That was the grand total on the itemized and handwritten bill from the hospital that arrived at the house. Four days in a semi-private room. $30 for anesthesia. $5 for Special Medicines. $3.18 for telephone usage, which my Dad paid for before the orderly wheeled my Mom out to the station wagon, holding me in her arms, with no idea what to expect from the new arrival that sped her through labor at a record-setting pace. Thirty minutes from start to finish, if you can believe that. $183 covered by insurance. $24 due.
Fiction is never really fiction. It’s all autobiography. Not a verbatim retelling, of course, but everything that has ever happened to an author winds up on the page in some fashion. It could be a significant event recast with a more desirable outcome expanded into the climax of a book. Perhaps it’s something that the author wished she hadn’t said to her boyfriend that winds up coming out of an antagonist’s mouth. Maybe it’s hopes and dreams for a happier life that the hero can never attain that drives him past the breaking point and straight into insanity. Suspicions about a family member, the color of the upholstery on the family sofa, something seen out of the corner of one’s eye, the way that apple fritter tasted and the one simple reason it was the best apple fritter ever.
Speck Martin is a fictional autobiography, a man recounting his life story, but I can tell you right now that it might as well be mine. Everything is tossed into the meat grinder and available for use; thoughts turned over on a drive through the rain after overhearing something in the office; a book Don Draper was reading on Mad Men; the torrent of ideas that flooded my brain after I pulverized my little toe on a table leg six months ago; relentless dreams that tortured me as a child; a look on a girlfriend’s face that I’ll never forget; something a stranger said to me on a street corner one quite night. Everything.
It’s all in there, in one form or another. The dots are unconnectable, though; there are no absolute truths about my life in there, so don’t go looking. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is one. Look for that itemized bill in Chapter One.