The Price You Pay for Art

And believe me, it wasn’t just the other women. If it had been only that, I could have handled it. A girl comes to expect things like that from certain men, especially from an ‘artistic’ type. There was also the drinking. The temper. The strangers barging in at three in the morning.

And yet you stayed around.

Well, what else could I do? I’d given up my own career to help put him through school. It’s not like I could just go out and get a job.

Hmm.

What does that mean?

I didn’t say anything.

You said ‘hmm’. And you rolled your eyes.

No I did not.

You did. I saw you.

Look, let’s get back to the subject at hand. After The Noon of Ray Crandall was published, the two of you moved to Los Angeles so that he could do some work in Hollywood.

Everyone assumes that we were happiest then, but it’s a lie. The money was just rolling in, it’s true, but the more we got, the more we spent. He started believing his own hype, and he was drinking more than ever. He pushed and pushed to keep producing just so he could maintain that level of income. The money was ruining him.

Yeah, I bet you really hated that.

Look, what are we doing this interview for? You obviously don’t think very much of me.

Well, it’s just…

Come on, kid. Spit it out.

You were his wife, and you were in a position to know him better than anyone. But it seems like you don’t have anything good to say about him. I realize he had flaws. A lot of great men have flaws. But it’s not like he ate babies.

Shows how much you know.

I mean, if you hated him so much, why did you stay married to…I beg your pardon?

Forget it.  I’ve said too much already.

He ate babies.

No! Not…routinely.

What are you talking about?

He didn’t even eat them whole. Just a foot here, a shoulder there, half a head sometimes. Really, if you put them all together, they probably don’t even add up to one entire baby. So you couldn’t say, technically, that he ‘ate babies’.

What…why would he…why did he eat babies?

It’s called writer’s block, kid. Maybe you’ll get it one day.

And he ate babies to get rid of it?

No! Not at all.

So you’re just pulling my…

He ate them to forestall it.

What?

When he’d start work on a new novel, he’d eat part of a baby. He said it focused his attention on the job at hand. New book, new baby. All part of the process of creation, he’d say. He always put it like this: ‘I bring one in, I take one out.’ Like a life force, I guess. Are you going to write that down?

Why?

It’s a, what do you call it, an aphorism. I thought you literary types loved that shit.

Frankly, I don’t believe you. Why wasn’t he ever caught? You’d think that someone would miss seventeen babies.

Thirteen.

But he wrote…

He only started doing it after the fourth book. Before that he tried other stuff.

Like what?

Oh, you know. Picking a name out of the phone book, thumbing through a deck of playing cards, watching the soap operas. That sort of thing. But after Heart of Ice was published, nothing was working, and I was pregnant with our first kid, and he said iI tell you this, Lisa, if I don’t come up with something soon, I’m going to have to eat that baby.’ He was always a man of his word.

So you’re saying all the babies were yours?

Sure. That’s why nobody missed them. They were all mine. I wasn’t much for public appearances, so no one noticed. Our friends just thought I had a bunch of miscarriages.

Oh, come on.

Hey, we’ve got a bunch of dumb friends. I don’t deny it. The reason he always had such a temper is because of our stupid friends, and also because he eventually became so prolific he was writing the books quicker than I could get pregnant.

What’d he do then, strangle puppies?

Okay, mister funny man. I thought this was a documentary, not a comedy.

Sorry.

Anyway, he only strangled puppies for short pieces like magazine articles or book reviews.

Look, I’m not calling you a liar…

Yes you are.

Maybe I am. It’s just hard to believe. Why did you put up with it? Killing and eating all thirteen of your children?

To be fair, he only killed twelve of them. One died in childbirth. He only ate a little bit of that one.

Still, though.

Look, honey…that’s what it’s like living with a creative person. You learn to be supportive of their little quirks.

Quirks! He ate babies, for God’s sake.

Well, sure, but — look.  It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s not like he tore their hearts out and burned them, or killed people and had sex with the corpses or something.

I suppose so.

I’m a lucky woman, really. You should hear what Mrs. Garcia-Marquez had to go through. Now that man was a genius.

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