Or always if the group has an irritant who damages the experience to a lesser or greater extent. When I first started going to a local writers' group I noticed a rather annoying fellow who took great pains in pointing out that HE had an MFA. His prose stank, but his attitude about himself was worse.
A writer never has bad things come into his life, he just gets story material...
Smarmy Notre Dame Boy
Sally Corleone drew absently in her sketchbook. A thought occurred and she suddenly stopped. A half-finished palm tree went on hold. She flipped back through her sketchbook to her notes from the week before. Three finished palm trees, two surfers, and a sunset were on the page. She flipped back to the week before that. The relative positions of the palms, surfers and beach landscape were changed, but all the elements were there. She was in a rut.
Sally wrote children's books. She had had two of them published and this was a source of the great credibility she held within the writers' group. She was also quiet and thus when she spoke it carried weight.
She drew when she daydreamed and she daydreamed when the Smarmy Notre Dame boy would pontificate. The writers' group was fairly permissive in its three-page rule, and Smarmy was always bringing things printed in single-spaced 6-point font on legal-sized paper. His writing was a horrid bore and his MFA must have been given to him out of mercy to free the Notre Dame's English Department of him. He thought the letters MFA meant that he didn't have to listen to anyone beside himself. He loved to hear his own voice and monopolized the writers' group with the consummation of that relationship as he expounded at length about what he thought about everyone else's writing.
Sally resolved to get out of her rut and daydream about something besides Hawaii.
The writers' group met in the public library of a small bedroom community of Chicago. She looked up through a window from the conference room into the library proper and something caught her eye: a poster of Al Capone. The library was doing some kind of exposition on the gangsters of the 1920s. She thought of her great-grandfather and smiled. Her daydreaming took on a different topic.
Genetics is a funny thing. The same basic temperament of a boy from Sicily born at the turn of one century was inherited by his great-granddaughter at the turn of another. The boy had started a family business that the government objected to as being more organized than itself. His son had not shared that temperament and invested the family's profits in legitimate businesses. Another generation had squandered the fortune. Sally was middle-class housewife with a latent talent and a family secret.
Robert Major, a developer by day and aspiring mystery writer, sat next to Sally bored out of his skull. He looked down at his manuscript. He looked up at the Smarmy Notre Dame boy. Back in 'Nam he learned exactly what to do with the little twerp. The game was called, "Frag the Lieutenant," and this guy looked like a 90-day wonder. He looked to the side and something caught his eye. He turned his page over and wrote on the blank side in large letters, "EXACTLY," and turned it to where Sally would see it.
Sally saw the note and giggled. She redoubled her drawing efforts. Smarmy Notre Dame boy didn't notice and continued droning on about his favorite movie, "Gone with the Wind." This pattern continued for the next month and more sketches on this new theme were added to the book.
After each meeting a few members of the writers' group would meet at the Cottage Bar. One night, Mark Jones, a SF writer changed the subject.
"Some times, I wish I could just strangle that jerk."
"Who? Your boss?" Angela Hilton, a poetess asked.
"That smarmy jerk."
"Oh, you mean Smarmy Notre Dame boy."
"You've given him a name?"
"The guy is such a loser."
"He was impossible, tonight."
"Sally, show them your drawing." Robert had begun making a point to check Sally's drawing each week. He invariably approved.
Sally blushed. "Are you sure you want to see it. It's not very nice." Everyone at the table did.
"That's excellent!" Angela exclaimed.
The sketch showed a fairly good rendering of the Smarmy Notre Dame boy lying in a pool of blood with a knife sticking out of his chest.
"Show them your other sketches."
Everyone exclaimed at the next sketch. Smarmy Notre Dame boy was falling off a bridge into the Chicago River with his feet embedded in a block of concrete. Sally turned the page. Smarmy crushed by a safe that had fallen upon him. Another page and he was grasping his throat, an empty beer mug in front of him with a poison bottle in front of that. The last page showed his body riddled with bullets from a passing auto. Thompson sub machine guns from a number of figures were firing into him.
"That's the last one."
The table erupted in applause. Sally smiled demurely and thanked them. Everyone started suggesting pictures. This kept the writers' group occupied for the next month. But the Smarmy Notre Dame boy's capacity for irritating people exceeded that of Sally's drawings to sublimate the group's hostility.
"I wish he would just shut up about 'Gone with the Wind.'"
"I wish he was gone with the wind, or just gone."
"Why don't we just make him gone."
"What do you mean?"
"He means that we kill the Smarmy Notre Dame boy," Sally answered.
"We couldn't do that."
"You've seen at least eight ways we could."
"But that was just a joke."
Someone changed the subject and another month of meetings went by and Sally drew another month's worth of sketches depicting the Smarmy Notre Dame boy's demise. Mark read some of his best work. Smarmy rattled on at length about how much better his space opera would be if it had been set in the South during reconstruction, and a zillion other irrelevant complaints that had nothing to do with Mark's writing. Sally's sketch that night depicted Smarmy being run through by a Star Wars light saber wielded by Scarlet as Rett held him down.
Annoyance had distilled into hatred, and hatred now crystallized into its next logical step.
"I was wrong; Smarmy must die," Mark announced to the other writers at the bar afterwards.
Sally and Robert shared a look. They'd privately canvassed everyone else in the group. Mark had been the last holdout. Robert pulled out a map showing the library.
"He usually parks here." Robert pointed to a parking lot a few blocks away from the library. "And he usually takes this route." Robert's finger traversed the path from the library to the parking lot.
"There is a narrow alley here." Sally pointed to a spot on the map.
"But it's lit by a street light there." Angela pointed to another spot.
"I can shoot out the light with a pellet gun on my way to the meeting next week."
"I know how we can make him stop."
Plans for the murder proceeded and everything was set a week later.
Smarmy was in rare form that night. He noticed that Angela was looking at him with anticipation in her eyes. He interpreted it as desire and was even more expansive than he'd been before. Everyone seemed to be looking at him more closely, paying him more mind. He responded with prodigious paroxysms of pomposity. This seemed to confirm in everyone's mind the rightness of their decision. The writers' group broke up a little early. Very few people had anything to say and a couple members left early. Smarmy felt so good about himself that wished the night would go on forever.
He gathered his things and started to his car. Along the way he saw something on the sidewalk in front of him. It looked like a small box. He approached it, it looked like a videotape. That's strange, he thought, it's a video of "Gone with the Wind." He bent down to pick it up.
As he straightened himself a hand grabbed his collar and pulled him off balance and into the darkness of the alley. He opened his mouth to scream and found a sock stuffed into it. Duct tape secured the sock in place. He tried to struggle but couldn't. He didn't see any more than the dark shapes that held him down and rolled him onto his stomach. More duct tape secured his ankles and knees together and his arms behind his back. Everyone ducked as a police car drove past. When it was out of sight, they rolled Smarmy up in a piece of carpet and secured the roll with more duct tape.
Sally pulled her minivan up to the opening of the alley. Mark opened the side door and pushed the soccer gear aside, while Angela, Robert and the others hauled the Smarmy carpet roll out of the alley and in the open door of the minivan. They drove to the Cottage bar and celebrated loudly enough to establish alibis for that evening. Then they noisily broke up a little bit before their usual departure time. To everyone in the Cottage Bar, it looked no different than any other meeting night.
That night, Sally took an alternate route home, past a construction site. An old factory was being remodeled into an up-scale shopping center. She arrived and found Robert and the others waiting. They hauled the Smarmy carpet roll out of the van and into the basement of the old factory where a food court sat. One end of the food court held an expensive restaurant with a wine cellar. They unrolled the package whose contents for the first time got a good look at his attackers. His eyes went wide in recognition. Robert and Mark propped Smarmy up in a niche in the wine cellar and tied a rope under his arms and onto a hook behind him. Angela knelt next to Smarmy and placed a small continuous loop tape player next to him in the niche. It played a recording of one of his more verbose soliloquies over and over again.
The mortar and bricks were all set and each member of the writers' group took turns placing bricks in place until only one opening positioned in front of Smarmy's eyes remained. Angela shined a flashlight into the gap. The writers arrayed themselves around the opening and looked in as Sally readied the last block. His eyes seemed to plead for mercy. His recorded voice quashed the appeal.
"Frankly, Smarmy, we don't give a damn."
She placed the last block in place and smoothed the mortar around it. The basement was silent.
A couple months later, a new member joined the writers group. The first time he read, Sally caught Robert's eye. A palm tree was sketched on her pad. They smiled.