Sad Tale of a Hidden Writer
May 22, 2016
MARVIN SAT AT HIS DESK and looked at three manuscripts he had boxed for shipping. He reached for the one on his left, picked it up and balanced it in his hand. He knew it would find an eager home.
He set it down and grabbed the thinner, lighter one to his right. He held it up to his face, smelled the brown wrapping paper, checked the packing tape to ensure it was snug. He had written the book in three weeks, fending off calls every day from the agent who wanted it now.
He got up and carried the right and left books out the door to the mail box, where he raised the red flag, a sign for the carrier to take them on their way to their new homes.
Inside, he sat down again, reached his hand and patted the one remaining manuscript. He read the agent’s name on the mailing label, a different name than on either of the other packages, the name of a star player in the world of traditional publishing. As he had done many times before, he went to his computer and Googled the agent’s name, read articles about his success, the famous writers he represented, the book deals that were legendary.
While he was at it, he visited Amazon, punched in the name of two authors he knew well, checked their sales numbers, their five-star reviews.
They should have been his five-star reviews. For he had written those books under the cover of darkness, shipped them out just as he had the batch this morning. His name appeared nowhere in the books, no credit as a co-author, no passing mention on a dedication page. Under his arrangement with the publishers, he was nothing more than a ghost, a ghost that cast no shadow, suffered neither the pain of rejection nor the joy of success.
He was a hidden writer.
He turned back to the remaining manuscript, took his pocket knife and cut the tape, drew it out of the box. He thought about how writing it had somehow been different from the others, more a labor of love, a pouring out of his deepest fears, an exorcism of something brooding in his soul.
He turned the pages and thought of the long nights spent working on something of his own, perhaps his ticket out. When he came to the last page of the piece, he thumbed through the entire three hundred and fifty pages one more time before he walked to the trash can and deposited it among the other refuse.
He returned to his writing desk all the time chiding himself for his cowardice. He typed a few words on his current project before he stopped and pushed himself up out of the chair again. He drew the manuscript out of the trash, wiped it off. He pulled the Word file up on his computer, went to the title page. With a few keystrokes he removed his name and substituted another as author of the book.
“She’ll love me for this,” he said to himself, as he thought of the famous writer who had just completed another bestseller while she slept.
Stephen Woodfin is the author of The Warrior with Alzheimer’s.