The Novel: A Novel: The Editor

It’s just how his brain works. Pictures get blurry, numbers get scrambled, but words just make sense. They are the building blocks of thought, each containing a rich history, each a metaphor taking on new meaning as its foundations fade in the collective conscious, treasures revealed only to the dedicated sleuth. He thinks in words and rejoices to read his own mind, fascinated to see where the next plot twist unfold.

In earliest memory are conversations. He’s a child in a crib. We’re talking here, son. Okay, have a balloon. Daddy can I have a pencil? Sure. Daddy didn’t see it coming; do you? It looked so easy when Mamma drew the dog on the rubbery surface with a ballpoint pen, but pens are for adults; children get crayons and pencils. If only he had asked for a crayon. The balloon explodes, as does the child, the pent-up fears of medical procedures, mystery visitors and this strange environment bursting to the surface in a torrent of tears and screams.

He remembers conversations. Words are written in the neurons, anchoring pictures and defining the timeline. He has been editing this story for half a century, and now it’s all laid out, organized, chapter and verse. He has a sense of scanning the story every day: Now where is that memory? Did that really happen? Is there a more efficient way to say that, to free up memory? Is this pertinent to the story, or should it be cut? His brain holds a reference volume called “Know”, a first draft called “Used to Think”, a tickle file called “Maybe I Should”, and for entertainment, a skinny pulp fiction called “What If”.

Somebody said people think in pictures. He believes it only when comparing their sketches to his own, stunted little scrawls as likely to be scrawled 40 years ago as today. Where others doodle, he takes notes and writes limericks. Some people, he read it somewhere, actually think in numbers, proportions and measures. He gets geometry and algebra, but trigonometry is a mystery and calculus? Forget it! College is a breeze if you skip the math courses and double-down on philosophy. Otherwise, we’re toast.

Sometimes he thinks it must be delightful to hear the birds sing to mark their turf, watch the leaves as the air settles in to its cooler temperature, ready to grow still in the consistency of darkness. It must be nice to envision yellow fading to orange and ragged gray as horizon, sun and cloud enjoy their last dance of the day. For him, it’s a single word: “sunset”. There was one that day, one this, likely one tomorrow. Can you picture it? Not really. But there’s an essay on file here somewhere.

He’s a good student, quick with the essay. He’s a reporter, no, too much controversy, so now he’s a PR hack. What’s this, the internet? Oh, joy! How many words does this thing hold? Let’s see. Now he’s a webmaster, a low-grade pioneer in a strange new world. What makes it tick? There’s a rabbit hole in the rabbit hole, and now he’s a programmer, making up words and metaphors that talk not to people, but to a database and browsers. Language meets logic and pays the bills in wonderful ways.

Finally, words that don’t have to actually say anything, but literally do things. Grab datapoint A-7 from table 473, and if user X has clearance Y, let the user change A-7; else, just let the user see it. He revels to be the man behind the curtain, pushing the buttons and changing the world and earning the paycheck with very little human interface.

How wonderful, he thinks, this world where words talk to things and things respond! No misunderstandings, nothing open to interpretation, I mean what I say because I write the definitions. It’s an easy life. But it gets a little lonely in here. And even here, he gets tangled up in his words, eventually spending as much time untangling old connections as making new ones. Other people peer behind the curtain and mash the buttons, too, so he has to carefully label each one, dumb it down for those other socially awkward geeks.

Been there, done that; what now? He’s built an elaborate house of cards; better move out before it comes tumbling down. Let others shore up the tower. Time to move on.