The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.
August 15, 2013
Dear Fiction Editor of Defiled Corpse,
Submitted for your glowing approval and orgasmic pleasure is my story “The Cat Is You.” As you know, I’ve submitted countless stories to your literary magazine for thirty years, spending several hundred dollars on contest fees and postage. But this new story is the one that will attract a five-star literary agent, a six-figure advance, and launch my career. It was called “the story of the decade” by a Pulitzer Prize winner who prefers to remain anonymous. Do you want to leave an editorial legacy? Long after I’m dead, scholars and writers will be studying my diverse, eclectic oeuvre (sounds like a naughty word!), which will likely consist of ten novels, two story collections, and a scandalous memoir. They will put me in the literary canon—Krampert comes right after Joyce and Keats—and my work will be read and admired for decades. Do you want to be remembered as the editor who discovered Leonard Krampert?
What is my story about? Glad you asked. In a word, it’s about a week in the life of Nikolai Gogol, my cat. You see what “Gogo” sees and think what he thinks. For example, when his owner (me) fills his milk bowl in the morning, Gogo’s excitement becomes your excitement. You experience Gogo’s abrupt metamorphosis when he becomes fully aroused and ready for action. He goes from Mr. Sleepy to American Gladiator in 0.3 seconds! You follow him as he chases the red laser-pointer-thingy around the house, or climbs halfway up a wall to snag a cockroach and then tortures the roach like a terrorist before eating it. When I go out for the evening—my social calendar is always full—Gogo’s suffering and depression will tug at your heartstrings. But sometimes, Gogo forgets his manners and urinates in my bed or bites my toes while I’m sleeping. Bad Gogo! Sometimes he watches me when I’m on the toilet. Creepy.
When he escapes from the house and embarks on a crazy adventure, you go along for the ride. He sneaks through a hole behind the kitchen cabinet and journeys into the wild, where he encounters a pack of stray dogs. These bullies control their “turf” like gang members. (The dogs wear different colored bandanas to show which gang they’re from. I think the Low Riders control our block right now.) Finally, without giving away the goods, the real drama unfolds when Gogo naps—his favorite pastime—and we enter into his dream world. In the well-crafted dream sequence, Gogo slips into a wormhole in the back yard and shoots down through a tunnel, which feels much like a waterslide. This wormhole ejects him onto a planet where cats rule society and humans are the pets. Are you hooked yet? Thought so!
Just a word about the narrative voice of my story. Yes, I’m aware of the potential pitfalls of second-person. It feels contrived when used by certain writers—I won’t name names—but as you know, I’m a pioneer of this point of view. Remember my story “Masturbator” that I submitted in 1994? Rest assured, you’re in the hands of a master. Here is my updated biography:
Leonard Krampert was born on the Planet Quasar. (Kidding.) Actually, he is from Intercourse, Pennsylvania, where he was “reared” by abusive, fundamentalist Amish parents who forced their children into lewd sex acts with barn animals. He ran away from home at sixteen. After spending a few years sowing his wild oats, he became a lawn-mower mechanic and world-class bowler. Last year he rolled a perfect game during the semifinals of the Lancaster County Bowling League. His creative writing talent is legendary. His stories have been published in envy-inducing magazines like The Amish Review, The Mennonite Quarterly, Feline Monthly, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Cathead. Douglas Spaniel, the editor of Cathead, said “Leonard Krampert’s prose is the new standard of excellence in the genres of feline fiction and erotica.”
Since I’m sure you’ll want to publish my story soon, just a word to the wise: I submitted “The Cat Is You” to your competitors, such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Paris Review. So you’d better jump on it before it gets scooped up!
Your partner in crime,
Leonard “Big Cat” Krampert
Subject: Submission Query
Date: January 10, 2014
Dear Fiction Editor,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. New Year’s Eve is so overrated. Been there, done that, know what I’m saying? I was invited to a party hosted by the President of my Bowling League, but my cousin Sally was going, and there’s a lot of sexual tension between us. It’s so awkward to be in the same social circle as your ex. She gives me the bedroom eyes at parties, but then she plays hard to get, even when I stalk her for months. Talk about mixed signals!
Anyway, since I have not yet heard back from you regarding my story, “The Cat Is You,” nor have I received any correspondence whatsoever, I’m interrupting my busy schedule to inquire about its status. I’m assuming the delay has been caused by one of two things: either you’ve already accepted my story, and the acceptance letter was lost by our laughable postal service, or your editorial staff is in discussion—not about the literary merit of my story, which of the highest order, but about any revisions or fine tuning to make my intellectually challenging story more “accessible” to your audience. To be clear, I will not compromise my integrity. You should also know: my attorney and I are presently negotiating with The New Yorker about payment terms and copyright issues. But I want to give you first dibs, so the ball is in your court. Time to make your move. If you want to run with the big cats, you’ve got to piss in the tall grass.
January 20, 2014
Thanks for letting us read your work. After careful consideration, we have decided, once again, that your story is not the right fit for our magazine. I’m sure it will find a good home somewhere, perhaps buried in your backyard. But I encourage you to enter our upcoming contest, the Lady Covington Short Fiction Prize. This year’s theme is the umbilical cord, which can be interpreted narrowly or broadly. And remember, your entry fee comes with a copy of our next issue, which is jam-packed with literary greatness!
Subject: Mysteries of the Universe
Date: The Ides of March, 3043
Hey Big Bully,
When you say “fit” I assume you mean that my story is too good for your joke of a magazine, that it would eclipse all the whiny stories and self-indulgent poems you publish. The universe is a galactic orgy of light and heat. I am a black hole waiting to grind up a star. And that star is you.
P.S. I’m no longer under psychiatric supervision. When I skip my medications, I react violently to personal criticism and perceived insults. Have a great weekend!
Subject: RE: Mysteries of the Universe
Date: April 15, 2014
We have decided to ban you from submitting to our magazine for the duration of your life, plus an additional fifty years. If you submit any more work, we can assure you that it will never be published, although we reserve the right to post it on our office refrigerator, so we can share a good laugh during coffee or lunch break. Also, please never contact us via this email address, or any other possible means of communication. Your emails are now considered Spam and will be kicked back to you immediately.
—The Fiction Editors
10 Thermidor, Year II of the Revolution
Re: The Reign of Terror
Dear Enemy of the State,
Terror without virtue is evil, yes, but virtue without terror is impotent. You cannot have a Revolution without revolution! You cannot win a war without waging war! We are creating a world where everyone will be brothers. But to achieve this world, we must run the blade of justice against those criminal heads that rise among us. You, sir, are the chief enemy of the new world order. The time has come for you to answer for your crimes and offenses. Can you hear that music? It is the song of the executioner playing for you! Tomorrow you shall meet your end. You shall be escorted to the guillotine at dawn. (Unless you reconsider and accept my story.)
Robespierre (Kidding, it’s me, Leonard.)
Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Tom Bennitt teaches writing and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his M.F.A. from Ole Miss, where he co-edited The Yalobusha Review. His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Texas Review, Prairie Schooner, Word Riot, Burnt Bridge, and Fiction Writers Review, among others. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest, the Ropewalk Press Novella Contest, and a residency at VCCA.
Image: “Desperate Annie’s, Saratoga,” by Daniel Nester