Snuggled into the depths of my armchair at the Write Club, I glanced up as the junior member stomped into the room.
“He’s done it again,” Junior announced, frowning.
“Who’s done it again?” a senior member asked, looking up from his newspaper.
“The Reader,” Junior said, handing me a review torn from a magazine. “He just trashed your book in his article, Ace.”
“No!” I cried, snatching the page and scanning it. It was all too true.
“That man thinks he’s better than the rest of us, sitting up there in that office of his,” Senior growled. “What does he say this time?”
“You tell him,” I said, looking at Junior.
“Well,” Junior said, clearing his throat, “The Reader calls the story a ‘poorly written hodge-podge’ and ‘a driveling fairy tale.’”
“Ridiculous,” Senior said.
“And when he read MY story,” Junior added, “He said he’d seen ‘less blood in a butcher’s shop’ and thought I’d ‘probably never owned a dictionary, or even seen one.’”
“The man’s a nightmare,” Senior moaned.
“He said even worse things about YOUR story though,” Junior reminded him. “He called your story a….”
He stopped short as Senior frowned and I began coughing into my fist.
“Just another of his lies,” Junior muttered, shutting up.
In the silence, I asked “Can’t we do something about The Reader? He’s turning our club into a laughing stock. No one will want our books now.”
“You’re right,” Senior said, standing up. “Perhaps it’s time we talked with this ‘Reader.’”
Junior and I nodded our agreement, and followed Senior out.
We were silent in the limo on our way to The Reader’s headquarters. In the lobby a girl directed us to his office. Fourteen floors up we left the elevator and walked down a hallway filled with fluorescent light. Senior knocked on the fifth door to the right, and someone yelled “Come in!”
Inside we found The Reader behind a desk stacked with papers, magazines, and coffee cups. He looked like your average bookish college student with dark hair, thick glasses, and keen blue eyes. But what really caught my attention was his neon orange T-shirt that said “When I read what I like, I like what I read.”
“Gentlemen,” The Reader said, beaming, “what a pleasant surprise. Come for a chat?”
“You could say that,” Senior mumbled, taken aback.
“Have a seat,” The Reader said, gesturing to two folding chairs, one piled with newspapers, the other sporting a dirty coffee cup.
Senior and I cleaned off the chairs and sat down. After some hesitation, Junior took a seat on top of a low filing cabinet.
“Now then,” said The Reader, settling back in his swivel chair, “how can I help you?”
“You can tell us what you meant by writing this article,” Senior said, taking the paper from me and waving it in The Reader’s face.
The Reader took the paper and scanned it. “I think it’s pretty self-explanatory,” he said, “I read the story, and I didn’t like it. The characters were weak, the plotline insipid, and the story had no meaning.”
“If that’s what the public wants….” Senior began.
“Hold on a second,” The Reader demanded. “Do you think people actually care about your boring characters?”
“Or want to buy stories with no storyline?”
“Do you think we don’t have the sense to tell bad stories from good ones?”
“No! I mean, yes! I mean….”
“Or realize that you’re just trying to make a fast buck?”
“Now just a minute….”
“What you don’t seem to realize,” The Reader said, eyes blazing, “is that I’m not the one giving your books a bad name. You’ve done that all by yourself, as you’d know if you cared enough to ask us, your readers.”
“Insolence,” Senior said, rising from his seat. “I’ve heard enough of your insults. Come!” he called, stalking out into the hallway, while we followed close behind.
As the elevator door opened, however, I grabbed Senior’s sleeve and said, “I just remembered I left the article with The Reader. I’ll run back and get it. Wait for me in the car.”
Before he could reply, I turned and dashed back to The Reader’s office.
He looked surprised to see me. “Forget something?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said as I snatched the article, tore off the bottom left corner, and scribbled my e-mail address on it. “Send me a message. I want to know how you think I can make my story better.”
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