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The Long Journey

By Mark Rees

 

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Chapter One

 

                “Mr Kirkpatrick?” the young, blonde-haired woman asked, a clipboard rested in her right arm.

                Mr Kirkpatrick?  “Yes, that’s me,” Jason Kirkpatrick said, as confidently and politely as he possibly could.  The blonde-haired woman gave a facial expression that could only represent surprise.  Who are you calling Mr Kirkpatrick, he thought to himself, his anger for the woman’s usage of a title only used to quell his nervousness.  That’s Jason to you.

                He stood up from the soft cushioned chair he was waiting in, and dug his hands in his pockets, then immediately took them out again when he reminded himself that having your hands in your pockets showed no signs of confidence.

                The blonde-haired woman held the door open for him, a nice gesture of politeness, which Jason rudely ignored.  In the middle of the door was an opaque window with the name of the person who worked in the office: Jacques Grimbaldi. 

                He walked into a large square room, with white coloured walls.  There was a window at the opposite side of the room to the door.  On the ceiling there would two cylindrical flourescent lights, currently not being used.  In the middle of the room was a smooth, polished woodgrain desk.  Behind the desk, the intimidating presence of Mr Grimbaldi, the owner and chief publisher of Grimbaldi Publishings.

                Stand straight, Michael thought to himself.  Don’t slouch. 

                “Mr Kirkpatrick,” Mr Grimbaldi said, taking a puff of the Cuban cigar he held in his right hand.  His tone showed no sign of surprise, like the woman who called him in.  “Please, take a seat.”

                Now Jason had someone else to get angry at for the simple reason of using a title before his last name.  The only difference between this person and the blonde-haired woman was that this was the person who would hopefully give Jason his ticket to writing stardom.

                He pulled out a chair from under the woodgrain desk, and sat himself down.  He settled into a comfortable position, with his eyes staring straigh back into Mr Grimbaldi’s steely-grey eyes.  Eye contact is good.  Hands interlocked and on the table.

                Mr Grimbaldi was old; how old, Jason could not tell.  He guessed fifty something.  His face did not look friendly.  He had grey hair circling a shiny bald patch on his head; black rimmed glasses with yellow-coloured lenses protecting the bloodshot, steely-grey eyes, and wrinkles that looked like balloons that have run out of air.  He was wearing a grey double-breasted suit, with a white shirt and yellow tie behind his suit jacket.  On the right side of the desk - the left side to where Jason was looking - there was a rectangular tin of Cuban cigars.  In front of him, was Jason’s most prized possession: his story.

                “Well, Mr Kirkpatrick....”

                “Is it all right if you can call me Jason,” Jason corrected.  He mentally slapped himself in the face, for he had interrupted Mr Grimbaldi, something which, at an interview, should not be done.

                The futuristic vision of Jason’s reaction to his story being rejected was being played in his head, as clear as a videotape on the television.  He was thinking of what would happen so much that he failed to hear anything Mr Grimbaldi said.

                “....and you seem to be mixing tenses, going from past to present, present to past.... Jason?”

                Jason snapped back into reality.  Another mistake.  “Sorry?”

                “I was just saying, your story, for someone so young, is very good.  But....”

                Oh no, not the buts.  A “but” used in speech by a person usually means bad news.  You’re one of the best authors I have known, but....

                “But you do simple errors all the way through the story,” Mr Grimbaldi continued.  “Don’t worry, a bit more practise and you’ll be all right.”

                “What was I doing wrong?” Jason asked.  It was a dangerous risk he was taking by asking such a question, for it may wear off any patience Mr Grimbaldi may have had.

                Mr Grimbaldi stared back at Jason.  Is that steam I see rising from your ears?  Jason thought.

                “Okay, I’ll have to be honest with you, because if I’m not, I’m afraid there will be more rejections to come...”

                The dreaded R word had been spoken.  Probably not for the first time, but it was the first time that Jason had actually heard it.

                “First of all, the plot wanders around a bit.  Secondly, your tenses change from past to present constantly throughout the story.  Thirdly, I’m afraid that adults do not like these types of fantasy stories....”

                “What do you mean?” Jason said, interrupting again.  “I wrote this story for children, like myself.”

                “Children!  The language used in this story are too advanced for children, except for maybe you.  I’m afraid that kids will not understand the meaning of many of the words used.  However, at least that makes the story that tiny bit better.  I was thinking, as I read your story, how adults wouldn’t like it because the story was, I might say, a bit ‘childish’ for their liking.”

                “Childish!” Jason exclaimed, his hands slapping down on the table, eyes bulging from his head.

                “Wait, before you say anything, I think I’d better tell you what I mean by ‘childish’ in the context of what I said.”

                Jason relaxed again.  There was no need for nerves; he knew his work had been rejected.  He felt angry and confused, hardly understanding anything Mr Grimbaldi said.

                “Now, in your story, there were magical creatures that could talk, and flying horses, fairies, and so on.”

                “C.S. Lewis had them too, and he got published,” Jason retorted.

                “Yes, but C.S. Lewis also spoke in a language that children could understand.  They were easy to read, you see.  No complicated words.  Your stories, well, there are too many complicated words.  Don’t think that your complicated words aren’t the only problem letting you down.  Tell me, Jason, did you plan your story before you wrote it.”

                “Yes.  I wrote maps, like the one in the book.  I made lists of cities and towns and realms and names of characters and a chapter by chapter plan of events....”

                “Yes, yes, okay.  Well, there are certain things I could say, but I don’t wish to hurt your feelings in any way.”

                Jason felt insulted just by hearing that.  Just because he was only twelve didn’t mean he had to be treated that way.

                “You say anything you like, Mr Grimbaldi,” Jason said.  “Just treat me the same as all your other clients.”

                “Okay, you said it,” Mr Grimbaldi said.  “Your story, as I said, for someone so young is very good, but that is all.  I know you wrote them for children, but not even children will understand the plot.  You seem to engage in several, what would I say, ‘boring’ bits....”

                Mr Grimbaldi spoke for another half an hour, telling Jason of his mistakes.  Jason knew he should listen, and note down the mistakes.  However, he was too arrogant to listen.  I’m right and you’re wrong, Jason thought to himself.

                At the end of his meeting, he angrily stomped out of the publishing company building, knocking into people on the way, with not a care for the world.  Usually he would avoid contact with people when he was walking, careful not to insult people in any way, but today, he was angry, and that meant other people would have to suffer with him.

                Including his family.

                Mum waited in the white four-wheel drive.  She knew what to expect.  If he had got his way, he would be running to the passenger side door, yelling in excitement.  She knew that there was a better chance that Jason would fail, so she was expecting the door to slam, Jason not talking, the like.

                Jason stormed into the vehicle, and slammed the door.  He didn’t say anything.

                Mum, also not saying anything, started the engine.  They drove off in silence, not exchanging a word in the hour drive back to the motel they were staying in.