This story was inspired by the following word prompts:
Word of the Day: Candour.
Today’s things are: buzz, July, load
An Appreciation of Candour and Eloquence
It was a hot July day and the air sizzled with the heat. The grass had lost any trace of green, it was dry and straw like and gave off a dry dusty aroma of the cornfields. I opened the garage door and drove my old car out onto the driveway. I wished once again that I’d had the air-conditioning fixed but money had been tight and I had no idea the summer was going to be so unbearably hot for so long. Usually we had a handful of hot days in July and August, but never longer than a week’s worth at a time. Usually a rainy day came along or a cold spell, but not this time. It had been in the low thirties since May and the forecast did not show any sign of cooling down. At least the car was a bit cooler for having been kept in the garage rather than out in the street. No one used their garages for cars anymore, they either used them for storage or else converted them into more living space. With all the hooligans around who loved walking down the street and pulling off windscreen wipers or scratching the paintwork, I was glad to keep my car locked away at night.
Despite the heat I wasn’t wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I was smartly dressed in my Linen suit. At least linen was a cool fabric. I pulled out the letter from my pocket and read it again, just to feel the buzz once more.
Thank you for your manuscript that you sent us in response to our writing competition.
We would very much like to meet with you and hope you can attend a meeting with us on Thursday the 23rd of July at 11am at our offices in Bloomsbury.
The Bloomsbury Writers and Publishers Bureau.”
Since receiving the letter I had been in a state of elation. I have been writing short stories for twenty years and had sent off thousands of manuscripts to agents and publishers. I’d entered thousands of competitions. This was the first time I have had a response.
I drove to the nearest station and parked the car under a tree for shade.
I bought a return ticket into London and sat down on a surprisingly empty train. It was one of the old ones without any aircon and judging by the stifling heat I would guess that the train had been left out overnight. In next to no time my head was covered in perspiration from the heat. I opened the windows to let in some air. It only helped a little bit.
My head went over and over the meeting that lay ahead of me. Will they offer me a contract? Will they publish my story? I had written a melodrama about two people who hated each other and kept trying to kill each other but failing over and over again. It was longer than a short story, not quite a novel. It was about Forty thousand words long. A novella, I suppose you’d call it.
I arrived at the address on the letter. It was a modern office and thankfully air-conditioned. I savoured the cooler air as I sat in the reception, feeling comfortable and waited to be called in.
I walked in to be greeted by a large man in a shirt and tie. He had a red face which clashed with his tie. He extended a hand towards me and I shook it. It was cold and clammy like a dead fish.
The man introduced himself as Mr. Samuels, the Junior director of the bureau.
“Look, let me be perfectly frank with you, Mr Anderson.”
“Please do, I appreciate candour” I replied but inside I was cringing. That phrase never came before something nice.
“I have read your manuscript, in fact we all have, and I have to say as a melodrama it is a load of rubbish.”
I tried to contain myself, I couldn’t believe my ears. Why send me the letter? Why make me come into London, an hour’s journey, just to tell me my story stank? I wasn’t sure if I was going to burst into tears or a fit of rage.
The man continued “But we feel that if you change some of the details, it would make an excellent comedy. Your use of language is so old-fashioned it is rather ridiculous, the dialogue is particularly odd, if you don’t mind my saying so. No one nowadays talks like you have written them, but if you look at it as a parody, then it works. If you give us license to change a few things we’re prepared to put you on our books.”
I was taken aback, I had always prided myself on my use of language and my eloquence. My pride was hurt badly, but then I saw the amount that they were going to offer me and my ethics went out of the window. I smiled and signed the contract. At last I’ll be able to afford to repair the air conditioning in the car now.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 30/July/2018
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