“The Rejected Writer” by Newamba Flamingo
Miles Chester’s stories and poems had been rejected by all the small press magazines he read. And every single response, every single rejection letter was a form letter. Never once did he get a personal response from the masses of editors he'd sent his work.
And why not? His cover letters were personal. He'd praise the magazine, mention specific pieces, writers he enjoyed. He'd address the editors by name and even request feedback. But none ever came. Always it was the same form letters. Over and over again.
Following each rejection, he'd drink vodka to dull the pain. Sometimes he'd snort bath salts and sit alone in his ground floor studio apartment, on the mattress on the floor, watching infomercials all night and listening to his next door neighbors, that young Mexican couple with the crying baby, scream and curse at each other in Spanish.
Rejections and noisy neighbors aside, Miles often had trouble sleeping at night. He'd stay awake, lying in bed, dreading waking up in the morning to go to his job at the call center, where his bosses timed his toilet breaks and he had to repeat the same scripted greetings and responses to the angry voices in his headset.
Miles was happiest when he was writing. And when he was writing, he was writing. He'd slave over his compositions tirelessly, in front of his computer screen, until the small hours, editing and inspecting every last word. Then he'd fire off submissions to as many places as he could and hope that maybe, just maybe, he'd get finally get published and earn his big break.
But the end results were always the same. Form rejection after form rejection. And the more and more he got, the more disillusioned he became. His dreams of being the next John Cheever, Chuck Palahniuk or Raymond Carver dissipated further with each letter.
Little by little, he started to hate all the magazines he previously liked. The cute authors with their sharp wit and incomprehensible allegory! Their stupid little stories nobody other than a pompous critic could enjoy! And those oh-so clever poets and their overly metaphorical poems that no one ever really understood but somehow found so brilliant...
After receiving four form letter rejections in one day, Miles stood naked in front of his mirror that night, tears streaming down his face, and his hatred toward the small press boiled into full blown rage.
His body began to shake as he thought about the dictionary abuse by some of these writers, especially the “clever” poets. Like how many people actually use words like “mellifluous” anyway?
Damn them and damn their narcissistic diatribes! What good was poetry and stories that made no sense!? It suddenly dawned on him that most of the bullshit he had read in small press magazines was merely smug attempts by worthless authors at making themselves look smart.
Damn them! Miles thought, slapping his bathroom mirror lightly. What about his genius? Why shouldn’t he be heard? Why was it that everyone else gets published? Damn them! Damn them all, Miles thought, as he slapped at his bathroom mirror harder and harder...
Damn them all with their academic, look at how great I am writing! Damn their worthless Pushcart nominations! Damn every writer and his or her pithy bio and those annoying lists of places they've been published! What a bunch of phonies! No wonder it’s the “small” press! No wonder nobody reads these magazines! They all suck!
Miles then realized he’d been now punching his bathroom mirror and that his right fist was covered in bloody glass shards.
Miles saw himself hyperventilating in the shattered mirror and decided it was time to exact revenge and concurrently move beyond the incestuous small press world and really get himself noticed.
He’d recently read online about a convention, a gathering of the small press, that'd be happening in a couple weeks, only an hour away from where he lived. There, nearly every editor from every magazine that'd rejected him would be in attendance. What's more, their pictures and names were up on the website.
His plan began to materialize. He would visit the convention, with an M16, and shoot as many people as possible and then himself. But beforehand, he'd send a compilation of his writings to news agencies, big magazines, publishing houses, and popular blogs. Finally, after completing his mission, he'd be heard!
It wasn't the first time he'd plotted a killing spree. He'd done so in high school, inspired by Columbine. He’d thought up a similar attack against the jocks who'd terrorized him and his friends, but his friend who'd planned it with him chickened out, so they didn't go through with it...
Miles always had a fixation on spree killers. Sometimes he didn't agree with their motives, but he respected their courage and how they were able to make themselves heard. When he wasn’t writing, he’d usually be spending hours online researching mass killings.
He particularly admired those who’d been able to kill more than 20. Anything under 20 kills he often wasn’t too impressed by, except for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, due to their teamwork, charisma and meticulous planning. (He’d even signed an online petition demanding “the basement tapes” immediate public release…)
Though he didn’t care much for racists or politically motivated rampage killers like Baruch Goldstein, Dylann Roof, or Nidal Malik Hasan, probably his all-time favorite spree killer was Anders Breivik, due to his 77 kills, and use of both guns and explosives.
At number two was Seung Hui Cho for his high kill count and how badass it was that he’d chain-locked the exit doors to prevent “those spoiled brats'” escape, and that he’d sent an awesome video manifesto to the media, which Miles had watched over 100 times on YouTube.
He also quite liked Adam Lanza and felt Lanza didn’t get the respect he deserved among mass killers. Lanza was a writer and a student of mass killings, even editing Wikipedia pages and keeping a massive mass killer spreadsheet. Miles admired that and admired Lanza’s choice of targeting an elementary school, knowing it’d generate more press.
Rounding out his top ten were Martin Bryant, the perpetrator of the Port Arthur massacre; George Hennard of the Luby’s Cafeteria massacre; James Huberty of the McDonald’s massacre (enjoy your Happy Meal, motherfuckers! he’d always think while watching news footage of that one); the “DC Snipers” John Allen Muhamad and Lee Boyd Malvo; Woo Bum-kon, the kooky South Korean policeman; and Charles Whitman of the University of Texas shootings.
He also kinda liked T.J. Lane for his antics in the courtroom, especially the riff to his victims’ families about jerking off with the hand that killed their sons. What a laugh riot! And he loved Jiverly Wong's confession letter: "I am Jiverly Wong shooting the people..." That always cracked him up. He gave Robert Hawkins style points, too, even though he'd only killed 8 people...
Miles decided their way of making history would be his way. So he went to the gun store and bought a fully automatic assault rifle and plenty of ammo. Then he went to the army surplus store and bought some combat boots and fatigues.
When he got home, he found the movie "Taxi Driver" playing on cable. After watching it, he took a piss and stared into his reflection in the bends of his bloodied, shattered bathroom mirror and decided to shave his head into a mohawk, like the movie's protagonist, Travis Bickle.
Then he listened to Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power" on his phone and tried to sleep, but couldn't, so he read "Catcher in the Rye" and thought about Mark David Chapman and wrote a quick poem about how Chapman should have shot Yoko, too, and sent the poem off as a submission to "Poetry Magazine", "The New York Quarterly", the "New Yorker" and even Yoko's publicist just for shits and giggles.
The next day Miles quit his job and spent the couple weeks before the convention preparing, putting together manuscripts of his writing, doing push-ups in his apartment and target practice at a local shooting range.
He repeated his routine of watching "Taxi Driver", listening to Pantera, and reading "Catcher in the Rye" every night. Every night he'd also write a poem about a different spree killer.
Finally the big day came. He was so amped up the night before that he only slept for an hour or so and when he woke up, he had a touch of vertigo, but, while taking his morning shower, he felt a tranquility and sense of calm he’d never had before.
After dressing up in his army fatigues, he grabbed his supplies, and headed out the door. Before getting into his car, he put on a pair of aviator sunglasses and dropped several packages of manuscripts into a mailbox.
He peeled out of his building's parking lot and drove to the convention. On the way there, he maintained the speed limit, listened to Pantera, and thought excitedly about how a movie might be made about him and his writings and wondered which directors and actors would be involved.
The convention was to be held at a hotel downtown. But when he arrived to the hotel lobby, carrying a duffel bag, the young lady at the reception desk eyed him curiously.
She asked him if she could help him and he asked her where the convention was. She warily pointed him to a conference room down the hall. Without responding to her, he turned and began to walk in its direction.
As he neared the room, he noticed there were only middle aged men hanging around outside the conference room's doors. They all had on three piece suits and a lot of them had slicked back hair. None of them looked like writers or the pictures of editors he saw on the website.
As he drew closer, a couple of the middle aged men went inside and, from behind where they'd been standing, he saw a sign that read: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”
Dejected, he thought for a second of carrying out his plan, going in there and opening fire, but he decided against it. Instead, he went back to his car and drove home.
When he got home, he logged onto the Internet and tried to check the convention page, but when he typed the address, all it brought up was a blank window, containing an Error 404 “Page Not Found” message.