By: Deb Palmer
“Oh that we might have the wisdom to stop, lean down and pick up the scattering of things that we’ve so thoughtlessly discarded along the way. For if we were to do so, we would suddenly find ourselves holding the very treasures that we’d been looking for all along.” ―
I’m sorry. I won’t be shaking my pom-poms cheering a positive mantra like “rejection sprouts good fruit.” I know what happens when I eat too much fruit. Likewise, rejection overdose is just plain crappy.
When I’m not collecting rejections, I deal in antiques, a glamorous title to anyone who doesn’t know what that actually entails. On weekends I go junking in search of the proverbial diamond in the rough. That means following toothless old men out to their backyard shed, hoping his promise of plunder is worth the sticky cobwebs in my hair. Or digging through uncharted boxes that may hold treasure while serving as a graveyard for mice skeletons.
That’s how I found it.
It was during the season when my own masterpiece was being tossed around by the best literary agents in the world. Or at least batted about by their receptionists. As the rejections rolled in, I was so desperate for praise I was saying things to my husband like, “I got the nicest rejection today.” Or “I find encouragement in what was not said.”
We were rummaging through boxes… many virgin ones, untouched since sealed with packing tape, 40 years ago. We’d already scored an old school house clock, three yards of flour sack fabric and a delectable brass inkwell. I felt a subliminal nudge from behind, whispering, “psst… check this out.”
Obedient, I shuffle through a wicker clothes basket eyeing a 1930’s cardboard typewriter paper box with a cool old typewriter graphic. Not a high dollar item but one of the goodies I enjoy keeping or giving away to another like-minded, sentimentalist writer. I expected to find the original plain white typewriter paper in place, explaining the weight. Instead I found a completed manuscript.
Typed on a manual typewriter in 10 pt. Courier font, 285 onion skin pages, tied neatly with twine. You know that dream? The one where you complete your manuscript and hold it in your hand? Oh… maybe everyone doesn’t have that reoccurring dream.
Anyway, this manuscript looked like that. Certain I’ve found the long-lost golden egg of yore, I shout to the estate sale owners, “Look what I found! Someone’s book… it’s nearly 300 pages… hand typed. Is it yours?”
“Take it. If you want it.”
It took me a moment to speak.
“You must want it. Do you know the author?”
“I think it was my aunt’s. “
“Don’t you want to read it? It’s 122,070 words!”
“No. It’s free. Take it,” he snaps back.
Offended, I ask other estate shoppers if they want to read this found manuscript. Surely someone will see the value.
“Do you have any idea how long it took this author to write this? Do you…”
Now my husband is shooing me out the door, loading me in the car along with the other antique finds. In the rush, I decide to leave the manuscript for someone with more time to care for it than I. After all, I can’t keep up with my own writing agenda.
We pull away. If an inanimate object could chase a vehicle waving and crying to stop, begging, “Don’t leave me,” this would have been the time.” I’d turned my back on someone’s dream. Thumbed my nose at their hope and life-long aspiration.
“Stop the car!”
Smirking, my husband turns the car around knowing we’re going back to save the manuscript. He knows that kind of stuff because he’s learned I’m that person. The one that buys stuff she doesn’t want because the free sample lady needs me to. The one who won’t leave the accordion player alone in a Winnemucca lounge after the last, other, patron went home.
“Do you know Good Night Irene?”
I race back to the pile where it lay abandoned. Snatching it up with a you lose I win flair, I race out the door, claiming,” You said it was free!”
Box in lap, I remove the lid, untie the twine, sniff the pages, weigh its entirety in my hands. Reading the name, I wonder if I’ve stumbled across a famous writer’s alpha words. I google, then check Amazon books. Nothing.
Staring at the hand typed words, white-out sporadically hiding typos, I pledge, “I will read this woman’s words!”
While hubby drives, I read the first page. It’s rather dry for my taste and short attention span.
“You should read this. Do you want to?”
I confess. I’ve not gone beyond that first page. Not yet. It’s sitting on my cluttered desk. It hurts to look at it there, all alone, unread, unloved, unappreciated. I get what unread feels like. You’re starving. You contemplate things beneath your lowest ideals. Like begging on the corner of main street, “Read my words, kind man? Feedback for the poor?”
The manuscript may be at rest, unread, but it is serving a purpose… a rather melancholy one, but one indeed.
A reminder to read with eyes and heart open. Open to the dream behind the ink, the need to be read. A reminder that the author has something to say. Maybe something that’s been buried in the bowels of their soul. Words begging to be freed. A story. A fantasy. The truth. Or coveted lies. It’s keeps me aware of my needs as a writer. If I could I would stand over every one of my reader’s shoulder noting each laugh, sigh or lack of reaction. Asking “Did you get that?” Or “Why didn’t you laugh?” Essentially, I’d be an author stalking her readers. Don’t they realize when they tell you they are reading, you are sitting at home imagining what page they are on? Is that just me again?
It doesn’t matter.
For writers, putting words on paper is the lushest of love affairs. It begins like the proverbial moment when two strangers’ eyes meet. All else falls away, dissipates, leaving them standing alone. Likewise, a writer sees a beginning, chances a word, a sentence, a paragraph. As the pages turn to chapters and the chapters build a tower, you cannot look away. You see the story in your daily tasks. Hear it in the simplest conversations. Think about it. Dream about it.
When you’ve depleted your heart and soul and have nothing left to give, you declare your love is ready to share with the world. You cannot keep something so precious to yourself, so you offer it up, but no one seems to care. You protest, “If only you knew my love as I do.”
As the rejection and neglect continue it plays out like the proverbial tearjerker love story. The world’s lack of interest becomes a death-bed diagnosis. The only cure being someone to read and understand the transfusion from writer to reader. Thus, the story dies, alone, unknown, unloved.
I will read the manuscript someday. I promise. It’s one thing to spend money on something I don’t want so I don’t hurt the free sample lady’s feelings and another to spend time reading something I don’t like by someone I don’t know. I do hope it’s half way decent.
Then again, I’ve found treasures in old boxes before. This just might be another one.
Deb Palmer is the author of, In Spite of Us- A Love Story about Second Chances.
Her writings, found in an array of magazines, cover topics from light humor to deep forgiveness.
Deb is most fulfilled as a writer when she believes the story will bring some form of healing to the reader.
Often that means a good laugh or an unleashed cry.
Published works include:
Morphing to Landmark 65- http://www.liguorian.org/category/articles/ (print and online, publication date 4/19).
Outside the Church Doors – The Lutheran Digest – Volume 66, Winter 2019
Forgiving the Naked Lady Tattoo – https://magazine.thewarcry.org/stories/forgiving-the-naked-lady-tattoo (July 2018 – print and online) and later in The Lutheran Digest.
Visions of Gumdrops” https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2018/01/25/visions-of-gumdrops/- The Sunlight Press.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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