Incident on Forty-Third Street
I sat reading the slush, because the Cheese said to, although I know little about poetry: mine not to reason why, mine to muddle through until something better opens up, something with an office not built with stacked envelopes, something with the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, not the roar of radiators and the smell of ...rejection. A noise, then a man wearing a long black overcoat stood at my desk.
I stared at his S&W .38 detective special, nickel. A nice piece, and one that would paste much of me across the stacked manila, giving rise to far too many letters of apology about the blood and brains, etc. Form letters, of course, but still, the Cheese would not like it. "Yes?"
"I want justice, Galleycat."
Well, we were fresh out, but I obviously couldn't say so. He raised his aim from my heart to my right eye. "An answer. Why you reject ...my work. When what you do publish is so...drivel."
I stared. I never crit, ever. And at gunpoint? "Um, I'd have to see it. Couldn't possibly--" But he was already reaching for it. Out came a trifold sheaf, vibrating as he held it out.
I feared those papers more than the gun. But I took them. I forced my eyes down. My bunion began to throb, along with every tooth in my head. I saw this:
The Parade of Life
The promenading poodles pass
and we, like terrapins enwalled in glass,
with our will of the wisp of wilted greens
rusting as curly kings and queens
display their tams and fancy collars
to a world gone mad with sex and dollars,
we, the people, must protest;
I sing the body dispossessed.
And on, fifty stanzas. I grabbed a straw. "Well, it rhymes, for one thing. Very little”
"Poetry rhymes." Twitch.
"And it's...sociopolitical. We don't do--"
"You should." He looked at the gun. A man with a plan.
"Not really. It's generic--we don‚t do generic." I knew it was nuts to reason with him, but what else could I do? "It's of a kind. Any kind."
"I know what generic means."
"Like, "Your mother wears army boots"," I knew I shouldn't hand him any snark, but I was feeling giddy.
"Combat boots. Your mother wears combat boots."
"Combat boots, then. Your mother wears combat boots. It's generic. Not personal. We do personal." This was like Bat Segundo with our hero a bit too deep in the Gray Goose.
"Oh, but you do." He put the barrel to my forehead.
"Not so far," I said. "Besides, it sucks. And here, it can't suck." I held my breath, rolled up my eyes, saw the shock register, waited for the lead reply.
But suddenly he was crying. He put the gun down, covered his face with both hands.
I grabbed it, jumped to my feet. Then I put three into the manuscript.
Miss Snark retrieved the missing last page...the mice were at the Cheese to do so.
Order restored, firearms at the ready,
scores to come