Originally posted at Bethiclaus as part of the Blog Exchange; the assignment was to write a short story based on one of these prompts from McSweeney’s.
Georgia looked again at the precise stack of white paper, the one that had been sitting on a corner of her desk for more than three weeks. Every time her eyes met the accusing pile, her stomach tightened a tiny bit more. Like in the Grinch, when you see his heart shrinking to two sizes too small.
Just read it. Just the first few chapters.
She’d have to, of course. There was no getting around it, no allowing it to burrow under all the other manuscripts in her office. No opening, somehow, the hermetically sealed window and letting each page float gracefully down to the street.
I can’t. I can’t stand it.
Val poked her head in the door. “Ready to go? I’ll walk you to the subway.”
“I can’t. I have to read this.”
“Yeah. Ruth wants a report on everything with a February pub date by tomorrow. This is the last one.”
‘Cause it’s gonna suck. Or worse, it might actually be good. Then I’ll really fucking lose it.
“Shit. Well, see you tomorrow then.”
After she waved goodbye to Val, Georgia removed the big blue rubber band from the manuscript and centered the pile on her desk. She left an empty space to the left where she would place the pages she’d read, face down. She rooted around for a good pen. She found a pad of sticky notes that were neither too big nor too small. She checked her email again, skimming quickly past Ruth’s reminder. She went to the ladies’ room and the water cooler.
For god’s sake. You are a grown-up and a professional. Forget about who wrote it and just read it.
Deep inside her bag, her phone buzzed. Nick.
“Hi…. No, still at work… awhile, I have a manuscript to read… no, I can’t. I really have to finish this tonight.”
Wish I could tell him. I hate this.
“OK, talk to you later. Uh huh.”
She switched off the ringer on the phone and tucked it away.
If we feature this—if I have to actually write something about this cretin for publication—I will officially freak out.
She squared her shoulders and flipped over the cover letter, the title page, the page that said “Acknowledgments TK.”
Yeah, acknowledge this, asshole.
Did I actually just think that? This moron has driven me to complete cliché.
Page 1 stared her in the face. After she read the first sentence, she smiled. A tiny twist of the lip, at first. Then she laughed, loud and long.
“Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.”