Hey, gang! Welcome to EP 10 of my podcast, “Something That I Wrote.”
I’m sorry this post has arrived so late. I wanted to get it to you sooner, and I would’ve if I could’ve. But I was trying to get a hold of Teddy Thompson.
I still haven’t heard from him.
He’s funny like that. Sometimes he hangs around, and sometimes he keeps hidden. I don’t know where he goes, or with who, or why. And I just don’t know where to find him. I do not know where he might be.
I met Teddy Thompson by accident, and like most of life’s great accidents – a love affair, for instance, or an unintended pregnancy – it was both a blessing and a curse. It was last fall, and I was down on Queen Street, trying to think of something to write. I’d have a few ideas, but just barely. Then they’d be gone, vanished outta my head like a lousy pop song. I was frustrated and I was cranky, so I went outside for a smoke.
“You shouldn’t do that,” he said to me, soon as I lit up. I had sat down on a bench beside him, though I had not noticed him at all. It would not have made a difference if I had, cause I needed to concentrate and I needed to think, and I was not in any mood for any kinda smalltalk. But when I looked over at him, with puzzlement and surprise, I saw that he was staring straight ahead, looking just as frustrated and cranky. He looked like he was not in any mood for any kinda smalltalk, either.
“I’ve gotta do it,” I said.
“Cause you’re hooked?” he asked.
“Nah,” I said. “Not exactly. I’ve gotta cause it makes them come.”
“Makes who come?”
“Not who. It makes them come.”
He kept staring straight ahead. He was not impressed.
“And what exactly might they be?”
“Stories,” I said, without hesitation, and suddenly he looked over at me. Suddenly he was impressed, and curious, too.
“Stories?” he asked.
I nodded and took a deep, long drag.
“You some kinda writer?”
I nodded again, and took another.
“What kinda stories do you write?”
I turned to him, and I shrugged. “Stories, man. Stories about the boys in the band, and about dancing with Daisy under a thin, pale ray of moonlight. I write stories.”
He looked straight ahead again. “You any good?” he asked, finally.
I nodded again, and I finished my smoke. I flicked it away and I turned to him. “You got any stories for me?” I asked.
He turned. “Have you ever fucked during a thunderstorm? It’s so thrilling and enticing, and -”
“Come on, man,” I interrupted. “Don’t fuck around. Do you have any stories for me, or don’t you?”
He looked at me, and he saw something in me. I wasn’t sure what it was, at the time, but I think I get it now. Now that I know him the way that I do, I think I know what Teddy Thompson saw in me.
“Boy, oh, boy, have I got a story for you,” he said. And then he told me everything I told you in Part I.
I told it to you better, of course. He’s not the writer – I am. I’m the writer, goddamn it. I am the writer. But he told me it, in his own way. He left off where I did, abruptly and cruel, and he turned away and smiled.
“Then what?” I asked. He looked at me.
“You’re the writer.”
“But it’s your story.”
“Not anymore,” he said. And he started to laugh.
Not long after that, he got up and left. I did, too. I went inside and started to scribble. I had an idea. I’d seen this poster, a few weeks earlier, promoting a Derby Day Reunion at a museum in town. There was this kid on the front of it, grinning a dumb smile, and he looked like such a jackass – a real knucklehead. I’d been so deeply bothered by it that I’d ripped it off the pole it was stapled to and shoved it into my backpocket, like a transistor radio, or the paperback Kerouac I’m reading just for you. I carried it around with me always, knowing it would lead to something someday. And when I found Teddy Thompson, I found a use for that poster, too.
It seems so destined – so calculated, and so controlled. Somebody wanted me to write Teddy’s story. I had no say. I had to. And so I did. I worked on it long and hard, obsessively, like a crime case or a jigsaw puzzle. Some days, I’d see him, out n about. I’d run up to him, and I’d wave my bleeding pages at him, and I’d say, “Look, Teddy! This is your story! This is your story!”
He’d say, “No it ain’t, kid. It’s yours.”
I’d say, “Yeah, yeah, sure, Teddy. Sure. But can you read it? I want to know if you like it, Teddy. That’s all.”
And Teddy would shrug softly, and with assurance he’d say, “When it’s finished. I’ll read your story when it’s finished.”
And so I worked on the story. But I started to get stuck. Right around the part that this episode talks about, I got stuck. I didn’t know where it should go or how it should get there. Once again, I got frustrated and cranky. And I could not find Teddy Thompson anywhere. No matter how long I sat on that bench where we met – no matter how many smokes I smoked – I could not find Teddy Thompson. Some nights I’d go out on the back deck and I’d scream up at the stars, “Teddy! Teddy Teddy Teddy! Where are you, Teddy? Where are you?”
But I could not find Teddy Thompson anywhere.
I stopped working on the story altogether. I had no other choice. I even tried putting it in my pillowcase, in the hopes that I might dream away the problem, but that didn’t work, either (does it ever?), and so I just stopped. At one point I even nearly set all the words I’d written on fire. I’d have rubbed those fucking ashes all over my face, too.
Then, one night, without ceremony or expectation, Teddy Thompson stood outside my bedroom window. I still do not know how he found out where I lived. There are some questions I will never have answered. I was holding my sweetheart, so tightly and so dearly, when I heard three quick tap tap taps on my window. I looked outside and there he was, shivering on my lawn, holding pebbles in his hand. I whipped open my window and I called to him.
“Rise n shine, writer!” he cried back. He was loud and rambunctious. He was definitely drunk. “How’s the story?”
“Teddy, I need help,” I said.
“But you’re the writer!” he said.
“I know, Teddy, I know, but listen – I’m stuck. I’m really stuck. I need a plan.”
And Teddy looked up at me, and he chuckled. “So did I!” he screamed out, and just like that, I had all that I needed. All at once, everything came unstuck, and my brain started to run wild, like a dog let off its leash at a park. I grabbed a pen and on the palm of my hand I frantically wrote all that I needed to remember. It only took me a minute – it can’t have been much longer – but when I looked back up, Teddy was gone.
I have not seen him since.
I have searched and I have searched, but I have not been able to find Teddy Thompson again. I finished his story, at least. I still don’t feel right to call it mine, but I finished it. I think it only took me a day and a bit, after everything came unstuck. And I want to thank Teddy for that. I want to thank Teddy for all of this, and I want to know how he feels about it, too. I wanted to make changes, if he wasn’t pleased. I value his opinion. But I waited until I could not wait any longer, and now I have to put this out the way I had it written all along. Maybe that’s for the best – I’m not sure. But I still want to know. I want to know, Teddy. I want to know.
Where are you, Teddy? Where are you?