The Best of the Small Press
A Morality Tale of Allegorical Dissent
(Originally published as part of the Seven Deadly Sins of the Small Press)
Scene 1: small studio apartment, guy at the kitchen table on a typewriter, girl on the bed reading a book.
“Honey,” the guy called out.
“Yes, dear,” she called out, not looking up from Phenomenology of Perception.
“Remember how I told you I sent some of my poems to that publisher Alpha Beat Press, you know, the one who published all those Beat writers?”
“Yes, dear,” she called out, not looking up from her book.
“Well they want to do a chapbook of my poems,” he said proudly.
“What’s a chapbook?” She asked.
“You remember, that book I showed you the other day, my writer friend’s book: i am a poem as honest as broken love.”
“That pamphlet looking thing?”
“Yeah,” he grumbled.
“That’s nice, sweetie.” She set her book on the floor. “What are you going to call yours?”
“I don’t know yet,” he hands her the letter. “They want me to send them money.”
“How much money?”
“This is still quite an honor… Alpha Beat Press is the best of the Small Press.”
“Where would you get $250?” she asked. “You know how hard it is saving money in restaurants. We’re lucky we can pay bills. I barely survive on my scholarships.”
“Man, sometimes I wish I was still in grad school… you guys have it made.”
“Damnit, Jim, you know I resent the shit out of those comments!”
“You know it’s true, that’s why,” he said smugly.
“Fuck you, asshole,” she spewed. “I work hard at school.”
“Yeah, well I work hard too and I wish I had a scholarship to do it!”
“Why does this always have to come up?”
“I’m just sick of never having money.” He turned around and faced his typewriter.
“Things will change, I promise.” She got off the bed and walked toward him. “I know you work hard and how much you hate it and that you just want to be a writer.”
“Alpha Beat is big time, baby,” he picks up the catalogue with Bukowski on the cover. “They’ve published all the great poets… Ginsberg, Kerouac, BUKOWSKI! You liked that one book by him you read.”
“Yeah, Post Office,” she reaches for the catalogue. “They’ve published all these people?”
“Yeah, like I said, this is an honor.”
“hmmm…” she examines the catalogue.
“It would be so great to have a chapbook of my poems. I have enough written, a little editing perhaps…”
“How many copies of the book do you get?”
“I don’t know…” he stands up. “I wish there was some way I could do this. I’m sure I’d get enough to send to everybody. Oh man, that would be so great… to send one to David, my writer friend in California…”
“Well, dear, if it really means that much to you, I will help you. I have most of my scholarship money still. The semester just started and maybe you could help out a little towards the end if I give you the money now.”
“Oh, honey!” he grabs her and kisses her face. “I’d do anything… I’ll get extra shifts at the restaurant and try being nice to the customers for better tips…”
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so happy for you!” she melts into his grasp and purrs with delight from the attention.
Scene 2: Same apartment, 16 months later. The guy is putting on his coat. The girl looks up from the fashion magazine she has in front of her.
“Where are you going?”
“To the post office,” he says. “I have to mail out some manuscripts. Do you need anything?”
“No.” She goes back to flipping through the magazine. “What I need I will never get.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You’re the poet, you figure it out.”
“Jesus Christ!” he shouts. “Why do you have to be such a bitch?”
“All you care about is that damn typewriter, the post office and your ‘writer friends.’ I can’t believe I made it as long as I did without a vibrator.”
“Do we always have to go through this crap?”
“You tell me,” she throws the magazine on the floor. “How long are you going to waste your time with this fantasy of being a writer? You can’t even pay somebody to publish you.” She said the last part lower, knowing the sting.
“That’s not my fault!” He was visibly upset. “They ripped me off!”
“Well, you fell for it, didn’t you? The best of the small press… my ass!”
“It’s not my fault!” He bellows.
“I should have known better! We starved so they could be the best!” She is crying.
“It’s not my fault!” He falls to his knees and begins to cry. “I just wanted…”
“Oh fuck it!” She sits down next to him on the bed. “I know, I know…”
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered as he moves towards her.
“I know, honey.” She leans closer and puts her hand on his head as he whimpers into her shoulder. “I know…” she whispers slowly and sighs as he pulls her tight against him.