S S SS SSSS SSSPPP PPPPPP PPPPPPE EEEEEE W EEEEEE EEEEEEW W W WWWWWWWW W WWWWWWWWWWW
If you’re reading this then I win. Do it Scott; no backing out now – we looked each other in the eye and shook. I know you only agreed to the bet because you were sure – I mean totally convinced – that you’d win. Well guess what Scottie boy, your prose is ezod on. And that’s the way I’m going to beat you and get this published, by being a bit Zany and imaginative – publishers love that shit. Words written backwards have the opposite meanings.
You’re a great writer. The class agrees. That’s not sarcasm. Sarcasm would be_you’re_a_great_writer. I mean it, you write the bejesus out of those sentences. Those guys are streamlined and drop-forged and bought up in cages. They’re like supermodels: great to look at, absolutely no body fat. When they move people admire their lovely lines and sculpted cheek bones. But they’re vacuous. Everyone claps while they are on the catwalk but later, in their homes, the audience nurses vague irritation while the models spew up their anti-depressives. Hello? Are you there? I_love_your_writing_and_want_to_see_ you_again_soon.
I know what you are doing right now. You’re reading this, scowling a little and tugging on your lower lip. And that means, you think this is really doog. Maybe you’re marking it up on the page with your esoteric editorial symbols. Too many adverbs, you always wrote on my work, cut down 40–50%. Sometimes you just put a lazy slash through the whole page.
Well drop the pen, Scott, the course is over. After two years of study the unemployment rate creeps up marginally. No for you obviously, you’ll go on to great things, drifting around the world beneath a head like a hot air balloon. Sure I can sling a few sentences together; even use a semi-colon or two, but I’m no writer. You use words like pellucid and roil and exculpate without the faintest awkwardness that comes from a lexicon source book. I can’t do all that shit you do, you know, story arcs, characters A + B’s profound interactions leading to a transformative nexus. A snappy opening and a resonantly ambiguous ending. That was nice, let’s have another cup of tea. Oh_how_interesting.
I don’t care what you, the teacher, or the class says: I’d rather follow the erratic stalkings of my own brain
( .) ( .)
I know I’m wrong, but I can’t help it. Your level of control throttles the life out of words, leaving pages of corpses like lines of mangled ants. Honestly, I don’t have the patience. Did I hsiw I.
You sigh and complain you’ve been working on your book for two-and-a-half years. Two-and-a-half years! You’re not a writer you are a construction worker. Some imagination might bring those ants back to life, get them dancing across the page. You_can_do_it!
The bet was to see who could get a short story published here first. You smiled your self-satisfied smile, said you had a few things they might be interested in. You never realised how much I wanted to slap that look off your face. To see a bright bloom on your pale cheek. To replace that look of unshakeable confidence with anything, even if it was just surprise. Well I guess I’ve finally done it.
It was sickening how they all desipsed you in class. The teacher practically took notes of your proclamations. And of course you look like an American soap star, so our broody female classmates lay back and received your wisdom like aural insemination. I had to bite my tongue and stay my hand. Receive your red biro over my work with a grateful nod. I’m sure you were under the impression I idolised and admired you too. That this bet was just a way of prolonging our interaction after the course finished.
Well a bet’s a bet Scott, and you lose.
Editor’s note: Scott O’Grady’s short story Timelines appeared in Etchings 7. His debut novel, Awakenings, is out with Allen&Unwin in December.
This story was originally published in Etchings 8.