The First 600 Words
June slammed the scruffy papers down on my desk, causing my stale coffee to flood all over the familiar tripe I had come accustomed to.
I must have sighed too loudly as June raised a sarcastic eyebrow whilst chewing that infernal gum I so detested behind those ridiculously cerise lips.
“Thanks,” I managed to gurgle whilst vaguely attempting to mop up the brown puddle now decorating my desk.
“I’m going to lunch,” June spat, slamming the door behind her. She hated me as much as I tolerated her, I was convinced, but I had lost the will to hire anyone else.
It was dusty, and the heat was unbreathable, so I took to my customary perch on the ledge outside my 15th or 14th floor window, and sat – legs dangling – staring at the ants below. I picked at my sandwich and flicked chunks of my crust at them. I once heard that something tiny could kill a man if dropped high enough – maybe I was doing someone a favour.
I could hear the phone ringing, but too used to leaving it hang, I ignored it. That was June’s job, ‘oh yeah, she was at lunch’ I mused.
I thumped my head against the monolith of the building behind me.
‘Had it really been 30 years to the day’ I asked myself. I had been so full of enthusiasm – even after the two year itch I’d stuck with it. I was still convinced that one day I would find that treasure – that paragon of a writer. I guess the fantasy was unstirring. Yet here I was – consuming my lunch on the precipice I had become playmates with – the mortar cracks I had become au fait with and the spiders that spun the same homes in the windows.
‘I really should get June to see to a window cleaner,’ I noted, surprised at my still practically minded state.
I finished my sandwich and observed the building opposite – full of people just like me – in suits and staring at computer screens or shouting down a phone. Even up here we were all creatures of insignificance – size didn’t matter.
I clambered to my feet and edged forward – like I always did – just that little bit further each day, until the bend in my shoes became too free and the same reasoning entered my thoughts ‘only another few years’, ‘but another few years until what?’ I closed my eyes and waved a breeze through my fingers – ‘maybe I would fly?’ I entertained.
“Bob?” June shouted.
“Out here,” I etched back and relaxed as June peered out.
“That guy is on the phone again, he wants to know if you read his stuff yet?”
Sighing, I climbed back in to normality and took to my throne.
“Tell him I will now,” I replied, and with a snort June was gone before I could ask for yet another banal coffee.
I shuffled the stained papers together and turned them over, now crispy but giving a surprisingly vintage appeal.
‘So here it is. Was this going to be the celebrated best seller of my career?’
As I brushed away the dirt that had settled onto the scruffy works and prepared the shredder that was already brimming, I did what I always did.
I read the first paragraph:
‘As Bob picked up the now browned works of the unknown author, he was struck at the dismal presentation, even though he knew it to be the fault of his incompetent secretary. Taking his familiar lunchtime setting, he skipped with formalities and went beyond the bend of his shoes. For Bob, this truly was his Last Manuscript.’