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"Ready to Go," short story excerpt

Tuesday 11/16/21

If you're a member of the Inner Circle, I ask that you skip this entry--you're going to want to read the whole thing, which I'll send you soon. It will surprise you and make you cry--it's going to wreck you--so I'd suggest setting aside a bit of recovery time. I want you to read the whole thing.


Meanwhile, because I am blacklisted by an evil industry, I'll put this excerpt here, because we all know there is no one who can compete with any of this and it is important to hammer that home again and again as part of the process of exposing these people and ripping this system to the ground.


Later the conversation will be,


"Why didn't you publish it? Why didn't you even respond to the masterpieces?"


"I didn't like him. I wanted him dead."


"Why didn't you like him? What did he do to you?"


"Nothing."


"He didn't do anything to you?"


"No."


"So, he just had the great work, was a good guy, had the amazing, undeniable track record, kept offering you the great work, politely, took your shit for years, and you hated him because of your jealousy?"


"Shut up. I don't like this."


"You thought you'd publish the crap you did, because it was by people you liked, who suck and who suck at what they do, and you didn't care that you were purposefully leaving out the best work that everyone can see as such? That's how far your irrational, wild hate goes?"


"Now I hate you too."


And hey! If you're Chris Beha, Matthew Sherill, and Katie Ryder of Harper's, you can add that you were sufficiently hateful and crazed in your jealousy that like a coven of sociopaths you reached out to the ex-wife I've not spoken to in almost ten years, because that's not psychotic at all. Clearly stable, professional people.


***

Maribeth had everything she wanted. Outstanding friends. The respect of her church circle. She was counted on. People knew she’d come by when a relative was sick or grief needed bearing. She brought dishes of food without asking and with pleasure. Everyone valued her time. Her visits. She could still drive and drive well. Would pick up a friend at the airport. In fact, she drove better than she had in decades, thanks to the laser surgery. Maribeth could look at herself in her mirror and say, “age does not dim beauty, it only makes you understand it better,” and not feel vain. Vanity isn’t as prevalent at eighty-one-years-old. There’s self-respect. Pride. Wisdom. She didn’t envy her younger self or entertain thoughts of, “If I only knew at fifty-five what I know now, think of how the last two and a half decades could have been.”


No, it was a process. She wouldn’t swap out an illusion she once harbored, not even retroactively, because that would have changed the quality of a piece of knowledge she later gained. There was the time and the place, and if she didn’t love them all, those times and those places, looking back, she could see them for what they were. How her daughter Angela would have wanted her to carry on after she died. A woman of thirty-six. She regretted not knowing Paul anymore. Still thought of him as her son-in-law, despite…what was it now? Years since a phone call. But he had his life to live and she wanted him to live it. He was a man who’d been worthy of her child. Some reminders must be removed, she knew, even when the reminder is you. It’s not personal.


Her body didn’t have pain. There’s gratitude for mobility. More than she would have thought there could be. Coming and going as you please, and pleasing others with your coming and going, because don’t fool yourself, the latter matters, too. And that’s not personal either.

She liked to dress well. Better than she ever had. The middle-aged women who treasured her visits and the late breakfasts they’d have at the place everyone went to in town—because it was one of those towns—thought she was so…what was it? Hip? With it? The terms didn’t matter. Terms were for children until they weren’t. The precious labels of what was an afternoon in a day wasn’t the same as an afternoon in life.


And how her other daughter flourished and flourished and flourished. When women say, “my generation did this, so yours could do even more,” they would have been talking about someone like Cassandra. Vice president of a company. Super mom to Maribeth’s super grandkids. Boy who captained the high school football and hockey teams, but a young man who was much more than that, with the sounds and shapes of caring etched into his voice. So few people say “How are you?” and mean it. And that girl! That flower of a girl who was of a genus yet to be classified. She’d stand out in a mountain field of however many other flowers you cared to name. How she had learned on her own to read at three, and now she wrote poems at fifteen that were published in grown-up magazines and still could whip the ball around the yard with her older brother well enough to keep him honest.