Is That How You Spell It?

Submitted into Contest #46 in response to: Write a story about someone returning to their craft after a long hiatus.... view prompt



Mark’s focus was laser-sharp.

Is that how you spell “fulfillment?”

He read over the document again, one last time, deliberately moving his mouth along with the words, each of them a suspect for being superfluous, inaccurate or worse: boring. An unbeaten spelling bee champion of many moons ago, he found himself questioning even the simplest words. 

He checked the clock: five minutes until the deadline. It was time. He hovered over the “Submit” button and, taking a deep breath, he pressed it.  

The page refreshed to a generic message that thanked him for his submission and expressed the committee’s excitement about reading his work. An email notification popped up, confirming his entry into the writing contest. 

It was done! After years of dreaming and thinking and wishing. After then months of writing, struggling, editing, and doubting, it was done! His first novella since college (almost two decades back, he realized grimly) was finished and submitted. He felt elated and victorious and a huge smile appeared on his face.

Is that how you spell “satisfaction?”

In a few moments, he realized he was grinning into the dark nothingness of his living room and looked around for something to do. This was an anti-climactic victory to say the least, he thought as the adrenaline rush of the submission subsided. He pulled out his phone to screenshot the email confirming his entry for posterity. 

Scratching noises coming from the door finally pulled him out of this odd state of mind. It was Felix, his girlfriend’s dog, whom he closed in the bedroom so that he wouldn’t be distracted in the final hours of writing and revising. Felix was a “total attention hog,” as Nicole said herself. In her infinite adoration of him, she encouraged this. Considering all that, Mark thought Felix was handling being alone quite well. Unless of course Mark was simply too “in the zone” to realize the opposite. 

Mark opened the door and Felix anxiously jumped up and demanded love. Mark was happy to oblige. Felix was a small enough dog for this behavior to pass as cute and Mark was certainly not about to disagree with Nicole on this. He filled Felix’s bowl with the incredibly expensive food Nicole had picked out for him. Mark realized this wasn’t the dog’s fault and did his best to not hold it against the pooch, but he was of the opinion that Nicole’s care for the dog was overkill to say the least. At the same time, he realized it was probably some unconscious mis-direction of maternal instincts, and seeing that he was certainly not interested in the “let’s get pregnant” conversation with her, he would go on tacitly supporting her babying of this adorable mutt.

Is that how you spell “bourgeoisie?”

Mark was twelve years older than Nicole. He appreciated her youthful energy and zeal, and he had made his peace with some of the less mature aspects of her personality. To him, the trade-off was more than worth it. At the advice of his buddies, he tried hard not to constantly compare her to his ex-wife, but sometimes the contrasts were glaring. With the divorce settlement recently finalized, he tried to tell himself to just enjoy the present moment.

Felix was now done eating and excitedly ran up to Mark, who realized he hadn’t put on pants since he showered that morning and he should definitely do that because it was time for the evening walk.

The air was nice and warm but not too humid. As Mark walked around the neighborhood, led by Felix, complete with a pink leash and a bedazzled collar, his mind wandered back to Nicole.

Is that how you spell "infatuation?” 

Her youth also had the advantage that she as not itching to start a family. While Mark knew that his marriage had many other problems–and it was probably for the best that they had gone their separate ways when they did–the fact that his wife badly wanted a baby and wasn’t getting pregnant definitely “sealed the deal” in many ways. He had been ambivalent on the subject since the beginning, so when her desire dragged them from one expensive and invasive doctor’s appointment to another, their relationship quickly deteriorated.

Is that how you spell “discord?”

When asked, he would tell his buddies that his novella was about a magician, and would describe the world he had constructed until they lost interest. And sure, that was true. But it was only a thin veil for the real heart of the story: examining the plausibility of monogamous romantic love. Mark posed this question through an immortal magician whose craft is deemed obsolete by the society he lives in yet who works “behind the scenes” as a powerful force for good, always maintaining plausible deniability and ensuring another explanation is available, however unlikely. This magician has fallen in love yet keeps holding himself back from pursuing his love interest as he reflects on his many failed marriages.

Is that how you spell “desolation?”

These marriages were largely inspired by Mark’s ex as well as those of his friends. He felt a little uneasy about it at first, but the fantastic world his novella was set in gave him plausible deniability. The sad truth was that stories of emotionally destructive marriages (and divorces) were sadly common place. Besides, his friends weren’t big on reading.

Nicole, on the other hand, kept asking to read drafts or hear plot details. Mark would tell her he wanted to wow her with the final, polished version. That was a generous interpretation of the truth. A more accurate one would be that he was not done trying to impress her and was too embarrassed to show a work-in-progress. Also–and this he definitely wouldn’t admit to anyone, himself included–he did not want to share these thoughts with her. The story was all too personal, all too revealing. He did not want her to know how badly he’d been hurt, how badly those close to him had been hurt. He did not want to admit to her he wasn’t sure that romantic love wasn’t a doomed concept. 

Is that how you spell “self-consciousness?” 

He had good thing going with her. It was casual enough that he didn’t care how she raised her dog or if and when she wanted to have children. Yet, clearly, he reflected as he picked up Felix’s poop with a baggie, he cared for her enough that he agreed to watch her dog while she spent an extended weekend in Vegas for her friend’s birthday. Even on the weekend leading up to the deadline for this novella contest.

Is that how you spell “adoration?”

His phone buzzed with a text from Nicole. “About to board. Still good to pick me up at the airport?” Once again, his face lit up with a huge smile. “Yes, see you in three hours” he texted back. 

Walking back into his house, he thought of something and texted her again. “Don’t eat the airplane food, I’m cooking.”

Is that how you spell “hope?”

June 20, 2020 03:54

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