J.D. DuPuy is no writer. He has no creative writing training or experience. Nevertheless, he sometimes daydreams about composing the Great American Novel. Someone once told him that writers write about what they know. He was pondering this concept one evening when it occurred to him: "Well, if that is the case, then here is what I can write about: standing over the sink eating a lukewarm bratwurst with one hand and holding a bottle of Children's Advil in the other while the dog repeatedly shoves her nose up my ass. That should sell a couple million copies." And thus was born The Mundane Adventures of A Protagonist: A Great American Novel. This column features excerpts from this instant classic. J.D. lives in North Carolina with his wife and two daughters. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FIVE
Our hero was startled by a succession of rapid-fire text messages that sent his phone vibrating to the point where it nearly bounced right off of the coffee table. He reached for it and began reading the excited utterances sent to him by his neighbor.
Our hero stretched and let out a yawn before sending his own text back: "Who is this?" He then raised his can of Coke Zero in toast to Jerry Seinfeld and headed outside to investigate.
It seemed that the neighbor -- who our hero's youngest child affectionately called "Poopy Man" because of the one time she saw him picking up dog poop in his yard -- had stumbled across a slithering spectacle while spreading pine straw around one of his bushes. Upon closer inspection, the amateur ophiologists diagnosed the intruder as a copperhead: dreaded foe of suburbanites everywhere.
Our hero and Poopy Man gathered two long-handled shovels. The only action these tools usually saw involved planting gardenias, but on this day they would be called upon for more sinister and murderous work. Time stretched on and on as the two assassins planned the attack with attention to detail not seen since Napoleon orchestrated the Battle of Austerlitz. All the while, the enemy sat coiled under the bush in perfect stillness, seemingly resigned to his fate.
To add to the anxiety of the moment, an audience had gathered to watch the display. To be exact, Poopy Man's wife was leaning out the second story window issuing encouraging statements from her perch on high: "Would you two get on with it already?" "Do you want me to call my grandmother to come do this for you?" "If you wait long enough the snake may just die from natural causes."
Finally, our hero approached slowly and steadily while Poopy Man took to the flank. It was determined that our hero would deliver a swift blow with surgical precision that would chop the snake in two, and Poopy Man would ensure that the snake was rendered incapable of making one final "we-thought-he-was-dead-but-he-wasn't-and-now-he's-coming-after-me-like-that-anaconda-from-that-shitty-Anaconda-movie-came-after-J.Lo's-ass" lunge at our hero.
As he approached the subject, our hero's heart rate increased dramatically and he could feel his grip on the shovel loosen slightly as his palms began to sweat. He called out:
Our hero would tell the tale of what happened next with great enthusiasm to anyone who would listen to him over the course of the next few weeks; about how when he struck what was meant to be a fatal blow, not one, but TWO snakes came squirming out from under the bush; about how apparently he and Poopy Man had rudely interrupted a copulation session; about how both of the grown men let out high pitched screams and swung their weapons of destruction furiously and with reckless abandon until not only the two serpents were dead, but also the bush under which they had been hiding; about how when all was said and done, our hero shot a cocky smile to Poopy Man (just before he dry-heaved from the horrific odor emanating from the fresh carcasses of the vanquished foes).
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FOUR
One morning our hero was running late for work (NKOTB reunion on the Today Show) when his home phone rang. He recognized the number as that of his realtor.
"Is your lovely wife home?" she asked.
"No. She's already at work. What's up?" he responded.
"Oh. Um. Hmmm. Well, look. We're having a magazine advertisement photo shoot this morning for our new agency, and we were looking for a few clients to help fill in some gaps. I was hoping she could come in, but since she's not there, and we are in kind of a crunch, um, I guess..."
"I'll do it," our hero stated abruptly (without really being asked).
After he hung up the phone, our hero went immediately to his closet to select an outfit for his debut in the world of print media. Due to a combination of having zero fashion sense and the misfortune of having just taken a boatload of shirts and pants to the laundry the day before, he was left with few options in the wardrobe department. Ultimately, he settled on a blue-and-white striped shirt he'd had since college (and wasn't even in style then) and an old pair of high-waisted, pleated, dark khaki dress pants. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he realized for the first time just how much he had come to resemble his grandmother.
When he arrived at the photo shoot, it became readily apparent to our hero that he had drastically misjudged the look and feel the agency was going for in its advertising. The intended clientele was young, sharp-looking hipsters who were willing to pay far too much for small, closely connected condominiums in the downtown area, not middle-aged parents who wore mismatched socks and were looking for a place in the suburbs large enough to comfortably house a couple of kids, a dog, and dark hidden secrets. As our hero looked around the room at the agents and other clients, all he saw were dark suits, fancy watches, expensive shoes, and spray tans.
The mechanics of the shoot were such that each individual posed for several shots that the photographer would later splice together in a group setting. Figuring that he was destined for the cutting room floor during the editing process, our hero set out to win everyone over with his personality in the hopes he'd be left in the ad. He struck up a conversation with one of the male realtors who was particularly gelled-up for the occasion.
"Well, I guess we can call ourselves models now, right buddy?" our hero began.
"Uh, sure. Have you ever dated a model?" replied the realtor. This caught our hero off guard.
"Huh? Um. No. Well, I mean...What? No."
"Oh, man. They are sooooooo stupid. I've dated a bunch of them. I'm telling you: they're really stupid."
Our hero stared back blankly, unsure if this was simply a poorly delivered punch line or if the universe had just put him in contact with the World's biggest douche bag. It turned out to be the latter.
"Oh yeah, man," the realtor continued. "So dumb. You wouldn't believe it."
When the realtor checked his Blackberry for messages (presumably from hot, dumb models), our hero removed himself from the conversation by backing slowly away. Then he stood in the corner of the room by himself for the remainder of the shoot.
Months later, the advertisement was ready for press. While at the grocery store, our hero's wife picked up a copy of the free local magazine featuring the ad. Our hero rushed home that night, eager to see his debut as a male model. When he opened to the two-page ad, it took him a moment to locate himself. After scanning the ad a couple of times, he finally saw the photographer had placed him in the middle of the ad, wedged in the spine of the magazine. As he pushed down the two pages to the point where the binding glue was visible, he got a better look at himself. The photographer had placed him between two hipster types such that only about ten percent of his body was showing. Through the magic of Photoshop, his teeth had been replaced with someone else's, his hair was cropped, and the white T-shirt he had worn under his button down had been removed. In the end, he was barely recognizable.
Our hero looked up from the ad and stared blankly at his wife. Slowly, a cocky smile emerged on his face. She responded by giving him a look that can only be described as a mixture of pride and pity.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER THREE
One afternoon, our hero found himself juggling 40 different things in his role of not-so-high-profile lawyer. Many, many papers had to be reviewed for possible non-deal-breaking typos. Despite riding on very little sleep as a result of getting roped into a Scrubs marathon on WGN the previous night, he managed to work with awe-inspiring efficiency. He found many ways to multitask, like when he talked to his assistant about a file while simultaneously moving past her desk to inhale some holiday cheese straws the building manager had left for the firm.
The speed and effectiveness with which our hero worked came to a grinding halt when he found himself in the line at the local Register of Deeds office. Seated next to him, and ahead of him in line, was an older gentleman who grew more and more exasperated with every passing minute he had to wait. Our hero could sense frustration oozing from the elder, and he decided he would try and capitalize on the situation. First, he started shifting in his seat and looking at his watch, giving the perception that he, too, was growing impatient. In a perfectly timed move, his gaze met the old man's, and he rolled his eyes as if to say "Bureaucrats, right buddy?" As our hero sat there contemplating why white people are so uptight, the old man fell right into his trap. As if he thought he needed to provide an excuse in order to leave the room, the defeated man mumbled something under his breath about having to pick up his wife's laundry. He then promptly got up from his seat. Our hero pretended not to hear him and instead stared awkwardly at an inkblot on his file folder until he was sure the coast was clear.
Our hero silently rejoiced as he slid one seat over in line. He shot a cocky smile to the Clerk behind the counter, who responded by raising an eyebrow and blowing an enormous bubble of chewing gum. Not two minutes later (it might have been 10; he was lost in the world of Angry Birds, Level 18-11), our hero was called to the counter. It was only then that he realized he had brought the wrong documents.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO
Our hero woke from a dead sleep after sharp claws scratched across his back. Shrieking in pain, he reacted by bending his body in a way that suggested he had the flexibility of a three-foot-tall Chinese gymnast. (He didn't.) Before our hero could even open his eyes, he was nudged in the ribs by the wet snout of his equal-parts-faithful-and-annoying dog, Maeby. This was her way of letting him know that it was time to commence the daily ritual of following her around the neighborhood until she could squeeze last night's dinner out of her sniff hole. Consistent with his training, our hero stumbled out of bed half-awake and went through the motions of preparing for the daily fecal dump. Clothes? Check. Coffee pot turned on? Check. Leash? Check. Bumping into kitchen table in the darkness and screaming obscenities? Check.
It wasn't until he and his dog were a few blocks from home that the hero felt a violent tremor of terror run up his spine. He had neglected to bring a critical instrument of the ritual: the plastic bag. His worst fears were now realized, particularly since he was a man from a conservative upbringing who had spent his entire life followingrules. Defying common perceptions about dogs, Maeby did not sense her owner's anxiety and instead immediately assumed her position in a prime spot -- a small area of dead grass near the sidewalk where her deposit could be on display for all neighborhood dogs to sniff at or roll in. Our hero's eyes shot up and began surveying the scene in the early morning darkness. For a split second, he wondered if he could find some foliage large enough to do the dirty work, but he knew that the leavings of a 70-pound dog, not to mention his rather pronounced case of OCD, would rule out that option.
"Come on!" he emphatically whispered through gnashed teeth. Just then, he saw headlights crest the nearby hill and slice through the thick morning fog. Soon after, a jogger appeared from a side street, causing panic to really set in. Just as our hero was about to succumb to the pressure, his dog broke from her statuesque pose and performed a few obligatory hind leg kicks. Beads of sweat poured down our hero's face as the car pulled closer. Moving forward with head bowed, he was convinced a group of homeowner's association thugs would soon emerge to begin beating him ruthlessly. Just as the car passed without incident, the jogger was upon him.
"Can you believe that, buddy?" our hero exclaimed nervously. "Some asshole let his dog take a huge shit over there and then didn't pick it up."
The jogger slowed to a halt and removed his ear buds. "What?"
"Yeah," our hero continued. "Right over there. HUGE pile of dog shit. It's disgusting. I'm pretty sure there is some orange crayon in it, too. Disgusting."
Demonstrating visible signs of discomfort, the jogger simply shook his head and kept moving. Our hero glanced over at his canine companion and shot her a cocky smile. She responded by stretching her paws out in front of her and bending her hindquarters up in the air before they started back home.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE
On his way to his daughter's gymnastics performance, our hero emerged from his office building unsure of where he had left his car in the two-story parking garage. He noticed that a group of smokers, hanging out next to the building, stopped talking and started following his every move, ready to jump at the chance to ridicule him for being so absentminded. He darted his eyes from left to right, hoping they would make contact with the beat-up black 2004 Nissan Maxima. (Or was it gray? It had been so long since he had taken it in for a car
wash, our hero couldn't remember. One thing was for sure: it was covered in bird shit.) Casually, calmly, he reached his hand into his pocket and hit the unlock button on his keyless entry remote. A faint chirp gave away the location of the vehicle, and he headed in that direction as though he had known where it had been all along. Upon starting his car, a plume of air pollutant -- large enough to choke a family of small monkeys to death -- exited from his exhaust pipe as he revved the engine triumphantly. Driving off, he shot a cocky smile to the smokers, who all had disgruntled looks on their faces. "Better luck next time, suckers!" he yelled (with the windows up).