Wrote For Luck

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Lloyd had been submitting his stories to the online publication for a while. He changed his writing style to suit them. But what about his voice?

Lloyd Chorlton stared at his computer screen and clicked spell check. The computer program ran through his short story, picking up on spelling mistakes and errors in grammar. Lloyd paused and selected the best option in each case. Spell check complete. He typed out a short email message, introducing his latest short story and hit send.
Lloyd had been submitting his stories to the online publication for almost two years. For all that time The Herald had been demanding he chop and change his stories to suit their publication. The first few stories he’d submitted had been rejected outright. Someone calling themselves the Editor, and signing off HH, had replied stating that his story was completely unsuitable. 
Then finally, instead of a rejection, one submission had received a list of adjustments that were to be made in order to meet with their approval. Lloyd, eager for The Herald to post his work, and encouraged by their interest, had more or less rewrote the story from scratch, making sure their demands had been met. Some of the requirements seemed unreasonable, setting the story in London and not his native Manchester, other requests were just random, the protagonist should work in a florist, not a book shop. Lloyd acquiesced. The next day, having reworked his tale, Lloyd had responded, thanking them for their feedback and had attached the amended story. And then The Herald had accepted his submission. Every second Monday they published their new story collection. Lloyd had been thrilled to see his story, Once Bitten, included in the half-dozen stories posted that week. He had proudly sent the link to his family and friends. His father had asked why the story was set in London and not the North West.
‘They made me change it.’ Lloyd had said.
‘Ridiculous! Why would I want to read a story about London? I’m from Manchester.’
‘I think they have the opposite view, dad. They’re from London.’

Since then he had successfully submitted over forty short stories. He would send his work to them and the Editor, this HH, would reply with what they felt needed changing. Sometimes the Editor would insist that the ending needed altering, or a romantic subplot had to be added. Lloyd always made the alterations, always met their demands, in order to be published on their website. 
Over time he found that he wrote with The Herald in mind. His stories became gentler, more sedate, more mainstream, less wild and random. He tried not to dwell on how they had tamed his writing. They were accepting his work. That was all that mattered. There wasn’t exactly a queue at the door for his stories. Should he tinker and tailor his writing to suit them? Of course he should. These days, if an idea came to him that didn’t suit the delicate tastes of The Herald, he would just dismiss it completely. 
Latest submission sent, Lloyd shut down his laptop and went through to the living room. Standing by the fireplace was a pale man in a long black cape. He looked every inch the vampire of early Hollywood films. The man grinned, bearing his gleaming fangs. 
‘Good evening, Lloyd. I am glad you could join me this evening.’ he said in a thick Transylvanian accent. 
‘Sorry mate,’ Lloyd replied. ‘they don’t want vampire stories. Not suitable for their select readership, apparently.’
‘How very dare they?’ he snapped.
‘Yeah, what are you gonna do?’ said Lloyd.
‘Do? Do? I should drain the very life-blood from their veins.’
Lloyd shrugged and switched on the television set. In a huff of disgust and outrage, the Count quickly transformed into a bat. Flapping his wings dramatically, he swept towards the window and vanished. 
The following morning Lloyd was making a cup of tea, waiting for the kettle to boil. Half-asleep, he stared out the kitchen window. There was a deep thumping sound from outside. In the early morning light, a Tyrannosaurus Rex pounded into the garden. Lloyd tutted and shook his head.
Dinosaurs, he thought, I can’t. There’s no way the Herald would accept any stories about dinosaurs. If he submitted a story about a T Rex in Manchester, he’d be told to lose the dinosaur and scrap Manchester. By the time the kettle had boiled, the T Rex had shuffled off towards Cadishead. 
That afternoon Lloyd received the response from The Herald. Here we go, sighed Lloyd, as he scrolled down the bullet point list of amendments. A man in a sharp silver suit appeared by his desk. He had olive skin, and his dark hair was slicked back. He pointed to the email on Lloyd’s screen.
‘I understand your struggle.’ he said. ‘I went up against the Family and they tried to have me whacked.’
Lloyd knew that Salvatore was talking about Family in more of an organised crime sense than the blood relative meaning.
‘You believe that?’ he went on. ‘After all I did for them over the years? And because a deal went sour, the boss gets the idea that I’m talking to the Feds. There was no rat. I aint no rat. It just don’t make any sense.’
‘I can’t tell your story. The Herald aren’t interested in Mafia stories.’
‘Mafia? There is no Mafia. I am an honest businessman.’
‘Sal, you were about to tell me the lengths you went to for the Family.’ laughed Lloyd.
‘You!’ he wagged a finger. ‘You’re good.’
‘I can’t write this story, Sal. They don’t want it.’
‘I take the Fifth amendment, anyway.’
‘See you around, Salvatore.’
‘Forget about it.’ Sal said.
Sal adjusted his tie and checked his shirt cuffs. He looked left and right, as though about to step off a New York sidewalk, and disappeared.

That evening Lloyd made the adjustments and changes that the website demanded. It was as though he was a journalist working for a newspaper, not a part-time writer, working for an online story anthology, purely for the thrill of having his writing accepted. 
As he pulled into the office carpark the next morning he saw a throng of people huddled near the double front-doors of the office. He locked his car and cross the carpark. As he neared the group he realised exactly what they were. The creatures were what film fans would call zombies. They had rotting, dead, features and their limbs hung at unnatural angles, their clothing was torn and tattered. The group stumbled and staggered towards him. One of them, a man in a ripped, grey suit, managed to point an accusing finger at him, arm outstretched. 
‘Sorry, mate, I can’t write your story. They want more suitable stories.’
The zombie beside him, a woman in a faded summer dress, groaned and moaned at him in protest.
‘What?’ replied Lloyd. ‘No, they wouldn’t accept a zombie romance.’
The guy’s arm fell off in disgust, landing on the ground with a thud. 

While he was scanning shipping documents at the photocopier, a woman in a trench-coat and beret appeared beside him. She took a long drag on her cigarette. She leaned in close, and looking around her, carefully, she spoke.
‘Do you have the briefcase?’
Lloyd simply shook his head.
‘My train leaves on the hour.’ she insisted.
He said nothing. There was no way The Herald would go for a spy story involving a missing briefcase and a train journey across Europe. 
On the Friday evening, Lloyd’s email pinged. One new email. Lloyd stared in confusion for a moment. It was from The Herald.  He had not submitted another story so the message was a surprise. He read the message in disbelief. 
It is with regret that The Herald has decided to terminate the contract with yourself. We will no longer be accepting any of your submissions. Regards, HH.
Well, that’s a joke. What contract? They hadn’t paid him a penny for his stories. He had sent them his work for the thrill of having his work out there being read. And now they were ending their relationship. Fine. Whatever. He had been curtailing and taming his writing for months. They had ripped his personality and soul out of his stories. 
Still seething at his treatment at the hands of this so-called literary publication, he made himself a cup of tea. He felt strangely liberated at his sudden freedom. He picked up his notebook and flicked to a fresh page. He looked around the living room, at the creatures gathered in front of him. An astronaut in a shiny spacesuit was standing next to the ghost of a gothic horror writer, while a pale faced clown showed a saddle-weary cowboy magic tricks.
‘Right,’ Lloyd said with a smile, ‘what have you got for me?’


Submitted: March 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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Comments

AdamCarlton

Obviously not a parable about writers' sites with a preference for cosy romance. Oops, did I say that? Must go wash my mouth out with ... something bland, gentle and nutritious.

Your points are extremely well taken.

Wed, March 10th, 2021 4:16pm

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