by Melanie Rees
She’s been staring at that email for the last hour. No matter how long she stares, she has to know the words aren’t going to suddenly change.
“I can’t do this any more,” she mutters at her computer. “It’s just one blow after the other.”
“Stop your complaining, woman,” I know she hears me even though she doesn’t lift her head. I peer at her computer screen. It’s a pretty standard rejection letter: character didn’t work for them, didn’t seem real enough, the story didn’t work for us, better luck next time.
I can see the pain in her eyes as she reads. If it weren’t for what she’d been through that week I would have slapped her til she came to her senses.
In the photo frame next to her computer, Kurreka stares at her with beady black eyes and a tiny beak that looks like it was trying to peck the camera lens.
She treated that thing like a puppy with wings. Anyone would think it was a human child the way she’s going on about its death.
“Nothing’s going to bring that daft magpie back. Nothing’s going to change that rejection to an acceptance. Just get on with it.”
Her shoulders slump. She’s clearly not listening to me.
“My name’s Walter,” I say. “And I’ve experienced loss too. Suck it up. Life goes on.”
Her index fingers feel for the raised dots on F and J—her fingers poised ready—but her enthusiasm is short lived and she cradles her forehead in her hands.
“Come on. Just inject what you’re feeling into your characters. It ain’t rocket science, woman.”
She takes a deep breath and deletes the email from her inbox.
“That’s the way,” I prompt her. “As a character, Jack was a useless muppet. He was never going to get you to where you need to be. But I just might.”
“You think you’re so tough, Walter.” She finally addresses me. “But you’re not.”
Her abrupt change in attitude startles me. I never really thought she had it in her.
“You lost your son, Walter. Yet you act as if everything is normal. You’re a mess.”
“No I ain’t! I’m bleeding tough.”
“Aren’t we all?” she whispers.
Her fingers tap the keyboard with renewed vigour.
Walter clambered into his yellow pickup truck and stared—
“Yellow! That’s a bleeding girl’s colour. Really, you think I’d have a yellow truck?”
She takes note of my plea and makes the correction.
Walter clambered into his white pickup truck and stared out across the paddock.
His last living son could see the hurt in his dad’s eyes and see through his tough persona…
She continues typing absurd comments. She thinks she knows best. But she doesn’t. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.
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Melanie Rees is an Australian author. She has published over 50 short stories and poems in markets including The School Magazine, Daily Science Fiction and The Flash Fiction Press. More information on her work can be found at www.flexirees.wordpress.com or on Twitter @FlexiRees.