If You Get Published, Celebrate Like Steinbeck (short fiction)

Steinbeck knew how to celebrate success, failure, and everything between.
Steinbeck knew how to celebrate success, failure, and everything between.

Celebrate Good Times

You receive some wonderful, improbable, hoped-for good news. How do you celebrate?

Mitch was giving up. He sent stories to at least fifty different literary journals and magazines, everyone was a rejection.

He shuffled into the spare bedroom used as a writing room and gathered all his stories from a cabinet. He walked them to the burn barrel like they were criminals marched to execution. He lit a fire and watched them burn. The smoke rose and he murmured, “Perhaps the angels will like them.”

Mitch walked to the mail box. There was a letter from The Maine Literary Journal. He walked it back the barrel. He opened it for nothing but the sake of reading how they constructed their rejection letters. ’Maybe I could do that,’ he thought. ’I could write rejection letters. I’ve seen so many. I know all the styles: kind, unkind, condescending, brisk, sweet, constructive, formal, informal, rambling, short, and cutting.’

He read, “Mr. Madison we are pleased to inform you that we are publishing both stories sent to us.”

Mitch had a smile that hurt his face. He went down to one knee and gave a fist pump.

He rushed inside and showered. He drove to The Night Owl Bar in town. He was going to buy drinks on the house.

The parking lot was empty, Thursday night; nobody drinks on Thursdays.

Mitch walked in. Louie, the owner, was the only one there.

“Louie,” Mitch said. “Great news, I’m going to be published!”

“That calls for a free beer,” Louie said. “I knew ya had it in ya.”

“Well,” Mitch said. “I was going to buy the house a drink, but nobody’s here. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

Mitch handed the letter to Louie. “Look there, its from The Maine Literary Journal.”

“Sounds highfalutin’,” Louie said.

“It’s very prestigious,” Mitch said.

“Yeah,” Louie said. “I was about to say that too.”

Louie sat beers on the bar for both of them. He sipped and read the letter. “What does this mean, payment in copies?”

Mitch grabbed the letter and read. “It means they aren’t going to pay me any money. They will send me five copies of the magazine and offer more copies at cost.”

“Sounds like a scam to me,” Louie said.

“No,” Mitch said. “It’s a practice by many literary magazines. It only means I got published – no money.”

“Let me pour you a hard one,” Louie said. He sat a shot glass in front of Mitch and poured a Jack Daniels.

“You better make that two,” Mitch said.

“Why,” Louie said.

“Just before I got the letter I burned all my stories,” Mitch said.

“You write them on computer don’t you?” Louie said.

“Yeah,” Mitch said. “I delete them once they are printed.”

“Those stories are still there,” Louie said. “A couple of months ago my computer in the back room crashes. I start it up and there’s nothing on it. My nephew comes in here and gets everything back in five minutes. He told me computers are like your brain. It’s there. You just don’t know where look. He knows where.”

“Are you sure?” Mitch said.

Louie got the phone from behind the bar and dialed his nephew. Mitch talked to him for a minute. Louie’s nephew met Mitch at his house and within five minutes all his stories were restored.

Mitch drove back to The Night Owl Bar.

“I didn’t expect you back,” Louie said. “Did your stories get restored?’

“Yeah,” Mitch said. “Your nephew did a great job.”

“What did I tell ya,” Louie said. “So why did you come back.”

“I got my all my stories back and I’m a published writer,” Mitch said. “I’m going to celebrate like Steinbeck.”

“What does that mean?” Louie said.

“I’m getting drunk,” Mitch said.

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12 comments

  1. “He walked them to the burn barrel like they were criminals marched to execution.” – Good simile.

    I also liked his idea of writing rejection letters, it’s funny and folks can relate to it but it’s not too sentimental.

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