The real rush, the real high, was creation. Words poured out from his hands, forming lives and worlds; a universe he could watch as spectator or control as God. If you wrote them right, they just...went. And honestly, it was more of an escape than anything else. If you wrote them right. How better could you satisfy both megalomania and the sucking need to be entertained?

He'd heard the one about writers not liking writing so much as having written, but he'd never felt that. Sure, seeing your little world in print (he especially liked how the ink raised slightly from the paper... that little black hint of a third dimension) was satisfying, and publishing was the part that kept the heat on and the lights lit, but it was the genesis that really got him off. Sliding into his own mind, where the molecules of ephemera stuck, clumped, shivered, took their first deep breaths, and told him stories.

Aleph under the left pinky, in the beginning; impress that on a few muddy foreheads and watch your golems go. Muses are fickle, external and not to be trusted. Best to pack your own clay and be sure you're the one sculpting from start to finish.

Maddie was never late delivering the little baggie. (And how many times had he run those words together, enjoying the feeling of the dd and gg behind his teeth... "maddie baggie maddie baggie maddie baggie"... it would inevitably morph into "maggie baddie maggie baddie maggie baddie" which gave him giggling fits.) The doorbell always rang precisely at 12:00 noon on Saturday, and there she was, precarious on the porch, thin and looking ready to blow over if the door drafted too hard. He seriously doubted she was on time to anything else, ever, and suspected it was his stature as a Famous Writer, someone on whom to Make An Impression, that motivated her. And got ten bucks knocked off the going rate for her goods.

She never spoke first.

"Hi," he said. "Come on in."

Maddie twigged her way inside, as if her feet were glass and she were afraid of snapping a toe off. The whole "timid" bit oscillated between amusing and annoying him, but he was mostly tolerant by now.

"How's school?"
"Umm... fine?"
"Can I get you anything?" He paused at the kitchen door just long enough to fulfill the ritual, hesitating just long enough to hear the
"No, thanks."
and proceeded into the gloom of his study. She made her way after him.

He dropped into his squeaky desk chair and spun it (silently; the post was fastidiously well-oiled) toward the small leather couch onto which Maddie was just now easing herself down. It occured to him that it was possible Maddie either feared some bestial sexual advance on his part or actually wanted it to happen, and that that was why she never blinked. He laughed at his illegal little fantasy, which made her flinch.

"What?" she squeaked, clutching her Eastpak (embroidered, of course, with three requisite initials: MON, in this case... he never thought to ask if those letters really matched her names).

"Gimme." He grinned broadly.

She did, in fact, blink at that, and unzipped the backpack's larger compartment. As she rummaged around inside, he spun the chair back toward the desk and slid the flattish center drawer open. His wad of mad money filled the depression intended for paper clips or somesuch office supply. He unwrapped three tens, replaced the cache and twirled back around toward Maddie.

She held a small plastic bag, about the size of a half sandwich (if you cut them horizontally, like civilized people and his mother did) in both hands. He held the money out to her, and they made the switch. Maddie crammed the bills into her tight denim hip pocket (how can they be tight on a girl that tiny? he thought) as he pulled the baggie open.

A dirt smell touched his nose. He reached in and probed the crinkly, semi-petrified fungi.

"Do you want any?" he asked Maddie, while his eyes chose just which stems and caps he'd try first.

"Oh, no, that's...uh, that's okay. There's a concert this...weekend that I'm going to and I'm getting..." she kept speaking as he popped some morsels into his mouth and began to chew.

They tasted like cow shit, which made him smile.

The first time, overseas, he'd kept a journal. His handwriting was ludicrous. He wrote:

Okay, I've passed the "I'm not sure" point as to how much I've eaten. Have added gradations of high: Roll-me-up-and-smoke-me high, topped only by "Babboon" high. I don"t know where I am on the scale

(hold on...TACOS as a war/fighting cry...that might be the most insane thing that exists...think about that a shitload of people beating on you while they shout TACOS...TACOS anyway) back to the point I'm on the scale I'd call it VAN GOGH high, but that may be a little pretentious or presumptuous, I don't know.
New standard. Lighting your hair on fire and putting it out on someone while screaming TACOS XACOS... is the most insane thing in The world.

Van Gogh font. Except the last bit of Gogh was reall forced. I think I might be dripping mucous on myself, but I really can't tell. Deliver that in a Cris-when-he's-stoned deadpan, and you're almost there.

There was more, but it was some self-absorbed rant about "authenticity", "the reflexive ego boundary" and "sincerity". He usually skipped that part when doing his nostalgic re-readings.

The start-up beep of his computer stopped Maddie in mid-sentence. Either that did it, or it was him saying "okay, then, thanks for coming by".

She got up quickly and headed for the bright rectangle in the wall which indicated the rest of the house. He followed, shepherding her toward the door.

" week I'm supposed to, umm... write a paper for English and I was wondering if maybeIcouldtalktoyouabout..."

"Yeah, of course. No problem. Thanks for coming." He opened the door. She tripped on the threshhold, and her sneaker made a fat slap!ping sound as she kept herself from falling. "See you later, Maddie."

"Oh. Bye, Mr..." he shut the door.

He was back in the primordial dim of his office, sitting in his chair. Vision was beginning to facet, and that was his favorite part; it was all starting. He watched the shapes on his retinas for a while, before laying hands on the keyboard.