It lies on the kitchen table like a tipped tombstone, this year of late nights and early mornings, of exhilaration and frustration, of too much coffee and too few showers. The Froot Loops box is prostrate, casualty of another rushed breakfast.
The kids are out the door. The dog is bark-begging back in. The spouse is gridlocked, Van Halen blasting him into the past if only for one more exit. His parting word to you, “finally.”
You repeat the word in whisper even though you know better. This is just another beginning.
But it’s done. Your first novel. Or your tenth. Drafted, redrafted, written and re-written.
You run your finger across the title, printed in 16 point Times New Roman.
The Room in the Elephant.
You are so clever.
It’s a story about a homeless man who happens upon an abandoned carnival ride – a collection of hollowed-out metal animals that once spun riders in a perpetual parade to nowhere. He makes his home in the largest of the rusting carcasses – the elephant. And it’s from there that he begins his long, strange, courageous journey back to life.
You pull at the rubber band and let it snap. The dog stops barking and tilts his head into a question.
You tilt yours into a dozen.
Is it too different? Too literary? Not literary enough? Are the characters memorable? Believable? Will it engage readers? Bore them to tears?
You do a mental survey of books you’ve loved. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The Road. The Art of Racing in the Rain. The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake.
It’s not like those. Not really. Except maybe in two ways.
It is a little left of center.
But perhaps more importantly, it desperately wants to be read. Do all books?
You pick up the Froot Loops box and stand it on end. Exactly seven Froot Loops spill onto the table. You eat the three orange ones. Then the single green and the two yellow.
The purple Froot Loop looks up at you, pleading. It wants to be eaten, too.
You look from the purple Froot Loop to your manuscript.
You’ve dreamed of being a published author for decades. Ever since that first story you wrote – the sad one about the girl whose hopes of being a dancer are crushed by an unintentionally cruel comment from her mother.
There is no dream more enduring than your dream of being published.
But maybe you won’t be. Maybe it’s not your turn. Maybe it will never be your turn.
You pause on that word, “never.” You choke on it.
Agents and editors don’t owe you anything. They might love The Room in the Elephant. They might hate it. They might think it boring and unsaleable. Or brilliant and unsaleable. They might think the same of every other book you write.
You reach for the purple Froot Loop and accidentally flick it across the table. It slides to the far edge and falls, landing with a soft, sad tap.
The dog barks.
You look at your manuscript again.
It’s out of your hands.
It wants to be read.
You get up and let the dog in. He goes right to the Froot Loop. And as the sun begins its slow crawl across the un-swept floor, accompanied by a symphony of slurp and crunch, you decide to believe it will.
You decide to keep dreaming.