Yesterday I received the following email:
Dear 100F-1 applicants,
Thank you so much for submitting your applications for the spring quarter 100F-1 class. I enjoyed reading all of your stories, and wish that I could offer all of you a place in my class. Unfortunately, there were 53 applicants for 15 spaces, and the quality of writing was extremely competitive across the board. At this time I am unable to offer you a place in the class. Please know that you are all strong writers and it was not an easy task to make this selection. It was extremely difficult.
Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to read your work, and I wish you the best of luck in your writing futures.
And now I have to ask myself... where did I fall on the range of the 38 students who were denied entrance into the class. Let's assume, because she didn't say anything to the contrary, that I was number 16. Maybe I was a mere hair's width from making it in.
In fact, she wanted me in her class desperately, but the poor woman had no choice. Ever since she ran over her neighbor's cat, and the teenage boy down the street saw the whole thing... I mean, he was blackmailing her! That's right! He came to her office hours late one evening, dressed in a trench coat and fedora. When he pushed the door open quietly and eased inside, he smirked when she asked, "Can I help you?"
"For your sake," he replied, "I do hope so."
From there he went on to relate what he saw, to display the digital video recording of her silver hybrid obliterating Fluffy, the sweet Persian cat who was blind in one eye. This, he explained, is damning evidence.
Ms. Angel, an upstanding citizen who had not even a parking ticket to her name, an active member in PETA, a major contributor to the fight against breast cancer, an organ donor, would not be swayed. She had no idea she'd hit a cat that day! It had been raining and the pavement was wet; when the sun came through the clouds, she was temporarily blinded. And, she added, she actually been contemplating the grace and goodness of God when the light had shone down upon her. Ms. Angel informed her visitor that he'd better leave. She would pay a visit to the cat's owner the following afternoon to apologize and offer to pay for the cat.
The boy rose from his chair, seemingly defeated, but just before he exited, he turned to look Ms. Angel dead in the eye. "Just be careful when you stop by the Mortgensens' house tomorrow," he said. "Fluffy was little Toby's favorite pet. And his uncle is a high powered Los Angeles attorney."
And just like that, the boy was gone.
Ms. Angel had a difficult choice ahead of her. Toby Mortgensen was a nine-year-old boy who had been awarded a medal by the mayor of Davis when he started a lemonade booth, to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and eventually netted more than $5,000 worth of aid! He was a delicate little boy with a big heart, and he had the most heartbreakingly blue eyes in the world. How could anyone, especially Ms. Angel, who loved children, stand to hurt him more?
When she walked out of her office door, a piece of paper that had been wedged in the door frame fluttered to the ground, coming to rest in the pale trickle of streetlamp light through the door of Voorhies Hall. In block letters it read:
ONCE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, MEET ME AT MISHKA'S ON SECOND.
Beneath the letters was a crude sketch of a hairy cat with X's for eyes. Ms. Angel cringed, crumpling the paper in her right hand. But what choice did she really have?
She pushed through the door at Mishka's, oblivious to the normally tempting aroma of coffee and ginger cookies. At the very back of the room sat the grim reaper, the boy with the knowledge to make Ms. Angel the most hated woman in Davis. Their eyes met, coldly, and neither of them smiled. This was business.
Within five minutes they had struck a deal. The boy would hand over the only copy of the digital video, and in return Ms. Angel would buy and anonymously donate a new Persian kitten to Toby, and she would give her blackmailer's older sister, Gert, automatic entrance into her Spring 100F class. It was a hard bargain for Ms. Angel, for whom the rewarding of excellent, budding fiction writers was sacrosanct.
That was in January. As March drew to a close, Ms. Angel worried. She hadn't heard from her blackmailer since that day at Mishka's. Could it be he had forgotten? No application had been received from Gert. There was a chance that God had taken pity on Ms. Angel, that he'd allowed the gift of the kitten to be penance enough. She scoured the entries, 52 promising authors ready for their dreams to be realized in her classroom.
Before her daydream of discovering the next Earnest Hemmingway could materialize further, the door to her office burst open and a warm but strangely threatening breeze rushed across her desk. She didn't need to raise her eyes to know that her ticket was up.
"There," he said, dropping a thick manuscript onto her desk with a clunk. "As soon as I see Gert is in your class, this will all be over."
He swirled his trench coattails dramatically as he left. Ms. Angel looked at the fifteen names she'd already selected, the lucky fifteen. And then she turned her eyes heavily to the ream of paper submitted by her visitor. Ever the cockeyed optimist, Ms. Angel turned the first page to give it a read. Not three sentences in, she gave a short, exasperated cry. It was already as slow and convoluted as paste on a cold day.
A promise, however, was a promise. She shut her eyes tight, squeezed against the horrific decision she was about to make. One tear, alone but nevertheless symbolic of her inner pain, slid down her cheek to her chin, falling to the floor with a tiny splash. And then she crossed out a name on her list.
She opened her eyes to find that
Audrey J. Camp
had been eliminated. For this student, this aspiring author, Spring was not going to be the perfect season. But, Ms. Angel justified to herself, she didn't know Audrey Camp from anybody. Perhaps this young woman was not hinging her hopes and dreams of a writing career on entry into this class.
Yes, Ms. Angel decided. Surely, to Audrey Camp, this would not matter at all.
When I opened the email, I was surprised. Honestly, my self-confidence when it comes to my writing has taken a noticeable turn for the better over just the last year, and I owe a lot of that to my blog. So I expected to get in. Now, I admit I didn't know exactly how competitive entry really was. I thought the class would have at least thirty students in it. As I was saying, I opened the email and then I cried. Jon comforted me.
He said, "Audrey, you were trying to get into a writing program at a UC school. If you really wanted to get in, you would have written a story about lesbian love affairs and how much Bush sucks!"
While I'm sure he's right, and that someone is now on track to publication because she was more willing to be subversive, the fact that I only have butterfly stories to offer remains to be depressing. Surely I must have something deeper than that in me.
Tomorrow I am off to Disneyland with my true love. We're not really escaping, since the vacation has been planned for a while. But I won't say that I am not grateful for the time away. The last thing I want to think about is the fact that I didn't make it into the one class I've had to try-out for. The most magical place on earth will probably make the temporary forgetting a tad easier.
But then, instead of writing myself off (pardon the pun), I intend to take a step back, gain some perspective, and write some more. Never will I find myself in a position where I have nothing to say. That's the great thing about being an English major with a big imagination. And I'll redefine what I consider to be good writing. Believing I could mold a story about childhood into something worthy of a college creative writing class wasn't realistic, but I wouldn't say it was a pipe dream either. I may be rejected a thousand times before someone stops to consider me twice, and maybe to give me a break. Won't this all be worth it then? I certainly hope so.
Until that time, though, I will console myself with the hope that I was close this time, and that next time I will be even closer.