---HOLD ONTO SIXTEEN AS LONG AS YOU CAN
…I’m just back from Spokane. Following Portland, that’s four 200+ mile trips in five days.I’ve never been a fan of the long drive and I’m even less so now.
…When I got back I had 250 some emails. A lot it was irrelevant, but still when you’re gone and come back to it in a clump like that it makes me think I might be wasting too much time on the inconsequential.
...One email was a really nice rejection on a story. Here’s what it said:“Len,
Thanks so much for submitting. We're going to pass this time, but this is a really good story with not a wasted word, and I enjoyed reading it.”
I get that sometimes a story might be well-written but not a good fit for the magazine, so I’m fine with this.…I wrote this story three years ago. It’s creepy. It was published by three different people. I’m not sure why I picked this one to share with you, but what the hell:
Drunk, he staggered through the trailer as if it was familiar, as if he had done this sort of thing before. He punched the hollow doors and watched them swing open. He had grabbed a knife out of the butcher block, the longest one with the stained, serrated edge. He growled guttural like a starving animal, then screamed, then made ridiculous gargling noises meant to resemble someone spitting up a fountain of blood. That seemed to ramp up the tension.
He heard a girl respond in the rear of the trailer. The terrified jungle monkey shrieked. Wasn’t that how it happened, stupid sorority ditz blowing rationality to smithereens?
Only this was his daughter, his little dolly. She had his same unctuous eyes and rollback lids. “Hey there,” he said when he got to where she huddled, rocking back and forth in the corner. “What’re you hollering about? Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”
He arched his back and his eyebrow and she knew what those signs meant. She closed her eyes. Her chin quivered as if yanked upon.
He raised the knife. He felt stronger than he was--bold and forbidden and masculine. “Have a good dream,” he said. He could be pensive and moody, theoretical as well. “Hell, it doesn’t matter,” he said, “your dreams are lake waves, you can’t control them.”
He bent down. He wanted to kiss her. Actually, he desperately needed to kiss her at that precise moment. He puckered and leaned forward.
“Cut!” the manic director yelled.
A collective, exasperated sigh went up on the set, the air smelling mildewed and hot after having so much halitosis poured out all at once.
The director wore a pastel argyle sweater and he seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time touching his left nipple, as if it was bee stung.
“What the hell are you doing?” the director asked.
“I’m going to get to it, but you know, I thought it would work better this way, a kiss before dying? Right after, I’ll kill her. I’ll chop her to bits.”
“But this is a comedy!”
“Then what’s that?” he said, pointing at the knife.
“Beats me,” the director said.
Strains of overwhelming sadness buckled the actor’s knees and he tottered where he stood. This was his first part and he’d already blown it. He’d come to Hollywood against his father’s practical advice. He was no good at comedy. Drama--that was his thing.
The girl stumbled his way, curious about the commotion, so he grabbed her wrist. She was a skinny teenager, but skilled at making frightened expressions. She gave him the perfect death stare as he plunged the knife through her chest.
The sound was wet and meaty.
“How about that?” he said.
A moment later he had regret. He shouldn’t have left the knife stuck in her. He might have used it to fend off his attackers, and later, the police. He might have really made a strong showing of it.