As you know, I recognize that really fine writers with really fine novels do not necessarily make it past the gate-keepers to find a place on the shelves in Barnes and Noble–and that’s not really fine with me. Hence, we published an anthology in June (5×5: Keeping the Dream Aloft )of five really fine writers whose really fine work was not picked up by mainstream publishers because they did not perceive it as commer$ially viable.
I had the pleasure of reviewing a manuscript from Robert Marazas who had everything an editor wants: a good story and a unique style. And yet he is still in want of a traditional publishing house. You can read an interview that Ben Angel conducted here:https://awordwithyoupress.com/2019/10/12/legendary-robert-marazas-shares-the-source-of-his-inspiration/
Here is a good story, his entry into our contest Something to Wine About that is unrelated to his novel. The man tells a good tale! Submit your own vintage for a chance to wine–OOPS! WIN! https://awordwithyoupress.com/2019/11/29/something-to-wine-about-a-new-contest/
Déjà Vu All Over Again.
Twilight. A glass of wine in the tiny alcove next to my Wine Bar before heading home. Four small two-seater tables. She strolled by, swiveled her head, and stared. I blinked. The love of my young life, forty years later. The woman who almost killed me.
Her hair was darker than I remembered and shorter than she would have tolerated when we were together. Hollywood hadn’t aged her; body trim and shapely, face unlined and still attractive, if not beautiful. She stood straight, the same two inches taller than I, and I found myself as irritated by that as I had when we were lovers. I guessed she had put herself through a great deal to keep time at bay in LA-LA land.
“So you’ve come back to dreary Oak Falls?”
No answer. Instead, she moved slowly to the table, eased the chair back, and sat perched on its edge, as if ready to bolt if she had to. She sat up ramrod straight and smiled as if it hurt but her once expressive eyes were blank.
She inclined her head to the right of the alcove. “So you own the wine bar.”
“Yes.” I hoped I’d shown no surprise.
“And the bookstore a few doors down Main Street.”
“Yes.” Did she know everything?
“And a few more doors away, the Art Gallery.”
I heard an apology in my voice. “I’m only part owner, a small stake.”
She smiled that non-smile. “You’ve done well for yourself, Joshua.”
“How do you know all this?”
At first, I thought she wasn’t going to answer, but she shrugged. “I’ve been in touch with a friend from high school on social media. She keeps me up to date on Oak Falls happenings.”
I sipped the wine. “Odd. I don’t remember any friends. Do I know her?”
She paused again as if thinking. “No. After graduation, we…drifted apart. Then I left for California.”
“I remember. That was right after you stabbed me.” No reaction. “With your letter opener shaped like King Arthur’s famous sword Excalibur. You bought it at the county fair on our first date.”
“I don’t like to think about that night. You yelled ugly things at me, I had no talent, I was a fool to go to Hollywood, I’d never succeed…” Her voice climbed the hysteria scale and abruptly plummeted. “Look, didn’t I help you, pull out the letter opener, staunch the blood, drive you to the hospital?”
“And left right away, and then skipped town. I could have died.”
“But you didn’t.” She lowered her eyes and stared down at her purse, fingering open the clasp and closing it. “Did you tell the police?” she whispered.
I was curious about where she was going with this, so I didn’t answer. Instead, I told her about spending two days in the hospital thinking about us. About how we were toxic for each other right from the beginning. Arguing about everything, screaming, losing our tempers at every slight, seemingly angry all the time and unable to control it. I told her I left the hospital and enrolled in Axton College and that summer before my first semester I took a course in Anger Management and it changed my life.
“And no. I didn’t tell the police.”
She slipped her hand into her now open purse and rummaged for something without looking down. Her eyes turned blank again, her voice was soft and thoughtful.
“I wish I could tell you I’ve done well too, Joshua. But I can’t. Forty years. Right from the day I arrived. Waitress jobs, cashier jobs, low rent apartments in slum neighborhoods, auditions and more auditions, agents taking me on and dropping me, and what did it get me? Maybe a dozen TV commercials, maybe thirty films, all bit roles, some of them with my scenes on the cutting room floor; plays that ran for two weeks or two days or folded after opening night. No, I didn’t do well.”
She fell silent, gazing at her past, both hands digging through her purse. It puzzled me.
“Nina, what happened to Excalibur?”
“What?…she blinked her way back. “Oh, I have it here, I brought it back.” Her hand emerged, gripping the letter opener. Her voice pitched toward a low growl. “I didn’t do well because of you, Joshua, because of the horrid things you shouted, you said I had no talent, said I’d fail, you put a curse on me, damn you…”
She lurched across the table, Excalibur pointed at me, just as I instinctively raised my wine glass. It stabbed the glass, shattering it, showering my jacket and shirt with red wine, jerking me back and tilting my chair. I hit the ground hard. Nina teetered at the edge of the table for a moment, then pulled it and her down. The two crashes echoed in the alcove.
I raised my head to look at her lying face down. “For god’s sake, Nina, you need to enroll in that Anger Management course!”
Her head came up and she looked back at me and began to laugh until the tears streamed.
The early evening passers-by gaped down at the two fools laughing.