All beings must deal with their own mortality at some point, but we writers have to then deal with the immortality of our work. Other than burning each page (which I’ve done, but only the first fifty pages of the manuscript-I’m melodramatic, not insane! and of course it was backed-up) and having that all-important conversation with a trusted fellow-writer, there’s not a lot that can be done with the myriad of misstarted stories, self-indulgent poetry, premature tomes and private journals where we reflect on the possibility of failing before we start that are created as we improve our skills and attempt to master the craft. Marco Kaye’s story on McSweeney’s, “In Light of My Impending Death, Here’s What to Do With My Literary Estate,” says it better than I ever could. On a personal note-AJ, you know what to do!
You were always warning me of horse therapy’s manifold dangers. Of how I “leaned too much” on the horses, both figuratively and literally, to fix my faulty neurochemistry. Last rites are being read tomorrow, in addition to several of my unpublished villanelles and the part where Hazel dies at the end of Watership Down. Before I join that great writer’s retreat in the sky, here are some instructions on how to handle my literary estate. Please follow them to the letter. (Forgive me. Puns are medicine to a dying writer!)
In the closet of my childhood bedroom, there is a set of slate-colored letterboxes. I believe one has a Spacehog sticker on it. I bought the boxes at The Container Store with my mother. A fond memory, as the very next day she was run over by the boardwalk tram. Forever afterwards, I could not eat the top, bloody part of a Rocket Pop, the sound of waves would make me incontinent, and I’d cry at the first “caw” of a seagull. After her death, I wrote a lot of bad stuff. No one should read what is in those boxes. They also contain my juvenilia, some kindergardeneese, and several pornographic ASCII images from the Internet’s early days, printed on my old dot matrix. Please burn these documents.
At my current apartment, you’ll find two USB flash drives inside my desk drawer. Shave your legs, rub them down with Vaseline, put on a pair of black high heels, and stomp on the devices. I’ve become a minor player in the crush fetish community and have made some promises. Don’t worry. I’m only into the “soft” kind of crushing: invertebrate animals, gadgets, toy cars, etc. Take lots of pictures and upload the best ones to crushmyusbflashdrive.com.
Next order of business. My laptop. I never could find the right desktop background and it compromised my work—abstract patterns, beautiful nature photos, high-res images of Miranda Kerr’s baby doll face… nothing felt right. These background pixels seemed to permeate whatever Microsoft Word doc I had up. My sentences, like this one, became awkward and distractible. Please break my laptop over your knee and rub some powerful magnets over it. Then bury it in the backyard.
Also, I have an external hard drive containing many of my practice novels. It’s hard to imagine I wrote twenty-seven of them. Then again, I was still finding my voice and messing around with various pseudonyms. Remember Enid O’Maille, my YA novelist nom de plume? Well, no one should read Look Into My Eye, even though I thought a girl who fell in love with a handsome cyclops could be a bestseller. My literary fiction, like The Whelk Finder, won’t stand the test of time, either. I finished it a few days ago, but the prose is as purple and expired as a month-old banana. Do whatever it is the specialists at the Genius Bar tell you to do to wipe that sucker clean.
Now, here is where your generous retainer comes into play. I’ve been doing some cloud computing. I’ve composed a good many short stories on Google Docs (not many of them good) and, of course, all my correspondence is in Gmail. Even if you hit delete, it still exists somewhere on the cloud. My puff must be dissipated. Fortunately, I have done a little horizontal detective work in this hospital bed and have pinpointed the physical servers to the Oregon Data Center, a 30-acre facility also known as “Googleville” in a town called The Dalles.
I’ve already booked you a room 80 miles away at the Ace Hotel in Portland. There, you’ll don a blue jumpsuit making you look like a Google employee. I got some tortoise shell glasses for you to wear too. Trust me, this data center isn’t one of their hip, multicolored offices, but even for its industrial workers, Google hires cool people. I also bought you a Segway. Or, in this case, a Segetaway. (Please allow me a second pun. I’m dying!)
What you’re going to do is calmly scooter your way in and hack into their mainframe. If it’s anything like the movies, the mainframe should look like a regular search with something slightly off about it. Maybe it says HACK SEARCH or SECURITY SENSOR CONTROL. Type in “Marco Kaye,” “short stories,” “cowboy novella,” and “Death on the Boardwalk.” That should point you in the right direction. The servers are Velcroed to each other, so just rip it clean off when you find it. After sneaking the metal box out, return to Portland and throw it in the Willamette River.
Oh Bubbers, I wish I knew my writing was bad when I was writing it. But the deathbed promotes a certain clarity of vision. Fingering the C-curve of this hoof print scar on my temple, the dots on the tiles of the dropped ceiling standing in for stars, I realize the entirety of my works should never be read. I hope that as my editor, my agent, and my most passionate sexual partner you understand.
Don’t you fucking Max Brod me on this shit.