This is a 600 word story I submitted to NPR 3/11/2012 as part of their Three-Minute Fiction series. The premise is they give you the first line and you write the rest. The first line counts as part of the overall word count – so you actually have fewer word spaces available. In any case, I hope you enjoy this.
“She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door…”
Saul paused after reading the only words on the otherwise blank page. He abruptly rose from his desk, turning to a sprawling view of Manhattan. “I give you a $50k advance and after 6 weeks this is all you can give me? I worked like hell to get that extra $20k up front!”
“Three years!” His back to me: “2 manuscripts and 3 novelettes started and NONE of them have seen the light of day. The publisher took you on as a favor to me. If he doesn’t get something from you soon he’s going to start asking hard questions!”
That feeling in my stomach and tightness in my chest starts. That feeling when your parents called you downstairs after getting your report card in the mail. Funny, that feeling never changes even when you’re an adult.
Saul’s tone softened, “If it was me four years ago… Hell, I don’t know how you’ve been able to go on. If it’d been me they would’ve found a note in my condo and my body floating face-down in the Hudson. Everybody would have understood. But you have to find some way to move on!”
That last comment struck me numb. I looked down, collecting my thoughts, hoping he didn’t see the water in my eyes.
He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Take a week at the cabin and recharge. Get some fresh air.”
Laughing, “Even better! I’ll get you a reservation at The Stanley Hotel – that’ll get your juices going!”
I give a wry smile: “I think Mr. King already wrote that book. I may take you up on the cabin.” I wasn’t interested in going to “The Cabin” or anyplace else.
With three dry years and the royalty checks slowing, my bank account was hemorrhaging. $50k only goes so far and without the book’s royalties I would have to go back waiting tables full-time.
“I want the first FULL chapter in two weeks. Now GO! Get your head back into the game. We’ll get through this.” Saul said firmly.
As I was leaving, Saul approached, smiling: “Send mom my love.” “I will – You know she’s still pissed you’re not a Doctor.” “I thought it was because I wasn’t a lawyer” he said with a chuckle…”
I relive it almost every day – awake or asleep. The worst is when I am walking the city.
Sometimes when I see a mother with her baby crossing the street towards me, I get that ache to my core. I want to scream for them to get away from there. I have to keep myself from jumping to push them away from a truck that is not there – hearing the horn, the sickening thud, the screams.
How can I move forward?
I returned to my condo, melancholy. Maybe today? I walk to the hallway and stop at the table next to a door decorated with flowers and bunnies. I pick up the child’s book still with the ribbon and bow on it, never read, never published. I carefully take the ribbon off and open it to page one. With tears streaming down my face I finish reading and place the open book against my heart – falling to my knees in a silent wail. After an eternity, drained, I catch my breath.
I close the book, place it on the table, and finally, decide to walk through the door…