The Editing

“And when he turned to face the room, there was no-one there”.

I sat down before her desk, my heart pounding and my face flushed with pride, waiting for smiles and accolades from the woman seated across from me.

She cleared her throat and held out her hand for the sheets of paper I had been reading from.

“OK”, she began briskly, “Are you ready to start killing your darlings?”

She arranged the three pages in front of her, frowning as though their very presence on her desk immediately offended her.

“Let’s remove the clunky bits first”, she said, her pen quickly swiping away my hours of deliberation and toil.

Internally, I screamed, “Clunky?  Those elegant and expansive phrases, carefully crafted to capture deep emotion and portray vivid description?”

“Oh,” I said instead.

“And this bit”, she smiled.  “You don’t really need that.  It doesn’t lead anywhere”.  Again the pen slashed across the page.

“No”, my heart wailed.  “It is the very essence of the piece.  Without it, there is nowhere to go.  Can’t you see how delicately it is balanced to tie everything together?”

“I see”, I murmured.

“It’s a bit heavy on the clichés.  A bit twee,” she said, pen flashing through words and circling paragraphs.  “Not surprising that the ending is, well, not surprising”.

As the pages became a maze of lines, circles, question marks and asterisks, my soul darkened under a growing weight of guilt and shame.

“I am so sorry”, my heart sobbed to the words on the now defaced pages.  “I chose each of you individually, coaxed you into place and re-arranged you at my whim.  I reassured you of your beauty, and of your perfect fit for the role I created for you.”

“Serendipity”.  The word launched towards me, sounding harsh and foolish.  “God, I haven’t seen that one pulled out for years.  Let’s get rid of it”.

“No, no, no.  Not serendipity.  Don’t hurt serendipity”, the word softened as my mind focused on it, recalling my delight in finding it, and the care with which I had first lovingly eased it into place.  A musical word, promising only calm and contentment.

My eyes were blurring and I could no longer hear the words being spoken from across the desk.

“Please forgive me”, I pleaded silently to the pages.  “I had no doubt of your beauty.  I trusted that all who saw you would share my delight.  I brought you to this place, and laid you recklessly before this audience.  It is my fault. I brought this upon you”.

The pages were pushed back across the desk towards me.  The interview was clearly over.

“It’s a start”, the woman said.  “Tidy it up a bit from here, then we can have another look at it”.

I left silently, clutching my handful of murdered darlings.

(25 September 2015)

"No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle" Winston Churchill