So a funny thing happened to me on the way to September: The Honeythief got fun to write again.
For a long while, nothing was fun—not writing, not anything. I scribbled a few pages of The Honeythief on the train back from Boston on the wonderful, horrible day of my Jeopardy! audition, and then pretty much stopped writing for about three months; stopped blogging, stopped pitching, stopped everything. I did a couple of pieces for Popdose, and flailed around trying to get one or two other projects started—but in the end, the summer was a succession of night shifts, missed meals, and dental agonies, the days spent breaking up fights and the nights spent lying sleepless or trying to avoid going to bed at all, up ‘til all hours with the computer blazing, ostensibly “writing” but never committing to a single word. It was a disappointment. I was a disappointment.
We didn’t get out to the water park, or any zoos or museums—we didn’t even go to the movies; not so much out of poverty, but because I was in too disastrous a funk to organize anything. Just about the only fun thing we were able to do all summer was a week of tent camping at Letchworth State Park. There was a lot riding on this week—I’d screwed up everybody’s summer so badly, and this was my last chance to make it right.
The second day was hot and muggy, and we were all tired. It had rained hard the first night, and none of us had gotten much sleep. Myself, I had the beginnings of a toothache that would soon develop into a round-the-clock misery. We were trudging along this path when along came this big bastard cicada. You can’t really tell from the picture, but he’s about six inches long. He wasn’t making any noise, but you could hear his buddies from far off in the woods, giving off that weird UFO shrilling of theirs.
D took the picture, and Sam (who is six) said, “The cicadas sing for the end of summer, right? Like the tsuku-tsuku-boushi in Yotsuba.”
And I thought: I left my people outside Cathedral in the early fall, just before the weather turns cool.
That night, I dug my Moleskine out of the car and sat by the fire in my lawn chair, and wrote ‘til it was too dark to see.