16​.​) The Blue Occupation [ii]

from by Jesse Livingston

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“He’s got this demon that lives in a typewriter or a computer or something. Every time he plugs it in, it helps him figure out what to do, even though it doesn’t like him very much. And there are other demons running around the house, too, that he’s got to try to avoid.”

“Uh-huh,” I said. “So, he’s haunted by demons. The life of a writer.” I was trying to be flippant to indicate that I didn’t think much of this story. I was hoping that Jeremy would catch on and stop talking about it. But each time I said something, it seemed to lead him deeper into a maze he was determined to explore.

“Yes, exactly!” he said, his eyes bright. “Because there’s this part where he’s in the library room and he’s looking at all the books on the shelves, and one of them is the book!”

“Which book?”

“The book you’re reading!”

“He puts the book he wrote in the book he wrote?” This sounded like the kind of thing I would hate.

“Yeah. He just mentions it. It doesn’t play a role in the story or anything. But, later, at the end, the narrator mentions that he thinks he, the narrator, wrote all the books in the library while he was asleep.”

“Huh.”

“So, out of all the stories in the book, that one, ‘The Orange Light,’ is about the real author. It’s not autobiographical in a literal sense, obviously. But maybe in a figurative sense.”

My skin was itching badly, and I was trying to shift around in my seat without letting on that anything was wrong. I felt like something inside me was trying to climb out. When Jeremy was looking the other way, I shrugged my shoulders against my ears so that my shirt would rub against my skin. I didn’t want to take my hands off the wheel.

“So this guy, the author, he has agoraphobia or something,” I said. “He feels trapped in his own mind and afraid to go outside.”

“Yeah, he makes it pretty clear at the end when he’s talking to the white cat.”

“The white cat?” There was a weird feeling in my knees, and I kept wanting to rub them against the door of the car.

“He lives with two cats, a white one and a grey one, but one of them isn’t real. It’s a demon in disguise.”

“The white one?”

“Uh-huh. At the very end, it talks to him.”

“What does it say?”

“Um, something in Latin.”

“What, exactly?”

“Something like Lauren dolor sit amet.”

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet?”

“Yeah! That’s it!” He turned at stared at me in awe. But I had him now.

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from A Thousand Lifetimes in an Hour, released December 21, 2012

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Jesse Livingston Denver, Colorado

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