Yesterday, I open the mailbox to discover a neat, tight envelope sealed on the end rather than the middle (which for whatever reason, appeals to me), and inside, an unexpected book. Not really a book-book, more of a chap-book, larger than pocket-sized but compact and slender and flawless. And the matte cover is fashioned from heavy, charcoal-colored card stock (or a level up from card stock), certainly more substantial than a flimsy pamphlet or typical paperback cover.
Intriguing. Everything about it, including the minimalistic design, an atomic swirl printed in silver with an “N” in the center where the nucleus of everything lives. At the one o’clock position, a simple “10”. Also shiny and silver.
I trace the design with my index finger. I channel long lost junior high science class. I press the silver “N” in case it’s THE button unlocking Narnia for writers.
Or a port key.
I place it on the kitchen counter and ignore it for a bit while I spoon coffee into the basket and pour water into the pot.
My coffee begins to brew, and I’m lured back to this mysterious book that magically appeared in my mailbox. I flip through the pages. NANO Fiction. The 10th anniversary edition. The final edition.
Why did I receive it? I didn’t receive last year’s edition. Or the year before.
Did I enter a contest? (Fact. I occasionally enter contests, but a while back I stopped tracking them because 49 out of 50 times, there’s only disappointment at the end, in the form of deafening silence or a generic email that begins with the carefully worded words “after careful consideration”.)
That was it. I’d entered a contest and everyone who entered, received a copy. A consolation prize along with careful consideration.
Or, maybe one of my stories was printed inside these pages???
My coffee brews in earnest.
As does my mind.
The part of my brain that converts hysteria to logic and filters craziness to balance and truth KNOWS that had my piece been accepted, I would have most certainly received an email notification saying congratulations you amazing writer! rather than simply discovering my own piece of short fiction printed on one of the perfect pages while I stand in the kitchen in my pajamas. I know this.
I scan the table of contents. I skim story titles and author names. My eyes stop on the very last author’s name. Tayler.
Tayler. Talya. Talya. Tayler. Typo?
It happens. All the time. Every day.
Really, Talya? (L before Y) That’s what you think? A fine publication such as this would type an author’s name incorrectly? Sure.
YOU ARE CRAZY ASS MAD.
Of course, the title of Tayler’s work is unfamiliar to me. Clearly I didn’t write it. Clearly my work hasn’t been included in this uber cool book of nano fiction. Clearly my congratulation notification isn’t living a happy life in my spam folder with lots of other unseen treasures from South Africa and Russia.
And still I think—and mind you, these are split-second, nano thinks—what if I submitted something borderline (or completely) brilliant and this psycho publishing group stole my work and included it under a different title altogether?
While I breathe in the coffee aroma finally beginning to permeate the cold kitchen air, I scan all the titles again. Ever.So.Slowly.
No. Nothing I’ve ever written could be hidden behind any of these varied, unusual, and fascinating titles.
YOU are not that fascinating.
You are regular, boring, dull as white toast.
You should change your name.
I read the first story entitled Medusa. And my head swirls from the incredible creativity contained in only three short perfect paragraphs. And I read it a second time. And I understand why my story, whatever it was, isn’t included. I realize in the blip of time between plugging my percolator into electricity and actually pouring a cup of hot coffee, there is time enough to dream up a completely new conspiracy theory, imagine a different life, realize truth.
Bedhead and all.
I stare at the light at the bottom of the pot and know in an instant it will flash red. The lid rattles. Steam billows as though the entire contraption might lift and shoot rocket-style to the ceiling or even travel to the iCloud where all my stories may be destined to live in seclusion forever and ever amen. And the truth is a piece I submitted to a publication I don’t know has rejected work I don’t remember submitting.
And what difference does any of this make when I’ve become Medusa personified and every thought in my head has hardened to stone?
I close the book.
But the words inside flicker like lightning bugs.
And once again,
I fill my cup with coffee—strong, black, steaming—and return to my favorite spot with my morning fuel and my journal, and I scribble words onto paper. As coffee streams into my belly, ideas come.
First one, then another, the stones crumble into pebbles, fragments, words, like ripples in a pond. As the atoms of my world swirl.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
On a serious note—Thank you to NANO Fiction for sending me this book. I enjoy reading and writing short fiction, and this NANO Fiction publication and prior editions are available online for only a few dollars. Fantastic writing inside!
Kodaline, Lose Your Mind