Sunday, November 24, 2019

"Ten Pages a Day"

Harry Beachcroft had one rule, which was to knock out ten pages a day, no matter how hungover he was. He gave himself one day a week off, Sunday, which meant he could really tie one on Saturday night at his favorite stop, Bob’s Bowery Bar, conveniently located just around the corner from his fifth-floor walk-up at Bleecker and the Bowery.

Today was Monday, a grey November Monday in the year of our Lord 1950. Harry rose at noon as usual, and went down to Ma’s Diner across the street for his usual breakfast, scrambled eggs, scrapple, hash browns, burnt toast, and lashings of black coffee while he read the Times. You never knew, you could get a good story idea from the Times. He left his usual fifty-cent tip, then crossed the street again and went back up to his one-room flat and his battered old second-hand Royal portable.

Harry rolled a blank sheet of paper into the machine and lighted up a Philip Morris Commander. At present he had at least a dozen stories out circulating at the pulps, and three novels (a western, a detective, an exotic oriental adventure) making the rounds of the paperback publishers. He’d finished up his most recent novel on Saturday, so now it was time to start a new “project”. 

What would it be, a short story, a novel, maybe a serializable novella? As usual, he had no idea. But something always came to him, something clicked in his brain once he’d rolled that blank sheet into the machine and lighted up that first Philip Morris.

Harry started typing:

Barry Beecham had one rule, and he stuck to it. Ten pages a day, no matter what. Rain or shine, horribly hungover or just normally hungover, he always ground out ten full pages before he let himself call it quits for the day and went around the corner to Big Bill’s Bar and that first gloriously satisfying mug of bock.

Barry picked up a fresh sheet of typing paper and rolled it into his old Remington standard, a gift from his father on his matriculation at Yale.

Barry had just finished a story the day before, so it was time to start a new one. What would this one be? A science fiction yarn? An African jungle adventure? Maybe a war story – they were always fun to write, even if Barry had been 4-F (chronic bunions) himself. Whatever, something would come, who knew, maybe a new novel? He had made a cool three hundred bucks from his last one, Range Riders of the Open Steppes, about a band of cowboys in Czarist Russia, pulling off “one last caper” – robbing the fabled Orient Express!

Barry lighted up a Camel, and started typing:

Larry McGarry had one steadfast rule. Ten pages a day. Come hell or high water, that was his quota, ten pages, and he never let himself go across the road to Phil’s Roadhouse for that first cold “English style” ale until he had finished those ten pages…

(Illustration by rhoda penmarq. Click here to read the more lavishly-illustrated version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home.)

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