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The Book I Will Write #13

The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. THE BOOK I WILL WRITE is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant at Knopf, Mary Ann Lankowski, under the nose of her boss, Senior Editor Roberta Hollymore. In this episode, Fleming receives a surprise email from Ms. Hollymore herself.

 

 

 

EVEN APES HAVE HAIRLESS EARS

John Henry Fleming,

Why the hell am I writing to you? It’s as if I have no one else in my life. Who are you, anyway? I want my goddamned dog back. Her name is Trixie. I don’t know the name of this idiot mutt you left me with. She craps on my Afghani rug and then tries to hide the evidence by eating it. Yes, she eats her own shit. I wish you would too. After you admit that you’re the one who stole my dog.

Admit it, give me my dog back, and I’ll read whatever book-length drivel you finally get around to writing. Deal?

Jesus, I’m drunk. My thumbs hurt. I want to bite something. Seamus is arguing with the barman about how to prepare an obscure cocktail that no one of sober mind has a right to care about. We’ve negotiated an erotic romp that begins promptly at 11. I won’t go through with it. Seamus needs to shave his earlobes.

Do you want my advice? Whatever you do, don’t turn out like Seamus. Don’t turn out like any man I know. Is there any chance you won’t? I saved your emails and I keep re-reading them trying to imagine if anyone I know started out like you—so foolish and positive and overflowing with misdirected energy. Why don’t you become a goddamn bond trader and get it over with? Your cheerful ignorance is killing me. I wish you’d show up at my office so I could have the security officers beat it out of you.

I’m not as mean as you think. I’m just sick of many things, and here you are inappropriately upbeat, not sick of enough. Do you ever go outside or turn on the news? Did no one tell you the world is over? It’s done. It ended years ago. Everyone’s just coasting along now out of sheer inertia. They don’t know what else to do. And you want to write a novel about tomatoes? What the hell is wrong with you?

Don’t listen to me. I’m drunk and almost old. I’m down to hairy-eared men. Even apes have hairless ears, do they not? So where does that put Seamus on the evolutionary scale?

Please send me another note. Rub my face in your dumb enthusiasm. Do it. Attach this note to my dog and kick her out on the street. If she returns to me, we’ll all be part of a feel-good story, a sappy upbeat cliché on page C11. That’s the best legacy we can hope for.

Yours,

Roberta Hollymore

Sent from my iPhone

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About John Henry Fleming

John Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve, among others. He is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. He teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor for Saw Palm: florida literature and art. He blogs at johnhenryfleming.com.

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