The Letter


The letter crumpled easily in John Turner’s fist. His grip choked the paper, killing its integrity forever, and he didn’t care. He swallowed, but this time his mouth was dry. His heart sank by degrees as the message in the letter made its way through his mind, reshaping reality.

Normally he walked briskly. Now he shuffled. Each step he took from the mailbox to the door of his house, about a twenty yard walk, became heavier and more difficult. But he made it. He slipped the key in the keyhole, turned it, and stepped inside. It was gloomy. That morning’s sunshine had been swallowed by hungry clouds, and the dim daylight did little to illuminate his dining room.

He released the choked paper and tossed it in a pile of unsorted mail. The dining room table was a repository of everything he didn’t want to face: bills, newspapers, unchecked to-do lists, scraps of food, crumbs, and dirty dishes. Normally at this hour he would go into the kitchen, make a salad or sandwich, eat it, and try to get back to work a minute or two late. No one would ever say anything about being late by a minute. But this time, he slumped, slowly. Stupefied, stunned, and sorry. His sofa surrounded him as he sank into it, but unlike most times; it was no comfort to him.

He glanced at the letter as it sat on the pile of neglect. Drew a breath. Sighed. Smiled a melancholy smile of defeat and closed his eyes.


  1. fun, low detail story. Nice build to not much, but a lot of inquiry along the way. Great imagery of the crumpled note. Who did that? I do some similar writing at –let me know your review of my early start. If you wouldn’t mind the quick peruse.

  2. Neuroskeptic,In my experience with “professional plpoee’s books”, a publisher is needed before the book is written only to help an insecure mind write eventually a book or an ungifted with words person write a book that can sell in the end.There is no free lunch in the edition business and you will end up signing a contract for a book editors will write for you in part or sternly direct you in writing.Like say, a movie director who is far less free than an independant writer-unless you are Stanley Kubrick and you do not let the producer influence you,that is.NB: A publisher found me and asked me to write a book for her firm in 2008-through a journalist whose work I had put a comment to and that journalist telephone me making publicity for that editor and telling me that I should write a book about how to my mind the French school system was killing pupils (some by suicide and many more by killing their talents and expectations especially in science studies). That editor is a great lady and a real professional and seemed a perfect match for me on the ideological front but her job was to produce “our book” and not mine. I am not rich and was glad I didn’t sign a contract before realizing -for example- that I couldn’t possibly tell very interesting and educational stories about my pro-bono clients without some plpoee being hurt by it: it was just impossible to write honestly without some plpoee being recognized by some friends.I stated up writing alone “my” book from a different angle (the paternalism of teachers and the bias for teachers against the parents and adult students of the French administtrative and criminal courts). I found this much more satisfactory on the ethical front since the juges ‘ work is public unlike the psychiatrists ‘ones. This editor is not interested in my book and it is only fair.NB: Your “conflicts of interests ” with your publisher will be different of course.Still, the fact is that you are very hardworking, disciplined and incredibly gifted with words and hardly in need of having somebody holding your pen for your first draft.My advice would be to write “your” book -first draft- and then discuss any modification an editor will suggest -changing shop if you find that editor too demanding on whatever front.

  3. always necessary. A good otlniue and an existing following, which NS clearly has, may well be sufficient. NS has a track record of writing, too, so some of the questions a typical agent/publisher is asking when I say I’ve got a book to write are already well answered.And on that note, NS, do us mortals a favour? When you get the agent and the deal done, do a blog post about your experience?

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