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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: googled (04/10/14)

TITLE: Number Two Won't Do
By Toni Hammer


Several years ago, I had a morning ritual. I’d get my coffee, open my laptop, head to everyone’s favorite search engine, and type in my name. It was imperative that I knew if I was at the top of the list. I was an aspiring writer doing every fancy marketing trick I could to see my name emblazoned in that coveted number one spot. I needed to be the first link people would click when they searched for my name: Ed Smith.

See my problem? With such a common name, I was always buried under teenagers’ Twitter pages and journalists who got lucky.

In addition to devouring every internet branding book on every bookshelf, I was hustling to get my name out there the old fashioned, yet new, way. Long hours were spent writing blog posts for my web site. Offers to guest post were sent in droves to any author who would have me. Articles were submitted to obscure magazines whether they paid me or not. Adorned with blinders comprised of fantasized riches and recognition, all I saw was that number one spot.

Finally it happened. A large publisher replied to my book proposal and offered me an advance so large I had my wife read the letter out loud seven times to confirm the dollar amount. Only in my wildest nightscapes had I seen so many zeroes attributed to my name.

The whirlwind began. Day and night I tapped on my keyboard. Weeks were lost as I edited and re-edited my manuscript. Friendships distorted into ghosts of a past life. My wife was no longer an appendage to my soul, but rather a stationary piece of furniture akin to a plant stand I thoughtlessly maneuvered around to get to my desk. Time, sunlight, and moonlight’s existence ceased. All that mattered was getting my book finished.

In trepidation-tinged agony, my book was submitted and I waited to hear from my publisher. Though I had a merciful break to inhale deeply and relax, lustful thoughts of being number one continued their dominance of my waking hours. It was no longer enough to be number one on a search engine. My eyes now craved the sight of my name at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list.

My long sought after reveries finally came to fruition. I was published. I was number one on the Best Seller list. I did a worldwide book tour. Fame, money, and, oh yes, the elusive top spot on the omnipotent search engine. I was number one.

Quickly my years spent in self-imposed solitary confinement confronted me like a Philistine solider. There was no one with whom to share my joy. Former friends were now smoky shadows of people I once knew. My wife was stoic and frigid due to my lack of attention and affection. I had to celebrate though. Standing on the apex of my accomplishments, I needed someone—anyone—to join me.

I sought out other celebrities whose station in life I now inhabited. They were puppets and parrots mimicking my elation. They exclaimed their pride in me with booze and commemorated my success with cocaine. I found myself in the familiar frame of mind where weeks were lost. Rather than stories, though, it was my demise being created.

You know what happened next. You’re smart.

My wife left me.

My partying posse moved on to eradicate the soul of another freshly crowned hotshot.

I found myself alone in my murky mansion with only my book, and the needle, as company.

If you search my name now, I’m still number one. That coveted spot. “Ed Smith, revered author with bright future, found dead in his apartment due to an apparent drug overdose.”

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This article has been read 377 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 04/17/14
Well done! Sobering, well written and unexpected ending.

God bless~
Theresa Santy 04/19/14
Haunting. Powerful. And so very real. You brilliantly portrayed how easy it is to get caught up in the "sugar highs" of the world, and how quickly one can start circling the drain.

My only red ink is that it felt like the pacing changed toward the end. The first 2/3 or 3/4 of the story is slow, dramatic, and piercing. Then the last bit is quick and sort of stabbing. Except the very last paragraph, which I love, because it's so haunting and fits the piece perfectly.

At first I was torn with the 1st person POV reporting his own death, but overall it works for me because of how the story was laid out.

Great writing. Fantastic application of theme.
LaVonne Wood 04/19/14
I think people either try their best to be #1 at something, or resign to the fact that they can never be #1. Either way, they just want to be important, to know that their life counts for something. So glad the Lord see us as important.

You said it so well in this story. It did move a little fast. It's hard to tell a story in so few words. Blessings, LaVonne
Joe Moreland04/19/14
This is very powerful stuff. I don't think of authors being in the "fast lane" so much these days (it seems the world is more about the youtube and other online instant stardom folks these days), but the tale is still the same no matter how celebrity is attained. The irony that doing what it takes to get there, gets you there alone is a truism that many have found out the hard way.

I think you not only told this story well, but poignantly and I was taken on Ed's roller coaster ride of excitement and depression - feeling every emotion along the way. Great job on this piece.
Frankie Kemp 04/20/14
I especially like the conversational tone of this one--but I like, too, the flavors of the poetic:

"trepidation-tinged agony"
"Quickly my years spent in self-imposed solitary confinement confronted me like a Philistine solider"

Nice job--powerful exhortation hidden inside a story. (Jesus did that too, you know.)
Lollie Hofer04/20/14
Powerful writing! Sobering story full of truth - emptiness being lived out every day by the rich and famous. Well done.
Tracy Nunes 04/20/14
My goodness! What a cautionary tale you weave! And, so true. While most of us probably wouldn't go down such a dark road (we pray), we all have, at one time or another, made decisions related to writing that we later regret. And, sometimes those decisions are about the people we love the most, or our God we are called to write about. Well done!
Judith Gayle Smith04/21/14
In such a very short time you have managed to wriggle into this old gal's heart, and remain here tossing out wee bits of my agonies. You twang every nerve. I appreciate you very much . . .
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/24/14
Congratulations on ranking 15 overall! Happy Dance!