MY NIGHT ON LETTERMAN
I think I know what I'll say to him. Sure, he'll have his barbs and guys like Biff will howl and point.
But I'll rally. I'll say, "I wrote 34 short stories. 34 in 17 months."
He'll nod and say, "How much you get for them?"
"149 dollars. 149 dollars and 97 cents."
"And 97 cents?" he'll say with that grin, like we practiced or
"Yep, one journal paid a penny a word; the story had 497. A 'the' here, an 'anyway' there and instead of this you're yawning as Edie McClurg gushes about a rumored spot on 'Hollywood Squares.' Lucky my writing professor taught me to cut."
After a few seconds the titters in the crowd will turn to laughs and soon I'm receiving something many comedians on the show never get -- a sustained ovation.
He'll wait for the crowd's laugh to thin. I'll have to step up. He doesn't like the guest getting too many yuks. It makes him surly.
"Of course, you know what they paid me per specimen?"
He knows but sees a fellow raconteur working it. "How much?"
The crowd will roar and give me a second ovation. I'm circling Ray Romano territory.
"That's right, three cents more in one visit than all my stories combined!"
More claps, almost another ovation.
His eyes will glint and let me know he's bringing heat. "So, what will you tell your grand kids you did for a living?" He'll laugh and tap his pencil. Everyone will know where he's going. "I should clarify," he'll say. "You might have thousands of grandkids. What will you tell the ones you actually consider 'yours'?"
His voice will have a decided edge and, though they probably won't realize it, the crowd will be pulling for me to nail it.
I'll look out at them, make a face to show I'm questioning why I'm there, why I wrote the essay in the first place, and why I went on my friend's radio show to promote it. "I'll say I was a creator."
It'll take a few seconds but then like a joke grenade just went off they'll be clapping again, maybe one or two will stand, hopefully caught by the camera.
Even Dave will chuckle. Maybe he'll shoot a look at Paul, who will be shaking his head, wondering when Canada will produce anyone half as funny.
I'll smile and say, "If any of them don't approve, I'll say, 'look Kiddo, I created 34 short stories over 17 months. Then I saw the ad, filled out the questionnaire, passed the interview, took a magazine into the bathroom and three minutes later could honestly say I'd made decent money for something I created!"
Another ovation, bigger than the last, maybe five or six people stand. Dave will shake his head and laugh. He'll wave off the card guy telling him to wrap it up. I'll be too good. It'll be like when he had Buddy Biancalana the year the Kansas City Royals won it all.
Dave kept heckling him about only being something like 4,211 hits away from breaking Rose's all-time hits record. Buddy knew over the years there had been thousands of players just like him and wasn't going to let his chance pass. He showed, if not a quiet dignity, then enough insight to play it right.
Dave will ask me, "So how many, um, uh, specimens did you produce?"
This is it, the sendoff. His gift to me, as he already knows the answer, as does anyone in the crowd who read my essay or the 200-word AP story that made it into 24 major newspapers.
I'll measure my tone, making sure to get the sense of boyish embarrassment into my inflection. "34 times."
That's it. The crowd will rise. The irony is too much. Dave will have to yell over them that it's time for a break. As it fades to commercial, the camera will catch him patting my shoulder and shaking my hand though he refused when I first came out, popping off:
"I know where that hand's been."
The limo will take me to my hotel and I'll have to wait the five or six hours until the show airs. I'll call my parents and tell them I did well.
Maybe I'll call Jen, apologize again, try to get her to see the humor in a guy not wanting to give her kids but doing so for 34 other women. But I'll probably decide not to. She'll just want to talk about the reasons I didn't want kids and I won't be able to remember them without really working at it and she won't get that. Sometimes it's more fun to just appreciate the irony.
Date of Birth:
March 10, 1973
Silver Spring, Maryland
The Absinthe Literary Review, The Blue Review, C/Oasis, The Circle Magazine, EWGPresents, Fiction Funhouse, The Fiction Warehouse, Foliate Oak, Hobart, Identity Theory, In Posse Review, Ohio Wesleyan Literary Magazine, Outsider Ink, Parting Gifts, Paumanok Review, PBW, Perfectland, Pindeldyboz, Scrivener's Pen, SNReview, Surgery of Modern Warfare, Taint Magazine, The 13th Warrior Review, Thought Magazine, 24, The Unknown Writer, Word Riot, etc.
First prize in the NTPWA 2002 Poetry & Fiction Contest; second prize in the Quincy Writers Guild 2002 Creative Writing Contest; honorable mentions in Thought Magazine 2002 Writer's Contest and 2002 Anthology Contest
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