"Rejection Slip"

© 1994 by Andersen Silva

He looked at the young man over the top of his eyeglasses with good humor. "I appreciate your enthusiasm, Mr. Kingsley, really I do, but if I published a story by every bright-eyed..."

"This isn't just a story!" interjected Todd Kingsley heatedly. "This is my masterpiece, my, my baby! You're the biggest editor in the biz, Mr. Frank! I came to see you, because I knew you'd take one look at my story and have to publish it!"

Frank smiled, a rare moment indeed. "That reminds me. I'm really curious as to how you got into my office. No one's had the charm, or the chutzpah, to get past my secretary in a long, long time, son." Blushing, Kingsley stammered, “Well, I... she kinda..."

"It's all right. I'll take a look at your 'baby,' but don't get your hopes up. We've got our quota for the next issue, and I'm not that keen on untested writers. And don't give me that spiel about 'How can I get published when no one will publish me because I'm unpublished?' I've been through it all, trust me." He harumphed amiably, then leaned back in his chair and began perusing the hopeful's manuscript.

Two minutes later, he glanced at Kingsley. "Stop pacing, Todd. You're making yourself nervous. This is pretty good, but, I don't know. I mean, a story about a guy forcing his way into a magazine editor's office and having the man read his story? Or did you just write this to get my attention?" Frank chuckled. "I've gotta admit, it's working a bit."

The younger man flushed again, his red face contrasting with his blond hair. "Keep reading," he urged. "It gets a lot more interesting." The editor sighed, "I'm sure it does, son, I'm sure it does," and returned his attention to the dot-matrix pile in his hands.

"'Best story I've ever written,' hmmph!" muttered Frank, deeper and deeper into the story. Then, his gaze stopped at a passage. "Whoa, now there's a twist! 'The desperate writer pointed a .38 pistol at his potential buyer and spurred the reader on.' How did-"

He drew an almost painful breath in shock as he looked up to see Todd Kingsley pointing the weapon just described in his direction. "Kingsley, what the hell do you think you're doing?!? Put that piece away!" "Mr. Frank, I'm just trying to make sure you finish reading this story. I know you'll buy it once you've read the whole thing! I've had my stories rejected too many times to let this one slip past. Now read!"

The fact that the pistol did not waver once in the young man's hand, as well as the incredibly serene look on Todd's face, convinced Frank that maybe he should heed the advice, so he hesitatingly picked up the manuscript again. A short time later, drained, he put it down. "So the editor is intimidated by this maniac's gun and buys his story, and his life is spared, and they both become rich and famous, and they grow to be close friends, huh?"

Kingsley flashed a wan smile. "Oh, you're much too pessimistic, Stanley Frank. No, the editor realizes that the story is every bit as good as the youthful writer says it is, and that he was justified in his unorthodox methods of getting the story read. Don't you agree that this is a great piece?"

With quiet dignity, Frank replied, "I'm sorry. Even with a gun in your hand, you can't convince me that your story is better than above average. Submit it in two or three months, maybe, with some more detail about the characters..."

Kingsley sighed softly, his gaze never leaving Frank's graying head as he fitted a silencer to the pistol. "Well, I guess I'll just have to rewrite the ending..."