The Problem with Odam Schweda by Chad Meadows

Odam Schweda had been struggling to write his masterpiece for years. His last real attempt to do anything meaningful with his life came when he sat at his computer and typed the beginning of what he thought would be his return to the warm comfort of the Hollywood spotlight. He was going to take his place among the literary greats of all time, he rattled off a list in his head: Edgar Hummingway, Jerry Chorwell, Jamie Jorp Joyce, Arnold Steinback, and Mad Cheadows. Inspired by the ghosts of the great dead writers of all times, he typed the words then sat back and marveled:

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Shouldn’t...”

The fact was, that he marveled at the same two sentences and one contraction for days, for months even; he waited for words to come to him. But what started out as one tiny white brick turned into another, then another and another. And finally, after two years of staring at the same two sentences and one contraction, Odam admitted, to himself, that he had a problem, that for most writers isn't a problem, and to a bread and butter writer, is; to an already spent my advance and have gambling debts-writer: a devastating death warrant.

One of the last writing tips the professor gave me, before he cut off my right hand was, to “Always put text in a smaller font if writing a story within a story. It'll help the all the John Grisham set figure out what’s going on. There’s a reason why he's sold so many fucking books.” That said, this makes it pretty difficult to write or type, or do anything for that matter. The missing right hand, not the smaller font. I don’t know if that's a legitimate rule. “Rubbish! This is feces. You? See a woman naked? Wrong! Because not even your own mother would take that much pity! That's not how it happened. Try again.” He placed a great emphasis on the again and blew his humid breath down into my face spraying me with vodka drenched pieces of hamburger buns.

His breath smells like the label from an old jar of mayonnaise; metallic, sour, rancid. That technique is listing, or chorusing, or whatever you want to call it. I can smell the glue from the back label. The residue that stays on the glass after you've peeled off it off. And it smells like horses. I stopped puking after he ripped the pages out of the typewriter and threw them, crumpled, wrinkled, balled up into the waste-can. I can’t move nor fight back. All I can do is sit, write and re-write. Or stare, curse and stare some more. I've gone through this exercise before, on my own; start, stop, write and delete. Never with this much at stake and certainly never tied up to a chair at a motel off of I-95. I had no idea this was part of the workshop when I signed up, the last thing I thought I would go through as part of my destruction of writer’s buildings was torture. “This is all you can come up with? A writer with writer’s block? How trite. Maybe we should try some basics. How about a flashback? We’ve established that you can’t write, now go with that. You look like you need a prompt. Here goes...”

The last writing tip the professor gave me before he broke both of my big toes was, to “Always meta-write about yourself. Everyone that reads wants to know about the author. No one cares about plot anymore. It’s part of our culture's obsession with celebrity. Just write about the time you took a shit or jerked off under covers on the bus and cried. The Twilight set will eat that shit up.” After he said it he was gone. I think I saw him in a floral muʻumuʻu making toilet wine in the motel bathroom.

In college, Odam Schweda felt every word that ejaculated from his mouth contained golden life-giving threads of wisdom and insight. Odam began his spiritual quest to change the diaper of humanity through the power of the written word at the age of twenty-two. He felt he was to be studied and revered, talked about in coffee shops and over cigarettes. Ordained by the gods, he would release, to the world, with great acumen, his words; penetrate, all that cast eyes, with words of love. Was destined to figure significantly into a moment when a glorious light would crack through the heavens and bathe all wretched, damaged humanity, in his precious and golden threaded words. The moment had arrived. In July, 199_, Odam Schweda complete his final draft of: What’s that Buzzing Soundepisode one: My Sister’s Machine”. His moment of glory, wrapped in a veiled reference to a women's sex toy, appearing in a show whose title was a veiled reference to a women's sex toy.

As I pecked furiously with my bloody stump at the typewriter keys, I could smell the wine brewing in the toilet. Either that or the professor was dyeing his hair. Now my sense of smell was greatly diminished; he had shoved Tic Tacs in my nose before we got here. I felt someone reach under my shirt and grab the piece of duct tape that was stuck to my nipple. One of the last writing tips my professor gave me before he put the duct tape on my nipple was, to “Put duct tape on your nipple and then rip it off when you feel yourself growing stagnant.”

It worked. He ripped and tugged, and all the hair was pulled out of my chest, leaving tiny pinholes of blood welling; a rush of peroxide sting hit my eyes. Like that, the old stagnant hairs were vanquished and I could immediately feel begin to grow the new, and I wanted to write. I looked around for the professor; saw him sitting behind me on the bed, his pants off, smoking a cigarette, watching the Orson Welles version of The Stranger with the sound off. I could see the reflection in the mirror, which hangs above the bed and catches the reflection of the T.V. from another mirror beside the bed. I wanted to chop off his head but as I thought about how I might realistically pull that off with only one hand and eight functioning toes; I decided that I would try to focus on what I came here for initially; though things had gone so horribly wrong, and I mean, the type of wrong that people write full length novels about; I still longed for his approval. Isn’t that what all writers want? No, I wanted to do good work, to do good work for my readers; for the man that cut off my hand and keeps giving me something between the stink-eye and the sex-eye.

When thinking about it, I was in the process of writing, putting words that form sentences together and putting these sentences onto pieces of paper with ideas that formed plots. And the writing program that I'd signed up for on the internet, apart from the obvious contras of nipple ripping, verbal abuse and torture, had proven effective.

Odam Schweda encountered moderate success after the run of his late-nineties era situation comedy. Critics referred to My Sister’s Machine as: “An embarrassment for humanity;” “The worst moment in broadcast history;” “A reason to stop all forms of entertainment forever.” The series was broadcast for two seasons and Odam became an overnight sensation. Entertainment biographers and historians suggest that his ability to craft a story was widely considered: “Evidence of intelligent life forms from other planets making fun of us”; “So bad that it must come from in between the testicular sack of Satan and his anus.”

Odam had a veracious appetite for bacon, ice cream, sex, cocaine and Barbie doll-heads. Like Emmanuel Lewis, Gary Coleman, and Vicki from Small Wonder; he was popular for no reason apparent except his sideshow. That was, unless you were writer Odam Schweda. Then you were popular for all of the right reasons. But instead of changing the diaper of humanity, he created a bowel movement of putrid mind-numbing dialogue and situation so large that the diaper became unfastened from the weight of garbage piled up inside it, and exploded onto the world covering it once more in darkness.

The professor was smoking a cigarette. I wanted one of those. “Can I have a cigarette?” I asked. Considering I had been recently hunted down by a deranged lunatic bent on making writer's block a matter of life or death, a smoke shouldn’t kill me. My professor smiled, nodded and sauntered over. He actually moseyed over. Either the severe loss of blood was causing me to hallucinate or I was in a David Lynch film. I saw the red bedspreads, orange and black shag carpeting, cowboys and Indians on the wall paper, my hand, lifeless in a brown paper bag; blood dripped all over the floor and me sitting on a table by the bed, and a man in his underwear moseying over to a guy who was duct taped to a chair being forced to finish a novel about being forced to finish a novel. It was metafiction at its finest.

“Let’s take a look at your progress, shall we.” He looked at the page, once empty and white now filled with tiny black letters pounded from my guts tangled with ribbon from the typewriter. “This is abhorrent. An abomination to the genre. You are the reason for assisted suicide. Keep going with this. I think you are on to something. Don’t forget… impending peril!” I groveled as he walked away, “Can I get that smoke?” He took one out of his pack, lit it, and put it out where my right hand used to be. I didn’t think the pain could get much worse, but as is the case for most things in my life, I was horribly mistaken. Though, he seems to like the story.

Odam had moved to Hollywood, gained a reputation for bus station drug binges, long term erectile dysfunction and a dream. And he had fifteen dollars worth of lottery tickets and a coupon for an Asian Style Massage. With all of these things he was going to change the world. He was going to be brilliant. He was going to play in the big leagues with all of the big boys. He made a list in his head: Jom Clooner, Retario deCabrio, Bruce Pitts, Jackie Jorp Jorp and Sheryl Strept.

Odam Schweda went on to work on several film projects, including: Fart Party, You am awesome, Hanjob Affairs, Fart Party 2 and COPS and DAGGERS (and MIND CONTROL), of which the tagline was run: Some cops use gun. Some cops use machete. Some cops use nightstick. He… uses daggers and mind control.


INT. WAREHOUSE  NIGHTTIME

Detective Peter Ratchet chews some gum, blows a bubble in his suspect’s face, tied to a chair underneath a dagger hanging from a rope.


RATCHET
We’ve met before. Right?

CARLOS
Si. You pig.

RATCHET
Well, I don’t think you’ve met my best friend.

CARLOS
Wha..?

RATCHET
Dagger meet Carlos. Carlos… meet Dagger.

The camera pans up to the dagger. Ratchet cuts the rope, releasing the dagger which slices the head of CARLOS clean off.

FADE OUT


These projects would be abysmal failures and critics, when referencing Odam would refer to him by the monikers of Jab My Eyes Out, or Punch Me in the Face. For instance: “The latest offering from the Jab My Eyes Out is worse than having diarrhea after eating habanero peppers; or, Punch Me in the Face writes like a smooth oily shit;” “I never thought I would want a full frontal lobotomy.”



I needed a break from writing. I had to take a shit. I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing. I knew it was only a matter of time before the professor killed me. Instinctively, I screamed until blood spurted out of my stump: “I need to shit,” I said. “Shit on your feet you writer shithead!” One of the last writing tips the professor gave me before he jabbed the pencil in my leg was, “When writing dialogue, don’t get caught up saying so and so said. It’s boring and shows your stupidity.” “I need to shit.” I cried out, sounding like a bleating lamb. “Shit on your feet you writer shit head,” he repeated as he sucked the inside of a bean burrito out from the back end.

I asked him if the latest sounded better. He said yes but that I still wrote like a two year-old chimpanzee. I had no idea why this fucker was so mean to me, I paid him three hundred and fifteen dollars to teach me how to beat writer’s block. The first writing tip the professor gave me before he laughed to the point of throwing at my writing was, to “Get used to people thinking you suck.” “I need to go to the bathroom. Number three,” I pleaded with him, “diarrhea.” The last writing tip the professor gave me before he ripped the toilet out of the motel bathroom was, “If you're in a conversation that you want to get out of, just say you have to go. You have diarrhea.” Just like that, he pulled the toilet, bolts and all, slammed it down on the oily shag rug, right in front of my desk.

He lifted me from the chair and strapped me down to the dirty seat, and slid the desk, considerately, in front of me, that I could continue working. He was “insistent” that I complete this “masturbation of literature;” emphasizing both words, spewing toothpaste and Brussels sprout-remnants in my face. I thought, I was starting to love his endearing terms for my work. “Thought you might like to watch some reality T.V. You write like a second grader who's in the slow class,” my professor pined, batting his eyelashes at me as he turned round the television.

Odam Schweda faded from the public eye after his astonishing procession of failures. He up and moved to New York. He decided to get back in touch with, the reason he wanted to write in the first place: the hookers and cocaine he could buy with the money he made. He thought he'd pick up some fast cash and churn out a novel. Odam had always said that novelists were a novelty.

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Shouldn’t...”

He stopped, unable to write any more. He would erase them and start over and would type those words anew everyday on new pieces of computer screen-paper. He kept typing and staring and then would throw them away. At the last, he stopped writing. He already had his money. He had been lucky enough to get a deal for a novel based on his having written monumentally horrid works for film and television. Publishers were beating down his door on account of the literary train wreck to ensue. Each meeting with his publisher would go the same way: “Odam, I really need that book. Sure, Grafton is keeping us afloat with all of her letters of the alphabet bullshit but we need someone with an edge on that What the Fuck market. It’s been three years.” And Odam would slide a piece of paper across the desk; Martha, his publisher, would pull on her cigar, read the two lines and one contraction and laugh, “It is an awesome beginning,” she would say. “It’s gold Odam. Gold. I think you’re onto something.”

On the T.V. my professor had so politely tuned to my favorite reality show, I saw what resembled my own vintage 1962 checkerboard overlay coffee table lying in pieces on the floor. A sub-zero, frost free, stainless steel refrigerator, that looked suspiciously like mine; had its doors ripped off the hinges. There was a toilet sitting in the living room, in the middle of the floor, surrounded by a mote of sewage and someone’s personal waste. In the corner was a woman’s face, her eyes looking up at me. Her head separated from her body. My apartment on T.V.

The last writing tip that my professor gave me before he whispered his hot dead animal breath in my ear was, to “Write what you know. In case you forget what you know, either make some shit up or do something really crazy. Go on a bender, take a lot of drugs, get really depressed and behead your publicist when she laughs at your two lines and one contraction.” All I could do, at this point, was write. What do you know? When there are no drugs around, you write the pain away. I heard the cheers of the springs popping on the typewriter. The clapping applause of the arms with their block letters, dripping with ink. Blood. The words jumped from head to page. The professor changed the channel on the T.V. forcing me to watch a perpetual loop of three minutes of Driving Miss Daisy played in reverse while he scratched the words, clock, action, epilogue into my inner thigh with a dull razor blade. As I tap danced over the metal keys.

At home Odam passed by the computer, read the two lines and one contraction, chuckled, added more brilliance to the recipe, then hit delete and started over again, getting stuck in the same spot.

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Shouldn’t...”

He thought about how his publisher Martha had smoked that awful cigar, fellating it right there in front of him. She laughed at it and even though he'd laughed with her; he still felt ashamed that he wasn’t capable of writing more than these sentences and contracted word. He wondered if he should write out the contracted words.

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Should not...”

It was of no use. It was still the same. He wondered why was he so insistent on writing about the time he saw his mother naked wen he was thirty-five. It really did nothing for him, nothing good or bad. 

Exhausted, he decided to look for help. He went on the internet and after looking at some porn decided to see if he could source any ghostwriters, with a simple search query: writers block need help,” yielding one search result on the entire internet. The entire internet? This was impossible. Odam clicked on the site and was ased a simple question: Need help with Writers Block?” “Yes, he said. Everything was going to be okay.

My writing professor sat there, eating corn chips and laughing. The girl in the room, the lady in the red dress has started to stink. I don’t remember her being there before, though, I thought I heard the professor open the door and leave. I thought I heard open and close the trunk on my 1994 Toyota Terrel. I wondered if she knew what she'd signed up for? My professor says, there's a fine line between honesty and everything else. The last writing tip he gives me before he grabs my left hand and pops off a finger is, “Set an egg timer and write until it goes off. If you don’t want to write anymore when the time is up, go the fuck home and get a new career. You'll never make it at this anyway.” Everything started going black.

The next morning, Odam arrived at the classroom location for class number one: Deconstructing Your Writers Buildingsfound it odd that he was the only person in the class, especially since the price was so affordable and there was only one entry on the entire internet. A tall as the trees, skinny as a mantis leg, with a look of evil, a professor of writing barreled in through the door; he spoke so low that he could barely be heard over the air-conditioner. For ten hours, Odam Schweda tried to listen to him speak about what, he presumed, was writing. But it often sounded more like highlights from recent Spanish television programs or predictions from a Farmers’ Almanac. It was hard to tell what was being said because he sounded as though his mouth was filled and overflowing with marbles. After ten long hours, with no lunch nor bathroom breaks, alone in the classroom that resembled no other room that Odam had ever seen. everything started to become repetitive, to change right in front of Odam's eyes. Everything, from black to white and back to color again. But the professor kept saying the same things over and over but in different ways. Odam began to know that he was in some deep trouble. “I'm going to have to work at Subway. Not that it's beneath me. But I wrote Fart Party 2, dammit!” He decided, after hours of non-stop lecture, he would leave, he would just go home and try again and the deadline would do him some good.

Odam looked over his first line: 

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Shouldn’t….”

It was useless; he shut off his computer, he knew this was his last attempt, that this was the moment at which he gave up. Odam Schweda called his publisher Martha and asked her to come over to discuss the future of his book.

I heard the egg timer go off. A solitary ding. I realized that the whole thing has unraveled like a ball of green yarn. The professor strolled over, wearing his parka and a crown and no pants. He mocked me:
“Odam Schweda is a writer. He writes bullshit. He has a small penis. Odam Schweda needs help with writers block. Wah. Wah. Wah. Odam Schweda is going to end up with his head cut off like the girl in the corner.” He burnt the orifice of my bloody stump and sealed it shut. The room smelled like potted meat. I hate potted meat. Why did I buy potted meat? When you lose this much blood and are under this much stress, it's amazing where your mind will go. Maybe this is the most genius writing program ever? I haven't been given a choice but to write today. I've already lost everything. What else could happen? These are the things I thought about.

Odam Schweda’s publisher came over to his house; she was wearing a red dress, white stockings and a pair of running shoes. He had taken a few pills and washed them down with half of a bottle of Ketle One vodka. Odam can only remember Martha screaming at him, telling him what a failure he was and laughing that he was writing about seeing his mother naked. He just wanted to be remembered for Fart Party!

“Hey shithead. This piece of garbage cooked yet? How about a through-line? Any of that shit in the pie?” I've started to fall hard for my professor. He was pushing me towards success. “Isn’t that your problem? You keep writing the same thing over and over? You're always in failure mode. You write what you know, right? Now write it again.” That was the last piece of writing advice my professor gave me as he rapped me on the knuckles with a board with rusty nails on it.

“The road and sky split open swallowing his 1964 Buick Electra 225 Convertible. Odam Schweda finally felt safe as he barreled down the highway. He had been driving for what seemed like an eternity but then remembered that he didn’t believe in eternity. He only believed in right now, and right now was his only chance to breathe since leaving the northeast. He had left in a hurry. As the sun came down and the bruise color of the sky expanded across the horizon, Odam felt like everything was going to be okay. The soft shadows of his...”

“Rubbish! This is feces. A 1964 Buick? Wrong! That is not how it is happened. Try again.” The professor blew his hot breath down into my face and sprayed me with vodka drenched pieces of hamburger buns.

Odam woke to the screaming. Martha, his publisher, lay on the floor, bleeding, sandwiched in between two couches. She was crying. He ran over to her in the dark and told her to “Shut up!” As he picked her lifeless body up, her head fell off and landed on the floor next to the door of his sub zero frost free refrigerator. He threw her body in the trunk of his 1994 Toyota Terrell and drove as fast as the night would allow. The soft shadows of his...”

I just want to be remembered for Fart Party!

“Nobody will remember you, cum-wad. You really are making great strides with this character Odam. Keep it up!” My professor had burst into my apartment. He had killed Martha, destroyed my things. Destroyed my life and cut off her head. All of this was his fault. “Your story makes no sense. How could I burst into anything? I’m not even here. You did this. Tell us more about Martha. She sounds sexy!” my professor said, encouraging me to push hard for the voice.

He's been forcing me to work under extreme duress and pressure. He cut off my right hand. He killed Martha. Her nails are gone. Her beautiful red nails. “There's a fine line between honesty and everything else. Now write what you know. I’m leaving you to your talents.” That was the last piece of writing advice that my professor gave me before I looked around and noticed that he wasn't in the motel room; I heard what I thought was the engine of my 1994 Toyota Terrel, starting and fading, off into the distance.

Odam Schweda looked around at all of the destruction that had come along with his writer's block. He never imagined the things he would do. He just wanted to change the diaper of humanity. He just wanted to be remembered for Fart Party 3. He looked at the carnage and knew he was all alone. He sat at the typewriter, his bare feet massaged by the oily shag carpeting of the motel room, and he realized that he would finally be able to complete his masterwork. He looked at the page and was proud:

“I just saw my mother naked. This time I was thirty-five. Shouldn’t...”


Chad Meadows is from the New Jersey area. He's thirty-eight and his hair is thin. He's an MFA grad student (who isn't these days?) at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He won their Director's Award for fiction back in 2011. (Doesn't mean much to be honest with you.) He is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel, but he is not finished. In the meantime, he would like you to click on this link and read a little bit more, but not so much more that you would not want to buy the collection.