An Incredible Waste of Paper

by Peter Cherches

            This story is an incredible waste of paper.
            It's a story about wasting paper.
            It's a story about a writer who sets out to waste paper.
            It's a story about a writer who sets out to write a story that's an incredible waste of paper.
            It's an incredible waste of paper.
            Many writers waste paper. This writer often wastes paper. Not always, though. No, the writer of this particular incredible waste of paper does not always waste paper. Sometimes he actually writes stories that are quite worthy of the paper they're written on. In fact, he's written many stories that are quite worthy of the paper they're written on. But not this one. This story is hardly worth the paper it's written on. This story is little more than an incredible waste of paper.
            This is, however, the first time that the writer will admit that his story is an incredible waste of paper. The writer may be a paper-waster, but at least he admits it. Unlike many other writers who waste paper.
            This story actually works on a number of levels. Not only is it a story about wasting paper, it's also a self-conscious story about the process of writing, and I'm sorry to say that, except for a few transcendent ones, stories in this mode tend to be incredible wastes of paper. This story is hardly one of the transcendent ones. This story is indeed an incredible waste of paper. There are other levels to this story, but I can't tell you what they are. Perhaps one day the Cliff Notes for "An Incredible Waste of Paper" will come out, and then we'll all learn what the multiple levels of the story are. I do hope the Cliff Notes for this story come out one day, as this would perhaps be the first case where a student choosing to read the Cliff Notes only, instead of the original work, would be making the right choice.
            What would possess a writer to set out with the intention of wasting paper, you might ask. Perhaps it's the result of continual disappointments. Perhaps it's because certain readers have referred to his previous stories, the ones he believed in, the good ones, and yes, I'll say it, even the great ones, as incredible wastes of paper. Even his wife. That's right. You heard me. Even the author's wife has referred to some of his stories as incredible wastes of paper. So can you blame a writer who hears this sort of thing day in and day out and decides, all right, I'll show them what a real incredible waste of paper is.
            And he does it. Wastes paper. On purpose.
            He starts typing dashes. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------. Then asterisks. section break. Then periods. ...............................................................................................
            He leaves lots of blank space.
            And he feels sorry for himself and he complains.
            Nobody understands me. They all think my writing is an incredible waste of paper. Even my wife. All she does is nag. I'm a serious writer, but does she understand? Hardly. "You bum," she says, "why don't you get a real job so we can eat something besides spaghetti every once in a while?" Doesn't she understand that I'm an artist? That I'm special? That society's rules don't apply to me? That I deserve special treatment? That there's no way I'm getting a job?
            The writer, left to his own devices, could go on for pages with this kind of crap.
            But what about the reader? What is the reader to do? The reader says to himself, to herself, "Fine, he's been disappointed. What a shame. But that doesn't mean I have to read this self-indulgent crap." Yet the reader does just that. Reads the self-indulgent crap. The reader is hooked.
            Sure, the writer knows his wife and many readers will see this story as nothing more than an incredible waste of paper. Like all his other stories. And this one certainly is a waste of paper, by design. But it's more than just a waste of paper, dear reader, or even an incredible waste of paper. This story is the waste of paper. The ultimate waste of paper. Not every writer can come up with the ultimate waste of paper. It takes a special kind of writer to come up with such an ingenious waste of paper. One day this writer will be recognized for his brilliance at wasting paper.
            Yes, the writer begins to see this story, this waste of paper, as his ticket to literary stardom. The road to fame and fortune. Everybody will want to read this story that admits it's a waste of paper. Wasting paper will become his signature. Every story he writes will be a bigger waste of paper than the last. His work will become required reading in college English classes. Students will write papers by the thousands with titles like "A Paper About a Story Called 'An Incredible Waste of Paper,' this Paper Being an Incredible Waste of Paper Itself." There will be countless discussions about this story, even symposia, all ending with the conclusion that the discussion or symposium was an incredible waste of time. Writers around the world will decide to emulate this brilliant waster of paper, hoping against hope to one-up him in the business of wasting paper. All writing that does not waste paper will be considered old hat. The trend will spread to the other arts, too. All films will be incredible wastes of celluloid, all paintings incredible wastes of canvas, etc. There will, of course, be reactionaries and hard-liners who try to buck the trend of paper wasting, but they will be ignored, as they very well ought to be.
            And the writer's wife will quit nagging him because he'll be a hot property, rolling in dough. No more spaghetti dinners.
            The doorbell rings, stirring the writer from his reverie. It is the mailman. He's holding a large Manila envelope. One of the writer's stories, rejected by the latest magazine he's sent it to. This happens to be one of his favorite stories. Attached to the manuscript, by a small and slightly rusty paper clip, is a rejection letter. A form letter. "Thank you for sending us your story 'A Waste of Paper of Staggering Genius.' We're sorry to say it does not meet our current requirements, but we wish you the best of luck with it elsewhere."
            The writer looks at the letter and tells it to go fuck itself. Then he returns to his computer and finishes this story, an incredible waste of paper that, against all odds, you've read to the end.