Once upon a time, there was a young, aspiring writer who couldn’t get his work published to save his life. Times being what they were, the writer was far from the only artist having trouble putting food on his table. But the writer did not recognize this fact and instead thought that this situation was unique to him alone. And so, because of his short-sightedness, he was very bitter about it all.
The writer blamed everyone he could for his failure at his craft. He blamed all the editors he submitted his work to, who returned the work with form rejection letters. He thought they were simply unwilling to plumb the depth of his work to discover his genius.
He suspected that they hadn’t even bothered reading it and had just summarily thrown it out without a glance.
The writer blamed magazine publishers for basically eliminating the short-story market. He could frequently be heard to say that most of the big magazines didn’t even publish fiction in any form anymore. If challenged with examples such as The New Yorker or Esquire, the writer would amend his statement, saying that the magazines had at least made it impossible for a new writer to break into the field. And when asked why he didn’t send his work to smaller, independently-produced literary magazines, the writer simply scoffed, saying that such publications were beneath work of his caliber and that he didn’t even bother submitting to them. Besides, he would say, the whole goal of writing is to have your work read, and nobody reads those magazines.
The writer blamed the publishing companies for sticking with the best-sellers guaranteed to bring them in big money. His opinion was that, times being what they were, besides big-name authors like King, Grisham, or Crichton, the publishers were no longer
willing to take a chance. Sometimes a small novel would slip through, written by an unknown author. The writer was willing to concede this point. But he claimed that such books were tailor-made to be Oprah book-of-the-month picks and thus had no literary merit of any kind, a conclusion he drew without ever reading a word of any of them.
The writer was willing to blame everyone for his failure but himself. He was simply not willing to accept the fact that what he wrote was absolute garbage that no publisher in his right mind would ever dream of publishing. The writer thought that he wrote about life, when in actuality he wrote about his life. He wrote thinly-veiled autobiographical fiction in which he righted all the wrongs he perceived in his life and all the endings were happy. It was feel-good tripe. It was awful.
Late one night, after pouring his heart out all over his laptop for endless hours, the writer looked over what he had written, which he considered an already complete and flawless masterpiece that would not need to be revised. He had such confidence in his
mastery of the language that he didn’t even run the SpellCheck program on his computer. While reading over the material, he commended himself on his skillful use of metaphor. “This is the best stuff I’ve ever written,” he thought to himself, mentally patting himself on the back.
And he was right. It was the best stuff he had ever written. But it was still terrible. It was a cheerful, trite little tale about a young, aspiring writer who used his talent to win the girl of his dreams. The girl just so happened to be the daughter of the CEO of Doubleday, who ended up being so impressed with the writer’s talent that he gave the writer a six-figure book deal. The writer and the girl were married and rode off into the sunset together, living happily ever after.
It was unoriginal. It was way too happy. The style was overtly imitative of Faulkner. It would have made an excellent movie.
As the writer sat there, reading what he had written and complimenting himself on how brilliant it was, he began to lament the fact that no one would ever get to see his talent. He silently cursed the publishers who, he already knew, would reject it endlessly and thus ruin any chances he had for getting it picked up by Hollywood. He would not finally move out of the one-room apartment he lived in above his parents’ garage, out of
the tiny Midwestern town in which he had lived all of his life, into a million-dollar home in New York with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. He would never have an expensive sports car or a gorgeous model girlfriend, all because of publishers who were unwilling to accept his gift.
Weary from a long night’s work of ego-boosting and pipe-dreaming, the writer soon began to yawn, and so he laid his head down on the desk beside his laptop and quickly fell asleep (as writers in stories often do). But the writer was awakened again almost as quickly when his small apartment began to fill with an unearthly blue glow.
The glow subsided to reveal a beautiful young woman dressed in an elegant gown and wielding a small magic wand with a star on top in her right hand. The writer was of course shocked to see this woman there, because no woman had ever before set foot in his
apartment. Now, confronted with a situation that he had thought impossible, he was stunned speechless. After more than a few moments of silence, the writer was finally able to speak. “Who are you?” he stammered.
“I am your Blue Fairy Godmother,” the young woman said. “And I am here to grant all of your wishes.”
“Really?” the young writer said in disbelief. When he saw the woman nod silently, he smiled. “Cool!” he shouted excitedly. “I want to live like the characters in my stories. I want to be successful as a writer and make millions of dollars and have a big house and marry the girl of my dreams and live happily ever after.”
“Such a wish shall be easy to grant,” said the Blue Fairy Godmother. “Simply close your eyes, and I shall make all your dreams come true.” The writer, scarcely believing what he was hearing, slowly lowered both of his eyelids.
When he raised them again warily only moments later, the writer found that his setting had drastically changed. Now the writer found himself sitting in a strangely familiar coffee shop, surrounded by waitresses bustling about, serving cappucinos and bagels to patrons calmly sitting at nearby tables or on sofas, who sipped their espressos and lattés slowly while reading books of poetry. The sun shone in brightly from the outside through
a large picture window in the facade of the building.
“This is the coffee shop from the first chapter of the novel I just finished,” the writer said to himself aloud, astonished. He gazed at the name of the restaurant which was painted in vibrant colors on the window, a clever little name that the writer thought he had pulled up out of the depths of his mind but which he had really stolen from a sitcom that he had seen once.
He then turned his attention to watching the various characters he created who were walking by outside, some busily going to their jobs, some just out for a morning jog, and then to the patrons inside, none of whom seemed the least bit bothered by his staring. The writer smiled at himself for describing each of their features so well, and for rounding out even the smallest of characters. He surveyed his environment proudly, admiring his
Suddenly a realization came to the writer, and he began to glance frantically around at each of the waitresses. While he was turned facing off into a corner, his eyes darting back and forth, searching each of their faces, he heard a voice behind him. “Would you like some more decaf, sir?” the sweet feminine voice behind him said.
The writer turned face-to-face with the girl of his dreams, who stood smiling down on him, holding a pot of coffee. As he looked her up and down, the writer realized that the craftsmanship he had been admiring up until that point was nothing compared to the
obvious amount of effort he had put into creating this character.
“Sir?” the waitress asked him again, when the writer did not reply. “Do you need a refill?” She pointed to the pot with her free hand and slowly bent over in front of him, tipping the pot toward his half-empty mug sitting on the table.
The writer could barely even nod, stunned by the sheer perfection of form inherent in this character. When she bent further over in front of him to pour the coffee, he got an even better view of how perfect her form was. This wonderful sight was too much for the writer, and he fell backward out of his chair.
“Oh, sir!” the waitress exclaimed, placing her pot of coffee onto his table and bending over to help him up as fellow patrons got up off their sofas to also offer him assistance. “Are you OK?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” said the writer, incredibly embarrassed over how clumsy he was and how he had humiliated himself in front of the girl of his dreams. This isn’t working out the way I wrote it at all, he thought to himself as he pulled himself up by her arm. She’s supposed to be the clumsy one, not me.
“Are you sure?” she asked compassionately as she helped him to his feet. When he put his weight onto his right leg, the writer winced in pain. “Oh, you’re hurt pretty bad. We need to get you to a hospital. It might be broken.”
The writer tried again to stand, saying, “No, I’m sure everything will be fine. I just... AAACK!!” He let out a whelp of pain as he tried to straighten out his leg. “Or maybe not.”
“I’ll take you to the hospital, you poor dear,” the waitress said, placing his arm around her shoulders so he could lean on her for support. “It is my fault, after all, that you fell over in the first place.”
The writer blushed a little and answered, “Well, sort of, yes.”
The two moved slowly toward the door. “Lou,” the waitress called out to the man behind the coffee bar. “I’m going to take this guy to the hospital. Could you get Linda to cover my tables for me?”
Lou looked up from the sink where he stood cleaning a dirty mug with a damp washcloth. He nodded at her in approval and replied, “Can do.”
The writer was beginning to think it strange that the apparent owner of the coffee shop would be so understanding in allowing a waitress to leave in the middle of her shift, but he was interrupted in his thought processes when the waitress opened the door and it swung out quickly and collided with his leg. “OW!!” the writer yelled at her angrily. “Watch it!”
“Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry,” she said to him, sort of giggling under her breath.
“What the hell’s so funny?” he demanded of her emphatically.
“You,” she said, smiling as she walked him slowly to her car. “You’re awfully cute when you’re angry.”
The writer was speechless. The waitress helped him open the car door and get in, and then she too climbed into the car. As they drove off, she cheerfully asked him, “So tell me about yourself. What’s your name? What do you for a living?” She then slyly added, “Do you have a significant other?”
The writer swallowed nervously before answering with the cover story he had provided within the text of the novel. “My name is Gene,” he told her. “Gene Stevens. I work at the pizza place down the street but I’m trying to become a writer.”
“Well, nice to meet you, Gene,” the waitress replied. “My name is Rachel Aniston. You’ve probably already guessed my occupation. And since you chose to dodge my third question, I’ll tell you that I wouldn’t have asked you if I had been.”
And so, things progressed rather quickly for the writer in much the same fashion. While at the hospital together in the waiting room, the writer shared with the waitress some of his incredibly awful work, which she thought was absolutely wonderful. She
asked to see more of his work on the drive back to the coffee shop. They made a detour to his apartment, which was incredibly lavish for someone on a delivery boy’s paycheck. By the end of the night, the writer could personally profess how wonderful his craftsmanship truly was.
But soon the writer lost interest in such pursuits. Upon close analysis, it was painfully obvious to the writer how thinly this autobiography was veiled. Rachel was clearly based on the writer’s first and only girlfriend, a girl he dated for a matter of a few weeks during his junior year in high school. Her personality was almost perfectly mirrored in Rachel; the only flaw was that Rachel actually was interested in him.
The writer was more than a little disappointed when Rachel first introduced him to her father, and was even more so when he was offered the book deal. The sex on their honeymoon night was done merely out of habit and had no emotion or passion to it. He
barely even enjoyed it; she said it was the best she had ever had.
The writer slowly began to realize that everything he had wished for was hollow. No matter what he did or said to Rachel, she still loved him. Over the course of a few nights, the writer sampled several other examples of his craftsmanship, and each time Rachel forgave him. He would yell at her and she would fawn over him. He left the house in a state of extreme disarray each night to go out drinking, and returned each morning at sunrise to find it spotless and breakfast cooked to perfection.
And his writing was getting published no matter what it was like. One night while drinking he wrote the words “Once upon a time, there was a man who liked to fuck” on a cocktail napkin. A week later it was printed in Playboy and received rave critical reviews. His agent urged him to make it the centerpiece of his new collection of short stories.
So it came to pass that one very late night, the writer sat in his den, the shelves behind him crammed with copies of each of his best-sellers, his laptop open on the desk in front of him. The screen on the computer was empty; so was the bottle sitting in his lap. Rachel lay in bed in one of the many bedrooms upstairs; the writer himself was passed out with his head lying on the desk.
The writer awoke as the room filled with a familiar glow. The writer recgonized the woman appearing before him bathed in blue light and threw his empty bottle at her.
The Blue Fairy Godmother barely ducked in time to avoid getting hit by the bottle. “Hey!” she shouted. “Is that any way to treat the person who granted your every wish?”
“Fake,” the writer slurred. “It’s all fake.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” she asked the writer.
“Send me back to the real world,” the writer pleaded with her, slumping out of his chair and onto his knees in front of her.
“No, I can’t” she said simply.
“Pretty please?” the writer begged, weaving drunkenly as he knelt.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t,” she said again, this time more forcefully.
“When you were brought here into your story, there had to be someone to take your place in the real world,” the Blue Fairy Godmother explained. “That someone was the main character of this story, and now that he’s out, he’s enjoying his freedom too
much to want to go back.”
“What do you mean?” the writer asked, slumping even closer to the ground.
“He’s been writing a lot, this time from the heart and about some real life situations, and has gotten some of his work published in a few, small literary magazines. He’s not making much money, but at least it’s a start.”
“Why couldn’t I do that when I was in the real world?” the writer asked.
“You could have,” his Blue Fairy Godmother replied. “Even now you have the talent within you to accomplish anything and to achieve all your goals.”
“But of all the times I submitted my work, not once was I ever accepted for publication. Why was it that no one recognized my ability?”
“Perhaps because what you wrote was sterile, feel-good, completely uninspired crap,” said the Blue Fairy Godmother, and with a wave of her wand, she was gone.
The shock of her words woke the young writer up, and he found himself back in his one-room apartment. Thank God. It was all just a dream, he thought, sitting back in his chair. He then pondered the words that his Blue Fairy Godmother had told him. He
glanced around the room at the disheveled state of his apartment and then reread what he had written earlier in the evening, all the while still turning his Blue Fairy Godmother’s words over in his mind.
Of course it was just a dream, he thought to himself. What woman would ever want to come here? Look at this mess. He again took a look around his room, shaking his
head at the deplorable condition of his lifestyle. He then turned back to this laptop. “And she was right,” he now said aloud to himself. “My work is awful. I can’t even be original in my dreams. Blue Fairy Godmother? I could have at least made her my muse or something.”
And with the press of a few buttons, the young, aspiring writer erased what he had written earlier in the evening. “I’ll clean later,” he thought as he settled into his chair to write something real. And with a new furor that he had never had before, the writer began typing away at his laptop.
And what he wrote was still thinly veiled autobiography. It was still happy in the end. It began with “Once upon a time,” for heaven’s sake! How unoriginal can you get!