I have a confession to make. I’m George R. R. Martin’s next-door neighbor, and I’ve devoted the past few years to preventing him from completing The Winds of Winter.
One time I forged a letter to George from Robert Mueller, claiming that he’s a huge fan and that he’s planning to blow off his investigation as soon as The Winds of Winter is released so he can read it without any distractions. George stewed for weeks, torn between his duty to his fans and his duty to the future of America. In case he tried writing Mueller back, I started stealing his outgoing mail. His utilities bill and tax returns ended up in my shredder. He lost a few writing days getting his power and water turned back on, and then the IRS audited him, which kept too busy to write for months.
Whenever I come across one of those “Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?’ quizzes I send him the link and ask him to check it for accuracy.
I introduced him to Pokémon GO. When he got bored with Pokémon GO, I introduced him to Fortnite. When he got bored with Fortnite, I trained a parrot to perch outside his window and respond to the sound of typing by screeching, “Not good enough! Not nearly good enough!”
I saw this cartoon where Bugs Bunny torments his neighbor by dressing like a sexy lady and flirting with him, and it gave me a great idea. The next day I called George just as he was sitting down to work and told him all about it, down to the last, most insignificant detail. He insisted that he’d seen the cartoon many times and remembered it well, but I ignored him and described the entire episode, beat by beat.
One time I told him I heard a rumor that there was a dead body in the woods and invited him on a hike to see if it was true. I hadn’t actually heard any rumor; my plan was to waste a few hours leading him in circles. But then we did actually find a dead body! Waiting around to give a statement to the police, then being interviewed for the nightly news and the paper, took all day. Even better, he was too haunted by what he’d seen, and scared that whoever killed that guy was still roaming the area, to get any writing done for weeks.
I hired a fortuneteller to warn him that he’ll die the day The Winds of Winter is published. He didn’t believe her, but the two of them hit it off and became friends. Last month he spent an entire weekend helping her move into a new apartment. Not quite the impediment I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.
It took a while, but I managed to train every stray cat in the area to ring his doorbell and run away all night. That kept him sleep deprived and scattered for a while. Eventually, he decided his doorbell was malfunctioning and had it replaced. When that didn't work he replaced the doorbell with a big brass knocker, much too heavy for a cat to use, so I joined the neighborhood homeowners association and pushed to have the bylaws revised so that doorknockers were forbidden.
It wasn’t easy. The president of the association, Rebekah, resisted the change. The hours we spent debating the issue resulted in the two of us growing very close. One night after a meeting we walked around the neighborhood for hours, sharing intimate details of our lives. I told her things I’ve never told anyone. The first time I made her laugh it threatened to revive some part of myself I’d long assumed lost in the mire of disappointments that make up my life story. But she wouldn't budge on the doorknockers, giving me no choice but to bribe the rest of the association into holding a vote of no confidence in her leadership, assume the presidency myself, and announce that forthwith every house in the neighborhood was required to have a functioning doorbell.
The look in Rebekah’s eyes when she discovered my betrayal hurt almost as much as it did when she took her revenge by running me over with her car. I spent months in the hospital recuperating, and guess who never left my side? George R. R. Martin. He read to me, we watched movies. It was amazing; he didn't work on the book at all the entire time.
George’s kindness made me reflect on everything I’d done. I realized I don’t even remember why I started messing with him in the first place. Did it start when he refused to trim the willow tree in his backyard that blocks the sunlight from reaching my herb garden? Was it because my father abandoned my family to marry a woman with a Swords of Shannara tattoo, and that I originally had George confused with Terry Brooks? Who knows? It’s a mystery.
I almost gave in and let him finish the book, but then I thought it might be fun to change the password to his computer, write the new password on a raccoon, and set a dozen raccoons loose in his attic, and now I feel like if I don’t try it I’ll spent the rest of my life wondering what might have been, you know?