dog-eared

dog-eared

Status: In Progress

Genre: Humor

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Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Humor

Houses:

Summary

a writer must pretend to be someone he isn't in order to become what he wants to be.
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Summary

a writer must pretend to be someone he isn't in order to become what he wants to be.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Friday

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 31, 2017

Reads: 225

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 31, 2017

A A A

A A A

CHAPTER ONE

 

John heard the heavy thud as the postman dropped the package.  The sound of it hitting the mailbox was as cold and familiar as a gunshot.  From his desk in the basement, he glanced up at the slender window to watch the mailman’s shadow wash over the translucent glass. With one of his hooks, he reached for a cigarette.  With the other he grabbed the flickering candle from the edge of the desk.  John lit his cigarette and sighed a mushroom cloud of smoke.

 

“John?” his mother called from the top of the stair.

 

“I know, Ma.  I heard it.”

 

“I’m sorry, son.”  He could hear her breathing.  “Maybe there’s good news inside.  Do you want me to bring it down to you?”

 

“Leave it on the kitchen table, please.  I’ll be up in a moment.”

 

He could feel his mother lingering at the top of the stairs.  Slowly she closed the door.  John turned back to his typewriter and tapped the keys with the tips of his prosthetic hooks.  After a minute he stopped and reached under the desk for a bottle of Rakfiskakaviti.  Holding the elixir by the bottleneck, he wrapped his lips around the bulbous cork and pulled it free.  The warm aroma filled the air as he poured two fingers into his tin cup.  He threw back the liquor, letting it roll around his mouth on its way down.  His taste buds were embraced by his beloved spirit.

 

Two more pages, he told himself, then I’ll head out.

 

He tapped away, the tips of his hooks pecking away.  A word, a sentence, a paragraph.  One page.  Two pages.  The flurry of hooks stopped in a flash, and John grasped the bottle again.  Every rejection induced this tempest.  It would last for a day or two, then subside.  It was only Friday.  John wondered if he could keep the fire burning all the way to Monday.

 

He would definitely need more sauce.

 

John stubbed out his smoke and pulled on his jacket, slinging his satchel over his head.  He climbed the stairs to the kitchen.  His Ma sat in the parlor, listening to the radio and mending the latest tear in her son’s clothing.  Such was the life of a dutiful mother whose son dwelt in a hook-filled life.  She didn’t look up when he stepped into the room.

 

“Going out for a bit, Ma.”

 

“Did you put out the candle?”

 

“Yes, Ma.”  One tiny fire and John was answering that question for two years.

 

“Are you going to open it?” she asked.

 

“They don’t send it back if they like it, Ma.”

 

“Well, to be fair, you don’t know that for sure.”  That was true.  John had yet to receive any warm reaction to his story other than shallow gratitude for the sacrifice he made in the Service.  He decided to appease his mother.  She was a patient woman.  He often told himself how lucky he was to have her.  He opened the package and pulled out his familiar, dog-eared manuscript.  An envelope was with it.  John struggled to open it.

 

“Do you want me to…”

 

“No, thank you,” he said, finally pulling out the letter.  “’Dear Mr. Podrost,’” he began, needing to clear his throat.  “’Thank you for your interest in Vantageous House Publishing.  At this time, we are regrettably passing on your manuscript.  We found some of the fantasy sequences to be perhaps a little too outlandish for our preferred literary style.  We wish you all the best, and we thank you for your service to our great nation.  Good Luck to you…’”  He wadded up the letter between his hooks and stuffed it into his jacket pocket, tearing the pocket in the process.

 

“I’m sorry,” his mother started.  “I thought, maybe…”

 

“I know, Ma.  I know.  It’s fine.  I’ll be back in a bit.  You need anything?”

 

“No,” she shook her head, her eyes returning to her needle and thread.  John turned and headed out.  Need some air, he thought as he headed out the door.

 

As he walked, the rejections flew through his mind like an autumn breeze full of cold, damp leaves.  It was incomprehensible.  For years now, he had mailed his beaten manuscript to men of letters.  He put years of his life into the writing of that book.  He put a lifetime of experience and years of self-sacrifice into the story behind it.  John ran a hook through his unkempt hair.  What he found so unbelievable was that nobody found the story compelling.

 

A young man, just out of school, leaves his home in the Adirondacks to serve his country in the war.  He enlists in the navy despite lifelong motion-sickness and sails the seas engaging in battle after battle.  Then, as the war starts to seem lost, he volunteers for a mission to take out the enemy’s super weapon: an enormous submarine capable of launching atomic rockets at America.  He succeeds against all odds, losing both hands in the process.  He nearly dies, but is rescued by Norwegian fisherman who nurse him back to health with hearty broths and a liquer made from fermented fish eyes.  It was an amazing story.

 

And it was all true.  Well, mostly…

 

There wasn’t a beautiful nurse named Shmika on the fishing boat.  None of the Norwegians was remotely attractive.  And the submarine wasn’t white in real life.  John just felt that was a nice touch.  Otherwise it was entirely, completely true.  Mostly.

 

John hadn’t read aloud the postscript from Vantageous House, though the words continued to rattle around in his head.  Perhaps you should consider submitting to a fantasy magazine.  Many specialize in serializing fantastical tales.

 

He felt like a man in miniature.  A microscopic hero.  Nothing in all his extraordinary experience had ever laid him so low as the casual dismissals of distant stranger.  Well, almost nothing…

 

Richardson’s Market was a fifteen-minute walk from the house.  He could have made it in ten, but that would mean cutting across the park that he tended four days a week.  John made a point of avoiding the place when he wasn’t working.  Frank Richardson was a good man.  He was able to get Rakfiskakaviti through a connection he had in New York City.  Frank was rejected by the Service for poor eyesight, flat feet, bowed legs and hysteria.  But he always took care of the veterans who served where he couldn’t.

 

“John,” he called out.  “Good afternoon!”

 

“Good to see you, Frank.  How are things?” John struggled to unhook his hook from the screen door of Richardson’s Market.

 

“Things are fine, John.  Just fine.  What can I do you for?”

 

“Two bottles today.  Please.”

 

“Of course, John.  I’ll be right back.”  Frank sauntered in his peculiar, flat-footed, bow-legged way to the storeroom.  John tapped the countertop lightly.  It occurred to him that he would have to read through the manuscript again.  He had been so preoccupied writing his next volume of late.  He must be missing something.  Three years of rejection were taking a toll.  He was starting to feel desperate.  There was an outfit in Manhattan that would publish books for pay.  He didn’t want to do it.  He wanted to be accepted, lauded for his effort, not turned into a door-to-door salesman.  Perhaps it was time to consider a different tactic.

 

The door to Richardson’s swung open.  It was Shelly.  She stopped in her tracks when she saw John.

 

“Oh,” she said.  That was all.  Oh.

 

“Hello,” John replied.  Sally tucked her chin into her chest and made her way to the back of the store.  Frank returned from the storeroom with the Rakfiskakaviti bottles wrapped in brown paper.

 

“I still don’t know how you drink this stuff,” Frank started before seeing Shelly in the back of the store pretending to be interested in a butterfly net.  “Oh…”

 

“Put it on my tab, Frank.  If you would be so kind.”

 

“Yes, yes, yes.  Yes.  Yes, yes.”  John held his satchel out.  Frank gently slid the bottles inside.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Yes, yes.  Of course.  Yes.”  Frank was starting to sweat.  “Have a nice evening, John.”

 

“You, too.  See you around.”  John stepped to the door and glanced at Shelly from the corner of his eye.  He thought of saying something to rattle her.  He couldn’t bring himself to.  So, he pushed the door open to leave, catching his hook on the screen door.  In a few minutes he was free.  Headed home.  His prosthetic arms were trembling.

 

John didn’t see Shelly very often.  Usually from across the street or in a passing car.  And Once or twice a year, there were such moments where neither could pretend they didn’t see the other.  He still felt something.  All she seems to feel, he thought, is shame.

 

“Damn!” he shouted.  Loud enough to entice a dog to bark.  He cut through the park on the way home.  He needed to get back to the house.  To his work. To his smoke.  To his drink.  “If…” he began aloud without finishing the thought.  If he could find success.  He needed to prove himself.  Not to Shelly.  That ship had sailed while he was at war.  The ship stayed sailed when she saw he returned without all his pieces.  He needed to prove himself to everyone else.  His pace was quick.  Nearly a run.  Across the grass of the baseball field he had mowed just yesterday.  He buzzed like a rocket toward the basement.

 

“That was quick,” his mother said as he strode by.  He delved into the basement.  In the top drawer was a list, wrinkled and yellow.  Publishers.  If he hurried, he could get to the post office before closing.  He looked over the names he had checked off.  New Scrimshaw Press.  Priam’s House.  New Alexandria Books.  Worthwords International.  One after another, they had read his work and returned it to him.

 

Quickly John began to tap out a cover letter to the Alchemist Company.  It was the last publisher on his list.  If they don’t take it, he thought, maybe I should try a dime store magazine.  Suddenly the type-bars were stuck together in a magnetized clump.  John dreaded such moments.  Each time he unclumped the type-bars, they would stick to his hooks.  It took a flurry of swipes, a couple of chin bumps and a few clenches of teeth to return the typewriter to normal. John slumped at his desk.  He felt adrift.  No Norwegians to keep him from sinking this time.

 

Upstairs the phone rang.  His heart pounded.  Something told him it was Shelly, calling to apologize.  He stood up and slid to the foot of the stairs.  His mother opened the door.

 

“It’s for you, dear.”

 

“Who is it?” John asked.  He tried (and failed) to swallow.

 

“Barney Olsen,” she said.

 

“Who?”

 

“He says his name is Barney Olsen and he’s calling from New York City.”

 

John bounded upstairs, nearly knocking his mother over as he bolted to the phone.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Yes, is this Mr. John Podrost?”

 

“Yes, it is.”  John struggled to keep a grip on the phone.  He was trembling again.

 

“Mr. Podrost, my name is Olsen.  I was an editor at Priam’s House when you submitted your manuscript to them.  I was eager for Priam to publish your work, but unable to convince my superiors.  I am starting a new publishing venture, and I would like to meet with you to discuss publishing your novel.  How soon can you be in New York City?”

 

John dropped the receiver.  Fumbling, he picked it back up.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Yes,” said Olsen.  “Are you alright?”

 

“Fine, yes.  Wonderful, really.  Stunned.  I’ll be in New York as soon as I can.”

 

“Oh!” gasped John’s mother, quickly covering her mouth.  John smiled at her.

 

“Sounds as though your wife is pretty excited,” said Olsen.  John stopped smiling.  “My office is at 41 West 38th street.”

 

“41 West 38th street,” John repeated, motioning for his mother to write it down although it was immediately seared into his brain.

 

“That’s right, sir.  I honestly cannot wait to meet you and speak with you and move forward with this project.  I think your book is amazing.  Truly.  It is without question the funniest thing I have ever read.”

 

John dropped the phone again.


© Copyright 2017 thomas marbeaux. All rights reserved.

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