by Diane Payne
"'Sounds too amateurish.' Amateurish? Sounds like shit. Why doesn't she just say that? Sounds like shit."
"She could've said it sounds like amateurish shit, Frank."
"But she didn't. Instead she steers me to a literary agency that she thinks might like my story. And all my money. And all my amateurish shit."
"I hate it when you get rejection letters. I should be like The Confederacy of Dunces writer's mother."
"Her son committed suicide. Then she brought his manuscript to a publisher. What are you saying, Mom? I'm not suicidal."
"You always misunderstand me just like those rejection letters."
"I think you're a talented writer, Frank."
"Yeah, I know."
"But you can have more than one talent. Use that fancy college degree."
"Can't you get a job working at the newspaper?"
"You've got contacts all over the community. You shouldn't be pumping gas."
"And that fancy degree in creative writing. Me and a million other writer wannabes."
"I like your web page, Frank."
"Thanks, Mom. You're my biggest fan. Notice I get one hit a day, must be you."
"At least someone's reading it. Maybe you shouldn't use so many swear words. Maybe then a publisher would call you."
"Is that a true story about that Veronica girl?"
"What's true, Mom?"
"Not that conversation again."
"Not today. No time for philosophical shit. Today I'm going to find a good job, a job where I won't waste my night away writing amateurish stories and risking my life opening the door to a bunch of derelicts."
"Wasn't that Veronica girl the one with the dark hair, the one from your high school?"
Once again, the silence barrier.
Once again, divine mother intervention.
"Didn't you used to date a Veronica in high school?"
"I don't remember dating in high school. You must have me confused with one of the bright, cute neighbor boys."
"You did too date! I have prom pictures to prove it."
"I'm going to write a novel where all the kids return home for Thanksgiving and add their prom pictures to the stuffing while the mothers are working on cranberry sauce. It'll be a conspiracy, high-action novel. It'll sell."
Frank laughs at his wittiness.
Mom sighs at his pettiness.
"Steven King sells."
"Tom Clancy sells."
"So will I, Mom."
"I hope so, Frank. You try so hard."
"But? Go ahead and say it, Mom."
Mom wonders how she can ease away from this conversation without a fight.
Frank dreads hearing her response and stands still, then sighs.
"Maybe you could write a cookbook. I like your idea of stuffing memorabilia into the food."
"I'd buy it."
"Maybe you could stuff blue ribbons into pies."
"The blue ribbons? I thought you liked them."
"Frank, I was just trying to help."
"You'd stuff my blue ribbons into a pie?"
"Frank! I was just kidding."
"How about pictures from the photo album? Pictures of before and after The Divorce? Then the new boyfriends. Stuff them in the chicken."
"Frank, I don't even date anymore."
"I don't care. Go ahead. Date."
"You're like all those writers. Overly sensitive."
"You generalize too much."
"Frank, whatever novel you write will be successful."
"Why don't you finish that one about the priests and those altar boys?"
"Because they can read that one on the nightly news."
"How about that book about the drunk musician? If he didn't swear so much, I bet a publisher would like it."
"Mom, I started that in tenth grade and even my teacher hated it."
"That teacher hated everything. He probably was jealous of you."
"Well, maybe I should bring all your work to a publisher like the Dunce writer's mother."
"But I'm alive and could bring them myself."
"That's what mothers are for. To help their children."
"Thanks, Mom, but I'll go apply for a job."
"Sometimes publishers like it when someone discovers great work and brings it in. Makes their jobs easier."
"Walk in there and say you found this manuscript in your son's trash can."
"Nice idea. But publishers are ruthless. They'll say that's where the manuscript belongs and laughs."
"You don't know that."
"Maybe the old codger would ask you on a date."
"Did you really do that with that Veronica girl? In the grocery store?"
"Mom, it's fiction."
Mother laughs nervously.
"Mom, it's fiction. Would you really put my blue ribbons in a pie?
"Frank. It was just an idea for your cookbook. Food for the soul. Like burying special items with the dead."
"We'd eat my blue ribbons?"
"You'd eat our photos? You and Veronica did do that; didn't you?"
About the author:
Diane teaches writing classes at University of Arkansas-Monticello where she's faculty advisor for Foliate Oak which is always seeking submissions. Most recently, her work has appeared in: Full Circle Journal, Lifeboat: A Journal of Memoir, Eyeshot, Word Riot, The Philosophical Mother, Dead Mule, and Sidewalk's End.