The Last Literary Dave (NaNoWriMo 2022 #12)

(Start from the Beginning: The Dead Writer)

(Previously: Dolly Parton is Not Dead)

Outside his window, the patter of soft rain landed upon the streets with a fine susurration reminiscent of a gentle grain silo spilling a hairline flow. Despite the stertorous roars and clamorous claptrap of the human-fueled apocalypse, the rain remained one of the most beatific and humbling sounds that you could hear in November. The earth, with its many promising elements, would long outlast the feeble lunges of ape-descended jackanapes: their feral stabs at relevance, the relentless envelope-pushing that amounted to nothing, the boisterous boasting that was increasingly dubious, the inevitable drift to ephemerality and ultimately being remembered by no one. The rain was truer than any red state bleat or scolding liberal finger. Humans would come and go and live and die, but the rain would always remain. An awe-inspiring autumn foreshadowing of the roaring snow to come. A warmup for the main meterological act. A tremendously pleasing sound that, had these silly humans possessed greater humility, openly invited you to stay in bed on a Sunday and be grateful for all the unseen wonders around you. The rain would drown out the pain and the grief and the collective trauma that had accrued too fast and that had been allowed to fester and that had pushed the humans into more exhibitionistic strains of depravity that were shaving more seconds off the Doomsday Clock.

David Leich didn’t care about the rain.

He also hated it when people mispronounced his name. It was “like,” goddammit, not “leech.” He had screamed at the telemarketers and the Democrat volunteers over the phone whenever this happened.

Unfortunately for David, nobody really liked him. Not the baristas who served him his $40 custom beverages — drinks so ridiculously bespoke that it clogged up the line. Not the landlord who knocked on his door to collect the monthly rent. His father had disinherited him a decade before and this had motivated him to become as rich as possible. And David Leich was so stubborn that he truly believed he could do this by writing books.

The only thing he cared about was whether his work was read. And it increasingly wasn’t. Just like all the other literary Daves. And it looked likely that posterity was going to be denied to him as well. He had tried to pitch himself as a Nordmaka candidate: one of those lucky writers drafting manuscripts that would be published in a hundred years once the trees grew in. Goddammit, he was better than Mitchell (a British literary Dave who was decidedly kinder and more generous to his readers than any of the American Daves and thus not excluded from the epithet of being a true literary Dave) and Atwood (where the fuck was his TV deal?)! But despite his numerous awards, the Oslo people gently told him to buzz off. The Norwegians were actually very good at this without offending the unwelcome party.

The only writer who was more insufferable than Leich was the Tory vulgarian teaching at Bath Spa University who had a raging hard-on for Arnold Bennett and who inhaled poppers like a giraffe wolfing down acacia thorns once he taught another class futilely trying to persuade young people to read the writer that Virginia Woolf had rightly destroyed.

David Leich wasn’t that Tory vulgarian. Nobody in America could be as awful as him.

But he was still strongly detested. And the invites to book parties grew less frequent.

Someone had planted a rumor that Leich was up for the Nobel Prize, but Bill Flogaast had told them that it was a joke and he walked into bookstores and raged at friendly minimum wage booksellers, who swiftly removed his volumes from their shelves.

He sat miserably in his East Village apartment and stared at the blinking cursor on the white screen. And he had nothing. Not a single paragraph. Not even a facile declarative sentence.

What he did have with an inexhaustible supply of white-hot rage, which accelerated the deepening crow’s feet swiftly staggering the sides of his bloodthirsty eyes. Other writers had tried to befriend him and calm him down. David Fitzroy, who shared a lot of Leich’s snobbish indignation towawrds the rabble, had tried to set him up with a friend. “Maybe a woman might calm you down.” And Alice had been smart. So smart. So kind. So patient. More patient than a Stepford wife tolerating an abusive mansplainer. And he had run her out. And there was nobody else. Not even his considerable wealth (thank you, MacArthur people!) could persuade a woman to stick around for longer than two months. It didn’t help when Patricia Vacation — a twentysomething whom he had improbably seduced at Central Park — wrote that bestselling roman à clef, Narwhal’s Tusk, which sent the whisper network on high alert when it came to having anything to do with David Leich and guaranteed that David Leich would be feverishly jerking off to porn until his junk became a chronically detumescent pig in a blanket, little more than an embarassing mechanism for constant peeing.

The rain carried on outside. Leich hated it. He opened the window and scowled at the glistening mirror that had replaced the teeming streets. He watched one poor man race through the showers without an umbrella. “Moron!” he screamed. And then he saw a sight that made him angrier. A man schtupping a woman against the brick wall directly across from his building, her legs impressively arched around his waist. Even from the sixth floor, he could see the whites of her eyes tilting like a pinball machine. And they were making noise. Constant moans that ricocheted against the dead air of other buildings with unrented units and that stabbed the depths of his ears. He had tried to avoid the heightened exhibitionism by not leaving his apartment and it had never seemed to spill into his relatively quiet patch on East 7th Street. He had been grateful to be so insulated from the steadfast salacity in Tompkins Square Park, where they seemed to be at it at all hours. But on his block? No, there were standards of decency to uphold.

He opened the closet and reached for his Louisville Slugger. He was quite prepared to unclick the three deadbolts on his door and bash in their brains, but he was precluded from his homicidal improv bit by the flash of a mouse scurrying across his living room floor.

“Motherfucker!” he screamed.

The rat problem had grown out of control in the early 2020s under the disastrous administration of one-term Mayor Eric Adams, who was so incompetent that he had improbably proven to be worse than Dinkins and De Blasio combined. Much like any public works project hindered by blundering bureaucracy, Adams had made the mistake — and this was the least of his errors — of unrolling his rodent extermination plan — which he had cluelessly named “the Final Solution,” seemingly oblivious to history and earning him the wrath of the Orthodox communities in Williamsburg and Sunset Park, both of which had protested his insensitivity at City Hall before Adams reluctantly renamed this “Operation Bobcat” — in six months instead of six weeks. And in those six months, the rats grew far bolder, making public inspections of restaurants impossible. And they spilled into nearly every residential domicile in the five boroughs, causing more New Yorkers to flee to Florida. But for the hardened New Yorkers who stayed — and, for all of his faults, David Leich was one of them — they grew used to the critters. This when there far more of them running around that at any other point in New York history.

But David Leich was not the kind of man who would accept any form of pestilence scampering around his apartment. If he heard a scrape in the walls at 2 AM, he would call his super. And the phone would ring and ring. And the super soon avoided him in the halls. And who could blame him? Every apartment had rats. David Leich was nobody special.

You couldn’t hire a private exterminator because they were now charging $500/hour and they all had a nine month appointment backlog. And even when he had tapped one of the rare contacts who would still talk with him to get an exterminator in his apartment inside of a week, the rats had returned two months after all the crevices and points of entry had been packed with steel wool.

So he placed a concatenation of traps at every corner of his apartment. Snap traps. Glue traps. Electric traps. He liked the electric traps best because he wanted the rats to suffer. There was also a helpful little green light, not unlike the hue of the Samsung Surrounder, that appeared any time one of the rats became trapped inside the lengthy carriage, attracted to the peanut butter bait and instantly electrified.

But despite the fact that his apartment had become a veritable minefield for rodents, one goddamned rat had somehow figured out how to tip-toe around the traps. And the rat emerged from beneath his couch and stared at him. Was the little fucker smiling? He couldn’t know for sure. But he took a big lunge with his bat as the rat sprinted away from him and he somehow stumbled and the trajectory of his swing destroyed the glass case containing the autographed Mets baseball on his coffee table.

“Motherfucker! Come here!”

The carnal groans of the couple outside grew louder.

The rat darted to one of his bookcases and squeezed itself between two volumes of his Graham Greene collection. He pulled out The Power and the Glory and pushed the bat into the crevice almost as if he was pumping butter.

No sign of the rat.

“Come on!”

Then he heard a snap and a painful squeak. And he walked over to the trap, towering over the invasive little beast and began to laugh with the cruelty of a feudal lord who had just watched two of the peasants beat each other to death.

“That’s what I thought,” said David Leich, who grew tranquil with this triumph.

Then he remembered the fucking couple outside.

He returned to the open window. And they were gone.

He pulled out his toolbox from the closet and took out a ball-peen hammer and began to smash the rat’s skull in, laughing with each monomaniacal swing. The blood from the rat shot up upward in parabolic geysers. And this made Leich laugh even harder. It had been years since he had felt this way. Five years, in fact. When he had received the happy news that Paul Van Kleason had died. Van Kleason. That hopeless sci-fi hack who was merely one of his many nemeses, but whom he hated the most. He summoned the glee of a man who had kept a dark secret that he could not share, a man who would rise to the top again because of what he knew — that is, if he could get the vast illiterate throngs to care.

He slid open the file cabinet — kept neat and tidy like all of his wildly obsessive records of his numerous enemies — and he found the safety deposit box and unlocked it, still laughing heartily. And he took out the photos that the man in the fedora and the bland burgundy tie had given him. And he laughed again as he read the autopsy report, the one that had been carefully buried, the one that Bill Flogaast had given to him as a holiday gift.

Did anybody even care about Van Kleason anymore? He didn’t know. But he had this. And as the rat in the other room twitched its final and quite painful spasm, David Leich started to make rand plans about how he could rewrite the narrative so that the literary people (including the Norwegians) would never laugh at him again. He would have his revenge. And no rat, no rainstorm, and no public copulator was going to stop him.

(Next: The Italian Restaurant)

(Word count: 24,434/50,000)

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