You can get paid to write a novel. Simply work overnight. People that work overnight struggle to stay awake. Bring a laptop to work and receive a salary while writing a best seller. Only back in 1992 when I came up with that idea, I had a word processor that looked surprisingly like a toaster oven instead of a laptop. But the idea was solid.
The county jail was hiring. I applied and filled out a questionnaire, which asked if I knew anyone who has tired cocaine. None of my friends have and neither had I, but I worked in a drug rehab at the time. I knew dozens of people who had used cocaine. So when I had to guess how many people I have come into contact with in the past week that had tried cocaine, I guessed the number to be around 50. Sure, that number seemed a little high, but I did list on the job application where I was currently working.
A couple of weeks went by and I never got a response so I went to the jail to ask about my job status. The deputy pulled out my file. “Hmm, looks like your plenty qualified to work here as a deputy. Ahh, this is flagged. You know 50 people who have tried cocaine. That makes you a high risk. We can’t have people supplying drugs to the inmates.”
I explained my situation.
“In that case, you can have the job if you pass a lie detector test.”
I few days later I returned to take the test. They strapped patches on my fingertips to test the amount of sweat I’d produce. Another node was taped to my wrist to test my heart rate. And a cord wrapped around my chest to monitor my breathing. The man administering the test informed my how each of these variables would indicated if I was lying or not.
Typically, that might scare me, especially if I had something to hide. I didn’t. But I also flashed back to my college psychology class. My professor talked about lie detector tests and said the key to tricking the machine was to act nervous in the opening questions, which were designed to test your truthfulness. Then when asked difficult questions, relax and whatever you answer will come across as true. Armed with that information, I knew whatever I said would come out as true.
“I will ask ten questions that only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response,” the test administer began. I listened confidently as I became acutely aware of my breathing and my pulse.
“First question: Is your name Karl?”
Oh my god, Karl? Is my name Karl? My dad had several relatives named Karl and told my mom that she better name me anything but Karl. He was convinced I was going to be a girl any way. But because of that, my mom couldn’t stop thinking of Karl so that’s how I got my name. My dad never called me Karl. Always Chuck. So am I Karl? I guess. I waited to answer as I start to breath in. It feels the must unnatural. “Yes.”
“Second question: is the color of your shirt blue?”
Is my shirt blue? Don’t look. Of course it’s blue. But I remember learning in science class that a color is the color but a reflection of all the other colors. In other words, blue is actually the absence of blue. So my shirt really isn’t blue, it’s every color except blue. But I’m sure this guy thinks my shirt is blue, as would any normal person. Even I would say it’s blue. I wait for the in take of breath to make my answer sound as awkward as possible. “Yes.”
“Third question: is it true that you worked at Benilde Hall, a drug rehab and then got a job working at juvenile detention with youths involved with drugs.”
This time I tried to keep calm. I felt my heart beating in my ears. A nice and steady beat. I waited until I breathed out and answered calmly, “Yes.”
“Fourth question: did you know at least fifty people from these jobs that had tried cocaine?”
“Fifth question: have you ever snored cocaine.”
I was feeling great. “No.”
“Question six: have you ever sold cocaine.”
Question seven: do any of your friend use cocaine?”
And so on. When I was done, the administer looked at the results. “This is peculiar. According to the results, it’s a lie that you’re shirt is blue, but everything else is true.” Later, a deputy explained to me that because I lied about the color of my shirt when it looked like my shirt was blue, that I couldn’t be trusted.
I ended up getting a job in a psychiatric hospital working overnight. Sure enough, I was able to bring in my laptop and write a novel called Five Guys Named Johnson, only it was about four guys and none of them were named Johnson. It wasn’t good. But now I’ve written St Peter Killed God, which takes place in a psychiatric hospital. I have to wonder, if I got the job working in the jail, would the setting of my current novel be in a prison instead?