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A beginning writer's reaction to an editor's rejection of her short story.
Ruth is a retired Administrative Assistant, a mother and a grandmother. She writes mostly poetry and has had numerous poems published in various Small Press publications. Occasionally, she writes articles and short stories.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (1)
Consider The Mule (Short Stories) A son meets with resistance when trying to provide care for his stubborn and elderly father. [2,459 words]
Rachel never would’ve written her masterpiece and made all that money if it hadn’t been for the nasty rejection she received from Elmer Peabody. It came by certified mail, and she literally snatched it from the postman’s hand with such frenzied excitement she tore the letter in half. But right away the words jeered up at her like a slap in the face.
“Any ninny with any knowledge of this publication at all would know better than to send us such a far-fetched manuscript. Didn’t our title say anything to you, Rachel Roberts? Don’t waste your time writing, lady. I suggest, instead, you take up yodeling.”
“Bad news, Mrs. Roberts?” nice old Mr. Johnson, the postman, asked. Rachel crunched the letter up and fled inside the house, not thinking to reply.
After she got safely behind closed doors, she unrumpled the letter, taped it together with Scotch tape, and read it thirty times.
When husband Johnny came home that night, she had stopped crying, but she couldn’t hide her red eyes.
“What’s the matter, honey?” he asked, with genuine concern.
“I’m all right. Just mad as the dickens at Peabody,” she fumed. “I bet my blood pressure’s shot up to a hundred and eighty. I ought to let him have it with both barrels.”
“You’re not making any sense, Rachel,” Johnny said. “Who’s Peabody? Come on, hon, give me a clue.”
Rachel handed him the letter. He read it and wadded it up and hurled it in the trashcan. “The nerve of that creep!” he exclaimed. “First Class Magazine, eh? Old Fleabody sounds like a first-class snob to me. I’ve a good mind to take off work and go punch him in the kisser.”
Rachel knew Johnny would do just that if she didn’t calm down, so she gave him a big hug and kiss and assured him her blood pressure was really okay and that she considered herself lucky Snobbody didn’t like her short story. “I wouldn’t even want my name on his subscription list,” she told him.
“Why’d he send the letter certified?” Johnny asked, crunching on a piece of chicken. “Why didn’t he just stick it in with the manuscript?”
“I didn’t get my manuscript back,” she said. “That is why I was so excited when I opened his letter. I was sure he’d accepted my story since it wasn’t returned. He probably sent the letter certified to make me think I’d been accepted—his way of punishing me for sending him such a lousy piece of fiction.”
“Yeah, the crud. He doesn’t know good writing when he sees it. He must have thrown your story in the trash.”
But he hadn’t. The next morning the postman left the manuscript in the mailbox.
That afternoon, after lunching at the Knife and Fork with Linda, her next-door neighbor, Rachel fished through the trashcan and retrieved Fuddbody’s letter. She smoothed it out the best she could, placed it with her returned short story, and hid it all under her mattress. Then she went into her study and began to write. Her fingers fairly flew over the keys, the words pouring forth out of her soul like manna from heaven.
When Johnny came home that night, she was still at it. She hadn’t noticed the time, and it shocked her when she realized she hadn’t prepared dinner.
She sensed Johnny’s concern when for the fifth night in a row, he came home to find her working, still wearing her robe. “Hey, hon,” he said, “what gives? You all right? I just saw Linda outside. She wanted to know if you’d gone away somewhere. Said she’d rung the bell three times today and nobody answered. Said she’d phoned twice, too. Anything wrong, Rachel?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Johnny. I was on a roll here and didn’t want to be disturbed. I would’ve answered, though, if I’d known it was Linda,” she lied. She didn’t want Johnny to know she had become so engrossed in her writing that she hadn’t even heard the bell or the phone.
Six months after she’d received Mr. First Class’s rejection, Rachel reached the end of her story. Only then did she realize that instead of the world’s best short story—which is what she’d intended to write—she had four hundred and fifty double-spaced typewritten pages of blood, sweat, and tears—a novel!
She picked a publisher whose name sounded as different from Elmer Peabody, First Class, as she could find. She didn’t bother sending a query letter. Her novel was good, and she knew it. If Mr. Publisher liked it, fine. If he didn’t, fine. She had purged herself.
* * *
A year later, at the awards hoopla when she received first prize for best novel of the year, she hadn’t expected to see Old Goodbody, so it came as a surprise when this tall, skinny, sixtyish, starched-neck man wearing horn-rims came up to her and Johnny and introduced himself. “I’m Elmer Peabody,” the man said, extending cold fingers. “I’d like to talk to you, Mrs. Roberts, about publishing your next novel. I’m Senior Editor and Publisher of First Class Magazine and Top Notch Books. We publish only the very best writers in the world.”
Rachel thought Johnny was going to strangle on his martini, but she calmly shook the old fart’s icy fingers and replied sweetly, “Why, Mr. Goodbody, it is a pleasure to meet you.” When Elmer Peabody looked at her funny, she flashed her most charming smile and said, “I must remember to call you sometime.”
As they were swept away in the crowd of VIPs, Rachel could have sworn she heard Johnny yodeling in Peabody’s ear.
After Rachel’s book was made into a movie, which won best picture of the year, she decided it was time to respond to Fuddbody’s numerous solicitations. She put on some old Elvis records and turned the stereo up loud. She rock-and-rolled to her study and addressed one of her personalized mailing labels to Mr. Elmer Peabody, Top Notch Books. Tapping her feet to the beat, she slapped the label on a manuscript box and marked it certified. Then she stuffed some old newspapers inside the box and boogied on down the hall to her bedroom. She slid her short story from under the mattress and placed it on top of the newspapers.
On Peabody’s crumpled up rejection letter, in her most fancy handwriting at the bottom of the page, Rachel wrote, “Dear Mr. Goodbody: Hi. Remember me?” She signed it, “Sincerely, Ninny,” and laid it in the box. Taping it up, she laced up her dog-eared Reeboks and sashayed out into the beautiful sunshine.
With box in hand, Rachel bopped all the way to the post office singing Hound Dog.
|READER'S REVIEWS (3)
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"Cute idea, but you need to concentrate on getting more dialogue into your story. At times, trying to be cute become too slapstick." -- Mary Robinson.
"I got a good chuckle out of this ... probably because I can relate to the emotions a writer goes through when those rejection letters arrive. I think I'll try this the next time I get one of those nasty letters. Thanks for the idea!" -- D. Richards.
"Enjoyed it; built suspense; Rachel was believable; clever development of her anger/disappointment. A bit heavy on details." -- Lennie Lankford, Birmingham, AL, USA.
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© 1992 Ruth Gillis
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