The Walking Shadow 

Donal Buchanan

Copyright 2015 by Donal Buchanan


Man working at typewriter.

Henry was forty-four when the writing bug bit. He sold his first story to Stupendous Adventures magazine and was never the same again.

As his sales increased, he began to neglect his duties as an accountant for Bulwark Industries. He found himself thinking of plots instead of totals and even used company time to prepare clean drafts of manuscripts. He analyzed everything he read, making mental notes on the style and polish of the prose. He became an inveterate eavesdropper, listening to conversations around him with an increasingly critical ear. At times he could be heard to mutter “Bad dialogue!” or “ I can use that...” Naturally, his friends began to regard him as 'tetched' and started to avoid him.

His work got done somehow and if it was sloppier than usual, his superiors at first took comfort in the thought that they harbored a genuine author in their midst.

Henry studied hard and grew in his new craft. Like the wise man who could “read a sermon in a grain of sand,” he began to spot story-lines wherever he looked. As he gained in experience, he even began to predict plot development. He once sent a secretary home in tears after informing her that her boyfriend was going to elope with her mother. His prediction turned out to be correct.

In fact all of them were.

Rather than notoriety, with flocks of adoring disciples sitting at the feet of the new guru, this resulted in Henry's further isolation from his peers. His predictions were always of such a personal nature and so closely tied to the people involved that the reaction was inevitably one of fear and dislike. This plus his growing inefficiency, eventually cost him his job.

Henry didn't care. Now he could write full-time. A bachelor, he was now selling regularly to a number of markets and had no fears for the future. He continued to sharpen the most important tool of his new trade: his powers of observation. As his horizons widened, he realized that plots and sub-plots—plays within plays—were constantly being performed all around him.

The truth struck him one day as he walked among the crowds in a local park looking for characters to use in a mystery. He felt a compelling and immediate urge to communicate his knowledge. Climbing the steps of the park's bandstand, he turned to the passing crowd.

You are puppets!” he cried. “All the world's a stage!”

"Oh, good, Shakespeare," burbled a young co-ed in the small knot of people gathered below. “But he ain't got it quit right, has he?”

Naw, I don't think so,” grumbled her escort. “Hey, Bud! Ain't that Macbeth? Can you do something else from Macbeth?”

Henry looked around him in confusion. They were right. There was nothing new. It had all been said before. Yes, even in Macbeth. He would give them Macbeth.

The clouds darkened with an inky haze that seemed to drop down and wash over him. His disjointed words hung momentarily in the air, then fell to the earth before the tiny crowd and the now empty steps of the bandstand like so many scattered beads.

...Life's a walking shadow...”

...His hour upon the stage ...”

...A tale...”

...Heard no more.”

Henry had been edited out.    

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