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Why Man Writes
by Marvin Pinkis

With the proliferation of writers conferences, seminars, workshops, retreats and a liberal sprinkling of critique groups, what are the origins of this writing frenzy? Events in man's trek may identify the well-springs responsible for the cascade of writer-wanna-be's.


In medieval times, an abbot sternly confronted a trembling novice who had missed classes and vespers the previous day. Quivering, the boy handed the abbot a note.

In a childish scrawl it read: "Plese exkuse Thomas for his absens yester day from the monerstery. He had an upset stumik. Mrs. Aquinas."

The abbot stated, "Because your family contributes to our charities, I will accept this, but yesterday was opening day of the jousting season. Was that a coincidence?"

The lad fumbled for a reply and was dismissed by the abbot, who noticed clinging to the boy's coarse wool garment, were specks of sticky fluffy stuff, attempts to produce what later would be called "cotton candy".


Writing was a boon for a man and a woman attending a cocktail party in Rome that included the Emperor as a surprise guest. These two, closely attended by their spouses, had not been together all evening. The man got the idea to slip her a "note." He called over the young page Flavius and filched a linen napkin. Dipping into a gravy bowl he wrote:

"I'll meet you later at the Four Centurions Motel after your old man
leaves for the orgy.
Postus Scriptus. Bring chips."



"Dear, take the donkey and get some things at 'Ben and Jakes's'. We'll need millet and a chicken. Check the fruit. If it looks good, get pomegranates and dates. Also, an urn of goat's milk. Don't let them cheat you on the weights. You know how they are."

"I'm supposed to remember all that?"

"I heard Egyptians make 'lists.''"

"What the hell's a 'list'?"

"Like a collection of things so persons can remember what to do."

"Could be the start of a bad habit. In the meantime, what do we do?"

"Well, I have this stylus and a jar of sheep bladder extract. I'll do a graphic representation of the items on your arms. This symbol of a stalk of grain would stand for the millet. This oval would be an egg which reminds you of the chicken. "


Visiting the cave of her friend Ooga, Ja-Key sipped the herb broth, over-spiced for her taste. Ooga's culinary reputation was unchallenged. Nobody in the clan could match her "Grub Surprise" or "Sloth Provencale." And with eleven children yet. The oldest was promoted to "Assistant Chief Netter of Medium-Size Mammals", and a daughter received the "Gatherer of the Month Award." Still, many questioned why the twelve-year-old girl was still without a mate and why the next to the last boy preferred to stay in the cave and play with bone designs rather than enter into the sadistic, often harmful, play of the other boys.

Ja-Key marveled at Ooga's ability to preserve her good looks, considering Ooga had just celebrated, allegedly, her twenty-fifth season cycle. Ja-Key had little to be smug about - - seven ungrateful children, a mother-in-law who bossed their cave, not owning a decent cooking pot, a philandering mate who bedded with a harlot from across the valley. And lately, Ja-Key had taken to increased imbibing of Mandrakes-root wine.

"Ooga," Ja-Key began, "I need a favor. Things haven't gone well with Myk-el and me."

"Yes, it's the talk of the clan."

"I can't go out like Jo-Beth and personally witness or participate in just about every significant discovery in man's evolution."

"It is discouraging," Ooga replied. "What that girl can do is something for the books, whatever a book is."

Ja-Key said, "I need a gimmick. To prepare him something so wonderful, more unique than he could get from another woman, so he would be grateful and true blue."

"You mean- "

"Right, your secret recipe for 'Marinated Giant Slugs Over Selected Truffles.' That's all he talks about after the annual potluck dinner."

Ooga responded, "That recipe was handed down to me years ago, before we started sleeping indoors after we were all getting such bad colds."

"You're my only chance to keep us together. You're my best friend."

Ooga thought, Is that why you loaned Filis your best squirrel wrap for the Cave Rat party after giving me a lot of phony excuses when I asked to borrow it?

She repressed her resentment and said, "All right, I'll do it, Ja-Key, but you're so ditzy, you'll never remember all the ingredients."

Ja-Key answered, "Oh, I can easily memorize up to three."

"This has five."

"Rotten luck. That's what happens when a primitive level of existence has yet to develop and perfect a method, other than by oral transmission, of preserving information."

Ooga reflected on her friend's sagacity and, not to be outdone, wisely remarked, "That step of learning will yet occur. In the meantime, you should know that I'm leaving my mate, a clod who doesn't appreciate me. All he does, after he comes home from the hunt and eats, is to sit and watch the wall paintings. Night after night. I wish we had rented an undecorated cave. Besides, I don't prefer representational art. Then he says I nag him because we're one of the few families who don't have a vacation cave in the South."

"So, what will you do?"

"Ask yourself the same question. I'm running off with your Myk-el and a knapsack of slugs."