He looked at the pile of manuscripts littering his office and felt increasingly frustrated. "Tripe, drivel, baloney, bilge, rubbish, garbage.....", he thought to himself, stopping just short of using words that would actually assuage his irritation but would cross the line into crassness. Even in his mind, he was anything but. Over the last few days, all writing that had come through his desk was supremely disappointing. He had labored through gory slashers, half-baked mysteries, dull legal thrillers, uninspiring biographies and even a teenage romance starring a werewolf (or was it a vampire, he could not remember), in search of salvation. He had instead almost lost faith in the power of the written word. Words are so incredibly amazing, he had always thought. From knowing none, a child learns purely by audio cues and substantiates the same visually by following the way the mouth moves. It amazed him that a child who cannot possibly complete a simple motor task such as tying shoes can still come up with a fairly complex sentence in the native tongue by age three. Letters form words, words morph into sentences and sentences blossom into verbal or written stories. Just sitting in the park on a sunny afternoon, one is bombarded with stories abound taken in through all five senses. It was incredible to him that no matter how stunning a story was, it had already been told. It was the treatment that was different, much like life issues. How one dealt with them was what created unique experiences.
He smiled thinking about the eclectic group of wannabe writers in these times. There were the celebrity "writers" who wanted to cash in on their five minutes by writing their life-stories. Too busy to write, they employed ghostwriters to color their basic sketches into masterpieces and yet appeared at every book signing. "Every plumber and cable guy wants to be a writer these days", he thought. "Not to mention political activists. Barking at the government has become a world-wide sport with no rules". Self-help writers promised a new lease of life just by following a few simple steps, quite conveniently forgetting that one must be ready to receive the "eternal truth" or the "secret" or whatever was the current operative word in order for it to actually work. Unassuming homemakers steeped in suburbia were spurred by boredom and freak success of peers in the game to submit their insecurities on his desk. Then, there were the bloggers turned writers. He had yet to see a blogger who was not puffed with pride at his/her million subscribers and thought that he or she was a gift from the Gods of the elusive bestseller. There was one common problem with these self-appointed divas. They failed to see that they are a product of a rather fickle audience who have no patience for a temporary lapse of creativity and will gladly flock to the next venue for their daily dose of humor, satire, recipe or whatever else is the flavor of the day. The other problem was that these folks were used to instant gratification, of publishing and seeing immediate results. Things were substantially slower in the real publishing world. All this said, presses still run non-stop across the globe, leaving glorious paper trails of creativity that are depleting our forests. It is an ancient trail however, one that started in the once flourishing Nile delta and now ends in a bookshelf near you.
Why was he here, he asked himself everyday. He could live a princely life back home, subsisting merely on the wealth that his ancestors had accumulated. It would be boringly familiar, he would almost immediately counter, thereby squashing the little hope that Ma had of his returning. He hated to call her these days, the pregnant question hovering between them and making comfortable conversation an impossibility. She would never ask him directly and the unasked question loomed large in pauses. If she were unaware or indifferent to his predicament, it would have been easier but she was so in tune with every inflection in his voice and demeanor that it was tough. Simply put, going home would mean confronting his memories of her. She, who had been an amusement but had turned into an obsession. Thinking of her and what might have been had become an annoyingly familiar habit. He had to admit that it was a futile escape route since no matter where he went or what he did, thoughts of her followed him like a faithful dog.
He reluctantly brought his attention back to the next pile of manuscripts waiting for his perusal. "Asian Weaver- a saga of heavy proportions" was the next one in the pile. His morale sank deeper as he picked it up. He noticed a manuscript, sticking out defiantly from the pile of black fonts on white paper. He pulled it out. "Sepia Dreams", the title slanted and looped on the hand-made paper, tugging strangely at his heartstrings. He started to read.
She lit all the candles and took a minute to admire the soft, wavering glow that pervaded the home with so much warmth. The muted flames cast gentle, mesmerizing shadows on the warmly painted walls, filling her heart with hope and lightness. Time to bury the past and move on, she chirpily thought when the phone rang. She was tempted to ignore the call since he would be home any minute and she was really looking forward to this special date night that she had planned for them but the caller id made her pick it up. "Vestigia Flammae Publishers"