic, absolute sham of a writer. Everything starts normal, but in true hack style, it always ends up deplorable. My similes are as awful as a salad with coriander in it, my metaphors are dull, like if you had a pretty slick Toyota Celica but painted it mustard brown for some reason. My prose is staid, and my dialogue is, like … jerky, I guess. No matter how hard I try, my characters follow their archetype to the letter. My plots are predictable. My sentences are far too long, and there is no rhythmic meter in anything that is spewed from my dullard brain, as if I just never know when to shut the fuck up, and let the sentence come to its natural conclusion, instead of forcing it to go on, like The Rolling Stones’ career. God, what a horrible verb that was. See? Awful.
My name is Carroway fucking Flanagan and I can’t fucking write to save myself, and that’s really inconvenient because I’m a fucking writer. I’m over-reliant on profanity, and I’m prone to repeating myself. I’m also really bad for reiterating points that don’t need any further iteration, like when you’ve already described a point, but you spend another sentence or two basically explaining the same fucking thing, superfluously. Redundantly. Arbitrarily.
My wife, Ginevra Flanagan, nee Margolis, is a far better writer than me. She is flawless, really. Every sentence jumps at you, every adjective paints a vivid picture in your mind, just like one of those TV shows with that painter guy. Bob … something? Shit. I’m fucking terrible at remembering pop culture references, and I’m over-reliant on profanity, did I mention that? Ginevra doesn’t need profanity – she’s way too classy for that. She writes with such grace, and poise, and clarity. She never resorts to the easy simile, as tempting as it may be. She always has some delightfully quirky take on a common idiom, and it always makes me smile. Like sunshine on a cloudy day…is something she would never write. She’s so beautiful.
Of course, the problem here is that we both work at the same magazine. She writes weekly serial fiction for EZ Week, a shitty entertainment junker that middle aged women buy specifically for the crosswords and little else. We have a circulation of about eighty thousand units weekly, which means we can justify having six staff writers. My wife and I are two. Max Leopold writes the editorials, which is funny because he isn’t the editor. The editor hates writing, almost as much as she hates writers in general. She’s a tyrant, an egomaniacal despot, incapable of even the merest reserves of basic humanity. I’m pretty sure she eats babies. Jake Lloyds takes one half of the celebrity component, and Karen Withers the other. That leaves Frida Jegens with fashion and food, neither of which are big enough to have a dedicated writer. Obviously, we take contributor pieces, paid on a per-word basis as well, but those are an incidental. We charge $4.60 per mag, for eighty thousand copies per week, sale or return commission. Advertising is the larger chunk, and pays our wages.
Me, I handle advertising, and write fluff pieces. That’s all they are, and that’s all I’m really capable of. I write those true life stories, like ‘I Was Abducted By A Lettuce’, or ‘I Ate Six Cans Of Pringles In A Minute And Nearly Died’. I know where I stand, and where that is, is typically at the end of the line. Bottom of the fucking food chain. Really, I’m just biding my time until I can unleash my piece de resistance upon the unsuspecting masses, a scathing indictment of the tabloid industry entitled ‘Twelve Years A Slave: Wendy Can Tongue My Nutsack’. I have the first draft ready in my top drawer for when I finally leave EZ Week, but in all honesty, I’ll be lucky to have fucking Cracked pick it up and pay me a fucking tenner for it. I have an over-reliance on profanity, too. I can’t stop putting it in my stories, even though I know the editor will only remove them and castigate me for it.
My most successful story to date involved a dingo, some KY jelly, an elderly Tasmanian woman, and a foxhole. I wish I was actually joking, but that’s a true story. A dingo got stuck in a foxhole, and the aforementioned elderly Tasmanian woman, Edith Forswick, used a tube of KY jelly to lubricate and extract the dingo from said foxhole. The hardest part of the story was trying to explain why an elderly Tasmanian woman had a tube of KY jelly handy. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a sexual reason. Well, at least that’s what she said, but I doubt it. She was pretty foxy for an octogenarian, so I’m sure she had seen more than her fair share of action lately, the saucy minx.
Everyone knows that my job is the most expendable at EZ Week, even me. Especially me, actually. Only last week, Wendy, our editor, had her extra-heavy-duty granny knickers in a knot at having to practically re-write a whole story. So much so, that she sent me an extremely caustic email that had the whole office CC’d in. She even included the secretary – a gormless twenty-one-year-old with the intellect of a half-eaten mouse – and the head of printing, shit, even the intern, who is seventeen fucking years old. I officially have less worth to EZ Week than a seventeen year old, let’s just let that sink in. I’ve taken the liberty of including it below:
To: Carroway Flanagan
CC: Ginevra Flanagan, Frida Jegens, Karen Withers, Jake Lloyds, Max Leopold, Jenna Druthers, Jacob Barnsley, Wade Constance, Clarice Benedict
I don’t need to tell you that this week’s article, entitled ‘My Secret Affair With My Brother-in-law’, was wholely unacceptable. Aside from using some, frankly, baffling profanity, seemingly JUST to raise my hackles, you have an entire paragraph that goes on a completely unrelated tangent.
I don’t know how many times I need to tell you to STAY ON TOPIC, Flanagan, but this is the last straw. I’m sick to death of editing out the word ‘cocksalad’, which is TWO words, mind. I must have removed that five times in your last article ALONE.
Leaving aside your pairing of an anglo-french word, with one of latin etymological descent, the marriage of two words so diametrically opposed is, frankly, disturbing, and potentially indicative of latent mental issues. I implore you to GET HELP, Carroway, lest you come to work one day, and mow us all down in cold blood.
In any case, if you are incapable of writing to an acceptable standard, and Lord knows that based on the current evidence that would appear to be the case, please tender your letter of resignation forthwith, and we will find someone who has the capability to do something that a seventeen year old should rightfully be more than capable of. In fact, Wade will be the first in line for your job.
Please note that, under the current Fair Work legislation, we would actually prefer you to resign of your own accord, and then refuse to give the requisite four weeks notice, so that we don’t have to pay you a severence when you so clearly do not merit it. You currently have a gigantic amount of paid leave owing, and a full allowance of long service to boot, unfortuntately, and paying out several thousands of dollars to a contemptibly poor writer with equally poor personal hygiene standards isn’t high on my list of enjoyable pastimes. Among your less deplorable habits, is your insistence on fronting up to work without fail or exception. How unfortunate, then, that you happen to be the one person on the entire staff whom we would not at all miss.
p.s. It is spelt ‘contingency’, not ‘cuntingency’.
p.p.s. Similarly, it is spelt ‘constable’, not ‘cuntstable’. Do not test me, Flanagan.
Oh, I forgot to mention. See that name at the end of the CC list? Clarice Benedict? Yeah, that’s my mother. I have no idea exactly how Wendy came to have my mother’s email address, or to figure out that she’s not really dead after all, but rest assured, I got a concerned phone call from mother not twenty minutes after I finished work. I’m forty fucking years old, mind you. What an absolute thrill that was.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘why on Earth would Carroway put cocksalad in his articles’, right? Well, the truth is that it’s really, really fucking funny. There is no other justification, honestly. It is almost as fun as misspelling words intentionally, so that they then contain profanity. And to be fair, the woman who was having an affair with her brother-in-law in that article did describe one particular dirty weekend as a ‘cock salad’, so really, I was just taking artistic license. Plus, in my defence, it was really fucking fun to submit an article with the line ‘my husband wasn’t home, and Terry let himself in the back door. No, I don’t mean it like that! Although, that whole weekend was one giant cock salad for me’. There’s just something about a good compound word comprised of a swear, and a completely innocuous word that really tickles my fancy, y’know?
So anyway, on with the story. The thing is, this is a first for me. I’m trying to fix my shitty writing problems by documenting a really important period of my life, one that was instrumental in making me the person I am today. That is to say, more or less exactly the same person I have always been, but with slightly more pride in my work, and a little less self-sabotage. That’s my problem, see? I know how to write perfectly well, but I just can’t seem to do it. My lack of confidence stems from my introspection, and micro-obsessions. It’s hard to deliver anything when you are obsessing over nothing. It’s hard to care about anyone else’s criticism, when you don’t value your own worth in the slightest. So, as I said, this is me fixing that.
Judge me all you want, I don’t mind. And if I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.