04 September 2010

Vernon Story Tweets — July & August 2010

Vernon's hand twitched, reminding him of the crumpled piece of paper the man had dropped during their collision on the street.

The man at the desk set his pen down, his eyes widening with a spark of fear. His entire posture shifted to one of defense. He lurched back and nearly fell out of his chair as Vernon propelled the fist clenching the paper toward him.

"You dropped this," said Vernon.

The man reached over his desk and cautiously pulled the crumbled sheet of paper from his hand. He stretched out the paper and ran it up and down along the edge of his desk, keeping his eye on Vernon all the while.

Sensing the man's discomfort, Vernon took some deep breaths and let his shoulders sag and his chest cave.

The man looked down at the words typed upon the sheet. The ink had begun to run from Vernon's sweating palms, but the man recognized the piece immediately and smiled with relief. "I can't even begin to express how glad I am that you returned this. Allen thanks you, too. I think this might be his only copy." The man's eyes drifted back to "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by \ madness, starving hysterical naked,"

Vernon's hand moved to his jacket pocket, his thumb and forefinger gripped his beat-up copy of "On the Road." "Ever publish fiction?"

The man looked puzzled at how Vernon knew he was going to start publishing out of his bookstore. "How do you know that I publish at all? This is a bookstore, brother." The man straightened the papers before him.

Vernon's eyes darted to the stack of papers near the man and raised his eyebrows. "Looks like an edit in process to me."

"That's quite an assumption," said the man as he slid the stack onto his lap and out of Vernon's sight. The man's chest puffed slightly.

Vernon backed up and started to turn toward the nearest exit, then paused. He slowly pivoted back around to face the man who was now standing. "It's just -" He thumbed the book in his pocket, searching for the right words.

The man hovered on the edge of his seat, silent for a moment then asking, "Out with it, man! I haven't all day to watch you yammer."

Vernon's mouth opened and closed, his eyes bugged out from his skull. He glimpsed himself in the window and felt like an idiot.

"Fool," said the man. "Hit the road already." He shooed Vernon out as far as the door, eventually reaching around to turn the knob.

Vernon slammed the door closed and spun around to face the man, who jumped back with fists raised and ready to scrap. "Please," said Vernon. "I don't mean you any harm. It's just that I have a book that I'm pretty sure you’ll want to publish."

The man dropped his fist and said, "Why didn't you say so in the first place? You stoned, or something?"

"No," stammered Vernon. "Just nervous. I've already received so many rejections, and I've never spoken directly with a publisher."

The man chortled and said, "I'm barely a publisher as it is, and definitely not a publisher of note to date." He thrust his hand out to Vernon and said, "Lawrence Ferlinghetti, pleased to meet you Mr....?"

Vernon stammered once again, finally composing himself to say, "You can just call me Vernon. The pleasure's all mine."

"Well, Vernon, tell me about this great new novel of yours. Let me guess, it's the next great American novel, right?"

Vernon blushed and thought, ‘Would this be considered dramatic irony? Play it with humility, Vern.’ He cleared his throat and shook his hands before saying, "This book will come to define the next generation."

"Ho ho!" The man sounded almost Victorian British. "That's a bold assertion, Mr. Vernon. I'll be the judge of that. "Let's see that book of yours." Lawrence thrust out his hand again, this time waiting for Vernon's fictional manuscript.

Vernon started to reach for his beat-up copy of "On the Road," then caught himself. He slyly converted his reach into a chin stroke. "I don't have it with me," Vernon said. "I have to retrieve it from... from my parents' home in Delaware."

Lawrence guffawed. "How long you think it'll take for you to retrieve the manuscript? You going to have it mailed to you?"

Vernon panicked inside, a bead of sweat forming below his hairline. "Then you're interested in the book?"

"Yes, boy!" Lawrence snapped back so intensely that Vernon lurched toward the nearest exit. "Can you fetch it or not?"

"One week," Vernon told the man. "It should take me one week to travel back and forth between coasts. Is that okay?"

Lawrence smirked with contempt and said, "Take all the time you need." He then sat back at his desk and resumed his work. Vernon stared at the man for a moment, leaving only after Lawrence shot him an irritated look from below his brows.

* * *

About an hour had passed. The sun sat higher in the sky as he exited the bookstore, yet the gusty air chilled him more deeply. Vernon put his hand back in his jacket pocket and thumbed his well-worn, dog-eared copy of "On the Road."

'What did you just do, Vern?' He bit his lower lip to stop it from trembling. 'What did you do?' He sighed and eyed the street. "Guess I need to find a typewriter," he muttered. "Or at least, a ream of paper to transcribe this book onto."

"Science fiction, Vern?" The rest of the writers group shot their own looks of disdain at Vernon, who blushed crimson.

"It's what I like to write," Vernon squeaked. "It's what I know."

"What?" A robust woman in her forties shook her head. "Sci-fi, fantasy...? It's all so contrived. Nobody 'knows' those worlds."

Vernon hung his head and twisted his left foot. His gut tumbled as all eyes glared at him in demand for an explanation. Hours and hours of shows like Stargate, Star Trek, heck, anything with "Star" in its title swirled through his head. 'It is what I know,' Vernon thought. 'It is what I know.'

"Vernon," said a man with long, twisted goatee. "Don't sweat it. You just need to read a wider variety of books." The man reached in his satchel, pulled out a thin, worn book and tossed it at Vernon, who failed to catch it. The book title beamed at him: "On the Road." The man said, "Now Jack Kerouac, there's a man who knew how to write what he knew."

Vernon picked up the beat paperback and shoved it in his bag without another look. "I've heard of it," he told the man who gave it to him.

The man squinched at him and said, "Don't borrow it if you don't plan to read it."

Vernon assured him that he'd start tonight.

Later that night, Vernon found it tough to move past the first few chapters of "On the Road" but managed to finish it before dawn. That was the first time he uttered the phrase that would come to define his cynical outlook on publishing: "I could have written that."

He read "On the Road" three more times before his writing group next met. "I just don't see why it's considered 'great'." Vernon used air quotation marks to emphasis the word great, and everyone in the group rolled their eyes at him.

"Vern," the guy who leant him Kerouac's seminal work leaned forward. "Can't you see how simple the style is? ‘On the Road' defined an entire generation, gave it a voice that it lacked, signaled an end to Bourgeois writing."

Vernon sighed and sagged. "Frankly, I found the story depressing. It didn't inspire me at all."

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