The Writer and The Critic

Prompt Day #229: Choke someone by force feeding them something in a poetically just way.

 This was yesterday’s prompt. I spent most of the day in the car driving a great distance to see what was supposed to be a unique and terrifying horror film but turned out to be the biggest waste of my time. So, when I got home, I was too tried to type this out. Here it is. Today’s prompt will be posted later this evening.

The Writer and The Critic

A Tragedy


“Is this some sort of joke?”

“No. I want your opinion on the book” Henry Tolkey stared at his long-time nemesis.

“The book itself, I admit, is certainly the best thing you’ve ever written.” The critic began, “although I’m not sure that says much considering my opinion on your writing abilities.” He flipped through the pages of the manuscript sitting in front of him. “It’s this epilogue that makes no sense, and if you are trying to threaten me with it, it is also laughable.”

“It’s no threat. Come on Ned, you’ve never given me the benefit of the doubt.” Henry threw a scrapbook down on the table.

“What’s this now? You’ve wasted enough of my time.” Ned said dropping the manuscript done disgustedly. As a book critic, he’d never understood the popularity of Henry Tolkey. In his mind, the writing was the equivalent of snuff films—death and pornography, no plot, no finesse. Much like the recent popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey books, Ned believed people read them for the porn and certainly not the quality of writing. Ned had never made it a secret how much he despised the work of Tolkey and over time their adversarial relationship had become a thing of legend. While he would never admit it, it was Tolkey that made Ned’s career. People scrambled to read his critiques of Tolkey just as much as they clambered for his newest book.

“That’s my personal collection of your writings. I never miss a single one, you know. It’s the thing that drives me, makes me want to be a better writer.” Tolkey grinned a large, falsely happy grin.

“Henry, I’m well acquainted with my own work. If it was intended to encourage improvement in your mediocre filth, than I, too, have need for betterment.” He rolled his eyes. The book had come in advance of publishing last week. His write up on it was due tomorrow and here was Tolkey showing up unannounced and practically forcing himself in. Ned was trying to remain calm and nonchalant but the fact remained that the epilogue of the newest book involved an actor who after finally receiving an award for his work, shows up at a movie critic’s home and bludgeons him to death with the trophy. He didn’t think Tolkey would ever do such a thing, but had he been asked the day before if Tolkey would ever shove himself into Ned’s home on a Sunday morning and expect a verbal report on his work, he would have laughed. Now, here he was pacing back and forth like a crazed animal.

“You have to read it, I want you to read the things you’ve said about me and my abilities because you are going to take every one of those words back in your newest critique.” He said and pulled a gun out of his pocket.

Ned stiffened and held his hands up defensively.

“Hey now, Henry, you don’t need that. I said it was your best work yet. I’m willing to say you’re writing has improved significantly. I…I’ve already said that.” He stammered

“When, where? Let me see it. Let me see what you’re sending out.” The gun never moved.

Ned had given Tolkey some props in his review of the book but he made it clear that his overall opinion of the author hadn’t changed. If he let Tolkey see it as is, he’d be shot.

“It’s still rough, I was going to finish today and honestly, Henry, I can’t do that with all this.” He swished his hand out.

“I bet it’s rough.” Tolkey said coming closer until Ned could smell the gun oil. “So here’s how you’re going to prove to me that you want to take back what you’ve said about me.” He opened the scrapbook with one hand. Grabbed a page and ripped it out. He crumpled it in his fist. It was a slow, clumsy action; all one handed but that only added to Ned’s apprehension.

Eat it.” Tolkey said shoving the ball of paper at him. “You’re going to eat every single word you’ve said about me.”

Ned’s eyes widened. Henry Tolkey, if not talented was certainly a prolific writer and for each work, there was a corresponding critique by Ned Hamilton. There was no way he could physically accomplish this absurd demand. His mouth had gone dry with adrenaline.

“I’ll need a glass of water, Henry.” He began “But, I honestly don’t think this is the way to go about this…difference of opinion between us. I mean, even if I manage to do as you ask, then what? You’re going to walk out of here and go on with your life? And we forget this ever happened? And what if I refuse? Will you shoot me? Kill me? You have a better motive than anyone I know, you’ll be arrested and both our careers will be over. There’s no happy ending here, my friend.” Ned knew he was pushing his luck but he was convinced all of this had not been thought through. Tolkey just needed some time to calm down and think rationally. He had come here likely to see what Ned thought of the thinly veiled threat in the epilogue and had expected Ned to be apologetic and praising the new piece. Well, it was a good piece of writing, surprisingly good but Tolkey would never be more than a pop fiction paper back novelist.

“We’re not friends, Ned.” Henry said sitting down beside him. “And I’m the creative thinker, so why don’t you let me worry about the aftermath. You have 30 seconds to eat this first piece of paper or you’ll eat lead.” Tolkey didn’t flinch, his hand was steady and Ned decided now was not the time to dispute it. He put the wadded up paper in his mouth. He had to shove it with his fingers in order to compress it enough to close his mouth around it. He began to chew.

Thankfully, his mouth responded by releasing some saliva, at least enough to start breaking some of the page down to pulp. He never took his eyes off Tolkey who was in turn monitoring the progress and keeping time with his Rolex. Ned swallowed the bolus of paper and felt it slowly sliding down his esophagus, his muscles working in waves to push it into his stomach. He looked at the book again. There was no way he would be able to do it. Not without water.

“Henry, I need water…please” his voice was hoarse, he heard the clicking of his dry tongue as it tried to maneuver around the words. Tolkey said nothing, he ripped the next page out and crumpled it. He held it out to Ned, who took it reluctantly. He tried squeezing it down in his fist before putting it in his mouth. He still had to work his lips around it. He chewed but this time it wasn’t getting any smaller. His mouth was so dry.

Tolkey grabbed another page and ripped it out and then another.

“I have a reading to do tonight. We need to move this along.” Ned murmured and shook his head no. “Yes, let’s go. Open wide, Ned.” He pressed the gun hard against Ned’s temple. He chewed faster, trying to make room for the next mouthful. The gun pressed harder, He could feel the sight cutting into his skin. He shoved the next piece in and choked a little. His cheeks strained against the massive amount of paper in his mouth.

“I have a secret to tell you” Tolkey said continuing to rip page after page out of the book. “I wrote that epilogue for you. When the book comes out next month, it won’t include the epilogue of course. I think it would be too…what’s the word…incriminating.” He laughed and pushed a ball of paper against Ned’s lips.

He was going to die. Tolkey was going to force feed him until he choked to death. Tears ran down his face. He wished he could lick them up, bring them into his mouth where the paper was sticking to every surface.

“Don’t worry though, I’ll leave the Television on for you when I leave, so you can watch my alibi, ha-ha, I mean my reading.” He pushed his fingers against Ned’s lips and wriggled them in until they were between his teeth. Ned wished he could bite down on them but the paper prevented full closure of his jaw. Tolkey pulled down opening Ned’s mouth wider. He shoved another page’s worth of words into the man’s mouth and pushed it back. Ned felt his esophagus expanding to take it all in and the volume was encroaching on his trachea. His breath wheezed as if through a thin straw which is probably what his windpipe looked like now. One more page and Ned would no longer be able to draw any air.

“When they find you tomorrow or the next day, they’ll assume you were so distraught about how very wrong you were about me, that you did this to yourself. Poor wanna-be writer but nothing more than a critic Ned Hamilton. I promise you this, my friend, I’ll write you the sweetest obituary. I’ll insist upon it.” Tolkey had the page that would be Ned’s undoing in his hand. Ned could do nothing. His jaw ached; forced wide open by the pages filling his oral cavity. He wondered which way he’d like to die, by gun-shot to the head or choking to death. He supposed if Tolkey shot him, He’d set it up to look like a suicide, so either way, he was screwed.

Ned didn’t have to make the decision because just then Tolkey jammed the next three pages in at once. He felt his jaw dislocate and the pain exploded in his head. Instinctively he drew in a breath or tried to and the paper lodged itself tightly in his throat. He tried to choke it back up but there was simply no place for it to go, the rest of his mouth was so full. His lungs were aching, if they didn’t get air soon, they felt as if they would explode in his chest. He could see Tolkey standing there watching him. Ned stood and rounded the chair where he began to throw himself against the back in an attempt to perform a self-Heimlich maneuver, he no longer cared about the gun. He’d rather be shot, get this over with.

Tolkey was putting the manuscript back in the messenger bag he’d brought the scrapbook in. The edges of Ned’s vision were dimming. He thrust himself harder down on the chair and one chunk of paper flew out. Tolkey stopped what he was doing and picked it up.

“Hey, you dropped this.” He said but Ned didn’t hear him. He was so sleepy now, he just wanted to lie down. He didn’t try to stop Tolkey when his own words were replaced in his mouth. In the darkness and from somewhere far away, Ned felt a small zing in his head. It wasn’t painful; nothing was anymore.

“I think this is the best way to end out business relationship. Me finally writing my opus and you, the humble critic, realizing my potential, die from eating your words. That is Shakespearian, if you ask me.”