Note to Animal LoversIf there's a spider in my shower, I remove it with a cup and set it free. I once interrupted a beer run to assist an injured butterfly floundering in the parking lot. I suffer with an affliction known as dog envy -- when I'm on vacation and see some happy couple with a bouncing mutt, I will proceed to wrestle with the animal right there in the Best Western parking lot.
Because I don't have a dog of my own.
And I love dogs.
I tell you, I love dogs.
Much fuss was made during the early readings of "The Pink Room." Even those people who claimed to love the novel had mean things to say when they hunted me down, often at home in the middle of the night. I could include a long list of remarks from these people, but I'll give you some highlights.
"What do you have against dogs, you sick son of a bitch?"
"What mental defect and physical shortcoming compels a person to invent so much cruelty? You sick son of a bitch. "
"Who are you and why are you wrestling with my dog in the Best Western parking lot?"
My friends, you misunderstand. I've had dogs all my life and could never bring myself to harm one. I suck at training the bastards because I don't even like to yell a lot. For an animal abusing fiend, I'm fairly lame.
In writing The Pink Room, I was faced with the task of demonstrating how an entire population of people in Northern Maine could become so consumately deranged during a rare planetary alignment.
Only it wasn't a task at all. The little snippets of human ugliness I described throughout the book were the funnest of all to write. No, really. I got to write about typically boring adults going nuts and committing atrocities with no end of invention and deviance.
Great fun. Unfortunately, much of it involved animals. Everywhere you look in that damn book, animals are getting tortured, humiliated and killed. And I have to sit here and explain to you that I personally love animals; they were just useful literary devices to portray the limitless cruelty of the human mind run amok.
It's true, you know. Though I will admit to a certain perverseness -- I have nothing against animals and yet I thoroughly enjoyed creating new ways in which to bring about their shabby demise. I mean, I had an absolute blast writing those scenes. The part with the goat? Just... just an absolute joy.
On occasion, when a person protesting my literary treatment of animals just won't listen to these explanation; when they start frothing at the lips and I see fingers reaching for chemical spray, I confess an ugly truth: in the first draft of The Pink Room, a lot of those animals were children. Instead of a dog getting abused, for instance, it was a child just beyond toddling age. A young girl instead of a cat. A pre-schooler instead of a horse.
You get the idea. Those scenes were less enjoyable but they got the job done. And when an editor took a look at that first draft, one of the first thing he scribbled in a hasty note was: "do you think you could ease off the child abuse a little?"
I did. And I started abusing animals, instead.
To recap: the deaths and dismemberments of the world's glorious creatures was not done gratuitously. It was a necessary element to the story. I needed to emphasize to the reader just how mad these poor people became when the moon and planets lined up just so before the solstice.
And it wasn't done because I secretly detest dogs and cats, goats and hamsters, birds and horses. Not at all. And I could gather up a room full of friends and neighbors, cats and dogs to attest to my general spirit of kindness. In the end, it's easier and less smelly to just write it out here. Take my word for it. I rescue butterflies, for Christ's sake!
An interesting footnote: some perfectly nice people come to some fairly harsh ends in the book, too. They die by fire, by human biting, by hanging, gunshot wounds, car wrecks and manual dismemberment. Yet, not one person has called, written or visited to complain about these incidents of savagery. Not one.
I know I am essentially good at heart. But sometimes, I wonder about you people.