Published November 15, 2011

Safely aboard the mothership, you write your novel

You write by the mysterious boxes
"Hey, it's those mysterious boxes again!"

With the aliens satisfied, you can finally get back to writing your novel. You eat some fine chocolates and fire up your homemade mind-mapping software. You’re such a geek, but at least you’re not lazy. You start to outline your novel, The Hungry Waiter. The ideas burst out of your head faster than you can say, “This is dumb. I don’t want to do this anymore!”

You draw a big circle in the middle of your paper, write “Doug” in the middle in cursive, then scratch it out and print it. One line from this circle goes to a circle that says “Steak Out!”. The lines streaming out from here say that it’s improbably named for such an upscale restaurant. There’s piano jazz on weekends. They don’t advertise. Many foxy waitresses work there.

You map your protagonist to a crappy job and a series of humorous quirks like having learned to play guitar during a study abroad in Mali, being scared of girls, and quirkiest of all: his ability to stop time. You draw a line connecting him to a love interest, Sally, one of the waitresses. Another line goes from Doug to a circle called County Library and a woman named Alice who works there. Other lines from Alice indicate that she’s a down-on-her-luck graduate student who is thinking about dropping out to focus on her career as a bail bondsman. It’s a family business she inherited when her father was shot by a fugitive.

You draw a line from Doug to indicate that he has a crush on Alice, too. One night at the steak house, Sally flirts with Doug. He flirts back and things escalate all night. Just before closing time, a man walks in and orders a steak and a scotch before even sitting down. When Doug brings the man’s drink order, he discovers that the man’s suit is stained with blood.

You draw a line from this detail to Doug and then to “HE STOPS TIME!” With time stopped, Doug decides to solve the murder mystery. In so-doing, he gets to know Alice better, for she shares his ability to stop time. Doug is given infinite time to decide whether he should pursue Alice or Sally, and find out who killed Alice’s dad, but he is paralyzed by indecisiveness and his fear of girls, and he starves to death during a guitar solo.

“Fuck, this is dumb. I don’t want to do this anymore!” you say, kicking your laptop to the floor. The small pieces ricochet off of some mysterious boxes. You study the markings and try your hardest to decipher them. After all, you think there might be some kind of prize in it for you. Your phone rings.

You decide to: