“What can I help you with today, Juan?” Doctor Venkman asked his supine patient. “Is your IBS acting up? Perhaps your ED has you down?” He smiled inwardly at his clever joke. “Something new?”
Juan Schmuzzi, award-nominated author, raised a chubby arm and pointed. “That.”
Dr. Venkman leaned forward to examine the “that”, a dark-colored cube Juan had placed on Venkman’s desk when he arrived.
“Uh-huh. Yes, uh-huh. Indeed.” Venkman uttered the series of sounds and words in an attempt to appear interested and thoughtful. His client, no stranger to meaningless dialogue, seemed to appreciate the effort. Venkman leaned forward to examine the cube by the dim light of his decorative desk lamp. He preferred to work with the shades open and lights on, but the distraught author insisted.
The cube was about six inches on each edge, black and smooth, with rounded corners. There were no visible
markings or grain pattern, so Venkman guessed it was made of some composite material.
“Quite an object, Juan. What is it?”
“What is it? What is it?” Schmuzzi sat up, and the pitch of his voice rose with him. “It’s a block!” he cried, leaping to his feet. “A writer’s block!”
Venkman leaned closer, turning the block one way and then another with the tip of his pen. “Hmm,” he repeated with each new angle. “Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.”
Schmuzzi paced the carpet between the couch and the solid wood built-in bookshelves Venkman had installed a few years back. Gleaming mahogany, they gave the office a splash of sophistication. All the classics were there: Freud, Jung, Ray, Dix, Robbins, Winfrey. Venkman dreamed of the day his own book–
“Venkman! Did you hear what I said?” demanded Schmuzzi.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Juan. I was pondering the meaning of this cube—”
“It’s not a cube, doctor, it’s a block. A writer’s block.”
“Okay, it’s a writer’s block. Where did it come from, Juan?” While attending a self-improvement seminar several years ago, Venkman learned that successful people used a person’s name frequently in conversation as a means of making the other person feel like the center of attention. Mostly, it was just annoying.
Juan stopped pacing and sat down. “It came by special delivery on Wednesday, November 9th 2016. I remember the day clearly. My friends and I were in our drum circle, passing the talking rock and sharing our feelings, when the doorbell rang. I got dressed and answered the door, and there was a box on my porch with this inside,” he moaned.
“Was there a note or a return address, Juan?” asked Venkman.
“Just a plain brown wrapper with my name and address,” replied a tearful Juan. “I didn’t know what it was at first, but now. Ugh.” He clutched his stomach and fell over on his side. “It makes me sick, Doctor.”
Venkman leaned back, alarmed. Sick? He tried to remember if he actually touched the block, decided he hadn’t. He slipped his pen into the trash can next to his desk and took a surreptitious squeeze of hand sanitizer, just to be sure.
“Don’t worry, it’s not contagious, Doc,” said Schmuzzi, his voice thick with torpor. “Writer’s block is a personal thing, it’s unique to me. You can’t catch mine.”
“I see,” said Venkman. He rocked back in his chair, hands clasped in front of his chin, index fingers forming an inverted “V” with the point resting over his lips. It was a bold, powerful pose that conveyed deep introspection and analysis, and Venkman practiced it every day in front of a mirror at home.
Venkman didn’t want to appear ignorant, but he didn’t understand what the writer’s block represented. After a thoughtful pause, he spoke. “What do you do with this writer’s block, Juan?”
“Do? DO?” Juan’s voice crackled with emotion. “I don’t DO anything. That’s the problem. I’m a writer. The writer’s block prevents me from doing my job!” Schmuzzi started sobbing and Venkman motioned to the stylishly understated tissue box on the table next to the couch. Sleek and black, with faux-gold flowers inlaid along the sides, the box was rumored to have come from the office of Deepak Chopra himself. Venkman wasn’t completely convinced, but he paid the asking price anyway in the off chance the story was true.
“Why don’t you simply throw it away?”
“Ha!” Schmuzzi leaped to his feet again, pacing and rubbing his hands together. “One does not simply “throw away” a writer’s block, Doctor. One must work through it, let it die on the vine and dispose of it.”
The doctor peered at the writer’s block again, but he didn’t see any vines or leaves. Was this writer’s block some sort of vegetable, or a seed pod? Best not to ask, he thought.
“I tried, Doctor. I really did. I put it in the trash, and it reappeared on my kitchen counter. I threw it out the car window, and it showed up on my doorstep. I slipped it in another writer’s promotional materials at a convention in Helsinki, for Pete’s sake, and it beat me home. I can’t get rid of it.”
Venkman stroked his goatee in what he hoped Juan would see as a thoughtful manner. He wasn’t a fan of facial hair, but it gave his face a certain gravitas and hid his most unfortunate trait – a fatally weak chin.
“It’s not like I haven’t been busy,” continued the distraught writer. “There’s my blog, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, even Gab. Plenty to do. And when I’m not online I’m meeting with friends, collecting pink yarn for my gal-pals to knit hats, keeping up on the latest trends in social injustice and intersectionality. I’ve even been reading back through some of the classics of my genre to see if there’s a novel or two that needs some updating. But writing? No way. I am blocked solid.”
Venkman glanced through Juan’s file lying open on his desk. It was unnecessary, he had the file memorized, but Juan clearly needed a moment to settle down. All this talk about social media just confused him, anyway. Venkman didn’t care for the collective insanity it promoted. He dealt with crazy people for a living. In his off time, he preferred the quiet companionship of a good book and his cat, Sigmund.
His finger traced the list of medications Schmuzzi was currently prescribed. Xanax, Prozac, Risperdal, Viagra, Bentyl. Quite a cocktail, Venkman noted, but all were necessary to keep the writer on an even keel.
“How is your diet, Juan? Are you eating well?”
Schmuzzi slapped his stomach. “Packing on the weight since November, thanks for noticing,” he snarked. He cupped his fatty chest. “I started growing man-boobs, too. Ever since that damn block showed up, all I’ve done is cry and eat. My acne is back, and don’t even get me started on my halitosis.”
Venkman assumed the pose he liked to call “Father”: Sitting up straight, elbows on the desk, hands clasped in front of him. “Time for some fatherly advice,” this position said.
“You need to find out where this block came from, and send it back, Juan,” he offered.
“I know where it came from!” cried the author. “It came from Trump!”
“From Trump?” Venkman was puzzled. “How do you know Trump, Juan?”
Schmuzzi sank back down on the couch and Venkman braced for another crying jag, but it didn’t come.
“I don’t know him, but I know of him, and he’s,” Juan paused, looked around the room suspiciously. “He’s worse than Hitler!” he hissed.
“Hitler? I see. And you think Trump sent you this block, Juan?” Venkman inquired. His hand slipped along the edge of his desk, close to the button hidden underneath.
“Maybe he didn’t send it personally, but he caused it to appear at my house,” claimed the writer. “Since his election, I haven’t been able to write a thing. I’m months behind on my contract, my name is fading from the headlines, and even my fans are starting to read other authors.”
“All because of Trump?” Venkman hated to ask the question, it felt vaguely like entrapment, but it had to be done.
“Yes!” Juan sat up. “Exactly. I’m blocked, my life is in ruins, my ass is getting fat, my face looks look like a pepperoni pizza, and I have the breath of a dragon. All because of Trump!”
Venkman pressed the button and two wall panels slid open without a sound. Uniformed agents stepped in the room and fired tranquilizer darts into the seated author. Juan was unconscious before his face hit the couch, and the agents dragged him out through the panel doors.
“Another one for Nebraska, Doc?” asked the lead agent.
“Yeah, he is,” replied the doctor. “Chronic TDS. A few months in the camp will straighten him out.” Venkman handed Schmuzzi’s file to the agent and watched as the uniformed man disappeared through the wall. The panels slid shut with a “snick” and the office was like it never happened.
“Sorry, Juan,” muttered Venkman. He used his pen to push the soggy tissues Juan left behind into the trash can, then dropped the pen in on top. He picked up the block and examined it. It was quite heavy for it’s size, shiny and smooth. He threw open the shades, flooding the office with brilliant sunlight, and turned the block over and over until he saw it. A faint holographic reflection, deep in the ebony finish.
Venkman walked over to his bookshelves and added Juan’s block to the growing pyramid on the top shelf.
The intercom buzzed. “Doctor, your next appointment is here. She has a block.”
Dr. Venkman recommends reading MAGA 2020 & Beyond to cure electile dysfunction. Pre-order your copy today.