Gentle Reader

Reads: 224  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When K dedicates a novella to his Number One fan, A must decide how to respond.

Submitted: January 05, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 05, 2010

A A A

A A A


 
Gentle Reader
 
The small book had a glossy green cover. Its title was printed in black letters which dripped long ink tears down to the bottom. The book sat on top of the New Books rack by the circulation desk in the library. The back blurb said it was the first in a six-volume series about electrocution called The Chair by the popular novelist K.
A opened the book and scanned the first few pages. It was a novella. On the first page there was a review quote about this “electrifying tale.” After the title page there was a foreword. K always had a foreword in his novels because he liked to write about himself. Sometimes he even published an afterword to explain the novel. This one began with two words.
She skimmed the first paragraph.
Constant Reader –this book is dedicated to you.
You are my number one fan, the one whose praise and admiration so often inspires me to write far into the night. How could I not fulfill your expectations by offering you these new stories to keep you enthralled? Stories designed to haunt your waking moments, disturb your nightmarish slumber, and chill your soul in the wee hours of the morning. These stories are for you, Constant Reader. May they be a reminder of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without which we write in vain.
The foreword was signed by K and dated October 15, 20__, Goshen, NH. The frontspiece described the publication of six novellas to be printed sequentially, one a month. This was the first part of a publicity stunt K and his publisher hoped would turn these minor stories into best-sellers.
The last publicity stunt had been devised to promote an e-book by the popular, mass market author. To entice readers, his publisher announced it would be available free, online, at mass market bookstores for forty-eight hours. After the deadline, would-be readers had to purchase it for viewing on an e-book reader. The novella was about a poor college boy who becomes obsessed with a young man after his suicide in the back seat of a Cadillac - a grisly story which failed to captivate readers.
K often wrote about cemeteries, graveyards, and necrophilia. Sometimes he referred to himself in print interviews as the Charles Dickens of his time, hoping the casual reader would associate him with the classic novelist. Perhaps he hoped he would metamorphose into a writer of a novel like Great Expectations where the poor, orphan boy was turned into a gentleman with stolen money from a convict.
A stood by the New Books rack staring at the hideous, shiny green cover of K’s latest story. Here was yet another of these dreaded books which usually contained hundreds of oblique references to herself. The Master of Obsession riding high on his unassailable position in the marketplace. The Poison Pen author who pricked the very thin veil of her privacy. The Baron of Bombast who depicted her in every formula novel as something abnormal, bizarre, violent - a woman to be feared and shunned.
She began to walk toward the Reference section of the library where the big dictionary was kept. It was on a lectern next to the rows of low bookshelves filled with hardbound volumes. She looked up several words which had piqued her curiosity during recent reading.
Bildstein proved to be an agalmotolite stone carved into grotesque figures or pagodite used for ornaments by the Chinese. Hidrosis was  a form of abnormal sweating, often sudorific. High-Binder was a ruffian or gangster. Nubliate meant to cloud or obscure. Nugae was from Latin for trifles. Nudum Pactum meant a void contract.
 
After closing the dictionary she looked at the black metal bookshelves which lined the main floor of the library. The publication of the green book had upset her. On impulse she headed toward the Reference section’s law dictionary to look up the word libel.
She knew most definitions of libel were vague. In fact, several states had repealed both libel and slander laws in the past decade. The gigantic explosion of modern media had degraded standards of fair speech in favor of the entertainment industry.
The press had pushed for courts to aver that public statements about a person based on truth were not libelous. If they described an individual as having “questionable veracity” they were alright; if they said someone had “toadstools in the mouth” they might be in trouble.  But the courts had denied most private libel cases during the past century in support of the media empires which had sprung up since the advent of broadcasting. .
They, however, did not have the hot breath of K bearing down on them with a new book which could once again impinge on her reputation. How libelous this novella would be was uncertain; she hated to have to pick up another one of his droning books and read it from cover to cover. Critics liked to call him a “story-teller,” a “master of narrative” or a “weaver of suspense” but most of his novels began and ended like a dull thud.
It was early in the morning and few people were dashing in and out to borrow books. Children were still in school. The library felt like an empty vault where she could sit for a few moments and debate what response she might make to another fictional assault by K. Walking over to the newspaper rack she slipped a paper off the wooden bar and went to sit at a table in the reading area.
 
How painful it had been to read the first novel K had published about her some ten years ago. Called M, it portrayed her as a mass murderer, a woman who shot, maimed, and dismembered innocent victims for the sheer thrill of it. The heroine’s name was A for Angelina. Her name was A for Angela. A in the novel M was described as a “publicity seeker,” an “attention-grabber,” and a “dangerous automaton” who killed at will.
Sometimes A put the body parts through a meat grinder and fed the remains to chickens on a free-range farm. At other times she took limbs, organs, eyeballs, and severed hands to a deserted lake in black, plastic garbage bags and fed them to predatory fish. If there were awkward bones left over she took them to a park camp ground and burned them to ashes in a public grill. Because there were no bodies the police had few clues to investigate. By the end of the novel, the heroine had murdered 123 people directly and 346 from the publicity about the crimes which provoked copy-cat killers.
Shortly after the fantastic fiction was published she had been fired from her job, friends hung up the phone when she called, and doors slammed in her face. In the space of two weeks she became persona non grata, a pariah, ostracized, shut out of society, and ridiculed in public by strangers, neighbors, and fellow professionals some of whom threatened her with violence.
Sometime later she had filed suit against K for defamation of character. It had been an unpleasant battle. He staged a publicity stunt in his hometown alleging that her nephew had broken into his house with a bomb to steal his writings. There was no bomb or nephew. But his public image remained intact – like that of an old Hollywood contract actor who could do no wrong – and the court was induced to suppress the case.
It was why she had taken to reading Blackstone, author of a four-volume series called Commentaries on English Law. He had been the first person to compile the fundamental principles of common law in Britain during the eighteenth century. It was those principles upon which American jurisprudence was founded.
She got up to go to the bookshelves to find a copy of the relevant passage on libel. He defined it as “any writings, pictures, or the like…which are malicious, defamatory of any person…published in order to provoke him to wrath, expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”
Restoration of “a man’s reputation or good name” was essential where the publication of “malicious, scandalous, or slanderous words might endanger him in law, impeach him of some heinous crime, exclude him from society as to charge him with having an infectious disease, or impair or hurt his trade of livelihood as to call a tradesman a bankrupt, a physician a quack, or a lawyer a knave.” 
She returned the heavy law volume to the shelf and went back to sit at the table, debating whether she should go to the circulation desk to borrow the green book to read later that day.
 
Seated at the table she noticed a tall man with gray hair in a black trench coat striding towards a table in the reading area. He was carrying five hard bound books in his arms. He set them down on the table, unbuttoned his coat, and laid it carefully over the chair, sitting down with his back to her.
She was reminded of K’s second novel called Infamy. It was about a woman who poses as a friend of the rich and famous to bilk them for money. She was a chameleon, a woman described as “androgynous” who could play either a female or male depending on the sex of her victim. She suffered from severe menstrual cramps, anorexia, and hepatitis B. In fact, her name was B (K liked serial names and serial murders.) If B suspected her target was becoming suspicious she dispatched him with any available weapon – a cracked, glass wine bottle, an hour in the pantry freezer, a jeweled pin to the aorta. She disposed of the bodies by transporting them to the harbor, hoisting them onto yachts, and sinking them with rocks outside the three-mile marine zone. B. sailed through the novel like a “cold, marble statue” or “stone goddess” who had neither sex nor scruples
Infamy was K’s way of asserting his public stance that he was a celebrity who was invincible to law suits for damages. In his infrequent interviews he always denigrated celebrity-hunters” who caused a scene or made false claims in court in order to solicit undeserved compensation from a Big Name author. His novel about B was intended to demonstrate that a Bad Woman might try to solicit money under false pretenses in the courts and free him from the threat of libel or defamation charges and consequent monetary damages. 
Blackstone called this kind of publication a libelous conspiracy where two persons joined together to maliciously assault the reputation of a person for some pernicious purpose. When such a conspiracy was shown, he advocated public prosecution of the perpetrators because the publication in question was likely to disrupt peace, public order, and morals or provoke violence, crime, and riot.
He opposed pre-publication licensing publishers who would be subject to “one man’s prejudice.” He was for a free press – but only where law suits flourished for correction of malicious assaults. The press could reflect words in legal cases, quote from passionate outbursts which didn’t inflame persons or dangerous acts, and offer well-meaning advice. But when it disseminated bad sentiments destructive of society or injured individuals it needed to be reined in by the courts.
She recognized that because publishers did not report on public affairs they had less protection from libel suits, even where fiction camouflaged malicious intent. But today they coyly covered their tracks with a common disclaimer disavowing any implication of libel on the copyright page of most books.
“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.”
It never was in K’s case.
 
But there was K’s new book on the shelf and here she was ruminating in the library about how to prevent further damage to herself. It made her think about Tommies, an earlier novel about a female author, Bobby Angelina, or BA, who stumbles into a force-field which allows millions access to her twelve dime-store novels and a volume of poetry. It contained a paraphrase of an historical novel she had been writing at the time. Her novel had been about the slaughter of bison in the Old West; his was about the Civil War and the slaughter of civilians. There had been signs of forced entry into her home but the police refused to investigate.
 The novella had no heroine but it had plagiarized a description of buffalo with their hump-backs, shaggy fur, and clove-hooves grazing on the top of a cliff. In K’s version they were all lumped together in a herd which stared, grunted, and masticated in unison. Like K - they were imbecilic.
She objected to theft of copyrighted work for plagiarism by anyone. But police complaints did not dissuade K or his publisher to cease publishing plagiarized versions of her work or defamatory portraits of her. They remained oblivious to the fundamental principle of the First Amendment which barred “irreparable harm.”
 
In fact, the next novel K had written showed a venomous increase in violence and antagonism to women. RM not only defamed her as “made for abuse” but it assaulted an entire class of women known as feminists. It was a theme which ran through his earlier novels but in this novel reached its peak.
RM was about a rural woman who flees from a brutal husband to another state and seeks refuge in a woman’s shelter. Rose of Anjou is a dependent, uneducated, house-bound wife who only goes out when Macho Man is by her side. She has no bank account, no charge cards, no joint title to the house, and no driver’s license. The only time she sees family or neighbors is when Man of La Mancha takes her out carrying a knife in his pocket to ensure obedience. Her arms, legs, breasts, and buttocks are covered with scars and slash marks.
When she finally flees from being a punching-bag he tracks her down to teach her a lesson she’ll never forget – the ultimate punishment for “stealing” $250 from their joint account with a new ATM card. He looks forward to jamming a “turkey baster” up her innards, and calls all feminists “lesbos’ or “yallow whores.” Feminism, even the slightest hint of assertive behavior let alone full and inalienable rights under law, was something no good man should tolerate.
 
She had sent A Reader’s Complaint to the publisher objecting to the extreme prejudice displayed in the novel. There was a Puerto Rican drug pushers who had his private parts jerked to reveal information about the fleeing wife. There was the Urban Jew Boy whose head is forced into an oven by the stalking husband. There was the husband posing as a veteran in a wheelchair to gain access to a public park to kill his absconding wife. Not to mention the “dykes,” “butches,” “perverts,” “uppity women, and ” femino-crap” which filled the pages of the novel.
There had been some question why K had switched publishers shortly afterward but they rewarded him with a larger advance in a four-book contract for the trouble. Otherwise, the complaint had had little impact on the editorial or legal departments. And now K was publishing a series of novellas about convicted murderers on death row sentenced to the electric chair. She would have to assert her deathless prose to write A Reader’s Complaint about this series – once she managed to read the hateful book.
What disturbed her most of all was the vague sense that K’s increasingly violent portraits might cause him to act out in some violent way against her.
He had sent two middle-aged men to her house when he received the summons for the lawsuit who described themselves as forensic investigators. They were sent to threaten the exercise of her legal rights. The police found no record of their firm in Virginia but refused to process a complaint. Who else might K send to threaten or rough her up from some hidden network of contract-for-hire agents?
She looked up to see the man in the black trench coat raising his arms and stretching them up until he looked like a giant black crow from the back.
 
If she was anything, she was a good reader. She had spurned comic books as a child, steeped herself in the encyclopedia, and read the entire opus of Thomas Hardy by fourteen. She had 20/20 vision, a college degree in English, and a decided bent toward vocabulary with more than one syllable.
K on the other hand had hand-printed his first story as a senior in high school paraphrasing a movie made from an Edgar Allen Poe story. He had written his first novel in the toilet of a trailer when his girlfriend was pregnant. It was about a teenage girl in high school coming to terms with poverty and ostracism.
His literary skills lacked elegance, erudition, and punctuation. She had been astounded to read a one hundred and seventy five page novel written in what he hoped was dialect. This consisted of dropping the g on -ing words like going and replacing it with an apostrophe. The result was less than entrancing.
“You achin’ to go somewhere, Mrs. Peabody?” “I’m goin’ to get a mallet to beat Mr. Peabody for callin’ me a hag.” “You goin’ to bash his head in with it, Mrs. Peabody?” “Dang right I am.”
The response to this novel about local folk and the gentry was deafening. But it didn’t stop K from hammering away at his books.
One of his favorite literary techniques was presenting the interior thoughts of his hero in parentheses. Thus the hero might want to say, “You achin’ to go somewhere, Mrs. Peabody?” But if he was averse to taking her someplace he would put his interior thoughts in parentheses so the sentence read : “You achin to go (oh drat, he’d forgotten the car keys) somewhere, Mrs. Peabody?”
It gave him the illusion of dialogue without the trouble. More significantly it emphasized the self-importance of the hero/author.
All of K’s novels were about himself. There was the one about the would-be writer who takes a job in an isolated winter hotel to house the girlfriend and kid and goes nuts writing. There was the one about the rural boy in college prep classes who impresses his blue collar peers with story telling while looking for a dead body on the railroad tracks. There was another one about a construction tycoon with $45 million who has an accident and goes to Florida to test his talent with a crayola box.
Apart from his lack of literary skills, one of the more objectionable aspects of K’s books were his blatant plagarism from published and unpublished authors. The first short stories he had published were all derived from works by well-known writers such as H.P. Lovecraft. His first short story presented a narrator who acquired a satanic bible from a publishing clerk which held the “secret of the worm.” Anyone who heard it read in the sacred chapel of the town of Jerusalem’s Lot died of unexplained causes. 
It wasn’t until his tenth novel that rumors of plagarism in the publishing industry caused him to dedicate a book to Shirley Johnson in order to “pay homage” to a noted writer. With that foreword and a lift from one of her short stories he was able to whip out a three hundred and fifty page book as a major work of new fiction for the average reader.
It was when he had “stumbled” upon a short story she had published in a local magazine near his home one summer that he acquired his unnatural fascination for her person. He must have seen her as an eternal ink-well from whom he could plagiarize indefinitely. For K, it was like stopping at a Shell station to fill-up the gas tank. Once hooked into her writing he had transferred his obsession to her person – and began publishing the series of libelous books which ruined her reputation and career.
She had complained avidly to his publisher about his infringements, defamation, and assaults. It only provoked K to describe the hero of his next novel sitting in a high chair “slavishly-copying” from an open book. In the meantime, his publishers put out press releases extolling his latest novel and keeping his name positively before the public, tempting book reviewers to quote from it at length.
“The K factor became an even more astounding phenomenon today as the author of a thousand stories released his latest thriller. P. is a novel about the penultimate fear of a writer - going blank on the first page and typing in a trance until the last page goes black. In between the author struggles with self-hypnosis in a man’s heart-rending battle to keep his marriage alive, his home afloat, and his children wide-eyed with wonder. Only when he is able to restore two pages of his two hundred page black novel does he find a chance to start over with a clean sheet. Desmond Diamond. The Palo Alto News.  
How could she look forward to another round of Publication Mania by K with this kind of hype and publicity? How could she bear to find out how she was portrayed in a serial novella like The Chair where she was sure to be depicted as a merciless murderer of men, women, children, and beasts?
He would be the talk of the town, the writer hailed as “the most popular suspense writer in recent history,” the best-selling author whose stories would be sure to be made into TV movies which the readership (all fifteen of them in the penitentiary) could watch if they missed the opportunity to read the book first.
 
She looked at the clock at the back of the library on the wall. She had been ruminating here for an hour, contending with the prospect of another six books by the Wizard of Wonder, the Lord of Lead, the Chief of Calumny whose every printed word was awaited with bated breath by the minions who adored his spell-binding tales.
Taking a few lined sheets of paper out of her purse where she always carried them for emergency note-taking, she began to pen A Reader’s Complaint to the publisher.  
“Dear Publishing House: Your recent publication of The Green Chair by K has shown the author crossing from the border of fiction into the territory of libel. The main character G shows an uncanny resemblance to myself.  Where substantial similarity to a person identifiable by name, place, public records, physical characteristics, or other established facts can be shown, infringement of privacy has occurred. Where a major character in a work of fiction is intentionally identified with a real person but depicted in an offensive fashion malicious libel is evident. Here the portrait of a female serial killer who kills puppies and devours their entrails in order to acquire strength for massacring personnel in an animal research lab is libelous. A close reading of the novel shows 552 direct, specific, and identifiable references to myself, whose public reputation is thereby irretrievably tarnished. Your legal obligation is to remove those references and recast the novel, withdrawing all current copies from public view or forfeit the book completely, paying damages and compensation for intentional defamation of character in either case.”
A complaint of this kind would most likely end up in the dead letter box.
Perhaps it would be better if she wrote A Review of the new, green novella which could be forwarded to reviewers at major newspapers who would get an idea of what was wrong with K’s book. She could send copies by e-mail to a variety of journals, literary magazines, or other publishers. But it would require actually reading the novella first.
She winced.
Getting up from the table and went to the New Books rack where the green book was languishing on the top shelf. She picked it up and handed her library card to the desk clerk.
“He’s such a popular author,” the spindly, near-sighted woman with wire-
rim glasses said as she handed the book over. “We get a lot of requests for his novels.”
“I’m sure you do,” she replied demurely. It was everything she didn’t want to hear and everything she heard about K no matter where she went. Fame had its deceptive side.
She took the vile, green book back to the table in the reading room thinking of where she might send her review. Farm Journal perhaps. Or possibly the Inquirer, a tabloid eager for revelations about the famous scoundrels people loved to hate. Or perhaps the AP Wire Service, always ready for a newsworthy story about the big guy and the little person he wronged. She smiled, then bent down over the green book.
 
The novella was about a convicted murderer on death row. Jackson Hole had upped his mother with a rake handle, splitting her in half for interfering with his workshop where he kept his fix-it tools. Enraged he had taken the rake with him down to the street where he began attacking his neighbors until 28 were dead. He had appealed his conviction and lost. Now he was on death row waiting for the straps to be put over his arms, talking to his fellow prisoner O who had axed an illegal alien housekeeper for breaking a plate. O was a rocker, a biker, a tough-talking babe willing to roar up the driveway on a scooter and flatten the walls if you called her a name. But she had a heart of gold which slowly changed Jackson Hole into a real man. She was blonde like A, thin like A, and wore a black T-shirt with the letter A for Angel printed on it in gold. It was hard to miss the distorted portrait of her in the novella.
Taking a pen in hand she began writing A Review on another piece of lined paper she laid out carefully on the table.
“The first impression this new novella by the Master of  Anatomy makes is that it is a tribute to brutality over brains in fiction. A man driven mad by his mother-in-law’s nagging drives a rake through her mouth and then continues his killing spree in a placid, residential neighborhood. Blood, gore, and screams abound as thirty-two people die during his violent rampage which ends with his conviction and death sentence. But it is during conversations with his fellow death row prisoner O, the dare-devil howitzer rider with the heart of gold, that K surpasses himself. As the raging bull faces the ultimate punishment in the electric chair he learns from this female inmate – whose sympathy has led her to hire a desperate alien until an accident makes her kill the poor woman -about self-restraint, compassion, and kindness to others. O, rumor has it in the industry, was modeled on a woman said to be a former resident of K’s home state who has often been figured in his novels. It is O’s presence in this novella with her tempering words of wisdom and charity which here lends credibility to a novel long on violence and short on merit. “
She thought it was an effective approach to reducing the potential hyperbole about K’s new work and exploitation of the main female figure in it. She would type it up on a library computer before she decided where to mail it But it didn’t answer that deep need inside herself to make K stop his malignant portraits of her and find a new topic for his crude novels.
 
Seated in the computer carrel assigned to her by the desk clerk for an hour she waited for it to boot up. She was tempted to write directly to K to inform him of her revulsion at being depicted as a murderess yet again. If nothing else, it would alleviate her anger and possibly put before his eyes the truth about his work.
She had sent a letter after M was published expressing her concern that the portrait of A who severs limbs from the able-bodied for thrills would negatively affect her public reputation when it was identified with her. Five months later he had sent a typewritten reply suggesting she consult a defense attorney – after he published a second book about her.
Thatnovel had included a poem by a minor character which summed up his attitude about her rights. She could remember it vividly. “I get mine from you. You get spit. You’re kicked out. You can’t do shit.”
It was a paen to the beauty of poetry, its grace, its rhymes, its musical rhythms. She had jotted a rejoinder then on a piece of paper after reading it.  “How beauteous is the day, when your last name is my refrain.” For a moment she had felt satisfied at the subtle put down, the delicate request to cease presenting her to the public as a crude factotum of his limited imagination. A line on a page might do little to end the obsessional depictions of her by K but they would offer her a sense of relief. Picking up the pen on the table she pointed it downward again toward the lined paper.  
Kind Sir: The finest of poetry no doubt abounds in your mind, but I would be grateful if you would cease writing those interminable words about me published in your recent novel. My head aches when I read the inglorious words associating me with hoodlums or punk rockers, identifying my name Angela with a heroine who wears the letter A on her breast, and who eschews verbal discourse for platitudes taken from TV commercials. I have never discomfited myself by riding on a bicycle at all nor do I have any affection for that screaming singing which they call music today. Please devote your meaningful time to writing actual fiction so that I may return to my own endeavors without fear of further abuse.
She contemplated the letter in front of her with a tinge of satisfaction. But she could imagine K’s response to it in the distant cave where he lived like a neanderthal carrying a club with him ready to beat up anyone who failed to worship him or his novels. He might make howling noises, kick the furniture, or start writing another libelous novel about “uppity women.”  Perhaps a second letter would set a different tone and focus his mind on the dilemma before him.
Kind Sir: I must ask you to please refrain from directing your pen at my person as you have done in such unwelcome fashion these past few years. It is not advisable to dig into the ink well to stain the reputation of a woman or to heap such venomous ridicule as you have done upon me in the public realm. Every woman deserves courtesy, respect, and the utmost regard for her rights in society today. Yet you persist in creating a hostile environment with these depictions of me as a depraved, willful murderess thereby condemning me to obloquy and contempt in the workplace and public marketplace. If you would immediately cease to dip that poison pen in the ink to draw an untrue and most offensive picture of me I would be grateful enough to cease these letters at once.
The epistolary style reminded her of Samuel Richardson’s famous novel Clarissa - A Woman of Virtue written in the eighteenth century. It was the story of a woman who refuses to marry an unworthy man, is raped by a cad, but retains her independence despite it. 
She looked up to see the man picking up his black trench coat from the chair and shaking it out like a bullfighter in the middle of the reading room.
She glanced at the clock, noting that her time on the keyboard was limited and returned to the computer. Taking a new tack she composed a third letter to the caveman.
Compassionate Sir: I must ask you to consider the adverse effect on my private life of your constant publications depicting me as an unrestrained murderess whose only virtue lies in providing you with subject matter. Since you began this strange campaign of defamation I have suffered many torments from loss of my home to victimizing remarks from all and sundry.  If you would only leave me alone, cease to look over my shoulder or plagiarize from my works I would be able to earn my living from the pen like Louisa May Alcott. As long as you continue to depict me as a loathsome creature, ready to plunge a knife into every hapless person, and take my words verbatim from those works I have composed for monetary remuneration I am unable to feed myself or my family. I therefore request you to restrain yourself from publishing works which denigrate or destroy the rights of another author.
She sat back and looked at the black letters on the white page of the computer screen. She could imagine what he would say if he received this in the mail, the aggressive defensive remarks he would utter in his isolated den in the far north. She had heard enough of them in the past. She typed out his imagined reply.  
“This is Zombie Land. This is the Land of Lincoln County, not Land of Lincoln, and we don’t have license plates. One copyright and you’re mine forever.”
Or perhaps he might work up another rhyme to soothe the savage beast which attacked her soul so frequently.
“A is for Apple, B is for Boy, C is for Clever, D is for…Trolling.”
There was rarely a moment when he didn’t have a nifty phrase up his sleeve to reassert his lofty aims and limitless power over his defenseless victim. Some of his favorite phrases in interviews had presented this fact in no uncertain terms.
“There are those who are big, and then there are those who are little,” he had remarked to one interviewer. Big meant famous, someone who had crossed over the line from obscurity in a rural town to celebrity status as a public performer, acquiring money along the way. Little meant the thousands of people who hadn’t made it yet denied participation in a chosen field, herself included. Who cared that the majority of them had actual talent, skills, or produced works of social, moral, or literary merit? They were petty, meaningless blips on the horizon who could be excluded by mere verbal classification as little.
Perhaps he might stand up and yell out one of his favorite phrases. “No Retreat, No Surrender.” In print interviews he presented his malignant acts as acceptable because he was engaged in a war which only he could win.
 There had been times he had spoken of his resistance to the Vietnam war during his state university days but he was a die-hard reactionary, interested only in profiteering from violent behavior in fiction or in life.
She turned to the computer and began to type another letter.
Dear Compulsive Author: I beg you to remember that the dollar bill which serves as currency for all citizens is printed with the words E Pluribus Unum. The prejudice which you have displayed in repeatedly depicting me as a depraved killer is offensive. Publishing malicious and defamatory portraits of me to exclude me from public recognition is libellous. Discriminating against any person because of gender, race, or religion has been outlawed for several decades. There is no rule of supremacy by any person or group which permits them to injure or deny any person the full and inalienable rights of the Constitution. Your continued assaults on my person and your repeated refusals to comply with common laws or social standards are an offense, not only to me, but to a nation which deserves better than being bombarded with hate-filled and malignant matter.  
The fifty years of integration and equal rights laws had meant nothing to reach K hiding in his northern lair. For him, and for his publisher, singling out an individual for selective discrimination was acceptable if it meant keeping the stream of money flowing from one to the next. They supported plantation economics, theft, and prejudicial portraits of persons to exclude them from fair competition in the marketplace.
Sitting at the computer she could imagine how he might respond to this letter describing his archaic prejudices as contemptible:
“NO ONE EXITS THIS PLACE ALIVE.”  
Possibly he might slip a pseudo-rock lyric into one of his future novels which said, “You’re locked up forever, lost to the world/ You can take it lying down or be run over by a wheel.”
It was that kind of direct discourse which made him so beloved of publishers and the reading public. If he worked extra hard, he might come up with another rhyme to satisfy his soul. “Lock a bye baby, in the tree tops/ Tied to a branch, where you’ll never rock.” Then he might scream “LOCKDOWN” to reassure himself that no hint about his writing methods would ever reach his fans.
She sat at the computer, thinking of what she would really like to say to him in a short word or two. Taking her cue from the epistolary novel she had glanced at in the Fiction section and its defense of the virtuous woman able to participate freely and fully in society, she typed the last three words from Clarissa.
LET THIS EXPIATE!
 
Copyright, Anne Hiltner, 2010
 


© Copyright 2018 Ann Dromedus. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Literary Fiction Short Stories

Booksie 2018 Poetry Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Ann Dromedus

Gentle Reader

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Adversity Knows No Bounds

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Popular Tags