I’m done! I finished my novel yesterday at 51,098 words. Now all I need to do is resolve a bunch of continuity errors I knew I was making, and find the ones I didn’t know I was making. Should be fun. I couldn’t include the last chapter of the book on my blog, but here’s one that’s close to the end.
Of course, this age of information will eventually lead to the deaths of many things I enjoy: books, handwritten letters, small local businesses, and, more on topic, newspapers. During my undergraduate career, I worked for the St. Elmo Inquirer as an editor, then as editor-in-chief. All through, the paper was suffering heavy losses in both readership and staff. We scraped together a new paper every week due entirely to the efforts of myself and a select few dedicated members. To spare you the details: the internet was killing the paper very slowly. Not long after I graduated, I heard that it had died all together.
In addition to providing a nice extracurricular on my resume, my work with the school newspaper brought me into contact with one Claudia Stafford. Though seemingly unremarkable in appearance, Claudia had an extraordinary gift for writing and perseverance. Without her, I’m sure the paper could have died even sooner. I admired her for her intelligence and her dedication, which is why I was appalled to hear that she was Gary’s next target.
Frankly, I was surprised that Gary had even seen her. She only visited the BAT house early in the morning to drop off some copies of the paper. She was also a very mouse-like creature in that she appeared afraid of everything larger than her, which included most human beings, as she stood under five feet tall. As far as I knew, she had never had a boyfriend, nor had she sought one out, but, having worked with her closely on the Inquirer, I could tell that she really wanted one. Between her desperation for affection and her fear of large men, she might have fallen prey to Gary’s machinations if I had not intervened.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was completely unaware of the danger Claudia was in until one Tuesday near the end of the semester, when I was headed for the kitchen from my room, that I encountered Gary at the second-floor landing. “Oh, hi Andy.”
“Hello, Gary.” I stopped just above the landing. “What are you doing up so early?”
“I’m waiting,” he said, as if this fully explained his behavior.
“Don’t you normally wait for the day to come by sleeping?”
“What?” He must not have followed my train of thought, because he seemed thoroughly confused. “Naw, bro. I’m waiting for the newspaper delivery broad to get here so I can try my moves on her.”
Broad? Moves? I gave up on trying to understand him and continued down the stairs. It was too early in the morning to decipher his speech. Nonetheless, by the time I started pouring myself a bowl of Coco Puffs, I realized what he had meant: he wanted to have sex with Claudia. Not only were my plans for Gary’s refinement at stake here, but also Claudia’s well-being and sense of self-worth. Any man in my position who valued his own moral character would have come to the same conclusion. I needed to stop him, and if Claudia delivered the newspaper on time today, I had only five minutes to concoct a plan.
I left the bowl of cereal on the counter; breakfast could wait. When I strode out into the BAT cave, I was surprised to see yet another one of my fraternity brothers awake at this hour.
“Sup, bro?” said Aden, who was sitting on the couch with a paper and pen on the table in front of him.
“What are you up to this morning?” I asked.
“Not much,” he replied.
We both picked that moment to check our watches. Four minutes until 7am.
Aden took another look at his paper and crumpled it, throwing it into a pile on the floor. And I had thought such actions reserved for cheesy romantic comedies. “Writing a love letter?” I asked.
“In a way.” He wrote a couple letters on a new sheet of paper and squinted at them. “I can’t seem to get it right.”
I had only a number of minutes to think of a way of cock-blocking Gary. I didn’t have time to coach Aden through some sappy love letter. Knowing him, my help would not have been appreciated anyway. I made my way to the other side of the room.
“Can you give it a shot?” The question caught me off guard. “My handwritin’ isn’t as nice as Stewart’s,” he explained. “No one would believe this chicken scratch came from his hand.” He showed me his current sheet.
This intrigued me. “Why are you trying to imitate Stewart’s handwriting? And you’re right, that would never fool anybody who knows him.”
He looked around to make sure we were alone. We were, but I knew that soon Claudia would knock on the front door. “I’m tryin’ set up Stewart with this newspaper chick, and since neither of ’em is gonna make the first move, I’m tryin’ to write a letter on behalf of Stewart.”
Again, fate had sent me a strange ally. “If you’re trying to set them up, you should know that Gary is waiting at the top of the stairs for Claudia to get here. He intends to ‘try his moves’ on her.”
“Jesus! Really?” He tried looking for Gary, but could only see the bottom of the stairs from the couch. “That ape is gonna fuck up my whole plan!”
“You find a way to distract Gary, and I’ll write the note,” I said, sitting down and taking the pen from his hand. “Where’s your original text?”
He pointed to a copy of the letter in his own handwriting, then stood up from the couch and headed for the stairs. “Thanks, Andy!”
“You owe me one!” I called after him. Looking down at the note he had left, I immediately realized it would not cut the mustard. I kept the original for my memory’s sake. It read:
I have come to know you from our brief meetings each week, and I find that I cannot control my love for you. I want your body, and I can’t help myself. I wish I could say this to you today, but I’m too chicken to do it. If you return my feelings, come to me again next Tuesday with the newspapers and wearing something sexy.
Your secret admirer,
The phrase “I want your body” should never be in any love letter, let alone one that Stewart had supposedly written. Also, he wouldn’t be a secret admirer if he gave her his name. It needed work. At least it started out okay. This was the letter I wrote.
I have come to know you from our brief meetings each week, and I have come to love you with a passion I cannot control. I want your love, as well, and I can’t help myself. I wish I could say this to you in person, but I cannot muster the courage to utter these worse, so I write them. If you return my feelings, come to me again next Tuesday on your usual route wearing something a green ribbon in your hair.
Your secret admirer,
The man who picks up the newpaper
My Spanish literature Professor would be proud. I folded the new, improved the letter and, for lack of any better material, taped it up. “Now where’s Stewart?”
“I’m right here, Master Talbot,” he replied, striding into the room.
Speak of the devil and he shall appear. “Would you give this to the paper delivery girl?”
At that moment, a knock came at the door, and Gary and Aden ran past us and into the kitchen. Stewart payed them little heed. “Here she is now, I expect, sir. Would you like to deliver it yourself?”
I couldn’t have asked for better timing. “No, thank-you Stewart. You can’t tell her who this letter is from.”
“Just as you say, Master Talbot. Will that be all?”
“Yes,” I replied, heading into the kitchen. I had a bowl of Coco Puffs waiting for me.