Jack Flanders 43

He sat slumped in his bathrobe in the darkness, drinking, and for a long time the only sound in the house was his occasional hacking cough.

‘Oh, this isn’t me, baby,’ he said at last. ‘This isn’t me.’

‘What do you mean, it isn’t you? It seems pretty much like you to me.’

‘I mean I wish to God you could’ve known me when I was working on my first book, or even my second. That was me. I was stronger then. I knew what the hell I was doing and I did it, and everything fell into place around that. I didn’t snivel and snarl and shout and retch and puke all the time. I didn’t walk around like a man without skin, without flesh, worrying about what people thought of me. I wasn’t – ’ he lowered his voice to show that this next point would be the most telling and damning of all – ‘I wasn’t forty-three years old.’