"Literary Warfare"

Chapter 1
Literary Warfare

By Wayne Fowler

"It's a ghost story," Diane remarked casually, her comment nestled among critiques both positive and not.

"Wait, wait ..."

"Don't tell me," Diane quipped, alluding to a radio game show.

Jerry froze for an instant before he caught on. "But wait ..."

"There's more," Diane retorted, obviously locked onto the nature of the conversational exchange.

Jerry gave her a serious look, nearly a glare.

"What?" Diane responded in faux innocence.

"It's nowhere near a ghost story. No goblins, no demons, not even a dead person."

"I mean it's ghost-like. I can almost see your painting, but it's, it's, it's like I'm looking through cloudy glass. Faded. Ghost-like."

Jerry looked at her, his face a blank.

"Look I love the story. It's a good plot, with all the appropriate plot points. Your characters are all authentic. I even like their names. But if I threw a mud ball at them, it wouldn't stick. It would go right through them."

Diane tried her best to mellow her tone. She liked Jerry more than any new acquaintance in her memory. More than any friend in her memory. Stepping on someone's creative writing, she understood full well, was not far removed from stepping on their children, saying that their kid was ugly. It was something not done to people with whom you had affection.

After a brief pause, Jerry bobbed his Adam's apple with a demonstrative swallow. "You're right. I guess that's why I'm here."


Jerry Grinnell and Diane Nalen sat across from one another at a writers' workshop. It was the afternoon session, the first day of a two-day event. The morning hours consisted of a lecture on editing-for-flow and other gems of literary genius concerning how to foil the editor (whose very existence depends on finding error). It was a clever gimmick at negative/positive reinforcement. Along with a handout of editing code came instructions to pick a partner among the attendees that you did not know. The theory being that a more candid review would result. Not so easily accomplished for Diane. After eliminating those she knew, and watching the field narrow, she felt like the last-minute bridesmaid, asked to fill in for a more beloved first choice who called in sick.

"Guess it's you two by default," the director declared unnecessarily. The two having reached the foregone conclusion.

Lunch was an acquainting experience for the two after having shared their name, rank, and serial number, so to speak. The demographic exchange morphed into a game of either/or. Jerry topped the name of his home town with: five foot nine on a sunny day, and a hundred and seventy-five pounds.

"Cake or pie?" Diane began once the names, dates, and places were swapped, ignoring the height and weight issue, though she was a trim five foot five and a hundred and twenty.

"Pie. The redder, the better."

"Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck?" Jerry returned.

"Mickey. Daffy's daft. Ginger or MaryAnn?"


"Most men do," Diane said, feeling better about herself.

"Window or aisle?" Jerry asked.

"Depends on who is blocking me in. And whether we're flying over mountains. Okay, okay," she responded to his wide-eyed grin. "Window. But there'd better not be some mean, or ill, four hundred pounder stealing my armrest."

By the time lunch was over they'd established that each had lived in three states, each had difficult high school situations, and both were post-relationship. As if drawn magnetically, Jerry's right hand found Diane's left at the first intersection they had to cross, not letting go during the half mile walk back to the conference center. Diane at first thought, "Whoa, too early for this," but it felt too good to her to pull away.


"What's the plot?" Jerry asked later. The question bordered on rude, but considering the context and environment, qualified as legitimate.

"What's your point?"

Steering clear of accusing Diane of having a plotless story, he kept to the abstract. "A story has a tale, a motto: might makes right, no good deed goes unpunished, honesty is the best policy."

"Not always. Doesn't have to."

Jerry ignored Diane's defensiveness. "A beginning, a middle, and an end. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl forever. A plot."

"Okay, Mister Man. Plot this." At that Diane made a fist, pointing it toward Jerry's nose, she twisted it, rotating her fist as she jabbed the air back and forth like a hammer drill.

Appreciating this new and comfortable relationship of equals, Jerry knew when to thank his lucky stars. To keep from blowing a blossoming friendship, he left the unwinnable subject.

The evening of light-natured bantering conversation came to a close at Diane's motel door. Absolutely knowing better, Jerry hoped, but hoped not, that she would invite him inside. Knowing every reason to mind his manners did not stop him from craving Diane's intimacy. Her beauty was not merely skin deep. She was smart, funny, and pretty. Expecting a pleasant, maybe a little bit sensuous, goodnight kiss, Diane surprised him with a full-bodied embrace, contradicting every unspoken word he'd heard her say.

"Good night," she said, closing the door behind her.

Jerry stood askance. Stunned. Conflicted. Did he just get teased? Or was it unconscious innocence? Did she know what she was doing? Was it on purpose? Was it a promise of more to come? Or only the physical nature of matching lips? Was his imagination running amuck?

Jerry dreamed of Diane.

Diane went to sleep hugging a pillow to her bosom.


The workshop over, each returned to their respective homes, 121 miles apart, each in possession of email and contact information.

Witty repartee and gifted banter ensued electronically on a daily basis, accenting similarities and common interests, but often returning to the matter of what it takes to be able to declare oneself a native, or a southerner.

"It's where you're born. End of it. Michigan makes you a Yankee," Diane insisted.

"For the five thousandth time." Both Diane and Jerry were given to hyperbole and exaggeration.
"My dad was born in Arkansas, and five generations before him. They came from Tennessee by the 1870 census after the Civil War."

"See! Southerners call it The War Between the States."

What Jerry didn't offer was that Diane's heritage sprang from Europe, arriving in America far later than his people were already bona fide, card-carrying southerners.

"Well, your dad might be okay," Diane teased.

"Albuquerque," Jerry retorted, naming Diane's birthplace.

"Below the Mason-Dixon, and the military doesn't count."

"Doesn't count?" Jerry responded in rote dialogue, from a dozen previous discussions. "Doesn't count? How 'bout a whole clan goin' north for factory work?"

"Yan-kee." Diane poked fun only because she knew the sore spot to be risk-free, harmless. She would never initiate the Yankee charge, but always joined in the reindeer games that Jerry launched.

"Eureka Springs was an accident." Jerry stated one day a few weeks into their email friendship. In his economic habit, he left unsaid that he was talking about their serendipitous meeting at the writers' workshop.

"An accident?" Diane's mind went directly to the kiss, hoping Jerry was not hinting that he was sorry that it had happened.

"Yeah. My sister suggested a writers' magazine. I bought Writers' Muse instead of Writers' Monthly. She told me about my mistake when I told her about our ... friendship. That's where I saw the ad for Eureka. I went back and checked in a Writers' Monthly and the Eureka Springs ad wasn't there. It was a mistake that I even went to the Eureka workshop."

"Wow! Me too, sort of. I wanted a conference. Only after I'd registered did I see the smaller print, that it was actually a workshop held by the Ozark Writers Conference."

The hundred, or so, of their touchstone coincidental similarities and commonalities crossed their minds. It seemed fated that they meet. Jerry had worked in Diane's city on several occasions as a part of his job. Diane vacationed all through Jerry's region. Jerry's recliner came from a store two blocks from Diane's home. He stopped regularly in her town to eat lunch while traveling. Their lifestyles and patterns ran as if they were more like brother and sister than strangers. The comparisons, many of substance, also reached down to the silly, such as both hometowns had six letters, two syllables, each ending with w-a-y. It was almost as if they were forcing the issue. Now there was confirmation, compelling a relationship if ever there was one, they agreed in jest.

Finally, they agreed to meet again, each unconsciously discounting the writers' workshop as a formal meeting as official daters. That meeting was strictly business. It was like they had only been on-line dating to that point, similar to meeting on a website.

The date was to be at a college community coffee house. The official motive for the physical meeting was to exchange hostages - each was to bring a finished work of whatever length or subject. The thinking was multi-fold they would get to know one another more fully by reading one another's material, that they were most proud of, and also to assess each other outside the scholastic atmosphere of the workshop. Neither spoke about the alternative of merely emailing manuscripts. Both craved each other's company.

Hands linked almost immediately. A walk through the nearby campus, a tour of the town and a stroll through the river park later, the day ended with another full-bodied kiss at Diane's car door.

Half the way home, Jerry's mind never more than a minute from that kiss, her hands, her spirit, the hundred and twenty-one mile drive did not seem nearly as far as the same route southward to meet her - a commute was doable.

A few weeks later Diane spent a weekend visit to a river resort a few miles from Jerry's home. The next weekend, Jerry drove to her home for an actual date.

"You know, if ... if we ..." Jerry began a stammering request.

"A motel, or resort, or whatever, is a huge financial burden to long distance dating," Diane finished.

Jerry sighed, grateful for Diane's understanding and commiseration.

"And we could maximize our together time," Jerry added.

"If you promise to behave, I have a spare room."

Diane promised herself to learn from past mistakes. She resolved to honor herself, as well as her faith, pledging that physical intimacy would resume only on her wedding night. Though not as committed as Diane, Jerry agreed. His spirit was with her a hundred percent, though his body, and occasionally his words, belied his earnestness. His vow, which was more on the order of a high goal, was that intimacy would only follow love, a concept which could be substantially more undefined than total abstinence.

A fondness for Larry McMurtry's masterpiece Lonesome Dove being one of their mutualities, the two oft traded quotes from book: just tryin' to get through the territory, Gus, I'll whack that bell if I want to, No, they shouldn'ta, but they did. Jerry adopted the whiskey trader/buffalo hide character, Big Zwey, line about wanting to murry Ellie, repeating it regularly, only partly in mock.

Their first evening at Diane's was electric. At one point Diane stood at her bedroom door at the end of a hallway. Jerry was at the other end. "We haven't even played the banana game!" Jerry pronounced, their evening packed with mountains of conversation and banter thus leaving a planned round of Bananagrams unplayed.

"Not that kind of girl," Diane said, leaning on one leg, her hand on that hip. Unmistakable attitude.

Jerry burst into laughter at the unexpected contradiction to her totally proper presence. Diane smiled with a knowing sophistication.

A short time later, the last exchange of their first day in Diane's home occurred, again at the doorway to her bedroom. Finished with the bathroom, Jerry turned to the guest room door, detouring a step to Diane's door to say a final goodnight.

"Good night," Diane said as she closed her door.

"Good night," Jerry said to a closed door.

Jerry's claim that she'd slammed the door in his face created an often revisited conversation - a charge Diane continually denied. They bantered through many revisions of the truth of the occurrence.

Author Notes Two amateur writers, one reaching published fame, the other sliding from love interest to a hanger-on -- a tragedy in the making.

Chapter 2
Literary Warfare - Chapter Two

By Wayne Fowler

"Look! I got accepted! Jerry showed Diane the letter and contract promising to include a play he'd submitted in their catalogue. They were at Jerry's on this particular weekend. They'd purchased a new printer for Diane and were to install her old one to his computer before preparing chapter samples and query letters for another large mailing to publishers.

"Yay bang! Yay for you!" Diane responded with absolute delight, quietly containing her competitive spirit. "I'm so happy for you!"

A few weeks later Diane, to her own reckoning, caught up with Jerry. "Hey, My Sweet Man, you're not the only one published." She let the momentum build, demanding he ask, but unable to allow it. "My story won! I'm going to read it for the radio - Tales from the South."

"Yay for you!" Jerry shouted, wondering why his story didn't win.

Each to themselves, they kept score. First place, second, third and honorable mentions all counted for imaginary points made as in competitive sports, though the comparisons were always unspoken. Every story contest was a competition. What was fair game for open warfare, were the more mundane, less emotionally straining statistics such as word count and numbers of submissions. They also compared the numbers and general quality of rejections. - "Oh yeah? Well my rejection was personally written, not a form letter." "Oh yeah? Well how many post card rejections do you have? Over a hundred, I bet." "A hundred an' nine. More'n you, I bet." And so the competition went.

"A great story," Diane said after reading Jerry's latest. "What is it, fifty, sixty thousand words?"

"Forty-eight, nine," Jerry said. "A novella."

"Can you expand it?"

Jerry sighed at Diane's most frequent comment. "Every time I try, those are the words you cut, remember? Take out everything that doesn't advance the story."

"I know. I hate that most published authors break all their own rules."

"With impunity."

The next weekend Diane handed over her edited copy of Jerry's Daughters of Song, a tale set in the Old West.

Fanning the pages, Jerry checked for the blood, the dreaded red pen edits. "You declare war on commas?" he asked.

"Over six thousand of them!" Diane exclaimed. Almost forty per page. You must have been tired because it's like you took a breath after every prepositional phrase."

Jerry mentally performed the math. "A comma after every eight and a half words. Hmm. What's the limit?"

Diane laughed.

"Well, your RV book only had two generations and three ethnicities. And only three dogs, Jerry chided."

"And eighty-five thousand words,' Diane rebuffed.

"But ... but"

"No buts," Diane declared. "I'm done." Her way of changing the subject.

"But ..." Jerry overrode her chastening expression. "But I wanna murry you!"

They kissed, their confirmation that good natured competition held its place far behind mutual respect, support, and affection. And any chance for a laugh.


"There," Jerry said, firmly slapping his pen atop his completed one-thousand-word story written entirely without the use of the letter 'e'.

"Not quite," Diane said, glancing over his shoulder.


"Your very first word."

Chagrined, Jerry exed out the word 'the' from the title.

"Now done. That's ...." Jerry scanned the brochure for the list of contest submissions for an oncoming writers' conference. "Fifteen hundred and sixty bucks. Add it up. What'll we buy? Where will we go?"

"Not figuring I'll get any of it, huh? You're gonna win every first place reward?" Diane quipped.

Jerry smiled, then looked at the brochure again, popping up after a moment. Seven twenty-five. All the second places."

Diane smiled. "Don't spend it yet, Gorgeous."

Diane won ten dollars at the conference, but Jerry claimed that his two honorable mentions put them in a tie. Diane simply waved her check at him, silencing him. "Gorgeous," Diane repeated after a moment.

Jerry knew that that was one of Diane's tricks to change the subject. Gorgeous was not a word he could use about himself. First, he futilely explained, it was a girly word. Secondly, it just wasn't him. He would have been better served never mentioning his complaint. It became her moral equivalent to his frequent "I wanna murry you."


"Jerry, I'm agented!" Diane exclaimed as Jerry entered Diane's home one Friday afternoon. "He's in L.A. is the downside. But Adam Skinner liked my submission and wants to try to sell it!"

"Yay! L. A.'s good! Better than New York City!" Jerry shouted, dropping his bag in order to hug and dance about with her, sharing Diane's joy. Joy multiplied manifold learning that her book was being published.

Fearful that his expression or demeanor might give away his reflexive envy, Jerry made a valiant effort to convince her of his heartfelt pride in her, his unwavering and unfailing pleasure at her success.

Diane knew better than to attempt to placate him with bland encouragements or platitudes. She also knew better than to promise to present his work to her new agent - an excellent way to sour a professional arrangement.

She stopped herself from consoling Jerry with comments and well wishes of his eventual discovery, of his own success. She understood all too well the difficulties and pure luck involved with getting published and that the best of manuscripts faced a Mount Everest battle. They'd been climbing that mountain together.

The weekend was more strained than any they'd spent together. More was left unsaid than spoken. She, ecstatic with joy, but attempting with every breath to constrain herself. And he, overjoyed for her, his competitive spirit simmering just below the surface.

Jerry attended Diane's book signings and appearances, at least as much as his schedule allowed. The first, as is the case for most firsts, was awkward and less than idyllic. Diane was nervous throughout the event, self-conscious that people considered her signature to be of any value. She felt like she did when she was a bridesmaid at her cousin's wedding years past, everyone telling her how grown up she looked and how pretty she was.

The last party Jerry escorted her to, hosted by her agent for all his clients and attended by national book reviewers, Jerry swore would be his last. It was difficult enough to stand back, silently watching the famous author glow, smiling, laughing, rubbing shoulders with the industry Golden Ones. Cut off so many times during her attempts to introduce him, Jerry saved her, and himself, the embarrassment by holding to the outskirts at every social function.

At that last party, Jerry spotted David Montale, an author he'd heard speak at a writers' conference in Little Rock. Feeling a false sense of familiarity, Jerry approached him. As he began to introduce himself, Montale merely turned and walked away. Must be preoccupied, Jerry consoled himself, though the impression of rejection and dismissal overwhelmed him. Standing in the middle of the room, Jerry identified Rob Carlton, one of his and Diane's favorite authors.

Jerry felt the fool, a hanger-on, a leach clinging to a host's underbelly. Diane was the star. He was the child gripping her skirt hem. His envy was fast turning to jealousy. And he despised himself for it.

With every step, every move toward the hapless Rob Carlton, Jerry told himself to stop, to turn away, to walk back to the corner and hide under the potted Ficus tree. Stop! He commanded himself, but his feet refused. Don't do it! he futilely ordered. Like an alcoholic at a complimentary bar he seemed on autopilot, rudderless. He could not stop himself from approaching Carlton, knowing that he would totally embarrass himself, and maybe injure Diane in the doing. Standing squarely in front of Carlton, blinking wildly, his mouth agape like a drunken idiot, Jerry leaped into a blathering, overly loud pitch, bypassing any sort of mature introduction or conversation.

"Uh, huh," Carlton said politely, sipping at his drink that could have been a cocktail or ice water. "Uh, huh."

Stopping mid-thought, mid-sentence, Jerry finally got a grip on himself, slamming his teeth together. "I'm sorry, Mister Carlton. You've been very kind," he said quietly. Without even a glance to Diane, Jerry went to the restroom, and after a moment, left the party. Since they'd taken a cab, he knew that Diane would get home fine.

How could he do that? How could he be so stupid, so out of control? Celebrities went to social events and depend on security from idiots like him. And Carlton was an author, not a publisher or agent! What was the matter with him? Would Diane ever forgive him? Jerry was distraught. Compounding his distress, Security wouldn't let him wait at Diane's L. A. apartment door. Even though they'd recognized him, policy was policy. He spent the night between an all-night diner and a nearby neighborhood park, demurely knocking on Diane's door the next morning.

Diane apologized for not giving Jerry a key. Neither brought up the previous evening, both fully conscious of the faux pas, neither willing to refry the beans.


"Honey," Diane said into her iPhone that next Monday. Jerry answered the call with a degree of trepidation. It was extremely unusual for her to call during the week, let alone during business hours. "We're going to New York! Can you get free the second week of next month? I'm on Good Morning, America! I really need you to go with me, Jerry."

Of course, he could. And present himself the smiling, supportive, significant other. He would sing her praises to all who asked. Though he was seldom asked, her limelight extending beneath only her own feet.

Jerry watched as Diane grew into her fame. Her beauty and poise became radiant. Her wardrobe and accessories matched her presence. She adapted to the paparazzi like a seasoned pro. She had arrived, her success complete and secure.

The next event found Jerry too busy, as did the next after that. He attended fewer and fewer of her functions. Weekend visits when she was in the state virtually stopped. At first for logical reasons, then wandering off to the trivial, or for no given reason at all.

Diane was busy, either writing or with visitors and calls. Her moments spent missing Jerry were always interrupted. Sometimes she wondered at his explanations, while at others she gave no thought to them, too excited and concerned with her own plans. At the back of her mind was Jerry's embarrassment of having to lie, accepting his no reason at all as preferable.


Jerry continued to submit queries to publishers and agents, contest submissions, and anything and everything he could find to launch his own career in professional writing. His occasional, though less frequent honorable mentions, were laughable compared to Diane's success, her grand slam home run followed by hit after hit. A strike-out king did not rub shoulders, or mingle with anyone. He felt cut.

Jerry's writing began to reflect his depressed spirit. Though not one to drink, his writing performance, as well as writing discipline, reflected the behavior of a drunk on a fast-descending spiral. One day he flopped to his bed, his writing pad fell to the floor. His latest entry descriptive of his life: See Dick meet Jane. See Jane walk away.

Chapter 3
Literary Warfare Chapter 3

By Wayne Fowler

From the depths of his soul he pulled up the words, dredging them against their will, forcing them from his heart through the pen to the paper – words that did not want to be spelled – words that would revolt before being spoken aloud. Raw emotion filled his pages. Counting on a rewrite, he emptied his soul, pouring his guts into his characters: rage, fury, tenacious fighting, and love, compassion and loyalty. He mulled and lingered over words that failed to fully rummage through his soul. He wanted to taste the kisses of his characters, himself and Diane. He wanted to feel her skin and all its irrelevant imperfections. He wanted to lay his head on her chest and become her heartbeat. And then after a time, sit back and absorb her unique and individual spin of life: her thoughts, her values, the whys of her views. He wanted to feel her describe an ordinary walk in an ordinary park, or sit silently with him, smelling the coffee.
  Setting his alarm for 4:30 in the morning, an arbitrary compromise that proved unnecessary since he was already awake, he resolved to begin each day with a shower, breakfast, and then writing until at least noon each day. Anxious, he skipped breakfast, scratching out a tentative character list and brief synopsis, laying aside his previous work. A stomach cramp advised him that he’d missed both breakfast and lunch, and was on the verge of missing supper as well. He had finished the first chapter, knowing that he would move it to somewhere in the middle. And the last chapter was nearly completed. His stomach would have to wait.
  Hour after hour, day after day. Hardly sleeping, barely eating, he hammered out his tale, switching to writing directly to his computer after filling two notebooks, returning to type those handwritten pages only on the few occasions that he felt the plot ideas slow. Ignoring the red and blue underlines as he furiously pecked away, engaging as many as six fingers at a time, he backed up to do repairs only while mulling issues of flow and continuity.
  Dr. Felicia Robison and Colonel Marcus McBain, he of the United States Guard, the name given to the reorganized United States military after the Great Conflagration of the 2050s. She, a molecular biologist from the State of Mississippi Valley, South, what formerly contained the largest parts of seven of the historical fifty. Reconstruction necessitated by the diminished population.
  Dr. Robison was the medical doctor/researcher who determined that the invading aliens were descendant hybrids of past earth abductees. She discovered how to combat them. Assisted by Colonel McBain, the two saved the earth from mass abductions.
  Felicia, the story’s main protagonist, met with the Colonel in her effort to bring attention of the coming invasion, never reaching the necessary level of government. She and McBain quickly discovered love interests in one another to such a depth that astounded Jerry, even as he wrote. Jerry bared his soul, facing fears of rejection head on as he offered himself to Felicia. Digging deep, McBain donned a Captain America persona. As a team, they led the nation to victory, one heroic battle after another.
  In the chapter of abductions back in the 1950s and 60s, Jerry felt the screams of the abductees. Terror froze him to the state of bare consciousness, the aliens’ talons piercing his characters’ bodies once laid prone on examination tables. Jerry allowed them escape to unconsciousness only after having experienced their pain and hopelessness. Many of them did not survive to be of any value to the aliens. But enough did for their purposes.
  “Dear Diane,” Jerry wrote, emailing her for the first time in months. He grimaced at himself, discovering dozens of unopened emails from her. “I have no excuses. I’ve been stupit.” (a phrase from the days when they were equals.) “I know you’re busy, but thought WTHeck, maybe you’re between projects. If you care to, it’d be nice to hear what you thought of the attached synopsis.
  “Hoping to see you some time, Jerry.”
  He attached both The Abduction Wars and another file containing the entire manuscript.
  Diane called the next day. “Jerry! I’m so glad to hear from you. I’ve really missed you. Listen, I cried, I laughed, my arms got sore from the fighting! And then I cried some more.”
  “So, you’ll edit it for me?” Jerry asked.
  After a brief pause, Diane said, “No, Jerry, I can’t. It ….”
  Before she could utter another syllable, Jerry spoke over his constricted throat, “That’s all right. I understand.”
  “No. You don’t. I can’t edit it because I can’t see anything to change. Serial, Jerry, nothing. I love it. I could only do it harm. I can’t wait to see the movie.”
  “I … uh … you’re not just …”
  “I’m not just anything. What are you going to do with it?”
  “The usual, I guess.”
  “Jerry, I’m coming back to see my parents in a couple weeks. Could I see you?”
  “A couple weeks? Yeah, sure,” Jerry said, old familiar depression invading his tone. “See ya then,” he added as he pressed his red telephone icon, wanting to stay on the line, to feel her voice, to smell her fragrance, to try and sense her presence. Afraid to hear a single negative utterance about their dead, or at least dying relationship, or worse, that she’d met someone, he cut short her call.
  He hated himself for what he was becoming: torn between bitter resentfulness and ecstatic joy at Diane’s success. He hated that he was the least bit aggrieved. He wished he’d been able to shower her with accolades, and then not have to endure her placatings, that she not feel her platitudes to him necessary. He was glad he had no one to talk to, not at all sure he could force words through the constriction in his throat. Wiping his tears with a paper towel, his gaze at Diane’s glamour shot on the back cover of one of her books broke away only as he hugged it to his chest.
  Diane changed Jerry’s title page and formatted the manuscript the way Agent Skinner required. In a folder with her name on it, she hand-delivered the manuscript she’d printed to Skinner’s secretary who promised to get it to the agent right away.
  Two days later he called at her apartment at 12:15 AM. “Hope you’re not asleep. Sorry if you were. When did you write like this? It’s different. When did you learn to write men like that? Look, I gotta tell ya. You just hit the Holy Grail of jumbo jackpots. Not only is this a hot genre right now, but Holy Guacamole, Girl! I laughed, I cried, and my arms got tired fighting! Who knew that all those alien abductions were real?” Skinner spoke as though it was a work of non-fiction. “This is block-buster. We advertise, tour, and wham, we’re off to the movies! We’re talking all out, full feature, high budget 3D mega-vision, world-wide distribution, TV series, sequel after sequel, toys, clothes, the whole shebang. Lucas and Spielberg will be fighting to rent your basement. As soon as we show it to Wasserman Publishing we’ll be talking about your six figure advance.”
  “Uh, can I come see you tomorrow?” she asked.
  “Honey, you just made me rich. I’ll come see you!”
  “I’ll be there before lunch, all right?”
  “You bet, Your highness, Queen of Literatureland.”
  “… And that’s why I did it, Adam. His name is Jerry Grinnell.  You’ll like him.”
  “Not yours, huh?” Skinner frowned, pausing a moment. “No matter. It’s still great!  Get ‘im in here. He has to sign or else!”
  “Oh, he’ll sign,” Diane promised.
  “Diane, you know the risk you took? Are taking?”
  Diane looked at him blankly, unsure where he was going, whether he was saying that he might have accused her of stealing his work.
  “I mean, did Skinner look at you funny? Say anything about your other stuff?”
  “Holy cow! No! Are you serious? You mean he might have thought that I stole my books from …”
  Jerry bit his tongue, dismissing every unfair accusation he might harbor concerning Diane’s risk. He knew that it was a generous act of kindness. He also knew that it was something he would have happily done for her. Every charge of angst lived no more than a second, replaced with heartfelt gratitude.
  “But no. He totally believed me. Like totally. We have an appointment with him the day we get back. Whenever we get there.
  Diane, as difficult as it was, absented herself from the area during Jerry’s meeting with Skinner. She wanted no part of distracting Jerry from his moment, his justly deserved success. Only after hearing from the secretary that it was done and getting a full report of Jerry’s reaction, did she hit send on her email.
  Jerry received the email on his smart phone: “with 16,466 commas in less than 120,000 words, that comes to one every 7.29 words – and only three generations and two species, if aliens count. Yours, Diane.”
  Jerry texted back: “I wanna murry you.”

Author Notes Despite my every intention, I could not stretch this short story to novel length. I'm sure others could have made a novella of it, though. Myself, I was in too big a hurry to get Jerry and Diane back together. (I may have personalized the couple a bit much.)

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